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Defending the Master Race: Conservation, Eugenics, and the Legacy of Madison Grant

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Scholars have labeled Madison Grant everything from the “nation’s most influential racist” to the “greatest conservationist that ever lived.” His life illuminates early twentieth-century America as it was heading toward the American Century, and his legacy is still very much with us today, from the speeches of immigrant-bashing politicians to the international efforts to a Scholars have labeled Madison Grant everything from the “nation’s most influential racist” to the “greatest conservationist that ever lived.” His life illuminates early twentieth-century America as it was heading toward the American Century, and his legacy is still very much with us today, from the speeches of immigrant-bashing politicians to the international efforts to arrest climate change. This insightful biography shows how Grant worked side-by-side with figures such as Theodore Roosevelt to found the Bronx Zoo, preserve the California redwoods, and save the American bison from extinction. But Grant was also the leader of the eugenics movement in the United States. He popularized the infamous notions that the blond-haired, blue-eyed Nordics were the “master race” and that the state should eliminate members of inferior races who were of no value to the community. Grant’s behind-the-scenes machina­tions convinced Congress to enact the immigration restriction legis­lation of the 1920s, and his influence led many states to ban interracial marriage and sterilize thousands of “unworthy” citizens. Although most of the relevant archival materials on Madison Grant have mysteriously disappeared over the decades, Jonathan Spiro has devoted many years to reconstructing the hitherto concealed events of Grant’s life. His astonishing feat of detective work re­veals how the founder of the Bronx Zoo wound up writing the book that Adolf Hitler declared was his “bible.”


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Scholars have labeled Madison Grant everything from the “nation’s most influential racist” to the “greatest conservationist that ever lived.” His life illuminates early twentieth-century America as it was heading toward the American Century, and his legacy is still very much with us today, from the speeches of immigrant-bashing politicians to the international efforts to a Scholars have labeled Madison Grant everything from the “nation’s most influential racist” to the “greatest conservationist that ever lived.” His life illuminates early twentieth-century America as it was heading toward the American Century, and his legacy is still very much with us today, from the speeches of immigrant-bashing politicians to the international efforts to arrest climate change. This insightful biography shows how Grant worked side-by-side with figures such as Theodore Roosevelt to found the Bronx Zoo, preserve the California redwoods, and save the American bison from extinction. But Grant was also the leader of the eugenics movement in the United States. He popularized the infamous notions that the blond-haired, blue-eyed Nordics were the “master race” and that the state should eliminate members of inferior races who were of no value to the community. Grant’s behind-the-scenes machina­tions convinced Congress to enact the immigration restriction legis­lation of the 1920s, and his influence led many states to ban interracial marriage and sterilize thousands of “unworthy” citizens. Although most of the relevant archival materials on Madison Grant have mysteriously disappeared over the decades, Jonathan Spiro has devoted many years to reconstructing the hitherto concealed events of Grant’s life. His astonishing feat of detective work re­veals how the founder of the Bronx Zoo wound up writing the book that Adolf Hitler declared was his “bible.”

48 review for Defending the Master Race: Conservation, Eugenics, and the Legacy of Madison Grant

  1. 4 out of 5

    Michael Perkins

    More background.... https://historynewsnetwork.org/articl... ========== The author ran into a problem, perhaps not surprising. Most of the primary source material of Madison Grant, letters, etc. that was in libraries, at universities, was either destroyed by natural disaster (flood) or stolen. It seems the once direct line from Grant's anti-Semitic, racist pamphlet, "The Passing of the Great Race," to Hitler's Nazism was clearly drawn, then a family member, or someone else close to the situation, w More background.... https://historynewsnetwork.org/articl... ========== The author ran into a problem, perhaps not surprising. Most of the primary source material of Madison Grant, letters, etc. that was in libraries, at universities, was either destroyed by natural disaster (flood) or stolen. It seems the once direct line from Grant's anti-Semitic, racist pamphlet, "The Passing of the Great Race," to Hitler's Nazism was clearly drawn, then a family member, or someone else close to the situation, wanted to destroy every trace of the connection. But Grant is back, and his pamphlet---"The Passing of the Great Race"---is available online and is treated as a kind of Bible by white nationalists, as Hitler treated it. (Note: Grant was an avid conservationist, who was very concerned with the extinction of animal species. But he extended this concern to the white race, fearing that the strong was somehow not prevailing in the Darwinian struggle). Pictorial overview of the history of eugenics in the U.S..... https://listverse.com/2014/02/05/10-t... ================ The new Atlantic article does a good job of dissecting Grant and his influence.... https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/... Richard Spencer profile... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kVeZ0... ============= The New Nativists..... https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/14/us...

