Annals of Science 59 (3):221-261 (2002)

On the occasion of its recent centennial, we trace the remarkable history of Herbert Spencer's 2,240 page Principles of Sociology , the most inductive, systematic, and comprehensive study of human society ever attempted. Spencer's bold aim was to establish empirically and then to explain (after the manner of the natural sciences) the 'relations of co-existence and sequence' among social phenomena. The database ('mass of evidence') required was so vast that it was published as a separate work, some eight folio volumes called Descriptive Sociology . A major force in the making of both scientific sociology and anthropology in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, Spencer's magnum opus was all but lost to these fields by the early decades of the twentieth century. The present generation, however, is witnessing a growing revival of interest in Spencer's thought. For many, his confident vision of a natural science of society still offers the best hope for understanding human societies and how they have come to be as they are
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1080/00033790110050768
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 68,944
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Evolution: The History of an Idea.Peter J. Bowler - 1985 - Journal of the History of Biology 18 (1):155-157.
The Changing Meaning of "Evolution".Peter J. Bowler - 1975 - Journal of the History of Ideas 36 (1):95.

View all 11 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

From 'Circumstances' to 'Environment': Herbert Spencer and the Origins of the Idea of Organism–Environment Interaction.Trevor Pearce - 2010 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 41 (3):241-252.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

The Study of Sociology.Herbert Spencer - 1877 - Henry S. King & Co.


Added to PP index

Total views
13 ( #765,504 of 2,498,154 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
1 ( #427,476 of 2,498,154 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes