Arthur de Gobineau
Arthur de Gobineau (14 July 1816 – 13 October 1882) was
a French aristocrat who is best known today for helping to legitimise
racism by use of scientific racist theory and "racial demography" and
for his developing the theory of the
Aryan master race. Known to his
contemporaries as a novelist, diplomat and travel writer, Gobineau was
an elitist who, in the immediate aftermath of the Revolutions of 1848,
wrote a 1400-page book, An Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races,
in which he claimed that aristocrats were superior to commoners and
that they possessed more
Aryan genetic traits because of less
interbreeding with inferior races (Alpines and Mediterraneans).
Gobineau's writings were quickly praised by white supremacist,
pro-slavery Americans like
Josiah C. Nott
Josiah C. Nott and Henry Hotze, who
translated his book into English but omitted around 1000 pages of the
original book, including those parts that negatively described
Americans as a racially mixed population. Gobineau's writings were
also influential on prominent anti-Semites such as Richard Wagner,
Wagner's son-in-law, Houston Stewart Chamberlain, the Romanian
politician professor A. C. Cuza, and leaders of the Nazi Party, who
later edited and re-published his work.
1 Life and theories
1.3 Early writings
1.4 Breakthrough with the Kapodistrias article
1.5 On international politics
1.7 The embittered royalist
1.8 Theory on French aristocrats
1.9 Swiss and German interludes
1.10 Gobineau's racial theories
1.11 Gobineau and war
1.12 Persia: Gobineau's spiritual home
1.13 Nott and Hotze
1.14 A voyage to Newfoundland
1.15 The Persian Fetish
1.16 Minister to Greece
1.17 Minister to Brazil
1.18 Return to France
1.19 Chinese civilization
1.21 Novels and essays
1.22 Minister to Sweden
1.24 "The Yellow Peril"
3 The Ottoman Empire
7 Works in English translation
9 External links
Life and theories
Gobineau came from an old well-established aristocratic family. His
father, Louis (1784–1858), was a military officer and staunch
royalist, and his mother, Anne-Louise Magdeleine de Gercy, was the
daughter of a non-noble royal tax official. The de Gercy family had
lived in the French Crown colony of
Saint-Domingue (modern Haiti) for
a time in the 18th century, and Gobineau was always obsessed with the
fear he might have had black ancestry on his mother's side.
Reflecting his hatred of the French Revolution, Gobineau later wrote:
"My birthday is July 14th, the date on which the Bastille was
captured-which goes to prove how opposites may come together". As a
boy and young man, Gobineau loved the Middle Ages, which he saw as a
golden age of chivalry and knighthood that was much preferable to his
own time. A person who knew Gobineau as a teenager described him as
a romantic, "already an
Amadis with chivalrous ideas and a heroic
spirit, dreaming of what most noble and most grand".
Gobineau's father was very committed to restoring the House of Bourbon
and helped the Polignac brothers escape from France. As punishment,
Louis de Gobineau was imprisoned by Napoleon's secret police and was
freed when the Allies took
Paris in 1814. In the Hundred Days, the
de Gobineau family fled France, and after Napoleon's final overthrow,
following the Battle of Waterloo, Louis de Gobineau was rewarded for
his loyalty to the House of Bourbon by being made a captain in the
Royal Guard of King Louis XVIII. Despite expectations, the pay for
a Royal Guardsman was very low, and the de Gobineau family struggled
on his salary.
Magdeleine de Gobineau abandoned her husband for her children's tutor
Charles de La Coindière and together with her lover took her son and
two daughters on extended wanderings across eastern France,
Switzerland and the Grand Duchy of Baden. To support herself, she
turned to fraud (for which she was imprisoned), making his mother into
a severe embarrassment to Gobineau, who never spoke to her after he
For the young Gobineau, committed to upholding traditional
aristocratic and Catholic values, the disintegration of his parents'
marriage, his mother's open relationship with her lover Coindière
together with her turn to fraud, and the turmoil imposed by constantly
being on the run and living in poverty were all very traumatic.
Gobineau spent the early part of his teenage years in the town of
Inzligen where his mother and her lover were staying, during which
time he became fluent in German. As a staunch supporter of the
House of Bourbon, Louis de Gobineau was forced to retire from the
Royal Guard after the July Revolution of 1830 brought to power King
Louis-Philippe, Le roi citoyen ("the "Citizen King") who promised to
reconcile the heritage of the
French Revolution with the monarchy.
Given his family's history of supporting the Bourbons, the young
Gobineau regarded the July Revolution as a disaster for France. As
a young man, Gobineau's views were those of a Legitimist committed to
a Catholic France ruled over by the House of Bourbon. In 1831, de
Gobineau's father took custody of his three children, and his son
spent the rest of his adolescence in Lorient, in Brittany.
Gobineau disliked his father, whom he dismissed as a boring and
pedantic Army officer incapable of stimulating thought.
been founded in 1675 as a base for the
French East India Company
French East India Company as
King Louis XIV had grand ambitions for making France into the dominant
political and economic power in Asia. As those ambitions were not
realized, de Gobineau developed a sense of faded glory as he grew up
in a city that had been built to be the dominant hub for Europe's
trade with Asia, a dream that had not been realized, as India became
part of the British Empire rather than the French empire.
As a young man, Gobineau was fascinated with the Orient, as the Middle
East was known in Europe in the 19th century (it was only with World
War II that East Asia became the Orient and the term Middle East
started to be used for the region). While studying at the Collège
de Bironne in Switzerland, a fellow student recalled: "All of his
aspirations were towards the East. He dreamt only of mosques and
minarets; he called himself a Muslim, ready to make the pilgrimage to
Mecca". Gobineau loved "Oriental" tales like those by the French
writer Antoine Galland, often stated he wanted to become an
Orientalist, and so read Arab, Turkish and Persian tales in
translation, becoming what the French call "un orientaliste de
pacotille (rubbish orientalist)". In 1835, Gobineau failed the
entrance exams to the St. Cyr military school.
In September 1835, Gobineau left for
Paris with just fifty francs in
his pocket. with the aim of becoming a writer. He moved in with an
uncle, Thibaut-Joseph de Gobineau, a Legitimist with an "unlimited"
hatred of Louis-Philippe. Reflecting his tendency towards elitism,
Gobineau founded a society of Legitimist intellectuals called Les
Scelti ("the elect"), which included himself, the painter Guermann
Bohn (German von Bohn) and the writer Maxime du Camp.
In the later years of the July Monarchy, Gobineau made his living
writing serialized fiction (romans-feuilletons) and contributing to
reactionary periodicals. Gobineau wrote for the Union Catholique,
La Quotidienne, L'Unité, and Revue de Paris. At one point in the
early 1840s, Gobineau was writing an article every day for La
Quotidienne to support himself. As a writer and journalist, he
struggled financially, and was forever looking for a wealthy patron
willing to support him. As a part-time employee of the Post Office
and a full-time writer, Gobineau was desperately poor, which, for
someone who liked to imagine himself as an aristocrat living in luxury
in a château in the countryside was very humiliating.
Gobineau's own family background made him a supporter of the House of
Bourbon, but the nature of the Legitimist movement dominated by
factious and inept leaders drove Gobineau to despair, leading him to
write: "We are lost and had better resign ourselves to the fact".
In a letter to his father, Gobineau complained of "…the laxity, the
weakness, the foolishness and—in a word—the pure folly of my
cherished party". Gobineau sent a copy of his poem Jean Chouan to
Henri, comte de Chambord, the self-proclaimed "Henri V" as the Bourbon
pretender to the throne styled himself, for which he was thanked by
the comte as he wrote back expressing his gratitude for "your
honorable sentiments, worthy of your father and your family, whose
fidelity and devotion I know and appreciate".
Privately, Gobineau was worried that if the House of Bourbon should be
restored, that Henri and his followers were all so stupid that it was
inevitable that the Bourbons would be toppled by a revolution for a
third time. At the same time, Gobineau regarded French society
under the House of Orleans as corrupt and self-serving, dominated by
the "oppressive feudalism of money" as opposed to the feudalism of
"charity, courage, virtue and intelligence" held by the ancien-regime
nobility. Gobineau wrote about
July Monarchy France: "Money has
become the principle of power and honour. Money dominates business;
money regulates the population; money governs; money salves
consciences; money is the criterion for judging the esteem due to
In this "age of national mediocrity" as Gobineau described it, with
society going in a direction he disapproved of, the leaders of the
cause to which he was committed being by his own admission foolish and
incompetent and the would-be aristocrat struggling to make ends meet
by writing hack journalism and novels, he became more and more
pessimistic about the future. Gobineau wrote in a letter to his
father: "How I despair of a society which is no longer anything,
except in spirit, and which has no heart left". Gobineau
complained that the
Legitimists spent their time feuding with one
another while the Catholic Church "is going over to the side of the
revolution". Gobineau wrote:
"Our poor country lies in Roman decadence. Where there is no longer an
aristocracy worthy of itself, a nation dies. Our Nobles are conceited
fools and cowards. I no longer believe in anything nor have any views.
From Louis-Philippe we shall proceed to the first trimmer who will
take us up, but only in order to pass us on to another. For we are
without fibre and moral energy. Money has killed everything (emphasis
in the original)".
Breakthrough with the Kapodistrias article
In 1841, Gobineau scored his first major success when an article he
Revue des deux Mondes
Revue des deux Mondes was published on 15 April 1841.
Gobineau's article was about the Greek statesman
Kapodistrias. At the time, La Revue des Deux Mondes was one of the
most prestigious journals in Paris, and being published in La Revue
des Deux Mondes put Gobineau in the same company as George Sand,
Théophile Gautier, Philarète Chasles, Alphonse de Lamartine, Edgar
Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve
Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve who were all regularly
published in that journal. Gobineau's article had been secretly
commissioned by Ioannis Kolettis, the Greek minister in
Paris and a
political enemy of Kapodistrias who was Gobineau's main source of
information, which goes a long way towards explaining Gobineau's
hostile picture of Kapodistrias.
Kolettis, a schemer known as "half lion, half fox", had started out as
a doctor to the warlord Ali Pasha of Ioannina, had been a leader in
the Greek war of independence and in the Hellenic kingdom had emerged
as one of the leaders of the "French Party" in Greek politics before
becoming the Greek minister in Paris. At the time, Kapodistrias
was well regarded in France, and Gobineau's article, which was
extremely derogatory towards him, caused in Sainte-Beuve's words "much
anger" among French liberals.
Kapodistrias, a Corfiot nobleman who had become the Russian Foreign
Minister and finally the first president of Greece, was well
remembered in France for the pro-French policies he advocated at the
Congress of Vienna, as a liberal influence at the court of the Emperor
Alexander I, and for his work establishing Greek independence. For
all these reasons many French liberals were upset at Gobineau's
negative picture of Kapodistrias.
Gobineau hated Russia, and he portrayed Kapodistrias as a ruthless
intriguer who was working to have Russia conquer all of the Balkans,
portraying the Greek war of independence as a part of a Russian plot
to weaken the Ottoman Empire. Finally, Gobineau argued that
Kapodistrias, blinded by ambition, had attempted to use the cause of
Greek independence to make himself master of the Balkans, becoming a
tyrant who had been rightfully assassinated in 1831.
On international politics
Gobineau's writings on international politics were as generally
pessimistic as his writings on France. Gobineau depicted Britain as a
nation motivated entirely by hatred and greed and the domination of
the British Empire around the globe as a source of regret.
Gobineau often attacked King Louis-Phillipe for his pro-British
foreign policy, writing that Louis-Phillipe had "humiliated" France by
allowing the British empire to become the world's dominant power.
However, reports of the impoverishment of Ireland were a source of
satisfaction for Gobineau as he asserted: "It is Ireland which is
pushing England into the abyss of revolution".
The growing power and aggressiveness of Russia, as Gobineau saw it,
was a cause for concern for him as he regarded the disaster suffered
by the British during the retreat from Kabul in the first war with
Afghanistan in 1842 as sign that Russia would be the dominant power in
Asia, writing: "England, an aging nation, is defending its livelihood
and its existence. Russia, a youthful nation, is following its path
towards the power that it must surely gain… The empire of the Tsars
is today the power which seems to have the greatest future… The
Russian people are marching steadfastly towards a goal that is indeed
known but still not completely defined". Gobineau regarded Russia
as an Asian power, and viewed what he saw as the inevitable coming
triumph of Russia as a triumph of Asia over Europe.
Gobineau had mixed feelings about the German states, praising Prussia
as a conservative society dominated by the Junkers while on the other
hand worrying that increasing economic growth promoted by the
Zollverein was making the Prussian middle class more powerful.
Gobineau was critical of the Austrian Empire, writing the House of
Habsburg ruled over such a mixed population of ethnic Germans,
Magyars, Italians, Slavic peoples, etc. that it was inevitable that
such a multi-ethnic society would go into decline while the "purely
German" Prussia was destined to unify Germany. At the same time,
Gobineau observed that millions of Germans were immigrating to the
United States every year, which he described an attempt to escape from
"… a homeland that is treacherously parcelled out and timidly
oppressed" by a "bogus aristocracy" and the "cult of commerce", a
place "devoid of patricians and full of courtesans".
Gobineau was likewise pessimistic about the Italian states, writing
about Italy: "Shortly after the condottieri disappeared everything
that had lived and flourished with them went too; wealth, gallantry,
art and liberty, there remained nothing but a fertile land and an
incomparable sky". About Spain, Gobineau denounced a nation which
had rejected "a firm and natural authority, a power rooted in national
liberty", predicating without order imposed by an absolute monarchy,
Spain was destined to sink into a state of perpetual revolution.
He was dismissive of Latin America, writing with references to the
wars of independence: "The destruction of their agriculture, trade and
finances, the inevitable consequence of long civil disorder, did not
at all seem to them a price too high to pay for what they had in view.
And yet who would want to claim that the half-barbarous inhabitants of
Castile or the Algarve or the gauchos on the River Plate really
deserve to sit as supreme legislators, in the places which they have
contested against their masters with such pleasure and energy".
About the United States, Gobineau wrote: "The only greatness is that
of wealth, and as everyone can acquire this, its ownership is
independent of any of the qualities reserved to superior natures".
Gobineau wrote the United States lacked an aristocracy with no sense
of noblesse oblige as existed in Europe, the American poor suffered
worse than the European poor, causing the United States to be a
violent society, where greed and materialism were the only values that
counted. Writing about the economic collapse caused by the Panic
of 1837, Gobineau wrote: "There real estate gives only chimerical
guarantees, thanks to the frantic land speculation. One recollects the
position of the banks, and the depreciation of the paper money; and
one must dwell on the difficulties of the local authorities, the
incurable weakness of law enforcement, the impudence of those who are
subject to its administration, and the impotence of the law to create
respect for goods and persons". In an 1845 essay written as a
public letter to an imaginary Bavarian farmer thinking of immigrating
to the United States for a better life, Gobineau implored him not to
go, predicating that he would impoverished, robbed and exploited in
America, and advised him to stay put in Bavaria, an orderly Catholic
society ruled by the House of Wittelsbach. Gobineau was in general
hostile towards people in the Americas, writing that who in the Old
World does not know "that the New World knows nothing of kings,
princes and nobles?-that on those semi-virgin lands, in human
societies born yesterday and scarcely yet consolidated, no one has the
right or the power to call himself any greater than the very least of
Gobineau struck up a friendship and had voluminous correspondence with
Alexis de Tocqueville. Tocqueville praised Gobineau in
a letter: "You have wide knowledge, much intelligence, and the best of
manners". The latter man gave Gobineau an appointment in the Quai
d'Orsay (the French foreign ministry) while serving as foreign
minister during the Second Republic of France.
Reflecting his lifelong interest in the Orient, in 1852, Gobineau
joined the Société Asiatique, and got to know several French
Julius von Mohl
Julius von Mohl very well. In 1846, Gobineau
married Clémence Gabrielle Monnerot, who had pressed for a hasty
marriage as she was pregnant by their mutual friend Hercule de Serre
who had abandoned her and as a good Catholic she did not wish to give
birth to an illegitimate child. Monnerot had been born in
Martinique, and Gobineau was never quite entirely certain if his wife,
and hence his two daughters had black ancestors or not, as it was a
common practice for French slave masters in the Caribbean to take a
slave mistress. Gobineau's opposition to slavery, which he held
always resulted in harmful miscegenation to whites, stemmed from his
own personal anxieties about the possibility that his mother or his
wife might have had African ancestry.
The embittered royalist
Gobineau's novels and poems of the 1830s–40s were usually set in the
Middle Ages or the Renaissance with aristocratic heroes who by their
very existence uphold all of the values worth celebrating such as
honor and creativity against a corrupt, soulless middle class.
Gobineau's 1847 novel Ternove was the first time that Gobineau linked
class with race, writing "Monsieur de Marvejols would think of
himself, and of all members of the nobility, as of a race apart, of a
superior essence, and he believed it criminal to sully this by mixture
with plebeian blood".
The novel, set against the backdrop of the Hundred Days of 1815,
concerns the disastrous results when the aristocrat Octave de Ternove
unwisely marries the daughter of a miller. Gobineau was horrified
Revolution of 1848
Revolution of 1848 and disgusted by what he saw as the supine
reaction of the European upper classes to the revolutionary challenge,
writing in the spring of 1848 about the news from Germany: "Things are
going pretty badly… I do not mean the dismissal of the
princes—that was deserved. Their cowardice and lack of political
faith make them scarcely interesting. But the peasants, there they are
nearly barbarous. There is pillage, and burning, and massacre—and we
are only at the beginning".
As a Legitimist, Gobineau disliked the House of Bonaparte, and was
displeased when Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte was elected president of the
republic in 1848. However, Gobineau came to support Bonaparte as
the best man to preserve order, and in 1849, when Tocqueville became
Foreign Minister, his friend Gobineau became his chef de cabinet.
Despite his frequent denunciations of the 19th century as an era of
greed with no principles, Gobineau decided it was better to have a
lucrative career in the Quai d'Orsay under Bonaparte than it was to
hold fast to his Legitimist principles by writing for reactionary
newspapers that paid poorly. Gobineau served as a successful
diplomat for the Second French Empire. Initially he was posted to
Persia, before working in Brazil and other countries.
In his own lifetime, Gobineau was known as a novelist, as a poet and
for the travel writing recounting his adventures in Iran and Brazil
rather than for the racial theories for which he is now mostly
remembered. However, Gobineau always regarded his book Essai sur
l'inégalité des races humaines as his masterpiece and wanted to be
remembered as the author of that work. A firm reactionary who
believed in the innate superiority of aristocrats over
commoners—whom he held in utter contempt—Gobineau came to embrace
scientific racism as a way of justifying aristocratic rule over
racially inferior commoners.
Under the shock of the Revolution of 1848, Gobineau had first
expressed his racial theories in his 1848 epic poem Manfredine where
he revealed his fear that the revolution of 1848 was the beginning of
the end of aristocratic Europe, with the common folk descended from
lesser breeds taking over. Manfredine, which is set at the time of
the revolt in Naples against Spanish rule in 1647 (an allegory for
1848), concerns the eponymous character, a noblewoman on whom Gobineau
spends a good five hundred lines tracing her descent from Viking
ancestors. The poem features the lines:
"Et les Germains, montrant leur chevelure blonde, Que portaient leurs
aïeux, dans tous les coins du monde, Paraissent pour régner. Neptune
et son trident, Servent l'Anglo-Saxon, leur dernier descendant, Et les
déserts peuplés de la jeune Amérique, Connaissenet le pouvior de ce
peuple héroïque, Mais Romains, Allemands, Gaulois… Pour en finir,
Ce qui n'est pas Germain est créé pour servir"
("And the Germans, displaying the blond hair of their ancestors,
emerged to rule in every corner of the world. Neptune and his trident
serve the Anglo-Saxon, their last descendant, and the peopled deserts
of young America know the strength of this heroic people. But as to
the Romans, Alemanni, Gauls… to put it briefly, those who are not
German are created to serve".)
Theory on French aristocrats
Reflecting his disdain for ordinary people, Gobineau claimed that
French aristocrats like himself were the descendants of the Germanic
Franks who conquered the Roman province of Gaul in the 5th century AD
while common French people were the descendants of racially inferior
Celtic and Latin peoples. This was an old theory first promoted in a
Henri de Boulainvilliers who had argued that the Second
Estate (the aristocracy) was of "Frankish" blood and the Third Estate
(the commoners) were of "Gaulish" blood. The Canadian theologian,
Alan T. Davies wrote that in the
Ancien Régime France was
characterized by extremely rigid social distinctions and that, unlike
Britain with its "open aristocracy", the
French nobility had evolved
into a "caste". Again unlike Britain, where there was a certain
sense of Britishness linking the different levels of society, the
French Second Estate had literally come to view the Third Estate as
biologically different from and inferior to themselves. As someone
born after the
French Revolution had destroyed the idealized Ancien
Régime of his imagination, Gobineau felt a deep sense of pessimism
regarding the future. Davies described Gobineau as someone who was
extremely "alienated" from the society and age he was living in, and
wrote that Gobineau's frequent prophecies about the coming destruction
of European civilization, as there was not enough
Aryan blood left to
sustain Europe, reflected the fact that Gobineau, who was unable to
embrace his age, instead wished for its destruction.
For Gobineau, the
French Revolution having destroyed the racial basis
of French greatness by overthrowing and in many cases killing the
aristocracy was the beginning of a long, irresistible progress of
decline and degeneration which could only end with the utter collapse
of European civilization. For Gobineau, what the French Revolution
had begun, the Industrial Revolution was finishing and, for him,
industrialization and urbanization were a complete disaster for
Europe. Gobineau was no socialist, but he had an intense hatred of
capitalism, which allowed for poor men to rise up and become rich by
their own talents and skills, something that was an affront to
everything that Gobineau believed in. Davies wrote about Gobineau:
Having identified his own fortunes with a caste that had been
overthrown in 1789, he detested an age that had turned against his
aristocratic (racial) linage and values. In his estrangement, he
consoled himself with sad reflections on the impending death of
civilization, although there is sufficient narcissism in his pages to
suggest that his own death was also the object—perhaps the true
object—of his contemplation… To the jaded man-of-letters, the
would-be aristocrat, these "deep stagnant waters" over which the
fragile structure of civilization was suspended were steadily rising,
and France—and Europe—would soon be submerged.
Like many other European romantic conservatives, Gobineau looked back
nostalgically at an idealized version of the Middle Ages as an idyllic
agrarian society living harmoniously in a rigid social order.
Gobineau loathed modern Paris, a city he called a "giant cesspool"
full of les déracinés; the criminal, impoverished, drifting men with
no real home; whom Gobineau considered to be the monstrous products of
centuries of miscegenation, who were always ready to explode in
revolutionary violence at any moment. Gobineau was an ardent
opponent of democracy, which he claimed was mere "mobocracy"—a
system that allowed the utterly stupid mob the final say on running
the state. Gobineau's daughter noted her father was socially
isolated in Paris, writing: "Our family were not numerous. We were, in
short, déracinés. Had the Gobineaus, Joseph and Louis, gone back to
Bordeaux after the Revolution, they doubtless would have rediscovered
all those cousins and so forth who had issued in the course of many
centuries. But in
Paris they were isolated, save for some families of
distant cousins". For someone who believed that the family was the
basic unit holding society together, Gobineau believed French society
was breaking down as too many young men without families were pouring
Paris to seek a better life, though he failed to note this
description also applied to himself.
Swiss and German interludes
From November 1849 to January 1854 Gobineau was stationed at the
French legation in
Bern as the First Secretary. It was during his
time in Switzerland that Gobineau wrote the majority of the Essai.
Gobineau hated Swiss democracy, writing: "I am tempted to regard this
country as the prototype, as the very ideal of democracy, if you like,
but even more still of self-government". About Swiss politicians,
Gobineau complained of "the intrigues… of these big, fine and quite
stupid democrats, who are very tame when they need your help and very
violent when they do not". Gobineau believed that Switzerland was
destined for a violent revolution as "The profound apathy of the Swiss
regarding everything, except issues of profit and its conservation,
surrenders them to a very small number of daring radicals".
More happily for Gobineau, he was stationed in
Hanover in the fall of
1851 as acting Chargé d'Affaires, in which he was impressed with the
"traces of real nobility" he stated he saw at the Hanoverian
court. Gobineau especially liked the blind King George V whom he
saw as a "philosopher-king" and it was to George that the Essais were
dedicated. Gobineau praised the "remarkable character" of
Hanoverian men and likewise commended Hanoverian society as having "an
instinctive preference for hierarchy" with the commoners always
deferring to the nobility, which he explained on racial grounds.
Much to his displeasure, Gobineau was sent back to Switzerland, which
he continued to disparage in his dispatches to
Paris at every
chance. In 1853, Gobineau wrote about Switzerland that here
existed "only suffering agriculture and mediocre industry, where
governments without power or prestige, have no means of containing the
passions of the masses, from whatever source the agitations may
spring...It is quite evident that such a country is ruled by the poor,
and there the poor will welcome with alacrity all the theories that
appear to promise them relief in the present or the future".
In January 1854, Gobineau was sent as First Secretary to the French
legation at the Free City of Frankfurt. About the Federal Diet
that sat in Frankfurt, Gobineau wrote: "The Diet is a business office
for the German bureaucracy—it is very far from being a real
political body". Gobineau wrote that the interests of the smaller
German states like Bavaria and
Hanover counted for nothing at the Diet
and everything was decided by Prussia and Austria. Gobineau hated
the Prussian representative at the Diet, Prince Otto von Bismarck
because of Bismarck's advances towards Madame Gobineau. By
contrast, the Austrian representative at the Diet, General Anton von
Prokesch-Osten became one of Gobineau's best friends.
Prokesch-Osten was a reactionary Austrian soldier and diplomat who
hated democracy and saw himself as a historian and orientalist, and
for all these reasons Gobineau bonded with him. It was during
these periods that Gobineau began to write less and less to his old
liberal friend Tocqueville and more and more to his new conservative
Gobineau's racial theories
Cover of the original edition of An Essay on the Inequality of the
Gobineau came to believe that race created culture, arguing that
distinctions among the three races—"black", "white", and
"yellow"—were natural barriers, and that "race-mixing" breaks those
barriers and leads to chaos. Of the three races, Gobineau argued that
blacks were physically very strong, but incapable of intelligent
thought. Regarding the "yellows" as Gobineau called Asians, he
claimed that they were physically and intellectually mediocre, but had
an extremely strong materialism that allowed them to achieve certain
results. Finally, Gobineau wrote that whites were the best and
greatest of the three races as whites and whites alone were the only
ones capable of intelligent thought, were physically the most
beautiful and were the only ones capable of creating beauty.
Gobineau wrote that "The white race originally possessed the monopoly
of beauty, intelligence and strength" and that whatever of the
positive qualities the Asians and blacks possessed was due to
Within the white race, there was a further subdivision between the
Aryans, who were the epitome of all that was great about the white
race, and non-Aryans. Gobineau took the term
Aryan ("light one" or
"noble one") from Hindu legend and mythology which describes how the
Indian subcontinent was conquered at some time in the distant past by
the Aryans. This is generally believed to have reflected folk memories
of the arrival of the Indo-European peoples into the Indian
subcontinent. In the 19th century, there had been much public interest
in the discovery by Orientalists like William Jones of the
Indo-European family of languages, and that apparently unrelated
languages such as English, Irish, Albanian, Italian, Greek, Russian,
Sanskrit, Hindi, Bengali, Kurdish, Farsi and so forth were all part of
the same family of languages spoken across a wide swath of Eurasia
from Ireland to India. The ancient Hindu scriptures with their
Aryan heroes were of major interest to scholars attempting to
trace the origins of the Indo-European peoples. Gobineau equated
language with race, and mistakenly believed that the Indo-European
peoples were a racial group rather than a linguistic group.
Gobineau wrote in the Essai: "Languages, being unequal among
themselves, are completely linked to the relative merit of race".
As such, Gobineau argued on the basis of the Hindu scriptures, which
stated that the highest castes are the descendants of the Aryans, that
the Hindu caste system reflected an admirable determination of the
Aryans to attempt to preserve their superior blood from being
intermixed with the racially inferior, conquered peoples. Gobineau
wrote that it was the conversion of much of the Indian subcontinent to
Buddhism, with its message of universal salvation before the Hindu
revival recaptured the subcontinent for Hinduism that led to the
higher Hindu castes having their blood "soiled" via sex with racial
inferiors. Gobineau regarded Buddhism, together with Islam, as
religions of decay, and argued that any society that embraced Islam or
Buddhism was clearly in a state of decline.
Gobineau believed that the white race had originated somewhere in
Siberia, the Asians in the Americas and the blacks in Africa.
Gobineau thought that the numerical superiority of the Asians had
forced the whites into making a vast migration that led them into
Middle East and the Indian subcontinent and that both the
Bible and Hindu legends about the conquering
Aryan heroes reflected
folk memories of this migration. In turn, the whites had broken
into three sub-races, namely the Hamitic, Semitic and Japhetic
peoples—the latter were the Aryans of Hindu legend and were the best
and greatest of all the whites.
Gobineau claimed that the Aryans had founded all ten of the great
civilizations of the world, writing "In the ten civilizations no Negro
race is seen an initiator. Only when it is mixed with some other can
it even be initiated into a civilization. Similarly, no spontaneous
civilization is be found among the yellow races; and when the Aryan
blood is exhausted stagnation supervenes". Gobineau, mindful of
his own supposed noble and Frankish, descent classified the Germanic
peoples as being the Aryans in Europe.
The Aryans had also moved into India and Persia. Gobineau used
medieval Persian epic poetry, which he treated as completely
historically accurate accounts, together with the beauty of Persian
women (whom Gobineau saw as the most beautiful in the world) to argue
that Persians were once great Aryans, but unfortunately the Persians
had interbred with the Semitic Arabs too much for their own good.
At the same time, Gobineau argued that in Southeast Asia the blacks
and Asians had intermixed to create the sub-race of the Malays. He
classified Southern Europe, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Central
Asia, and North Africa as racially mixed.
Despite his pride in being French, Gobineau often attacked many
aspects of French life under the Third Republic as reflecting
"democratic degeneration"—namely the chaos that he believed resulted
when the mindless masses were allowed political power—which meant
that critical reception of Gobineau in France was very mixed.
Gobineau's contempt for ordinary people emerges from his letters,
where his preferred term for common folk was la boue ("the mud").
Gobineau questioned the belief that the black and yellow races belong
to the same human family as the white race and share a common
ancestor. Trained neither as a theologian nor a naturalist, and
writing before the popular spread of evolutionary theory, Gobineau
took the Bible to be a true telling of human history. In his An Essay
on the Inequality of the Human Races, he ultimately accepts the
prevailing Christian doctrine that all human beings shared the common
ancestors Adam and Eve (monogenism as opposed to polygenism). But, he
suggested that "nothing proves that at the first redaction of the
Adamite genealogies the colored races were considered as forming part
of the species"; and "We may conclude that the power of producing
fertile offspring is among the marks of a distinct species. As nothing
leads us to believe that the human race is outside this rule, there is
no answer to this argument."
Gobineau believed that the white race was superior to the other races
in the creation of civilized culture and maintenance of ordered
government. The American historian Geoffrey Field summarized
Gobineau's work as:
Written after the Revolutions of 1848–49, the Essai was a
post-mortem of the old aristocratic order in Europe, characterized by
reverence for hierarchy, social status and family lineage… Superior
in beauty, intellect and creative vigor, the white race (and
especially its illustrious
Aryan branch) was the bearer of culture and
civilization, responsible for the triumphs of the past. But the
process of civilization inevitably involved miscegenation with
inferior breeds, leading to a slow debilitation of the noble race over
centuries. For Gobineau, history revealed the tragic "fall" of man
from a presumed racial purity into a degenerate condition of racial
corruption and mongrelization. Pockets of
Aryan blood remained,
especially among the nobility, but decline was inevitable and
Contemporary society, argued Gobineau, offered abundant proof of his
conclusions. Revolutionary convulsions, false egalitarian and
democratic ideals, the selfish materialism of the bourgeoisie, and the
phlegmatic response of the nobility to these challenges were
inescapable symptoms of depravity. France was exhausted, Britain was
being slowly corrupted by liberalism, while, as Michael Biddiss has
shown, Gobineau was by no means sympathetic towards Prussia. If
anything, in his last years he viewed the process of decay as
accelerating: in a cold, objectivist and ironical tone he depicted a
global crisis and a vision of racial doom.
