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The phrenologist George Combe's "Constitution of Man" (1827) offers an anti-evangelical philosophy of progressive natural laws capable of serving as a guide to life and conduct. It was one of the most controversial and influential works of the 19th century, selling an astonishing 350,000 copies and remaining in print from 1828 until 1899. (In comparison, Darwin's "Origin of Species" sold only 50,000 copies.) Countless books, pamphlets and articles were written to oppose, condemn, praise and especially to imitate it. Volume One of this set contains a newly typeset text of the 8th edition of the "Constitution" from 1847, with its original illustrations. As the last edition published in Combe's lifetime, this is the version of most interest to scholars, including as it does an additional chapter on science and religion. Volumes Two and Three are made up of early British and American responses to Combe's classic work, chronologically ordered from 1827 to 1879. This material - much of it very rare - has never been collected before. Its reprinting here, alongside the best text of the "Constitution" itself and prefixed by John van Wyhe's new introduction, should be of interest to students and scholars of 19th-century debates between science and religion. It should also be welcomed by specialists in the history of psychology, phrenology, heredity and educational reform.
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Mark G. Spencer is associate professor in the Department of History at Brock University, ON. He teaches courses on colonial and early U.S. history and the history of ideas in the Atlantic world, including the early U.S. history survey and upper-level and graduate courses on the American Enlightenment and American Revolution. His current research projects include a SSHRC-supported volume on David Hume as historian (contracted with Penn State University Press) and work on the American Enlightenment.
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