Nationality and Race from an Anthropologist's Point of View
by Arthur Keith
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Nationality and Race

From an Anthropologist's Point of View





On November 17, 1919








It was during the lifetime of Robert Boyle that our forefathers began to come into close contact with the races and nationalities of the outer world. When he was born in County Cork in the year 1627, small and isolated bands of Englishmen were elbowing Red Indians from the eastern sea-board of North America; before his death in London in 1691, at the age of sixty-four, he had seen these pioneer bands become united into a British fringe stretching almost without a break from Newfoundland to Florida. Neither he nor any one else in England could then have guessed that in less than two centuries the narrow fringe of colonists would have spread from shore to shore, thus carpeting a continent with a new people. It was in his time, too, that English merchants and sailors made a closer acquaintance with the peoples of India, of the Far East, and with the sea-board natives of Africa and of South America. We have only to turn to the six splendid volumes in which his experiments, observations, and writings are preserved to see how he viewed the world which his countrymen were opening up beneath his eyes. In a short paper, drafted some time before his death, he gives the most minute directions to guide navigators in drawing up reports of newly discovered lands. His directions relate to every conceivable property or aspect of a new country—its geography, mineral wealth, natural products, climate—all but its inhabitants. Like many Englishmen of his time, Boyle conceived that his duty by native peoples began and ended when he had seen that they were supplied with copies of the Bible. For him, and for most of his contemporaries, there seem to have been no racial problems; for they did not regard the meeting and mingling of diverse races or of peoples of different nationalities as matters which deserved investigation and explanation. Boyle witnessed the acutest phases of the 'plantation' of Ireland, but the inquiries he set on foot regarding that country were: 'How it cometh to pass that there are not frogs, toads, snakes, moles, nightingales, rarely magpies' within its borders; he inquired, too, concerning the true nature of 'diverse things which the Irish foolishly report of St. Patrick'—especially concerning the 'birds turned into stones for chirping when St. Patrick was preaching'. There were, of course, racial and national problems in Boyle's time, but they had not then presented themselves before the tribunal of the public mind as matters demanding investigation and treatment.


We need not blame the statesmen and writers of Boyle's time for failing to recognize the inward significance of national and racial manifestations any more than we condemn his contemporary physicians for failing to separate from the mass of disease such conditions as are known to modern medical men as appendicitis and typhoid fever. Typhoid fever and appendicitis existed in Boyle's time just as did national disturbances and racial antipathies, but their nature and significance passed undiagnosed. It was not until England had laid siege, by means of armies of colonists, to lands inhabited by native races, or had come to guide the destinies of great tropical empires by handfuls of civil servants, that she realized that racial contact gives rise to live and burning antagonisms. Nor are national problems new to England; they have always dogged the footsteps of her statesmen. In Boyle's time a people could make its national spirit heard and felt only by resorting to brute force. In our times there are other means; a people mobilizes its national spirit by means of the daily press; the promulgation of national propaganda has become a fine art; modern statesmen have learned that national feelings, rightly directed, have the force of an avalanche. The problems of Race and of Nationality, then, are by no means new, but in their modern form they are new. The far-flung lines of the British Empire and the mobilization of the popular spirit by means of the press and propaganda have compelled our statesmen, historians, publicists, psychologists, and anthropologists to re-examine the nature of the forces which lie behind racial movements and national agitations. Of the importance of a right understanding of the nature of these forces for the future maintenance and development of the British Empire there cannot be any question. In the guiding of its destinies Oxford men will, in the future as in the past, take a leading part, and much of their success will depend on how far they have grasped the nature of the inward forces which group mankind into races and nations. That is my reason for making the problems of Race and Nationality the subject of this lecture in memory of Robert Boyle.


