Fall/Winter Timetable

POL2322H1S L0101

Undergraduate Course Code: POL443H1S L0101

Topics in Comparative Politics II

Eugenics in the Twentieth Century: Keeping out Immigrants, Sterilizing the Mentally Handicapped


Eugenics, or the science of social engineering through better breeding, captured the imagination of generations of policymakers on the left and the right. The John Maynard Keynes, Winston Churchill, and Sydney and Beatrice Webb were only some of those who accepted and endorsed eugenic arguments. Tens of thousands of mentally handicapped people in North America, and hundreds of thousands in Germany, were sterilized in the name of eugenics. Taking this history as its starting point, the course will have three aims: (i) understanding the content of eugenic ideas, (ii) exploring their influence on immigration and sterilization policy in democratic states, as well as genocide in non-democratic ones, and (iii) the evolution of eugenic ideas in the postwar period. In the last, we will consider the influence of eugenic ideas on the reproductive rights movement, above all in North America.