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Science, race relations and resistanceBritain, 1870-1914$
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Douglas A. Lorimer

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780719033575

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719033575.001.0001

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From institutional foundations to applied anthropology, 1871–1914

From institutional foundations to applied anthropology, 1871–1914

(p.59) Chapter Three From institutional foundations to applied anthropology, 1871–1914
Science, race relations and resistance

Douglas Lorimer

Manchester University Press

‘Race’ has no meaning in biology. Consequently, narratives of racism need to assess how and when scientists established their authority on race, and to explore how imperialism shaped the scientists’ thinking. Francis Galton‘s phrase, ‘nature versus nurture’, best captured the tension between biology and culture in Victorian science. Before the Anthropological Institute, founded in 1871, and in the columns of Nature, ethnography and travel literature rather than comparative anatomy more commonly depicted the racialised peoples of the empire. Knowledgeable about the global distribution of human phenotypes, the scientists largely accepted that humankind had a common origin, and attributed variations to migration, intermixture and adaptation over a lengthy evolutionary history. After the mid-1880s, colonisation in Africa, innovations in statistics, and advances in theories of biological inheritance gave race-thinking a new stimulus. Racism gained credibility with the rise of specialised, professional experts as producers of knowledge in the natural and social sciences. Under the patronage of Galton, eugenics and psychology probed the inherited character of human differences. Anthropology, only recently recognised as a science, studied the exotic cultures of colonised peoples. Its practitioners promoted the utility of their discipline for the administration of a multi-racial empire.

Keywords:   professional science, anthropology, race and culture, nature versus nurture, empire

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