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on November 13, 2011
Lee Dugatkin's _Prince of Evolution_ is a compelling biography of the life of Peter Kropotkin, the Russian anarchist, founder of 'Freedom Press' publishing house in London and author of the series of essays that were later brought together as _Mutual Aid. A Factor in Evolution_(1902). This book is 'read-in-an-afternoon' short, coming in at less than 100 pages, and so the story is necessarily selective, but for all this it is a must read. Anarchists will find a detailed consideration of Kropotkin's notable scientific achievements, and historians of other political persuasions might also be surprised at the extent of Kropotkin's scientific achievements. Biologists will also glean some history of what is now termed the levels of selection debate (whether natural selection selects the gene, the individual, or the group), giving more detail on Kropotkin's story than either Mark Borrello included in his brilliant _Evolutionary Restraints_ (2010) or Oren Harmann had time for in his compelling story of George Price, _The Price of Altruism_ (2010).

From chapter four onwards Dugatkin goes into some detail to explain the origins, influences and implications of Kropotkin's biological theory of mutualism, not only in biology but in politics--the two were inseparable in the context of the nineteenth-century evolution debates. In stark contrast to the liberal-individualist version of Darwinian evolution put forward by 'Darwin's Bulldog', T.H. Huxley, Kropotkin argued that ethical regard for others of the same species was deep-seated. Its origins lay in the evolutionary strategy of mutual aid, the groups that contained organisms that cooperated tended to survive and multiply where those that were made up predominantly of selfish individualists tended not to. Although Dugatkin does not say so, Kropotkin was, with only a few differences, actually echoing the views that Darwin had already laid out in his _Descent of Man_ (1871), and made it clear that he thought himself a better Darwinian than Huxley on account of it.

In sum, Prince of Evolution is short, readable, and on the money - ($3.99 for Kindle and less than $13.00 for the print-to-order paperback?!). Dugatkin is a biologist, with an undergraduate degree in history. This shows: the science is foregrounded,--a bonus, as it takes a very distant back seat in most other biographies of Kropotkin, and it is eminently readable. Professional historians of science could learn a thing or two from Dugatkin, while there is clearly much left out (the teasing fact that it was Kropotkin who translated Spencer into Russian is pointed out, but in a sentence), he writes with the ability to make history exciting and accessible to undergraduates. I have students of my own who wax lyrical about this book--and who want to read more. What more can you ask?
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on August 22, 2011
In this lavishly written book, Lee Dugatkin resurrects the story of Prince Kropotkin, whose life and studies profoundly questioned Victorian science and society. Kropotkin showed that animals and humans self-organize into cooperative structures without God or government. Almost without realizing it, Kropotkin discovered the biological foundation for human liberty. --Paul Zak, Ph.D., Director, Center for Neuroeconomics Studies, Claremont Graduate University
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on December 25, 2012
Dugatkin's interest in Kropotkin centers around his - Kropotkin's - challenge to Thomas Henry Huxley's version of Darwin's theory: "nature red in tooth and claw." Based on his time working in Siberia as a geographer, Kropotkin came to believe that species survived not through competition but through mutual aid. This experience, as well as his growing distaste for Czarist policies and politics, convinced him that anarchism - ie, local cooperation and mutual assistance was the fundamental species impulse, both in humans and in other species. Dugatkin's is essentially a historical presentation, so he spends little time - too little, in my view - on how Kropotkin's views have weathered modern scientific investigation. Dugatkin himself is a biologist, focused on animal behavior. I think I will have to track down some of his other work to see if he measures Kropotkin's contributions against current research.

It is well-written and I would recommend it to anyone interested in Kropotkin's life and thought. If you are not familiar with Kropotkin, you may want to supplement this with Woodcock's THE ANARCHIST PRINCE.
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on November 12, 2012
This is a good introduction and overview to the life and work of Peter Kropotkin. This book is easy to read with short chapters. At the same time I was looking for more, something more substantial. Each chapter starts off with a quote from Kropotkin and lacks dialogue or correspondence between him and other luminaries mentioned in the book. I'm still intrigued enough to read Mutual Aid; a factor of evolution originally recommended by Colman McCarthy, the founder of the Centre for Teaching Peace in Washington DC.
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on August 29, 2013
This is a fine biography of Kropotkin. Dugatkin has worked in the same field as Kropotkin - and would have been well placed to comment on Kropotkin's work and relevance today. However, frustratingly for me, all such commentary is confined to a couple of pages at the beginning and end of the book. So, this is a straight biography.
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on November 23, 2012
This is simple biography of Peter Kropotkin. Dugatkin describes well Kropotkin's political philosophy and his contributions to science. Good entry level to understanding the historical development of anarchism.
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on November 29, 2014
A quite handy, highly readable account of Kropotkin's recognition of the role of mutual aid - altruism - as a force in evolution.
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on April 21, 2015
I can't believe how much I enjoyed this book!! I can't believe that as a biologist and a person who loves evolution, in its entirety, I never really knew about Peter Kropotkin. Thank you Dr.Dugatkin for bringing this brilliant scientist and anarchist into my life and writing about his life!! It was inspiring and truly a wonderful read!!
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