The NORDIC RACE was one of the putative sub-races into which some
late 19th to mid 20th century anthropologists divided the Caucasian
race . People of the Nordic type were to be mostly found in the Nordic
countries . The psychological traits of Nordics were described as
truthful, equitable, competitive, naïve, reserved, and
individualistic. Other supposed sub-races were the
Alpine race ,
Dinaric race ,
East Baltic race , and the
Mediterranean race .
Nordicism was an ideology of racial separatism which viewed Nordics
as an endangered racial group, most notably in
Madison Grant 's book
The Passing of the Great Race
The Passing of the Great Race . This ideology was popular in the late
19th and early 20th centuries in some Northwestern , Central , and
Northern European countries as well as in
North America and Australia
. The Nazis claimed that the
Nordic race was the most superior of the
Aryan race " and constituted a master race (Herrenvolk).
* 1 Background
* 2 Defining characteristics
* 3 20th century
* 3.1 Gunther 1922
* 3.2 Coon (1939)
* 3.3 Depigmentation theory
* 4 Nordicism
* 4.1 In the United States
* 4.2 Nordicist thought in
* 4.3 Nordicist thought in Italy
* 4.3.1 Fascist Nordicism
* 5 Post-
Nazi re-evaluation and decline of Nordicism
* 5.1 Early criticism: depigmentation theory
* 5.2 Lundman (1977)
* 5.3 Forensic anthropology
* 6 21st century
* 7 See also
* 8 References
* 9 Further reading
* 10 External links
In the mid-19th century, scientific racism developed the theory of
Aryanism , holding that Europeans ("Aryans") were an innately superior
branch of humanity, responsible for most of its greatest achievements.
Aryanism was derived from the idea that the original speakers of the
Indo-European languages constituted a distinctive race or subrace of
the larger Caucasian race.
Its principal proponent was
Arthur de Gobineau
Arthur de Gobineau in his Essay on the
Inequality of the Human Races (1855). Though Gobineau did not equate
Nordic peoples with Aryans, he argued that Germanic people were the
best modern representatives of the
Aryan race. Adapting the comments
Tacitus and other Roman writers, he argued that "pure" Northerners
regenerated Europe after the
Roman Empire declined due to racial
"dilution" of its leadership.
By the 1880s a number of linguists and anthropologists argued that
the Aryans themselves had originated somewhere in northern Europe.
Theodor Poesche proposed that the Aryans originated in the vast
Pinsk Marshes , then in the
Russian Empire , now covering
much of the southern part of
Belarus and the north-west of the Ukraine
, but it was
Karl Penka who popularised the idea that the Aryans had
Scandinavia and could be identified by the distinctive
Nordic characteristics of blond hair and blue eyes.
Thomas Henry Huxley
Thomas Henry Huxley agreed with him, coining the term
Xanthochroi to refer to fair-skinned Europeans, as opposed to darker
Mediterranean peoples, whom Huxley called Melanochroi . It was
Huxley who also concluded that the Melanochroi (Peoples of the
Mediterranean race), who he described as "dark whites", are of a
mixture of the Xanthochroi and Australioids .
This distinction was repeated by Charles Morris in his book The Aryan
Race (1888), which argued that the original Aryans could be identified
by their blond hair and other Nordic features, such as dolichocephaly
(long skull). The argument was given extra impetus by the French
Vacher de Lapouge in his book L’Aryen, in which he
argued that the "dolichocephalic-blond" peoples were natural leaders,
destined to rule over more brachycephalic (short-skulled) peoples.
Friedrich Nietzsche also referred in his writings to
"blond beasts": amoral adventurers who were supposed to be the
progenitors of creative cultures. In On the Genealogy of Morals
(1887), he wrote, "In Latin malus ... could indicate the vulgar man as
the dark one, especially as the black-haired one, as the pre-Aryan
dweller of the Italian soil which distinguished itself most clearly
through his colour from the blonds who became their masters, namely
Aryan conquering race."
Henry Keane's Man, Past and Present (1899) shows a Dane as an
example of the Nordic type
It was the Russian-born French anthropologist
Joseph Deniker that
initially proposed "nordique" (meaning simply "northern") as an
"ethnic group" (a term that he coined). He defined nordique by a set
of physical characteristics: The concurrence of fair, somewhat wavy
hair, light eyes, reddish skin, tall stature and a dolichocephalic
skull. Of six 'Caucasian' groups Deniker accommodated four into
secondary ethnic groups, all of which he considered intermediate to
the Nordic: Northwestern, Sub-Nordic, Vistula and Sub-Adriatic,
William Z. Ripley
William Z. Ripley purported to define
scientifically a "Teutonic race" in his book The Races of Europe
(1899). He divided Europeans into three main subcategories: Teutonic
(teutonisch), Alpine and Mediterranean . According to Ripley the
"Teutonic race" resided in Scandinavia, north Germany, Baltic states
East Prussia , north
Poland , north
Russia , Britain ,
Central and Eastern Europe
Central and Eastern Europe and was typified by light hair ,
light skin, blue eyes , tall stature , a narrow nose, and slender body
Vacher de Lapouge had called this race "Homo Europaeus".