It has scarcely been possible in recent years to open a newspaper without our eye being arrested by head-lines telling us of racial strifes or international contentions. One day we read of race riots; on the next we learn that the inhabitants of a certain area of land demand separation from all surrounding peoples. By a process of 'self-determination' they demand to be recognized as a separate people or nation. These racial and national contentions are not restricted to any particular people or land; we find them in every country. The politician is too near to these racial and national manifestations of the modern world to see them in their proper light; even the historian is not far enough away from them to see them in their right perspective. You cannot explore the secret sources from which they spring unless you have grasped the immensity of man's unwritten history. Let me make my meaning quite clear by an historical example chosen from man's body. Among our modern populations there are no ailments more prevalent than those which arise from a disordered working of the great bowel. Why this part of our bodily machinery should fail us under modern conditions of diet becomes quite apparent when we survey the history of man's distant past. For the anthropologist there are only two well-marked phases in human history. The first phase is that of Natural subsistence—an infinitely long and monotonous chapter, stretching over a million of years or more. The second is the phase of Artificial subsistence—a short chapter covering a period of 10,000 or 12,000 years at the utmost, but a period crowded with events which have a critical bearing on our present and future welfare. In the first or long phase mankind was broken into small and scattered groups which gained as best they could a sparse, uncertain, and coarse sustenance from the natural produce of shore and stream, moorland and woodland. In the second or short phase man conquered nature; by means of cultivation and domestication he forced from the soil a sure and abundant supply of food, thus rendering possible the existence of our modern massed populations. Now the machinery of man's body and the instinctive outfit of his brain, which had been evolved to answer to the conditions of life presented by the first long phase of his history, were also those which had to serve him when he entered the new conditions of the short or modern phase. We need not be surprised to find, then, that part of his ancient outfit is ill adapted to modern conditions of life. Man's great bowel, including the caecum, appendix, and colon, which answered his needs well when his dietary was coarse and uncooked, is ill contrived to deal with foods which are artificially prepared and highly concentrated. A school, which was headed by the late Professor Metchnikoff, even goes so far as to maintain that man would be improved by the complete removal of his great bowel—a doctrine with which I totally disagree. We are all alive to the fact that there is a lack of harmony between the ancient machinery of our bodies and the modern conditions under which we live, but we are only now awakening to the fact that what is true of our bodies is also true of our minds. In that immense first phase of our history an elaborate mental machinery had been evolved for binding small groups of mankind into social units. This subconscious or instinctive mental outfit, we shall see, is part of the machinery which Nature has employed in the evolution of races of mankind. The mental adaptations which modern man has inherited from the immensity of his past we may briefly describe as part of Nature's tribal machinery. The thesis, then, which I propose to expound to you is that in our modern racial strifes and national agitations we see man's inherited tribal instincts at war with his present-day conditions of life. We have broken up, or are attempting to break up, Nature's ancient tribal machinery and at the present time are striving to replace her designs by others evolved in the minds of modern statesmen and politicians. We moderns are like hill sheep turned into fenced fields with all our wandering instincts still grafted on our original nature. As in them, our instincts are at war with our surroundings. It is the most natural thing in the world that we should blame the barriers which have been set round us because we are scarcely conscious of the inherited predispositions with which Nature encompasses her tribal fields. We cannot understand the nature of our modern racial and national problems until we perceive that in these days we are endeavouring to build a new world out of the wreckage of an old.


Having thus laid before you the general lines on which I propose to deal with problems relating to race and nationality, I propose now that we should make a lightning trip round the world and cull, as we go, samples which will illustrate the kind of friction which arises wherever races or nationalities come into close contact. As I have already said, every country can yield us material for our study, but none on such a vast experimental scale as the United States of North America; we shall therefore commence our hurried survey in that country. Within the frontiers of the States is massed a population of 110 millions. When we look closely we see that over ten millions of these inhabitants are marked off from the rest by a frontier, a colour line, as sharply defined and jealously guarded as the frontiers of a kingdom. Across that racial frontier all legitimate social traffic is barred, the custodians of the frontier being those who stand on the white side of the line. Any attempt to cross that racial frontier produces mob war. While these ten millions of segregated citizens abide within their racial fence, they see millions arrive from Europe and pass freely through the national and social gateways—which for them are barred. In the course of a generation they see these new arrivals, men, women, and children born and bred within the diverse nationalities of Europe, differing markedly in appearance and speech from the original colonial stock, become slowly stript of their alien outlook and gradually incorporated within a new national mass. In the States, then, we see a machinery at work which maintains racial frontiers but breaks down all national barriers. The nature of that machinery we shall have to inquire into later, but in the meantime I will briefly define the essential difference between a racial and a national frontier. A marriage across a racial frontier gives rise to an offspring so different from both parent races that it cannot be naturally grouped with either the one or the other. A marriage across a national frontier gives rise to a progeny which may pass as a member of either parent nationality. Further, as I shall attempt to prove later, nationality is the incipient stage in the process which leads on to racial differentiation.


When we cross the line which separates the United States from Canada we find a national mechanism at work which converts immigrants of alien nationalities into loyal Canadians. In Canada, however, our attention is arrested by an example which illustrates the persistence and the strength of the force which perpetuates a national spirit. The ancestors of the French Canadians began to settle in the province of Quebec early in the seventeenth century, 150 years before the Canadian national mill was set agoing by Englishmen. The French settlers never passed through that mill. They came, for the greater part, from the north-west of France, and although speaking a different tongue, adopting a different religion, and following different customs, they were yet in point of race not essentially different from the English founders of Canada. Yet the descendants of these early French settlers, now numbering well over a million and a half, and although forming but a small island in the midst of an English-speaking ocean for more than a century and a half, have maintained their sense of separateness—their national frontiers—intact. There is no question here of a racial frontier as yet, but were this national isolation of French Canadians to become permanent, then in course of time a racial differentiation would be produced within their territory.

When we turn our faces westward and cross the Rocky Mountains we find the minds of the white inhabitants, along the whole stretch of the Pacific coast, occupied with a racial problem. They have erected a racial barrier to keep out the native peoples of Asia. The native of India is excluded just as strictly as the Chinaman or Japanese. They are not excluded because of their speech or of their civilization, but because the people of the United States and of Canada are conscious of a certain feeling of difference—call it race prejudice, race antipathy, or what you will. It is a conscious or subconscious state of feeling which rebels against racial fusion.


