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From another standpoint the eugenics movement can be seen as part of the wider quest for national efficiency, which so dominated British political thinking in the opening years of the twentieth century. Galton himself spoke about encouraging 'a more virile sentiment, based on the desire of promoting the natural gifts and the National Efficiency of future generations'.1 The phrase appears again in his characterization of the feeble-minded as 'a very serious and growing danger to our national efficiency': a danger which only 'a eugenic victory' could avert.2 Arnold White came close to identifying the two creeds in his article on 'Eugenics and National Efficiency' in the Eugenics Review?
There was another reason why eugenists presented their cause as a 'patriotic' one. Only patriotism, they argued, could give large numbers of men the incentive and the discipline which would enable them to purify their stock and initiate schemes for racial improvement. In the words of the Whethams: 'The power of combination and organization, the social instinct, readiness for self-sacrifice to the common good, love of home, country, and race—in a word, patriotism—all are needed to bring to birth and to develop a nation fit to hold its own in the fiery trial of war, and in the slow, grinding stress of economic competition'.4 Needless to say, the Whethams assumed that success in the earnest rivalries of peace and war would go to the racially fit.
'The nation which first subjects itself to a rational eugenical discipline is bound to inherit the earth', argued F. C. S. Schiller.5 Galton, Pearson, James Barr, and many others rang variations on the same
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theme.6 Coupled with descriptions of the glorious destiny which awaited Britain should she only adopt eugenics and thus place her statecraft on a scientific basis, were warnings that, should this opportunity be missed, rival powers would gain at her expense. One eugenist made this point in a very specific way; just as the Germans had exploited many British scientific discoveries and applied them with a practical skill lacking in the land of their origin, so, too, might they seize on the possibilities which eugenics offered: 'These, again, scientifically tabulated, are the work of an Englishman, but the German, with his accustomed painstaking capacity, will probably be the first to turn them to advantage'.7 In the 1930s, some eugenists pointed out, with mingled emotions of admiration and alarm, that this was already happening. Conversely, failure to do anything about the differential birth-rate would, in the view of most eugenists, so impair the vitality of the British population as to lay the Empire open to the depredations of her more virile neighbours.8
As the holder of a vast Empire, the British, said the eugenists, had particular grounds for preserving and enhancing the vigour of their stock. Lord Rosebery's vague phrases about the Empire depending upon an efficient imperial race were given a very particular meaning. In Galton's words, 'To no nation is a high human breed more necessary than to our own, for we plant our stock all over the world and lay the foundation of the dispositions and capacities of future millions of the human race'.9
Improving the quality of the British population—or at least arresting its decline from Al to C3 status—was something upon which all eugenists could agree. Opinions differed, however, as to whether the trend towards smaller families (leaving aside for the moment its differential aspect) was a healthy or a dangerous development. The issue clearly had implications for Britain's role as a world power. Those who advocated population growth argued that, all other things being equal, the Power with the greater manpower resources would have the advantage in international rivalries, and also both the means and the incentive to promote ambitious colonizing ventures.10 There was also the argument that an Imperial Power needed to have the self-confidence which would impel it to disseminate its racial type , throughout the globe. Pearson could recall 'no case of a race with a
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very low birth-rate maintaining or creating a position for itself in the assembly of nations'.11 The authors of an Additional Note to the Birth-Rate Commission also emphasized the imperial issue: 'If we value our national life should we not desire its diffusion? For the sake of the backward types even ... should we not desire the preservation and expansion of our people?'12
Many eugenists who might have been tempted to give an affirmative answer to this question refrained from doing so because they believed that a high birth-rate would lead to 'over-population', which in turned increased the possibility of war. This was one of the favourite theories of Montague Crackanthorpe's Population and \ Progress (1907), and it elicited from Galton the interesting suggestion that some future Hague Conference might consider the 'limitation of populations', and in so doing get at the heart of the German problem.13 Eugenists were bound to be attracted by any further evidence in support of their contention that the great controversial issues of history and politics were, properly understood, biological issues.
But the insinuation of Crackanthorpe and all 'reform Eugenists' was that wars were evils which should at all costs be prevented. Not all eugenists shared this view. One recalls the oft-quoted words of Karl Pearson: 'You will see that my view—and I think it may be called the scientific view of a nation—is that of an organized whole, kept up to a high pitch of internal efficiency by insuring that its numbers are substantially recruited from the better stocks, and kept up to a high pitch of external efficiency by contest, chiefly by way of war with inferior races, and with equal races by the struggle for trade-routes and for the sources of raw material and of food supply'.14 Here is Social Darwinism, red in tooth and claw, of a kind that was also much in vogue in imperialistic circles in Germany.
In Britain, these convictions led to a certain rapprochement between certain eugenists and those campaigning for compulsory military service. Colonel Melville, Professor of Hygiene at the Royal Army Medical College, argued in the pages of the Eugenics Review that military service was 'eugenically useful because it [kept] prominently before the community ideals of physical fitness and efficiency as well as of courage and patriotism'. 'It may be', he added,
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'that an occasional war is of service by reason of the fact that in times of danger the nation attends to the virility of its citizens'.15 Predictably enough, we also find Arnold White, representing the National Service League, jumping up at the International Eugenics Conference, to draw attention to 'the eugenic effect of discipline, of training, of obedience, and of learning the secret of willingness to die for a principle'.16 And Sir James Barr wanted universal military training and a 'cultivation of the military spirit to arrest the decadence of the nation'.17
But perhaps a majority of eugenists in Britain (and also in America) took the opposite view. War, they argued, was 'dysgenic', because it led, as one American put it, to 'waste of germ plasm'.18 Wars may have had beneficial effects in the past. But modern warfare, it was argued, damaged the national physique, because (to quote Carr-Saunders) 'those who are exposed to risk of death in battle are men who have not yet married or who have not completed their families, and who are mentally and physically fitter than the average. The direct effect of war is thus to bring about a loss of births in the families of the fitter men and to kill off a certain proportion of them. It must tend to lower the average mentality and physique of the population'.19
That this was the 'official' line of the Eugenics Education Society is suggested by the endorsement given to it by its respected President, Leonard Darwin.20 But it was an issue on which British eugenists were rather seriously divided. These differences came to the fore at the 1912 International Conference, where the American, Kellogg, gave an address stressing the dysgenic consequences of war, which provoked sharp dissent from Colonel Melville, Arnold White, and Colonel Warden. The Society kept out of the dispute as long as it could.21 An editorial in the Eugenics Review gave approval to universal physical training, whether of a military or of other kinds, but pointed out that this provided no substitute for the more important task of 'breeding from sound and healthy stocks'.22 At the same time the Society declined to send delegates to a Peace Conference, in 1912, on the grounds that the prevention of war 'did not come within the scope of [the Society]', still less would it have anything to do with the Anti-Conscription League.23
The moment for decision finally came in August 1914. But to those
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who have examined the utterances of eugenists during the preceding years it comes as no surprise to discover that, although the E.E.S. accepted its patriotic obligations and supported the war effort, it did so with considerable foreboding. In an unsigned article in the Eugenics Review in October 1914, the fear was expressed that the dy sgenic effect of war would be especially felt in Britain because of the voluntary basis of her army. (In fact, even under a system of conscription, the physically debilitated and the mentally sub-normal would have been excluded from service). Characteristically, the Society was also worried at the prospect of widespread suffering among the professional middle classes: to alleviate which the Society participated in the charitable activities of the Professional Classes War Relief Council.24 The high death-rates among the officer class, the government's adoption of 'war socialism' to offset shortages of essential commodities, and the upsurge of revolutionary socialism in the last phase of the war, came as yet further evidence that modern war threatened most of those values and social traditions that eugenists held dear. Most eugenical pronouncements in the 1920s have a decidedly 'pacifist' flavour.
