The Passing of the Great Race: Or, The Racial Basis of European History is a 1916 book by American eugenicist, lawyer, and amateur anthropologist Madison Grant. Though influential, the book was largely ignored when it first appeared; it went through several revisions and editions, but was never a best seller. Grant expounds a theory of Nordic superiority and argues for a strong eugenics program. Grant's proposal to create a strong eugenics program for the Nordic population to survive was repudiated by Americans in the 1930s and Europeans after 1945. It is considered one of the main works in the 20th century tradition of scientific racism and has been described by pro-immigration advocate and Open Society Foundations contributor Jonathan P. Spiro as "The Manifesto of Scientific Racism".
1.1 First section 1.2 Second section
2 Nordic theory
2.1 Grant's view of Nordic theory
3 Reception and influence 4 References 5 Further reading 6 External links
The book is organized into two sections:
The first section deals with the basis of race as well as Grant's own
stances on political issues of the day (eugenics). These center around
the growing numbers of immigrants from non-Nordic Europe. Grant claims
that the members of contemporary American Protestant society who could
trace their ancestry back to Colonial times were being out-bred by
immigrant and "inferior" racial stocks. Grant reasons that America has
always been a Nordic country, consisting of Nordic immigrants from
England, Scotland, and the Netherlands in Colonial times and of Nordic
immigrants from Ireland and Germany in later times. Grant feels that
certain parts of Europe were underdeveloped and a source of racial
stocks unqualified for the Nordic political structure of the U.S.
Grant is also interested in the impact of the expansion of America's
Black population into the urban areas of the North.
Grant reasons that the new immigrants were of different races and were
creating separate societies within America including ethnic lobby
groups, criminal syndicates, and political machines which were
undermining the socio-political structure of the country and in turn
"Maximum Expansion of Alpines" — Map from The Passing of the Great Race showing the "essentially peasant" (p. 228) Alpine migrations into Europe.
"Expansion of the Pre-Teutonic Nordics" — Early Nordic influence spreading over the continent.
Grant's book is an elaborate work of racial hygiene detailing the
racial history of the world. He draws on the scientific theories of
genetics and Darwinian evolution, as well as the writings of previous
eugenicists and racialist authors, to create a clearly written
synthesis aimed at the general reader.
In summary the book elaborates Grant's interpretation of contemporary
anthropology and history, which he sees as revolving chiefly around
the idea of race rather than environment. He specifically promotes the
idea of the
A rigid system of selection through the elimination of those who are weak or unfit—in other words social failures—would solve the whole question in one hundred years, as well as enable us to get rid of the undesirables who crowd our jails, hospitals, and insane asylums. The individual himself can be nourished, educated and protected by the community during his lifetime, but the state through sterilization must see to it that his line stops with him, or else future generations will be cursed with an ever increasing load of misguided sentimentalism. This is a practical, merciful, and inevitable solution of the whole problem, and can be applied to an ever widening circle of social discards, beginning always with the criminal, the diseased, and the insane, and extending gradually to types which may be called weaklings rather than defectives, and perhaps ultimately to worthless race types.
"Expansion of the Teutonic Nordics and Slavic Alpines"—Further Nordic expansion, as well as the Alpines.
Other messages in his work include recommendations to install civil
organizations through the public health system to establish
quasi-dictatorships in their particular fields with the administrative
powers to segregate unfavorable races in ghettos. He also mentions
that the expansion of non-
"Present Distribution of the European Races"—Grant's vision of the status quo, with the Nordics in red, the Alpines in green, and the Mediterraneans in yellow.
In Grant's view, Nordics probably evolved in a climate which "must have been such as to impose a rigid elimination of defectives through the agency of hard winters and the necessity of industry and foresight in providing the year's food, clothing, and shelter during the short summer. Such demands on energy, if long continued, would produce a strong, virile, and self-contained race which would inevitably overwhelm in battle nations whose weaker elements had not been purged by the conditions of an equally severe environment" (p. 170). The "Proto-Nordic" human, Grant reasoned, probably evolved in "forests and plains of eastern Germany, Poland and Russia" (p. 170). The Nordic, in his hypothesis, was "Homo europaeus, the white man par excellence. It is everywhere characterized by certain unique specializations, namely, wavy brown or blond hair and blue, gray or light brown eyes, fair skin, high, narrow and straight nose, which are associated with great stature, and a long skull, as well as with abundant head and body hair." Grant categorized the Alpines as being the lowest of the three European races, with the Nordics as the pinnacle of civilization.
The Nordics are, all over the world, a race of soldiers, sailors, adventurers, and explorers, but above all, of rulers, organizers, and aristocrats in sharp contrast to the essentially peasant character of the Alpines. Chivalry and knighthood, and their still surviving but greatly impaired counterparts, are peculiarly Nordic traits, and feudalism, class distinctions, and race pride among Europeans are traceable for the most part to the north.
Grant, while aware of the "Nordic Migration Theory" into the Mediterranean, appears to reject this theory as an explanation for the high civilization features of the Greco-Roman world.