When we pass from the United States to Mexico we cross the boundary line which separates the two most immense experiments in human breeding the world has ever seen. North of this experimental Rubicon, as we have just seen, the basal stock, which is north-west European or Nordic in origin, has been ruled by a sense of race-caste and has consequently maintained its racial characters. But south of our Rubicon the result of racial contact has been absolutely different. The south-west European or Iberian stock broke down the natural barrier which Nature had set up between them and the natives of Mexico and South America and solved their racial antagonisms by the fusion of blood. The results of these two experiments, carried out on such an immense scale, we can see to-day. The northern experiment, which is now three centuries old, has given the world two of her most virile peoples destined to hold their place whether humanity becomes planted out on a vast, peaceful, and uniform cabbage-patch or still remains, as now, broken up into national and racial factions. These northern peoples are as effective, so far at least as concerns their chances of survival, as the original Nordic stock. The southern experiment, which began four centuries ago, has given the world a jangling series of small peoples, not any one of which is equal, either in body or in mind, to the pioneer Iberian stock. From the anthropologist's point of view the northern experiment is the successful one.

We have been glancing at the national and racial problems of the American continent and we ought now to pass on to note the form in which they are presented to us by Australasia. Before passing on, however, there is one very important aspect of the southern or Iberian experiment which we must consider now because it throws light on the path along which I want to lead you. Why did the racial barrier between Iberian and Indian break down? Was it because the Iberian did not possess—was not influenced by—a sense of race-caste such as we have seen to dominate the Nordic colonist? I believe that race-caste or race-prejudice is and has been a more potent force in the Nordic than in the Iberian stock. The Iberian people are near neighbours of the African races; in physique they are differentiated from the African stocks in a somewhat less degree than the Nordic stocks which represent the utmost point in the physical specialization of all European peoples. If the Iberian pioneer carried with him to America a lesser degree of race-caste, the process of hybridization would begin the more easily. The great north and south experiments differed, however, in another important circumstance. The Nordic encountered a scattered, nomadic, proud race; the Iberian a settled people living in dense communities. The Iberian was thus exposed to conditions in which a racial barrier was harder to maintain.


But neither of these two circumstances—a lesser developed sense of race-caste in the Iberian, nor the massing of the southern Indians in settled communities—explain the disappearance of a racial frontier. The true explanation lies in the fact that Nature has grafted in the human mind instinctive impulses which are far stronger than those designated as race-prejudice. Nature has spent her most painstaking efforts in establishing within the human organization a mechanism to ensure, above all other ends, that the individual shall continue. The instinct to propagate is the strongest of the instinctive impulses with which mankind has been fitted. It dominates and conquers the race instinct on all occasions save one. Sex impulse is the battery which breaks down race-barriers. Race instinct becomes the master of sexual impulse only when a pure stock has established itself as a complete and growing community in a new country. Sexual impulses are the endowments of individual men and women; they dominate and are manifested by individuals, whereas race antipathies are manifestations not of the individual, but of the mass. Race instinct comes into play only when men, women, and children of the same stock are organized into communities. Until such a community is organized sex instinct traffics freely across racial barriers; once organized, race instinct conquers or restrains hybridization. It is a right understanding of the conditions under which human instincts work that gives us the true key to the hybridization of Spaniard and American Indian. The Iberian pioneers exposed themselves to racial contact in Mexico and Peru under conditions which were bound to give their sex impulses a victory over their race instinct. No Mayflower reached the Spanish coasts of America; only bands of adventurers, who established no independent home-like settlements to form the cradles of race-feeling. The sex instinct was left dominant, and by this force the racial barriers south of the Mexican rubicon were broken down. North of this Rubicon the American continent was colonized; south of it, there was not a colonization but a plantation. From an anthropologist's point of view, as we shall note later, colonization and plantation are totally different processes.


When we cross the Pacific to Australia we see the same racial and national factors at work as in Saxon America. It has taken only a little over a century for a British or Nordic stock, now numbering five millions, to establish itself as occupant and owner of a great continent. The Australians have had to face both national and racial problems. The continent was colonized from separate centres, and there was a tendency on the part of each colony to isolate itself from its neighbours and grow up into a separate state or nationality. These separate states or incipient nationalities were united at the commencement of the present century by the craft of statesmanship which made the shores of the new continent the frontiers of a national commonwealth. The British communities in Australia bred and exhibited the usual Saxon sense of race discrimination; almost from the first they drew a racial frontier between themselves and the native blacks, and so strictly has this frontier been maintained that there is no trace of the vanishing aboriginal blood in the veins of the new nationality. The 50,000 survivors of the original owners of the continent now present a philanthropic rather than a racial problem. But it is otherwise as regards the millions of native peoples occupying the countries which flank the Indian and China seas. Seas are the highways along which modern peoples spread and invade accessible lands. Hence round their shores the Australians have erected a racial barrier, admitting the entrance of peoples of European descent but excluding all others.

