R.A. Fisher, eugenics, and the campaign for family allowances in interwar Britain

British Journal for the History of Science 54 (4):485-505 (2021)
  Copy   BIBTEX


Ronald Aylmer Fisher is today remembered as a giant of twentieth-century statistics, genetics and evolutionary theory. Alongside his influential scientific contributions, he was also, throughout the interwar years, a prominent figure within Britain's eugenics movement. This essay provides a close examination of his eugenical ideas and activities, focusing particularly upon his energetic advocacy of family allowances, which he hoped would boost eugenic births within the more ‘desirable’ middle and upper classes. Fisher's proposals, which were grounded in his distinctive explanation for the decay of civilizations throughout human history, enjoyed support from some influential figures in Britain's Eugenics Society and beyond. The ultimate failure of his campaign, though, highlights tensions both between the eugenics and family allowances movements, and within the eugenics movement itself. I show how these social and political movements represented a crucial but heretofore overlooked context for the reception of Fisher's evolutionary masterwork of 1930, The Genetical Theory of Natural Selection, with its notorious closing chapters on the causes and cures of national and racial decline.



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 76,363

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

Family allowances and eugenics.Franc̨ois Lafitte - 1941 - The Eugenics Review 33 (3):67.
Ronald A. Fisher and the improvement of humankind.Stefan Bovolon Bovolon - 2018 - Circumscribere: International Journal for the History of Science 22:50-68.
Eugenics, academic and practical.Ronald Aylmer Fisher - 1935 - The Eugenics Review 27 (2):95.
Family allowances.B. Dunlop - 1943 - The Eugenics Review 35 (2):47.
Family allowances.Eva M. Hubback - 1941 - The Eugenics Review 33 (3):94.
Family allowances.R. B. Kerr - 1941 - The Eugenics Review 33 (3):94.
Positive eugenics.Ronald Aylmer Fisher - 1917 - The Eugenics Review 9 (3):206.
Family allowances.C. Wicksteed Armstrong - 1941 - The Eugenics Review 33 (2):56.
Family allowances in war time.Eva M. Hubback - 1941 - The Eugenics Review 33 (1):13.
Family allowances.Leonard Darwin - 1925 - The Eugenics Review 16 (4):276.
Family allowances schemes.B. Dunlop - 1937 - The Eugenics Review 29 (3):225.


Added to PP

13 (#768,168)

6 months
6 (#133,416)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Citations of this work

No citations found.

Add more citations

References found in this work

Eugenics and society.Julian S. Huxley - 1936 - The Eugenics Review 28 (1):11.
The Disinherited Family.Eleanor F. Rathbone - 1924 - International Journal of Ethics 35 (1):94-95.
Some hopes of a eugenist.Ronald Aylmer Fisher - 1914 - The Eugenics Review 5 (4):309.
The genetical theory of natural selection.C. G. Darwin - 1930 - The Eugenics Review 22 (2):127.

View all 12 references / Add more references