Gobineau thought that the development of civilization in other periods
was different from his own, and speculated that other races might have
superior qualities in those civilizations. But, he believed European
civilization represented the best of what remained of ancient
civilizations and held the most superior attributes capable for
continued survival. Gobineau stated he was writing about races, not
individuals: examples of talented black or Asian individuals did not
disprove his thesis about the supposed inferiority of the black and
Asian races. Gobineau wrote:
I will not wait for the friends of equality to show me such and such
passages in books written by missionaries or sea captains, who declare
some Wolof is a fine carpenter, some Hottentot a good servant, that a
Kaffir dances and plays the violin, that some Bambara knows
arithmetic… Let us leave aside these puerilities and compare
together not men, but groups.
Gobineau argued that race was destiny, declaring rhetorically:
"So the brain of a Huron Indian contains in undeveloped form an
intellect which is absolutely that same as an Englishman or a
Frenchman! Why then, in the course of the ages has he not then
invented printing or steam power?
Gobineau went on to write: "Nowhere is the soil more fertile, the
climate more mild than in certain parts of America. There is an
abundance of great rivers, the gulfs, the bays, the harbors are large,
deep, magnificent and innumerable. Precious metals can be dug out
almost at the surface of the ground." Gobineau argued the failure
as he saw it of the American Indians of North America to create a
civilization comparable to that of Europe proved his thesis of white
supremacy as he maintained that the climate and geography of North
America was better than Europe, yet no great cities, art, or
inventions ever emerged from the Indians.
Gobineau's primary thesis was that European civilization flowed from
Greece to Rome, and then to Germanic and contemporary civilization. He
thought this corresponded to the ancient Indo-European culture, which
earlier anthropologists had misconceived as "Aryan"—a term that only
Indo-Iranians are known to have used in ancient times. This
included groups classified by language, for example the Celts, Slavs
and the Germans.
Gobineau later came to use and reserve the term
Aryan only for the
"German race" and described the Aryans as 'la race germanique'. By
doing so, he presented a racist theory in which Aryans—that is
Germans—were all that was positive.
After reading the Essai, de Tocqueville had told Gobineau that: "Alone
in Europe, the Germans possess the talent for getting impassioned
about what they see as abstract truth, without any regard for the
practical consequences—and it is they who could provide you with a
really favorable audience whose opinions would sooner or later have
repercussions in France". Tocqueville further asked Gobineau:
"What advantage can there be in persuading base peoples living in
barbarism, indolence or slavery that, such being their racial nature,
they can do nothing to improve their situation or change their habits
or government? Do you not see inherent in your doctrine all the evils
engendered by permanent inequality—pride, violence, scorn of fellow
men, tyranny and abjection in all their forms?"
Gobineau described the Aryans as physically extremely beautiful and
very tall; of immense intelligence and strength, and endowed with
incredible energy, great creativity in the arts and a love of war.
Like many other racists, Gobineau believed that one's looks determined
what one did, or in other words, beautiful people created beautiful
art while ugly people created ugly art. Gobineau's theory had a
major influence on National Socialist aesthetes. In 1970, the American
Gerhard Weinberg summarized the Nazi view of the
relationship between race and art as: "The cultural accomplishments of
civilizations are the product of their racial composition—the great
artists of Renaissance times were all Nordics whose works reflect
their own appearance, while the monstrosities of modern art only
mirror the appearances of their creators. Botticelli must have been as
slim as his famous Venus, Rubens must have been as corpulent as the
figures he painted and Picasso presumably has three eyes. Anyone who
considers this summary as unfair is urged to examine Paul
Schultze-Naumburg's Kunst und Rasse (Munich: Lehmann, 1928, 1935) ,
since the illustrations convey its message to anyone who does not read
The British Sinologist Arnold Rowbotham wrote that for Gobineau the
superiority of the
Aryan was a totally "amoral superiority", as for
Aryan heroes, "might was right". Gobineau wrote that
Aryans in their original, pure state did whatever they liked because
they were superior to anyone else and had no external morality.
Rowbotham wrote about Gobineau's
Aryan theories that: "Stripped of its
racial mysticism it makes force a virtue and even a necessity. Carried
to its logical conclusion, it would mean a return to barbarism, for
Gobineau at least implies that all the arts of civilization are
Aryan or, at least the result of race-mixing."
Gobineau originally wrote that, given the past trajectory of
civilization in Europe, white race miscegenation was inevitable and
would result in growing chaos. Despite his claims that whites were the
most beautiful of his races, Gobineau believed that Asian and black
women had immense powers of sexual attraction over white men, and that
whenever whites were in close proximity to blacks and Asians, the
result was always miscegenation as white men were seduced by Asian and
black women, to the detriment of the whites. Through not expressly
obsessed with antisemitism, Gobineau saw the Jews as praiseworthy for
their ability to avoid miscegenation while at the same time depicting
the Jews as another alien force for the decay of
Gobineau attributed much of the economic turmoil in France to
pollution of races. Gobineau ended the Essai with the predication that
the "Asian" Russian Empire would soon be the dominant power in Europe,
which would superseded by China, once that state was modernized, and
the Chinese would then conquer Europe. Gobineau warned Tocqueville
against "the great desire to open up China" as the French should
"examine more carefully the consequences of such camaraderie".
The Essai attracted mostly negative reviews from French critics, which
Gobineau used as a proof of the correctness of his racial theories,
writing "… the French, who are always ready to set anything
afire—materially speaking—and who respect nothing, either in
religion or politics, have always been the world's greatest cowards in
matters of science". Later in his life, with the spread of British
and American civilization and the growth of Germany, he altered his
opinion to believe that the white race could be saved. The German-born
George Mosse argued that Gobineau projected all of
his fears and hatreds about the French middle class and working class
onto the Asians and the blacks.
Summarizing Mosse's argument, Davies argued that: "The self-serving,
materialistic oriental of the Essai was really an anti-capitalist's
portrait of the money-grubbing French middle class..." while "the
sensual, unintelligent and violent negro" that Gobineau portrayed in
the Essai was an aristocratic caricature of the French poor. In
his writings on the French peasantry, Gobineau characteristically
insisted in numerous anecdotes that he claimed were based on personal
experience that French farmers were coarse, crude people incapable of
learning, indeed of any sort of thinking beyond the most rudimentary
level of thought, and as the American critic Michelle Wright wrote,
"the peasant may inhabit the land, but they are certainly not part of
it…". Wright further noted the very marked similarity between
Gobineau's picture of the French peasantry and his view of
Gobineau and war
Despite having failed the entrance exams to St. Cyr, Gobineau had an
intensely militaristic view of the world, believing that different
races were born to hate each other and humans have an innate desire to
kill one another. Gobineau wrote war was a natural part of the
human condition and for a nation: "It will either conquer or be
conquered". Gobineau dismissed pacifism, writing: "Even if the
friends of universal peace succeeded in making Europe disgusted with
war, they would still have to bring about a permanent change in the
passions of mankind" and that peace was only possible "if all races
were actually gifted, in the same degree, with the same powers".
Despite being a diplomat whose nominal job was achieve French policy
goals without resort to war and despite his personal distaste for the
House of Bonaparte, Gobineau very much welcomed the militarism of
Napoleon III as bringing greatness back to France. In 1854,
Gobineau approved of the Crimean War, writing that France would gain
much prestige by declaring war on Russia, a nation that Gobineau had
always hated. In a letter to his sister Caroline in October 1854,
Gobineau wrote: "After twenty years of a peace that has promoted only
corruption and revolution, we find ourselves in a military atmosphere
which, from its very beginning, has encouraged many fine things… I
consider war, despite its evils, as a blessing".
Persia: Gobineau's spiritual home
In 1855, Gobineau left
Paris to become the first secretary at the
French legation in Tehran,
Persia (modern Iran), being promoted to
chargé d'affaires the next year. Gobineau served as a French
diplomat in the Free City of Frankfurt, the Kingdom of Hanover, the
Swiss Confederation, the British Crown colony of Newfoundland and the
Empire of Brazil, all of which he hated, and
Persia together with
Greece were the only places that Gobineau was stationed in that he
ever had an affection for. The histories of
Persia and Greece had
played prominent roles in the Essai and Gobineau wanted to see both
places for himself. Gobineau's mission was to keep
Persia out of
the Russian sphere of influence, but he cynically wrote: "If the
Persians… unite with the western powers, they will march against the
Russians in the morning, be defeated by them at noon and become their
allies by evening". Gobineau's time was not taxed by his
diplomatic duties, and he spent much time studying ancient cuneiform
texts and learning Farsi, coming to speak a "kitchen Persian" that
allowed him to talk to the Persians somewhat (Gobineau was never
fluent in Farsi as he claimed to be). Despite having some love
for the Persians, Gobineau was shocked that the Persians lacked his
racial prejudices and were willing to accept blacks as equals, and
criticized Persian society for being too "democratic". The
British Orientalist Robert Irwin commented that "Only Gobineau could
have classified Qajar Iran in the 1850s as too democratic" as Qajar
Persia was an absolute monarchy with the Shah Naser al-Din having no
limits on his powers whatever.
Gobineau was dismissive of Persia's prospects, writing the Persians
are "rascals who are near enough are our cousins...This is what we
shall become tomorrow...Nothing great, nothing tragic has happened
here since the time of Herodotus". Gobineau wrote that the
Persians had little sense of national interest and distrusted all
governments, for instance trying to break the Shah's laws as much as
they could get away with, leading to an anarchic individualism as
everyone engaged in a free-for-all to advance their own interests,
leading Gobineau to write: "They are an intelligent people, able to
comprehend their own interests in the narrowest sense of the term, but
they are also incurably decadent". Gobineau appreciated Persian
manners, writing: "The Asiatic rabble has immense advantages over its
European counterpart. However base it may be, it is never
vulgar". Gobineau complained the Shah Naser al-Din was openly
corrupt, selling off government offices to the highest bidder and the
Peacock Throne did not care if the bidder was an aristocrat or
not. However, Gobineau appreciated the appeal of Shia Islam as a
Persia together: "This whole country… is full of the
idea of God. Decrepitude, old age, extreme corruption, in short, death
is present everywhere in institutions, customs and character; but this
constant absorbing preoccupation with what is holy singularly ennobles
all this ruin".
Persia as a land without a future that was destined to be
conquered by the West sooner or later, which for him was a tragedy for
the West as he believed that Western men would all too easily be
seduced by the beautiful Persian women, thus causing more
miscegenation to further "corrupt" the West. However, Gobineau
was obsessed with ancient Persia, seeing in Achaemenid
Persia a great
Aryan civilization, now sadly gone, that was to preoccupy
him for the rest of his life. Gobineau loved to visit the ruins
of Achaemenid period as his mind was fundamentally backward looking,
preferring to contemplate past glories rather what he saw as a dismal
present and even bleaker future. Gobineau's time in Persia
inspired two books, Mémoire sur l'etat social de la Perse actuelle
(1858) and Trois ans en Asie (1859). Through Gobineau was less
than complimentary about modern Persia, writing to Prokesch-Osten that
there was no "Persian race" as modern Persians were "a breed mixed
from God knows what!", but he loved ancient
Persia as the great Aryan
civilization par excellence, noting that Iran means "the land of the
Aryans" in Farsi. Gobineau was less Euro-centric than one might
expect in his writings on Persia, believing that the origins of
European civilization could be traced to
Persia and criticized western
scholars for their "collective vanity" in being unable to admit to the
West's "huge" debt to Persia.
Nott and Hotze
In 1856, the Essai sur l'inégalité des races humaines was translated
into English. The translators were two American "race scientists",
Josiah C. Nott
Josiah C. Nott and Henry Hotze, both ardent white supremacists (Nott
also described his work as "niggerogy") and champions of slavery who
found in Gobineau's anti-black writings a convenient justification for
the "peculiar institution". Nott and Hotz found much to approve
of in the Essai such as passages like the following where Gobineau
wrote: "The Negro is the most humble and lags at the bottom of the
scale. The animal character imprinted upon his brow marks his destiny
from the moment of his conception". Much to Gobineau's intense
annoyance, Nott and Hotze abridged the first volume of the Essai from
1,600 pages in the French original down to a mere 400 in English.
At least part of why Hotze and Nott cut out so much was because of
Gobineau's hostile picture of Americans. About white American people,
Gobineau declared in the Essai:
They are a very mixed assortment of the most degenerate races in
olden-day Europe. They are the human flotsam of all ages.: Irish,
crossbreed Germans and French and Italians of even more doubtful
stock. The intermixture of all these decadent ethnic varieties will
inevitably give birth to further ethnic chaos. This chaos is no way
unexpected or new: it will produce no further ethnic mixture which has
not already been, or cannot be realized on our own continent.
Absolutely nothing productive will result from it, and even when
ethnic combinations resulting from infinite unions between Germans,
Irish, Italians, French and Anglo-Saxons join us in the south with
racial elements composed of Indian, Negro, Spanish and Portuguese
essence, it is quite unimaginable that anything could result from such
horrible confusions, but an incoherent juxtapositions of the most
decadent kinds of people.
Passages like the above which were highly critical of white Americans
were removed by Nott and Hotze from The Moral and Intellectual
Diversity of Races, as the Essai was titled in English; they retained
only the parts relating to the alleged inherent inferiority of
blacks. Likewise, Nott and Hotze used Gobineau as a way of
attempting to establish that white America was in fact in mortal peril
as despite the fact that the vast majority of American blacks were
slaves in 1856, as the two "race scientists" argued on the basis of
the Essai that blacks were essentially a type of vicious animal rather
human beings who would always pose a danger to whites. The
passages of the Essai where Gobineau declared that, though of low
intelligence, blacks had certain artistic talents and that a few
"exceptional" African tribal chiefs probably had a higher IQ than that
of the stupidest whites were not included in the American edition, as
Nott and Hotze wanted nothing that might even in the slightest give
blacks admirable human qualities. Beyond that, Nott and Hotz
claimed that nation and race were one and the same, and that to be
American was to be white. As such, the American translators
argued in their introduction that just as various European nations
were torn apart by nationality conflicts caused by different "races"
living together, likewise ending slavery and granting American
citizenship to blacks would cause the same sort of conflicts, but only
on a much vaster scale in the United States.
A voyage to Newfoundland
In 1859, an Anglo-French dispute over the French fishing rights on the
French Shore of Newfoundland led to an Anglo-French commission being
sent to Newfoundland to find a resolution to the dispute. Gobineau was
one of the two French commissioners dispatched to Newfoundland, an
experience that he later recorded in his 1861 book Voyage à
Terre-Neuve (Voyage to Newfoundland). In 1858, the Foreign Minister
Alexandre Colonna-Walewski tried to send Gobineau to the French
legation in Beijing, but Gobineau objected that as a "civilized
European", he had no wish to go to an Asian country like China.
As punishment, Walewski sent Gobineau to Newfoundland, telling him he
would be fired from the Quai d'Orsay if he refused the Newfoundland
The Gassendi, the French Navy ship Gobineau was travelling on on his
way to Newfoundland visited Halifax to pick up coal. Gobineau in his
dispatches back to
Paris from Halifax condemned the recruiting methods
of the British Royal Navy based upon offering financial rewards to the
sailors who enlisted as reflecting the vulgar crude, crass materialism
of the British people both in Britain and even more so in British
North America while he praised the recruiting methods of the French
Imperial Navy based on appeals to French patriotism as reflecting the
spiritual strength of the French people. Gobineau was in
particular struck by the way that newspapers in Halifax condemned the
Royal Navy for offering generous signing up bonuses to sailors as a
major problem as it forced the local ship-owners to offer higher wages
to their sailors to prevent them from joining the Navy, which Gobineau
used to argue that the Nova Scotians were utterly materialistic.
