Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home

From the Curse of Ham to the curse of nature: the influence of natural selection on the debate on human unity before the publication of The Descent of Man

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 July 2007


ROBERT KENNY
Affiliation:
The Australian Centre, School of Historical Studies, University of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. Email: kennyr@unimelb.edu.au.
Corresponding
E-mail address:

Abstract

This paper examines the debate engendered in ethnological and anthropological circles by Darwin's Origin of Species and its effects. The debate was more about the nature of human diversity than about transmutation. By 1859 many polygenists thought monogenism had been clearly shown to be an antiquated and essentially religious concept. Yet the doctrine of natural selection gave rise to a ‘new monogenism’. Proponents of polygenism such as James Hunt claimed natural selection had finally excluded monogenism, but Thomas Huxley, the most prominent exponent of the new monogenism, claimed it amalgamated the ‘best’ of both polygenism and monogenism. What it did provide was an explanation for the irreversible inequality of races, while it maintained that all humans were of one species. This bolstered belief in the innate superiority of the Caucasians over other peoples. The effect was finally to sever British ethnology from its evangelical monogenist roots. More subtly and surprisingly, it provided support in Church circles for a move away from the ideal of the ‘Native Church’.


Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © British Society for the History of Science 2007

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below.

References

G. W. Stocking, Jr., Victorian Anthropology, New York, 1991 (first published 1987), 245–57.

Report of the Parliamentary Select Committee on the Aboriginal Tribes, (British Settlements), reprinted, with comments, by the Aborigines' Protection Society, London, 1837, 1.

A. M. and E. H. Kass, Perfecting the World: The Life and Times of Dr. Thomas Hodgkin 1798–1866, New York, 1988, 258–9.

Extracts from the Papers and Proceedings of the Aborigines' Protection Society (1839), 4, 99.

Kass and Kass, op. cit. (3), 313; See Staum, M. S., ‘Paris ethnology and the perfectibility of “races”’, Canadian Journal of History (2000), 35, 453–72CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

Kass and Kass, op. cit. (3), 391.

King, R., ‘Address to the Ethnological Society of London delivered at the anniversary, 25th May 1844’, Journal of the Ethnological Society of London (1850), 2, 942CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

Kass and Kass, op. cit. (3), 393.

E. Dieffenbach, On the Study of Ethnology, Read at the Meeting Preliminary to the Formation of the Ethnological Society, Held at Dr. Hodgkin's … January 31 1843, London, 1843, 2–3.

10  L. R. Hiatt, Arguments about Aborigines: Australia and the Evolution of Social Anthropology, Cambridge, 1996, 6–7; O. J. R. Howarth, The British Association for the Advancement of Science: A Retrospect 1831–1931, London, 1931, 199.

11  Hiatt, op. cit. (10), 6–7; G. W. Stocking, introductory essay, in James Cowles Prichard, Researches into the Physical History of Man (originally published 1813), (ed. G. W. Stocking), Chicago, 1973, 17 ff.

12  Prichard, op. cit. (11), 146 ff.

13  Stocking, op. cit. (11), 96–7.

14  Prichard, J., ‘On the relations of ethnology to other branches of knowledge’, Journal of the Ethnological Society of London (1848), 1, 329Google Scholar; added emphasis.

15  See Hodgkin, T., ‘Obituary of Dr. Prichard’, Journal of the Ethnological Society of London (1850), 2, 182207Google Scholar.

16  Stocking, op. cit. (1), 57 ff.

17  The Old Testament text is confused and it may have been Canaan who actually gazed upon Noah – see New Oxford Annotated Bible (ed. B. M. Metzger and R. E. Murphy), New York, 1991, 13OT annotation.

18  E. Stock, The History of the Church Missionary Society, 2 vols., London, 1899, i, 19.

19  Ivan Hannaford traces this extrapolation back to the Jewish historian of late antiquity, Josephus. Noah cultivated the land, but Ham's posterity was cursed to not know agriculture (I. Hannaford, Race: The History of an Idea in the West, Washington, DC, 1996, 91 ff).

20  New Oxford Annotated Bible, op. cit. (17), 7OT; J. B. Friedman, The Monstrous Races in Medieval Art and Thought, Cambridge, MA, 1981, 100.

