Eugenics Education Society of London, Eugenics for Citizens: Aim of
Eugenics (c. 1907)
As Europe’s falling birthrate sparked concerns that Anglo-Saxons were committing “race
suicide” by not having enough children, marriage and sexuality came under the public
spotlight. Social Darwinists were especially vocal in their warnings of racial decay.
Among the most famous of these was Charles Darwin’s cousin Sir Francis Galton (1822–
1911), who reasoned that society’s efforts to protect the weakest, most vulnerable
members of humanity were in fact at odds with natural selection—meaning that far from
evolving to become a stronger and more talented people, society risked reverting toward
mediocrity, or experiencing a “regression toward the mean.” Galton created the
term eugenics, defining it as “the study of the Agencies under social control, that improve
or impair the racial qualities of future generations either physically or mentally.” In
1907, friends of Galton’s from Cambridge joined with middle-class professional men
interested in eugenics to form the Eugenics Education Society, electing Galton as their
first president. Their aim was practical rather than scholarly: to spread the wisdom of
eugenics as widely as possible in society, with the aim of improving the population as a
whole. With this goal in mind, the society published pamphlets, such as the one from
which the image below was taken, to explain eugenic concepts simply enough for all
people to understand.
1- How does the family in the pamphlet illustration demonstrate the Eugenics Education
Society’s vision of the ideal man? The ideal woman? The ideal family?
2- Why do you think the illustrator chose to show a family in classical attire rather than
in turn-of-the-century clothing?
3- What parallels can be drawn between the turn-of-the-century interest in eugenics and
present-day curiosity about the possibilities of genetic engineering?
4- Sir Francis Galton once wrote that eugenics “must be introduced into the national
consciousness as a new religion.” How might this image inspire religious sentiments?
Purchase answer to see full