Darwin's Sacred Cause : Race, Slavery and the Quest for Human Origins, Paperback

Darwin's Sacred Cause : Race, Slavery and the Quest for Human Origins Paperback

4 out of 5 (1 rating)


In this remarkable book Adrian Desmond and James Moore, world authorities on Darwin, give a completely new explanation of how Darwin came to his famous view of evolution, which traced all life to an ancient common ancestor.

Darwin was committed to the abolition of slavery, in part because of his family's deeply held beliefs.

It was his 'Sacred Cause' and at its core lay a belief in human racial unity.

Desmond and Moore show how he extended to all life the idea of human brotherhood held by those who fought to abolish slavery, so developing our modern view of evolution.

Desmond and Moore argue that only by understanding Darwin's Christian abolitionist inheritance can we shed new light on the perplexing mix of personal drive, public hesitancy and scientific radicalism that led him finally in 1871 to publish "The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex".

The result is an epoch-making study of this eminent Victorian.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 528 pages, 16 pp inset b/w
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Slavery & abolition of slavery
  • ISBN: 9780141032207



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Fascinating account of Darwin's intellectual milieu and motivation. I knew of the Malthus stimulus and of Wallace's nearly scooping him, but the case here is that slavery was the driver. His family Unitarian background and first-hand experiences on the Beagle trip combined to form his thinking throughout. So the point was to prove mankind's origin was singular not plural, so "all men are brothers". Seems odd to think anything else, but there are still those who do. The story is fascinating and detailed, including why he spent so much time on barnacles and pigeon-breeders, as well as why he left "Man" out of the Origin. the simultaneous US Civil War makes a dramatic part of the context. Sometimes a little hard to follow with its huge cast of twitcher-clerics, propagandists and profs. But well worth the effort.Carlyle comes out as a prize s*** as well as such an awful prose-writer. For some reason he kept a place at the fringe of Darwin's circle despite being a rabid "niggerology" firebrand.

Also by Adrian J. Desmond