During a stop in Sydney to pick up coal, Gobineau encountered Mi'kmaq
Indians who had come in from the interior of Cape Breton island, whom
Gobineau reported that: "In this brown-skinned race, with their black
hair, thick, oily and flat, their flattened noses, their half-open
eyes, slightly slanted, one can see a marked resemblance with the
Uzbeks, Hazarehs [Hazaras] and Turkomans who inhabit Central
Asia". Gobineau concluded on seeing the
Mi'kmaq Indians that the
First Nations of North America were also Asians, and expressed
amazement that "… now before my eyes, in the middle of this street
in Sydney, in the form of this handful of poor wretches; I had
previously met their relatives, the still victorious descendants of
the Mongols and Tartars, the conquerors of Turkestan, India and
Persia". Gobineau had a low opinion of the Mi'kmaq, whom he
called "savages" whose "democratic way of seeing and understanding
work and harassing the forces of nature has nothing noble about it,
and certainly nothing which is morally uplifting". Gobineau
however did note he was "not unmoved by the sadness of their
expression, the absence of any smile, their look of complete
resignation and humility" as he commented that the
Mi'kmaq had been
given a miserable section of the forest of Cape Breton island to live
Gobineau hated Newfoundland, writing to a friend in
Paris on 26 July
1859: "This is an awful country. It is very cold, there is almost
constant fog, and one sails between pieces of floating ice of enormous
size." In his time in St. John's, a city largely inhabited by
Irish immigrants, Gobineau deployed virtually every anti-Irish cliché
in his reports to Paris, stating the Irish of St. John's were
extremely poor, undisciplined, conniving, obstreperous, dishonest,
loud, violent, and usually drunk. While in Newfoundland, Gobineau
described several of the remote fishing settlements he visited in
Utopian terms, praising them as examples of how a few hardy, tough
people could make a living under very inhospitable conditions.
Gobineau's praise for Newfoundland fishermen reflected his viewpoint
that those who cut themselves off from society best preserve their
racial purity. Despite his normal contempt for ordinary people,
Gobineau called the Newfoundland fishermen he met as "the best men
that I have ever seen in the world". Gobineau observed that in
these remote coastal settlements, there were no policemen as there was
no crime, going on to write:
"I am not sorry to have seen once in my life a sort of Utopia… A
savage and hateful climate, a forbidding countryside, the choice
between poverty and hard dangerous labour, no amusements, no
pleasures, no money, fortune and ambition being equally
impossible—and still, for all this, a cheerful outlook, a kind of
domestic well-being of the most primitive kind… But this is what
succeeds in enabling men to make use of complete liberty and to be
tolerant of one another".
Gobineau remarked with disgust that women in Newfoundland were all
coquettish and had far too much freedom. Apart from touring
Newfoundland, Gobineau paid a visit to
Labrador to hunt caribou, an
experience that provided the basis of his autobiographical 1871 short
story La chasse au caribou ("The caribou hunt"). The chief theme of La
chasse au caribou was Gobineau's horror as a "civilized European" at
relations between the sexes in Newfoundland and even more so in
Labrador. During his time in Labrador, Gobineau encountered First
Nations peoples, whom he called les sauvages ("the savages") a common
term in his day. Based upon his visits to Newfoundland and Nova
Scotia, Gobineau reached the conclusion that all people in North
America were hopelessly materialistic and Western civilization only
existed in Europe. Gobineau described the people of British North
America as a "population worthy not of admiration". Gobineau
reported that it was probable that the colonies on the mainland of
British North America would unite to form a new country called Canada,
but stated that it was unlikely that Newfoundland would join anytime
soon. Gobineau was correct on both counts; Nova Scotia, Canada
West, New Brunswick and Canada East united to form the Dominion of
Canada in 1867, which Newfoundland did not join until 1949. Gobineau
urged that the French strengthen their military presence in the
islands of Saint Pierre and Miquelon off the coast of Newfoundland,
writing: "It is to be wished that the Emperor's gaze may fall on this
corner of the world. Great things might result."
The Persian Fetish
In 1861, Gobineau returned to
Tehran as the French minister.
Gobineau lived a modest, ascetic lifestyle and became engulfed with an
obsession with ancient
Persia that soon got out of control as he
sought to prove that ancient
Persia was founded by his much admired
Aryans, leading him to engage in what Irwin called "deranged" theories
about Persia's history. In 1865 Gobineau published Les religions
et les philosophies dans l'Asie centrale, an account of his travels in
Persia and encounters with the various esoteric Islamic sects he
discovered being practiced out in the Persian countryside.
Gobineau's mystical frame of mind led him to feel in
Persia what he
called "un certain plaisir" ("a certain pleasure") as no else in the
world did he feel the same sort of joy he felt when viewing the ruins
of Persia. Gobineau had a low opinion of Islam, a religion
invented by the Arab Mohammed, who Gobineau viewed thus as part of the
"Semitic race", unlike the Persians whose Indo-European language led
Gobineau to see them as Aryans. Gobineau believed that Shia Islam
was part of a "revolt" by the
Aryan Persians against the Semitic
Arabs, seeing a close connection between Shia Islam and Persian
nationalism. Gobineau's understanding of
Persia was distorted and
confused as he mistakenly believed that Shi'ism was practiced only in
Persia, that in Shi'ism the Imam Ali is much more venerated than
Mohammad and he was unaware that Shia Islam only became the state
Persia under the Safavids. Based on his own
experiences, Gobineau believed that the Persians did not really
believe in Islam with the faith of the Prophet just being a mere cover
over a society that still preserved many pre-Islamic features.
Gobineau also described the savage persecution of the followers of
Bábism and of the new religion of the
Bahá'í Faith by the Persian
state, which was determined to uphold Shia Islam as the state
religion. Gobineau approved of the persecution of the Babi,
writing that they were "veritable communists" and "true and pure
supporters of socialism", as every bit as dangerous as the French
socialists, writing the Peacock Throne was right to stamp out
Babism. Gobineau was one of the first Westerners to examine the
esoteric sects of Persia, and though his work was idiosyncratic, he
did spark scholarly interest in an aspect of
Persia that had been
ignored by Westerners until then. Gobineau's command of Farsi was
only average and his Arabic was even worse, but since there were few
Western Orientalists who knew Farsi, Gobineau was able to pass himself
off for decades as a leading Orientalist who knew
Persia like no one
Only with his studies in ancient
Persia did Gobineau came under fire
from scholars. Gobineau published two books on ancient Persia,
Lectures des textes cunéformes (1858) and Traité des écitures
cunéformes (1864). Irwin wrote: "The first treatise is
wrong-headed, yet still on this side of sanity; the second later and
much longer work shows many signs of the kind of derangement that is
likely to infect those who interest themselves too closely in the
study of occultism". One of the principle problems with
Gobineau's approach to translating the cuneiform texts of ancient
Persia was that he failed to understand linguistic change and that Old
Persian was not the same language as modern Persian. Gobineau's
books met with hostile reception from scholars who argued that
Gobineau simply did not understand the texts that he was purporting to
translate. Gobineau's article attempting to rebut his critics in
Journal asiatique was not published as the editors had to politely
tell Gobineau that his article was "unpublishable" as it was full of
"absurd" claims and vitriolic abuse of his critics. During his
second time in Persia, Gobineau spent much time working as an amateur
archeologist and gathering material for what was to become Traité des
écitures cunéformes, a book that Irwin called "a monument to learned
madness". Gobineau was always very proud of the latter book,
seeing it as a magnum opus that rivaled the Essai. Gobineau had
often traveled from
Tehran to the Ottoman Empire to visit the ruins of
Dur-Sharrukin at Khursbad near
Mosul in what is now northern
Iraq. The ruins of Khursbad are Assyrian, built by King Sargon II
in 717 BC, but Gobineau decided that the ruins were actually Persian
and built by Darius the Great some two hundred years later.
Furthermore, Gobineau decided that language found on some of the
cuneiform texts at Khursbad was Arabic as people in the Ottoman
vilayet (province) of
Mosul spoke Arabic, leading him to the
conclusion that the people in the region had always spoke Arabic and
there was no difference between ancient Arabic and modern Arabic.
Irwin wrote that as "wrong" as Gobineau was in all his conclusions so
far, what he published was "even stranger" as Gobineau who was caught
up in his obsession with the occult offered up various mistranslations
of the cuneiform texts into a highly poetical French that said a great
deal about the occult in modern Europe and nothing about the ancient
Near East as Gobineau expounded on mystical theories based on the
Arabic cabalistic traditions, magic alphabets and numerology. The
Paul-Émile Botta published a scathing review of
Traité des écitures cunéformes in the
Journal asiatique saying the
cuneiform texts at the
Dur-Sharrukin were Akkadian, that Gobineau did
not know what he was talking about, and that the only reason why he
even written this review was just to prove that he had wasted his time
reading Traité des écitures cunéformes. The leading French
Julius von Mohl
Julius von Mohl of the Société asiatique was forced to
intervene in the dispute that was troubling the society as Gobineau
insistently pressed his thesis to argue that Gobineau's theories which
were to a large extent based on numerology and other mystical theories
lacked "scientific rigor", and the most he could say in favor was that
he admired the "artistry" of Gobineau's thesis.
Continuing his Persian obsession, Gobineau published Historie des
Perses in 1869. In this book, Gobineau did not attempt to
distinguish between Persian history and legends treating the Shahnameh
and the Kosh-nama (a 12th-century poem presenting a legendary story of
two Chinese emperors) as factual, reliable accounts of Persia's
ancient history. As such, Gobineau began his history by
presenting the Persians as Aryans who arrived in
Persia from Central
Asia and conquered the race of giants known to the Persians as the
Diws. Gobineau also added his own racial theories to the Historie
des Perses, explaining how Cyrus the Great had planned the migration
of the Aryans into Europe, and thus making him responsible for the
"grandeur" of medieval Europe. For Gobineau, Cyrus the Great was
the greatest leader in history, writing: "Whatever we ourselves are,
as Frenchmen, Englishmen, Germans, Europeans of the nineteenth
century, it is Cyrus that we owe it", going on to call Cyrus as "the
greatest of the great men in all human history". Gobineau
presented Darius the Great in very heroic terms, expressed much
bitterness about the "accidental" victories of the Greeks over the
Persians and argued that the wrong side had won the Battle of Marathon
in 490 BC because the Athenian victory ensured the survival of
democracy while a Persian victory would have snuffed out the flames of
democracy at its very beginning. Gobineau classified the
Sasanians as a "Semitic" dynasty and declared that
when Ardashir I took the Peacock Throne. It was at this point
Gobineau ended his history of
Persia as he wrote: "I stop at the point
when a close kinship between us and the dominators of Iran ceased to
Minister to Greece
In 1864, Gobineau became the French minister to Greece. During
his time in Athens, which together with
Tehran were the only cities he
was stationed in that he liked, Gobineau spent his time writing poetry
and learning sculpture when not travelling with
Ernest Renan out in
the Greek countryside in search of ruins. Gobineau seduced two
sisters of Athens, Zoé and Marika Dragoumis, who both became his
mistresses and the former remained a lifelong correspondent.
However great his enthusiasm for ancient Greece, Gobineau was less
than complimentary about modern Greece, writing that due to
miscegenation that the Greek people had lost the
Aryan blood that was
responsible for "the glory that was Greece" as now the Greeks had a
mixture of Arab, Bulgarian, Turkish, Serbian and Albanian blood.
Gobineau praised the Austrian foreign minister Prince Klemens von
Metternich for opposing Greek independence at the time of the Greek
war of independence as he wrote that modern Greece was all
"chaos". Gobineau wrote: "Morally Greece is more devastated, more
debased and much more surrendered over to anarchy in 1867 than she was
in 1817 [before the war of independence]." Gobineau wrote that
only differences between the Greeks and the Turks was that the former
were Eastern Orthodox while the latter were Muslims, but otherwise the
two warring nations were at the same level as they both part of the
same racial group. Greece was a country that was heavily indebted
and forever on the verge of bankruptcy, which Gobineau explained was
the result of democracy. Gobineau complained that the Greeks had
a Danish king, but no aristocracy, writing all of the Greek
politicians were corrupt, incompetent and self-interested.
Gobineau described Greek elections as being like civil wars as Greek
politicians hired thugs to intimidate supporters of their rivals,
leading to much bloody street fighting as thugs loyal to different
politicians fought it out. In a dispatch to Paris, Gobineau
wrote: "Someone must be paying the Greeks to present the most accurate
caricature… of a representative regime". Gobineau had little
respect for King George I, calling him an inept monarch who was
incapable of asserting himself in the face of the "chaos" that was
Greek politics. In summary, Gobineau described Greek politics:
"Petty passions, petty interests, petty people, petty mischief, petty
intrigues, everything petty, except the contempt which all this
Technically, Greece did not achieve independence in 1832, instead
being a joint Anglo-French-Russian protectorate and as such, the
British, French and Russian ministers in
Athens had the theoretical
power to countermand any decision of the Greek cabinet, but Gobineau
repeatedly advised against France exercising this power, writing
Greece was "the sad and living evidence of European ineptness and
presumptuousness", attacking the British attempt to bring Westminster
democracy to Greece as bringing about "the complete decay of a
barbarous land" while the French were guilty of introducing the Greeks
to "the most inept Voltairianism". About the "Eastern Question",
Gobineau advised against French support for the Greek Megali Idea,
writing the Greeks could not replace the Ottoman Empire, and if the
Ottoman Empire should be replaced with a greater Greece, only Russia
would benefit. Gobineau advised Paris:
"The Greeks will not control the Orient, neither will the Armenians
nor the Slav nor any Christian population, and, at the same time, if
others were to come—even the Russians, the most oriental of them
all—they could only submit to the harmful influences of this
anarchic situation...For me...there is no
Eastern Question and if I
had the honour of being a great government I should concern myself no
longer with developments in these areas."
In the spring of 1866, the Christian Greeks rebelled against the
Ottoman Empire on the island of
Crete and three emissaries arrived in
Athens to ask Gobineau for French support of the uprising, saying that
it was well known that France was the champion of justice and of the
rights of "small nations". As France was heavily engaged in the
war in Mexico, Gobineau speaking on behalf of Napoleon III informed
the Cretans to expect no support from France and that they were on
their own in taking on the might of the Ottoman Empire. Gobineau
had no sympathy with the Greek desire to liberate their compatriots
living under Ottoman rule, writing to his friend Anton von
Prokesch-Osten: "It is one rabble against another". Gobineau
called the Cretan uprising "the most perfect monument to lies,
mischief and impudence that has been seen in thirty years".
During the uprising, a young French academic Gustave Flourens, noted
for his fiery enthusiasm for liberal causes had joined the Cretean
uprising and had gone to
Athens to try to persuade the Greek
government to support the uprising. Gobineau had unwisely shown
Flourens diplomatic dispatches from
Paris showing that both the French
and Greek governments were unwilling to offend the Ottomans by
supporting the Cretan uprising, which Flourens then leaked to the
press. Gobineau received orders from Napoleon III to silence
Flourens. On 28 May 1868, while Flourens was heading for a
meeting with King George I, he was intercepted by Gobineau who had him
arrested by the legation guards, put into chains and loaded onto the
first French ship heading for Marseilles. L'affaire Flourens
became a cause célèbre in France with the novelist Victor Hugo
condemning Gobineau in an opinion piece in Le Tribute on 19 July 1868
for the treacherous way he had treated a fellow Frenchman fighting for
Greek freedom. With French public opinion widely condemning the
minister in Athens, Gobineau was recalled to
Paris in disgrace.
Minister to Brazil
In 1869, Gobineau was appointed the French minister to Brazil. In
1869 France and Brazil did not have diplomatic relations at an
ambassadorial level, instead having legations headed by ministers.
Gobineau was unhappy that the Quai d'Orsay had sent him to Brazil,
which he viewed as an insufficiently grand posting for himself.
Gobineau landed in
Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro during the riotously sensual
Carnival, which disgusted him and from that moment onward Gobineau
detested Brazil, which he saw as a culturally backward and unsanitary
place of diseases, dreading that he might fall victim to the yellow
fever that decimated the population of Brazil on a regular basis.
