chapter  I
28 Pages

The scientific view

BEATRICE WEBB once commented that 'the belief in science and the scientific method [was] ... certainly the most salient, as it was the most original, element of the mid-Victorian TimeSpirit'.2 This scientific spirit was duly applied to the study of man. In 1843 the English Ethnological Society was founded, growing out of the activities of the Aborigines Protection Society, which had been established in 1837 by Dr Thomas Hodgkin. By 1847 ethnology had been recognized as an independent discipline by the British Association for the Advancement of Science, and in a little over a decade the Anthropological Society of London was formed. Philological studies were begun in 1842. All three societies issued specialist publications. Many of those who contributed were conscious of the wide significance as well as the difficulty of their investigations. (Part of the reason for the London Anthropological Society's breakaway from the Ethnological Society in 1863 was a desire to popularize its discoveries, even if this meant involvement in public controversy, though the two associations ultimately reunited as the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, in 1871.)

The first difficulty arose from 'the public indifference to man 1 Races 0/ Man: a Fragment (London, 1862 ed.), p. v. 2 My Apprenticeship (London, 1946 ed.), p. 123.