• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Why was there so much interest in attempting to communicate with the spirit world during the second half of the nineteenth century?

Extracts from this document...


Why was there so much interest in attempting to communicate with the spirit world during the second half of the nineteenth century? (essay) In the latter half of the nineteenth century, the concept of contacting the spirit world captivated the United Kingdom due to the rise of spiritualism which gripped most of the Westernised world. It was initially transferred to the UK via a Mrs. Hayden1 in 1852 from America where spiritualism had enjoyed a renaissance as a consequence of the events surrounding the "Rochester Rapping's" of 1848, in which a set of sisters known by the surname Fox claimed that a spirit of a murdered peddler was trying to contact them2 and even though it was later acknowledged by one of the sisters that these were fakes3, the spiritualist movement was still one of the biggest to have impressed the Western world. By outlining the rise of spiritualism, its subsequent failure and also the various individuals that endorsed and dismissed it, the aim of this essay is to address the question of why late-Victorians in England were so interested in the possibility of communicating with the spirit world. To do this, the essay is structured into two halves: Firstly, its rise is presented and this includes why so many were keen to be a follower. Secondly, its failure and those who dismissed it as just another "nonconformist" movement4 will be discussed. The rise in spiritualism was prominently felt within England, and coincided with a crisis of traditional religious dogma as a consequence of the rise in influential scientific publications, in particular Charles Darwin's "On the Origin of Species" (1859) ...read more.


s�ance room whilst at the same time he performed in darkness.24 Aside from the declining influence of the church and the popularity of the s�ance, other enormous aspects contributing to the rise of spiritualism include its universal application. Virtually anybody could take part, and women in particular flourished within the spiritualist environment. This is evident from reading the work of Alex Owen who is able to illustrate the extent of the impact made by women on the movement. The reason for this impact, as Owen argues, is due to the beneficial facets of a female character. By utilising the pre-determined traits of their personality, which included the traditional Victorian adage of women being the homemaker, women were able to demonstrate their ability in various roles, most frequently though as a medium25. Positions that many believed females excelled at and were better than males due the traditional view of women's angelic and gentle nature. This spiritualist conception of femininity though was both liberating and restricting as whilst women were able to achieve positions of status within the movement, the implication of their role as homemaker was restrictive within wider Victorian society 26 as the biblical notion of women being subservient to men was prevalent within it, even in spiritualist households it was considered that men should have the power with women only possessing limited influence27. Under the wider context of women's influence in spiritualism, the name of Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky is at the fore. She had a desire to reform the spiritualist movement as she was fed up of its obsession with phenomena and so co-founded the Theosophical Society in 1875, based in New York. ...read more.


Instead, there were regular splits in the movement and the various splinter groups had a wide range of spiritualist newspapers and periodicals. Some of which undertook social movements but the main purpose of spiritualism was largely forgotten - this being a possible afterlife - in favour of personal promotion as evident by the amount of self-congratulatory columns in spiritualist newspapers42. Although due to its religions principles spiritualism was largely accepted by religion, it was still attacked by some short-sighted clergymen and Pearsall contests that had spiritualism been as arrogant as the Church in the face of harsh criticism then it would have received more credence than it actually did43. Instead, it was only deemed as only being another "nonconformist" movement that posed an empty threat to the Church of England.44 In conclusion, despite the strenuous attempts made by prominent spiritualists to transform their movement into a religion, it ultimately failed. As a result, the attraction of communicating with the spirit world was only a pastime that provided comfort to many. Yet this was only a fashionable pastime and as is typical of fashion, attempts to communicate with the spirit world diminished when new forms of entertainment presented themselves, for example various spectator sports such as football started to grip the nation as a favourite distraction at the turn of the century. Despite this, the impact of spiritualism on the social scene of the Western world was profound, it was conducive to the publishing of famous fictional illustrations like Dracula (1897) and above all, it was a vehicle for various other socially conscious movements such as socialism and greater rights for women to come to the fore of English society. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our University Degree 1800-1899 section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related University Degree 1800-1899 essays

  1. Marked by a teacher

    Why did British agriculture decline after 1870?

    4 star(s)

    British markets long after legislation had opened them up and the British economy moving away from a system based on agriculture. It is important to remember that agriculture did not decline in all sectors. The export of livestock was one which thrived in the new economy: Cattle exports increased tenfold

  2. Account for the emergence of first wave feminism in Australasia in the 1880s and ...

    Scott promoted women to be apolitical, which was one thing which differed women from men in Politics. The feminist view which was shared by Scott was that not being attached to a political party allowed women to influence politics more effectively, as they did not have to worry about loyalty to a certain party.

  1. In the essays Learning to Read and Write and Coming to the Awareness of ...

    painstakingly copying the words and definitions in the dictionary page by page, he succeeded not only in expanding his word base but in improving his penmanship as well. He was fascinated with this new world of discovery and information and found freedom in the pages of the many books he devoured as well as in the letters he wrote.

  2. Why was there a Scramble for Africa in the late 19th Century? (68/100)

    necessary by the growing rivalry among the powers was out of all proportion to the economic value of the newly acquired colonies17. Because of this it seems unlikely that the potential for financial gain was the motive for the scramble, when considering the distinct lack of it.

  1. Victorian moral values applied equally to all. Discuss this statement in relation to the ...

    Once a woman became a wife - and here she had no choice, as it was the '...the destination appointed by society for women' (p.66) - she relinquished almost all her rights to her husband and could not act without his permission.

  2. Free essay

    Faraday and Reputation

    the time, with no particular knowledge or interest in science, could find himself visiting Faraday's exhibitions as much for the spectacle as anything else whilst learning a thing or two at the same time.

  1. Why did nineteenth-century radicals such as Robert Owen and Alfred Russel Wallace, embrace the ...

    people ? mainly agriculture-based and possessing the best machinery, a variety of employment, and based on the principle of common interest[a]. Owen claimed to have contacted the spirits of great figures such as Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, claiming that the purpose of such communications was to ?change the miserable

  2. Nationalism and Imperialism in the Late Nineteenth Century

    The Arts were flourishing and creating a sense of pride among various western European countries. Literature, paintings and the development of film all gave people an outlet to express themselves. By the late nineteenth century a number of European countries possessed new territories overseas.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work