The student of racial and national problems cannot afford to pass New Zealand by. In these two islands English, Scotch, Irish, and Welsh immigrants have, in the course of the last eighty years, built up a new nation, now numbering well over a million souls. Here and there in the islands there has been a tendency for the immigrants to group themselves according to their inherited nationality, but such separate groupings tend to disappear as the new national spirit becomes dominant. Herein we see exhibited a law with which herdsmen are familiar. A herd of cattle which has occupied a field for some time will resist the intrusion of a second or strange herd; but turn both herds together into a strange pasture and mutual antipathies cease almost at once. The arrival in a new land of immigrants from diverse countries breaks down the national barriers within which they were born and bred. A national spirit breeds true only on its native soil; when transplanted to a new land it becomes plastic and mouldable. A new country dissolves ancient nationalities; no country illustrates this truth more emphatically than New Zealand.

The relationship which exists between the new nationality of New Zealand and the ancient owners of the country—the Maori, now numbering about 50,000—is one of a unique kind. The physical differences which separate the British and Maori types are such in degree that there can be no question of the distinctness of their racial stocks. In former cases we have seen that it was the Saxon who drew and guarded the racial frontier; but in New Zealand each of the contending human stocks has drawn its racial line, and each regards the other's delimitation with respect. Such respect is rendered possible because the territorial frontiers of Maoriland have been clearly defined. Thus wise statesmanship keeps racial problems in a latent condition in New Zealand.


If we now pass to South Africa we find problems of race and of nationality in a more acute and tangled form than anywhere else in the world. Long before the Portuguese had turned the Cape of Good Hope towards the end of the sixteenth century, this land was occupied by a confusion of contending tribal peoples belonging to at least three well-differentiated human stocks. Bantu peoples were pushing southwards, ousting and exterminating Hottentot tribes; these were at the same time exercising a continuous pressure on the Bush people. At the present time this great territory, with a total area of nearly twenty times that of England, is occupied by about six and a quarter millions of people, fully five millions being descendants of the original native tribes, with a slight admixture of Asiatic elements. The masters and owners of this territory, numbering only a little over a million, are of the Nordic or north-west European stock. About one-half of the dominant stock drew its original guiding spirit from Holland, the other half carried to its new home the national spirit of England. These two nationalities, both derived from the same North Sea stock, have been thrown together in South Africa for over a century, and yet a sense of difference in nationality has persisted, even in face of dangers which threaten both alike. Thus South Africa has an acute friction arising from the rubbing of one nationality on another. She has also her racial problems; the more closely they are examined the more do their potential dangers seem to grow. Boer and Briton may differ in speech, habit, and outlook, but both agree that there is an impassable frontier between them and the native races of Africa and Asia. They do not even camouflage the racial barricade which they have erected; they purposely expose it in its nakedness to full view, so that none may fail to see it. The dark natives maintain their tribal and racial frontiers by their inherited organizations, but the surveillance of the social barrier between them and the whites lies with the dominant race. Only those who have come into direct contact with racial antagonisms know how deeply they are situated in the primitive organization of the human brain. Let me cite only one witness on this point—one who would willingly believe, if he could, that racial antagonisms are both superficial and acquired. "That a very real problem exists in the race-consciousness of the white and coloured peoples is evident, is sometimes painfully evident, sometimes dangerously so. There is nothing to be gained by under-estimating its deep-seated nature and the gravity of its issues." This is a quotation from the presidential address given by Dr. W. Flint to the last meeting (1919) of the South African Association for the Advancement of Science. The mixture of races in South Africa has roused to activity instincts or subconscious states which lie dormant in members of a uniform population. National and racial frontiers, we shall see, are part of Nature's evolutionary machinery. Meantime we merely note that modern industrial ideals clash with the working of Nature's instinctive mechanisms, and in South Africa the two are in actual collision.


As we pass northwards along the African continent, over a welter of tribal peoples, we need merely note the cry for national recognition which ascends to us from the lower valley of the Nile. The descendants of the ancient Egyptians, mixed with a conglomeration of racial stocks drawn from Africa, Asia, and Europe, are agitating for 'national' independence and isolation. It would take us too far afield to consider the national and racial problems of the 300 millions of diverse peoples of India who are linked together by only one bond—the government extended to them by the British Empire. Nor need we stay now to speculate on the nationalities which will arise from the wreckage of Turkey, Austria, or Russia, nor shall we dally with the Balkan jumble of nationalities. We simply note that these instincts or feelings which compel men of like speech, habits, and traditions to group themselves into independent national units are most active and powerful where racial or national boundaries are most confused.


