Proto-Eugenic Thinking before Galton

Proto-Eugenic Thinking before Galton

Maren Lorenz (German Historical Institute, Washington, DC) Christoph Irmscher (Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana)
German Historical Institute
Washington (DC)
United States
Vom - Bis
25.09.2008 - 27.09.2008
PD Dr. Maren Lorenz

Workshop to be held at the GHI in Washington, DC
September 25 - 27, 2008

Proposals are invited for an international multi-disciplinary workshop on the emergence of eugenic thinking and planning.

Human breeding has become a socially acceptable subject again. While historians of science have vigorously responded to the new challenges posed by prenatal diagnostics, the human genome project, and cloning - scholars in other disciplines, especially in the German-speaking countries, have been more restrained or have limited themselves to discussing German racial politics and the practice of euthanasia under National Socialism.
But increased academic attention to the subject has extended the traditional geographical scope of the study of eugenics and has also led to an extension of the conventional temporal framework, pushing the emergence of eugenic thinking way past back the year 1880.

More recent research has focused on the role of the egalitarian, social, and/or utopian movements such as the women’s and the labor movement, and Christian churches and charities in Germany, Austria, and the United States in the implementation and promotion of eugenic thinking.

After a period of waning academic interest in the history of ideas, the intersections between formulations of moral and legal normativity and scientific standardization are now enjoying renewed attention among researchers. Pace the common notion of eugenics as a phenomenon of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, concepts of “human breeding” or “perfection of the human race” were being developed throughout Western Europe since the middle of the 18th century, before they made their way to the United States. The fact that these concepts led to relatively early forms of eugenic legislation and practices at least in France and Germany (e.g. marriage prohibitions) seems not to have been of much interest outside the history of sciences.

We invite submissions from potential participants willing to share their ongoing research on a range of interconnected topics dealing with the emergence of eugenic thinking, within national as well as transatlantic or international contexts.

The conference will be held in English and focus on the discussion of pre-circulated papers of about 7,000 to 8,000 words (due by August 15, 2008).

The GHI will offer scholarships to defray the cost for travel and accommodation of participants.

For more information see also:

Please do not hesitate to contact us via email:
Maren Lorenz ( - Christoph Irmscher (

Please send a proposal of no more than 500 words and a brief CV via email to:
Ms. Bärbel Thomas (

The deadline for submission is January 15, 2008.
Participants will be notified by mid-March.



PD Dr. Maren Lorenz
German Historical Institute (GHI)
1607 New Hampshire Ave., NW

Washington, DC 20009-2562

Tel.+1.202.552. ext. 8946
+1.202.387.3355 Fax.+1.202.483.3430