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We hope you have enjoyed participating in Evolve!
We would like to thank all those who joined in, for their help in the success of this project. Special thanks also to Dame Gillian Beer and Professor Rebecca Stott for acting as literary consultants on this project.

If you would like to be informed of other literary events contact: Helen Taylor, Literature Development Officer, Cambridgeshire County Council. Email:

Struggle and Strikes: The ‘Survival of the Fittest’ in Art and Literature
Podcast by Dame Gillian Beer

Dame Gillian Beer discusses ideas of poverty, struggle and competition as explored in the painting ‘On Strike’ (1891), and examines how Darwinian notions of ‘the survival of the fittest’ also inspired female poets of the time.

If you follow this link you will find Dame Gillian Beer’s response to the Endless Forms exhibition

Welcome to ‘Evolve!’ the first ever online Darwin book group

Join us in reading a variety of exciting and thought-provoking novels from the 19th century to the present day, (including a collection of poems) all influenced by Darwin’s life, his ideas and his book On the Origin of Species published in 1859.

Each month for four months (June – September 2009) there is a choice of 2 books to read and the chance to join our online discussion for each book. We have included a collection of poems in the choices as well as a ‘family choice’.

Darwin’s theory of evolution had a profound effect on nineteenth-century thought. Up until then, although there were some discussions of evolutionary ideas, western belief was that humans had a special superior place in the natural world and that there was a creator who organised and designed nature.

Darwin’s scientific observations and his theory of natural selection not only changed the way people looked at themselves and the world they lived in, but also influenced the way novelists thought about the world. The nineteenth century was a time when scientists and novelists regularly discussed and shared ideas. Many of Darwin’s ideas migrated into novels and became the material of fiction.

Darwin himself loved reading fiction. Every afternoon his wife read to him from novels and he says in his autobiography that novels ‘have been for years a wonderful relief and pleasure to me, and I often bless all novelists’

Although you may not always “bless all novelists”, we hope that by becoming part of the Evolve! online book group you will enjoy reading a wide range of books, you will be part of a vigorous and illuminating conversation via our online discussion and you will learn a lot more about what Darwin called “the great and complex battle for life” .

We would like to thank Dame Gillian Beer and Professor Rebecca Stott for acting as literary consultants to this project.

Helen Taylor, Literature Development Officer, Cambridgeshire County Council

Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882), Girl at a lattice, The Fitzwilliam Museum

Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882), Girl at a lattice, The Fitzwilliam Museum

Evolve! monthly book choices

Click on the book titles for further information

Saturday by Ian McEwan
The Island of Dr Moreau by H G Wells

Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
Darwin: A Life in Verse by Ruth Padel

The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle
The Inheritors by William Golding

Mr Darwin’s Shooter by Roger McDonald
Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar R Burroughs

Family choice
Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley

Suggested further reading

All Evolve! book choices are available from The Fitzwilliam Museum Shop or Heffers Book Shop, 20 Trinity Street, Cambridge. 01223 568568

Most books are available from Cambridgeshire Libraries and can be ordered via their website.

For other suggested novels and books about the life and work of Charles Darwin see our Further suggested reading list.

Evolve! is a partnership between The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridgeshire Libraries and Cambridgeshire County Council Literature Development. For further information, contact Helen Taylor: