What links stray Victorian tabby cats, Adam Bede, Victorian board games, and Darwin's account of species? What connects Maxwell's demon and Daniel Deronda? The answer, it turns out, is contingency. In this thoughtful and well-researched interdisciplinary account, Tina Young Choi ranges far and wide to find examples of the Victorian assimilation of contingency and related ideas of probability and risk. Darwin's work, as Gillian Beer and others have shown, provided writers with a model of a master narrative in which there was no guiding hand of providence; minor happenstance variations in a species could generate dramatic differences over time. But this book argues that Darwin's 1859 On the Origin of Species was itself part of a sea change in the ways in which people began to think about life chances, the aleatory, and the probable. From the rise of nineteenth-century insurance companies, to the deep historical narratives of...

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