Acknowledgement I am grateful to the Council of the Eugenics Society for the help they have given me, and for permitting me to see and to quote from the Society's Minute Books. Introduction




НазваниеAcknowledgement I am grateful to the Council of the Eugenics Society for the help they have given me, and for permitting me to see and to quote from the Society's Minute Books. Introduction
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3

The Issue of 'Racial Degeneration'



There are several explanations for the popularity of eugenics in Edwardian Britain. Its initial growth was undoubtedly assisted by Galton's shrewdness in choosing October 1901 as the date for launching his project of race improvement, for this was a time when the Boer War preoccupation with 'National Efficiency' and the panic about possibly physical deterioration were coming to a climax.1 Two years later Arthur Newsholme observed: 'The statement that our national physique is degenerating has been so frequently made and so vigorously repeated that if one doubts this fundamental point it is against the weight of public statements made in nearly every journal with confidence and assurance'.2 The origins of this belief go back at least to the 1880s, if not earlier. It arose in part out of a deep-seated anxiety about whether Britain may not have taken a wholly wrong turning in becoming a predominantly urban, industrial society. Was there not, perhaps, a heavy price to be paid for this abandonment of a way of life more natural, more in tune with the rhythm of the seasons ? More specifically, as Gareth Stedman Jones has argued, middle class commentators on the 'social question' from the 1870s onwards viewed with fear the casual labourers and the inhabitants of the slum areas of the big cities; they noted with both disappointment and ap­prehension that these people had not 'responded' to attempts by legislators and charitable organizations to raise them to a higher material and moral plane, and some were tempted to explain this by the hypothesis of urban degeneration, by a reversed natural selection that was throwing up a biologically distinct sub-species congenitally incapable of conforming to accepted social norms.3


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3 The Issue of 'Racial Degeneration'


The illusion that human distress was increasing was largely created by the greater sophistication of social investigators, who by their graphic descriptions of urban squalor and destitution, and still more, by their presentation of social problems in precise quantitative terms, made these problems seem infinitely graver than had previously been supposed.4 The social surveys of Charles Booth and Rowntree, it is a commonplace to say, stimulated many middle class consciences, and provided an important spur to social work and to the politics of social welfare. But on others they had rather the opposite effect: inducing despair and casting doubt on the efficacy of environmental reforms.

This continued to be the case throughout the first decades of the twentieth century. An interesting illustration of this is the use made by eugenists of school medical inspection. Initially welcomed by M.P.s like Balfour as a kind of anthropometric survey, which would produce valuable scientific data about the national physique,5 the in­spectors' reports revealed that the vast majority of elementary schoolchildren were suffering from medical defects of one kind or another. Such evidence was eagerly cited by eugenists, who went on to argue that the national physique was deteriorating:6 a quite un­justified inference, since, prior to the start of school medical inspec­tion in 1908, there were no statistics about the health of children with which comparisons could be made. Yet even Galton, in a letter to The Times of 18 June 1909, can be found contending that national degeneration was taking place, as shown by 'results of inquiries into the teeth, hearing, eyesight, and malformations of children in Board Schools'.

In the same letter Galton gave as additional confirmation of his pessimistic assessment of the national physique 'the apparently con­tinuous increase of insanity and feeble-mindedness'.7 To support this assertion official statistics did exist. They indicated that the numbers of the certified insane had grown from 2 • 2 per thousand in 1872 to 3 ■ 2 per thousand in 1909, and that within the same period the number of insane paupers had jumped up by no less than 130 per cent.8 In the County of London, where the total population had remained almost static, registered insanity practically doubled in the twenty years prior to 1912.9

But there were hazards in attempting to draw general deductions


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3 The Issue of 'Racial Degeneration'


from these figures. Additional facilities for the mentally handicapped, better methods of identifying people in need of institutional treat­ment, and fuller statistical records, all gave an impression of deterioration which may or may not have reflected the realities of the situation. There are similar problems about using national expen­diture on poor relief as a means of quantifying the extent of destitu­tion. These difficulties, however, did not prevent alarmists from quoting these statistics as evidence of a growth in pauperism and 'dependence'.10