In the strict sense in which the anthropologist uses the term 'Race' there is in Europe no racial problem. Our universal disturbances are those of nationality. There are no two nationalities in Europe, so different in physical appearance, that their hybrid progeny may not pass as a member of either parent nationality. In the anthropologist's sense there are no racial bastards produced by the union of European nationalities. If we except the Lapps and other Mongolian elements in Russia there is only one people in Europe with a legitimate claim to be regarded as racially different from the general population. That exception is the Jewish people. There are seven millions of them forming an archipelago in the sea of European peoples, their main islands lying in the centre of the continent, north and south of the Carpathians. The Jews maintain a racial frontier, such as dominant races surround themselves with; they carry themselves as if racially distinct. Their original stock was clearly eastern in its derivation; the peoples of Europe sprang from another racial source. The outliers of the Jewish racial archipelago are exposed to the cross-currents of the Gentile seas. The smaller islets are too far removed to be sheltered and strengthened by the race sense which is bred and nursed wherever permanent Jewish settlements are established. However much the Jewish racial frontier may be strengthened by the faith which is the standard of the race, raids have been made, are now made, across that frontier and a certain degree of hybridization has occurred. Even thus exposed in the eddying seas of modern civilization, the race spirit of the Jews has preserved the greater part of the original characters carried into Europe by the pioneer Semitic bands. In 90 per cent. of Jews the physical or Semitic characters are apparent to the eye even of the uninitiated Gentile. In the Jewish people we see Nature steering one of her cargoes of differentiated humanity between the Scylla and Charybdis of the modern sea of industrial civilization. And race instinct is her steersman.


The processes of nationalization in Europe are of two kinds; on the one hand we see smaller nationalities being compounded into larger units; on the other we see large nationalities being disintegrated. We see fusion taking place and we see disruption. Which is Nature's method? All the great nationalities of Europe have been built up by fusion—Italy, Spain, France, Great Britain, and Germany. As the last named is the most recent and most clearly understood case of fusion we may glance at the means by which it was accomplished. The nationalities and separate states which were united to form the German Empire were derived from at least three stocks, each of which show well-differentiated physical characters. These human stocks were united by a common tongue. By war and conquest the empire surrounded itself—isolated itself—by a ring of enemies. The Germans carried their frontiers beyond the limits of their speech and set out to make Danes, Frenchmen, and Poles members of their own nationality. They sought to strengthen their national frontiers by tariff barricades. They linked themselves together by the multiplication of means of rapid transit and fostered the growth of a national or tribal spirit by active, persistent, and widespread tribal propaganda. The tribal spirit, which is an innate quality of every people, was roused to such a pitch that in the crisis of war the national or tribal bonds held; sixty millions of people acted as if they were members of a Highland clan. Even defeat, if it has loosened, has not broken the national bonds which were forged by the governing classes of Germany.

In all these processes of national fusion, as in the formation of all trusts in the modern commercial world, the anthropologist observes that the operation commences from above and works downwards through the mass of the people. The governing class plays upon and fans into flame the tribal embers of the popular mind. It is altogether a different process which brings about the disruption of a nationality. Disruption has nothing to do with race; the nearer the blood relationship between two adjacent peoples the more likely is disruption to occur. We can find no better illustration of this truth than when we cross the Baltic from Germany to Scandinavia. The people of Norway and Sweden are of the same racial composition; they have many interests in common; union should have given strength. Yet after a partnership which lasted for less than a century, they agreed to separate. In this case the movement came from below; a tribal feeling which swept through the people of Norway compelled a disruption. All the natural inherited forces in a people tend towards disruption. Only when reason takes the helm can these natural disruptive forces be overcome and the process of fusion be effected.


Having thus made a hurried survey of some of the more instructive, racial, and national problems abroad we now return homewards to apply the knowledge thus gained to the understanding of the national manifestations of our own countrymen. There is no need to remind you that the national spirit of Robert Boyle's native country is always boiling up, often boiling over. Scotland, too, has a national spirit, so has Wales; in both countries this spirit is separatist in its essence, but the national instinctive tendencies are curbed and guided by the higher reasoning centres of the brain. In England itself the sense of nationality is usually dormant; only an insult or a threat from without stirs this gigantic force into life. In Ireland the national kettle is kept always on the boil; in Scotland and Wales it is kept simmering; in England, on the other hand, it dozes quietly on the hob. Nevertheless English nationality is a force which pervades the whole population lying between Berwick-on-Tweed and Land's End. In the course of centuries statesmanship has succeeded in raising up in the minds of all the inhabitants of the British Isles—all save in the greater part of Ireland—a new and wider sense of nationality, a spirit of British nationality. Why we never succeeded in raising that spirit in the whole of Ireland represents the major part of our present quest.


