Book Review: The Heyday of Natural History
(originally posted on my tumblr)

L. Barber.  The Heyday of Natural History: 1820-1870.  New York: Doubleday. 1980.  Pp. 320.

The Heyday of Natural History by Lynn Barber acts as a survey of the Natural History phenomenon during the Victorian Era.  The author offers some insight as to the origins of the Natural History movement, the social pressures that fueled its popularity, and to the changes in science that led to its decline.  The book is divided into five sections detailing the social and scientific backgrounds, the “explosion” of natural history as a popular pastime, and religious orthodoxy and dissenting views (such as Darwin’s natural selection).   Along the way, the author details the lives and careers of some of the important (and sometimes just the more colorful) members of the Natural History scene.   Her writing style is easily readable and engaging and, while she covers individual events and individuals in excellent detail, the book lacks an overall cohesiveness that would fold the many vignettes into a concise narrative showing the big picture.

Four starfish of five…