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Wallace's views on militarism and seances

Wallace's views on militarism and seances (page 1)

Catalogue number: WP1/2/116

Letter from Wallace to his daughter Violet on writing an article about militarism, and giving details of a séance, dated November 1898.

Wallace tells Violet that he is writing an article for the Paris Socialist newspaper L'Humanité Nouvelle on 'the causes and evils of war and militarism, and the best and most effective remedies'.

As a committed Socialist, Wallace summarised his ideas thus: '...the fundamental cause of war is the existence and almost absolute power of ruling and military classes, to whom war brings profit, power, [and] excitement...' Wallace admits there is both good and evil in militarism. The good arises from 'the organisation, the training the cooperation, the brotherly love...' He suggests that these good effects could instead arise 'from an equally effective industrial organisation'.

Wallace was forthright in voicing his opinions on a variety of subjects.

Wallace gives his daughter Violet an account of a séance that his friend went to. Séances were a popular Victorian pastime and there was a lot of interest in trying to contact the dead. Wallace tells Violet that during the séance his friends had 'got the table to tip and move and roll about and fall over, and they are very much astonished'.

Wallace felt that spiritualism was worthy of investigation and encouraged fellow scientists to investigate too. Spiritualism was well accepted by the public, but generally dismissed by the scientific community. This frustrated Wallace. Despite suffering some ridicule, he persevered with his investigations at séances and read many books on the subject. Unable to find any other convincing explanation, Wallace embraced spiritualism and wrote many articles on the subject.

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Letter to Alfred Russel Wallace from the Royal Society, about his Darwin Medal award

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