Although William Huskisson (1770–1830) was a prominent member of the British Parliament and a cabinet member in several governments, he is more famous for the circumstances of his death in a rapidly industrializing Great Britain. While attending the opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway in northern England, on September 15, 1830, Huskisson rode in a carriage with the Duke of Wellington, a political figure and venerated hero of the Napoleonic Wars. Exiting the train during a stop, he was attempting to shake hands with the duke when he failed to notice another locomotive, George Stephenson’s Rocket, traveling down an adjacent track. Huskisson attempted to swing into the carriage but fell on the tracks in front of the Rocket. With his leg horribly mangled by the train, Huskisson was rushed to a hospital (in a train driven by George Stephenson), but he died of his injuries a few hours later. He is, therefore, the world’s first reported railway casualty.
Letter from Thomas Creevey to Miss Ord., available online at http://www.victorianweb.org/history/accident.html.
Daniel Lord Smail
In On Deep History and the Brain, historian Daniel Lord Smail postulates that “it is the similarities [between civilizations] that are the most startling,” more so than the differences. In this excerpt, he also draws our attention to the continuities between the Paleolithic era and the agricultural civilizations. To this end, he uses the term “Postlithic” to refer to this latter period, rather than the traditional term “Neolithic” which would imply a more explicit break between the two. Although Smail acknowledges the fundamental changes brought by agriculture, he does so by emphasizing the patterns of conceptual and material interconnectivity between the Paleo- and Postlithic worlds.
“Agriculture and Emerging Societies,” Daniel Lord Smail, On Deep History and the Brain (University of California Press, 2008, pp. 197-200)
World Economic Forum
The Global Gender Gap Report was introduced by the World Economic Forum in 2006 to analyze disparities between genders in a worldwide context. It assesses national gender gaps in political, economic, health, and education-related areas and ranks countries according to data, allowing comparisons across regions, time, and income groups. According to the report’s introduction, these rankings “are designed to create greater awareness among a global audience of the challenges posed by gender gaps and the opportunities created by reducing them.” This excerpt looks at women’s impact on economic growth through increased education, participation in the labor force, and women’s role as consumers, or the “power of the purse.”
From “The Global Gender Gap,” World Economic Forum, 2010. http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_GenderGap_Report_2010.pdf (downloaded November 20, 2012).
Abstract and Key Words
German mapmaker Henricus Martellus created this copy of a Portuguese map to show the extent of Bartolomeu Dias’s explorations beyond the Cape of Good Hope in southern Africa in 1486-1488. In earlier Ptolemaic maps, Africa appears as either a quarter-circle or a block of landmass abruptly terminating at the Sahara. This remarkable map shows the rapid development of European knowledge of the west and south coasts of Africa during the fifteenth century. In contrast to earlier maps, Africa is shown as surrounded by water. The Indian Ocean—for centuries a Muslim-controlled “lake” inaccessible to European merchants– is now shown as penetrable by ocean-going vessels sailing around the Cape of Good Hope. In 1497 Vasco da Gama headed a successful expedition that did just that, returning to Portugal in 1499.
An Italian astronomer, physicist, and mathematician, Galileo Galilei (1564–1642) made many significant contributions to science—such as improvements to the telescope and work with sunspots—but is remembered for his support of a heliocentric model of the solar system. His conviction led him into conflict with the Catholic Church; he was accused of heresy and finished his days under house arrest. Aside from his astronomical texts, Galileo also corresponded with leading figures of his day. This letter, to the Benedictine mathematician Benedetto Castelli, addresses one of the main articles of the problem with Galileo’s heliocentrism: how to reconcile observable scientific fact with the words of the Bible, held to be literal and inviolable in 17th-century Italy.
From Galileo Galilei, Selected Writings. Trans William R. Shea and Mark Davie. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013, pp. 55–61.
This famous letter is often cited as an early sign of Galileo’s inevitable conflict with church authorities over the Copernican system of planetary motion—and the theory’s theological, as well as its scientific, ramifications. Galileo (1564–1642) would be condemned to house arrest in 1632 and forced to make a public repudiation of the heliocentric theory first advanced by Copernicus in the sixteenth century. However, Galileo’s connection to the renowned Medici family of Florence was also cause for comment—and caution—from 1610, when he received an appointment and an implicit endorsement from them.
