Home Stories

Eugenics and other stories

  • Series
Colourful digital collage. Shown is a building, labelled 'City of London Orphan School, Brixton'. The building's interior is filled with different collage elements, including newspaper headlines reading 'Eugenics', 'Second Boer War' and 'Birth Control'. There are also black and white photos of Francis Galton, John Locke and Sidney Webb. The remainder of the building is filled with green and sepia shapes.
Legacies of eugenics in school. © Gergo Varga (varrgo.com) for Wellcome Collection.

Exactly 100 years ago, G K Chesterton wrote a book called ‘Eugenics and Other Evils’, and became a rare public voice speaking in opposition to the then hugely popular idea that the science of selective breeding was going to save the world. Most people today associate eugenics with the Holocaust and other horrors carried out by the Nazis. The history of eugenics, though, is much longer and more complex than we often get to think about. For this series of essays, writer and historian Subhadra Das invited five historians and museum curators to share their research about the history of education, medicine and the welfare state, and help us to think about what the legacies of eugenic thinking mean for our lives today.