Past

The rise of modernity and the “rational” sciences had a profound impact on the ways in which racialisation was articulated. Rather than religious doctrine, biological science was now manipulated to segregate human beings into distinct social categories and to rank those categories in a social hierarchy – this process was known as eugenics.

The term was coined by Francis Galton, and in 1904 Galton wrote a successful application to the University of London to establish a Research Fellow and Record Office in National Eugenics. This newly-legitimised academic discipline had far-reaching affects, from the poor and disabled in the centres of Empire, to the racialised subjects in the British colonies.

The rise of modernity and the “rational” sciences had a profound impact on the ways in which racialisation was articulated. Rather than religious doctrine, biological science was now manipulated to segregate human beings into distinct social categories and to rank those categories in a social hierarchy – this process was known as eugenics.

The term was coined by Francis Galton, and in 1904 Galton wrote a successful application to the University of London to establish a Research Fellow and Record Office in National Eugenics. This newly-legitimised academic discipline had far-reaching affects, from the poor and disabled in the centres of Empire, to the racialised subjects in the British colonies.

  • Eugenics was the science of breeding what was considered to be the perfect human. As a matter of public health, and evolutionary progress, European science ‘rationalised’ social engineering. Not only was this perfect human racialised as white, they were heterosexual, cis gendered, able bodied, wealthy and male – primary role of women, was to produce more men. Finally, they were also anglophone, Anglican, and British, since National Eugenics, which is what UCL invented in 1904, aimed exclusively to breed better Britons.

    We must therefore understand eugenics as intersectional, which means eugenics aimed to ensure that those who produce offspring reproduce only the intersection of traits that Galton and his students considered to be of the highest moral and intellectual standing.

    Today, many of the instruments and arguments used by Galton and his students are kept in the UCL Galton Collection and Galton Papers, while he is remembered through UCL’s Galton Lecture Theatre and UCL’s Galton Chair in Genetics. Why was Galton’s intellectual impact so profound and pervasive? How should we remember Galton legacies if we wish to dismantle unjust racialised hierarchy?

  • Racialisation is a process which is implicated in a range of academic disciplines. While the human sciences disprove the scientific existence of race, the arts, humanities and social sciences continue to show us how race’s social constructions endure. The UCL Legacies of Slave Ownership, UCL Equiano Centre, UCL Centre for Holocaust Education, UCL’s contribution to DIVERCITIES, and Justice2History continue to make significant contributions to our understanding of unjust racialised hierarchy.

    However, at UCL, our commitment to research goes a step further than this excellent work. Uniquely among universities in Britain (all of whom are complicit in some way or other in legitimising unjust racialised hierarchy), we, at UCL, publicly acknowledge our duty to make amends for our past mistakes and publicly commit to re-researching race, and, more importantly, racism. In the past, we produced knowledge that was not only false, but, for many, fatal. We must begin to repair that damage. Since taking institutional responsibility in this way is so unusual, here in Britain, we, at UCL, are looking carefully at the relevant models already established in the USA: at Yale University, New York University, Brown University, and the University of Virginia. Ultimately, however, we want to hear your voice in this reparative conversation. What do you think we now have a duty to research and how do you think we should go about researching it?

1

08-12-14

Eugenics at UCL: We inherited Galton

On 10 October 1904, Francis Galton wrote to Sir Arthur Rücker (Principal of the University of London) with an offer to fund a study of...

2

13-11-14

Eugenics: The Academy’s Complicity

Dr. Nathaniel Adam Tobias Coleman
“The British invented racism,” said the UK’s first “black female” MP. “Britain…almost invented racism,” said the US’ first “black male” ambassador to the UN. If...

Timeline

Past

In order to understand what makes up The Master’s House, we must understand the tools employed to construct it. By unpacking the intellectual and moral arguments for Britain’s former Empire, we can begin to challenge its legacies today.

Present

The legacies of the British Empire are with us today, through UCL’s position as a “Global University” and London as a centre of multiculturalism. Through analysing the dominance and subjugation which mark these racialised phenomena, we can begin to equip ourselves with the necessary tools to dismantle it.

Future

Putting the tools to dismantle domination into practice, we at UCL intend to push for both institutional and intellectual improvement. By improving the way we engage with staff, students and the wider world, #DTMH seeks to contribute to a more equal and liberatory future in Britain and beyond.