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View Poll Results: What do you think?
His accomplishments eclipse this blemish. 11 61.11%
Everyone else believed that stuff. 4 22.22%
He was a racist and...don't even get me started! 2 11.11%
I try and ignore that part. 0 0%
Other. 1 5.56%
Voters: 18. You may not vote on this poll

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Old March 21st, 2011, 07:31 PM   #1

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Churchill the Eugenicist or Hero


Or both? Anyone with even a superficial interest in history knows something about Winston Churchill.

I'm interested to see how people juggle his legendary status with his interest in, and advocacy of, eugenics in the early 20thC. He enthusiastically wanted sterilization of the "feeble-minded" passed. I must say he had many admirable qualities so don't chastise me for seeming like a bleeding heart . Students of history often find their suppositions to be false. How do you deal with this?

Do you think Churchill's position waters down his accomplishments? Can we divorce these accomplishments from his personal views? How personal are they if they affect other people? I think there's a fine line between being tempted by these ideas (even if there are justifications) and using your influential voice and position to implement them.

Unlike many states in America and two in Canada, sterilization never passed legislation in Britain. Doesn't this complicate the argument that the future PM was simply a product of his time? It means there was undoubtedly opposition to this. In Canada, past advocacies of this movement sparked an ongoing debate over the legacy of the likes of Nellie McClung. Can we say that our morals are so evolved that 'those people' just 'thought those things.'

I know this thread has the potential to go in many directions but I'm really curious how people judge Churchill and perhaps other arguable heroes of similar stature; at least in regard to tabooed issues like this. Because it's so tempting to portray and think of historical figures as either good or evil this sheds light on the importance of objectivity.

__________________________________________________ _

BBC - BBC Four - Racism: A History
Churchill and Eugenics

There was a thread kind of like this last July but it didn't seem to take off.

Edit: You know, I should have added a poll option for agreeing with Churchill. Thought I could change it.

Last edited by Bulldog; March 21st, 2011 at 07:58 PM.
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Old March 21st, 2011, 08:21 PM   #2

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Eugenics was viable science at the time. Politically correct as well. It's really just helping natural selection along after all. Something an Atheist and Darwinist should be for.
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Old March 21st, 2011, 08:22 PM   #3

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Galton was the first to pioneer eugenics but we mostly know him today for his accomplishments. I think the same goes for Churchill.
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Old March 21st, 2011, 10:06 PM   #4

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Great war time leader and an awful politician post-war. The British had every right to throw his ass out on the streets.
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Old March 21st, 2011, 10:27 PM   #5

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It's very unfortunate, but a lot of well known people supported eugenics in the early 20th century: George Bernard Shaw, H.G. Wells, Theodore Roosevelt etc. The birth control pioneers Margaret Sanger and Marie Stopes were great enthusiasts for it. Marie Stopes even tried to stop her son getting married because his fiancee wore glasses, and that made her, in Mrs Stopes's eyes, unfit to breed.
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Old March 21st, 2011, 10:28 PM   #6

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In Churchill's defence, he does seem to have dropped the idea of eugenics once its apparent flaws became obvious. I daresay the fact that the Nazis adopted it would drive him even further from its principles.
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Old March 22nd, 2011, 02:44 AM   #7

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Louise C View Post
It's very unfortunate, but a lot of well known people supported eugenics in the early 20th century: George Bernard Shaw, H.G. Wells, Theodore Roosevelt etc. The birth control pioneers Margaret Sanger and Marie Stopes were great enthusiasts for it. Marie Stopes even tried to stop her son getting married because his fiancee wore glasses, and that made her, in Mrs Stopes's eyes, unfit to breed.
You beat me too it, that about says it all.
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Old March 22nd, 2011, 02:56 AM   #8
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In the USA, the primary spokesman for Nordicism was the eugenicist Madison Grant. His 1916 book, The Passing of the Great Race, or the Racial Basis of European History about Nordicism was highly influential among racial thinking and government policy making.[53]
Grant used the theory as justification for immigration policies of the 1920s, arguing immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe represented a lesser type of European and their numbers in the United States should not be increased. Grant and others urged this as well as the complete restriction of non-Europeans, such as the Chinese and Japanese.
Grant argued the Nordic race had been responsible for most of humanity's great achievements, and admixture was "race suicide" and unless eugenic policies were enacted, the Nordic race would be supplanted by inferior races. Future president Calvin Coolidge agreed, stating "Biological laws tell us that certain divergent people will not mix or blend. The Nordics propagate themselves successfully. With other races, the outcome shows deterioration on both sides."[54]
The Immigration Act of 1924 was signed into law by President Coolidge. This was designed to reduce the number of Eastern and Southern European immigrants, exclude Asian immigrants altogether, and favor immigration from Northern and Western European countries such as Britain, Ireland and Germany.
The spread of these ideas also affected popular culture. F. Scott Fitzgerald invokes Grant's ideas through a character in part of The Great Gatsby, and Hilaire Belloc jokingly rhapsodied the "Nordic man" in a poem and essay in which he satirised the stereotypes of Nordics, Alpines and Mediterraneans.[55]
Writers such as Jack London, Robert E. Howard and H. P. Lovecraft reflected Nordicist ideas in their fictions.
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Old March 22nd, 2011, 03:24 AM   #9

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Churchill was more often wrong than right, but he got the one that mattered right.
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Old March 22nd, 2011, 03:25 AM   #10

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bismarck View Post
In Churchill's defence, he does seem to have dropped the idea of eugenics once its apparent flaws became obvious. I daresay the fact that the Nazis adopted it would drive him even further from its principles.
I've never studied the man but I had a feeling this might have been the case.

To draw the Nellie McClung comparison again, this was a woman who took such beliefs to the grave in 1951. Is it different if you 'sobered up' around the time of the Nazi regime?

It seems like the majority urge that this was just how people thought, but I can't help but recognize the palpable opposition. Someone mentioned Darwin a while back, so I'd like to point out that he was an ardent abolitionist. Yeah there's evidence for him being racist, but it says something that he never saw eye to eye with Galton on such matters. And even if eugenics were helping along natural selection (a head-scratcher for me) does that make it any more moral?

Last edited by Bulldog; March 22nd, 2011 at 03:36 AM.
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