The mental characteristics of the
Yet, while Grant allowed Mediterraneans to have abilities in art, as quoted above, later in the text in a sop to Nordic Migration Theorists, he remarked that true Mediterranean achievements were only through admixture with Nordics:
This is the race that gave the world the great civilizations of Egypt,
of Crete, of Phoenicia including Carthage, of Etruria and of Mycenean
Greece. It gave us, when mixed and invigorated with Nordic elements,
the most splendid of all civilizations, that of ancient Hellas, and
the most enduring of political organizations, the Roman State. To what
In this manner, Grant appeared to be studiously following scientific theory. Critics warned that Grant used uncritical circular reasoning. His desirable characteristics of a people — "family life, loyalty, and truth" — were claimed to be exclusive products of the "Nordic race". Thus, whenever such traits were found in a non-Nordic culture, Grant said that they were evidence of a Nordic influence or admixture, rather than casting doubt on their supposed exclusive Nordic origin. Reception and influence By 1937, the book is said to have sold 17,000 copies in the U.S. The book received positive reviews in the 1920s, but Grant's popularity declined in the 1930s. Among those who embraced the book and its message was Adolf Hitler, who wrote to Grant to personally thank him for writing it, referring to the book as "my Bible." Spiro (2009) explains its modest sales by five factors:
The book appeared when the anti-German propaganda machine was shifting into high gear, with images of raping nuns and bombing cathedrals. The message was anti-democratic and anti-Christian, which did not sit well with the patriotic public. Hereditarianism ran counter to the belief in education, hard work, and "pulling oneself up by one's bootstraps." Immigration during the First World War declined because ships were allocated to the war effort. The work was categorised by the publisher as "science" and so never had a chance at mass popularity.
Grant researched the published scientific literature, especially in
anthropology, to support his notions of Nordic racialism.
According to Grant, Nordics were in a dire state in the modern world,
where their abandonment of cultural values rooted in religious or
superstitious proto-racialism, they were close to committing "race
suicide" by miscegenation and being outbred by inferior stock, which
was taking advantage of the transition.
^ Spiro (2009) p 167
^ "Temple.edu bio". Temple.edu. Retrieved 12 March 2018.
^ a b Spiro (2009) p 347
^ Spiro (2009) pp. 157–158
^ Grant, Madison (1921).
The Passing of the Great Race
Baker, Lee D. (1998). From Savage to Negro:
Passing of the Great Race available online Excerpts from Passing of the Great Race used at the Nuremberg Trials Passing of the Great Race (1921 ed.), available via Google Books
v t e
Historical race concepts
Black Bronze Brown Red White Yellow
Australoid Capoid Caucasoid Mongoloid Negroid
Alpine Arabid Armenoid Atlantid Borreby Brunn Caspian Dinaric East Baltic Ethiopid Hamitic Dravidian Irano-Afghan Japhetic Malay Mediterranean Neo-Mongoloid Neo-Danubian Nordic Northcaucasian Ladogan Lappish Pamirid Proto-Mongoloid Semitic Turanid
Miscegenation Ethnogenesis List of racially mixed groups
Louis Agassiz John Baker Erwin Baur John Beddoe Robert Bennett Bean François Bernier Renato Biasutti Johann Friedrich Blumenbach Franz Boas Paul Broca Alice Mossie Brues Halfdan Bryn Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon Charles Caldwell Petrus Camper Samuel A. Cartwright Houston Stewart Chamberlain Sonia Mary Cole Carleton S. Coon Georges Cuvier Jan Czekanowski Charles Davenport Joseph Deniker Egon Freiherr von Eickstedt Anténor Firmin Eugen Fischer John Fiske Francis Galton Stanley Marion Garn Reginald Ruggles Gates George Gliddon Arthur de Gobineau Madison Grant John Grattan Hans F. K. Günther Ernst Haeckel Frederick Ludwig Hoffman Earnest Hooton Julian Huxley Thomas Henry Huxley Calvin Ira Kephart Robert Knox Robert E. Kuttner Georges Vacher de Lapouge Fritz Lenz Carl Linnaeus Cesare Lombroso Bertil Lundman Felix von Luschan Dominick McCausland John Mitchell Ashley Montagu Lewis H. Morgan Samuel George Morton Josiah C. Nott Karl Pearson Oscar Peschel Isaac La Peyrère Charles Pickering Ludwig Hermann Plate Alfred Ploetz James Cowles Prichard Otto Reche Gustaf Retzius William Z. Ripley Alfred Rosenberg Benjamin Rush Henric Sanielevici Heinrich Schmidt Ilse Schwidetzky Charles Gabriel Seligman Giuseppe Sergi Samuel Stanhope Smith Herbert Spencer Morris Steggerda Lothrop Stoddard William Graham Sumner Thomas Griffith Taylor Paul Topinard John H. Van Evrie Otmar Freiherr von Verschuer Rudolf Virchow Voltaire Alexander Winchell Ludwig Woltmann
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
Eugenics Great chain of being Monogenism Polygenism Pre-Adamite
History of anthropometry Racial categorization
in India in Latin America
in Brazil in Colombia
in Singapore in the United States
Nazism and race
Racial hygiene Olive skin Whiteness
in the United States
Passing Racial stereotypes Martial race Master race Color names