(HIST050) Darwin and the Battle of Beliefs

Charles Darwin statueCGP Grey  CC BY 2.0 


Course start date: Monday 17th January 2022
Course end date: Friday 25th March 2022
Early Bird Price £135:

Tutor: Dr Min Wild
Course Code: HIST050
Level: Non-accredited, non-credit bearing
Assessments/Exams: None. Throughout the course you will be given ideas and questions to respond to in the online discussion area. Participation in online discussion is encouraged, but not compulsory.
Duration: 10 weeks
Estimated Student Study Time: 2 – 3 hours per week are recommended, but time spent is flexible and at your discretion.
Fee: £150.00
Pre-Requisites: No academic qualifications nor experience are required – you will simply need an enthusiasm for this subject.
Delivery: Online Distance Learning
Late Entrants: If this course is not full by the start date then late entrants will be accepted for up to two weeks after the start of the course. As a late entrant you can choose to catch up on the material you have missed or you can skip the missed weeks and concentrate on the material at the point where you join the course, but unfortunately we cannot offer fee reductions or course extensions for late entrants.
Recommended Reading**:

Preparatory study is not expected. A recommended reading list is provided within the course.

Required Reading**: None

**Please note: All courses are subject to sufficient numbers of students registering before they are confirmed as running. Therefore, after booking your place you are advised not to purchase any texts until you have received confirmation that the course is running.

This course was previously taught by Dr Min Wild when it was offered by the University of Exeter*. If you studied it with the University of Exeter* you might not wish to study it again with Learn for Pleasure as although we have revised and updated our courses where necessary, it will likely be substantively the same.


This course explores the shockwaves that Charles Darwin and like-minded nineteenth-century naturalists produced in the fields of:

  • archaeology
  • environmental science
  • history
  • literature
  • theology
  • and the visual arts

Together we will work with each discipline in turn, so as to get a good sense of its individual preoccupations, concerns and methods while gaining an understanding of the inter-relationships between these subjects and how they can affect and motivate each other, including, looking at the following ways of thinking that are commonly used in all the humanities:

  • structuralism
  • post-structuralism
  • Marxism
  • feminism
  • other philosophical and ethical approaches to the study of the environment, culture and history of humankind

Syllabus Plan

Week 1 (Introduction)
Introductory Overview

Week 2 (Literature)
Writing to Persuade: Conviction and Doubt in Darwin and Tennyson
Charles Darwin and Thomas Hardy: The Struggle for Life in the Victorian Novel

Week 3 (Visual Arts)
Darwinism: The Visual Perspective

Week 4 (Theology)
Darwin and Theology at Loggerheads?
Darwin and the Problem of Evil

Week 5 (Environment)

The Impact of Geology
The Influence of Darwin on Archaeology

Week 6 (History)
Social Darwinism
Social Darwinism in America

Week 7 (Gender and Race)
Gender and Race in Darwin: Culture, Nature and the Enlightened Subject

Week 8 (Culture and Political Thought)
Structuralist and Poststructuralist Darwin: Epistemology or ‘Finding Out How We Know What We Know’
Marxist Darwin: The Struggle for Existence and the Death of the Subject

Week 9 (Philosophy)
Philosophical Darwin: Darwin’s Dangerous Idea

Week 10 (Conclusions)