Wallace Collection learning activities

A varied life

These letters are a good starting point to discover lesser-known, but interesting, facts about Alfred Russel Wallace's life.

Wallace was interested in social issues and was also a well-known spiritualist. He wrote articles and books on both topics.

Explore the Collection by following the links below. Then answer the questions beneath each link.

Skills practice: interpretation

WP1/5/8: Details of Boston seance

This letter, undated but probably sent December 1886, is from Wallace to his daughter Violet, giving the details of a séance and the train journey to Boston.

How might members of the scientific community reacted to Wallace? For example, many Victorians were interested in spiritualism, but was it worthy of scientific investigation?

WP1/2/21: Wallace's views on an eight-hour working day

This letter, dated May 1891, is from Wallace to his daughter, Violet, arguing for an eight-hour working day and double pay for overtime.

How controversial were Wallace’s social opinions?