The 'process' means evolution. 'Our race' is the human race. This was how John Lubbock ended his 1865 book Prehistoric Times, and I heard it yesterday in a fascinating lecture by Janet Owen today (her book is out shortly), at a special day of lectures on Lubbock at the Royal Society.
I was particularly excited to hear this for two reasons.
First, because it was what Janet called an ‘overtly political’ extension of Darwin’s evolutionary message – human progress was heading towards happiness. And Lubbock was in a position to understand evolution: he was Darwin’s neighbour, his pupil, his great popular interpreter, and a pallbearer at his funeral.
Lubbock died a century ago (hence the Royal Society’s celebration), the originator of bank holidays, the doughty fighter for the first Ancient Monuments Bill, the saviour of Avebury circle – and of course the grandfather of our own brilliant and pioneering Eric Avebury.
It is no coincidence that The Origin of Species and the Liberal Party both emerged in 1859. The party was and is bound up with the idea of enlightened human progress – human evolution in its broadest sense.
The second reason I was fascinated by all this is that Lubbock was my great-great-grandfather. His daughter Ursula was his secretary in the later years of his life, and was my great-grandmother. She held me at my christening and always had a copy of Liberal News in her handbag, along with some knitting (perhaps this is what really made me editor of Liberal Democrat News, as I was for six wonderful years).
She continued the family tradition as the liberal wing of the eugenics movement (yes there was one), as a leading feminist and by campaigning against the misuse of nuclear technology. It was a Liberal tradition too, of the central belief in the perfectability of humanity – based on what Darwin called the "mutation of species".
I’ve been thinking about the belief in evolution in the broadest sense at the heart of the Liberal soul because of a note on Facebook by a friend of mine, boasting that she had voted Labour for the first time – and wondering why I could never do that.
It is because, however cross or exasperated by the party I am occasionally – specifically about the government’s support for nuclear energy and its failure to build a new local banking infrastructure – I am and will remain a Liberal.
But what I have always found most exasperating – most of the time – is the party’s failure to see beyond the immediate and to articulate their purpose and central beliefs.
Luckily, I had reckoned without the multi-talented Mark Pack, who has created one of his brilliant visual representations of what the party is for. It is an important breakthrough and, although it doesn't mention Darwin, I very much recommend it. Here it is.