Madison Grant , in his book
The Passing of the Great Race
The Passing of the Great Race , took up
Ripley's classification. He described a "Nordic" or "Baltic" type:
"long skulled, very tall, fair skinned, with blond, brown or red hair
and light coloured eyes. The Nordics inhabit the countries around the
North and Baltic Seas and include not only the great Scandinavian and
Teutonic groups, but also other early peoples who first appear in
southern Europe and in Asia as representatives of
Aryan language and
According to Grant, the "Alpine race", shorter in stature, darker in
colouring, with a rounder head, predominated in Central and Eastern
Europe through to Turkey and the Eurasian steppes of
Central Asia and
Southern Russia. The "Mediterranean race", with dark hair and eyes,
aquiline nose, swarthy complexion , moderate-to-short stature, and
moderate or long skull was said to be prevalent in
Southern Europe ,
Middle East , and
North Africa .
By 1902 the German archaeologist
Gustaf Kossinna identified the
original Aryans (
Proto-Indo-Europeans ) with the north German Corded
Ware culture , an argument that gained in currency over the following
two decades. He placed the
Indo-European Urheimat in
Schleswig-Holstein , arguing that they had expanded across Europe from
there. By the early 20th century this theory was well established,
though far from universally accepted. Sociologists were soon using the
concept of a "blond race" to model the migrations of the supposedly
more entrepreneurial and innovative components of European
populations. As late as 1939 Carleton Coon wrote that "The Poles who
came to the United States during the 19th century, and the early
decades of the 20th, did not represent a cross-section of the Polish
population, but a taller, blonder, longer-headed group than the Poles
as a whole." The "high brow"/"low brow" distinction, derived from
such theories, also became enshrined in language.
It was the already mentioned work of sociologist/economist William Z.
Ripley which popularized the idea of three biological European races.
Ripley borrowed Deniker's terminology of Nordic (he had previously
used the term "
Teuton "); his division of the European races relied on
a variety of anthropometric measurements, but focused especially on
their cephalic index and stature .
Compared to Deniker, Ripley advocated a simplified racial view and
proposed a single Teutonic race linked to geographic areas where
Nordic-like characteristics predominate, and contrasted these areas to
the boundaries of two other types, Alpine and Mediterranean, thus
reducing the 'caucasoid branch of humanity' to three distinct groups.
By the early 20th century, Ripley's tripartite
Nordic/Alpine/Mediterranean model was well established. Most 19th
century race-theorists like
Arthur de Gobineau
Arthur de Gobineau ,
Otto Ammon , Georges
Vacher de Lapouge and
Houston Stewart Chamberlain
Houston Stewart Chamberlain preferred to speak
of "Aryans," "Teutons," and "Indo-Europeans" instead of "Nordic Race".
The British German racialist
Houston Stewart Chamberlain
Houston Stewart Chamberlain considered
Nordic race to be made up of Celtic and
Germanic peoples , as well
as some Slavs . Chamberlain called those people Celt-Germanic peoples,
and his ideas would influence
Adolf Hitler 's
Only in the 1920s did a strong partiality for "Nordic" begin to
reveal itself, and for a while the term was used almost
interchangeably with Aryan. Later, however, Nordic would not be
co-terminous with Aryan, Indo-European or Germanic. For example, the
Nazi minister for Food,
Richard Walther Darré
Richard Walther Darré , who had
developed a concept of the German peasantry as Nordic race, used the
term 'Aryan' to refer to the tribes of the Iranian plains.
The notion of a distinct northern European race was also rejected by
several anthropologists on craniometric grounds. Rudolf Virchow
attacked the claim following a study of craniometry, which gave
surprising results according to contemporary scientific racist
theories on the "
Aryan race." During the 1885
Anthropology Congress in
Karlsruhe , Virchow denounced the "Nordic mysticism," while Josef
Kollmann, a collaborator of Virchow, stated that the people of Europe,
be they German, Italian, English or French, belonged to a "mixture of
various races," furthermore declaring that the "results of craniology"
led to "struggle against any theory concerning the superiority of this
or that European race".
