Eugenic ideology and racial fitness in Queensland, 1900-1950

Wilson, Emily Jane. (2003). Eugenic ideology and racial fitness in Queensland, 1900-1950 PhD Thesis, School of History, Philosophy, Religion and Classics, The University of Queensland.

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Author Wilson, Emily Jane.
Thesis Title Eugenic ideology and racial fitness in Queensland, 1900-1950
School, Centre or Institute School of History, Philosophy, Religion and Classics
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2003
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Ferber, Sarah
Total pages 581
Collection year 2003
Language eng
Subjects 210301 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander History
210303 Australian History (excl. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander History)
L
430101 History - Australian
Formatted abstract Between 1900 and 1950, ideas about racial fitness were widespread in Queensland. These ideas were influenced by eugenic ideology at this time, despite the absence of formal eugenics organisations in the state. This thesis examines the expression of concepts of racial fitness and eugenics in various discourses in Queensland during the first half of the twentieth century. It finds that this expression focused on marginalised groups. In many cases, those who expressed such ideas held a significant degree of power over these groups of people. It argues that the presence of these ideas in debates about vulnerable groups is a significant aspect of Queensland history.

The thesis examines a range of issues related to concerns about eugenics, racial fitness and degeneration. Research conducted for this thesis has found that discourses relating to: mental hygiene and the treatment of mental defectives; the Aboriginal inhabitants of the state; education and vocational training of the young; infant and maternal welfare; and immigration, were pervaded by these concerns. The study focuses on four areas in which eugenic and racial fitness ideologies were found to be particularly evident. These areas are: the treatment and control of mentally ill and intellectually impaired adults; the various debates which occurred about "non-white" races in Queensland, with a particular focus on debates about the Aboriginal inhabitants of the state; children and education; and the range of issues which centred around the "white" race in Queensland.

This study utilises official government publications, professional communications, periodicals, and popular newspapers as sources. The thesis contributes to a greater understanding of Queensland society, and also contributes to the historiography of the international eugenics movement. It fills a gap in the historiography of the eugenics movement in Australia by providing an examination of ideas about eugenics and racial fitness in Queensland. The emphasis of this study on language and ideas contributes to a discussion about international eugenic discourse which few Australian historians have explicitly addressed. Its examination of the influence of eugenic ideas in specific areas of discourse in Queensland provides a new perspective on the history of these aspects of Queensland society.
Keyword Eugenics -- Queensland -- History -- 20th century
Aboriginal Australians -- Government relations
Aboriginal Australians -- Queensland -- History
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