Timeline 1900 – 2017

1920-1940

The twenty years 1920-40 can justly be described as the era of moral condemnation for interracial couples and their children. It began with Marriage Registrars’ ‘Warning Statement’ about interracial unions and the Special Restrictions (Coloured Alien Seamen) Order and saw the publication in the 20s of the first reports on ‘mixed race’ children by British anthropologists (an approach called ‘anthropometry’ based on detailed physical measurements). Although much of this work was published in the Eugenics Society’s journal, it took a neutral stand on the biological consequences of what was called ‘race crossing’. However, the infamous ‘Fletcher Report’ of 1930 described Liverpool’s mixed couples and their offspring in racist and inflammatory language, with references to ‘brothels’, ‘ disorderliness’ , ‘illegitimacy’, ‘infectious diseases’, and ‘prostitution’, those in interracial unions being described as ‘disharmonious’, ‘immoral’, and ‘promiscuous’. In the 1930s Parliament, too, began to problematize the ‘mixed race’ population in Britain’s port cities in terms of poverty and a threat to economic and social stability. As the Eugenicists Society reached the peak of its popularity in the 1930s with an agenda that actively cautioned against interracial unions, the consequences of eugenicist policies in Nazi Germany were becoming apparent. These events drew devastating critiques of eugenicist thinking and theories of racial superiority from the British geneticists, Julian Huxley and Alfred Haddon, and Cedric Dover’s ‘Half-caste’ provided an eloquent riposte to those who denigrated the offspring of mixed unions.