At the outset of our inquiry we are met by the ancient belief that the British Isles are divided by a racial frontier which separates the western or Celtic peoples from the eastern inhabitants of Saxon origin. It was my fortune to be born on the border of the Celtic fringe, and no one growing up under these circumstances can fail to realize that the Celtic spirit is a real and live force. Is it a racial antagonism which is elicited when Celt and Saxon are in conflict? What is the physical difference between a Celt and a Saxon? That is a matter to which I have given my attention for some years, and the results of my inquiries I will place before you as briefly as I may. In the audience now before me there are certain to be pure representatives of all our four nationalities; Celts and Saxons as pure as any in the country are sure to be present in any university audience. But except for a trick of speech or a local mannerism, the most expert anthropologist cannot tell Celt from Saxon or an Irishman from a Scotsman. There are, to be sure, certain physical types which prevail in one country more than in another, but I do not know of any feature of the body or any trait of the mind, or of any combination of features or traits which will permit an expert, on surveying groups of university students, to say this group is from Scotland, that from Wales, the third from Ireland, and the fourth from England. In stature and in colouring, in form of skull and of face, elaborate trials have revealed national difference only of the most minor kind. Nay, we know very well the physical features of the Saxon pioneers who became the masters of England and dominated the lowlands of Scotland. Their graveyards have been examined by the score, but it is not by the form of the skulls and the strength of the limb bones that we know we are dealing with the graves of ancient Saxons, but by the implements, ornaments, and utensils which were buried with them. As regards shape of skull or form of bones I do not think a practised craniologist could distinguish the skulls and bones found in an ancient Saxon cemetery in Surrey from the remains of a Celtic grave in Connemara, so much are Celtic and Saxon types alike. Were we to dress one group of fishermen from the coast of Norfolk and another from the shores of Connaught in the same garb, I do not think there is an anthropologist in Europe who by mere inspection could tell the Irish from the English group. From a physical point of view the Celt and Saxon are one; whatever be the source of their mutual antagonism, it does not lie in a difference of race. It is often said that we British are a mixed and mongrel collection of types and breeds; the truth is that as regards physical type the inhabitants of the British Isles are the most uniform of all the large nationalities of Europe.


The statement which I have just made, that Britons are really a uniform folk, seems altogether at variance with the teaching of history. What I am to say now will explain a discrepancy which, in its essence, is only superficial. Our written history opens with the Roman invasion and occupation of Britain; it was an 'occupation' or 'plantation', not a true colonization. On the other hand, the Saxon and Danish invasions ended in widely spread and true colonizations of Britain. The Norman invasion, on the other hand, was of the nature of a plantation. I will make the difference between the various forms of invasion apparent presently. There have been, too, flocks of immigrant refugees at various times. We have the most positive evidence that long before the dawn of written history the processes of invasion and colonization had been going on in Britain. In all these invasions, historic and prehistoric, with one important exception, no strange or new racial stock was added to the British Isles; all were apparently branches of the human stock which still occupy the north-west of Europe—men of the Nordic type—or as I should prefer to call them, the North Sea breed. We are only now beginning to realize that even at the dawn of the present period, a period marked by the retreat of the ice sheet from the Baltic basin, the seashore and the sea itself were the high roads along which primitive peoples migrated and spread. They were people of the same human type who spread themselves along the shores of the Mediterranean and occupied its coastal lands. The distribution of the Mediterranean breed was determined by the limits of their sea. Apparently the shores of the North Sea were settled in a similar way. We have but scanty remains from the midden heaps along its ancient shores to tell us about the kind of folk these early settlers were, but so far as the evidence goes it supports the supposition that the Nordic type was already in possession of north-west Europe before the dawn of the Neolithic period. We can only explain the distribution of the Nordic type along the shorelands of the North Sea, of the Baltic, and of the British seas, on the supposition of a primitive and ancient North Sea stock—made up of men of the Nordic type. The earliest cave dwellers of England were of this type. It was this North Sea stock which gave Britain not only her original population but also her succession of colonists. It is certain that there were also invasions of Britain from the Mediterranean stock, but we have only to compare a sample of our modern population with one drawn from a Mediterranean people to see how little our blood has been affected by a southern mixture. In all these invasions and colonizations there is only one which was not drawn from the North Sea stock. That invasion took place in the second millenium before Christ, when the round-headed stock of Central Europe broke through the Nordic belt, reached the shores of the North Sea, and invaded Britain on a scale which has never been equalled before or since save in Saxon times. That invasion of round-heads broke first on England and Scotland, but Wales and particularly Ireland received in time a full share of the fresh arrivals. With this one exception all the invaders and settlers of the British Isles were waves derived from the same prolific source—the North Sea breed. We see, then, why there should be little physical difference between Celt and Saxon. The one was an earlier wave, the other a much later wave of the same stock. But each wave brought its own mode of speech and its own tribal spirit. Of all the inhabitants of the British Isles the Irish may be regarded as the purest representatives of the North Sea or Nordic stock.


