The Open Boat Historical Context

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Every field of thought in the late nineteenth-century was impacted by the theories of Charles Darwin. Although Darwin's On the Origin of Species was published in 1859, its influence was felt most strongly in the United States in the 1880s and 1890s. A variety of thinkers in the social sciences began to apply Darwin's evolutionary theories to explain the development of human societies. Known as the "Social Darwinists," these thinkers posited the existence of a process of evolution based on hereditary traits that predetermined the behavior of human beings. The most famous of these thinkers, an English social scientist named Herbert Spencer, popularized the phrase "survival of the fittest" to describe the omnipotent law of "natural selection" which determines the natural evolution of society. Most Social Darwinists adapted the idea of natural selection to existing racial theories, using this hereditary or evolutionary reasoning to explain the condition...

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This section contains 700 words
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Short Stories for Students
The Open Boat from Short Stories for Students. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.