Incest and Influence: The Private Life of Bourgeois England

Overview

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...

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INCEST AND INFLUENCE

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Washington Times

[A] thoughtful, revealing [book] about the kind of networking that existed long before the Internet, flourishing in the 19th century... [Kuper's] anthropological analysis results in sociological conclusions that are very revealing about culture—scientific, political, economic, social-scientific—in the Victorian age. Here is one scholar who is fearlessly far-ranging in his scope.
— Martin Rubin

American Scientist

Incest and Influence presents a richly detailed and fascinating picture of the distinctive family life of the Victorian bourgeoisie.
— Gowan Dawson

Times Literary Supplement

Adam Kuper brings an anthropologist's understanding to what he calls "one of the great neglected themes" of social and literary history: the preference of the English bourgeoisie for marriage with relatives...He traces clans of bankers and merchants, dynasties of barristers, judges, clergymen, bishops, top civil servants, writers, scientists and thinkers—an urban elite. His thesis is that kin networks provided the basis for the consolidation of the bourgeoisie in the nineteenth century, and that marriage within the family was a strategy.
— Norma Clarke

Horace Freeland Judson
Adam Kuper, perhaps the most original of anthropologists working in the present day, has turned from the study of African tribes to scrutinize cousin marriages and other consanguineous unions from Jane Austen's characters to the Darwin family and on throughout the great families of the Victorian era--and has come up with a startling and irresistible contribution to nineteenth-century social history.
Washington Times - Martin Rubin
[A] thoughtful, revealing [book] about the kind of networking that existed long before the Internet, flourishing in the 19th century... [Kuper's] anthropological analysis results in sociological conclusions that are very revealing about culture--scientific, political, economic, social-scientific--in the Victorian age. Here is one scholar who is fearlessly far-ranging in his scope.
American Scientist - Gowan Dawson
Incest and Influence presents a richly detailed and fascinating picture of the distinctive family life of the Victorian bourgeoisie.
Times Literary Supplement - Norma Clarke
Adam Kuper brings an anthropologist's understanding to what he calls "one of the great neglected themes" of social and literary history: the preference of the English bourgeoisie for marriage with relatives...He traces clans of bankers and merchants, dynasties of barristers, judges, clergymen, bishops, top civil servants, writers, scientists and thinkers--an urban elite. His thesis is that kin networks provided the basis for the consolidation of the bourgeoisie in the nineteenth century, and that marriage within the family was a strategy.
American Scientist
Incest and Influence presents a richly detailed and fascinating picture of the distinctive family life of the Victorian bourgeoisie.
— Gowan Dawson
Washington Times
[A] thoughtful, revealing [book] about the kind of networking that existed long before the Internet, flourishing in the 19th century... [Kuper's] anthropological analysis results in sociological conclusions that are very revealing about culture--scientific, political, economic, social-scientific--in the Victorian age. Here is one scholar who is fearlessly far-ranging in his scope.
— Martin Rubin
Times Literary Supplement
Adam Kuper brings an anthropologist's understanding to what he calls "one of the great neglected themes" of social and literary history: the preference of the English bourgeoisie for marriage with relatives...He traces clans of bankers and merchants, dynasties of barristers, judges, clergymen, bishops, top civil servants, writers, scientists and thinkers--an urban elite. His thesis is that kin networks provided the basis for the consolidation of the bourgeoisie in the nineteenth century, and that marriage within the family was a strategy.
— Norma Clarke
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674035898
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 10/30/2009
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 1,111,638
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Adam Kuper is a Fellow of the British Academy.
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Table of Contents

  • Prologue: Darwin’s Marriage
  • Introduction


  1. Part I: A Question of Incest
  2. The Romance of Incest and the Love of Cousins
  3. The Law of Incest
  4. The Science of Incest and Heredity

  5. Part II: Family Concerns
  6. The Family Business
  7. Wilberforce and the Clapham Sect
  8. Difficulties with Siblings

  9. Part III: The Intellectuals
  10. The Bourgeois Intellectuals
  11. The Bloomsbury Version

  • Coda: The End of the Line
  • Notes
  • Index

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