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History Post-confederation (1867-)

Our Own Master Race

Eugenics in Canada, 1885-1945

by (author) Angus McLaren

University of Toronto Press
Initial publish date
Dec 1990
Post-Confederation (1867-), Social History, History, Social Psychology, Discrimination & Race Relations
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Apr 1990
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Dec 1990
    List Price

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Was Canada immune to the racist currents of thought that swept central Europe in the 1920's and 1930's? In this landmark book Angus McLaren, co-author of The Bedroom and the State, examines the pervasiveness in Canada of the eugenic notion of "race betterment" and demonstrates that many Canadians believed that radical measures were justified to protect the community from the "degenerate." The sterilization of the feeble-minded in Alberta and British Columbia was merely the most dramatic attempt to limit the numbers of the "unfit." But in the decades prior to World War Two, eugenic preoccupations were to colour discussions of immigration restriction, birth control, mental testing, family allowances, and a host of similar social policies.

Doctors, psychiatrists, geneticists, social workers, and mental hygienists provided an anxious Canadian middle class with the reassuring argument that poverty, crime, prostitution, and mental retardation were primarily the products of defective genes, not a defective social system. In explaining why biological solutions were sought for social problems McLaren not only provides a provocative reappraisal of the ideas and activities of a generation of feminists, political progressives, and public health propagandists but he also explores some of the roots of our not-so-latent racist tendencies.

About the author

Angus McLaren is emeritus professor of history at the University of Victoria. He is the author of Sexual Blackmail: A Modern History, Impotence: A Cultural History, and A Prescription for Murder: The Victorian Serial Killings of Dr. Thomas Neill Cream.

Angus McLaren's profile page

Other titles by Angus McLaren