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Week 9: Evolution, Anthropology, and Racial Science

In the mid-nineteenth century, ethnology and anthropology (terms often used interchangeably) began to assume a more formal disciplinary character, with societies, meetings and journals sprouting up across the globe. These fields were concerned with the nature of human difference, although there was some disagreement over whether such studies should be more physical or cultural in orientation. Although biological studies of race took center stage, disputes between monogenists and polygenists over the implications of racial difference continued into this period. With the publication of Darwin’s Origin of Species in 1859, the new theory of evolution seeped into these debates. While Darwin argued for the fundamental unity of the human species, his ideas were used to justify the notion that some races were more evolved than others—leading to a new biological justification for the creation of human hierarchies. [Group 1]

Discussion Questions:

-Why did institutional anthropology emerge in the mid-nineteenth century?

-To what extent did evolutionary ideas transform anthropological theory?

-What role did measurement play in Victorian racial science?

-While racial science is now considered pseudo-scientific, to what extent was it considered a legitimate field of scientific enquiry in the nineteenth century?

Required Readings:


**Alfred Russell Wallace, 'The Origin of Human Races and the Antiquity of Man Deduced From the Theory of Natural Selection' (1864) in Michael Biddiss, Images of Race (Leicester 1979), pp. 37-54.


**Michael Banton, Racial Theories, 2nd Ed. (Cambridge, 1998), 'Ch. 4: Race as Subspecies,' pp. 81-116. [e-book]

*Thomas F. Glick, ‘The Anthropology of Race Across the Darwinian Revolution’, in Henrika Kuklick (ed.), A New History of Anthropology (Oxford, 2008), pp. 225-241 [extracts]

*Stephen Jay Gould, The Mismeasure of Man (2nd edn. London, 1996), ‘Chapter 3: Measuring Heads,’ pp.105-141 [extracts]

*Douglas A. Lorimer, Colour, Class and the Victorians (Leicester, 1978), Ch. 7 ‘Scientific Racism and Mid-Victorian Racial Attitudes’, pp.131-161. [extracts]

Suman Seth, 'Constitutions Selection: Darwin, Race, and Medicine,' BJHS Themes (2021) [e-journal]

Further Readings:

Stephen G. Alter, ‘Race, Language, and Mental Evolution in Darwin’s Descent of Man,’ Journal of the History of the Behavioural Sciences 43 (2007), 239-255.

Michael Banton, Racial Theories, 2nd Ed (Cambridge, 1998) ‘Ch. 3: Race as Subspecies’, pp.81-116 [e-book]

Peter Bowler, ‘From “Savage” to “Primitive”: Victorian Evolutionism and the Interpretation of Marginalized Peoples’, Antiquity, 66 (1992), 721-729.

Michael Bravo, ‘Ethnological Encounters’, in N. Jardine, J.A. Secord and E. Spary (eds.).
 Cultures of Natural History (Cambridge, 1996), pp. 338-258

Philip D. Curtin, The Image of Africa: British Ideas and Action, 1780-1850, Vol II (Madison, 1964), ‘Ch.15: The Racists and their Opponents,’pp.363-387.

________, ‘“Scientific” Racism and the British Theory of Empire’, Journal of the Historical Society of Nigeria, 2 (1960), 40-51

Adrian Desmond and James Moore, Darwin’s Sacred Cause: Race, Slavery and the Quest for Human Origins (London, 2009)

Seymour Drescher, 'The Ending of the Slave Trade and the Evolution of European Scientific Racism,' Social Science History 14 (1990), pp.415-450 [e-journal]

Bronwen Douglas, ‘Climate to crania: Science and the Racialisation of Human Difference’, in Douglas, Bronwen and Chris Ballard (eds.), Foreign bodies: Oceania and the science of race, 1750-1940 (Canberra, 2008), pp. 33-96

Saul Dubow, Scientific Racism in Modern South Africa (Cambridge, 1995)

Thomas F. Gossett, Race: The History of an Idea in America, 2nd Ed. (New York, 1997), ‘Ch. VII: Race and Social Darwinism,’ p.144-175

Lucile E. Hoyme, ‘Physical Anthropology and its Instruments: An Historical Study,’ Southwestern Journal of Anthropology 9 (1953), 408-430. [e-journal]

Paul Jorion, ‘The Downfall of the Skull,’ RAIN 48 (1982), pp. 8-11 [JSTOR]

Herbert Odom, ‘Generalizations on Race in Nineteenth-Century Physical Anthropology’, Isis, 58 (1967), 5-18. [e-journal]

Cannon Schmitt, Darwin and the Memory of the Human : Evolution, Savages, and South America (Cambridge, 2012), 'Ch. 1: Charles Darwin's Savage Mnemonics', pp. 32-56.

George W. Stocking, Jr., Race, Culture and Evolution: Essays in the History of Anthropology (Chicago, 1968), esp. 'Ch 6: The Dark-Skinned Savage: The Image of Primitive Man in Evolutionary Anthropology'

____________, Victorian Anthropology (New York, 1987), esp. ‘Ch. 7: Evolutionary Ideas and Anthropological Institutions (1835-1890)', pp. 238-273

Sujit Sivasundaram, ‘Race, Empire and Biology Before Darwinism,” in Numbers, Ronald L. and Denis R. Alexander, (eds.) Biology and Ideology: From Descartes to Dawkins (Chicago: 2010), pp. 114-138. [e-book]

Martin Staum, ‘Nature and Nurture in French Ethnography and Anthropology, 1859-1914’, Journal of the History of Ideas, 65 (2004), pp. 475-495.

Fenneke Sysling, Racial Science and Human Diversity in Colonial Indonesia (Singapore, 2016)

Thomas, Nicholas, Colonialism’s Culture: Anthropology, Travel and Government (Princeton, 1994)

Weber, Gay, ‘Science and Society in Nineteenth-Century Anthropology’, History of Science, 12 (1974), 260-283. [e-journal]

Elizabeth A. Williams, ‘Anthropological Institutions in Nineteenth-Century France’, Isis, 76 (1985), 331-348. [e-journal]