The unmaking of an anthropologist: Wallace returns from the field, 1862-70

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This essay follows Alfred Russel Wallace back from the field in 1862, tracing how his views on human evolution developed after his field experiences in the East Indies and how he articulated them within the social structure of British science during the 1860s. It analyses his involvement in the metropolitan scientific institutions dedicated to the study of man, the Ethnological Society of London and its breakaway counterpart, the Anthropological Society of London, which offered differing visions for a science of man and its intersection with political commitments. Using evidence from his participation in society meetings, the reception of his own anthropological papers, and the responses to the views he expressed in his field travel narrative, The Malay Archipelago, I show that although Wallace's involvement was initially enthusiastic, over time his views came into conflict with both groups. His involvement in established human science institutions declined, and Wallace turned towards other social locations for cultivating his knowledge of and engagement with questions involving the study of humanity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)25-42
Number of pages18
JournalNotes and Records of the Royal Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 20 2010


  • Alfred russel wallace
  • Anthropological society of London
  • British association for the advancement of science
  • Ethnological society of london
  • Human evolution
  • Spiritualism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History and Philosophy of Science


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