Racialist thinking in the life and work of Francis Galton (1822-1911). (2019)
Type of ContentTheses / Dissertations
Degree NameBachelor of Arts (Hons)
PublisherUniversity of Canterbury
This research paper focuses on the racialist thinking of Francis Galton and how this impacted on his work on eugenics and for a eugenic society. Whereas the focal point for most of the historiography is class and its impact, this paper fills a historiographical gap by arguing that race had an equally important effect on his thinking as class. The evidential base for this paper is the published writings and personal letters of Galton himself. In this paper, I will argue that Galton’s formative years of travel, private in Europe and under the auspices of the Royal Geographical Society in Southern Africa laid the foundation for his racialist thinking. During these travels, he came to believe that African and non-European races were not only intellectually and morally inferior to the British race but that they could also be ranked against civilised societies and each other as to their worth. He then connected the idea of ranking races with addressing degeneracy in Britain and developed a utopian vision of a eugenic society. I will argue that his work in composite photography, fingerprinting and with the British Association for the Advancement of Science was an attempt to find scientific ways to separate out those whose procreation would harm society, rather than help it, and all had the underpinnings of Galton’s racialist thinking.