An unlikely convergence, 1890–1940

This book focuses on the apparently surprising convergence between anarchism and eugenics. By tracing the reception of eugenic ideas within five different anarchist movements –Argentina, England, France, Portugal and Spain – the book argues that, in fact, there is ample evidence for anarchist interest in, and implementation of, some form of eugenics. The author argues that this intersection between anarchism and eugenics can be understood as an emanation from anarchism’s nineteenth-century legacy, which harnessed science as a means to change the social world and an ideological commitment to voluntarism as a political praxis. Through the articulation of interest in birth control, ‘neo-Malthusianism’, freedom to choose for women and revolutionary objectives, many anarchists across these five countries provided the basis for the creation of ‘anarchist eugenics’ in the early twentieth century.

Richard Cleminson

1 The ‘paradox’ of anarchism and eugenics Introduction In 1933, the anarcho-pacifist Romanian intellectual Eugen Relgis explored the conundrum of humanitarianism as applied to eugenics in the Valenciabased anarchist cultural review Estudios.1 Could there be, the author asked, a community of interests or any compatibility between the philosophical and ethical concept of humanitarianism and the new science of eugenics? Relgis, active in the anti-war movement and a supporter of the Spanish Republic, certainly thought so. Nevertheless, his attempt to articulate a

in Anarchism and eugenics
Richard Cleminson

3 Early discourse on eugenics within transnational anarchism, 1890–1920 In his opening address to the 1919 conference of the Permanent International Eugenics Committee, the geologist, palaeontologist and eugenicist Henry Fairfield Osborn lamented the existence of a dire ‘political sophistry’ in his own country, the United States. The assumption that ‘all people are born with the equal same rights and duties’ had become entangled with the notion that ‘all people are born with equal character and ability to govern themselves and others.’1 Osborn went on to impress

in Anarchism and eugenics
Richard Cleminson

4 From neo-Malthusianism to eugenics as a ‘revolutionary conquest’, 1920–1937 Introduction Reflecting on some sixty years of debate on sterilization, C. P. Blacker, the British psychiatrist and former secretary (1931–1952) of the Eugenics Society, recognized in 1962 that despite the ‘promising climate’ of the early 1930s, enthusiasm for such a measure had all but evaporated by the end of the decade.1 The reasons for this decline in fortune were diverse. Among them were the situation in Germany and the awareness of the questionable political and racial uses of

in Anarchism and eugenics
The constitutive terrain of anarchist eugenics
Richard Cleminson

2 Science, revolution and progress: the constitutive terrain of anarchist eugenics Introduction The central proposition of eugenics – that it was possible, desirable and necessary to augment the ‘best’ stocks and combat the proliferation of the ‘unfit’ – drew on a cluster of nineteenth-century anxieties about the rate, consistency and sustainability of social and biological progress. The question posed was how best this progress could be achieved and maintained. In 1883, Francis Galton identified the characteristics of a new science that aimed to do just this.1

in Anarchism and eugenics
Historiographical and research political reflections
Lene Koch

Being a historian of eugenics in Denmark, I have never been in want of an audience. 1 Writing in the 1990s, it seemed that the mere mention of the concept of eugenics was enough to create a strong interest in what I had to say about this – at the time – forgotten chapter of Danish history. German Rassenhygiene and its relationship to the Holocaust were well known, but it was a

in Communicating the history of medicine
Chloe Campbell

The cultural pervasiveness of eugenics, described in the previous chapter, does not always make its influences easy to define: the eugenic programme was largely theoretical, and the intellectual project was always work-in-progress. As a set of ideas, eugenics was profoundly malleable, marked by a deep ambivalence towards concepts of progress and modernity and consequently

in Race and empire
Chloe Campbell

In January 1931, Dr H. L. Gordon, President of the Kenya branch of the British Medical Association, made a speech at the organisation’s Annual Dinner which was a powerful plea for the use of eugenics in colonial development policy. He argued that the promotion of education and physical health in Africa were potentially irresponsible objectives if undertaken without due regard

in Race and empire
Chloe Campbell

The eugenics movement that emerged in Kenya in the early to mid-1930s both chimed and at times subtly clashed with settler prejudices and preoccupations. The movement was born out of British eugenics – a eugenic hybrid was created, which used the same intellectual framework and attracted a similar audience to that of British eugenics, but which was also distinctively motivated by

in Race and empire
Abstract only
Eugenics in colonial Kenya
Author: Chloe Campbell

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.