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Darwin Correspondence Project

Darwin and Human Nature


Patagonian Indians, Gregory Bay
Patagonian Indians, Gregory Bay, by Conrad Martens
CUL Add 7983: 31
Cambridge University Library

There is substantial correspondence to illuminates Darwin’s published work on human evolution in Descent of Man and Expression of the Emotions.  The letter sets and discussion questions presented here focus on nineteenth-century debates about the unity of the human species and the basis of geographical diversity (including Darwin’s theory of sexual selection); the role of European civilization in the transformation, preservation, incorporation, or extinction of these societies; the history of ideas about the evolution of altruism in relation to instincts for self-preservation and assertion; and regard for other creatures beyond the “human family” as the highest stage of moral progress.

Among relevant correspondents are Alfred Russel Wallace; Darwin’s cousin, the eugenicist Francis Galton; the zoologist and Roman Catholic St George Mivart; the ethnologist and anti-clerical writer William Winwood Reade; the Anglican bishops and missionaries Thomas Staley (based in Hawaii) and Waite Hockin Stirling (in the Falklands); the Dutch physiologist Frans Donders; and the German psychologist William Preyer.

Further information: 

For the stories behind Darwin's published writing on human evolution, see 'Darwin's works in letters', Descent, and Expression