Hans F. K. Günther 's map, from 1922, with the Nordic race
shown in bright red; light brown indicates the
Dinaric race ; light
blue indicates the
Mediterranean race ; yellow, the Mongolian race .
Rassenkunde des deutschen Volkes (Racial
Science of the German
People), published 1922,
Hans F. K. Günther identified five principal
European races instead of three, adding the
East Baltic race (related
to the Alpine race) and
Dinaric race (related to the Nordic race) to
Ripley's categories. This work was influential in
Ewald Banse 's
publication of Die Rassenkarte von Europa in 1925 which combined
Joseph Deniker ,
William Z. Ripley
William Z. Ripley ,
Madison Grant , Otto
Hans F. K. Günther ,
Eugen Fischer and Gustav Kraitschek.
In THE RACIAL ELEMENTS OF EUROPEAN HISTORY Gunther further identified
a race he named Hither Asiatic in Southern Spain and Morocco which he
believed was carried into Europe through the Moorish invasions. He
identified an Inner Asiatic race residing in Northern
Northern Russia. He also identified the Oriental race residing and
originating from Arabia, as well as the Near Asiatic race originating
Gunther concluded that
Germany was one of the most racially diverse
nations of Europe and that all racial groups, in varying
distributions, could be found in any European nation. Gunther argued
Jews are a nationality and not a race, comprising several racial
groups including Nordics, but predominantly Hither Asiatic and
Carleton Coon in his book of 1939 The Races of Europe subdivided the
Nordic race into three main types, "
Corded ", "Danubian" and "Keltic",
besides a "Neo-Danubian" type and a variety of Nordic types altered
by Upper Palaeolithic or Alpine admixture. "Exotic Nordics" are
morphologically Nordic types that occur in places distant from the
northwestern European center of Nordic concentration.
Coon takes the Nordics to be a partially depigmented branch of the
greater Mediterranean racial stock. He suggests that the Nordic type
emerged as a result of a mixture of "the Danubian Mediterranean strain
with the later
Corded element". Hence his two main Nordic types show
Corded and Danubian predominance, respectively . The third "Keltic"
or "Hallstatt " type Coon takes to have emerged in the European Iron
Age, in Central Europe, where it was subsequently mostly replaced, but
"found a refuge in Sweden and in the eastern valleys of southern
Coon further recognizes the following terminology of earlier authors:
* Fenno-Nordic, "a hypothetical eastern branch of the Nordic race"
* Nordic, "a blond, Dinaricized Nordic"
* Osterdal type, "the classic Iron Age Nordic, as found today in the
eastern valleys of Norway"
* Sub-Nordic, "a racial group which would fall partly in the East
Baltic and partly in the Neo-Danubian categories"
* Trønderlagen type or Trønder type, "a variety of Nordic with an
Corded element and Upper Palaeolithic mixture"
Anglo-Saxon type, "a sub-type of Nordic which contains unreduced
Upper Palaeolithic mixture"
Coon's (1939) theory that the
Nordic race was a depigmentated
variation of the greater Mediterranean racial stock was also supported
by his mentor
Earnest Albert Hooton who in the same year published
Twilight of Man, which notes: "The
Nordic race is certainly a
depigmented offshoot from the basic long-headed Mediterranean stock.
It deserves separate racial classification only because its blond hair
(ash or golden), its pure blue or grey eyes". A 1990s study by
Ulrich Mueller found that depigmentation of Nordic peoples around the
Baltic Sea likely occurred due to vitamin D deficiency amongst peoples
living there 10,000-30,000 years ago who had a lack of access to
vitamin D foods such as dairy products at the time. Depigmentation
allowed greater amount of ultraviolet B light to be absorbed through
the skin to synthesize to produce vitamin D.
Master race and
Racial supremacy Not to be
By the early twentieth century the concept of a "masterly" Nordic
race had become familiar enough that the British psychologist William
McDougall , writing in 1920, stated:
Among all the disputes and uncertainties of the ethnographers about
the races of Europe, one fact stands out clearly—namely, that we can
distinguish a race of northerly distribution and origin, characterised
physically by fair colour of hair and skin and eyes, by tall stature
and dolichocephaly (i.e. long shape of head), and mentally by great
independence of character, individual initiative and tenacity of will.
Many names have been used to denote this type, ... . It is also called
the Nordic type.
Nordicists claimed that Nordics had formed upper tiers of ancient
civilisations, even in the Mediterranean civilisations of antiquity,
which had declined once this dominant race had been assimilated. Thus
they argued that ancient evidence suggested that leading Romans like
Sulla and Cato were blond or red-haired.
