Timeline 1900 – 2024

Decline of the Eugenics Society in post-war years

The Eugenics Society continued its activities after the Second World War, changing its name to the Galton Institute in 1989. However, the intellectual tide had turned against it as is evident in the 1950 UNESCO Statement and those made subsequently. The Nazis appropriation of eugenics for its horrifying policies of euthanasia and extermination - what came to be called the Holocaust – finally convinced the world of the tragedy that eugenics had brought to humankind. By the early 50s eugenics had lost all credibility in the scientific community, the science it had used having been shown to be totally bogus. Scientists now focused their interest on the chemical nature of the gene, rather than searching for patterns of inheritance of human behavioural characteristics.

The Eugenics Society pursued its interests for another 40 years through propaganda, meetings, and the issuing of pamphlets but its policies came to be questioned by a new genre of ‘social scientists’. Kenneth Lindsay Little (1908-1991) was a pivotal figure. He travelled to Cardiff in 1940 to study the stature of the ‘Anglo-Negroid cross’ but rapidly switched to social aspects of black-white interaction and racial discrimination, developing a novel theory that ‘colour-class-consciousness’ underlay racial discrimination. It was Kenneth Little who – in The Times on 13 October 1958 – was readily able to demolish the arguments presented by the Eugenics Society against race mixture in its broadsheet West Indian Immigration. The baton was picked up by Little’s research student, Michael Banton who in his own research introduced the term ‘racialization’ to the lexicon of race relations. New lectureships in the field of race relations were set up in British universities in these early post-war years.