21  J. S. Haller, Outcastes from Evolution: Scientific Attitudes of Racial Inferiority, 1859–1900, Chicago, 1971, 5. The model for Blumenbach's classification may have been the seventeenth-century Frenchman François Bernier. (See Stuurman, S., ‘François Bernier and the invention of racial classification’, History Workshop Journal (2000), 50, 121.)CrossRefGoogle Scholar

22  R. Watson, ‘Sermon V: the religious instruction of the slaves in the West India colonies advocated and defended’ (preached 1824), in The Works of the Rev. Richard Watson, 12 vols., London, 1858, ii, 88–97.

23  Comments such as this were not uncommon: ‘The haughty Anglo-Saxon forgets by what slow, and, at times, almost imperceptible stages he has arrived at his present position … He forgets how, in long distant ages, nations more refined than his own gave to England elements of art, of science, and of literature’. Colonial Intelligencer, and Aborigines Friend 1859–1866, New Series, 2 (January–December 1864), 374–5.

24  Kass and Kass, op. cit. (3).

25  Shenk, W. R., ‘Henry Venn's instructions to missionaries’, Missiology: An International Review (1980), 8, 467–85, 475Google Scholar.

26  These details of Crowther's life are taken for the main part from J. Page, Samuel Crowther: The Slave Boy Who Became Bishop of the Niger, London, 1888; J. Peterson, Province of Freedom: A History of Sierra Leone 1787–1870, Evanston, 1969, 175–8, 181–2; J. F. Ade Ajayi, Tradition and Change in Africa: The Essays of J. F. Ade Ajayi (ed. T. Falola), Trenton, NJ and Asmara, Eritrea, 2000, passim.

27  Kass and Kass, op. cit. (3), 71.

28  R. Knox, ‘The races of men’ (from 2nd edn, 1862), in Race: The Origins of an Idea 1760–1850 (ed. H. F. Augstein), Bristol, 1996, 241, 242.

29  The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary on Historical Principles, 3rd edn, 2 vols., Oxford, 1973, ii, 1369.

30  S. J. Gould, The Mismeasure of Man, London, 1984, 50–60.

31  Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex (facsimile of 1871 edn), Princeton, 1981, 220n.

32  Morton, often published in British journals; his ‘Observations on the size of the brain in various races and families of man’ appeared in the Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal (1849–50), 48, 262–5Google Scholar.

33  Gould, op. cit. (30).

34  T. Hodgkin, editorial, Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal (1849), XLVII, 205–44, 222.

35  S. Morton, ‘Introductory essay: on the varieties of human species’, in idem, Crania Americana; or, a Comparative View of the Skulls of the Various Aboriginal Nations of North and South America, Philadelphia, 1839, 1–95.

36  G. Combe, ‘Appendix: phrenological remarks on the relation between the natural talents and dispositions of nations and the development of their brains’ in Morton, Crania Americana, op. cit. (35), 269–91, 272–3.

37  Combe, op. cit. (36), 283.

38  See his preface to the first edition of The Races of Men (1850) – facsimile edition, Miami, 1969, 8.

39  W. Stanton, The Leopard's Spots: Scientific Attitudes toward Race in America 1815–59, Chicago, 1960, 41.

40  Lurie, E., ‘Louis Agassiz and the races of man’, Isis (1954), 45, 227–42, 235CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

41  Agassiz, L., ‘Geographical distribution of animals’, Christian Examiner and Religious Miscellany (1850), 48, 181204, 184 ffGoogle Scholar.

42  See editorial, ‘Dr Knox and the races of man’, Ethnological Journal (1849), 2, 94–6 (despite the title this short-lived publication was not connected to the ESL and was pro-polygenist).

43  Lurie, op. cit. (40), 232.

44  Lurie, op. cit. (40), 232 ff.

45  J. A. Secord, Victorian Sensation: The Extraordinary Publication and Secret Authorship of Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation, Chicago, 2000, 74; for Combe's and phrenology's importance see J. van Wyhe, Phrenology and the Origins of Victorian Naturalism, Burlington, VT, 2004.

46  R. Chambers, Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation, facsimile of 1st edn of 1844 with an Introduction by G. de Beer, Leicester, 1969, 37 ff.