Some Nordicists admitted the
Mediterranean race was superior to the
Nordic in terms of artistic ability. However, the
Nordic race was
regarded as superior on the basis that, although Mediterranean peoples
were culturally sophisticated, it was the Nordics who were alleged to
be the innovators and conquerors, having an adventurous spirit that no
other race could match.
Alpine race was usually regarded as inferior to both the Nordic
and Mediterranean races, making up the traditional peasant class of
Europe while Nordics occupied the aristocracy and led the world in
technology, and Mediterraneans were regarded as more imaginative.
Opponents of Nordicism rejected these arguments. The anti-Nordicist
Giuseppe Sergi argued in his influential book The Mediterranean
Race (1901) that there was no evidence that the upper tiers of ancient
societies were Nordic, insisting that historical and anthropological
evidence contradicted such claims. Sergi argued that Mediterraneans
constituted "the greatest race in the world", with a creative edge
absent in the Nordic race. According to him, they were the creators of
all the major ancient civilisations, from
Mesopotamia to Rome .
This argument was later repeated by C. G. Seligman, who wrote that
"it must, I think, be recognised that the
Mediterranean race has
actually more achievement to its credit than any other". Even
Carleton Coon insisted that among Greeks "the Nordic element is weak,
as it probably has been since the days of Homer ... It is my personal
reaction to the living Greeks that their continuity with their
ancestors of the ancient world is remarkable, rather than the
IN THE UNITED STATES
President Coolidge signs the 1924 immigration act, restricting
non-Northern European immigration.
John J. Pershing
John J. Pershing is on the
In the United States, the primary spokesman for Nordicism was the
Madison Grant . His 1916 book, The Passing of the Great
Race, or the Racial Basis of European History about Nordicism was
highly influential among racial thinking and government policy making.
Grant used the theory as justification for immigration policies of
the 1920s, arguing that the immigrants from certain areas of Europe,
such as Italians and other Southern Europeans and Eastern Europeans,
represented a lesser type of European and their numbers in the United
States should not be increased. Grant and others urged this as well as
the complete restriction of non-Europeans, such as the Chinese and
Grant argued the
Nordic race had been responsible for most of
humanity's great achievements, and admixture was "race suicide" and
unless eugenic policies were enacted, the
Nordic race would be
supplanted by inferior races. Future president
Calvin Coolidge agreed,
stating "Biological laws tell us that certain divergent people will
not mix or blend. The Nordics propagate themselves successfully. With
other races, the outcome shows deterioration on both sides."
Immigration Act of 1924 was signed into law by President
Coolidge. This was designed to reduce the number of immigrants from
Southern Europe, Southeast Europe, Eastern Europe and Russia, exclude
Asian immigrants altogether, and favor immigration from the British
Isles , Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway.
The spread of these ideas also affected popular culture. F. Scott
Fitzgerald invokes Grant's ideas through a character in part of The
Great Gatsby , and
Hilaire Belloc jokingly rhapsodied the "Nordic man"
in a poem and essay in which he satirised the stereotypes of Nordics,
Alpines and Mediterraneans.
NORDICIST THOUGHT IN GERMANY
Hans F. K. Günther (1891–1968), prominent German racial
theorist who helped to popularise Nordicism in his country.
In Germany, however, the influence of Nordicism remained powerful.
There it was known under the term "Nordischer Gedanke" (Nordic
This phrase was coined by the German eugenicists
Erwin Baur , Eugen
Fritz Lenz . It appeared in their 1921 work Human
Heredity, which insisted on the innate superiority of the Nordic race.
Adapting the arguments of
Arthur Schopenhauer and others to Darwinian
theory, they argued that the qualities of initiative and will-power
identified by earlier writers had arisen from natural selection ,
because of the tough landscape in which Nordic peoples evolved. This
had ensured that weaker individuals had not survived.
This argument was derived from earlier eugenicist and Social
Darwinist ideas. According to the authors, the
Nordic race arose in
the ice age, from:
quite a small group which, under stress of rapidly changing
conditions (climate, beasts of the chase) was exposed to exceptionally
rigorous selection and was persistently inbred, thus acquiring the
peculiar characteristics which persist today as the exclusive heritage
Nordic race ... Philological, archaeological and
anthropological researches combine to indicate that the primal home of
the Indo-Germanic languages must have been in Northern Europe.
They went on to argue that "the original Indo-Germanic civilisation"
was carried by Nordic migrants down to India, and that the physiognomy
of upper caste Indians "disclose a Nordic origin".
By this time,
Germany was well-accustomed to theories of race and
racial superiority due to the long presence of the
the philosophy that Germans constituted a unique people, or volk,
linked by common blood. While Volkism was popular mainly among
Germany's lower classes and was more a romanticised version of ethnic
nationalism, Nordicism attracted German anthropologists and
Hans F. K. Günther , one of Fischer's students, first defined
"Nordic thought" in his programmatic book Der Nordische Gedanke unter
den Deutschen. He became the most influential German in this field.
