Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

Wandering anatomists and itinerant anthropologists: the antipodean sciences of race in Britain between the wars


While the British Empire conventionally is recognized as a source of research subjects and objects in anthropology, and a site where anthropological expertise might inform public administration, the settler-colonial affiliations and experiences of many leading physical anthropologists could also directly shape theories of human variation, both physical and cultural. Antipodean anthropologists like Grafton Elliot Smith were pre-adapted to diffusionist models that explained cultural achievement in terms of the migration, contact and mixing of peoples. Trained in comparative methods, these fractious cosmopolitans also favoured a dynamic human biology, often emphasizing the heterogeneity and environmental plasticity of body form and function, and viewing fixed, static racial typologies and hierarchies sceptically. By following leading representatives of empire anatomy and physical anthropology, such as Elliot Smith and Frederic Wood Jones, around the globe, it is possible to recover the colonial entanglements and biases of interwar British anthropology, moving beyond a simple inventory of imperial sources, and crediting human biology and social anthropology not just as colonial sciences but as the sciences of itinerant colonials.

Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

Warwick Anderson , ‘From subjugated knowledge to conjugated subjects: science and globalisation, or postcolonial studies of science?’, Postcolonial Studies (2009) 12, pp. 389400

T.H. Pear , ‘Some early relations between English ethnologists and psychologists’, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland (1960) 90, pp. 227237

Wilson D. Wallis , ‘Anthropology in England early in the present century’, American Anthropologist (1957) 59, pp. 781790

John L. Myres , ‘International Congress’, Man (1934) 34, p. 81

Myres , ‘An International Congress for Anthropology and Ethnology’, Man (1932) 32, pp. 1012

D.P. Crook , Darwinism, War and History: The Debate over the Biology of War from the ‘Origin of Species’ to the First World War, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994

Andrew D. Evans , Anthropology at War: World War I and the Science of Race in Germany, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2010

Andrew Zimmerman , Anthropology and Antihumanism in Imperial Germany, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2001

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

The British Journal for the History of Science
  • ISSN: 0007-0874
  • EISSN: 1474-001X
  • URL: /core/journals/british-journal-for-the-history-of-science
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 1
Total number of PDF views: 13 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 90 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 31st March 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.