47  Quoted in Secord, op. cit. (45), 449.

48  Secord, op. cit. (45), 521.

49  Chambers, op. cit. (46), 277–323.

50  A. Barnard, History and Theory in Anthropology, Cambridge, 2000, 24.

51  Kass and Kass, op. cit. (3), 507.

52  Stocking, op. cit. (1), 246; Kass and Kass, op. cit. (3), 507.

53  See Stocking, G., ‘What's in a name? The origins of the Royal Anthropological Institute (1837–71)’, Man (1971), 6, 360–90Google Scholar; Burrow, J. W., ‘Evolution and anthropology in the 1860's: the Anthropological Society of London, 1863–71’, Victorian Studies (1963), 7, 133–54Google Scholar; Hiatt, op. cit. (10), 8–10; N. Stepan, The Idea of Race in Science: Great Britain 1800–1960, London, 1982, 44–5.

54  Hunt, J., ‘On the study of anthropology’, Anthropological Review (1863), 1, 120CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

55  Hunt, op. cit. (54), 1.

56  Huxley, T., ‘Methods and results of ethnology’, Fortnightly Review (1865), 1, 257–77Google Scholar

57  Hunt, op. cit. (54), 3.

58  For instance, Reddie, J., ‘Slavery’, Anthropological Review (1864), 7, 280–93CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

59  Huxley, T., ‘The Negro's place in nature’, letter, The Reader (1864), 3, 334–5Google Scholar.

60  Popular Magazine of Anthropology (1866), 1, 36.

61  Stocking, op. cit. (1), 252.

62  Dunn, R., ‘Some observations on the psychological differences which exist among the typical races of man’, Transactions of the Ethnological Society of London (1865), 3, 925.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

63  See Huxley's explanation in his Preface to the 1894 edn of Man's Place in Nature, Collected Essays, London, 1894, 11 ff.

64  K. Vogt, Lectures on Man: His Place in Creation, and in the History of the Earth (ed. J. Hunt), London, 1861, 446–64, 455.

65  Hunt, J., ‘On the application of the principles of Natural Selection to anthropology’, Anthropological Review (1866), 15, 320 ff.Google Scholar

66  Dunn, R., ‘On the physiological and psychological evidence in support of the unity of the human species’, Transactions of the Ethnological Society of London (1861), 1, 186202CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

67  Dunn, op. cit. (62), 23.

68  J. Hunt, The Negro's Place in Nature: A Paper Read before the London Anthropological Society [sic], New York, 1866, 11 ff.

69  Burrow, op. cit. (53), 153, argues that the impact of Darwin was not that great on the society, but its usefulness was evident from the first meeting; see the quotation from Hunt above.

70  Anthropological Review, October 1866, 15, 320–40.

71  Hunt, op. cit. (65), 327.

72  Hunt, op. cit. (65), 327.

73  Hunt, op. cit. (65), 339.

74  Hunt, op. cit. (65), 340.

75  Hunt, op. cit. (65), 340.

76  Allan, J. McGrigor, ‘On the ape-origin of mankind’, Popular Magazine of Anthropology (1866), 4, 121–6, 121 ff.Google Scholar

77  McGrigor Allan, op. cit. (76), 122.

78  Harris, G., ‘The plurality of races, and the distinct character of the Adamite species’, Anthropological Review (1867), 5, 175–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

79  Hunt, op. cit. (65), 327.

80  R. Wagner quoted in Hunt, op. cit. (65), 328.

81  Huxley, op. cit. (56), 260.

82  Huxley, Thomas, ‘Emancipation – black and white’, The Reader (1865), 5, 561–2.Google Scholar

83  Darwin, op. cit. (31), 216. See discussion of Darwin's attitude in K. Bock, Human Nature and History: A Response to Sociobiology, New York, 1980, 41–6; B. Butcher, ‘Darwin down under: science, religion, and evolution in Australia’, in Disseminating Darwinism: The Role of Place, Race, Religion, and Gender (ed. R. Numbers and J. Stenhouse), Cambridge, 1999, 39–60; B. Butcher, ‘Darwinism, social Darwinism, and the Australian Aborigines', in Darwin's Laboratory: Evolutionary Theory and Natural History in the Pacific (ed. R. MacLeod and P. F. Rehbock), Honolulu, c. 1994, 371–94.

