This book examines the mentality of the upper and middle classes during the first half of the nineteenth century. It was an age obsessed by the idea of catastrophes; by wars, famines, pestilences, revolutions, floods, volcanoes, and - especially - the great commercial upheavals whichperiodically threatened to topple the world's first capitalist system. Thanks to the dominant evangelical ethos of the day, such sufferings seemed to be part of God's plan, and governments took a harsh attitude toward social underdogs, whether bankrupts or paupers, in order not to interfere with thedispensations of providence. Free Trade was adopted, not as the agent of growth it was later seen to be, but in order to restrain an economy which seemed to be racing out of control.In the 1850s and 1860s, however, a different attitude to social problems developed along with evolutionary approaches to the physical and animal worlds and a new understanding of God, who came to be regarded less as an Arnoldian headmaster and more like Santa Claus. At the centre of this ideology,and throwing light upon it, was a new way of understanding the Atonement.