Georges Vacher de Lapouge

Georges Vacher de Lapouge
Born (1854-12-12)12 December 1854
Neuville-de-Poitou, Vienne
Died 20 February 1936(1936-02-20) (aged 81)
Poitiers, Vienne
Nationality French
Influences Arthur de Gobineau, Herbert Spencer, Charles Darwin, Alphonse de Candolle, Ernst Haeckel, Francis Galton
Influenced Otto Ammon, Madison Grant, Carlos C. Closson, Luis Huerta, Jon Alfred Mjoen, Eugen Dühring, Ludwig Woltmann
Spouse Marie-Albertine Hindré
Children Claude Vacher de Lapouge

Count Georges Vacher de Lapouge (12 December 1854, in Neuville-de-Poitou – 20 February 1936, in Poitiers) was a French anthropologist and a theoretician of eugenics and racialism.


While a young law student at the University of Poitiers, Vacher de Lapouge read Herbert Spencer and Charles Darwin.[1] In 1879 he gained a doctorate degree in law and became a magistrate in Niort (Deux-Sèvres) and a prosecutor in Le Blanc. He then studied history and philology at the École pratique des hautes études, and learned several languages such as Akkadian, Egyptian, Hebrew, Chinese, and Japanese at the École du Louvre and at School of Anthropology in Paris from 1883 to 1886.

From 1886 Vacher de Lapouge taught anthropology at the University of Montpellier, advocating Francis Galton's eugenic thesis, but was expelled in 1892 because of his socialist activities[2] (he co-founded Jules Guesde's French Workers' Party and ran in 1888 for city mayor in the Montpellier municipal election). He worked later as a librarian at the University of Rennes until his retirement in 1922.

Work and legacy

He wrote L'Aryen: son Rôle Social (1899, "The Aryan: His Social Role"), in which he opposed the Aryan, dolichocephalic races to the brachycephalic races. Vacher de Lapouge thus classified human races: first the Homo europaeus, Nordic or fair-hair and Protestant, then the Homo alpinus, represented by the Auvergnat and the Turk, finally the Homo mediterraneus, figured by the Neapoletan or the Andaluz.

Vacher de Lapouge introduced Francis Galton's eugenics in France, but applied it to his theory of races. Vacher de Lapouge's ideas partly mirror those of Henri de Boulainvilliers (1658–1722), who believed that the Germanic Franks formed the upper class of French society, whereas the Gauls were the ancestors of the peasantry. Race, according to him, thus became a synonym of social class. But, in virtue of heredity, the Homo europaeus intrinsically possessed more qualities than the lower Homo mediterraneus. He added to this concept of races and classes what he termed selectionism, his version of Galton's eugenics. Vacher de Lapouge's "selectionism" had two aims: first, achieving the annihilation of trade unionists, considered as "degenerate"; second, creating types of man each destined to one end, in order to prevent any competition of labour conditions. His anthropology thus aimed at preventing social conflict by establishing a fixed, hierarchical social order.[3][4]

In 1926, he prefaced and translated Madison Grant's Passing of the Great Race (Le Déclin de la Grande Race, Payot, 1926). He also translated one work of Ernst Haeckel into French.[5][6]

Lapouge had a direct influence on Nazi racial and eugenic doctrine.[7]

See also


  1. Hecht, Jennifer Michael (2013). The End of the Soul: Scientific Modernity, Atheism, and Anthropology in France. Columbia University Press, p. 190.
  2. Boissel, Jean (1982). “George Vacher de Lapouge: Un Socialiste Revolutionnaire Darwinien,” Nouvelle Ecole 13, pp. 59–83.
  3. "Vacher de Lapouge advocated a socialist order because only such an order could assure that each individual’s racially based abilities could be determined independently of his class. When the 'non-doctrinaire socialist' declared in an article published in 1896 that 'socialism will be selectionist or it will not be at all,' he meant above all that the left should adopt the program of a radical eugenic: the breeding of the Aryan man of the future could only be achieved if, without regard to family background or social status, all 'racially inferior' were prevented from procreation, while all superior men, in addition to a service militaire, would be required to perform a service sexuelle without regard to all traditional norms of sexual behavior. Only if this political model of socialist eugenics were implemented, according to Vacher de Lapouge, would there be any chance that France would survive the impending great conflicts." — Weissmann, Karlheinz (1996). "The Epoch of National Socialism," The Journal of Libertarian Studies 12 (2), pp. 257-294.
  4. Matsuo Takeshi (University of Shimane, Japan). L'Anthropologie de Georges Vacher de Lapouge: Race, Classe et Eugénisme (Georges Vacher de Lapouge anthropology) in Etudes de Langue et littérature Françaises, 2001, No. 79, pp. 47-57. ISSN 0425-4929 ; INIST-CNRS, Cote INIST : 25320, 35400010021625.0050 (Abstract resume on the INIST-CNRS)
  5. "G. Vacher de Lapouge was a man of wide interest in history, sociology and anthropology. Unlike many students of the ethnic problem, he possessed a good working knowledge of biology and human anatomy. He was a disciple of Haeckel. He translated the latter's booklet on the philosophy of monism into French, and provided an introduction to it." — Baker, John R. (1974). "The Historical Background," in Race. Oxford University Press, p. 46.
  6. Haeckel, Ernest (1897). Le Monisme, Lien Entre la Religion et la Science. Paris: Schleicher Frères.
  7. Hecht, Jennifer Michael (2000). "Vacher de Lapouge and the Rise of Nazi Science". Journal of the History of Ideas. 61 (2): 285–304. doi:10.1353/jhi.2000.0018.



Works in English translation

Further reading

External links

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