Author : Charles Darwin (1809-1892)

Title : The Descent of Man (1871)

Keywords: Heredity, race, sexual characteristics, natural selection, maternity, achievement

Pages : Introduction | page 1


This extract from The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex (1871) shows Darwin broaching the question of a difference in the mental powers between the sexes, and the role played in this by the evolutionary mechanism of sexual selection. It was inevitable that the science of evolution would become drafted in to contemporary debates about the nature of gender and the social position of women, particularly around the question of transformation. Darwin begins conservatively enough by alluding to maternal instincts in women and competitive instincts in man, but the logic of the theory opens up questions of contingency and transformation all the same, and in the extracts from Romanes and Simcox one sees how the implications of the theory could be drawn out in different ways and to different ends.

Back to Sexuality Documents | Introduction | page 1