Georges Vacher de Lapouge
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While a young law student at the University of Poitiers, Vacher de Lapouge read Herbert Spencer and Charles Darwin. In 1879, he gained a doctorate degree in law and became a magistrate in Niort and a prosecutor in Le Blanc. Then, he studied history and philology at the École pratique des hautes études, and learnred several languages such as Akkadian, Egyptian, Hebrew, Chinese, and Japanese at the École du Louvre and at School of Anthropology in Paris from 1883 to 1886.
In 1886, Vacher de Lapouge taught anthropology at the University of Montpellier, advocating Francis Galton's eugenic thesis, but was expelled in 1892 because of his socialist activities (he was indeed a cofounder of Jules Guesde's French Workers' Party and ran in 1888 for city mayor in the Montpellier municipal election). He worked later as a librarian at the University of Rennes until his retirement in 1922.
Work and legacy
He wrote L'Aryen et son rôle social (1899, "The Aryan and his Social Role"), in which he opposed the Aryan, dolichocephalic races to the brachycephalic races. Vacher de Lapouge thus classified human races: first the Homo europaeus, Nordic or fair-hair and Protestant, then the Homo alpinus, represented by the Auvergnat and the Turk, finally the Homo mediterraneus, figured by the Neapoletan or the Andaluz.
Vacher de Lapouge introduced Francis Galton's eugenics in France, but applied it to his theory of races. Vacher de Lapouge's ideas partly mirror those of Henri de Boulainvilliers (1658–1722), who believed that the Germanic Franks formed the upper class of French society, whereas the Gauls were the ancestors of the peasantry. Race, according to him, thus became a synonym of social class. But, in virtue of heredity, the Homo europaeus intrinsically possessed more qualities than the lower Homo mediterraneus. He added to this concept of races and classes what he termed selectionism, his version of Galton's eugenics. Vacher de Lapouge's "selectionism" had two aims: first, achieving the annihilation of trade unionists, considered as "degenerate"; second, creating types of man each destined to one end, in order to prevent any competition of labour conditions. His anthropology thus aimed at preventing social conflict by establishing a fixed, hierarchical social order.
- Henri de Boulainvilliers (1658–1722) - believed that the French aristocracy were descendants of the Franks, and that the Third Estate was composed of the "inferior", Gallo-Roman "racial stock"
- William Z. Ripley, The Races of Europe (1899)
- Matsuo Takeshi (University of Shimane, Japan). L'Anthropologie de Georges Vacher de Lapouge: Race, classe et eugénisme (Georges Vacher de Lapouge anthropology) in Etudes de langue et littérature françaises 2001, n°79, pp. 47-57. ISSN 0425-4929 ; INIST-CNRS, Cote INIST : 25320, 35400010021625.0050 (Abstract resume on the INIST-CNRS)
- Hecht, Jennifer Michael (April 2000). "Vacher de Lapouge and the Rise of Nazi Science". Journal of the History of Ideas 61 (2): pp. 285–304.
- Les Sélections sociales (1896), "Social Selections"
- L'Aryen et son rôle social (1899), "The Aryan and his Social Role"
- Race et milieu social: essais d'anthroposociologie (1909), "Race and social background : essays of anthroposociology"
- S. M. Quinlan, "The racial imagery of degeneration and depopulation: Georges Vacher de Lapouge and 'anthroposociology' in Fin-de-Siecle France," History of European Ideas, 24,6 (1999), 393-413.