by Erik G. Magro ©, Aug. 16th, 2005
The Victorian Age in England was a time of dramatic changes, new inventions, the Industrial Revolution, and an introduction to new ideologies, all of which would transform the way significant portions of society lived and thought of life forever. The overwhelming external changes in daily life during this period would match in intensity the nature of changes happening in the internal lives of the public. Charles Darwin, as a naturalist, helped usher in this change after a long voyage to the South Seas where he observed several widely unknown species. In 1859, a year after his return, he presented his observations in a book, The Origin of Species by means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. In it he deduced from their widely diverse natures a common thread that linked all species to a single ancestor; the Theory of Evolution as he called the phenomenon soon became a household word and stirred up massive controversy and debate, still resounding today. The implications of Darwin’s theory created a deep divide in culture, a conflict of natural versus supernatural order. Not only did it offer an alternate account of the genesis of life from the Old Testament, but it also gave a sense of moral freedom from the divine Creator and His judgment; it became a cause unto itself in society among leaders in political and industrial circles, effecting science and academia. Darwinism, as the collection of theories was called, changed the course of man’s history forever.
In the immediate aftermath of unleashing the evolution theory to the public, the common man was faced with a choice of how to look at life and live it. Among those exposed to these choices were some of the most important men in the business community, men who could, with their influence of wealth and power, determine the lifestyles of the middle class population by means of their product prices, work policies, and wages in the factories they owned. A staunch supporter of evolution, Herbert Spencer, developed the social application of Darwinism, which was highly influential on the practices of such powerful moguls. The ideology was known as Social Darwinism and made use of the models Darwin used to describe evolution in nature, namely, survival of the fittest and natural selection. These orders of development were the philosophical basis that publicly justified the methods factory owners were already applying in their businesses to stay competitive. As leaders of industry, they believed they had the right to impose whatever treatment they saw fit for those below them on the social ladder.