Timeline 1900 – 2017

Eugenics Society publications on ‘race crossing’

In 1936-37 the Eugenics Society appointed JC Trevor as Leonard Darwin Research Fellow to investigate the ‘general problem of race crossing’: his main concern was with ‘race variability’, that is measuring ‘hybrid populations’, published in 1938 and 1953. ‘Race variability’ was also the subject of Rachel Fleming’s contributions to the Society’s journal Eugenics Review in 1930. Race Crossing in Jamaica, by CB Davenport and M Steggerda (published in New York in 1929), shows an obsession with every kind of measurement, the authors boasting of achieving 63 measurements on each individual in 20 minutes. The study in Jamaica was undertaken ‘with specific reference to its significance for the future of any country containing a mixed population’.

Besides this genre of work, the Eugenics Review carried racially inflammatory articles on the risks of ‘race crossing’, including a piece by Jon Alfred Mjoen that claimed to document ‘disharmonic growth’ and ‘hybrids’ temperamental instability’ and that by CBS Hodson in similar vein. The journal also published a paper by Dr KB Aikman in which he claimed that the offspring of ‘race mixing’ had a ‘chaotic constitution’, including ‘skeletal maladaptions’, concluding that ‘any policy of encouraging racial mixtures is a gamble which is unjustified’. Indeed, the Review appeared happy to give a voice to many with such views at this time, including Professor Ruggles Gates, another Eugenics Society member, who openly discouraged ‘miscegenation’ in his 1934 work on Racial and Social Problems in the Light of Heredity.

Eugenics on Mixed Britannia, BBC Two, TX October 2011. Copyright BBC