The Doomed Race: A scientific axiom of the late nineteenth century

McGregor, Russell (1993) The Doomed Race: A scientific axiom of the late nineteenth century. The Australian Journal of Politics and History, 39 (1). pp. 14-22.

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Anthropologists and other scientific investigators of the Australian Aborigines in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries confidently predicted the imminent extinction of the race. Indeed, "confidently predicted" is understating the case. Scientists at the time knew that the Aborigines would soon be extinct. It was taken for granted as a self-evident truth. James Barnard, VicePresident of the Royal Society of Tasmania, opened his paper at the 1890 meeting of the Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science with the assertion: It has become an axiom that, following the law of evolution and survival of the fittest, the inferior races of mankind must give place to the highest type of man, and that this law is adequate to account for the gradual decline in numbers of the aboriginal inhabitants of a country before the march of civilisation^2 This paper seeks to explain why the inevitable extinction of the Aborigines was raised to the status of an axiom. It will discuss both the supportive empirical evidence and the presuppositions which underlay contemporary scientific understandings of the Aborigines. The latter of these was by far the most important.

Item ID: 10653
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1467-8497
Keywords: Australian Aborigines; race; history; racial science; extinction; Aboriginal
Date Deposited: 10 Aug 2010 03:00
FoR Codes: 21 HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 2103 Historical Studies > 210301 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander History @ 100%
SEO Codes: 95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9505 Understanding Past Societies > 950503 Understanding Australias Past @ 60%
97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970121 Expanding Knowledge in History and Archaeology @ 40%
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