But, with Karl Pearson a prominent exception, the British Eugenics Movement had never been belligerently patriotic, although it attracted some outspoken and perfervid nationalists to its ranks. The Social Darwinism of Pearson and a few kindred spirits has misled some historians into supposing that there was a close and logical connexion between the eugenist's creed and the glorification of war. This is to overstate the importance of Pearson, who was in many respects not characteristic of British eugenists. It must also be remembered that the E.E.S. contained many members whose views on international relations derived from humanitarian liberal and ethical socialist sources. Even Dean Inge, whom no-one could suspect of liberal or socialist proclivities, can be found protesting, in 1913, against militarists who advocated a high birth-rate because they regarded men as mere 'food for powder'.25 Nor did all eugenists by any means accept uncritically Pearson's Social Darwinism or similar attempts to apply the notion of a 'struggle for existence' to the sphere of foreign affairs.26 Finally, even the strongly patriotic contingent was held back from jingoistic excesses by the recollection that eugenics
4 Eugenics, Empire and Race
was a world wide movement; there were frequent meetings and a continuous interchange of ideas between themselves and colleagues in other countries, particularly America. And, of course, eugenics claimed to be merely the practical application of scientific truth, and science knows nothing of national frontiers.
The contention that British eugenists were not 'super-nationalists' or glorifiers of war might be countered with the objection that they were nearly all of them pronounced racialists, as their very language proves. Phrases like 'the traditions of the race', 'racial instinct' and 'race-regeneration' occur with monotonous regularity in eugenical literature. This by itself, however, is not conclusive, since these phrases were also regularly employed by contemporaries who cannot by any stretch of the imagination be called 'racialist'. In the early twentieth century the word race seems to have been interchangeable with 'nation', 'community', or even 'people'. Did British eugenists mean anything specific when they invoked the issue of race ?
The main interest of eugenists was probably that of determining the racial composition of the inhabitants of the United Kingdom. Such a study of Britain's own 'local races' might, it was hoped, be made an integral part of a national anthropometric survey, so that it could be ascertained what contributions were being made to the national life by Celts, Anglo-Danes, and the like.27 Karl Pearson once observed that 'the science of Eugenics is in fact only highly developed and applied anthropology',28 and much eugenical discussion is frankly derivative: a mere re-hash of current anthropological views on the main racial groups into which the peoples of the world naturally divide. There is much mention of the 'three races', Teutons, Alpines, and Mediterraneans, and some windy attempts to explain the whole of European history in terms of the interaction of these contending racial groups.29 But it was changes in the racial balance of Britain's own population which remained the dominant concern, even though this never aroused such fierce emotions as did the protest being made by the American eugenists against the 'swamping' of the native stocks in the United States by the greater fertility of the newer immigrant groups.30
In Britain, immigration was a subsidiary issue, but it attracted some attention all the same. Predictably, eugenists were unhappy
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about its probable biological consequences. Tredgold argued that, while the colonies were drawing away healthy and energetic British men and women, a large proportion of immigrants were 'the scourings of Europe, and immeasurably inferior to the British people whose place they fill'.31 The Whethams emphasised that the colonies all had immigration controls which kept out the mentally defective, the consumptive, and the pauper, whereas in England only the 'more notorious criminals' were excluded. If the dregs of Eastern Europe were not prevented from entering the country, the end product would be 'an Anglo-Slavonic hybrid stock' of dubious racial value.32
The Whethams tastefully avoided saying, in direct language, that it was Eastern European Jews whom they were anxious to exclude from Britain's shores. But, in fact, what they and many other eugenists were engaged in doing was continuing the agitation against Jewish immigrants which had originated in the 1880s and had driven the Balfour Government into passing the Aliens Act in 1905. It is significant that several of the most outspoken 'restrictionists' around the turn of the century, notably Arnold White, were later drawn into the E.E.S.33 Also significant is the investigation of Jewish immigrant children which Pearson began just before the First World War in conjunction with Margaret Moul. Using pre-Binet tests, he concluded that Jewish children were of approximately the same intelligence as Gentile children, but that they were inferior in physique and somewhat dirtier—an important factor, he said, should London ever be struck by a great epidemic. The whole investigation rested on methods of enquiry and on premises of dubious validity, but all that need be done here is to describe the practical proposals which Pearson and Moul derived from their findings. 'Let us', they wrote, 'set a standard for immigrants, say 25 per cent higher than the mental and physical averages of the native population—and in the present state of our medical, physical and psychological anthropometry this is not an idle dream—and let us allow none to enter who fails to reach this standard'. Jewish refugees who failed this test, as nearly all of them clearly would, might be encouraged to settle, instead, in thinly populated parts of the globe, where the local people were below then-physical and mental level—perhaps Palestine. But Britain had a duty to preserve and improve its stock, and the unrestricted admission of
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Jewish or indeed of other types of immigrants was hardly conducive to this end. Pearson and Moul hastened to add (as did the Whethams) that they were quite unconcerned with the religion of the Jews and had no anti-semitic prejudices.34 But that, of course, had also been the claim of even rabid restrictionists, like Arnold White, during the Aliens Bill controversy.