One might have supposed that the Registrar-General's Reports showing a steady decline in mortality would have done something to modify this picture of a catastrophic decline in the nation's health. But those who held this belief, most eugenists included, drew am­munition even from these reports. The drop in infant mortality which began in the early twentieth century raised forebodings about the greater number of the 'unfit' who were being artificially kept alive by the miracles of modern medicine, and the falling tuberculosis death-rate was also viewed by many eugenists as being a far from unmixed blessing. On the other hand, eugenists could point to an increase in deaths from what Dr Haycraft called 'constitutional diseases', which included diabetes and cancer, as an illustration of the 'racial deteriora­tion' that had already materialized 'as a sequence to that care for the individual which has characterised the efforts of modern society'.11 The growth of fatalities from cancer was also made much of by Ar­nold White in Efficiency and Empire.12 Cancer, said another alarmist, was 'almost invariably the outcome of impaired vitality, resulting in constitutional degeneration'; it was also, in his opinion, a hereditary ailment.13

But quite the most important of all the statistical evidence used to bolster up the theory of 'national degeneration' came in the form of the reports of the Inspector-General of Recruiting at the time of the Boer War. Arnold White was perhaps the first journalist to seize on to the startling fact that three out of five men presenting themselves for enlistment in Manchester in 1899 had had to be rejected as physically unfit.14 An anonymous article (penned by General Maurice) in the Contemporary Review in January 1902 made this example of the physical unfitness of the industrial working class a major political


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3 The Issue of 'Racial Degeneration'


issue, and set off an agonized debate about the sources of imperial greatness.15 For how could the British Empire survive if there were not an 'imperial race' to sustain it ? Could reliance be placed on the stunted, rickety, disease-ridden wretches who inhabited the slum dis­tricts of the large urban centres ? The Inspector-General of Recruiting himself commented in his Report for 1902: 'the one subject which causes anxiety in the future, as regards recruiting, is the gradual deterioration of the physique of the working classes, from which the bulk of the recruits must always be drawn'.16

But informed opinion did not accept that there was any proof of ac­tual deterioration. The Director-General of the Army Medical Service questioned this theory; so did the Royal College of Surgeons, and so did an Inter-Departmental Committee set up to examine the whole problem at a time when the scare of 'racial decay' was at its height. All these authorities made the obvious point that under a voluntary system of recruiting the quality of the men who present themselves for enlistment will be regulated by the prevailing conditions in the labour market, and thus no deductions can be drawn from recruit­ment statistics about the health of the population as a whole. Quite apart from this consideration, the Royal College of Surgeons noted that the army rejection rat^ over the previous ten years scarcely sup­ported the claims of the alarmists: the number of men rejected for failing to meet the standard chest-measurements and for 'imperfect constitution and debility', for example, had actually declined, while the rejection ratio had risen most steeply for loss or decay of teeth. On the other side, it could be argued that the minimum height and weight laid down for army recruits had been successively lowered in the latter half of the nineteenth century, and that this alone explained the statistics cited above. Less convincing were comparisons between the height and weight of the average twenty-year-old recruit in 1900 and the height and weight of the average youth of nineteen years as measured by the Anthropometric Committee of the British Associa­tion in the 1880s, since here like was not being compared with like. In the absence of compulsory military service, or a universal system of school medical inspection, or of a national anthropometric survey, sustained over a period of several decades, no-one could say with any certainty whether the national physique was degenerating or


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3 The Issue of 'Racial Degeneration'


improving.17

All that the evidence of the recruiting officers' reports showed was that a high proportion of the working class population was in poor shape. In the view of the Inter-Departmental Committee, this was mainly due to a bad environment, inadequate and unsuitable nutri­tion, and the prevalence of various practices injurious to health. Like other inquirers into the alleged physical deterioration of the race, the Committee concluded its labours with a battery of reform proposals, such as public subsidies for a school meals service, state encourage­ment to organizations providing physical training, an extension of town planning by local authorities to prevent overcrowding, action to reduce smoke pollution and to combat adulteration of food, instruc­tion of the poor in domestic science and child rearing, and so on.18 The environmentalists had achieved a considerable victory, and the Report of the Inter-Departmental Committee was to provide valuable ammunition for the Radical social reformers in the years up to 1914.19 The more intelligent and honest of the eugenists, like Havelock Ellis, admitted that it could not positively be proved that the race had fallen below the level it had occupied seventy years ago, but argued that it was a 'terrible thing' that despite so much expenditure of money and effort it was equally impossible to record any incontrovertible

improvement.20

Most eugenists anyway stuck to their beliefs in biological deteriora­tion, and claimed that environmental reforms, taken by themselves, were likely to do more harm than good. Some credence was still given • to an earlier theory, publicized by James Cantlie in a lecture of 1885, that big cities like London so sapped the strength and vitality of their inhabitants that second-generation Londoners were of a feeble and debilitated type, scarcely capable of reproducing themselves.21 This version of the theory of urban degeneration still had its adherents in the 1900s. At a British Medical Association Conference in 1905 one speaker recalled Mr Cantlie's challenge to his audience to produce a fourth generation Londoner, and claimed that this challenge had never been answered.22 Even Havelock Ellis believed that 'the town population is not only disinclined to propagate; it is probably in some measure unfit to propagate'.23

