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Developing Eugenic Consciousness: The Campaign for the Voluntary Sterilization of the Mentally Deficient in Interwar Britain

Barad, Maya M.

Today, most view eugenics as an ideologically driven effort to assert a scientific rationale for racism, prejudice, and, in the case of Nazi Germany, genocide. And yet, in Britain at the turn of the twentieth century, eugenics was widely embraced as a viable strategy for solving many of society’s most difficult social problems. In my thesis, I examine the campaign for the voluntary sterilization of the mentally deficient in interwar Britain from the perspective of the British legislature, the public, and the medical establishment, in order to determine the extent to which eugenic ideology permeated the debates surrounding the policy. My broader goal is to understand how scientific thought and beliefs can be used to guide and justify social policies, even those retrospectively deemed amoral. This phenomenon is especially timely given recent technological advances, such as CRISPR-cas9, which allow for direct genetic manipulation of early germ cells and embryos.

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Academic Units
History
Thesis Advisors
Vaz, Matthew
Degree
B.A., Columbia University
Published Here
May 5, 2016
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