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Benjamin Kidd
(1858 – 1916)

Benjamin Kidd, sociologist, was born in Clare on September 9th 1858. His father, also Benjamin, was a constable with the Royal Irish Constabulary. Following a poor education, Benjamin Junior entered the Inland Revenue Department of the Civil Service in a minor capacity in 1877. He worked in obscurity there for seventeen years. However, his spare time was devoted to study and in 1894 his first work was published. It was entitled “Social Evolution” and it brought him financial success and international fame. The controversial book was a philosophical work based on the theme that religion is the hub of humanity. He believed that reason was selfish and short-sighted and was of no help to mankind in the more important crises of life. Some criticisms were levelled at the book, stating that the style was more suited to sensational journalism than to the exposition of philosophical ideas. The book contained a strong attack on socialism, a fact that commended it to the reactionary section of the public and ensured its success. The book was translated into ten languages, including Arabic, Chinese, Czechoslovakian, French, German and Swedish.

The success of his work allowed Benjamin to retire from the Civil Service and between 1898 and 1902 he travelled extensively throughout America, Canada and Africa. These travels resulted in a series of articles commissioned by The Times and later published under the title “The Control of the Tropics”. His book “The Principles of Western Civilisation” was published in 1902. The subject matter was similar to his first book but was not as well received. It was described as long, verbose and obscure. In May 1908 Benjamin Kidd delivered the Herbert Spencer Lecture to Oxford University. It was entitled “Individualism and After”. In 1910 he started work on his book “The Science of Power” in which he reiterated his ideas on religion and humanity. He also expressed the view that woman was the great power in creating the “enthusiasm of the ideal”. This book was published posthumously in 1918 and was a success. Kidd wrote the article “Sociology” for the 1911 edition of Encyclopaedia Britannica. A number of papers on natural history were also published posthumously by his son under the title “A Philosopher with Nature”.

In 1887 Benjamin had married Emma Isabel Perry, of Weston-Super-Mare. They had three sons. Benjamin Kidd died of heart disease on October 2nd, 1916.

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