Historical Surveys of Atheism, Freethought,
Rationalism, Skepticism, and Materialism:
Selected Works

Compiled by Ralph Dumain

Berman, David. A History of Atheism in Britain: From Hobbes to Russell. London; New York: Croom Helm, 1988.

Bradford, Roderick. D. M. Bennett: The Truth Seeker. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2006.

Chadwick, Owen. The Secularization of the European Mind in the Nineteenth Century. Cambridge, UK; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990. Sample text.

Bury, J. B. A History of Freedom of Thought. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1913. At Project Gutenberg. At Google books.

Cooke, Bill. The Gathering of Infidels: A Hundred Years of the Rationalist Press Association; preface by Edward Royle. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2004.

Courtney, Janet E. Freethinkers of the Nineteenth Century ... With Seven Portraits. London: Chapman & Hall, Ltd., 1920.

Desmond, Adrian. “Artisan Resistance and Evolution in Britain, 1819-1848,” Osiris, second series, vol. 3, 1987, pp. 77-110.

Frede, Victoria. Doubt, Atheism, and the Nineteenth-Century Russian Intelligentsia. Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press, 2011.

Kenworthy, Scott M. Book Review: Doubt, Atheism, and the Nineteenth-Century Russian Intelligentsia, by Victoria Frede, Secularism and Nonreligion, vol. 1, 2012, pp. v-vi.

Gaylor, Annie Laurie, ed. Women Without Superstition: "No Gods—No Masters": The Collected Writings of Women Freethinkers of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. Madison, WI: Freedom From Religion Foundation, 1997.

Hecht, Jennifer Michael. Doubt: A History: The Great Doubters and Their Legacy of Innovation, from Socrates and Jesus to Thomas Jefferson and Emily Dickinson. New York: Harper San Francisco, 2003.

Jacoby, Susan. Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism. New York: Metropolitan Books, 2004.

Joshi, S. T. The Unbelievers: The Evolution of Modern Atheism. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2011.

Kors, Alan Charles. Atheism in France, 1650–1729. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990.

LeBeau, Bryan F. The Atheist: Madalyn Murray O’Hair. New York: New York University Press, 2003.

Lightman, Bernard. The Origins of Agnosticism: Victorian Unbelief and the Limits of Knowledge. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987.

Macdonald, George E. Fifty Years of Freethought. New York: Arno Press, 1972. (Reprint of the 2 vol. 1929-31 ed.) Vol. 1, 1929: downloadable ZIP file. Vol. 2, 1931: downloadable ZIP file; also at Skeptic Tank Text Archive.

Martin, Michael, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Atheism. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007. Table of contents.

Popkin, Richard H. The History of Scepticism: From Savonarola to Bayle. Rev. and expanded ed. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.

Priestman, Martin. Romantic Atheism: Poetry and Freethought, 1780-1830. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999. (Cambridge Studies in Romanticism; 37)

Robertson, J. M. A History of Freethought, Ancient and Modern, to the Period of the French Revolution. 4th ed. revised and expanded, reprinted. 2 vols. London: Dawsons, 1969.

_____________. A History of Freethought in the Nineteenth Century. 2 vols. London: Watts & Co., 1929.

Royle, Edward. Victorian Infidels: The Origins of the British Secularist Movement, 1791-1866. Manchester: University of Manchester Press; Totowa, NJ: Rowman & Littlefield, 1974.

Sviták, Ivan. The Dialectic of Common Sense: The Master Thinkers. Washington, DC: University Press of America, 1979.

Thrower, James. The Alternative Tradition: Religion and the Rejection of Religion in the Ancient World. The Hague; New York: Mouton, 1980. (Reprinted by Walter de Gruyter, 1979.)

____________. Western Atheism: A Short History. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2000. (Originally published 1971.)

Tribe, David H. 100 Years of Freethought. London: Elek, 1967. See extract from Chapter 2 (Philosophical Outlook, section on humanism), pp. 46-61.