The refusal of the Irish to merge their sense of nationality in a common British whole cannot be explained by any difference in blood or race. We shall get nearer to the heart of the problem if we can discover why the people on the north-east of Ireland, particularly in counties Antrim and Down, in contrast with the rest of Ireland, are sharers in the common British spirit. It is true that, even in ancient times, there was a community of feeling between Ulstermen and the West Scotch. Even in Neolithic times their cultures show a free intercourse. Before the plantation of Ireland by lowland folk in the seventeenth century, Ulster was frequented by bands of Highland Scots. Neither of these circumstances explain the unionist spirit of Ulster. Nor is the spirit of north-east Ulster a matter of British admixture. A careful examination of all the available data relating to the plantation of Ireland between 1560 and 1660 will show that an even greater proportion of British blood was poured into Leinster and Munster than into Ulster. At the end of the plantation period probably one Irishman out of every three in the provinces of Leinster and Munster had blood of British colonists in his veins. In this reckoning no count is made of the people who landed and settled in Ireland in the five centuries which preceded 1560—Danes, Normans, Welsh, and English. It is not the number of British colonists which has made north-east Ulster separatist in spirit, so far as the rest of Ireland is concerned—and unionist, so far as Great Britain is concerned. The north-east region of Ireland was the only part which was truly colonized; only a real or spontaneous colonization can carry a tribal or national spirit to a new land.

For the anthropologist a true or spontaneous colonization is a totally different process from one which is false or forced. At the very time at which the English Government was settling or planting colonists on Irish soil and among Irish people, a spontaneous exodus set in among the North Sea peoples. This exodus—a people's movement—established a Saxon fringe along the eastern sea-board of North America. The exodus, which began in the seventeenth century, has continued to the present time—three full centuries. Thus fed, the fringe extended until it reached the Pacific shore. The original fringe represented a true tribal settlement; within the pioneer communities grew up the consciousness of nationality and of race-antagonism, which we have already noted in the Saxon peoples of North America. The break-away—the natural process of disintegration, represented by the War of Independence—is usually explained as a result of bad government. The disputes between the British Government and the colonists were certainly the circumstances which determined the disruption, but the forces which impelled the colonists to action were those subconscious impulses which Nature has planted deep in the human mind as part of her evolutionary machinery.


The colonization of North America, which took place in the full light of history, gives us the means of understanding the Saxon colonization of England, which otherwise lies obscure in the twilight of our written records. In both cases we have to deal with a spontaneous or popular movement. One was across the wide Atlantic, the other across an almost land-locked sea. Both commenced by the formation of a fringe of true settlement wherein inherited tribal traditions and organizations were nursed and strengthened; in both cases the original fringe was fed by a stream of immigrants continuing over several centuries. The chief difference between the two movements lies in this: the American colonists encountered a people who were so physically unlike themselves as to raise a racial frontier, whereas the Saxon people pushed their way into a land inhabited by people of their own stock. The progeny of the captured British native could be reared so as to become a true Saxon. The Saxon colonization, as it spread over the land, engulfed—when it did not exterminate—the natives and their tribal organizations in their agricultural village communities. The Saxon settlement of England held and prospered because it was a true colonization.


In Ireland we have an opportunity of contrasting the results of an artificial or forced settlement with those of a natural or spontaneous colonization. Elizabeth, James, and Cromwell settled their colonists on Irish tribal lands, thus exposing them to the full force of the clannish or tribal spirit which then animated the natives of Ireland. The consequence was that the progeny of the British colonists, as it grew up, absorbed the Irish tribal spirit, for this spirit, being more primitive and more easily understood than a sense of nationality, always makes a dominant appeal to the young mind. The blood which English statesmen of the seventeenth century poured into Ireland to quench its national flame only served to feed it. It was otherwise in the north-east of Ireland—particularly in Down and Antrim. These counties were settled in the earlier decades of the seventeenth century by a process of spontaneous colonization. The movement commenced in a small way in 1606 by Hugh Montgomery, a south Scotch laird, purchasing a large tract of the O'Neill's land in county Down. He settled that land with his relations and tenantry—a farming community. Such was the beginning of the colonial fringe on the north-east coast of Ulster. The fringe was fed by a spontaneous exodus of farming folk mainly from the south of Scotland, but the stream was also kept up and maintained from the north of England and from Scottish counties as far north as those of Aberdeen and Inverness. The men who flocked to Ulster found it easier to raise crops on the greensward of Antrim than on the heathery hill-sides of Aberdeenshire. Herein we see a repetition, but on a small scale, of the Saxon colonization of England. The settled communities established by the Scotch pioneers sheltered and nursed the national spirit they brought with them. As the fringe of colonists expanded it came to cover Antrim and Down and made inroads on adjacent counties, overwhelming and absorbing the tribal organization of the native population. In 1672 Sir William Petty estimated that there were 100,000 Scots in Ulster. Thus in the north-east of Ireland there has been established a people which manifests all the qualities of a new nationality. History can explain to us how it has come about that the inhabitants of Ireland, all of them derivatives of the same breed of Europeans, should be divided into two peoples, each possessed by its own peculiar sense of nationality. The north is predominantly industrial and Protestant; the south is predominantly pastoral and Catholic. But these circumstances are not sufficient to account for a national—almost a racial—antagonism between the inhabitants of a single small island who have so much to gain by a sense of unity. To understand national antagonisms we have to look at the inheritance which modern man has carried with him from his distant past.