84  Darwin, op. cit. (31), 128.

85  Darwin, op. cit. (31), 129.

86  Darwin, op. cit. (31), 142.

87  Wallace, A., ‘Reply to James Hunt’, Anthropological Review (1867), 5, 103–5, 104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

88  See for instance Reade, W. Winwood, ‘Efforts of missionaries among savages’, Journal of the Anthropological Society (1865), 3, 166–83.Google Scholar

89  Secord, op. cit. (45), 508–10.

90  Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal (1860), 11, 280–90, 282–3.

91  Chambers, op. cit. (46), 385.

92  A. de Quatrefages, The Human Species, London, 1879, 92; original emphasis.

93  Quatrefages, op. cit. (92), 93.

94  Quatrefages, op. cit. (92) 94; original emphasis.

95  Quatrefages, op. cit. (92), 95 ff.

96  Vogt, op. cit. (64), 448.

97  Kass and Kass, op. cit. (3), 507.

98  Kass and Kass, op. cit. (3), 504.

99  Kass and Kass, op. cit. (3), 506.

100  Thirtieth Annual Report of the Aborigines' Protection Society, London, 1867, 3.

101  ‘The British Association and the Negro’, The Aborigines' Friend, the Colonial Intelligencer, November 1867, 1–3. Davy had been a good friend of Hodgkin and his paper seems very similar to that which Hodgkin had wanted to give to the British Association (see above); Kass and Kass, op. cit. (3), 421.

102  Hunt, op. cit. (68), 16.

103  Huxley, op. cit. (82), 561.

104  ‘The British Association and the Negro’, op. cit. (101), 3.

105  See R. M. Young, ‘The impact of Darwin on conventional thought’, in The Victorian Crises of Faith (ed. A. Symondson), London, 1971, 13–35.

106  ‘The British Association and the Negro’, op. cit. (101), 1 ff; emphasis added.

107  Quoted in J. F. Ade Ajayi, Christian Missions in Nigeria 1841–1891: The Making of a New Elite, London 1965, 195.

108  Ade Ajayi, op. cit. (107), 195.

109  D. Hilliard, God's Gentlemen: A History of the Melanesian Mission, 1849–1942, St Lucia, Queensland, 1978, 156.

110  See ‘List of native clergy ordained in connection with the Sierra Leone Church’, Appendix I in T. S. Johnson, The Story of a Mission: The Sierra Leone Church: First Daughter of the C.M.S., London, 1953, 144.

111  Hilliard, op. cit. (109), 153–7.

112  For instance, he is not mentioned in W. Y. Adams, The Philosophical Roots of Anthropology, Stanford, 1998, only cursorily acknowledged in Barnard, op. cit. (50), and given an odd status in M. Harris, The Rise of Anthropological Theory, London, 1968.

113  Ade Ajayi, op. cit. (107), 79.

114  Hunt ‘did much to place anthropology on a sound basis’ – from entry on Hunt in DNB.

115  Secord, op. cit. (45), 69–76, passim; Van Wyhe, op. cit. (45).

116  Shenk, op. cit. (25), 479–80.

117  L. Sanneh, West African Christianity: The Religious Impact, London, 1983, 168.

Full text views

Full text views reflects PDF downloads, PDFs sent to Google Drive, Dropbox and Kindle and HTML full text views.

Total number of HTML views: 22
Total number of PDF views: 118 *
View data table for this chart

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 4th December 2020. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Hostname: page-component-b4dcdd7-9fdqb Total loading time: 2.508 Render date: 2020-12-04T11:25:26.292Z Query parameters: { "hasAccess": "0", "openAccess": "0", "isLogged": "0", "lang": "en" } Feature Flags last update: Fri Dec 04 2020 10:59:21 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time) Feature Flags: { "metrics": true, "metricsAbstractViews": false, "peerReview": true, "crossMark": true, "comments": true, "relatedCommentaries": true, "subject": true, "clr": false, "languageSwitch": true }

Send article to Kindle

To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

From the Curse of Ham to the curse of nature: the influence of natural selection on the debate on human unity before the publication of The Descent of Man
Available formats
×

Send article to Dropbox

To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

From the Curse of Ham to the curse of nature: the influence of natural selection on the debate on human unity before the publication of The Descent of Man
Available formats
×

Send article to Google Drive

To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

From the Curse of Ham to the curse of nature: the influence of natural selection on the debate on human unity before the publication of The Descent of Man
Available formats
×
×

Reply to: Submit a response


Your details


Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *