While the Victorian age witnessed great oppression against women, it was, at the same time, or perhaps as a result, the inception of Feminism as we know it today. Tracing the gradual synthesis and evolution of Feminism in today's modern Europe will always lead us back to the nucleus i.e. the Victorian Age. Therefore, in a way, Feminism might be said to be the export of the Age of Victoria, ironically an era marked with a slew of limitations set upon women.

What I am looking for is not an antonym for ‘evolve;’ rather, a verb or a verb phrase which concisely encapsulates the act of looking at the evolution of given activism (or anything) retrospectively and historically taking into consideration all its consequential, progressive episodes which its inception had set in motion, as opposed to the ‘mere inception.’ Thank you in advance.

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    I can't think of anything more succinct than variants of "tracing its roots". Dec 30, 2013 at 8:21
  • I'm not entirely clear that I understand you, but it sounds to me as though you are into 'revisionist historiography'. Am I wrong?
    – WS2
    Jan 8, 2014 at 10:43
  • 'Evolution' fits this already; it's not limited to just the 'mere inception' but includes the entire history.
    – Mitch
    Jan 10, 2014 at 16:25
  • Your description seems oddly reminiscent of the one in recapitulation theory (see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recapitulation_theory), which is best known by its recondite assertion "Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny." So maybe the most apt verb for your purposes is recapitulates.
    – Sven Yargs
    Jan 10, 2014 at 21:31

6 Answers 6


That's a pretty tall order which I'm uncertain can be filled.

Will return fit your need? return: come or go back to a place or person; turn one's attention back to (something); to put, bring, take, give, or send back to the original place, position

"Tracing... returns/will return us to... the Victorian age.

There is circumnavigate: to proceed completely around.


Given the context and perceived connotation, "relapse" could work. It may perhaps anthropomorphise the movement too much given it's use in present vernacular. It does sound a lot like recidivism to me though. When a movement or society rests on its laurels of progress, ontologically, but more importantly pathologically the behaviors we once knew in the collective consciousness certainly do return.

Thinking about it more, the comparison to a sober person relapsing on any pathological behavior pattern (after starting the sober life, facing the realities of life with escaping by old behaviors, and learning that it gets better if they continue doing what it took and takes to stay sober), does seem appropriate with respect to the collective conscience of our species. For if the habit, or behavior be truly innate in society (as is implied by returning to the origin), then no period of sobriety cures society of its pathology. When we stop doing the things that overcame society's inertia and sustained progress, the pathology is still there ready to pick up right where it left off. We don't lose the progress we made, but in a sense we have to try again, and seriously consider at what point did we actually start the return. Usually it is not obvious and unfortunately it often starts subtly in the sub-conscious or collective *un*conscious - a place where only dedicated practitioners have awareness - a place where pathology thrives. The limbic system of society.

Anywhere close to where you were wanting to see this go? Perhaps having a family therapist for a parent put me in agreement with Carl Jung. He often thought about these things and the mystery of life for both individuals and the collective.


I actually just realized that 'flash back' as a verb very much fits my need. I just need to do some rephrasing.


The first verb that pops into my head for this may be too informal depending on usage, but I think boomerang fits well.

(It also paints a nice visual picture of something returning back to where it came from.)


Ontological - development when referring to a specific movement with a clear set of interdependent elements.

Philological - development when referring to a broad sweep of movements with inter-dependencies and confluent occurrences.


Similar to Edwin's comment, retrace is also a good fit. The key part, here, is trace which gives us a few options:

  • retrace
  • tracing its roots
  • retrace steps

The other angle you could take here is the concept of referring to the origin of a movement.

  • harken back
  • remind
  • echo

Any of the above can be plugged into a thesaurus for more options.

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