His Short Ethnology of the German People (1929) was very widely
Rassenkunde des deutschen Volkes (Race-Lore of the German
Volk), published 1922, Günther identified five principal European
races instead of three, adding the
East Baltic race and Dinaric race
to Ripley's categories. He used the term Ostic instead of Alpine. He
focused on their supposedly distinct mental attributes.
Günther criticised the
Völkish idea, stating that the Germans were
not racially unified, but were actually one of the most racially
diverse peoples in Europe. Despite this, many Völkists who merged
Völkism and Nordicism embraced Günther's ideas, most notably the
Nazism and race
Adolf Hitler was a
proponent of the concept of the
Aryan race and Aryanism. He viewed the
Nordic racial subtype as being at the top of the racial hierarchy
Adolf Hitler read Human Heredity shortly before he wrote
Mein Kampf ,
and called it scientific proof of the racial basis of civilisation.
Its arguments were also repeated by the
Nazi ideologist Alfred
Rosenberg , in his book
The Myth of the Twentieth Century (1930).
Nazi racial theories held the Atlanteans to be a race of Nordic
Alfred Rosenberg wrote of a "Nordic-Atlantean" master
race whose civilisation was lost through inward corruption and
betrayal. According to Rosenberg, the
Nordic race had evolved in a
now-lost landmass off the coast of Europe, perhaps mythical
migrated through northern Europe and expanded further south to Iran
and India where it founded the
Aryan cultures of
Hinduism . Like Grant and others, he argued that the entrepreneurial
energy of the Nordics had "degenerated" when they mixed with
With the rise of Hitler, Nordic theory became the norm within German
culture. In some cases the "Nordic" concept became an almost abstract
ideal rather than a mere racial category. For example, Hermann Gauch
wrote in 1933 (in a book which was banned in the Third Reich) that
the fact that "birds can be taught to talk better than other animals
is explained by the fact that their mouths are Nordic in structure."
He further claimed that in humans, "the shape of the Nordic gum allows
a superior movement of the tongue, which is the reason why Nordic
talking and singing are richer."
Such views were extreme, but more mainstream Nordic theory was
Hans F. K. Günther , who joined the
Nazi Party in
1932, was praised as a pioneer in racial thinking, a shining light of
Nordic theory. Most official
Nazi comments on the Nordic Race were
based on Günther's works, and
Alfred Rosenberg presented Günther
with a medal for his work in anthropology.
Eugen Fischer and
Fritz Lenz were also appointed to senior positions
overseeing the policy of
Racial Hygiene . Madison Grant's book was the
first non-German book to be translated and published by the
press, and Grant proudly displayed to his friends a letter from Hitler
claiming that the book was "his Bible."
Nazi state used such ideas about the differences between European
races as part of their various discriminatory and coercive policies
which culminated in the
Holocaust . Ironically, in Grant's first
edition of his popular book, he classified the Germans as being
primarily Nordic, but in his second edition, published after the USA
had entered World War I, he had re-classified the now enemy power as
being dominated by "inferior" Alpines.
Günther's work agreed with Grant's, and the German anthropologist
frequently stated that the Germans are definitely not a fully Nordic
people. Hitler himself was later to downplay the importance of
Nordicism in public for this very reason. The standard tripartite
model placed most of the population of Hitler's
Germany in the Alpine
category, especially after the
J. Kaup led a movement opposed to Günther. Kaup took the view that a
German nation, all of whose citizens belonged to a "German race" in a
populationist sense, offered a more convenient sociotechnical tool
than Günther's concept of an ideal Nordic type to which only a very
few Germans could belong.
Nazi legislation identifying the ethnic and "racial" affinities of
the Jews reflects the populationist concept of race. Discrimination
was not restricted to Jews who belonged to the "Oriental-Armenoid"
race, but was directed against all members of the Jewish ethnic
The German Jewish journalist Kurt Caro (1905–1979) who emigrated to
Paris in 1933 and served in the British Army from 1943, published a
book under the pseudonym Manuel Humbert claiming to unmask Hitler's
"Mein Kampf" in which he stated the following racial composition of
the Jewish population of Central Europe: 23,8% Lapponid race, 21,5%
Nordic race, 20,3% Armenoid race, 18,4% Mediterranean race, 16,0%
By 1939 Hitler had abandoned Nordicist rhetoric in favour of the idea
that the German people as a whole were united by distinct "spiritual"
Nazi eugenics policies continued to favour
Nordics over Alpines and other racial groups, particularly during the
war when decisions were being made about the incorporation of
conquered peoples into the Reich.