Constructing a telescope in 1609 (which he proudly claimed could “magnify objects more than 60 times”), Galileo trained it on the moons of Jupiter, which he tracked over several days in 1610. Having named these objects for the Medici family, he rushed these and many other astronomical observations into print in the Sidereus Nuncius (The Starry Messenger). Inviting other scientists to “apply themselves to examine and determine” these planetary motions, Galileo demonstrated a preference for the Copernican theory and elicited sharp responses, particularly from church officials. In 1615, the dowager Grand Duchess Christina, mother of his patron, Cosimo II, expressed her own reservations about the implications of the Copernican theory for a passage in the Old Testament. Galileo’s response attempts, or seems to attempt, to reconcile experimental science and received religion.
Galileo Galilei, The Essential Galileo, ed. and trans. Maurice A. Finocchiaro (Indianapolis: Hackett, 2008), §4.2.5—4.2.6, 140–144.
Trained as a painter, architect, and goldsmith, Giorgio Vasari (1511–1574) practiced various artistic trades, but is most renowned today as the first art historian. His Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, first published in 1550, is the principal source of information about the most prominent artists of the European Renaissance. Having studied under the great artist Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475–1564), Vasari was particularly keen to tell this story. In these scenes from his biography of Michelangelo, Vasari draws attention to his master’s early training, as well as the prominent roles Lorenzo il Magnifico de’ Medici and ancient sculpture played in his artistic development.
Giorgio Vasari, The Lives of the Artists (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), 418–420; 427–428.
W. H. Bernard and W. D. Hall
When hostilities broke out between China and Britain in 1839, the British fleet was the most powerful in the world and in a high state of readiness. The Chinese had no real naval forces to contest the British, but a small Chinese squadron sailed out to confront the British men-o’-war. The underfunded and frantically assembled Chinese navy could not stand up to armored steam gunboats like the Nemesis, whose heavy pivot gun dominated riverside batteries and allowed British expeditionary forces to land wherever they pleased. The British methodically attacked and occupied forces along the Chinese coast from Guangzhou to Shanghai, and the Treaty of Nanjing (1842) marked an end to hostilities. However, the “heroes” of the Nemesis continued to receive attention for their victory over the Chinese, and a book detailing the ship’s voyages and military successes was rushed into print in 1845.
W. H. Bernard and W. D. Hall, Narrative of the Voyages and Services of the Nemesis from 1840 to 1843, and of the Combined Naval and Military Operations in China: Comprising a Complete Account of the Colony of Hong-Kong and Remarks on the Character and Habits of the Chinese, 2nd ed. (London: Henry Colburn, 1845), 149–152, available online at http://www.gutenberg.org/files/43669/43669-h/43669-h.htm.
Sir Charles Lyell (1797–1875), a friend of Charles Darwin, was a Scottish geologist who was so notable that to this day, in his honor, a crater on the moon and a type of armored fish both bear Lyell’s name. Lyell examined the premise that the earth is governed by the same principles regardless of era and that geological evolution can be broken down into tiny changes over long spans of time—a notion that also appears in Darwin’s evolutionary theory. This selection examines revolutions in climate over the eons, using evidence from, among other phenomena, mammoths preserved in ice.
From Charles Lyell, “On Extinct Quadrupeds,” Principles of Geology. London: J. Murray, 1830–1833, pp. 74–82.
Charles Darwin (1809–1882), a British naturalist, propounded the theory of evolution in his famous work On the Origin of Species (1859). With this theory, Darwin launched a massive debate concerning the spiritual repercussions of belief in natural selection—such as the contradiction inherent in the evolution of humans from apes and the story of the Creation of Adam and Eve in the Book of Genesis. This second work, The Descent of Man, explores the physiological connections between mankind and what Darwin calls “lower animals.” This selection examines the notion of sociability and how it plays out in various associations of animals; Darwin even makes a case for “lower animals” (like dogs) having characteristics that would be called “moral” in humans. Consider the impact of such “scientific discoveries” on a society that views humans as an elevated creation modeled on God.
From Philip Appleman, Ed., Darwin: A Norton Critical Edition, Second ed. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1980, pp. 196–203, 208.
Despite the well-publicized and scandalous reports of the reformers, there remained many supporters of unregulated factory labor among British liberals. One of the most influential was Andrew Ure (1778–1857), a Scotsman who taught chemistry at the University of Glasgow and who later conducted scientific research for the government and several private companies. Angered by Sadler’s attempt to harness free enterprise, Ure toured the textile factory districts of Britain in 1834, collecting evidence from business owners and factory foremen. The result was The Philosophy of Manufactures (1835), which he hoped would provide a more accurate assessment of industrialization and stem Parliament’s pursuance of “dangerous ideas.” Although Ure did not attain his immediate goals, he did give voice to advocates of “laissez-faire” capitalism whose arguments continue to echo in contemporary political debates.
