America in 1859 was a country on the verge of Civil War. Abolitionists and pro-slavery forces battled it out in the nation’s newspapers, activists were advocating revolts while southerners were talking secession, political parties were splitting down the middle, and a little-known senator named Abraham Lincoln was just coming into prominence. Against this backdrop, Charles Darwin’s pioneering work of evolutionary theory, The Origin of Species, landed like a bomb.
In The Book that Changed America, author Randall Fuller discusses the immediate and lasting effects Darwin’s book had on a nation in turmoil. Covering the myriad reactions among the country’s pre-eminent scientists, intellectuals, writers, and politicians, Fuller reveals the ways Darwin’s book influenced not only science but the abolitionist argument, religion, literature, and American culture.