Robert Knox’s The Races of Men (1850) expressed the dominant view of the time in the West that race was a major determinant of culture, behaviour and character. Such views were used to support slavery and anti-Semitism. Knox himself was an anatomist and physiologist, and used his studies of black people in South Africa to build a theory of human history based on racial distinction.
Knox’s book grew out of a popular lecture tour, in which he proposed that the different races of people were in fact distinct species, with a range of aptitudes to different levels of civilisation. Knox himself held contradictory views: he was anti-Semitic, but attacked slavery. He also opposed British colonial policy, though supported the idea of colonial trade ventures.
- Article by:
- Carolyn Burdett
- Fin de siècle, Visions of the future, Technology and science
Dr Carolyn Burdett explores how Victorian thinkers used Darwin's theory of evolution in forming their own social, economic and racial theories, thereby extending Darwin's influence far beyond its original sphere.