This book is ‘likely to effect an immense mental revolution’, the London publisher John Chapman prophesied in 1859 after Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species had appeared. Was he right? Yes, Cor Hermans states in his interesting thesis … Mr Hermans demonstrates in detail how thinkers like Galton (the father of eugenics), Spencer, Wallace, Haeckel and Schäffle – each in their own way – tried to shape this aspiration [to redefine sociology, social politics, and social philosophy in a darwinistic way], what emphasis they chose, and how they fitted it in with the national and socio-political context they were engaged in. But Mr Hermans does more. He shows that the efforts of the social Darwinists were not necessarily ‘faulty’, or, as has been suggested in historiography, only a vulgarisation or misleading popularisation of Darwin’s theory. Darwin himself wished for his universal theory to penetrate the humanities.

Amanda Kluveld, Historisch Nieuwsblad, March 2004

Historian Cor Hermans has written a fascinating and highly readable, though rather sizeable, book on social Darwinian thought as it developed from the second half of the nineteenth century onward, mainly under the influence of the work of Darwin himself.

Paul Schnabel, NRC Handelsblad, 1-2 November, 2003