Turner, James. Without God, Without creed: The Origins of Unbelief in America. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1985. (New Studies in American Intellectual and Cultural History)

Weldon, Stephen P. The Scientific Spirit of American Humanism. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2020. Flynn, Tom. "Unruly Multitudes" (Review), Free Inquiry, Volume 41, No. 4, June/July 2021.

Flynn, Tom. "Unruly Multitudes" (Review), Free Inquiry, Volume 41, No. 4, June/July 2021.

Whitehead, Fred; Muhrer, Verle, eds. Freethought on the American Frontier. Buffalo: Prometheus Books, 1992.

Whitmarsh, Tim. Battling the Gods: Atheism in the Ancient World. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2015.

Wilson, Edwin H. The Genesis of a Humanist Manifesto, edited by Teresa Maciocha. Amherst, NY: Humanist Press, 1995. Also available as online text.


See also Indian Materialism & Skepticism.

Brown, Robin; Ladyman, James. Materialism: A Philosophical Inquiry. Abingdon, Oxon; New York: Routledge, 2019.

Diderot, Denis. Diderot, Interpreter of Nature: Selected Writings, translated by Jean Stewart and Jonathan Kemp, edited and with an introduction by Jonathan Kemp. 2nd ed. New York: International Publishers, 1963. (1st ed. 1937)

Dlugach, Tamara. Denis Diderot, translated by Catherine Judelson. Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1988. 237 pp. (Originally published in Russian, 1975.)

Gregory, Frederick. Scientific Materialism in Nineteenth Century Germany. Dordrecht, Holland; Boston: D. Reidel Pub. Co., 1977. ( Studies in the History of Modern Science; v. 1)

Lange, Friedrich Albert. The History of Materialism and Criticism of Its Importance [1877-1881], translated by Ernest Chester Thomas, 3rd edition, with an introduction by Bertrand Russell. New York: The Humanities Press, 1950.

Old editions of the 3 vols. can be found at archive.org.  Examples of text-searchable, freely downloadable volumes are:
    Vol. I (1877)
    Vol. II (1880)
    Vol. III (1881)

Hussain, Nadeem J. Z. “Friedrich Albert Lange,” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, May 31, 2005.

Lukács, Georg. “The Two Epochs of Bourgeois Materialism: On Moleschott’s Centenary,” in Reviews and Articles from Die rote Fahne, translated by Peter Palmer (London: The Merlin Press, 1983), pp. 67-70.

Novack, George. The Origins of Materialism. New York: Merit, 1965.

Philosophy for the Future: The Quest of Modern Materialism, edited by Roy Wood Sellars, V.J. McGill, Marvin Farber. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1949.

The Renewal of Materialism,” special issue of Graduate Faculty Philosophy Journal [New School for Social Research], vol. 22, no. 1, 2000.

Roy, M. N. Materialism: An Outline of the History of Scientific Thought. Delhi: Ajanta Publications (distributor: Ajanta Books International), 1982. (Reprint of 2nd rev. ed., 1951)

Stimson, Frederic Jesup “Dr. Materialismus,” Scribner’s, Nov. 1890. Reprinted with prefatory note by the editor in Future Perfect: American Science Fiction of the Nineteenth Century—An Anthology, edited by H. Bruce Franklin, revised and expanded ed. (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1995), pp. 154-172. 19th century American anti-materialist science fiction story. See quotes & synopsis of Dr. Materialismus.

Sviták, Ivan. Baron d’Holbach, Philosopher of Common Sense, translated by Jarmila Veltrusky. Chico: California State University, 1976. 76 pp. (Translated from Filosof zdravého rozumu, Holbach.)

Thomson, Ann. Bodies of Thought: Science, Religion, and the Soul in the Early Enlightenment. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.

___________. Materialism and Society in the Mid-Eighteenth Century: La Mettrie’s Discours préliminaire. Genève: Droz, 1981. (Histoire des idées et critique littéraire; no. 198)

Timpanaro, Sebastiano. On Materialism, translated by Lawrence Garner. London: NLB, 1975.

