Observing human difference: James Hunt, Thomas Huxley and competing disciplinary strategies in the 1860s

Efram Sera-Shriar

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    1 Citation (Scopus)

    Abstract

    During the 1860s the sciences relating to human diversity were undergoing significant intellectual and methodological changes. The older generation of practitioners including James Cowles Prichard, Thomas Hodgkin and John Crawfurd were slowly passing away. Recognising that there was an opportunity to take a leading role in reforming the study of human variation, two competing intellectual camps vied for control of the nascent discipline; anthropologists led by James Hunt, and ethnologists led by Thomas Huxley. Taking their observational practices and vocational strategies as its starting point, this paper seeks to expand our understanding of the debates surrounding British race studies during the 1860s. In doing so, this paper takes seriously Hunt and Huxley's self-descriptions as scientific reformers. Both of these figures promoted strategies for transforming the sciences relating to human diversity. Each believed they were strengthening anthropology and ethnology's best aspects and dispensing with their weakest. Moreover, their training in natural history, anatomy and physiology can be seen to have influenced their observational practices when it came to identifying and classifying human varieties.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)461-491
    Number of pages31
    JournalAnnals of science
    Volume70
    Issue number4
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2013

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