Missing giant

The conclusion of Tristram Hunt's profile of Victorian Britain (8 January) illustrates a characteristic attitude, probably of Victorian origin, that deforms British culture. He refers to "such intellectual giants as Carlyle, Ruskin, Tennyson and Macaulay". The undoubted intellectual giant of Victorian Britain, and probably the 19th-century world, was Charles Darwin; yet Hunt appears entirely ignorant of the greatest intellectual events of his chosen era, and of the whole of the great scientific culture that advanced so dramatically in the 19th century.

As well as his scientific work, Darwin fought slavery and racism all his life, and was a leading member of the Jamaica Committee, which tried to have Governor Eyre prosecuted for the atrocities with which he suppressed the Morant Bay rebellion in 1864. In contrast, two of Hunt's heroes, Carlyle and Ruskin, were leaders of the racist Governor Eyre Defence Committee.

John Wilson
London NW3

This article first appeared in Dotcoms will rise again

2001-01-15