Sir John Lubbock Correspondence, 1856-1906


Date: 1856-1906 | Size: 0.25 Linear feet, 50 items


This is a miscellaneous collection of letters, to and from Lubbock, concerning his lectures and his interest in paleontology, as well as references to political matters, particularly the Irish question, and numerous mentions of the legislative bills with which he was involved. There are letters concerning his publications, "Prehistoric Times" (1865), and "Sense and Intelligence of Animals" (1888).

Background note

Sir John Lubbock, Lord Avebury (1834-1913; APS 1884) was an English banker, a Liberal politician, and a self-taught natural scientist and polymath. Born in London on April 30, 1834, he was the son of Sir John William Lubbock (1803-1865), who was himself a baronet, a banker of much wealth, a fellow of the Royal Society, and an accomplished mathematician.

During his youth, the Lubbock family moved to an estate in Downe in Kent. This move influenced the course of his life. In 1842, Charles Darwin moved in to the same village and befriended the eight year old Lubbock. The eminent naturalist saw a budding scientist in the boy, and convinced Lubbock's father to purchase a microscope for his son. Darwin and the younger Lubbock would share a forty-year long friendship. Lubbock participated in the debates over natural science during that time and became a close ally to his mentor. Sir John Lubbock was educated at Eton from age 11 to 15. His father, president of the banking firm Lubbock, & Co., pulled him out of the school after four years to help with the banking business. Lubbock's formal education thus ended; though he never attended university, he read, studied, and wrote voraciously on a wide variety of subjects on his own, while working at the bank.

By age 24, his independent endeavors were recognized. In 1858, Lubbock was the first to find musk-ox fossils in Britain, demonstrating the existence of a glacial age there. He published his findings in Daphnia, and his friend and mentor Darwin in turn successfully recommended his protégé's election as fellow of the Royal Society. Three years later, Lubbock became a member of the society's council.

The evolutionist Lubbock was a successful writer and composed works which appealed to amateur and professional audiences in a myriad of fields. About science he remarked, "Science is more exciting than a fairy tale, more brilliant than a novel." From Prehistoric Times (1865) to The Origin of Civilization and the Primitive Condition of Man (1871) to On the Senses, Instincts, and Intelligence of Animals (1888) to Marriage, Totenism, and Religion (1911), Lubbock published continually, contributing to the fields of archaeology, botany, economics, entomology, ethnology, geology, numismatics, sociology, travel, and zoology. While his contributions to his avocations were diverse and impressive, Lubbock also was successful in his vocations. By age 22, he was made a partner in his father's bank. He was instrumental in the establishment of the clearing system for checks in the British banking system. And, he authored the Bank Holidays Act (1871), which required banks to close on designated public holidays, a law which is still observed in the United Kingdom.

This latter accomplishment was achieved one year after Lubbock was elected as a Member of Parliament for Maidstone. He served in this capacity for ten years, from 1870-1880. As a Liberal MP, his legislative passions were: promoting the study of science, improving work conditions for laborers, and paying the national debt. Despite losing a reelection campaign for Maidstone in 1880, Lubbock's political career continued after he was selected as a member for the University of London. For the next twenty years, he held this position. In 1900, he was granted a peerage by the crown and took up a place in the House of Lords as Baron Avebury, in honor of the ancient Neolithic stone circle he saved from property development. In addition to the Bank Holidays Act, Lubbock was instrumental in the creation of the College of Surgeons Act, the Open Spaces Act, the Ancient Monuments Act, and the Public Libraries Amendment Act during his time in Parliament.

