‘Race is Everything’: The Growth of Racial Determinism, 1830–50

Part of the St Antony’s/Macmillan Series book series


While comparative anatomy and animal biology were giving new validity to old ideas about the hierarchy of human races, other areas of science were contributing new ideas to racial thinking and were pushing British science in a racialist direction.


Human Species Racial Diversity Human Race Facial Angle Cranial Capacity 
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Notes and References

  1. 1.
    The connection between phrenology and race science has been noted by several writers, including William F. Bynum, Time’s Noblest Offspring: The Problem of Man in British Natural Historical Sciences (Ph.D., Cambridge University, England, 1974) ch. IV;Google Scholar
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  4. 2.
    Recent studies of phrenology include de Giustino, Conquest of Mind; G. N. Cantor, ‘The Edinburgh Phrenology Debate, 1803–1828’, Annals of Science 32 (May 1975) 195–218;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Robert M. Young, Mind, Brain and Adaptation in the Nineteenth Century: Cerebral Localization and its Biological Context from Gall to Ferrier (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1970) is particularly good on the scientific origins and programme of phrenology. See esp. ch. 1.Google Scholar
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    J. G. Spurzheim, Outlines of Phrenology: Being also a Manual of Reference for the Marked Busts (London, 1827) p. 4.Google Scholar
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    J. G. Spurzheim, The Physiognomical Systems of Drs Gall and Spurzheim, Founded on an Anatomical and Physiological Examination of the Nervous System in General and of the Brain in Particular; and Indicating the Dispositions and Manifestations of the Mind (London: Baldwin, Cranbock, and Joy, 1815) p. 105.Google Scholar
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    George Combe wrote a phrenological appendix to Morton’s book on brain capacities in the different races of the world, but as is clear from my remarks, Morton himself was never a phrenologist, strictly speaking. See also Henry S. Patterson, ‘Memoir of the Life and Scientific Labors of Samuel George Morton’, in J. C. Nott and George R. Gliddon, Types of Mankind (Philadelphia: Lippincott, Gambo and Co., 1854) pp. xvii–lvii, especially p. xxxii, where Patterson claims that Morton accepted the general phrenological doctrine that the ‘brain is the seat of mind’ but did not accept the details of the localities and functions of the phrenological organs.Google Scholar
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    Lucile Hoyme, ‘Physical Anthropology and its Instruments: A Historical Study’, Southwestern J. of Anthropology 9 (1953) 412.Google Scholar
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    See John D. Davies, Phrenology, Fad and Science: A Nineteenth Century American Crusade (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1955).Google Scholar
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    A. R. Wallace, ‘The Neglect of Phrenology’, in The Wonderful Century: Its Successes and Failures (London: Sonnenschein, 1898) pp. 159–93,CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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  23. 37.
    R. H. Popkin, ‘Pre-Adamism and Racism’, in Philosophia 8 (1978) 207.Google Scholar
  24. 38.
    R. H. Popkin, ‘The Pre-Adamite Theory in the Renaissance’, in Edward P. Mahoney, ed., Philosophy and Humanism: Renaissance Essays in Honor of Paul Oskar Kristeller (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1976) pp. 50–7.Google Scholar
  25. 39.
    Edward Long, The History of Jamaica, 3 vols (London: T. Lowndes, 1774). For a discussion of Long’s career as an anti-abolitionist,Google Scholar
  26. see Gordon K. Lewis, Slavery, Imperialism, and Freedom: Studies in English Radical Thought (New York and London: Monthly Review Press, 1978) pp. 43–52.Google Scholar
  27. See also Philip Curtin, The Image of Africa: British Ideas and Action, 1780–1850, 2 vols (Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press, 1964) vol. I, pp. 43–6.Google Scholar
  28. 40.
    Charles White, An Account of the Regular Gradation in Man, and in Different Animals and Vegetables (London: C. Dilly, 1799).Google Scholar
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    See Thomas Winterbottom, An Account of the Native Africans in the Neighbourhood of Sierra Leone, 2 vols (London: C. Whittingham, 1803), v. I, p. 183.Google Scholar
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    See James Cowles Prichard, Researches into the Physical History of Man, edited and with an Introductory Essay by George W. Stocking, Jr. (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1973) pp. 3–6. For William Lawrence, see Lectures on Physiology, Zoology and the Natural History of Man. Delivered at the Royal College of Surgeons (London: James Smith, 1822) pp. 226–7.Google Scholar