Yet anti-semitism is not a charge that can reasonably be made against any but a handful of eugenists. Many Jews were prominent in the movement, like Dr Sidney Herbert, and contributions by Jews, written from a Jewish standpoint, were published in the Eugenics Review. There is no evidence whatever that Jews were ever made to feel unwelcome in the E.E.S. In March 1913 the Society set up a Jewish Committee to 'enquire into various questions directly connected with the Jews', a committee on to which Jewish members were to be co-opted.35 But this should not be construed as evidence that eugenists had any hostile designs on the Jewish people. As even Pearson admitted, the Jews had much to offer other races in the matters of sex hygiene and race culture.36 The eugenists especially admired the pride that Jews took in their family and their ancestry; as the Whethams put it, Jews seem 'to have had a very strong racial instinct, a profound sense of the importance of heredity', and the Mosaic code itself 'enshrinefd] many profound biological truths'.37 In many respects the Jews were a model of what eugenists were seeking to establish: a closely knit community, which had identified religion with a sense of racial destiny and which invested its customary sexual and hygienic regulations with all the weight of religous authority. Just as eugenics seemed to some Jews to provide proof that their traditional beliefs and rituals had 'scientific' justification, so non-Jews could point to the Jewish community with satisfaction to demonstrate that eugenics was a practical proposition, a creed that could be absorbed into the social and emotional life of a whole people. To quote Arnold White, of all people: 'the existence of the Jewish race is a standing advertisement of the truth of the science that Francis Galton has revived .. ,'38
Finally, the alleged 'purity' of the Jews made them a source of legitimate scientific interest to all concerned with eugenic problems. Investigations indicated that the incidence of disease was very
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different among Jews from what is was among non-Jews: tuberculosis, for example, being very rare, but defective eye-sight commonplace, facts that were partly explicable in terms of acquired immunity and partly to the results of in-breeding. The interest taken in the racial peculiarities of Jews was not always of a very intelligent kind; Dr Radcliffe Salaman's attempts to show that the familiar Jewish facial expression was a recessive character which 'Mendelised' are a case in point. But Salaman's conclusion, that it was 'essential that a pure stock possessing such qualities [as the Jews had] should be kept in existence' was one with which many, perhaps most, non-Jewish eugenists were heartily in sympathy.39
It remains to be asked why, holding these beliefs, they did not as a group postively encourage, rather than deprecate, Jewish immigration. Similar questions were raised at the time by liberal critics of immigration restriction. The answer can only be that the Jews entering Britain from Eastern Europe in the post-1880 period aroused the class hostility of many eugenists. While approving of Jews as a race, these particular Jews were destined to swell the ranks of the urban poor, perhaps to fall dependent on public funds. Even if they adapted themselves successfully to their new environment, they were likely to meet with disapproval, so long as they formed a closed community. Many eugenists seem to have believed that there could only be an improvement of the stock if pride in one's race could be kept vividly alive. An article in the Eugenics Review in January 1910 commended the Australians for being conscious of the 'menace of the yellow races'; this could only be 'a healthy influence', since 'the proximity of powerful and threatening neighbours has more than once in the world's history produced a nation of more virile and even heroic men'.40 Commitment to the goal of a multi-racial society, it was presumed, would have the very opposite result.
