Eugenics evokes themes dear to Latin American historians, such as race, social Darwinism, and social engineering. During the past few years, some historians of medicine have emphasized the hegemony in the region of a hybrid version of eugenics inspired by the works of French biologist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, who believed in soft inheritance. This version, also known as Latin eugenics, argued that national racial stocks could be improved by social and political forces—mainly preventive medicine and mass education—without resorting to population control, abortion, or euthanasia. In contrast, an orthodox version of eugenics ruled in Germany, the United States, Great Britain, and Scandinavian countries, which applied the strict hereditarianism of Gregor Mendel and Charles Darwin to human beings. This version advocated “negative,” and sometimes radical, interventions by the state to accelerate the process of natural selection via the elimination or segregation of “inferior” races...

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