  31. 51.
    English paraphrase of Linnaeus’ classification of the races of man as given in T. Bendyshe, ‘The History of Anthropology’, Memoirs of the Anthropological Society of London I (1863–64) pp. 424–5.Google Scholar
  32. 52.
    John Greene reviews some of the answers given to the question of racial origins in ‘Some Early Speculations on the Origin of Human Races’, American Anthropologist 56 (1954) 31–41, and in The Death of Adam (Iowa: Iowa University Press, 1959) pp. 237–43. Prichard, Researches, Lawrence, Lectures on Physiology and Winterbottom, An Account of the Native Africans, all discussed the causes of the Negro’s black skin and the relation between blackness and resistance to yellow fever. An interesting eighteenth century analysis of the cause of blackness is described by A. Owen Aldrige, in ‘Feijoo and the Problem of Ethiopian Color’, in Harold E. Pagliaro, ed., Racism in the Eighteenth Century: Studies in Eighteenth Century Culture, vol. 3 (Cleveland and London: The Press of Case Western Reserve University, 1973) pp. 263–77.Google Scholar
  33. 54.
    Samuel Stanhope Smith, An Essay on the Causes of the Variety of Complexion and Figure in the Human Species, edited by Winthrop D. Jordan (Cambridge, Mass: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1965). Smith took Lord Kames as his target in 1787 and Charles White as his target in his second edition of 1810. Google Scholar
  34. See also Jordan, White Over Black: American Attitudes Toward the Negro, 1550–1812 (New York: W. W. Norton, 1968) pp. 486–8, 506–9.Google Scholar
  35. 59.
    Lawrence, Lectures on Physiology, p. 91, and Kentwood D. Wells, ‘Sir William Lawrence (1783–1867), A Study of Pre-Darwinian Ideas on Heredity and Variation’, J. Hist. Biol. 4 (1971) 319–61. Wells shows that Prichard and Lawrence’s theories of spontaneous variation in human races had an important influence on Wallace and Chambers, among others.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. 60.
    Georges Cuvier, The Animal Kingdom Arranged in Conformity with its Organization (New York: G. and C. and H. Carvill, 1831) pp. 10, 52.Google Scholar
  37. 62.
    For Stocking’s analysis, see Prichard, Researches, pp. xcvi–xcviii. Stocking maintains it was less an acceptance of archeological evidence than religious and racial considerations that led Prichard to make the separation. For Charles Hamilton Smith, see The Natural History of the Human Species (London: Henry G. Bohn, 1852) esp. pp. 93–112, 168.Google Scholar
  38. Another polygenist work from a slightly earlier period is Robert Verity’s phrenological Changes Produced in the Nervous System by Civilisation (London: S. Highley, 1837).Google Scholar
  39. Philip D. Curtin, The Image of Africa; British Ideas and Action, 1780–1850, 2 vols (Madison, Wisconsin: Wisconsin University Press, 1964), v. 2, pp. 363–87, describes the growth of racialism in history and literature in Britain, particularly in the writings of Thomas Arnold and Thomas Carlyle. On the significance of time and archeology to polygenism, as well as Morton’s importance to polygenism,Google Scholar
  40. see William Stanton, The Leopard’s Spots: Scientific Attitudes Toward Race in America, 1815–1859 (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1960).Google Scholar
  41. See also J. Gruber, ‘Brixham Cave and the Antiquity of Man’, in M. Spiro, ed., Context and Meaning in Cultural Anthropology (New York: Free Press, 1965) pp. 373–402.Google Scholar
  42. 63.
    For Knox’s career, see Isabel Rae, Knox, the Anatomist (Edinburgh and London: Oliver and Boyd, 1964);Google Scholar
  43. Henry Lonsdale, A Sketch of the Life and Writings of Robert Knox, the Anatomist (London: Macmillan, 1870);Google Scholar
  44. and Michael D. Biddiss, ‘The Politics of Anatomy: Dr. Robert Knox and Victorian Racism’, Proc. Roy. Soc. Med. 69 (1976) 245–50.Google Scholar
  45. 71.
    George W. Stocking, Jr., ‘What’s in a Name? The Origins of the Royal Anthropological Institute (1837–1871)’, Man 6 (1971) 369–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. 73.
    See also Ronald Rainger, ‘Race, Politics and Science: The Anthropological Society of London in the 1860s’, Victorian Studies 22 (Autumn 1978) 51–70.Google Scholar
  47. 74.
    For a discussion of the Governor Eyre case and the way it divided the scientific community, see Douglas A. Lorimer, Colour, Class and the Victorians: English Attitudes to the Negro in the Mid-Nineteenth Century (Leicester: Leicester University Press, 1978) pp. 150–61.Google Scholar
  48. 76.
    Theodore Waitz, Introduction to Anthropology (London: J. Frederick Collingwood, 1863).CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Nancy Stepan 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of HistoryYale UniversityUSA

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