The reference by the Eugenics Review to 'the menace of the yellow races' raises the further issue of what view eugenists took of non-European peoples. This issue can be quickly settled. With very few exceptions, eugenists simply assumed, in a very innocent and unself-conscious way, that the white races were biologically superior to the coloured races, although distinctions were made between 'advanced' Asiatic peoples like the Japanese, with considerable economic and
4 Eugenics, Empire and Race
military achievements to their credit, and extremely 'backward' races like the Negroes. This prejudice was, of course, very widespread in Edwardian England, and can be found in many otherwise 'progressive' liberal and socialist circles.41 Perhaps for this reason British Eugenists seem not to have thought it necessary in these years to provide supporting evidence for what they regarded as a self-evident truth. But William McDougall, writing on the subject of 'psychology in the Service of Eugenics' in July 1914, anticipated a later phase in the movement when he advocated the application of intelligence tests to 'the various sub-races of mankind', in the hope that this would validate his 'intuitive' belief in racial inequality.42 McDougall's hopes were very shortly to be fulfilled I43
Meanwhile, the main problem to which British eugenists felt obliged to address themselves was whether marriages or sexual liaisons between members of widely contrasting racial groups should or should not be permitted. In 1911, a South African wrote to the E.E.S. for information on this point.44 What reply, if any, the South African gentleman was sent remains obscure, but the general view among British eugenists was that miscegenation was a 'racial error', as the collapse of the Spanish and the Portuguese Empires eloquently testified.45 Unions between closely related strains might strengthen the stock, but those between members of clearly differentiated racial groups, such as Europeans and Negroes, were likely to produce children lacking in physical, mental, or temperamental balance.46 The leaders of the E.E.S. carefully avoided the wild racialist rant that Arnold White wrote for The Referee.*1 But Pearson was characteristically forthright. When asked by a journalist on the Observer for his views about 'Black and White marriages', he simply 'expressed his conviction that such unions "could only raise the blacks by lowering the whites" \48 Pearson also proclaimed that the Negro was one of those races which belonged 'to the childhood of man's evolution', a fact that justified Europeans, 'even for their own [the Negroes'] benefit, when we have suspended the stringent action of natural selection, in treating them as children'.49 A more sympathetic approach to 'barbaric' peoples was consistent with attachment to eugenic principles. A. E. Crawley gave a sensitive description of sexual taboos among certain so-called 'primitive races', and concluded: 'As compared with
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the sentimental variety prevalent in civilised life, this early form of respect deserves the style of scientific. It is the respect of the medical eugenist rather than of the ethical or religious sentimentalist'.50 There were passages in Galton's own work which might have stimulated further enquiries along these lines. They were not taken up. Most eugenists remained obstinately ethnocentric.
Yet this account of the 'racialist' strand in the British eugenics movement can be pressed too far. There were elements in eugenical thinking which prevented the elaboration of full-blooded theories of race. For a start, even a rudimentary understanding of genetics would have been enough to disabuse eugenists of the popular belief in the existence of 'pure' races.51 At times they may have spoken and written as though they accepted the fixity of racial characteristics, but, as J. B. S. Haldane observed on a later occasion, this position was incompatible with the eugenists' firmly held conviction that racial deterioration had set in.52 If pressed to choose between these two theories, few eugenists would have hesitated to discard the notion that races had immutable personalities. Moreover, eugenists were fond of stock-breeding analogies, and they knew that in the animal and plant world many successful new breeds had been created through 'crossing'. Whether two particular races should be 'crossed' would entirely depend, they believed, upon the peculiarities of the two races in question, but at least inter-racial marriages could not be dismissed out-of-hand as a biological error.
But more important than such considerations is the evidence that in pre-war Britain the 'racial issue' was not given much prominence; most of the wilder statements about, for example, Negro inferiority, which one encounters in British eugenical literature, turn out to have been made by Americans or to be based upon American 'research'.53 In the inter-war years crude racialist gibes seem to have become slightly more common. But before 1914, at least, no serious attempt was made by any eugenist, apart from Pearson, to justify British rule in Africa and Asia on biological grounds. This may seem surprising, until one understands that British eugenists were not very much interested in what was happening overseas. In the 1908-14 period attention was, instead, focused on the alleged iniquities of the reforming Liberal Administrations of Campbell-Bannerman and Asquith.
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