Revisiting Three Eugenic Moments: 1903, 1928, 1937: The Disappointments and Hopes of Antipodean Progressives

  • Charlotte Macdonald


In this chapter, Charlotte Macdonald offers a consideration of three ‘eugenic episodes’ in New Zealand: the publication of W.A. Chapple’s Fertility of the Unfit (1903), the failure of extreme provisions in the Mental Defectives Amendment Bill (1928) and the Physical Welfare and Recreation (national fitness) initiative of 1937. Reconsidered as historical and historiographical events, the episodes chart a shift from social control to discursive power; a re-evaluation of the ‘active state’, the ‘expert state’ and the ‘workers’ entitlement’ state; and of a history of national exceptionalism to one of imperial and global linkage. Chapple’s questioning of the Liberal state, Dr. Theodore Gray’s concern with categories of ‘deficiency’ and Labour’s promotion of healthy recreation as workers’ entitlement proved sites of advocacy and resistance to eugenic ideas and practice.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of History, Philosophy, Political Science and International RelationsVictoria University of WellingtonWellingtonNew Zealand

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