The only thing that pleased Gobineau as he landed in Rio was seeing
the black slaves whose backs bore the scars of whippings unload his
luggage. Gobineau's major duties during his time in Brazil from
March 1869 to April 1870 were helping to mediate the end of the
Paraguayan War, successfully seeking compensation after Brazilian
troops looted the French legation in Asuncíon, equally successfully
negotiating an extradition treaty between the French Empire and the
Empire of Brazil, and dropping hints to Emperor Pedro II that French
public opinion favored the emancipation of Brazil's slaves. As
slavery was the basis of Brazil's economy and Brazil had the largest
slave population in the Americas, Pedro was not willing to abolish
slavery at this time.
As most Brazilians have a mixture of Portuguese, African and Indian
ancestry, Gobineau saw the Brazilian people whom he loathed as
confirming his theories about the perils of miscegenation.
Gobineau wrote to
Paris that Brazilians were "a population totally
mulatto, vitiated in its blood and spirit, fearfully ugly… Not a
single Brazilian has pure blood because of the pattern of marriages
among whites, Indians and Negroes is so widespread that the nuances of
color are infinite, causing a degeneration among the lower as well the
upper classes". Gobineau wrote that Brazilians are "neither
hard-working, active nor fertile". Based on all this, Gobineau
reached the conclusion that all human life would cease in Brazil
within the next 200 years under the grounds of "genetic
degeneracy". Gobineau argued that the only way the Brazilians
could save themselves from themselves was for the few Brazilians with
European blood to "fortify" themselves by only marrying immigrants
from Europe while preventing the rest from breeding, though how was to
be done was left unexplained. Gobineau argued if this was done,
then "the race would revive, public health would improve, the moral
temperament would be reinvigorated and the best possible social
changes would occur in this admirable country". Gobineau was not
popular in Brazil as his letters to
Paris show his complete contempt
for everybody in Brazil regardless of their nationality (except for
the Emperor Pedro II) with his most damning words reserved for
Brazilians. Gobineau wrote about Brazil: "Everyone is ugly here,
unbelievably ugly, like apes". Gobineau's only friend during his
time in Rio was the Emperor Pedro II, whom Gobineau praised as a wise
and great leader, noting the Emperor's blue eyes and blond hair as
proof that Pedro was an Aryan. The fact Pedro was of the House of
Braganza left Gobineau assured that he had no African or Indian blood.
Gobineau wrote: "Except for the Emperor there is no one in this desert
full of thieves" who was worthy of his friendship.
There was always a contradiction in Gobineau's writings about Brazil
between his general detestation of Brazilians and his profound
admiration for Pedro, whom he saw as one of his age's great
leaders. Gobineau reported with favor to
Paris that the
settlements established by German immigrants in the south of Brazil
were all flourishing, writing "this region is extremely suitable and
favorable for the development of the German race". Gobineau often
wrote essays urging
Aryan Europeans to immigrate to Brazil. At
the same time, Gobineau often advised Europeans not to immigrate to
the United States, which he depicted as a violent, vulgar society
unfit for Europeans. During the American Civil War, Gobineau had
sympathized with the Confederacy and used the Union victory in 1865 as
proof that the more democratic section of American life was now in
ascendancy. Gobineau's attitudes of contempt for the Brazilian
people led him to spend much of his time feuding with the Brazilian
elite and in 1870 Gobineau was involved in a bloody street brawl with
the son-in-law of a Brazilian senator who did not appreciate having
his nation being put down. As a result of the brawl, Pedro asked
Paris to have his friend recalled as otherwise he would have to
declare Gobineau persona non grata. Rather than suffer the
humiliation of having the French minister declared persona non grata
for engaging in a fist-fight on the streets of Rio, the Quai d'Orsay
promptly recalled Gobineau.
Return to France
In May 1870 Gobineau returned to France from Brazil. In a letter
to Tocqueville in 1859 Gobineau had written "When we come to the
French people, I genuinely favor absolute power", and as long as
Napoleon III ruled as an autocrat, he had Gobineau's support. The
liberal reforms in the later part of the Second Empire together with
the fiasco of the attempt to conquer Mexico had caused Gobineau to
express doubts about the regime of Napoleon III, which put him in a
state of disfavor. Gobineau had often predicated that France was
so rotten that the French were bound to be defeated if they ever
fought a major war, but at the outbreak of the war with Prussia in
July 1870, Gobineau believed that the French would win within a few
weeks. After the German victory, Gobineau triumphantly used his
own country's defeat as proof of his racial theories. Gobineau
spent the war as the Maire (mayor) of a little town of Trie in Oise
department. After Trie was occupied by the Prussians, Gobineau
established good relations with the occupiers and was able to reduce
the indemnity that had been imposed on Oise department.
In 1871, Gobineau's old enemy Flourens fought for the
and after surrendering on 3 April 1871, Captain Jean-Marc Démaret of
the French Army used his sword to smash Flourens's head apart. On
6 April 1871, Gobineau mentioned in a letter his great pleasure at the
news of Flourens's death. After the
Paris Commune was put down,
Gobineau in a letter to his Greek mistress Zoé Dragoumis wrote:
"Everything will become calm for a time. We are left with a people
profoundly corrupted and shaking with anger who will before long make
of the abominations they have committed a subject for pride, who will
regard as evidence of their strength the tottering ruins of the
monuments that they have destroyed, who will lavish praise upon their
dead as through these were martyrs, and who will be singularly
encouraged in their wickedness by the platitudes, cowardice and
idiocies of those whom we call conservatives—though why I never
know, for they conserve nothing".
Later, Gobineau wrote a book Ce qui est arrivé à la France en 1870
explaining the French defeat as due to racial degeneration, which no
publisher chose to publish. Gobineau argued that as the French
bourgeoisie were "descended from Gallo-Roman slaves", which explained
why they were no match for an army commanded by Junkers. Gobineau
attacked Napoleon III for his plans for rebuilding Paris, writing:
"This city, pompously described as the capital of the universe, is in
reality only the vast caravanserai for the idleness, greed and
carousing of all Europe." In 1871,
Wilfrid Scawen Blunt
Wilfrid Scawen Blunt who met
Gobineau described him thus: "Gobineau is a man of about 55, with grey
hair and moustache, dark rather prominent eyes, sallow complexion, and
tall figure with brisk almost jerky gait. In temperament he is
nervous, energetic in manner, observant, but distrait, passing rapidly
from thought to thought, a good talker but a bad listener. He is a
savant, novelist, poet, sculptor, archaeologist, a man of taste, a man
of the world". Despite his embittered view of the world and
misanthropic attitudes towards humanity, Gobineau was capable of
displaying much charm when he wanted to, and was described by Albert
Sorel as "a man of grace and charm" who would have made a perfect
Ancien Régime France.
Gobineau argued that Chinese civilization had been created by a group
Aryan conquerors from India who had brought under their heel the
indigenous Malay people living there. Though Gobineau had read
virtually everything written in French about China, he believed that
the origins of Chinese civilization were in southern China where he
posited that the Aryans from India had first arrived rather than the
Yellow River valley which all Chinese sources regard as the "cradle"
of Chinese civilization. Gobineau argued that the Aryans being a
conquering elite had taken a "masculine rather than feminine" approach
to establishing their rule. This in turn had led to a "peaceful
despotism" well suited to the "Malay disposition" based on servility
to the state, the capacity "to grasp the advantages of a regular and
co-ordinated state organization" and an obsession with an "exclusively
material well-being".Through Gobineau argued that the Chinese had
been able to make some progress under the influence of their Aryan
elite, ultimately miscegenation led to this elite being assimilated
into the "yellow" majority, and thus the Chinese were not capable of
making any further progress. For Gobineau, the crucial moment
occurred in 246 BC when Qin Shi Huang, the "First Emperor" unified all
of the Chinese states into one. He argued that Qin had destroyed
the "feudal" system created by the ancient
Aryan conquerors and
replaced it with "imperial leveling" that ended the
Gobineau wrote "There was only this innovation, great nonetheless in
itself, that this last trace of independence, of personal dignity as
understood in the
Aryan manner had disappeared forever before the
definitive invasions of the Yellow Type [l'espèce jaune]". As
such, Gobineau argued that the Chinese were a static people incapable
of change and that essentially that nothing significant had occurred
in China since 246 BC and his time. Furthermore, Gobineau argued
that the Chinese were fundamentally a materialist people devoid of any
sort of spirituality. The contrast between the Chinese ideal of a
"gentleman scholar" as the supreme example of what a Chinese man
should and the low social prestige of soldiers within China reflected
what Gobineau disparaging saw as the materialist ordination of the
Chinese. By contrast, he argued that Aryans were first and
foremost warriors, which, he approvingly explained, was why soldiers
had such high social prestige in Europe. Gobineau wrote with
contempt that because of their materialism, for the Chinese happiness
was to be found in having sufficient food to keep oneself alive and
sufficient clothing to avoid public nudity. He did not believe in
the freedom of the press as he believed that ordinary people needed to
be monitored by the state, but he argued that freedom of the press was
possible in China because the "exclusively utilitarian" nature of the
Chinese meant unlike in the West, there was no-one in China willing to
fight and die for their ideas. Gobineau wrote that as long the
Chinese population was well provided for, no Chinese "would bother to
confront police truncheons for the greater glory of a political
Along the same lines, Gobineau argued that Chinese culture was
"without beauty and dignity"; the Chinese were "lacking in
sentiments beyond the humblest notion of physical utility", and
Chinese Confucianism was a "resume of practices and maxims strongly
reminiscent of what the moralists of Geneva and their educational
books are pleased to recommend as the nec plus ultra of the good:
economy, moderation, prudence, the art of making a profit and never a
loss". Gobineau had been stationed in Switzerland early in his
diplomatic career, and during his time there had developed an intense,
visceral hatred of the Swiss middle class, Calvinism, and of Swiss
democracy, and his attempt to associate Confucian values with
Calvinist values was definitely meant to be an insult to both.
Gobineau considered all Chinese literature was "puerile", as the
Chinese lacked the powers of the imagination that allowed Westerners
to write great novels, Chinese theater was considered "flat" and
Chinese poetry "ridiculous". The "great Chinese scientific works"
were "verbose compilations" lacking in the analytic rigor, which
according to Gobineau whites alone were capable of achieving. He
asserted that the Chinese were incapable of science because "the
spirit of the yellow race is neither profound nor insightful to attain
this quality [scientific excellence] reserved for the white
race". Gobineau believed that China was a warning to the West of
the perils of "democracy"—by which he meant meritocracy.
Because the Chinese state had attempted to promote education for the
masses, the rule by the mandarins was meritocratic, and the exams to
become a mandarin were open to all literate men, this all for Gobineau
reflected the racially "stagnant" character of the Chinese.
Gobineau believed that the best form of government had existed in the
Ancien Régime France with rule by a hereditary aristocratic elite in
an ordered, hierarchical society. As such, Gobineau was extremely
opposed to classical liberalism with its celebration of meritocracy,
and he used the example of China as a warning about where classical
liberals were taking the West. The supposed destruction of the
Aryan elite by Qin in 246 BC was "a fact absolutely similar to what
took place chez nous in 1789, when the innovating spirit saw as its
first necessity the destruction of the ancient territorial
subdivisions [of France]". About the demands of classical
liberals for universal education, Gobineau wrote:
Popular education everywhere promoted, emphasis on the well-being of
subjects, complete liberty in the allotted sphere, the fullest
industrial and agricultural development, production at the most modest
prices, rendering all European competition difficult for the ordinary
necessities of life like cotton, silk and pottery. These are the
incontestable results of which the Chinese system can boast.
Later on, in an essay criticizing the Third Republic, Gobineau wrote
that to most people, "republic" meant the "chimera of liberty" via the
"rule of merit", where all would be given the equal chances to rise
through their abilities. He contemptuously noted that the
"principle of 1789" was no different from the rule by mandarins in
China, and predicted that if the republic continued to exist long
enough, the French would "degenerate" down to the same level as the
Paradoxically, although Gobineau saw hope in the expansion of European
power, he did not support the creation of commercial empires with
their attendant multicultural milieu. He concluded that the
development of empires was ultimately destructive to the "superior
races" that created them, since they led to the mixing of distinct
races. Instead, he saw the later period of the 19th century
imperialism as a degenerative process in European civilization. He
continually referred to past empires in Europe and their attendant
movement of non-white peoples into European homelands, in explaining
the ethnography of the nations of Europe.
According to his theories, the mixed populations of Spain, most of
France and Italy, most of Southern Germany, most of Switzerland and
Austria, and parts of Britain derived from the historical development
of the Roman, Greek, and Ottoman empires, which had brought the
Aryan peoples of Africa and the Mediterranean cultures to western
and northern Europe. He believed that the populations of southern and
western Iran, southern Spain and Italy consisted of a degenerative
race arising from miscegenation, and that the whole of north India
consisted of a "yellow" (Asian) race. Gobineau was extremely hostile
towards Slavic peoples, especially Russians who, he claimed, had
become a semi-Asian people as a result of miscegenation under the
Golden Horde. He described the Slavs as "a stagnant marsh in which
all superior ethnic strains after a few hours of triumph found
Novels and essays
Besides promoting racism, Gobineau also wrote several well received
novels. Writers such as Marcel Proust,
Jean Cocteau and André Gide
have all praised Gobineau as one of France's greatest novelists.
In his native France, he has been and is still is often praised by
literary critics as a master of French style whose novels were written
with elegant verve and a superb sense of irony. The French critic
Pierre-Louis Rey and the British historian
Michael D. Biddiss have
both decried the tendency of the part of French critics to sever
Gobineau the racist from Gobineau the novelist, maintaining that
Gobineau's novels just as much reflect his racial theories as does the
Essai. Gobineau's 1874 novel Les Pléiades is concerned with a
few exceptionally talented people who are examples of "ethnic
persistence" in Europe surrounded by vast masses of morons. In
his introduction to Les Pléiades, Gobineau stated that the purpose of
the novel was to advance the theory "that there are no longer classes,
that there are no longer peoples, but only—in the whole of
Europe—certain individuals who float like the wreckage upon the
flood". In Les Pléiades, the selected few flee from modern
France to the fictional country of Burbach, which is located somewhere
in Central Europe in an attempt to maintain the purity of their blood
while they half-sadly, half-contently watch the destruction of
European civilization from the safety of Burbach. In Les
Pléiades, Gobineau has the hero Casimir Bullet say about France: "I
have… this great misfortune of harboring the most absolute contempt
and the most outspoken hatred for that part of Europe where I was
born. It does not suit me to see a people once so great henceforth
lying on the ground, decomposing". Throughout Les Pléiades,
ordinary people are described variously as "fools", "scoundrels" and
"brutes" whom Gobineau likens to animals. Another one of
Gobineau's literacy works was his Nouvelles Asiatiques of 1876, which
concerned the impact of miscegenation in modern Asia as reflected in
the life stories of a diverse group of people. Nouvelles
Asiatiques is unique as the only one of Gobineau's novels to feature
non-white protagonists, and through in common with his other novels is
fundamentally pessimistic in its message, it also allowed Gobineau's
Persophilia to shine through as Gobineau had a deep affection
Persia (modern Iran). Despite its title, Nouvelles Asiatiques
are a series of "Oriental" short stories set in Persia, Afghanistan
and Central Asia with a recurring theme being the character of the
people there was determined by race with example an Uzbek noblewoman
adopted by a Russian officer retaining the ferocity of her race by
attempting to blind the biological daughter of the officer while an
Afghan prince raises far above the rest due to his
In his 1877 novel La Renaissance, Gobineau again highlights the theme
of a few gifted "Aryan" heroes such as Cesare Borgia and Pope Julius
II having the misfortune of being surrounded by an endless multitude
of debased inferiors. In La Renaissance, Gobineau attacked the
entire idea of morality as the basis of action, arguing that superior
few should not be governed by any set of universal moral values.
