This book tells the story of a short-lived but vehement eugenics movement that emerged among a group of Europeans in Kenya in the 1930s, unleashing a set of writings on racial differences in intelligence more extreme than that emanating from any other British colony in the twentieth century. By tracing the history of eugenic thought in Kenya, it shows how the movement took on a distinctive colonial character, driven by settler political preoccupations and reacting to increasingly outspoken African demands for better, and more independent, education. Eugenic theories on race and intelligence were widely supported by the medical profession in Kenya, as well as powerful members of the official and non-official European settler population. However, the long-term failures of the eugenics movement should not blind us to its influence among the social and administrative elite of colonial Kenya. Through a close examination of attitudes towards race and intelligence in a British colony, the book reveals how eugenics was central to colonial racial theories before World War II.
Eugenics was swiftly displaced as the key to racial difference in post-war Kenyan medical discourse. The reasons for the failure of Kenyan eugenics lay beyond the local medical and biological forum that had created it and reveals how haphazard the decline of scientific racism was. A similar process was taking place in Britain, but in reverse, where the role of race and scientific racism in eugenics was downplayed. This chapter discusses these more recent processes in the intellectual history of eugenics and scientific racism to give an account of eugenics and colonial scientific racism in their time and place. It also demonstrates how influences from Britain and the colony interact to create a distinctive and extreme eugenic agenda in the imperial environment. Kenya held a mirror up to British eugenics, revealing how the problem of racial difference was implicitly at the heart of its hereditarian worldview.
This chapter explores the effects of biological thinking on attitudes towards African development and social policy in Kenya using juvenile delinquency, intelligence testing and mental health as examples. Debates about juvenile delinquency and criminal insanity were domestic aspects of a wider eugenic debate about African educability and social progress, but the colony also fed into an international circuit interested in race and intelligence through research conducted under the auspices of the Carnegie Corporation. The treatment of juvenile delinquency in the discourse on African development provides an insight into the role of eugenic thinking in social policy in Kenya. The juvenile delinquent in Kenya came to represent the problems of urban poverty and social breakdown induced by developments imposed by the colonial state. Eugenics was essentially the application of biological solutions to social problems; Gordon's attitude to mental health and to brain and intelligence both complied with this modern approach.
This chapter analyses the theories of predominant eugenicists. Eugenics in Kenya grew out of the theories disseminated from Britain; the application of current ideas about the transmission of innate characteristics, in particular intelligence, shaped a new and extreme eugenic interpretation of racial difference. The study deals with the theories and researches of Dr H. L. Gordon and Dr F. W. Vint that became connected with eugenics, in particular their contributions to the subject of race and intelligence. Gordon tempered some of the extremity of his theories by emphasising that scientific knowledge was at an early stage in the area of brain and racial backwardness and reiterating the need for large-scale scientific research to uncover the causes of African backwardness. Despite Gordon's emphasis on the objectivity of science in providing answers to the problem of racial backwardness, there are fundamental flaws in this research that call into question its scientific integrity.
This chapter discusses the reception of Kenyan racial theories in Britain, uncovering the political complexity of ‘native mentality’ and examines how it came about that the leaders of the British Eugenics Society, who were at that time attempting to reform the organisation along more moderate lines, wrote letters and so actively supported Kenyan research. The relationship between Kenyan racial theories and British eugenics is analysed and contextualised. The study reveals the aftermath of the publicity given to Kenyan racial theories. There was fierce debate on the issue of race and intelligence in relation to the Kenyan research. Kenyan eugenicists sparked a fascinating metropolitan debate on race and science. The chapter also analyses the reaction within the colonial office and the British government to the Kenyan eugenics movement.
This chapter sheds light on eugenics in Kenya with an examination of the social composition and interests of the eugenicists and by contextualising their ideas, showing how eugenic thought shaped itself to the local social and political situation. The eugenics movement that emerged in Kenya subtly clashed with settler prejudices and preoccupations. The connections between the eugenic agenda in Kenya and key political issues that confronted and challenged European settler dominance and authority are examined. The official response in Nairobi is discussed as part of the story of European involvement with eugenics within the colony. The real obstruction to the development of more research lies in the external factors of economic depression and dependence on the metropole that means that the Kenya administration could not provide the financial support that was required.
This chapter discusses the history of British eugenics, its internal debates and evolving position, and examines the aspects of British eugenic and racial thought that influenced Kenyan eugenicists in the formation of their agenda for ‘scientific colonization’. The wider imperial implications of British eugenic thought is then considered with a further examination of the intellectual connections and fissures between colonial and metropolitan eugenic thought. The relationship between British eugenics, race and colonial imperialism is examined as an introduction to an explanation of how eugenics developed in Kenya and the reasons that the Kenyan eugenics research programme attracted the British Eugenics Society. The formation of a eugenics movement in the colony is seen as heralding a new era of science and social responsibility that represents an intellectual coming-of-age in settler society.
An aristocratic farmer-settler, ‘Nellie’ Grant, went to a ball and had a sit-out with Reverend Wright, and their conversation turned to some of the big issues of the day, religion and eugenics. Recent histories of eugenics in non-English speaking regions and comparative studies of eugenics in different countries have widened the understanding of eugenic thought. This chapter discusses the idea of empire as a cultural system through which thoughts and practices were exchanged and modified. It shows how eugenics and imperialism—two major forces in early twentieth-century cultural history—were intimately connected and how eugenics served as a scientific bulwark that fortified the ideology of imperialism. This study sheds light on the colonial mentalité and the complex ideological layers and affinities that rather uneasily merged to form a science that could defend the racial system upon which the Kenyan colonial state rested. It reveals how eugenics was intellectual ballast for the ideology of British imperialism.