In 1942 Hitler stated in private,
I shall have no peace of mind until I have planted a seed of Nordic
blood wherever the population stand in need of regeneration. If at the
time of the migrations , while the great racial currents were
exercising their influence, our people received so varied a share of
attributes, these latter blossomed to their full value only because of
the presence of the Nordic racial nucleus.
Hitler and Himmler planned to use the SS as the basis for the racial
"regeneration" of Europe following the final victory of Nazism. The SS
was to be a racial elite chosen on the basis of "pure" Nordic
Addressing officers of the SS-Leibstandarte "Adolf Hitler" Himmler
The ultimate aim for those 11 years during which I have been the
Reichsfuehrer SS has been invariably the same: to create an order of
good blood which is able to serve Germany; which unfailingly and
without sparing itself can be made use of because the greatest losses
can do no harm to the vitality of this order, the vitality of these
men, because they will always be replaced; to create an order which
will spread the idea of Nordic blood so far that we will attract all
Nordic blood in the world, take away the blood from our adversaries,
absorb it so that never again, looking at it from the viewpoint of
grand policy, Nordic blood, in great quantities and to an extent worth
mentioning, will fight against us.
NORDICIST THOUGHT IN ITALY
In Italy, the influence of Nordicism had a divisive effect in which
the influence resulted in Northern Italians who regarded themselves to
have Nordic racial heritage considered themselves a civilised people
while negatively regarding Southern Italians as non-Nordic and
therefore biologically inferior. Nordicism was controversial in Italy
because of common Nordicist perceptions of Mediterranean people, and
especially southern Italians, being racially degenerate. The
distinction between a superior northern Italy and a degenerate and an
inferior southern Italy was promoted by the Neapolitan Carlo Formichi
, the Vice-President of the Italian Academy, who in 1921 said that
Italy needed "a great revolution ..., a return to the genius of the
Aryan race, which is after all our race, but that has been
overcome by the Semitic civilisation and mentality". At least some of
the stereotypes about Southern Italians were created by Cesare
Lombroso , an Italian Jewish criminologist and anthropologist of
Sephardic descent. For his controversial theories, Lombroso was
expelled from the Italian Society of
Anthropology and Ethnology in
1882. The Lombrosian doctrine is currently considered
Benito Mussolini . Mussolini was initially a strong proponent of
Mediterraneanism ; however with the rise in influence of pro-Nordicist
Nazism, Mussolini promoted Aryanism and recognised Italians as having
Italian Fascism 's stance towards Nordicism changed from being
initially hostile to being favourable.
Italian Fascism strongly rejected the common Nordicist conception of
Aryan race that idealised "pure" Aryans as having certain physical
traits that were defined as Nordic such as fair skin, blond hair and
light eyes. The antipathy by Mussolini and other Italian Fascists to
Nordicism was over the existence of what they viewed as the
Mediterranean inferiority complex that they claimed had been instilled
into Mediterraneans by the propagation of such theories by German and
Anglo-Saxon Nordicists who viewed Mediterranean peoples as racially
degenerate and thus in their view inferior. However traditional
Nordicist claims of Mediterraneans being degenerate due to having a
darker colour of skin than Nordics had long been rebuked in
anthropology through the depigmentation theory that claimed that
lighter skinned peoples had been dipigmented from a darker skin. This
theory has since become a widely accepted view in anthropology.
Carleton S. Coon in his work The races of Europe (1939)
subscribed to depigmentation theory that claimed that Nordic race's
light-coloured skin was the result of depigmentation from their
ancestors of the Mediterranean race. Mussolini refused to allow Italy
to return again to this inferiority complex, initially rejecting
In the early 1930s, with the rise to power of the
Nazi Party in
Germany with Hitler's emphasis on a Nordicist conception of the Aryan
race, strong tensions arose between the Fascists and the Nazis over
racial issues. In 1934, in the aftermath of Austrian Nazis killing
Engelbert Dollfuss , an ally of Italy, Mussolini
became enraged and responded by angrily denouncing Nazism. Mussolini
rebuked Nazism's Nordicism, claiming that the Nazis' emphasizing of a
common Nordic "Germanic race" was absurd, saying "a Germanic race does
not exist. ... We repeat. Does not exist. Scientists say so. Hitler
says so." That Germans were not purely Nordic was indeed acknowledged
Nazi racial theorist
Hans F. K. Günther in his book Rassenkunde
des deutschen Volkes (1922) ("Racial
Science of the German People"),
where Günther recognized Germans as being composed of five Aryan
subtype races: Nordic, Mediterranean, Dinaric , Alpine and East Baltic
while asserting that the Nordics were the highest in a racial
hierarchy of the five subtypes.
