George Pitt-Rivers

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

George Henry Lane-Fox Pitt-Rivers (22 May 1890 – 17 June 1966) was a British anthropologist and eugenicist who was one of the wealthiest men in England in the interwar period. He embraced anti-Bolshevism and anti-Semitism, and was interned by the British government for two years during World War II.


Pitt-Rivers was born in London,[1] his birth registered under the surname Fox in Chesterfield.[2] He was a son of Alexander Edward Lane Fox-Pitt-Rivers (2 November 1855 – 19 August 1927) and his wife Alice Ruth Hermione, daughter of Lord Henry Thynne. His father was the eldest son of Augustus Pitt Rivers,[3] ethnologist and anthropologist and founder of the Pitt Rivers Museum, upon whose death in 1900 Alexander inherited the Pitt-Rivers estate.[4][5] After Alexander died in 1927, the estate was inherited by George and it was so large that "it was said, albeit with exaggeration, that he could ride from coast to coast without leaving his own land".[6]

He was a Captain in the 5th Dragoon Guards and took part in World War I. He was wounded in the First Battle of Ypres and subsequently sent to England for surgery and recuperation. After the war he published a book The World Significance of the Russian Revolution, the first of his anti-Bolshevik and anti-Semitic public activities. During 1922–25, Pitt-Rivers held the position of Principal Secretary and Aide-de-Camp to his father-in-law Lord Forster, the Governor-General of Australia. His experience with the Maori led to his lasting interest in anthropology, which he studied at Oxford under Bronisław Malinowski.[6]

In 1927 he attended the World Population Conference and published a book Clash of Cultures and the Contact of Races. Two years later, Pitt-Rivers was elected a fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute; he also represented the Eugenics Society at the International Federation of Eugenics Organizations. From 1931 to 1937, Pitt-Rivers held the positions of the Secretary General and Treasurer of the International Union for the Scientific Investigation of Population Problems, where he came into contact with German eugenicists Eugen Fischer and his assistant Lothar Loeffler.[6] During this time, he also became increasingly embroiled in politics, praising the ideas of Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler.

Pitt-Rivers was held in Brixton Prison and Ascot internment centre (1940–1942) during the Second World War as a Mosleyite Nazi sympathiser under the Defence Regulation 18B.[7][8] After the war, he met Stella Lonsdale, who had herself been incarcerated in Paris by the Germans, suspected of being an English spy; when she eventually managed to make her way to England, she was imprisoned suspected of being a German spy.[9] She became George's mistress and took his name, though they never married.

Stella inherited from George when he died in 1966.[10] In his will he left Stella instructions that any properties to be sold must be offered individually, rather than as an estate, in order that tenants might buy the properties they leased from the Pitt-Rivers Estate.[11] Much of the village of Okeford Fitzpaine was thus released.[12] Stella also sold off a large proportion of the artefacts held in the Pitt-Rivers Museum at Farnham, Dorset that she also inherited from George. The Pitt-Rivers Museum in Oxford has been trying ever since to recover those items, which were uncatalogued.


George Henry Lane-Fox Pitt-Rivers was twice married; firstly to the Hon. Rachel Forster (daughter of the 1st Baron Forster) on 22 December 1915; the marriage was dissolved in 1930.[13] They had two sons:

  • Michael Pitt-Rivers (1917–1999), a West Country landowner who gained national notoriety in the 1950s when he was put on trial charged with buggery. This trial was instrumental in bringing public attention—and opposition—to the laws against homosexuality as they then stood;
  • Julian Pitt-Rivers (1919–2001), a social anthropologist, ethnographer, and university professor.

George Pitt-Rivers married secondly, on 14 October 1931, Rosalind Venetia Henley (4 Mar 1907 – 1990),[14] a biochemist, whose parents were Brig.-Gen. the Hon. Anthony Morton Henley (4 Aug 1873 – 17 May 1925) (the third son of the 3rd Baron Henley) and the Hon. Sylvia Laura Stanley (daughter of the 4th Baron Stanley of Alderley), by whom he had a third son:

  • Anthony (b. 1932).[1]


  1. ^ a b Hart, Bradley W. (2015). George Pitt-Rivers and the Nazis. Bloomsbury Academic. p. 16. ISBN 978-1-4725-6995-0.
  2. ^
  3. ^ Griffiths, Richard (1998). Patriotism Perverted: Captain Ramsay, the Right Club and British Anti-Semitism 1939–40. Constable. pp. 54, 65.
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b c
  7. ^ Hart, Bradley W. (2015). George Pitt-Rivers and the Nazis. Bloomsbury Academic. p. 16. ISBN 978-1-4725-6995-0.
  8. ^ "Forgotten archive shines new light on turbulent 1930s". University of Cambridge. 19 May 2011. Retrieved 27 July 2020.
  9. ^ "Stella LONSDALE". The National Archives. 1942. Retrieved 27 July 2020.
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ Hart, Bradley W. (2015). George Pitt-Rivers and the Nazis. Bloomsbury Academic. pp. 24, 70. ISBN 978-1-4725-6995-0.
  14. ^ Mosley, Charles, ed. (1999). Burke's Peerage & Baronetage (106 ed.). Burke's Peerage (Genealogical Books) Ltd. p. 1373. ISBN 2-940085-02-1.


Hart, Bradley W. (2015). George Pitt-Rivers and the Nazis. Bloomsbury Academic. ISBN 978-1-4725-6995-0.

External links[edit]