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Passing of the Great Race

"Present Distribution of the European Races", map from American eugenicist Madison Grant's 1916 book, The Passing of the Great Race. This scan is from a reprint printed in the journal of the American Geographical Society.

Grant, Madison
1916
Map
Wikimedia Commons

Madison Grant, "The Passing of the Great Race," Geographical Review, Vol. 2, No. 5. (Nov., 1916), pp. 354-360

In 1916 (though the edition on this website was re-published in 1923) Madison Grant, a self-described anthropologist, historian, and lawyer, published The Passing of the Great Race, which included this map. The map was folded in and was intended to illustrate three “races” of people from Europe that Grant analyzed. In his book that sold well over 1.5 million copies, Grant taught readers that he identified “three races” in the world: Caucasoid (based in Europe), Negroid (based in Africa), and Mongoloid (based in Asia). Within each group, Grant constructed hierarchies, such as the one on this map. The Caucasoid group, according to Grant, was made up of Mediterraneans, Alpines, and Nordics; the striped areas on the map were intended to trace migrations and blood lines. Grant argued that it was important to identify and trace the groups: “The Nordics are, all over the world, a race of soldiers, sailors, adventurers, and explorers, but above all, of rulers, organizers, and aristocrats in sharp contrast to the essentially peasant character of Alpines.” Grant’s construction of racial identity was artificially established, but it served to advance policies that would prevent “race mixing” and promote his ideas of racial superiority. What information does this map provide about groups of people that Grant wanted to favor? Based on this map, if American leaders wanted to write immigration laws to promote one race or another, what would they do? How does this document serve as a piece of evidence to answer the question, Why were the 1920s filled with extremes?

In 1916 (though the edition on this website was re-published in 1923) Madison Grant, a self-described anthropologist, historian, and lawyer, published The Passing of the Great Race, which included this map. The map was folded in and was intended to illustrate three “races” of people from Europe that Grant analyzed. In his book that sold well over 1.5 million copies, Grant taught readers that he identified “three races” in the world: Caucasoid (based in Europe), Negroid (based in Africa), and Mongoloid (based in Asia). Within each group, Grant constructed hierarchies, such as the one on this map. The Caucasoid group, according to Grant, was made up of Mediterraneans, Alpines, and Nordics; the striped areas on the map were intended to trace migrations and blood lines. Grant argued that it was important to identify and trace the groups: “The Nordics are, all over the world, a race of soldiers, sailors, adventurers, and explorers, but above all, of rulers, organizers, and aristocrats in sharp contrast to the essentially peasant character of Alpines.” Emphasize to students that Grant’s construction of racial identity was artificially established, but it served to advance policies that would prevent “race mixing” and promote his ideas of racial superiority. The map — and the popularity of Grant’s work — illustrates the broader issue of Anglo-Saxon nativism, where some white Americans feared “race suicide,” a process they argued was brought on by millions of immigrants of “Alpine” and “Mediterranean” descent that reproduced with “Nordics.” This process, they worried, would lead the entire “Nordic” race to deteriorate. For this reason and others, eugenics laws were passed with the intention of preventing Anglo-Saxons from marrying outside their race; California had an anti-miscegenation law until 1948, though nationally laws were in effect until 1967. Ask your students to study the map and contextualize its significance by posing the following questions: What information does this map provide about groups of people that Grant wanted to favor? Based on this map, if American leaders wanted to write immigration laws to promote one race or another, what would they do? How does this document serve as a piece of evidence to answer the question, Why were the 1920s filled with extremes?