Kingsley was a leader in the Christian Socialism and Chartism movements, which attempted to apply Christian ethics to industrialism by, among other things, encouraging cooperation among workers and charity from the wealthy. The Charter movement helped lead to universal male suffrage and the secret ballot, although Kingsley did not advocate the political process as the primary means of achieving social change. Kingsley was one of the first in the church to support Darwin’s theories of evolution, and to seek reconciliation between traditional religious beliefs and the new knowledge being developed by scientists. He was also prescient in advocating progressive measures like adult education and improved sanitation.
Kingsley’s social novels (“Yeast” in 1848 and “Alton Locke” in 1850) show his sympathy for the downtrodden and the poor. He used his very popular historic novels, such as “Hypatia” (1853), “Westward Ho!” (1855), and “Hereward the Wake” (1866) to further his opposition to Roman Catholicism. He also wrote a popular book for children, “The Water-Babies” (1863).
Like so many prominent men of his time, Kingsley was the son of a clergyman. He grew up in the country, where he studied nature and geology. After graduating from Cambridge he became a parish priest in Eversley. He became chaplain to Queen Victoria in 1859, served as professor of modern history at Cambridge from 1860-1869, and became canon of Westminster in 1873.