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  • Cited by 8
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    This article has been cited by the following publications. This list is generated based on data provided by CrossRef.

    Delorme, Shannon 2014. Physiology or psychic powers? William Carpenter and the debate over spiritualism in Victorian Britain. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Vol. 48, p. 57.

    Barry, Jonathan 2013. Raising Spirits.

    Piccolino, Marco and Wade, Nicholas J. 2013. The Frog's Dancing Master: Science, Séances, and the Transmission of Myths. Journal of the History of the Neurosciences, Vol. 22, Issue. 1, p. 79.

    Ferguson, Christine 2012. Recent Studies in Nineteenth-Century Spiritualism. Literature Compass, Vol. 9, Issue. 6, p. 431.

    LAMONT, PETER 2012. THE MAKING OF EXTRAORDINARY PSYCHOLOGICAL PHENOMENA. Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, Vol. 48, Issue. 1, p. 1.

    Lamont, Peter 2010. Debunking and the Psychology of Error: A Historical Analysis of Psychological Matters. Qualitative Research in Psychology, Vol. 7, Issue. 1, p. 34.

    Natale, Simone 2010. Spiritualism exposed: Scepticism, credulity and spectatorship in end-of-the-century America. European Journal of American Culture, Vol. 29, Issue. 2, p. 131.

    Windscheffel, Ruth Clayton 2006. Politics, Religion and Text: W.E. Gladstone and Spiritualism. Journal of Victorian Culture, Vol. 11, Issue. 1, p. 1.



  • DOI:
  • Published online: 29 November 2004

Historians writing on Victorian spiritualism have said little about the reported phenomena of the séance room, despite such events having been the primary reason given by spiritualists for their beliefs. Rather, such beliefs have been seen as a response to the so-called ‘crisis of faith’, and their expression as part of a broader scientific and cultural discourse. Yet the debate about séance phenomena was significantly problematic for the Victorians, in particular the reported phenomena associated with the best-known Victorian medium, Daniel Dunglas Home. In the attempt to provide a natural explanation for Home's phenomena, two groups of experts were appealed to – stage conjurors and scientists – yet it seems clear that the former were unable to explain the phenomena, while scientists who tested Home concluded his phenomena were real. The overwhelming rejection of supernatural agency, and the nature of the response from orthodox science, suggests that such reported phenomena were less the result of a crisis of faith than the cause of a crisis of evidence, the implications of which were deemed scientific rather than religious.

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The author would like to thank the anonymous referees of the Historical Journal for their feedback, and acknowledge the assistance of the Arts and Humanities Research Board, the Institut für Grenzgebiete der Psychologie und Psychohygiene, and the Koestler Chair of Parapsychology.
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The Historical Journal
  • ISSN: 0018-246X
  • EISSN: 1469-5103
  • URL: /core/journals/historical-journal
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