The rise of the naturalist movement
The historical and philosophical influences on the movement include the Industrial Revolution, the rise of venture capitalism, and the scientific age. By the mid-nineteenth century, the effects of the Industrial Revolution were manifest. The agricultural workforce had migrated to the cities, and thousands of large, new factories had been built. New technologies began to bring more efficient power sources, such as gas and electricity, to homes and businesses in urban areas. The steam locomotive, the telegraph, and underground cables increased the speed of travel and communication. The new technologies opened new opportunities for entrepreneurs, and those few with access to capital built vast industrial empires. Increased wealth came into the hands of these businesspeople, and, for them, the standard of living rose dramatically.
The new industrialization had significant side effects. Factory workers were poor and underpaid, and they worked long hours in unsafe conditions. They had flocked to the cities from the country to find industrial jobs, and they were jammed together in squalid and overcrowded conditions. They lived a mean and brutish existence. The Industrial Revolution replaced romantic idealism with a new and harsh reality that focused on the accumulation of external goods—a new materialism.
Not only were material conditions changing, but new ideas were attacking the complacent Victorian order. In 1859 and again in 1871, Charles Darwin published his theory of evolution: Species are in constant battle to maintain their existence. Those that survive are better adapted to the environment and thus stronger. Through a process he called natural selection, new species evolve; humans had evolved from lower forms of animal...
(The entire section is 714 words.)