In a recent paper by John van Wyhe (2020), the issue of class was discussed and whether Wallace came from a “working class” background. As a result of class differences could or should Wallace be considered differently from Darwin, who supposedly came from a higher class? An additional “myth” highlighted was whether Wallace left school, aged 14, due to difficult family financial circumstances. Van Wyhe contends that Darwin and Wallace were both middle class, and Wallace left school at the “normal” school-leaving age. This article shows that both contentions are mistaken. Class in the 19th century was complex and difficult, indeed a developing concept. The idea of a “middle class” was new and within this there was a stratification between the upper and lower middle classes. As for schools and education, there was no set leaving age specified and education was usually determined by class and family finances
Arts and Humanities | History | History of Science, Technology, and Medicine
Smith, Charles H. and Williams, James D., "Alfred Russel Wallace Notes 11: Wallace, Darwin, Education, & the Class Question" (2020). Faculty/Staff Personal Papers. Paper 198.