Lubbock was also very active in professional organizations and societies and held an unusual number of leadership positions in a plethora of associations. These include:

• Vice President of the Royal Society • Vice Chancellor of the University of London • Principal of the Working Men's College • Member, Royal Commission on the Advancement of Science • Member, Royal Commission on Public Schools • Member, Royal Commission on Elementary Education • Member, Royal Commission on Gold and Silver • Privy councilor and president of the London Chamber of Commerce • President of the British Association • President of the Entomological Society • President of the Ethnological Society • President of the Linnean Society • President of the Anthropological Institute • President of the Ray Society • President of the Statistical Society • President of the African Society • President of the Society of Antiquaries • President of the Royal Microscopical Society • President of the International Institute of Sociology • President of the International Association of Prehistoric Archaeology • President of the International Association of Zoology • President of the International Library Association • President of the University of London Extension Society • President of the Institute of Bankers • President of the Central Association of Bankers • Lord Rector of the University of St. Andrews • Trustee of the British Museum • Foreign Secretary of the Royal Academy • Commander of the Legion of Honour • Member, American Philosophical Society

Lubbock died at Kingsgate Castle in Kent on May 28, 1913.

Collection Information

Physical description

50 items.

Indexing Terms

Geographic Name(s)

  • Great Britain -- Politics and government -- 19th century.
  • Ireland -- Politics and government -- 19th century.

Personal Name(s)

  • Argyll, George Douglas Campbell, Duke of, 1823-1900
  • Arnold, Edwin, Sir, 1832-1904
  • Barber, Edwin Atlee, 1851-1916
  • Bright, John, 1811-1889
  • Clarke, Hyde, 1815-1895
  • Duffy, Charles Gavan, Sir, 1816-1903
  • Haeckel, Ernst, 1834-1919
  • Holmes, Oliver Wendell, 1841-1935
  • Hooker, Joseph Dalton, Sir, 1817-1911
  • Knollys, Francis, 1837-1924
  • Lubbock, John, Sir, 1834-1913
  • Macmillan, Alexander, 1818-1896
  • Nubar Pasha, 1825-1899
  • Rawlinson, Henry, Sir, 1810-1895
  • Stamfordham, Arthur John Bigge, Baron, 1849-1931
  • Stocker, A. D.
  • Tylor, Edward B. (Edward Burnett), 1832-1917


  • Animal intelligence.
  • Natural history.
  • Paleontology.
  • Prehistoric peoples.

Detailed Inventory

 Sir John Lubbock Correspondence
 Lubbock, John, Sir, 1834-1913.
Letter to My Dear Sir
1856 September 15 
 Rawlinson, Henry, Sir, 1810-1895
1865 September 21 
 Macmillan, Alexander, 1818-1896
1874 May 12 
 Lubbock, John, Sir, 1834-1913.
Letter to Sir James
1877 July 4 
 Lubbock, John, Sir, 1834-1913.
Letter to Mr. Stow
1877 September 1 
 Barber, Edwin Atlee, 1851-1916
1878 September 2 
 Mache, P. S.
1887 March 19 
 Thiez, C. W.
1888 August 9 
 Lubbock, John, Sir, 1834-1913.
Letter to Madame Goddard
1888 September 6 
 Lubbock, John, Sir, 1834-1913.
Letter to My Dear Children
1892 December 14 
 Cooke, W. H.
1895 July 11 
 Lubbock, John, Sir, 1834-1913.
Letter to Dear Madam
1896 July 11 
 Stocker, A. D.
1896 August 26 
 Cooke, W. H.
1897 July 30 
 George, H. B.
1897 November 20 
 Spencer, W. T.
1900 July 18 
 Stocker, A. D.
1901 January 17 
 Stocker, A. D.
1901 April 18 
 Hocker, P. D.
1901 June 20 
 Lubbock, John, Sir, 1834-1913.
Letter to Dear Sir
1901 October 20 
 Downes, R. P.
1902 December 5 
 Lubbock, John, Sir, 1834-1913.
Letter to Basil H. (Basil Harrington) Soulsby, 1864-1933
1903 July 18 
 Macmillan, Alexander, 1818-1896
April 15 
 Evans, John, 1823-1908
May 23 
 Lubbock, John, Sir, 1834-1913.
Letter to Basil H. (Basil Harrington) Soulsby, 1864-1933
July 10