Incest and Influence

Front Cover
Harvard University Press, Oct 30, 2009 - History - 296 pages
1 Review

Like many gentlemen of his time, Charles Darwin married his first cousin. In fact, marriages between close relatives were commonplace in nineteenth-century England, and Adam Kuper argues that they played a crucial role in the rise of the bourgeoisie.

Incest and Influence shows us just how the political networks of the eighteenth-century aristocracy were succeeded by hundreds of in-married bourgeois clans--in finance and industry, in local and national politics, in the church, and in intellectual life. In a richly detailed narrative, Kuper deploys his expertise as an anthropologist to analyze kin marriages among the Darwins and Wedgwoods, in Quaker and Jewish banking families, and in the Clapham Sect and their descendants over four generations, ending with a revealing account of the Bloomsbury Group, the most eccentric product of English bourgeois endogamy.

These marriage strategies were the staple of novels, and contemporaries were obsessed with them. But there were concerns. Ideas about incest were in flux as theological doctrines were challenged. For forty years Victorian parliaments debated whether a man could marry his deceased wife's sister. Cousin marriage troubled scientists, including Charles Darwin and his cousin Francis Galton, provoking revolutionary ideas about breeding and heredity.

This groundbreaking study brings out the connection between private lives, public fortunes, and the history of imperial Britain.

 

What people are saying - Write a review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - PhilDasilva - LibraryThing

Scrutinizes cousin marriages and other related by blood unions from Jane Austen's characters to the Darwin family and the great families of the Victorian era. Read full review

Contents

Darwins Marriage
1
Introduction
5
The Romance of Incest and the Love of Cousins
31
The Law of Incest
52
The Science of Incest and Heredity
83
The Family Business
107
Wilberforce and the Clapham Sect
135
Difficulties with Siblings
159
The Bourgeois Intellectuals
181
The Bloomsbury Version
199
The End of the Line
243
Copyright

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2009)

Adam Kuper is Centennial Professor of Anthropology at the London School of Economics and Political Science and a Fellow of the British Academy.

Bibliographic information