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Darwin's children

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Dr Duncan Needham.

In 1852 Charles Darwin wrote to his cousin William Fox Darwin about his sister Susan’s heroic work to remedy a particularly deplorable situation suffered by the children of the poor:

“Susan has lately been working in a way, which I think truly heroic about the scandalous violation of the act against children climbing chimneys. We have set up a little Society in Shrewsbury to prosecute those who break the Law. . . . It makes one shudder to fancy one of one’s own children at 7 years old being forced up a chimney—to say nothing of the consequent loathsome disease, & ulcerlated limbs, & utter moral degradation.”

The Darwin children, as implied from this excerpt, were raised in a safe, comfortable, in many ways unremarkable upper-middle-class home. This normally hidden domestic sphere, though, can be illuminated through their myriad voices. In this talk I will share some of the Darwin children’s thoughts on their childhood to provide a glimpse into the working life of a man of science stationed at home and how his work schedule was inextricably intertwined with the pleasures and pitfalls of domestic life.

This talk is part of the Darwin College Humanities and Social Sciences Group series.

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