  2. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Budman

    I've long been fascinated by the eugenics and scientific-racism craze that gripped the American intelligentsia a century ago, with pseudoscientist Madison Grant at the center of it all; I've collected books by Grant and his cohorts for the last two decades. So was pleasantly surprised to discover this volume -- and then was genuinely grateful to find that it's a fantastic work. (I actually wrote the author something of a fan letter immediately upon finishing!) Spiro puts Grant into context both I've long been fascinated by the eugenics and scientific-racism craze that gripped the American intelligentsia a century ago, with pseudoscientist Madison Grant at the center of it all; I've collected books by Grant and his cohorts for the last two decades. So was pleasantly surprised to discover this volume -- and then was genuinely grateful to find that it's a fantastic work. (I actually wrote the author something of a fan letter immediately upon finishing!) Spiro puts Grant into context both historically and intellectually, exploring the thinking of the times and its legacy. Perhaps most illuminating are the direct links between, as the subtitle indicates, these men's paired impulses to preserve both the white race and the fauna of America. The work of Grant (and his friend Theodore Roosevelt) to create a national park system and the Bronx Zoo was a product of the same thinking that inspired draconian anti-immigration laws and forced sterilization. Defending the Master Race is so comprehensive and brightly written and well edited and just plain readable that one of the big New York trade publishers could easily have brought it out and created a real impact . . . but instead it's under the tiny University of Vermont imprint and went mostly unnoticed. A real shame. Spiro has performed a real service, in a truly entertaining way, and deserves a much wider readership.

  3. 4 out of 5

    John Farrell

    This was a fascinating, often disturbing, book. Madison Grant was an self-styled American aristocrat, Yale man, big-game hunter, conservationist, and scientific racist. Working behind the scenes as if America were an oligarchy, he saved the Redwoods and the bison, developed New York's park system, and founded the Bronx Zoo. He also embraced eugenics, was instrumental in passing restrictive immigration policies and racial purity laws, and influenced Nazi social policy culminating in the eliminati This was a fascinating, often disturbing, book. Madison Grant was an self-styled American aristocrat, Yale man, big-game hunter, conservationist, and scientific racist. Working behind the scenes as if America were an oligarchy, he saved the Redwoods and the bison, developed New York's park system, and founded the Bronx Zoo. He also embraced eugenics, was instrumental in passing restrictive immigration policies and racial purity laws, and influenced Nazi social policy culminating in the elimination of the "feebleminded" and the Holocaust. His masterwork, as it were, was an amateur work of pseudoscience, The Passing of the Great Race. Grant was an unsavory character about whom we learn little personally since his voluminous papers and correspondence was destroyed or has disappeared. The author overcomes this handicap by recounting Grant's life and influence through the organizations he founded and controlled.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Richard

    This is an unpleasant fucking book. But one that everyone should read. It's the same old crap, year upon year, and no one ever learns anything, and nothing ever changes. Because humans are trash. This is an unpleasant fucking book. But one that everyone should read. It's the same old crap, year upon year, and no one ever learns anything, and nothing ever changes. Because humans are trash.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Gail

    The book interested me because it was framed as how an American influenced Hitler. The book builds through how he became a conservationist and a preservationist and then an advocate of game management. He did a lot for wildlife. So far it seems easy to see how his ideas about eugenics were shaped. He died before WWII and would never see what his ideas indirectly assisted... Some branches of science were then in their infancy and people took an author's ideas as if they were definitely true when The book interested me because it was framed as how an American influenced Hitler. The book builds through how he became a conservationist and a preservationist and then an advocate of game management. He did a lot for wildlife. So far it seems easy to see how his ideas about eugenics were shaped. He died before WWII and would never see what his ideas indirectly assisted... Some branches of science were then in their infancy and people took an author's ideas as if they were definitely true when they were unproven. Thankfully, I think we've come a long way since then.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Andrey Davydov

  7. 4 out of 5

    Timo

  8. 5 out of 5

    Sabrina Dengler

  9. 4 out of 5

    Susan Holoff

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    Jeff

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    Bender

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  14. 5 out of 5

    Patrick Dobson

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    Patricia Roberts-Miller

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    No

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    Matthew Jordan

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    Ahmed Jibal

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    Raimundo Damasceno

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    Natalie

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    John Donvan

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    Preston Cole

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    Razib Khan

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    Casi Graddy-Gamel

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    Forrest Varange

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    Joeji

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    Kristjan Wager

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    sdw

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    Kevin I. Slaughter

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    Edward Waverley

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    Wyrdwalker

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    Annelisa

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    Michael Burns

  48. 4 out of 5

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