As such, Pope Alexander VI is presented as a hero in La Renaissance,
precisely because of the utterly ruthless way in which he advanced the
interests of the Borgia family in defiance of morality. In La
Renaissance, Gobineau has Alexander tell Lucretia Borgia: "For the
kind of person whom destiny calls to dominate others, the ordinary
rules of life are reversed and duty becomes quite different. Good and
evil are transferred to another and higher plane…". Biddiss
wrote that Gobineau's philosophy was one of "utter dehumanization" of
the weak and a glorification of the strong, making Gobineau into an
incipient fascist with his thesis that amoral violence was completely
acceptable when committed by the
Aryan elite. Biddiss argued that
it was impossible to sever Gobineau the racist from Gobineau the
novelist as several French critics had attempted to do, and that
everything that Gobineau wrote was the expression of the same racist
philosophy that he expressed in the Essai.
Minister to Sweden
In May 1872 Gobineau was appointed the French minister to Sweden.
After arriving in Stockholm, Gobineau wrote to his sister Caroline:
"This is the pure race of the North—that of the masters", calling
the Swedes "the purest branch of the Germanic race". In contrast
to France, Gobineau was impressed with the lack of social conflict in
Sweden, writing to Dragoumis: "There is no class hatred. The nobility
lives on friendly terms with the middle class and with the people at
large". To the wife of Mohl, Gobineau expressed his amazement:
"Just imagine workers who agree with their employers without
threatening strikes, and bosses who understand that their employees
must eat and who increase wages without having to be begged—and both
these parties lashing out at the International!". Gobineau argued
that because of Sweden's remote location in Scandinavia, that Aryan
blood had been better preserved as compared to France, writing about
the accession of Oscar II to the Swedish throne in 1872: "This country
is unique… I have just seen one king die and another ascend the
throne without anyone doubling the guard or alerting a soldier".
The essential conservatism of Swedish society also impressed Gobineau
as he wrote to Pedro II: "The conservative feeling is amongst the most
powerful in the national spirit and these people relinquish the past
only step by step and with extreme caution". Sweden presented a
problem for Gobineau between reconciling his belief in an
race with his insistence that only the upper classes were Aryans,
which he eventually resolved by denouncing the Swedes as debased
Aryans after all. Gobineau used the fact that King Oscar allowed
Swedish democracy to exist and did not try to rule as an absolute
monarch as evidence that the House of Bernadotte were all weak and
cowardly kings. By 1875, Gobineau was writing "Sweden horrifies
me" and wrote with disgust about "Swedish vulgarity and
contemptibility". In a letter to Pedro II, Gobineau called
British foreign policy nothing than a series of "wild adventures" and
predicted with British politics dominated by the Liberal William
Gladstone, whom Gobineau called empty-headed and inept and the
Conservative Benjamin Disreali, whom Gobineau called a scheming Jew,
the days of the British empire were numbered.
In 1874, Gobineau met the homosexual German diplomat Prince Philip von
Stockholm and became very close to him. Eulenburg
was later to fondly recall how he and Gobineau had spent hours during
their time in Sweden under the "Nordic sky, where the old world of the
gods lived on in the customs and habits of the people as well in their
hearts." Gobineau in his turn was later to write that only two
people in the entire world had ever properly understood his racist
philosophy, namely Wagner and Eulenburg. Gobineau encouraged
Eulenburg to promote his theory of an
Aryan master-race, telling him:
"In this way you will help many people understand things sooner."
Later, Eulenburg was to complain that all of his letters to Gobineau
had to be destroyed because "They contain too much of an intimately
personal nature". During his time in Sweden, Gobineau became
obsessed with the Vikings and became intent on proving he was
descended from the Norse. When Gobineau and Eulenburg visited the
coast, Gobineau stood upon the rocks at Djursholm and announced: "This
is the seat of Ottar Jarl. From hence I sprang—I can feel it!".
Gobineau was so obsessed with Vikings and his supposed descent from
them that he started writing a pseduo-family history showing his
alleged descent from
Ottar Jarl during his time in Sweden.
Gobineau's time in
Stockholm was a very productive period for him from
the literacy viewpoint as he wrote Les Pléiades, Les Nouvelles
Asiatiques, La Renaissance, most of Historie de
Ottar Jarl and
completed the first half of his epic poem
Amadis while serving as
minister to Sweden.
During his time in Sweden, Gobineau, although remaining outwardly
faithful to the Catholic Church, had privately abandoned his belief in
Christianity and was very interested in the pagan religion of the
Vikings, which seemed more authentically
Aryan to him. In a
letter to his sister, Gobineau wrote that he longer believed in
Catholicism, before writing: "I have never been included among the
free-thinkers and I never shall be. On the contrary, I shall always be
counted among the Catholics and, if need be, I should take Communion
with great ceremony at the top of the towers of Notre-Dame so that
people cold see this better. Do you know why? It is because I hate
this age!" For Gobineau, maintaining his Catholicism was a symbol
of his reactionary politics and rejection of liberalism, and it for
these reasons that he continued to nominally observe Catholicism.
Gobineau told his friend the Comte de Basterot that he wanted a
Catholic burial only because the de Gobineaus had always been buried
in Catholic ceremonies, not because of any belief in Catholicism.
In 1879, Gobineau attempted to prove his own racial superiority over
the rest of the French with his pseudo-family history Historie de
Ottar Jarl, pirate norvégien conquérant du pays de Bray en Normandie
et de sa descendance (History of Ottar Jarl, Norwegian pirate and
conqueror of Normandy and his descendants), which begins with the line
"I descend from Odin", and traces Gobineau's supposed descent from the
Viking Ottar Jarl, which for Gobineau triumphantly meant he was of
Aryan descent. As the de Gobineau family first appeared in
history in late 15th century Bordeaux and Ottar Jarl—who may or may
not have been a real person—is said to have lived in the 10th
century, Gobineau had to resort to a great deal of invention to make
his genealogy work. In Historie de Ottar Jarl, Gobineau attacked
Christianity for its message of universal salvation, writing: "Nothing
was more opposed to the exclusive principles of the
Aryans have a natural tendency to find god in themselves and to
believe that what is useful to them is in itself right and
sacred". Gobineau praised the Viking raids and conquests that
terrified Europe in the Dark Ages as he maintained for Aryans "might
was right", and because the
Aryan Vikings were stronger, they were
right to raid and conquer others weaker than themselves. For
Gobineau, the Essai, the Historie des Perses and Historie de Ottar
Jarl comprised a trilogy, what the French critic Jean Caulmier called
"a poetic vision of the human adventure", covering the universal
history of all races in the Essai, to the history of the
Persia in Historie des Perses and to his own family's history in
Historie de Ottar Jarl.
Though a proud Frenchman, Gobineau was fairly cosmopolitan, and
regarded himself as a part of a cultured European elite that
transcended national loyalties, a good Frenchman but even more so a
"good European"; the aristocratic Gobineau felt more affinity for
fellow aristocrats of other nationalities than he did for French
commoners. The Czech historian Ivo Budil called Gobineau "...a
cosmopolitan thinker who did not feel wholly French" and who was
obsessed with ancient Greece and Persia. In 1876, he accompanied
his close friend Emperor
Pedro II of Brazil
Pedro II of Brazil on his trip to Russia,
Greece and the Ottoman Empire, and introduced Pedro to both Emperor
Alexander II of Russia
Alexander II of Russia and the Sultan
Abdul Hamid II
Abdul Hamid II of the Ottoman
Empire. Gobineau took his friend on a guided tour of Athens, a
city that Gobineau called "heaven on earth" due to its ruins.
Inspired by his last visit to Greece, Gobineau started writing what
became his 1878 book Le Royaume des Hellènes arguing that the
achievements of ancient Greece were all due to the Aryans, and that
there existed no connection between the ancient Greeks and modern
Greeks, as the
Aryan blood was all gone. After leaving Pedro in
Constantinople, Gobineau traveled to
Rome for a private audience with
Pope Pius IX. During his visit to Rome, Gobineau met and
befriended the German composer
Richard Wagner and his wife Cosima
Wagner. Wagner was greatly impressed with the Essai sur
l'inégalité des races humaines and he used his newspaper, the
Bayreuther Blätter to popularize Gobineau's racial theories in
Germany. Gobineau in his turn was greatly impressed with Wagner's
music and, unusually for a Frenchman, Gobineau became a member of the
Bayreuth Circle. Wagner was fascinated by Gobineau's racial
theories, and much of his writings from 1876 onwards showed Gobineau's
influence. Field wrote that "Gobineau's chief work, Essai sur
l'inégalité des races humaines contained a far more detailed and
closely argued explanation for cultural decadence than anything Wagner
had written. Indeed, this synthesis of anthropology, theology,
linguistics and history was unquestionably the most impressive and
ideologically coherent racial analysis produced in the pre-Darwinian
After becoming associated with Wagner, many of Gobineau's ideas were
incorporated into Wagner's later operas.
Cosima Wagner wrote to
Gobineau in May 1881 to tell him: "My husband is quite at your
service, always reading The Races when he is not at work with the
staging." Gobineau wrote back to say: "I assure you there is no
Bayreuthian more faithful than I". Wagner, while accepting the
basic ideas of Gobineau into his philosophy, rejected Gobineau's
pessimism about the fate of the Aryans. Instead, Wagner created
the concept of regeneration, where the Aryans would return to their
former glory by embracing his theories of art and rejecting what
Wagner called the corrupting influence of the Jews.
For leaving his post in Stockholm, without permission, to join the
Emperor Pedro II on his European visit, Gobineau was told in January
1877 to either resign from the Quai d'Orsay or be fired. Gobineau
chose the former. Gobineau spent his last years living in Rome, a
lonely and embittered man whose principal friends were the Wagners and
Eulenburg. Gobineau saw himself as a great sculptor, and
attempted to support himself through selling his sculpture.In
1881 and again in 1882, Gobineau went to the Wahnfried, where he was
the guest of honor at Wagner's birthday parties. In 1906,
Eulenburg published the book Eine Erinneruung an Graf Arthur de
Gobineau (A Memoir of
Count Arthur de Gobineau) recollecting his
friendship with his "unforgettable friend" that distorted Gobineau's
theories to present him as a prophet who had shown that the coming
20th century was to be Germany's century.
"The Yellow Peril"
Völker Europas, wahrt eure heiligsten Güter ("Peoples of Europe,
guard your dearest goods," 1895) The
Yellow Peril painting. Much of
the imagery appears drawn from Gobineau's anti-Asian writings, via his
friend Prince Philip von Eulenburg who helped with turning Wilhelm
II's sketch into the painting.
In the last years of his life Gobineau was consumed with the fear of
what was later to be known as the "Yellow Peril", believing that
European civilization would soon be destroyed by a Chinese
invasion. Linked to his fear of China was Gobineau's fear of
Russia. During his visit to Russia in 1876 Gobineau wrote to a friend:
"It is undeniable that this country is well on the way to power and
aggrandizement" and in 1879 wrote Russia was about to present "the
spectacle of the creation of the greatest empire that the Universe
will ever have seen". Gobineau saw the growth of Russian power as
opening the door for a Chinese invasion of Europe, writing to Pedro II
in 1879: "What the Russians will have done within ten years will be to
have opened towards the West the flood-gates to the vast human horde
that we find so ill at east in China; and it is an avalanche of
Chinese and Slavs, mottled with Tartars and Baltic Germans, that will
put an end to the stupidities and indeed to the civilization of
Europe. The United States, which a fears a yellow invasion from the
direction of California, will gain little from all this. Europe will
lose everything!" In 1881, Gobineau published an article in
Richard Wagner's newspaper the
Bayreuther Blätter entitled "Ein
Urteil über die jetzige Weltage" ("A Judgment on the Present World"),
which was translated into German by
Cosima Wagner and whose
introduction was written by her husband, warning that the Chinese
would soon "overwhelm" and destroy Western civilization. Gobineau
called his essay Ce qui se fait en Asie "the sequel and the present
condition of the Essai". Referring to the near-genocidal
campaigns waged by the Chinese state to put down two Muslim
rebellions, namely the
Panthay Rebellion and the Dungan Revolt,
Gobineau wrote of the "persistent Chinese efforts to exterminate and
eradicate all Moslem peoples from their empire and from neighboring
areas. This great undertaking is the prime preoccupation of the Peking
government, now suddenly passionately aroused after centuries of total
indifference… China's actions are motivated neither by anger, nor by
offended and uncompromising religious faith, nor by fanaticism. The
blood-thirsty rage of the Chinese, obsessed with slaughtering and
eradicating the Moslems, is explained simply by thoughts of commercial
gain, and self-interest alone is the main motivating factor".
Gobineau argued that what had been done to the Muslims in the Chinese
empire would soon be repeated as it was the nature of the Chinese to
want to exterminate Westerners. Gobineau argued that Russian
railroad building operations in Siberia would easily allow the Chinese
to rapidly reach Europe. Gobineau praised racist laws meant to
restrict Chinese immigration to the United States, Canada, New
Zealand, Hawaii and Australia as a good first step, but warned that
"European civilization" was so rotten by miscegenation that it was
only a matter of time before the Chinese destroyed the West.
Gobineau gave artistic expression to his vision in his 1881 epic poem
Amadis where a small elite of
Aryan aristocrats ruling Europe are
threatened by a revolt of racially inferior commoners which allows the
Chinese to invade Europe; despite the fact that the
Aryan heroes are
superior in every respect to the Chinese "horde", the Aryans are
finally overwhelmed by sheer force of numbers and are
exterminated. In Amadis, the extermination of the Aryans marks
the destruction of everything good in the world and is the beginning
of a new dark age. In Amadis, Gobineau wrote about the masses: "Une
âme en eux?...Certes, très bien Ils savaient qu'ils n'en avaient
rien" ("A soul for them?...To be sure, they knew very well that they
had none"). In Amadis, Gobineau was at his most bitter, as he
attacked Jesus Christ for preaching universal salvation, which
Gobineau dismissed under the grounds that only the
Aryan elite have
souls. Biddiss wrote: "In the Essai he had compromised with
religious orthodoxy to the point where he had at least allowed all men
some limited rights and qualities by virtue of their common humanity.
Amadis negates even that. It is an assertion of the ego, of
aristocratic morality, of liberty, love and honor for the few alone.
The elite is deified while the rest of humanity is denied a soul or
after-life. Naturally, since we cannot be sure that Gobineau himself
really believed in the existence of a supernatural paradise, we should
not take too literally any associated remarks about the soul or
immortality". The Chinese are presented in
Amadis as subhuman
creatures unworthy of respect or love, deserving only to be
killed. In this regard, Biddiss wrote that it was not the Jews
whom Gobineau hated and feared the most, but rather the Slavs and the
Asians, believing that Europe would be destroyed by a Slavic-Asian
invasion sometime in the near future. Gobineau had always
believed in the superiority of elites who should not be guided by any
sort of morality and for whom the masses were destined to be their
Amadis was merely Gobineau's starkest declaration of this
belief that all of this writings had at very least implied. In
1868, Gobineau had written to Dragoumis: "You know that deep down my
sole political belief is that any man of real blood is created and put
into this world in order to take charge of lesser people", lamenting
that his fate was to be being a member of the
Aryan elite who sadly
was born in the 19th century.
In 1884, the French efforts to conquer Vietnam led to war breaking out
between France and China. The
Sino-French War led to immediate revival
of interest in Gobineau's anti-Asian writings in France, and several
French newspapers reprinted the French original of Gobineau's 1881
article in the Bayreuther Blätter, together with a translation of
Wagner's introduction warning about the imminent Chinese threat to
European civilization. Likewise, the Franco-Chinese war led to
the Essai sur l'inégalité des races humaines becoming popular in
France. The book had been published in four volumes (each about
1, 000 pages long) in 1853–55, and remained out of print for
decades. In 1884, just after the war with China began, the second
edition and third editions of the Essai sur l'inégalité des races
humaines were published in Paris, which was a direct result of the
war, as many French people suddenly became interested in a book that
had such an unflattering picture of Asians. The American
historian Gregory Blue wrote that, for Gobineau, China was a "deadly,
soulless menace" to the "white race", the merciless agent of impending
destruction of everything good in the world. Much of the imagery
Amadis appears in the infamous painting "The Yellow Peril" by
Hermann Knackfuss, which was inspired by a nightmare Kaiser Wilhelm II
had in April 1895, in which millions of Asians marched under a dark,
stormy cloud in which was a dragon carrying a Buddha wreathed in
flames, bringing death and destruction to Europe. As the first sketch
of what was to become the painting done by the Kaiser, it differs from
the finished product of September 1895, being considerably more
nightmarish, disturbing and terrifying. Blue suggested that there was
an "Eulenburg connection" at work here, arguing that Prince von
Eulenburg, who was probably Gobineau's lover and who certainly was the
best friend of Wilhelm II, had introduced themes from Gobineau's
anti-Asian writings into The Yellow Peril, as Knackfuss turned the
sketch provided by Wilhelm into a painting. The striking
similarities between Gobineau's anti-Asian writings and The Yellow
Peril painting can be best explained as Eulenburg, who knew well the
writings of his "unforgettable friend" Gobineau, being deeply involved
in helping Knackfuss turn the sketch Wilhelm had given him into a
painting that could be presented in public.
