History Department
History Department

Levine's book on eugenics wins Cantemir Prize

Fri, August 12, 2011
Levine's book on eugenics wins Cantemir Prize
Berendel Foundation of London's logo and a detail from the book jacket

Their book, The Oxford Handbook of the History of Eugenics, is the first comprehensively global collection of essays on the subject of improving the human race through controlled breeding.  

The Berendel Foundation is a private foundation based in London and funded by the prosperous U.K. businessman Dan Berendel, who is in the oil and petrochemical products industry.

According to the foundation’s website, its goal is “the education of the public in the subject of intercultural knowledge and global humanism” by promoting research, education, and collaboration in the humanities and social sciences. To that end, the Berendel Foundation hosts conferences and lecture series.  

This collection of essays is the first world history of eugenics from the late-nineteenth century to the post World War II era. As ideas about hereditary characteristics gained scientific credibility, reformers across the political spectrum — social democrats, feminists, public health advocates, and racial purists — pursued the social policy implications of eugenics.

The book is divided into two parts, thematic and geographic. The essays reveal the theory and practice of eugenics from Scandinavia to South Africa, from Russia to the United States, and the intersections with issues of race, class, sex and gender, disability, and nationality.

The Oxford Handbook of The History of Eugenics“In the current climate, in which the human genome project, stem cell research, and new reproductive technologies have proven so controversial, the history of eugenics has much to teach us about the relationship between scientific research, technology, and human ethical decision-making,” wrote the co-editors in describing their collaborative work.

The Oxford Handbooks series is a major new direction in academic publishing by Oxford University Press. Each handbook seeks to offer an authoritative and current survey of the thinking and research on a specific subject to date.
The prize is named for a former Prince of Moldavia, Dimitrie Cantemir (1673-1723). Cantemir was known for his many works in history, philosophy, geography, and linguistics. He even composed music and had verbal and writing skills in 11 languages.

Cantemir was best known for his book, History of the Growth and Decay of the Ottoman Empire, that was well read throughout Europe. He also wrote an introduction to the Islamic faith especially for Europeans and was considered one of the great thinkers of his time.

Philippa Levine, the Mary Helen Thompson Centennial Professor in the Humanities and co-director of the British Studies Program, joined the History Department in 2010. She has published five monographs and numerous articles about the British Empire and issues of race, gender, science and medicine in England and the British Empire.

She has also edited numerous collections including the recent Gender, Labour, War and Empire in Modern Britain: Essays on Modern Britain with Susan Grayzel, published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2009. Her previous book length publication, The British Empire, Sunrise to Sunset (2007) was hailed as “a highly effective overview…of the British Empire from the Ulster plantation to the Falklands War.”

Story by M.G. Moore adapted from Dr. Megan Seaholm's article for alumni newsletter

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