The Retreat of Scientific Racism: Changing Concepts of Race in Britain and the United States between the World Wars / Edition 1

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This fascinating study in the sociology of knowledge documents the refutation of scientific foundations for racism in Britain and the United States between the two world wars, when the definition of race as a biological concept was replaced by a cultural notion of race. Discussing the work of the leading biologists and anthropologists who wrote about race between the wars, Dr. Barkan argues that the impetus for the shift in ideologies of race came from the inclusion of outsiders—women, Jews, and leftists—into the mainstream of scientific discourse.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Barkan's study provides an important insight into the political sources of racism and antiracism..." Canadian Journal of History

"Barkan painstakingly documents the intellectual stances taken by leading scientists, arguing that the move away from racism was prompted as much by political and social factors as by new scientific understanding. An excellent addition to any history of science or social science collection." Library Journal

"Elazar Barkan's nuanced treatment of American and British anthropologists and biologists during the period between the world wars is an authoritative and significant contribution to the history of racial thought of the two major English-speaking countries." American Historical Review

"Grounded in extensive research in published and archival sources in several disciplines on both sides of the Atlantic, Barkan's book offers much previously little-known information on a topic of fundamental importance....a worthwhile contribution." George W. Stocking, Jr., Quarterly Review of Biology

"...Barkan easily and persuasively shows the central role played by ideology in eliminating a biological conception of race, even as racist ideas persisted among a few leading biologists in both countries whose ideology never shifted." Carl N. Degler, Journal of American History

"The Retreat of Scientific Racism is exciting reading, bringing to life the personalities of individuals who played a role in the revision of public attitudes toward race during the first half of the twentieth century....Barkan has offered a good criticism of claims of scientific objectivity and lack of bias in scientific study." Nancy Sonleitner, Social Science Quarterly

"In short, Barkan tells a story that is informed by theoretical sophistication and distinguished by both breadth of coverage and richness of incident." Henrika Kuklick, Journal of Interdisciplinary History

Library Journal
In this book Barkan details the changing views of race among scientists in Britain and the United States during the 1920s and 1930s. This period was especially chaotic as the fledgling science of anthropology struggled to find a theoretical framework, and biology moved towards combining Darwin and Mendel's theories into the New Synthesis. Against this backdrop Barkan painstakingly documents the intellectual stances taken by leading scientists, arguing that the move away from racism was prompted as much by political and social factors as by new scientific understanding. An excellent addition to any history of science or social science collection, this is also worth considering for general collections, as racism continues to be a topic of significant interest.-- Eric Hinsdale, Simmons Coll. Graduate Sch. of Management Lib., Boston
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521458757
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 12/28/1993
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 396
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 0.87 (d)

Table of Contents

Part I. Anthropology: 1. Constructing a British identity; 2. American diversity; Part II. Biology: 3. In search of a biology of race; 4. The limit of traditional reform; 5. Mitigating racial differences; Part III. Politics: 6. Confronting racism: scientists as politicians; Epilogue.

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