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Good Reads  History & Other Humanities  History of Science & Nature

Impossible Monsters Dinosaurs, Darwin and the War Between Science and Religion

By: Michael Taylor(Author)
476 pages, 8 plates with colour & b/w photos and colour & b/w illustrations; b/w illustrations
Publisher: The Bodley Head
Impossible Monsters
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  • Impossible Monsters ISBN: 9781847926784 Hardback Mar 2024 Not in stock: Usually dispatched within 6 days
Price: £24.99
About this book Customer reviews Biography Related titles

About this book

Impossible Monsters is the captivating story of the discovery of the dinosaurs and how it upended our understanding of the origins of the world – overturning the literal reading of the Bible, liberating science from the shackles of religion, and giving birth to the secular age.

In 1811, a twelve-year-old girl uncovered some strange-looking bones in Britain's southern shoreline. They belonged to no known creature and were buried beneath a hundred feet of rock. How this was possible was unclear, but over the next two decades, as several more of these 'impossible monsters' emerged from the soil, the leading scientists of the day were forced to confront one profoundly disturbing implication: as a historical account of creation, the Bible was wildly wrong.

This is the dramatic story of the crisis that engulfed science and religion when we discovered the dinosaurs. It takes us into the lives and minds of the extraordinary men and women who made and grappled with these heretical discoveries, those who resisted them as well as those pioneering thinkers, Darwin most famous among them, who took great risks to construct a new account of the earth's and mankind's origins. It took seventy years for them to win their case: that the earth was millions of years old and that man, like every other living being, was an accident of evolution. Doing so had plunged Britain into a crisis of faith, liberated science from the authority of religion and ushered in the secular age.

Impossible Monsters is the riveting story of a group of people who not only thought impossible things but showed them to be true. In the process they revolutionised the way mankind thinks about itself, and so they changed the world.

Customer Reviews


Michael Taylor is the author of The Interest: How the British Establishment Resisted the Abolition of Slavery, which was shortlisted for the Orwell Prize 2021, chosen as a Daily Telegraph Book of the Year and described as 'riveting' (The Times) and 'compulsively readable' (Guardian). He was born in 1988 and graduated with a double first in history from the University of Cambridge, where he earned his PhD. He has since been Lecturer in Modern British History at Balliol College, Oxford, and a Visiting Fellow at the British Library's Eccles Centre for American Studies.

By: Michael Taylor(Author)
476 pages, 8 plates with colour & b/w photos and colour & b/w illustrations; b/w illustrations
Publisher: The Bodley Head
Media reviews

"This book confirms what I've suspected for a while, that Michael Taylor is the most talented young historian around. This book dazzles in its originality and there is something you want to commit to memory on every page. A triumph"
– Sathnam Sangera

"An account of the discovery of deep time that is as thrilling as it is sweeping, populated by a brilliantly drawn cast of characters, and vivid with a Mesozoic bestiary"
– Tom Holland

"A truly marvellous book: superb research and a sparkling narrative dramatize an epic battle of ideas and an intellectual thriller. Michael Taylor succeeds in reanimating those famous dinosaur wars of the 19th century with real brilliance, and makes them as fresh and furious as ever. Exuberant, stylish and brilliantly sustained throughout"
– Richard Holmes, author of The Age of Wonder

"In this stunning work of popular history, historian Michael Taylor shows how the discovery of dinosaurs triggered a domino effect that shook the foundations of western culture. A most engrossing book of surprises and revelations"
– Steve Brusatte, author of The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs

"A sweeping account of the discovery of dinosaurs and the horrifying depths of time, and their impact on god-fearing Victorians. Taylor marches us with panache from Bishop Ussher's impossibly young world to today's incomprehensibly old planet. We feel the awe and fright across society as the vast reptilian empires are brought to light"
– Adrian Desmond, author of Darwin's Sacred Cause

"Tremendously entertaining. Michael Taylor brings to splendid life the scandal and skulduggery that ensued as Victorian society came to terms with the existence of the shockingly unbiblical dinosaurs"
– Catherine Fletcher, author of The Beauty and the Terror

"Brilliant, entertaining, noteworthy"
– Ben Miller, actor and comedian

"Eloquent and authoritative, we're shown how the discoveries of ancient reptiles shook the very foundations of conservative nineteenth-century Britain"
– Prof. Paul Barrett, Natural History Museum, London

"An extraordinary and important tale of a seismic moment in intellectual history. Epic in scale yet intimate in detail, Taylor's Impossible Monsters is a masterclass in combining peerless erudition with superb storytelling."
– Matthew Parker

"Amazing [...] Taylor paints the complex picture of the fundamental tension between religion and geology through the nineteenth century with verve and humour [...] An important story that still affects us today"
– Prof. Michael Benton

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