Sebastiano Timpanaro on Giacomo Leopardi & Materialist Pessimism

Vitzthum, Richard C. Materialism: An Affirmative History and Definition. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 1995. By this author see also

Philosophical Materialism, based on lecture of November 14, 1996.

Voltaire. Candide and Other Stories, translated with an introduction and notes by Roger Pearson. Oxford, UK; New York: Oxford University Press, 1990.

Zadig’s Wisdom vs Providence by Voltaire

Yolton, John W. Thinking Matter: Materialism in Eighteenth-Century Britain. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1983.

Dictionaries & Encyclopedias

A Biographical Dictionary of Ancient, Medieval, and Modern Freethinkers by Joseph McCabe. Girard, KS: Haldeman-Julius Publications, 1945. At Scribd.

A Dictionary for Believers and Nonbelievers, translated from the Russian by Catherine Judelson. Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1989.

Dictionary of Atheism, Skepticism, & Humanism by Bill Cooke. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2006.

The Encyclopedia of Unbelief edited by Gordon Stein. 2 vols. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1985. (1st ed. of above.)

The New Encyclopedia of Unbelief edited by Tom Flynn; foreword by Richard Dawkins. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2007.

A Rationalist Encyclopædia: A Book of Reference on Religion, Philosophy, Ethics and Science by Joseph McCabe. London: Watts & Co., 1948.

Additional Links

The First Chinese Materialist / Essay on the Extinction of the Soul (Etienne Balazs / Fan Zhen)

The Budding of the Structural Perspective in China (i.e. in the Eastern Ecumene): Wang Ch’ung and Fan Zhen by Lawrence C. Chin

Plato’s Idealism” (1861) by D. I. Pisarev

Christianity Exposed (Contents & Author’s Introduction) (1843) by Bruno Bauer

The Capacity of Present-Day Jews and Christians to Become Free” (1843) by Bruno Bauer

Le Matérialisme Antique” par Paul Nizan

Voltaire’s philosophical tales: commentary by R. Dumain

Ralph Dumain on atheism, irreligion, and rationality

Secular Humanism—Ideology, Philosophy, Politics, History: Bibliography in Progress

Emanuel & Marcet Haldeman-Julius: Guide to Web Resources & Bibliography

The Enlightenment (mini-bibliography)

Atheism / Freethought / Humanism / Rationalism / Skepticism / Unbelief / Secularism / Church-State Separation Web Links

American Philosophy Study Guide

Occultism, Eastern Mysticism, Fascism, & Countercultures: Selected Bibliography

Percy Bysshe Shelley Study Guide

Ludwig Feuerbach: A Bibliography

Neo-Kantianism, Its History, Influence, and Relation to Socialism: Selected Secondary Bibliography

Salvaging Soviet Philosophy (1)

Marx and Marxism Web Guide

Thinking Critically About Critical Thinking: A Guide

Doubt & Skepticism: A Directed Minimal Bibliography & Web Guide

ATEO: Bazaj Informoj & Enhavtabeloj de Ateismo
(in Esperanto, with relevant links)

Freethought library (1) (Reason & Society blog)

Naturalism & Materialism (Reason & Society blog)

Emmett Fields' Bank of Wisdom (Reason & Society blog)

And see the Bank of Wisdom (offering rare freethought classics digitized).

Note: There is a thin line between surveys of this subject area, readers, anthologies; and historical and reference works. There are also specialized areas such as black freethought, philosophy and religion in India, and atheism in the USSR, (to be) covered elsewhere. The history of (dialectical) materialism in Marxism is a vast subject unto itself, covered elsewhere. Naturalism, which is a broader and less censured concept than materialism, is covered elsewhere on this site and on my Reason & Society blog. Biographies of individual freethinkers (e.g. Robert Ingersoll) also comprise a vast research area.

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Uploaded 22 July 2010
Last update 12 September 2022
Previous update 13/15 May 2022

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