Gobineau's theories were a major influence on the Romanian radical
anti-Semitic politician Professor A. C. Cuza, who embraced Gobineau's
biological racism as a way of "proving" that the Jews were a "plague"
upon modern Romanian life. Like most of Gobineau's followers,
Cuza rejected his pessimism as too extreme, but Cuza argued that
Romanian people formed out of a fusion between the ancient Dacians and
Romans had best preserved the
Aryan blood, and that the Jews as a
biologically different people simply did not belong in Romania.
Cuza, who was deeply impressed with Gobineau, often used Gobineau's
theories and rhetoric of racial degeneration to frame his anti-Semitic
arguments about the "Jewish race". Cuza frequently claimed that
the Jews were a "plague" upon Romania as Cuza asserted that the
Romanian people were in the midst of the sort of racial degeneration
described by Gobineau, which for Cuza was naturally all caused by the
Jews. As Cuza at various times had been a mentor to various
figures on the Romanian radical right such as the Corneliu Zelea
Codreanu, the poet-politician Octavian Goga, and Marshal Ion
Antonescu, his influence was considerable in 1930s–40s Romania.
The Ottoman Empire
Gobineau's theories had a profound influence on the Committee of Union
and Progress (CUP). The Turks had originated from the land north
of the Great Wall of China and migrated across Eurasia to Anatolia.
The CUP called the homeland of the Turks
Turan and identified
themselves with Gobineau's Aryans. Gobineau was often mentioned in CUP
journals and in 1911 a journal dedicated to promoting the CUP's take
on Gobineau was founded in Salonika.
In his late writings,
Richard Wagner was positive about Gobineau and
suggested that one could not exclude the correctness of his racial
theory. At the same time, he also totally disagreed with Gobineau's
conclusion that miscegenation unavoidably resulted in the decline of
the human race and cultures. In his 1881 article Heldentum und
Christentum, Wagner praised the Essai, accepted its premise of an
Aryan master race and its denunciation of miscegenation, but he denied
Aryan race was in unstoppable decay. He thought that
Christ died for everyone, irrespective of race, and from this he drew
his hope for a fundamental regeneration of the "
Aryan race". Gobineau
visited Bayreuth, the home of Wagner, shortly before his death.
In 1894, the Wagnerite and anti-Semitic journalist Ludwig Schemann
founded the Gobineau Vereinigung (Gobineau Society) to promote
Gobineau's theories in Germany. Schemann was close to Cosima
Wagner and was inspired by her to found the Gobineau Vereinigung. The
Gobineau Vereinigung was a small group, but it exercised much
intellectual influence, and in this way did much to popularize the
theory of an
Aryan master-race in Germany. The Gobineauismus that
Schemann and the Gobineau Vereinigung promoted owed as much to Wagner
as it to Gobineau for the Gobineau Vereinigung rejected Gobineau's
pessimism and claimed that the
Aryan race could be saved.
Schemann, who was one of the most influential and best known race
theorists in Imperial Germany, projected an optimistic message about
the future of the
Aryan race while accepting Gobineau's basic idea
Aryan master race. Schemann was the man who popularized
Gobineau in Germany and it was largely through him rather than reading
the Essai directly that Gobineauismus was promoted in the Reich.
In 1937, Schemann was personally awarded the Goethe Medal by Hitler
for his "services to the nation and race".
Adolf Hitler and
Nazism borrowed much of Gobineau's ideology. However,
although a central figure in the development of degeneration theory,
Gobineau was not antisemitic, and may be characterised as
philosemitic, having written very positively about Jewish people,
including a long eulogy to them in his Essai sur l'inégalité des
races, describing them as "a free, strong, and intelligent people" who
succeeded despite the natural disadvantages of the Land of
Israel. In his later years, however, he inclined, according to
Paul Lawrence Rose, toward "a vague personal antisemitism." When
the Nazis adopted Gobineau's theories, they edited his work
extensively to make it conform to their views, much as they did
in the case of Nietzsche. Extracts from the Essai were mandatory
reading in German schools under the Third Reich. Gobineau's
fundamental pessimism with the best days of the Aryans long gone was
of little use to völkisch thinkers, through several völkishe writers
Houston Stewart Chamberlain
Houston Stewart Chamberlain did borrow Gobineau's idea about an
Aryan master race. The American historian Paul Fortier observed
it was striking the contrast between the fundamental optimism and
triumphant tone expressed by Chamberlain in his 1899 book The
Foundations of the 19th Century about the future of the Aryans vs. the
relentlessly downbeat and gloomy message of Gobineau's Essai.
Writing in April 1939, Rowbotham declared:
So after nearly a hundred years, the fantastic pessimistic philosophy
of the brilliant French diplomat is seized upon and twisted to the use
of a mystic demagogue who finds in the idea of the pure
excuse for thrusting civilization dangerously near back to the Dark
The pessimism of Gobineua's message did not lend itself to political
action as Gobineau did not believe that humanity could be saved from
racial degeneration. Biddiss wrote: "His racist ideology, through
rooted in social and political concerns and though claiming to explain
the nature of society itself, could not on his own terms effect any
transformation. But Gobineau unfortunately failed to realize the
degree to which such a theory-whatever his own view of its
impotence-might be capable of use and adaptation by others to affect
society and history. His work would in time be plundered by racists
with an interest in preaching explicitly reformatory doctrines".
Despite his highly negative assessment of Brazilians, Gobineau became
a hero to certain Brazilian intellectuals. In a 1906 essay, the
Sílvio Romero cited Gobineau together with Otto Ammon,
Georges Vacher de Lapouge and
Houston Stewart Chamberlain
Houston Stewart Chamberlain as having
proved that the blond "dolichocephalic" people of northern Europe were
the best and greatest race in the entire world, and wrote that Brazil
could become a great nation by having a huge influx of German
immigrants who would achieve the embranquecimento (whitening) of
Brazil. In 1912, Romero praised Gobineau in an essay for
"admirable, genius-like vision" and his "wise words that merit every
consideration" before launching what the American historian Thomas
Skidmore called a "violent polemic" against Brazil's mulatto
population as a racially degenerate people who should disappear from
Brazil. Oliveira Vianna in his 1920 book As populações
meridionais do Brasil offered lavish praise of Gobineau for his
denunciation of miscegenation and his disparaging remarks about black
and Indian Brazilians. Vianna's solution was a plan for the
"Aryanise" Brazil by bringing in millions of fair-skinned European
immigrants and thus achieve the "embranquecimento" of Brazil.
Vianna served as the education minister under the dictatorship of
Getúlio Vargas, where he was well known for his advocacy of the
advantages of "Aryan" immigration to Brazil. Right up until the
Second World War, Gobineau's writings were cited in Brazil in support
of the claim that miscegenation caused "physical degeneration" and
there must be no interracial sex in Brazil if the Brazilian people
were to have a positive future. By contrast, in reaction to
intellectuals like Vianna who cited Gobineau, the Brazilian writer
Gilberto Freyre wrote a series of books in the 1920s–30s praising
miscegenation and the black Brazilian culture, arguing that fusion of
white, black and Indians had given Brazil a distinctive culture and
the Brazilian people a distinctive appearance, creating the theory of
Lusotropicalism. Freyre argued that Gobineau was a snobbish
Frenchman who looked down upon Brazilians as not measuring up to
Europe, which led Freyre to reject the idea that Europe should be the
standard for Brazil, arguing the Brazilians had created a new
civilization based on an interaction of the descendants of Indians,
African slaves and European immigrants that was superior to the
Europeans with their obsession with racial purity. Freyre
dismissed the writings of Gobineau and Chamberlain as "diffuse,
loquacious and wrong".
Though in no way espousing his beliefs, the Baha'i faith recognise
Gobineau as the person who obtained the only complete manuscript of
the early history of the Bábí religious movement of Persia, written
by Hajji Mirzâ Jân of Kashan, who was put to death by the Persian
authorities in c.1852. The manuscript is held by the
Bibliothèque Nationale at Paris. He is also known to
students of Babism for having written the first and most influential
account of the movement, displaying a fairly accurate knowledge of its
history in Religions et philosophies dans l'Asie centrale. An addendum
to that work is a bad translation of the Bab's Bayan al-'Arabi, the
first Babi text to be translated into a European language.[citation
Gobineau wrote novels in addition to his works on race, notably Les
Pléiades (1874). His study La Renaissance (1877) also was admired in
his day. Both of these works strongly expressed his reactionary
aristocratic politics, and his hatred of democratic mass culture.
Works in English translation
The Moral and Intellectual Diversity of Races, J. B. Lippincott, 1856
(rep. by Garland Pub., 1984).
The Inequality of Human Races, G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1915.
The Inequality of Human Races, William Heinemann, 1915 [Thurland &
Thurland, 1915; Howard Fertig Pub., 1967; Rep., 1999].
Method of Reading Cuneiform Texts, Educational Society's Press, 1865.
Gobineau: Selected Political Writing,
Michael D. Biddiss (ed.),
Jonathan Cape, 1970.
The World of the Persians, J. Gifford, 1971.
The French Encounter with Africans, William B. Cohen, Bloomington:
Indiana University Press, 1980.
A Gentleman in the Outports: Gobineau and Newfoundland, Carleton
University Press, 1993.
Comte de Gobineau and Orientalism: Selected Eastern Writings, Geoffrey
Nash (ed.), Routledge, 2008.
Typhaines Abbey: A Tale of the Twelfth Century, Claxton, Remsen and
Romances of the East, D. Appleton and Company, 1878 [Rep. by Arno
"The History of Gamber-Ali." In The Universal Anthology, Vol. XX,
Merrill & Baker, 1899.
Five Oriental Tales, The Viking Press, 1925.
The Dancing Girl of Shamakha and other Asiatic Tales, Harcourt, Brace
and Company, 1926.
Tales of Asia, Geoffrey Bles, 1947.
Mademoiselle Irnois and Other Stories, University of California Press,
The Renaissance: Savonarola. Cesare Borgia. Julius II. Leo X. Michael
Angelo, G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1913 [Rep. by George Allen & Unwin,
The Golden Flower, G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1924 [Rep. by Books for
Libraries Press, 1968].
The Lucky Prisoner, Doubleday, Page and Company, 1926 [Rep. by
The Crimson Handkerchief: and other Stories, Harper & Brothers,
1927 [Rep. by Jonathan Cape: London, 1929].
The Pleiads, A. A. Knopf, 1928.
Sons of Kings, Oxford University Press, 1966.
The Pleiads, Howard Fertig Pub., 1978
Arthur de Gobineau
Arthur de Gobineau FRENCH DIPLOMAT, WRITER, AND ETHNOLOGIST".
^ "GOBINEAU, Joseph Arthur de". 2012.
^ a b c d Biddiss 1970, p. 45.
^ a b c d Biddiss 1970, p. 19.
^ a b Biddiss 1970, p. 14.
^ a b c d Budil 2008, p. 133.
^ a b Budil 2008, pp. 133-4.
^ a b c Biddiss 1970, p. 12.
^ Biddiss 1970, p. 11.
^ a b Biddiss 1970, p. 20.
^ Biddiss 1970, p. 13.
^ a b c d e Budil 2008, p. 134.
^ a b Irwin 2016, pp. 321-2.
^ a b Irwin 2016, p. 322.
^ Biddiss 1970, p. 15.
^ a b c d e Biddiss 1970, p. 16.
^ a b c d e f Budil 2008, p. 135.
^ Biddiss 1970, p. 17.
^ Biddiss 1970, p. 188.
^ Biddiss 1970, p. 18.
^ a b Biddiss 1970, p. 21.
^ a b c Budil 2008, p. 136.
^ Budil 2008, pp. 142-3.
^ Budil 2008, pp. 143-4.
^ a b Biddiss 1970, p. 33.
^ Biddiss 1970, pp. 20-1.
^ a b Biddiss 1970, p. 34.
^ Biddiss 1970, pp. 24-6.
^ Biddiss 1970, p. 24.
^ Biddiss 1970, p. 31.
^ Biddiss 1970, p. 42.
^ Biddiss 1970, p. 37.
^ Biddiss 1970, pp. 37-8.
^ a b Biddiss 1970, p. 38.
^ a b Biddiss 1970, p. 39.
^ Biddiss 1970, p. 38-39.
^ Richter, Melvin (1958). "The Study of Man. A Debate on Race: The
Tocqueville-Gobineau Correspondence," Commentary 25 (2), pp.
^ Alexis de Tocqueville, The European Revolution and Correspondence
with Gobineau, John Lukacz (ed.), Doubleday Anchor Books, 1959.
^ Beloff, Max (1986). "Tocqueville & Gobineau," Encounter, Vol.
LXVII, No. 1, pp. 29–31.
^ Tessitore, Aristide (2005). "Tocqueville and Gobineau on the Nature
of Modern Politics," The Review of Politics, Vol. 67, No. 4, pp.
^ Biddiss 1970, p. 47.
^ Richards, E. J. (1992), "Joseph-
Arthur de Gobineau
Arthur de Gobineau (14 July 1816-13
October 1882)", Dictionary of Literary Biography, A Bruccoli Clark
Layman Book, Tulane University: The Gale Group, Vol. 123:
Nineteenth-Century French Fiction Writers: Naturalism and Beyond,
1860–1900, pp. 101–117
^ Biddiss 1970, pp. 42-3.
^ Biddiss 1970, pp. 44-5.
^ Biddiss 1970, p. 44.
^ Biddiss 1970, pp. 60-1.
^ Biddiss 1970, p. 61.
^ a b Biddiss 1970, p. 62.
^ a b Blue 1999, p. 98.
^ a b Blue 1999, p. 99.
^ Biddiss 1970, p. 65.
^ Biddiss 1970, pp. 65-6.
^ a b Davies (1988)
^ a b Davies (1988) page 56.
^ Davies (1988) page 57.
^ a b Davies (1988) page 59.
^ a b c Davies (1988) pages 57–58.
^ a b Davies (1988) pages 59–60.
^ Biddiss 1970, p. 74.
^ Biddiss 1970, p. 73.
^ a b Biddiss 1970, p. 82.
^ Biddiss 1970, pp. 82-3.
^ Biddiss 1970, p. 83.
^ Biddiss 1970, p. 84.
^ a b Biddiss 1970, p. 89.
^ Biddiss 1970, p. 90.
^ a b Biddiss 1970, p. 88.
^ a b c Biddiss 1970, p. 91.
^ Biddiss 1970, pp. 91-2.
^ a b c Biddiss 1970, p. 92.
^ a b c Blue 1999, p. 100.
^ a b Blue 1999, p. 101.
^ Blue 1999, pp. 100-1.
^ a b c D'Souza 1995, p. 537.
^ Biddiss 1970, p. 107.
^ Blue 1999, p. 103.
^ Rowbotham 1939, p. 158.
^ a b c d e f g Irwin 2016, p. 325.
^ Blue 1999, pp. 101-2.
^ a b c Blue 1999, p. 102.
^ Biddiss 1970, pp. 123.
^ Irwin 2016, pp. 322-3.
^ a b J.A. Gobineau: The Moral and Intellectual Diversity of Races.