By 1936, the tensions between Fascist Italy and
and relations became more amicable. In 1936, Mussolini decided to
launch a racial programme in Italy, and was interested in the racial
studies being conducted by
Giulio Cogni . Cogni was a Nordicist but
did not equate Nordic identity with Germanic identity as was commonly
done by German Nordicists. Cogni had travelled to
Germany where he
had become impressed by
Nazi racial theory and sought to create his
own version of racial theory. On 11 September 1936, Cogni sent
Mussolini a copy of his newly published book Il Razzismo (1936).
Cogni declared the racial affinity of the Mediterranean and Nordic
racial subtypes of the
Aryan race and claimed that the intermixing of
Nordic Aryans and Mediterranean Aryans in Italy produced a superior
Aryan Italians. Cogni addressed the issue of racial
differences between northern and southern Italians, declaring southern
Italians were mixed between
Aryan and non-
Aryan races, that he claimed
was most likely due to infiltration by Asiatic peoples in Roman times
and later Arab invasions. As such, Cogni viewed Southern Italian
Mediterraneans as being polluted with orientalizing tendencies. He
would later change his idea and claim that Nordics and Southern
Italians were closely related groups both racially and spiritually.
His opinion was that they were generally responsible for what is the
best in European civilization. Initially Mussolini was not impressed
with Cogni's work, however Cogni's ideas entered into the official
Fascist racial policy several years later.
In 1938 Mussolini was concerned that if
Italian Fascism did not
recognise Nordic heritage within Italians, that the Mediterranean
inferiority complex would return to Italian society. Therefore, in
summer 1938, the Fascist government officially recognised Italians as
having Nordic heritage and being of Nordic-Mediterranean descent and
in a meeting with PNF members, and in June 1938 in a meeting with PNF
members, Mussolini identified himself as Nordic and declared that
previous policy of focus on
Mediterraneanism was to be replaced by a
focus on Aryanism. Mussolini in July 1938 declared that Italians had
strong Nordic heritage particularly through the heritage of the
Germanic tribe of the
Lombards who conquered Italy after the collapse
Roman Empire and claimed that the intermixing of Mediterranean
Romans with the Nordic
Lombards was the last significant racial mixing
that occurred in Italy and that none had occurred since.
POST-NAZI RE-EVALUATION AND DECLINE OF NORDICISM
Even before the rise of Nazism, Grant's concept of "race" lost favour
in the USA in the polarising political climate after
World War I
World War I ,
including the Great Migration and the
Great Depression . By the 1930s,
criticism of the Nordicist model was growing in Britain and America.
The British historian
Arnold J. Toynbee
Arnold J. Toynbee in A Study of History (1934)
argued that the most dynamic civilisations have arisen from racially
mixed cultures. In southern Europe the theory understandably had less
This required the abandonment of Grant's gradations of "white" in
favour of the "
One-drop theory "—which was embraced by white
supremacists and black supremacists alike. Among the latter were
Marcus Garvey , and, in part,
W. E. B. Du Bois , at least in his later
With the rise of Nazism many critics pointed to the flaws in the
theory, repeating the arguments made by Sergi and others that the
evidence of ancient Nordic achievement is thin when set against the
civilizations of the Mediterranean and elsewhere. The equation of
Aryan identity was also widely criticized.
In 1936 M.W. Fodor, writing in The Nation, claimed that racialized
Germanic nationalism arose from an inferiority complex :
No race has suffered so much from an inferiority complex as has the
National Socialism was a kind of Coué method of converting
the inferiority complex, at least temporarily, into a feeling of
Some Lombard nationalists took it up in Italy, but even after the
Benito Mussolini 's fascist government racial
theories were not prominent. Mussolini stated, "Nothing will ever
make me believe that biologically pure races can be shown to exist."
World War II
World War II , the categorisation of peoples into "superior"
and "inferior" groups fell even further out of political and
scientific favour, eventually leading to the characterisation of such
theories as scientific racism . The tripartite subdivision of
"Caucasians" into Nordic, Alpine and Mediterranean groups persisted
among some scientists into the 1960s, notably in Carleton Coon's book
The Origin of Races (1962).
Already race academics such as
A. James Gregor were heavily
criticising Nordicism. In 1961 Gregor called it a "philosophy of
despair", on the grounds that its obsession with purity doomed it to
ultimate pessimism and isolationism .