Andrew Ure, The Philosophy of Manufactures, or An Exposition of the Scientific, Moral, and Commercial Economy of the Factory System of Great Britain (London: Chas. Knight, 1835): 5–8, 13–15, 17–19, 29–30.
Michael Sadler (1780–1835) was raised in an affluent and prominent English family, and after a brief stint in the family import-export business (for which he had no liking), he was elected to Parliament in 1829 as a member of the Tory party. Although the Tories generally advocated for the interests of the landed aristocracy in England, they also showed a paternalistic concern for the welfare of the lower working classes. Sadler persuaded Parliament to appoint a select committee to investigate the problem of child labor in textile factories, and as chairman of the committee, he collected testimony from eighty-seven witnesses that produced a 682-page report. Critics charged that the committee’s leading questions biased the testimony of witnesses such as Matthew Crabtree (in the reading that follows), but Sadler achieved his goals when Parliament accepted the report and passed the Factory Act of 1833, which, for the first time, regulated working conditions for children. From this point on, government implicitly accepted the right and responsibility to monitor and regulate private economic concerns.
Andrew Ure, The Philosophy of Manufactures, or An Exposition of the Scientific, Moral, and Commercial Economy of the Factory System of Great Britain. London: Chas. Knight (1835): 5–8, 13–15, 17–19, 29–30.
In his essay The Painter of Modern Life, the French poet Baudelaire (1821–1867) lays out his vision of modernism, which became perhaps the closest thing to a “manifesto” the movement had. In discussing the work of the painter Constantin Guys (1802–1892), he argues that the habit of contemporary painters to look for truth or beauty in antiquity is senseless; instead, painters should, like Guys, be looking to capture the specifics of the modern age, as new techniques of painting would surely uncover new perspectives on reality. Looking to the past for technique or inspiration, therefore, results in not only historically inaccurate work, but also artistic failure. But in attempting to capture the modern moment, the painter, he said, was in search of something indefinable, “something we can perhaps call modernity.”
From Charles Baudelaire, Selected Writings on Art and Literature. Trans. P. E. Charvet. New York: Viking, 1972, pp. 395–422.
Oscar Wilde, an Irish poet and writer, became one of London’s most popular playwrights in the 1890s. Trained as a classicist in Dublin, then at Oxford, Wilde became a journalist in London and made a name for himself as a flamboyant proponent of the new philosophy of aestheticism. After several popular stage plays, he wrote his most famous work, The Importance of Being Ernest, in 1895. The same year, Wilde was put on trial for homosexuality, a crime in England at that time, and imprisoned for two years. Upon his release Wilde immigrated to Paris, where he died in 1900 at the age of forty-six. In The Soul of Man, Wilde explores the manner in which socialism, allowing people to realize greater individualism, will provide the best context for art—Wilde’s ultimate goal. The chief advantage that would result from the establishment of Socialism is undoubtedly, the fact that Socialism would relieve us from that sordid necessity of living for others which, in the present condition of things, presses so hardly upon almost everybody. In fact, scarcely anyone at all escapes.
From Oscar Wilde, “The Soul of Man Under Socialism,” New York: Humboldt, 1891.
United Nations Drafting Committee
While there has been considerable debate over the last several decades on the nature and degree of global warming, there is general scientific consensus that greenhouse gases are the main contributors to temperature increases on earth. Scientists generally assume that at current rates of greenhouse gas production the earth will reach a “tipping point” of 450 parts per million, with catastrophic consequences for the planet’s climate, before the middle of this century. Although 169 nations joined the 2005 Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse emissions, the United States refused to sign the agreement. However, the United States did eventually sign on to an international agreement regarding climate change and the reduction of its global threat under President Barack Obama. This framework document, resulting from a conference held in Copenhagen in 2009, pledges the international community to action on the environment, in both specific and principled terms.
The British Parliament took on a series of initiatives to investigate the lives of women and children in the mid-nineteenth century, and the resulting testimonies, presented by workers to the various parliamentary commissions make for fascinating—and uniquely visceral—reading. The lives of working children are rarely detailed in historical sources from any era, but these testimonies had a direct impact, if not a fully humane one, on the lives of British laborers. These documents were collected for Lord Ashley’s Mines Commission of 1842, and the shocking testimony resulted in the Mines Act of 1842, which prohibited the employment in the mines of all females and of boys under 13 years of age.
http://www.victorianweb.org/history/ashley.html, from Readings in European History Since 1814, ed. Jonathan F. Scott and Alexander Baltzly (New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1930), drawing on Parliamentary Papers, 1842, vols. 25–27, Appendix 1, 252, 258, 439, 461; Appendix 2, 107, 122, 205.