According to his biographer, Charles Darwin “was born into Jane Austen’s England” (Browne 1995: 3). While the Industrial Revolution, of which his grandfather Josiah Wedgwood was one of the main protagonists, had been in full swing for several decades by the beginning of the nineteenth century, life in small rural towns such as Darwin’s native Shrewsbury was largely unaﬀected by industrial development. By the end of Darwin’s life, however, English society as a whole, as well as the daily life of individuals, had been drastically changed by the impact of industrialization. By then,
Britain possessed two-thirds of the world’s capacity for cotton factory production and accounted for half the world’s output of coal and iron, an unmatched degree of industrial pre-eminence. The length of railway track snaking across the countryside doubled from 1850 to 1868. Lawnmowers, water-closets, gas lights, iron girders, encaustic tiles, and much, much more were available to those who could aﬀord them.