As late as 1977 the Swedish author
Bertil Lundman wrote a book The
Races and Peoples of Europe mentioning a "Nordid Race". The
development of the Kurgan theory of Indo-European origins challenged
the Nordicist equation of
Aryan and Nordic identity, since it placed
the earliest Indo-European speakers around central Asia and/or
far-eastern Europe (although according to the
Kurgan hypothesis some
Proto-Indo-Europeans did eventually migrate into Central and Northern
Europe and become the ancestors of the Nordic peoples.)
The original German term used by Ripley, "
Theodiscus ", which is
translated into English as Teutonic, has fallen out of favour amongst
German-speaking scholars, and is restricted to a somewhat ironical
usage similar to the archaic teutsch, if used at all. While the term
is still present in English, which has retained it in some contexts as
a translation of the traditional Latin Teutonicus (most notably the
Teutonic Order ), it should not be translated into
German as "Teutonisch" except when referring to the historical
EARLY CRITICISM: DEPIGMENTATION THEORY
Nordicism was subject to substantial criticism. Carleton Steven Coon
in his work The Races of Europe (1939) subscribed to depigmentation
theory that claimed that Nordic race's light-coloured skin was the
result of depigmentation from their ancestors of the Mediterranean
race . The depigmentation theory received notable support from later
anthropologists, thus in 1947
Melville Jacobs noted: "To many physical
anthropologists Nordic means a group with an especially high
percentage of blondness, which represent a depigmentated
Mediterranean". In her work Races of Man (1963, 2nd Ed. 1965) Sonia
Mary Cole went further to argue that the
Nordic race belongs to the
Caucasoid division but that it differs only
in its higher percentage of blonde hair and light eyes. The Harvard
Claude Alvin Villee, Jr. also was a notable proponent
of this theory, writing: "The Nordic division, a partially depigmised
branch of the Mediterranean group." Collier\'s Encyclopedia as late
as 1984 contains an entry for this theory, citing anthropological
support. Early 21st century genetic studies have provided new
insights into the origins of Irish people as well as their neighbours
from other parts of the
British Isles . Correspondingly, researchers
in the field have suggested that migrations from prehistoric Iberia
can be viewed as the primary source for their genetic material, having
demonstrated marked similarities with modern representatives of the
aforementioned time period in that of the
Basque people . However, the
majority of Irish males fall under the R1b sub-clade L-21, which is
quite rare for Basques.
In his work The Races and Peoples of Europe (1977) the Swedish
Bertil Lundman introduced the term "Nordid" to describe
the Nordic race, described as follows:
"The Nordid race is light-eyed, mostly rather light-haired,
low-skulled and long-skulled (dolichocephalic), tall and slender, with
more or less narrow face and narrow nose, and low frequency of blood
type gene q. The Nordid race has several subraces. The most divergent
is the Faelish subrace in western
Germany and also in the interior of
southwestern Norway. The Faelish subrace is broader of face and form.
So is the North-Atlantid subrace (the North-Occidental race of
Deniker), which is like the primary type, but has much darker hair.
Above all in the oceanic parts of
Great Britain the North-Atlantic
subrace is also very high in blood type gene r and low in blood type
gene p. The major type with distribution particularly in Scandinavia
is here termed the Scandid or Scando-Nordid subrace."
Some forensic scientists, pathologists and anthropologists up to the
1990s continued to use the tripartite division of
Caucasoids : Nordic,
Alpine and Mediterranean, based on their cranial anthropometry . The
Wilton M. Krogman for example identified Nordic racial
crania in her work "The Human Skeleton in Forensic Medicine" (1986) as
being "dolichochranic". In his work "Forensic Pathology", published
Bernard Knight , a Professor of Forensic Pathology, also uses
the tripartite model and identifies the
Nordic race based on its
dolichocephalic skull shape. Forensic anthropologists of the 21st
century however no longer continue to use the tripartite division of
Caucasoids , but instead only recognise
Mongoloid through analysis of skeletal remains and not subraces of
these racial groups.
Y-haplogroups in Europe
In the 21st century there is a prevailing view amongst many
anthropologists and biologists that completely "pure" races do not and
have not existed.
The emergence of population genetics further undermined the
categorisation of Europeans into clearly defined origin groups. A 2007
study on the genetic history of Europe found that the most important
genetic differentiation in Europe occurs on a line from the north to
the south-east (northern Europe to the Balkans), with another
east-west axis of differentiation across Europe. However, Finns
seem to mark an exception in European genetic groups, as they seem not
to share strong genetic relationship ties with other European
countries, but instead appear to be genetically a rather isolated
When looking at the
Y-chromosome there are three large haplogroups
which account for most of Europe's patrilineal descent .
Genetic history of Europe
Martial races theory
The Race Question
RACE AND POLITICAL MOVEMENTS:
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