As the Victorians excavated the earth to create canals and railways in the early part of the nineteenth century, geological discoveries brought to light new narratives of the prehistoric, ideas that resounded in British society, art, and literature of the period. This engaging and generously illustrated book explores the Victorian fascination with all things prehistoric. Michael Freeman shows how men and women were both energised and unsettled by the realisation that the formation of the earth over hundreds of millions of years and Darwin's theories about the origins of life contradicted what they had read in the Bible. He describes the rock and fossil collecting craze that emerged, the sources of inspiration and imagery discovered by writers and artists, and the new importance of geologists and paleontologists. He also discusses the cathedral-like museums that sprang up in cities and towns, shrines to all that was progressive in the age but still clothed in the trappings of traditional ideas.
Michael Freeman, supernumerary fellow and lecturer in human geography at Mansfield College, Oxford, is also the author of Railways and the Victorian Imagination, published by Yale University Press.