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Eugenics Society (founded 1907)

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0120 SA/EUG
Held at: Wellcome Library
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Full title: Eugenics Society (founded 1907)
Date(s): 1863-1996
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 112 boxes, 2 large boxes, 1 long box, 1 oversize box, 14 oversize packets, 9 folders, 1 roll
Name of creator(s): Eugenics Society
Detailed catalogue: Click here to view repository detailed catalogue


Administrative/Biographical history:

The Eugenics Society was founded, under the name Eugenics Education Society, in 1907, to promote public awareness of eugenic problems, i.e. the existence of hereditary qualities both positive and negative, and the need to encourage social responsibility with respect to these qualities. Unlike the Galton Laboratory, which was also inspired by the teachings of Sir Francis Galton and founded in 1904, the Eugenics Society was a popular rather than a scientific institution, although its Aims and Objects varied during the years and in 1963 it abandoned propaganda on being granted charitable status. Besides its involvement in the theoretical aspects of eugenics the Society was also interested in the practical means by which eugenic ideals could be attained, so these records contain a good deal of material on subjects such as the treatment of the mentally and physically defective, the development of birth control methods, the legalisation of sterilisation, the use of artificial insemination, etc. (see detailed catalogue section D 'General'). A large number of people in all stations of life, some of them very distinguished, were involved with the Society (see detailed catalogue section C 'People'). The Society changed its name to the Galton Institute in 1989. For a fuller treatment of the history of the Eugenics Society, see Faith Schenck & A.S. Parkes, `The Activities of the Eugenics Society', Eugenics Review 60, 1968, pp. 142-161. For the early years of the Society see L.A. Farrall, The Origins and Growth of the English Eugenics Movement 1863-1925 (unpublished Ph.D. thesis, Indiana University, 1970) and the file GB0121 SA/EUG/B.11 'Notes on the early days of the Eugenics Education Society' by Lady Chambers.


Scope and content/abstract:

The initial deposit, sections A-K, consists mainly of correspondence and associated papers (leaflets, memoranda, extracts from minutes, etc.). There are two main series of correspondence: 'People' and 'General' and some other distinct smaller series such as 'Branches and other Societies'. The internal arrangement of these files is normally chronological, with a few exceptions (usually an alphabetical arrangement). There are also lecturers' report sheets, publications, slides, posters, charts, and photographs, mainly but not exclusively in Section G: Propaganda and Publicity. There is a set of Annual Reports and related material 1908-1979 (Section A). Under the will of Dr. Marie Stopes the Eugenics Society was left her birth control clinic, books from her library and certain emoluments. Three boxes of her correspondence and some miscellanea, were assigned to section K. In 1988 minute books and the Society's extensive collection of press cuttings plus some financial records were added as GB0120 SA/EUG/L-N.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

By section as follows: A.1-85 Annual Reports, etc. 1908-1979; B.1-11 Early files, 1908-1919; C.1-360 'People', 1919-1975; D.1-250 'General', 1919-1973; E.1-22 Branches and Other Societies, 1909-1962; F.1-8 Family Histories, c.1910-c.1940; G.1-41 Propaganda and Publicity, 1925-c.1940; H.1-6 Henry Twitchin and the Twitchin Bequest, c.1925-1938; I.1-6 Sir Bernard Mallett papers, 1925-1932; J.1-21 Miscellanea; K.1-44 Marie C Stopes and the Marie Stopes Memorial Fund; L.1-61 Minute books; L.62-67 Minutes of bodies associated with the Eugenics Society; M.1-11 Financial Records; N.1-69 Press Cuttings; O.1-18 Portraits and photographs of individuals; P.1-44 Papers of Dr G.C. Bertram, 1945-1991; Q.1 The Galton Institute Newsletter

Conditions governing access:

Access to this collection is granted to those who have obtained the prior written permission of the Galton Institute (application should be made to the General Secretary, Galton Institute, 19 Northfields Prospect, Northfields, London SW18 1DE), by prior appointment with the Archivist after the completion of a Reader's Undertaking.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Photocopies/photographs/microfilm are supplied for private research only at the Archivist's discretion. Please note that material may be unsuitable for copying on conservation grounds, and that photographs cannot be photocopied in any circumstances. Readers are restricted to 100 photocopies in twelve months. Researchers who wish to publish material must seek copyright permission from the copyright owner.

Finding aids:

Catalogued by Lesley Hall, CMAC, Wellcome Library, December 1981-September 1996. Hard-copy catalogue available in Wellcome Library.

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

The bulk of these papers (Acc No 17) were collected from the British Library where they had been initially deposited in February 1980. A few miscellaneous items (slides, charts, photographs) (Acc No 21) were collected from the Society's offices in March 1980. Acc No 102, consisting of additional boxes of these papers and a set of Annual Reports and related items, was collected from Eccleston Square on September 1981. A further deposit of minute books and press cuttings previously held at the offices of the Society was transferred to the Wellcome Library in February 1988 along with a certain amount of miscellaneous material (Acc No 284). Papers received from Dr G.C. Bertram, former General Secretary of the Society in February 1992 (Acc No 412) and January 1993 (Acc No 457) have been assigned to Section P, apart from a few items which have been incorporated as appropriate in other sections. In December 1993 Council Minutes 1925-1952 were transferred by the Galton Institute along with Annual Reports from 1980 onwards (Acc No 492). In August 1996 the bound volume of issues 1-20 of The Galton Institute Newsletter was received (Acc No 668). It is anticipated that further volumes will be received.

Allied Materials

Related material:

See also Wellcome Library collections GC/88 (`Rockefeller/Eugenics') and PP/MCS (papers of Marie C Stopes).

National Register of Archives: Click here to view NRA record

Publication note:

The records of the Society were used by D. Kevles in writing In the Name of Eugenics (Knopf, New York, 1985) which looked at the British Eugenics movement in an international context.

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Description compiled by Helen Wakely

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
December 2000

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