U.S. Intellectual History Blog

Crosspost: A Two-For-One Review On The Attractions Of Eugenics

After teaching a semester of the history of medicine in the U.S., I keep my ear to the ground for news in that field that intersects with intellectual history (including the history of ideas). With that, this H-Law review—which I received courtesy of H-SCI-MED-TECH, will be of interest to those who think, occasionally or otherwise, about eugenics, legal history, and aspects of social control.

Lynne Curry ably recounts the new work of two scholars, Paul A. Lombardo and Victoria F. Nourse, and shapes their topics into a commentary on the relevance of eugenics history to current legal and social debates about our genetic inheritance. The title of Curry’s review, “Intellectual Seduction: The Promise and Perils of Eugenics,” draws from a line in Nourse’s book. I doubt the history of the emotional attachment to eugenics is a focus, but appreciate the nod to that aspect of the history of ideas.

One could write a powerful history of fear in the United States as it relates to loss, both individual and social, of status, power, beauty, the other, random violence, degradation by disease, etc. One might also link that fear to both conservative and liberal impulses.

It’s amazing how even succinct reviews of books will open your mind to new areas of thought.

2 Thoughts on this Post

  1. Interesting post, Tim! You’ve made me grab off my shelf Corey Robin’s Fear: THe History of a Political Idea (Oxford, 2004), which has been sitting up there unread for far too long.

  2. I am very intrigued by this post and the topic that it presents. After reading the attached review by Lynne Curry of Three Generations, No Imbeciles and In Reckless Hands, I will be ordering a copy of both to review further. I am especially interested in the Skinner v. Oklahoma case where the men were punished and required to dress as women. As an undergraduate, I wrote my senior thesis on female soldiers of the Civil War and I am interested in exploring the case of Skinner v. Oklahoma further. I do agree with Tim Lacy’s comment that there could be a great writing in the history of fear in the United States. I also plan to order a copy of the text that Ben Alpers suggested, Fear: The History of a Political Idea. Again, thank you for a very interesting post.
    –Sarah J.

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