Evolution & Social Science Speaker Series

Monday, December 2, 2019 12:30pm

572 Life Science Center


Ted Koditschek

Ted Koditschek, University of Missouri, History

The Coevolution of Nineteenth Century Evolutionary Theory and Racial Management Doctrines in the Nineteenth Century British Empire

This paper will consider the ways in which scientific theories of evolution in the nineteenth century were influenced by problems of racial management in the nineteenth century British Empire. Conversely, it will examine the ways in which new understandings about race and racial hierarchies during this period depended on the development of the evolutionary theories endorsed by science. In particular, I will argue that the peculiar mix of Darwinian and Lamarckian concepts of evolutionary development that prevailed in scientific circles during the period before Weismann were substantially underwritten by the need to justify imperial racial hierarchies. At the same time, these hierarchies (and the policies needed to sustain them) were legitimized by evolutionary theories that endorsed liberal notions of civilizational progress but (in the case of subordinated races) insisted on the necessity of postponing this liberalism, by projecting the prospect of racial equality onto a distant future time.