But even if this factual assertion could have been substantiated,


24


3 The Issue of 'Racial Degeneration'


eugenists were not, as a body, attached to this particular hypothesis. Firstly, it pointed to the need for a 'Back to the Land' movement, rather than to a policy of race culture. Secondly, the supposition that a particular kind of environment produced progressive physical deterioration, in a biological sense, could be dismissed, as Archdall Reid dismissed it, as a Lamarckian fallacy.24 It was certainly absurd to complain about the degeneration of the race and then go on to suggest as a remedy compulsory military training!25 Besides, whatever Cantlie may have believed, there was no evidence for town life destroying the breeding capacities of the urban poor. Sidney Webb expressed relief that this was so. 'If the decline in the birth-rate had been due to physical degeneracy, whether brought about by "ur­banization" or otherwise, we should not have known how to cope with it', he wrote.26 In fact, of course, it was the high fertility of the urban poor which was alarming eugenists, not their inability to propagate themselves. More plausible was the hypothesis that city life 'selected' stocks with qualities to which civilized societies attached little value. A low type of humanity, it was sometimes said, could survive and multiply in the modern city, in the same way that maggots thrived and multiplied in putrefying substances; hence, to quote one con­tributor to the Eugenics Review, the development of 'a race of men, small, ill-formed, disease-stricken, hard to kill'.27 This proposition, however, logically led on, as Sidney Webb was quick to perceive, to demands for drastic changes in the urban environment, demands which were hard to reconcile with a 'hereditarian' position.

Thus, the main theory advanced by eugenists was the one succinct­ly stated by the Whethams, when they wrote: since 1875 'a wrongly-directed selective birthrate has been established, and the race is threatened with decay'.28 This brings us to the crux of the case for eugenics: the meaning of the differential birth-rate. The over-all decline in the birth-rate since the 1870s was in itself a cause for alarm to many eugenists, although there were differences of opinion about whether deliberate family limitation should be encouraged or cen­sured. All, however, could agree that it was disturbing that the birth­rate was not falling evenly throughout the community, and that the effects of this were being felt more strongly at the upper than at the lower end of the social scale. But so it was. Professional families were


25


3 The Issue of 'Racial Degeneration'


scarcely reproducing themselves, while large families were still com­mon among unskilled labourers and the very poor. An unofficial Birth-Rate Commission, set up in 1913, later confirmed this picture by showing that amongst the upper and middle classes there were ap­proximately 119 births per thousand married males aged under 55 years; the comparable figure for skilled workmen was 153, and for un­skilled workmen 213.29 There were exceptions, such as the extremely low fertility of the working classes in the textile towns, caused by the high proportion of females in gainful employment. But it was broadly true to say that the birth-rate fell as the standards of comfort rose. And this divergence between the average size of working and middle class families constituted, in the Whethams' opinion, 'the most im­portant social phenomenon of the past forty years'.30 The higher death-rate in working class districts did something, of course, to reduce the difference in effective fertility, but a large gap still remained. Moreover, this was apparently a relatively recent demographic trend, since the further investigations were pushed back into the nineteenth century, the smaller the class differentials un­covered, and the latter could be accounted for almost entirely by the i, later age at which middle class marriages were contracted. 'This * result', said the National Birth-Rate Commission, 'seems to be of great and serious significance. For so long as we knew that the ranks were being replenished mainly from below it was possible to hold that this had probably always been the case, and to believe that, as the na­tion had prospered in the past, so it would probably be fitted to _-prosper in the future under such conditions. This belief, however, " appears to be no longer open to us'.31 One of Pearson's assistants, David Heron, the organizer of one of the pioneering pieces of research in this field, was categorical in his insistence that 'the relationship between inferior status and high birth-rate has practically doubled during the last fifty years, and it is clear that in London at least the reduction in size of families has begun at the wrong end of the social scale and is increasing in the wrong way'.32 The result, as Karl Pear­son repeatedly proclaimed, was that twenty-five per cent of the pop­ulation were producing fifty per cent of the next generation. The racial mixture of the British people, it was alleged, was therefore undergoing a rapid transformation, and since the 'worst' stocks in the community


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3 The Issue of 'Racial Degeneration'


were increasing while the 'best' stocks were dying out, the process could signify nothing less than 'national degeneration'.

Even the critics of eugenics had some reason to feel alarm at the fact that those who were best equipped to provide their children with a good home and upbringing were opting out of their responsibilities, while the very poor were attempting to rear large families in an un­healthy and uncongenial social environment.33 Full blooded eugenists, however, went well beyond this point, and based their arguments, as we have seen Pearson did, on the premise that a rough cor­respondence existed between social class and differing biological stocks. The racial deterioration scare only made sense if one assumed that the poor were congenitally inferior to their 'social betters'. 'Reform eugenists' pointed out that although the working class pop­ulation undoubtedly contained more than its fair share of the feeble­minded and other degenerate types, there was 'not a scintilla of proof for the theory of racial deterioration, and, as Saleeby argued, biometrical investigations into differential fertility were neither here nor there so long as their authors omitted to consider 'the differences in nurture, education and opportunity between these two classes'.34 But such warnings largely fell on deaf ears. Heron's researches had demonstrated that there was a relationship between inferior social status and a high birth-rate;35 this became transformed into Karl Pearson's dictum that 'Mr Heron has indeed shown us that the sur­vival of the unfit is a marked characteristic of modern town life'.36 From there, it was a short step to emotional effusions, such as the following from Dr Tredgold: 'There is not the slightest doubt that the decline [in the birth-rate] is chiefly incident in—indeed, one may say practically confined to—the best and most fit elements of the com­munity, whilst the loafers, the incompetents, the insane and feeble­minded, continue to breed with unabated and unrestrained vigour'.37

Possibly the most bitter comments on differential fertility came from the Whethams. Conscious family limitation was an abomina­tion, they said, because it prevented the operation of natural selection. 'Survival of the fit is of no use to the race unless the fit produce and rear a preponderating number of offspring. In the modern civilized life of mankind, at all events, the best chance of survival does not always mean the probability of the greatest number of children'.38 The


27


3 The Issue of 'Racial Degeneration'


Whethams could hardly contain themselves as they surveyed 'the utterly wanton, selfish, and senseless restriction of the birth-rate among the intellectual and able classes of the community'. Victorian England, they argued, had achieved a peak of culture and intellectual achievement previously reached only in the short-lived renaissances of the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries. Yet instead of consolidating and developing these achievements, the intellectual leaders of Western Europe, and of Britain in particular, were ensuring anew era of decadence and decline by committing 'race suicide'; 'Surely the gods themselves must weep over the perverse stupidity of the human race, who three times in a thousand years have held such possibilities of glorious development in their hands, and three times have com­passed their own destruction .. .'39

Speculating about the hypothetical characters of those 'suppressed personalities', i.e. the babies that had not been born since 1875, was an activity in which free play could be given to the imagination 1 The absence of these unborn babies could be used, for example, to explain any social tensions or political difficulties in which the nation happened to find itself. If there was a lack of men of the first order in all walks of national life, that was due to the differential birth-rate.40 The shortage of suitable army officers was 'largely a biological phenomenon', caused by the low fertility of the stocks from which the higher military ranks were customarily filled.41 The Whethams ac­tually went so far as to suggest that Germany's recent superiority over Britain as an industrial and trading community was due to the fact that the German 'birth-rate did not begin to fall systematically till twenty years later than that of Great Britain, and even now has only sunk to the comparatively high figure of 33 per thousand, as against our 26 per thousand .. .'42

During the inter-war years evidence emerged which suggested that the disparity in size between working and middle class families was beginning to narrow. But this lay in the future. In the Edwardian period eugenists could still claim that the middle classes, with all their good and bad qualities, would soon follow the bison and dodo to extinction, while the population became increasingly recruited from a 'tabid and wilted stock'.43 Eugenists enjoyed frightening themselves by projecting into the future what would happen if present trends


28


3 The Issue of 'Racial Degeneration'


were allowed to proceed unchecked. George Mudge in the Mendel Journal described a 'degenerate stock' then numbering some two hundred individuals 'carrying or manifesting the tubercular, paralytic and epileptic diathesis'. 'If we go forward to the next generation', he wrote, 'there may be two thousand of them, and in the third genera­tion twenty thousand of them! An army of epileptics, paralytics and tuberculates!'44 The Whethams asked their readers to contemplate the prospect of the whole population of England gradually becoming feeble-minded or (what they apparently regarded as a closely related condition) 'unintelligent casual labourers'.45

The assumption behind such wild talk as Mudge's was that degeneracy was hereditary; the editor of the Eugenics Review himself claimed that 'all students of the subject' now believed this to be the case.46 Allied to this belief was the conviction that degeneracy was a general condition which manifested itself in many different forms. 'It is very striking, after one has studied a great many pedigrees of un­healthy, weak-minded, and neurotic stock', wrote the Whethams, 'to realise how often alcoholism in the men seems to correspond with a tendency to tubercular disease in the women, and how both are inter­changeable with a low or unstable type of mental character. One gets a very strong impression that, in a certain sense, these things are symp­toms rather than diseases, and that it is to the stock which produces them rather than to the individual who suffers from them that we should turn our attention'.47 In his statistical study of the 'insane diathesis', Heron found, or so he claimed, 'an inherited tendency to general degeneracy, which is something wider even than the vague "insanity", where many types are clubbed together under one name. ... It would appear as if the stock suffered from hereditary deter­minants which were unstable in character, and that the existence of such unstable determinants may be the mark of "degenerate" stock'.48 'Degenerate' was also a category much employed by the Liverpool physician, Dr Rentoul; he used it, he said, because the word was familiar to most readers through the work of Max Nordau, and because it usefully covered not only lunatics, but sexual perverts, neurotics, alcoholics, kleptomaniacs, and other pathological types.49 To give one final example, Pearson claimed to have accumulated at the Eugenics Laboratory 'endless pedigrees demonstrating how


29


3 The Issue of 'Racial Degeneration'


"general degeneracy" runs in stocks, epilepsy, insanity, alcoholism, and mental defect being practically interchangeable, numberless members failing to reach normality'.50

American eugenists made a particular hobby of documenting the history of these degenerate families over several generations. R. L. Dugdale set off the trend in his often quoted study of'the Jukes', who, it was alleged, had in the course of five centuries produced 709 descen­dants unfit for society. Ironically, Dugdale himself, as Havelock Ellis notes, was concerned to prove the influence of bad environment rather than of bad heredity.51 But later investigators, using his study as a model, had strong hereditarian sympathies; and their detailed chronicles of the misdeeds, diseases and disabilities of the Kallikaks, the 'Nam Family', the 'Tribe of Ishmael', and so on, were designed to support the theory that there were stocks so 'tainted' that society, in its own self-defence, was entitled to prevent their multiplication.52

To describe these 'defective stocks' eugenists employed a number of emotionally charged terms. People with this genetic endowment were 'submen', 'moral perverts', 'low grade types'.53 It was sometimes suggested that society was becoming differentiated into two almost distinct groups, or even species, like the Eloi and Morlocks in Wells' Time Machine (1895). 'On the one hand', wrote Tredgold, 'there are those of sound, unimpaired constitution and vitality who are on the "up-grade" and who are adapting themselves to the demands of the time—the biologically fit. On the other hand, there are those springing from germ-plasm which is so impaired that this adaptation is impossible, who are on the "down-grade" and falling out in the march of civilisation—the biologically unfit'.54 In 1937, Dr Cattell was to warn that, if present demographic trends continued, the pop­ulation would eventually split into 'two distinct intelligence groups, as distinct socially as most Indian castes and more distinct biologically than most races'.55

However, during the Edwardian decade one observes a slight decrease in references to general degeneracy, and many more references to what was widely regarded as the root cause of a variety of pathological conditions: mental defect. One example of this is the discrediting in eugenical circles of Lombroso and his 'science' of 'criminal anthropology'. Eugenists were from the start attracted to


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3 The Issue of 'Racial Degeneration'


the notion that there existed a category of persons called 'hereditary' or 'inborn' criminals; the respected pathologist, Dr Clouston, could talk early in the century about 'organic lawlessness' being 'transmitted hereditarily'.56 For those who believed this, support could be derived from a reading of Lombroso, who argued that criminals were a distinct anthropological type, with marked physical peculiarities, like prehensile feet and flattened noses, who could be seen as a degenerate throw-back from an earlier phase of human evolution; they 'bred true to type' and were quite resistant to curative treatment.57

Initially, Lombroso was given a respectful hearing by British eugenists. But his reputation as a serious criminologist was fatally un­dermined by the publication in 1912 of Charles Goring's The English Convict: A Statistical Study, which concluded: 'If there is any real association between physical character and crime, this is so microscopic in amount as not to be revealed'. Eugenists were all the more likely to take this conclusion seriously, in that Goring was one of Pearson's fellow-workers at the Eugenics Laboratory. Yet Goring also dismissed environmentalist explanations of crime, and believed that criminality was restricted to 'particular stocks or sections of the community'. The most important cause of criminal behaviour Goring found to be mental defect; between ten and fifteen per cent of the prison population examined were suffering from this disability.58

Havelock Ellis, who had introduced Lombroso to his English audience in his book The Criminal (1890), was quick to seize upon this idea. Already in 1911, in The Problem of Race-Regeneration, Ellis was trying to estimate the proportion of criminals who were feeble­minded. He quoted an investigation at Pentonville Prison, where, even after prisoners too mentally affected to be fit for prison discipline had been excluded, eighteen per cent of adult prisoners and forty per cent of juvenile offenders were found to be feeble-minded. Another authority ventured the opinion that only four to five per cent of criminals came from parents who were 'really sound'.59 Groups on the fringes of society who were especially likely to find themselves in prison, like prostitutes and tramps, were also thought to contain a very high proportion of the feeble-minded. On the eve of the war these suppositions were beginning to be seriously examined by psy-


31


3 The Issue of 'Racial Degeneration'


chometricians, armed with Simon-Binet tests, a movement already well under way in the United States.60 The investigators reached differing conclusions, but agreed that crime and mental defect were significantly correlated.

The whole issue of feeble-mindedness received wide publicity with the publication, in 1908, of the Report of the Royal Commission on the Care and Control of the Feeble-Minded. The Commission accepted Dr Tredgold's estimate that these defectives produced very large families, perhaps 8 • 4 on average; although some of the offspring were still-born or died in early infancy, the survivors still exceeded the size of the normal family. Moreover, if, as most experts believed, two-thirds of these children were themselves likely to be feeble-minded, the prospects were ominous.61 The absence of any legal powers to keep the feeble-minded under custodial care made it impossible, until the Mental Deficiency Act was passed in 1913, to do anything to con­trol their fertility. This explains why the campaign for the enactment of restrictive legislation should have absorbed so much of the time and enthusiasm of eugenists in the 1908 to 1913 period, and also the prominence within the movement of experts on mental defect, most notably Dr Tredgold.

Brooding obsessively as they did on the problems of disease and degeneration, British eugenists not surprisingly took on the role of prophets of doom. But this brought them into emotional rapport with many people outside their ranks. Warnings of national disaster, the end of civilization, the prospect of a new 'dark age' filled the newspapers and magazines in the early years of the twentieth century. It was characteristic of the period that Balfour, when giving the Sidgwick Memorial Lecture in 1908, should have taken as his theme 'Decadence', and characteristic of the man that he should have reached no definite conclusions about it.62 The reasons for the prevailing gloom are many and complex, but it is clear that the after­math of the Boer War had made many Englishmen uneasily aware of the fragility of their Empire, and dimly conscious that Britain as a world power was on the wane. Comparisons with the collapse of the Roman Empire were common, and so was an obsession with what caused the rise and fall of civilization.63

To these perplexing problems eugenics purported to supply an


32


3 The Issue of 'Racial Degeneration' •


explanation and a resolution. The symptoms of decline observeable in modern Britain should be seen as 'problems of national physiology', so William Bateson, the geneticist, contended.64 Galton had long believed that the rates at which various social strata contributed to the population at various times provided the main cause of the rise and fall of nations.65 These sentiments were echoed by Pearson, who declared that 'selection by parentage is the sole effective process known to science by which a race can continuously progress. The rise and fall of nations are in truth summed up in the maintenance or cessation of that process of selection'.66 The acquired skills of a civilization might for a time 'mask' its biological decay, but in the last analysis the 'racial fitness' of the population was the factor which determined its survival chances. That was why Britain's differential birth-rate, unless quickly checked, was thought by eugenists to foreshadow the collapse of the British Empire.


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