J.B. Lippincott & Co, Philadelphia (1856), p.337–338
^ a b c d Blue 1999, p. 97.
^ a b c Rowbotham 1939, p. 161.
^ a b Field, Geoffrey The Evangelist of Race The Germanic Vision of
Houston Stewart Chamberlain, New York: Columbia University Press, 1981
^ a b c d e D'Souza 1995, p. 538.
^ Mallory, J. P. (1991), In Search of the Indo-Europeans: Language,
Culture and Myth, London: Thames and Hudson, p. 125.
^ Nevenko Bartulin (4 July 2013). Honorary Aryans: National-Racial
Identity and Protected Jews in the Independent State of Croatia.
Palgrave Macmillan. p. 23. ISBN 978-1-137-33912-6.
^ Among the groups which Gobineau classified as
Aryan were the Hindus,
Iranians, Hellenes, Celts, Slavs, and the Germans. Ian Wood (September
2013). The Modern Origins of the Early Middle Ages. Oxford University
Press. p. 107. ISBN 978-0-19-965048-4.
^ A. J. Woodman, 2009, The Cambridge Companion to Tacitus, p. 294.
(The Germanic race was also regarded by Gobineau as beautiful,
honourable and destined to rule: 'cette illustre famille humaine, la
plus noble'. While arya was originally an endonym used only by
Indo-Iranians, "Aryan" became, partly because of the Essai a racial
designation of a race, which Gobineau specified as 'la race
^ So that the reader not be left in ignorance as to who the Aryans
are, Gobineau stated, La race germanique était pourvue de toute
l'énergie de la variété ariane ("The Germanic race was provided
with all the energy of the
Aryan race"). We see, then, that Gobineau
presents a racist theory in which the Aryans, or Germans, are all that
is good. Comparative literature. by American Comparative Literature
Association.; Modern Language Association of America. Comparative
Literature Section.; University of Oregon. 1967, page 342
^ a b Biddiss 1970, p. 148.
^ a b Biddiss 1970, p. 149.
^ a b Rowbotham 1939, p. 162.
^ Weinberg, Gerhard The Foreign Policy of Hitler's Germany Diplomatic
Revolution in Europe 1933–36, Chicago: University of Chicago Press
1970 page 4
^ a b Rowbotham 1939, pp. 159, 164.
^ Rowbotham 1939.
^ Biddiss 1970, pp. 142-3.
^ Biddiss 1970, pp. 142.
^ Davies, Alan Infected Christianity: A Study of Modern Racism,
Montreal: McGill Press, 1988 page 60.
^ Davies, Alan Infected Christianity: A Study of Modern Racism,
Montreal: McGill Press, 1988 pages 60–61.
^ Wright 1999, p. 839.
^ Wright 1999, pp. 831-852.
^ a b c d Biddiss 1970, p. 163.
^ Biddiss 1970, pp. 162-3.
^ a b c d e f g Irwin 2016, p. 323.
^ a b Biddiss 1970, p. 182.
^ Biddiss 1970, pp. 183-4.
^ Biddiss 1970, p. 184.
^ a b Biddiss 1970, p. 185.
^ a b c d e f Irwin 2016, p. 324.
^ a b Biddiss 1970, p. 183.
^ a b Wright 1999, p. 833.
^ Wright 1999, p. 837.
^ Wright 1999, pp. 837-8.
^ Wright 1999, p. 838.
^ Wright 1999, pp. 839-845.
^ Wright 1999, pp. 838-39.
^ Wright 1999, p. 846.
^ Wright 1999, p. 847.
^ Wilkshire 1993, p. 8.
^ Wilkshire 1993, p. 9.
^ a b Wilkshire 1993, pp. 24-5.
^ a b Gobineau 1993, p. 38.
^ Gobineau 1993, p. 40.
^ Gobineau 1993, p. 39.
^ Wilkshire 1993, p. 10.
^ Gobineau 1993, p. 104.
^ Gobineau 1993, p. 106.
^ Wilkshire 1993, p. 21.
^ a b Biddiss 1970, p. 199.
^ a b Biddiss 1970, p. 198.
^ Gobineau 1993, pp. 38-39, 57-51, 165.
^ Wilkshire 1993, p. 14.
^ a b Biddiss 1970, p. 201.
^ a b Biddiss 1970, p. 200.
^ Biddiss 1970, p. 186.
^ a b c d Irwin 2016, p. 326.
^ Irwin 2016, pp. 325-6.
^ a b c d e f Irwin 2016, p. 327.
^ a b Irwin 2016, p. 328.
^ a b Irwin 2016, p. 329.
^ a b c d Irwin 2016, p. 330.
^ a b c Irwin 2016, p. 331.
^ Biddiss 1970, p. 187.
^ Irwin 2016, pp. 324, 331.
^ a b c Irwin 2016, pp. 321-332.
^ a b Budil 2008, p. 147.
^ a b Biddiss 1970, p. 195.
^ a b c d Biddiss 1970, p. 191.
^ Biddiss 1970, pp. 191-2.
^ a b c d e f Biddiss 1970, p. 192.
^ a b c Biddiss 1970, p. 193.
^ a b Biddiss 1970, pp. 194-5.
^ a b Budil 2008, p. 149.
^ a b c d e f Budil 2008, p. 150.
^ a b c d e f g h i j k Skidmore, Thomas Black Into White: Race and
Nationality in Brazilian Thought, Durnham: Duke University Press, 1993
^ Skidmore, Thomas Black Into White: Race and Nationality in Brazilian
Thought, Durnham: Duke University Press, 1993 pages 30–31.
^ a b c d e Skidmore, Thomas Black Into White: Race and Nationality in
Brazilian Thought, Durnham: Duke University Press, 1993 page 31.
^ Biddiss 1970, pp. 202-3.
^ Biddiss 1970, p. 203.
^ Biddiss 1970, pp. 203-4.
^ a b Biddiss 1970, p. 205.
^ Biddiss 1970, p. 207.
^ a b Biddiss 1970, p. 208.
^ a b Biddiss 1970, p. 210.
^ Biddiss 1970, pp. 210-11.
^ Biddiss 1970, p. 211.
^ a b Biddiss 1970, p. 213.
^ a b Biddiss 1970, p. 214.
^ Biddiss 1970, p. 265.
^ Blue 1999, p. 104.
^ a b Blue 1999, p. 105.
^ Blue 1999, p. 106.
^ a b c d e Blue 1999, p. 108.
^ a b Blue 1999, pp. 108-9.
^ a b c d Blue 1999, p. 109.
^ Blue 1999, pp. 109-10.
^ Blue 1999, p. 110.
^ a b Blue 1999, pp. 110-11.
^ Blue 1999, p. 111.
^ a b c d Blue 1999, p. 112.
^ Blue 1999, pp. 112-13.
^ a b Blue 1999, p. 114.
^ Biddiss 1970, p. 3.
^ a b c d Biddiss 1970, p. 76.
^ a b Biddiss 1997, p. 78.
^ Biddiss 1970, p. 223.
^ Fortier 1967, pp. 341-2.
^ a b c d e f Biddiss 1997, p. 77.
^ a b c Biddiss 1970, p. 225.
^ Biddiss 1970, pp. 225-6.
^ a b Biddiss 1970, p. 226.
^ a b c Biddiss 1970, p. 228.
^ a b c d e Biddiss 1970, p. 229.
^ a b c d e Domeier, Norman The Eulenburg Affair: A Cultural History
of Politics in the German Empire, Rochester: Boydell & Brewer,
2015 page 171
^ Röhl, John The Kaiser and His Court, Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1994 page 54
^ a b c Biddiss 1970, p. 232.
^ Biddiss 1970, p. 233.
^ a b Rowbotham 1939, p. 154.
^ a b Biddiss 1970, p. 231.
^ Biddiss 1970, p. 230.
^ Blue 1999, p. 96.
^ Budil 2008, p. 153.
^ Blue 1999, pp. 96-7.
^ a b c Budil 2008, p. 151.
^ Budil 2008, pp. 151-2.
^ Blue 1999, p. 115.
^ a b Field, Geoffrey The Evangelist of Race The Germanic Vision of
Houston Stewart Chamberlain, New York: Columbia University Press, 1981
^ a b c d Field, Geoffrey The Evangelist of Race The Germanic Vision
of Houston Stewart Chamberlain, New York: Columbia University Press,
1981 page 153.
^ Biddiss 1997, p. 79.
^ Blue 1999, pp. 115-16.
^ a b Biddiss 1970, p. 251.
^ a b Biddiss 1970, p. 252.
^ Blue 1999, pp. 116-17.
^ Gobineau 1970, p. 243.
^ Gobineau 1970, pp. 243-4.
^ Gobineau 1970, pp. 245-6.
^ a b Blue 1999, p. 117.
^ a b c Biddiss 1970, p. 240.
^ Biddiss 1970, p. 254.
^ Biddiss 1970, p. 241.
^ Biddiss 1970, p. 242.
^ Blue 1999, pp. 118-9.
^ a b Blue 1999, p. 118.
^ Blue 1999, p. 133.
^ a b Blue 1999, pp. 128-9.
^ a b Bucur, Maria
Eugenics and Modernization in Interwar Romania,
Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2010 page 56.
^ a b Turda, Marius (April 2003). "Fantasies of Degeneration: Some
Remarks on Racial Anti-Semitism in Interwar Romania". Institute of
Human Sciences. Retrieved 2015-12-22.
^ a b Akçam, Taner A Shameful Act: The Armenian Genocide and the
Question of Turkish Responsibility, London: Macmillan, 2006 page 53.
^ Biddiss 1970, p. 256.
^ Bermbach, Udo, "Wagner und Gobineau: Zur Geschichte eines
Missverständnisses", WagnerSpectrum 9/1 (2013), 243–258.
^ a b Field, Geoffrey The Evangelist of Race The Germanic Vision of
Houston Stewart Chamberlain, New York: Columbia University Press, 1981
^ Biddiss, Michael "History as Destiny: Gobineau, H. S. Chamberlain
and Spengler" pages 73–100 from The Transactions of the Royal
Historical Society, Volume 7 April 1997 page 79.
^ a b c Drummond, Elizabeth "Schemann, Ludwig" page 640 from
Antisemitism: A Historical Encyclopedia of Prejudice and Persecution
edited by Richard Levy, Santa Monica: ABC-Clio, 2005 page 640.
^ Fortier 1967, pp. 341-350.
^ Gobineau, Arthur (1915). The Inequality of Human Races, translated
by Adrian Collins. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, p. 59.
^ Rose, Paul Lawrence. (2013). "Renan versus Gobineau: Semitism and
Antisemitism, Ancient Races and Modern Liberal Nations". History of
European Ideas. 39 (4): 528–540.
^ Sabine, George (1988). Historia de la Teoría Política. Madrid:
^ Biddiss 1970, p. 258.
^ Fortier 1967, pp. 350-51.
^ Fortier 1967, pp. 345-6.
^ Rowbotham 1939, p. 165.
^ Fortier 1967, p. 348.
^ Biddiss 1970, p. 260.
^ a b Skidmore, Thomas Black Into White: Race and Nationality in
Brazilian Thought, Durnham: Duke University Press, 1993 page 56.
^ a b c Drayton 2011, p. 44.
^ Burke, Peter & Pallares-Burke, Maria Lucia Gilberto Freyre:
Social Theory in the Tropics, Pieterlen: Peter Lang, 2008 page 61.
^ a b Drayton 2011, pp. 43-4.
^ Burke, Peter & Pallares-Burke, Maria Lucia Gilberto Freyre:
Social Theory in the Tropics, Pieterlen: Peter Lang, 2008 page 70.
^ Beum, Robert (1997). "Ultra-Royalism Revisited," Modern Age, Vol.
XXXIX, No. 3, pp. 290–322.
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Count Gobineau. Littlehampton Book Services Ltd.
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Blue, Gregory (1999). "Gobineau on China: Race Theory, the "Yellow
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Budil, Ivo (2008). Arthur Gobineau and Greece. A view of a man of
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Gobineau, Arthur de (1970). "Events in Asia". In Michael Biddiss,
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Beasley, Edward (2010). The Victorian Reinvention of Race: New Racisms
and the Problem of Grouping in the Human Sciences, Taylor &
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10, No. 1.
Dreher, Robert Edward (1970). Arthur de Gobineau, an Intellectual
Portrait, University of Wisconsin.
Gillouin, Rene (1921). "Mystical Race Theories," The Living Age, No.
Grimes, Alan P. & Horwitz, Robert H. (1959). "Elitism: Racial
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Haskins, Frank H. (1924). "Race as a Factor in Political Theory." In A
History of Political Theories, Chap. XIII, The Macmillan Company.
House, Roy Temple (1923). "Gobineau, Nietzsche, and Spiess," The
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Kale, Steven (2010). "Gobineau, Racism, and Legitimism: A Royalist
Heretic in Nineteenth-Century France," Modern Intellectual History,
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Rahilly, A. J. (1916). "Race and Super-Race," The Dublin Review, Vol.
Richards, Robert J. (8 November 2013). Was Hitler a Darwinian?:
Disputed Questions in the History of Evolutionary Theory. University
of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-05893-1. Retrieved 13 August
2015. Lay summary (28 October 2013).
Rowbotham, Arnold H. (1929). The Literary Works of
Count de Gobineau,
Schemann, Ludwig (1979). Gobineau, Arno Press.
Seillière, Ernest (1914). "The Life and Work of
Count Arthur de
Gobineau." In The German Doctrine of Conquest, Maunsel & Co.
Sorokin, Pitirim A. (1928). "Anthropo-Racial, Selectionist, and
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Arthur de Gobineau
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Valette, Rebecca M. (1969).
Arthur de Gobineau
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Voegelin, Eric (1997). Race and State, University of Missouri Press.
Works in other languages
Boissel, Jean (1993). Gobineau: Biographie. Mythes et Réalité, Berg
Buenzod, Janine (1967). La Formation de le Pensée de Gobineau et
l'Essai sur l'Inégalité des Races Humaines, Librairie A. G. Nizet.
Devaux, Philippe (1937–38). "L'Aristotélisme et le Vitalisme de
Gobineau," Revue Franco-belge, December/Janvier .
Dreyfus, Robert (1905). La Vie et les Prophéties du Comte de
Faÿ, Bernard (1930). Le Comte
Arthur de Gobineau
Arthur de Gobineau et la Grèce, H.
Gahyva, Helga (2002). O Inimigo do Século – Um Estudo Sobre Arthur
de Gobineau 1816–1882, IUPERJ.
Kleinecke, Paul (1902). Gobineau's Rassenphilosophie, Haack.
Lacretelle, Jacques de (1924). Quatre Études sur Gobineau, Á la
Lange, Maurice (1924). Le Comte Arthur de Gobineau, Étude
Biographique et Critique, Faculté de Lettres de Strasbourg.
Raeders, George (1988). O Inimigo Cordial do Brasil: O Conde de
Gobineau no Brasil, Paz & Terra.
Riffaterre, Michael (1957). Le Style des Pléiades de Gobineau, E.
Schemann, Ludwig (1913–16). Gobineau: eine Biographie, 2 Vol., K. J.
Schemann, Ludwig (1934). Gobineau und die Deutsche Kultur, B.G.
Smith, Annette (1984). Gobineau et l'Histoire Naturelle, E. Droz.
Spiess, Camille (1917). Impérialismes; la Conception Gobinienne de la
Race, E. Figuière & Cie.
Thomas, Louis (1941). Arthur de Gobineau, Inventeur du Racisme
(1816–1882), Mercure de France.
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An Essay upon the Causes of the Different Colours of People in
Different Climates (1744)
The Outline of History of Mankind (1785)
Occasional Discourse on the Negro Question (1849)
An Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races
An Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races (1855)
The Races of Europe (Ripley, 1899)
The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century (1899)
Race Life of the
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Heredity in Relation to Eugenics (1911)
Castes in India: Their Mechanism, Genesis and Development (1916)
The Passing of the Great Race
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The Rising Tide of Color Against White World-Supremacy
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The Myth of the Twentieth Century
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Annihilation of Caste
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The Races of Europe (Coon, 1939)
An Investigation of Global Policy with the Yamato Race as Nucleus
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