Moore, James and Desmond, Adrian eds.
The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex by Charles Darwin.
London: Penguin Classics.
'With all these exalted powers – Man still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin'
In The Origin of Species, 1859, Charles Darwin refused to discuss human evolution, believing the subject too ‘surrounded with prejudices’. He had been reworking his notes since the 1830s, but only with much trepidation did he finally publish The Descent of Man in 1871. The book notoriously put apes in our family tree and made the races one family, diversified by ‘sexual selection’ - Darwin’s provocative theory that female choice among competing males leads to diverging racial characteristics. Named by Sigmund Freud as ‘one of the ten most significant books’ ever written, Darwin’s Descent of Man continues to shape the way we think about what it is that makes us uniquely human.
In their introduction, James Moore and Adrian Desmond, acclaimed biographers of Charles Darwin, call for a radical re-assessment of the book, arguing that its core ideas on race were fired by Darwin’s hatred of slavery. This reprint of the second and definitive edition also contains suggestions for further reading, a chronology, and biographical sketches of prominent individuals.
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