I now enter the third stage of my argument. In the first I cited and discussed the various forms in which racial and national feelings are manifested by various peoples abroad; in my second I dealt with the nature of the various national movements at home. We now set out in search of the root from which the flower of our complex modern civilization has sprung. In the world of to-day we see many peoples exhibiting every phase in the evolution of that organization which permits mankind to live in massed populations. Fortunately for us there yet survive, in outlandish parts of the earth, remnants of native races retaining the primitive organization which guided mankind through that great hinterland of time lying between the emergence from apedom and the dawn of the modern world. For the student of sociology the immense primitive first stage of man's history is by far the more important. In his Voyage of the Beagle, Darwin draws a picture of the Fuegians which gives us a real insight into the ancient state of social organization. Spencer and Gillan supply us with complementary pictures representing the conditions of life among native tribes of Central Australia. These primitive peoples live on the natural produce of the territory which they inhabit and claim as their own. Their social organization represents for us the conditions in which the modern races of mankind were evolved. It is in such primitive societies that there must have existed the machinery which differentiated mankind into races and racial breeds. It is in the long first phase that we must search for the origin of the social impulses and tendencies which have come down to modern man by inheritance.[1]

When we survey a country still in the most primitive stage of human society, the first observation to impress us is the fact that its inhabitants are separated into definitely isolated groups. Such groups are usually small, consisting of men, women, and children belonging to several closely related families and numbering two or three hundred souls. Each group, forming an elemental community, occupies, and considers itself the owner of, a definite tract of country; there is developed in them a feeling—an attachment—which serves to bind them to the soil on which they live. When we look at the nature of the bonds which serve to bind the members of a primitive community together, we see that they are formed out of subconscious impulses or instincts. These instincts form an essential part of the machinery of organization. There is usually no head man or chieftain to determine the action of the community; there is no deliberative assembly to lay down rules of conduct. In Galton's phrase the members of a primitive community form 'a sentient web', dominated by traditional beliefs and customs. I have no wish to analyse the subconscious states and instinctive reactions which rule and bind together the members of a primitive community; what I want to make clear is that the tribal instincts have above all an isolating effect. These instincts serve not only as a machinery for binding the members of a community together, but also as a means of separating them from all surrounding groups. Within the community this machinery compels unity of sentiment and of action; it serves to repress schism and faction. But the tribal machinery is operative only up to the territorial boundaries of the community. At that limit the tribal instincts immediately change in their mode of action. The tribal instincts surround the community with a frontier, across which there is no peaceful traffic, only robbery and plunder; or at the best covert enmity. The tribal frontier is also a blood barrier; across it the tribal instinct forbids any form of peaceful matrimonial exchange or tribal intermixture. Nothing impressed Darwin so much as the ring of neutral territory which surrounded the primitive Fuegian settlements.


The tribal or clannish spirit tends to manifest itself in many forms, but in all its varieties there is a common factor—that of isolation. At first sight we are tempted to regard the tribal spirit as part of a machinery evolved for the protection and survival of a primitive community, but to any one who has searched for conditions which will explain the origin of separate races of mankind, the conviction grows that the tribal spirit is an essential part of Nature's evolutionary machinery. It was in these isolated cradles of primitive mankind that Nature nursed and reared new races. When a breeder wishes to produce a new type of animal, or to preserve a 'sport', his first step is to isolate the group of animals with which he is to experiment. The isolated stock becomes the cradle in which he hopes to rear his new breed. The experimental breeder, in such instances, copies the conditions which rule in primitive human communities. Under modern civilization Nature's cradles have been smashed to atoms, but the tribal instincts which Nature intended for the propagation of new breeds of humanity have come down to modern man in undiminished force. Hence our present national and racial troubles.


The tribal spirit, which maintains the unity of an elementary community, is efficient just so long as personal contact between its members is possible. If a tribal community becomes overgrown, so that mutual contact between its members is rendered impossible, then a manifestation of a different nature appears—that of disruption or swarming. The disintegrating tendency is just as much a part of Nature's evolutionary contrivance as is the isolating and unifying effect of the tribal spirit. For breeding purposes the group must be kept within certain bounds. Modern man has overcome the tendency to disruption on the part of massed communities by the invention of means of rapid intercommunication. The daily press, the hourly post, and a network of electric wires can bind a hundred millions of modern people into a sentient tribal web.


Small isolated communities are the cradles in which new tribal breeds of mankind are reared. But how do new races arise? If isolation were to be continued throughout long intervals of time we may justly infer that the physical and mental characters of a breed would become more and more emphasized until a stage of differentiation is reached which we must regard as racial. A racial spirit is merely the tribal spirit matured and consolidated. The manifestations which begin as tribal, end, in the course of time, by becoming racial. We cannot account for the differentiation of mankind into distinct races, nor the existence of many intermediate forms which link one human race to another, unless we postulate the existence in mankind of a deeply rooted tribal mechanism.


Having thus glanced at the nature of the instinctive machinery which has controlled human communities throughout the greater part of man's history we now return to ask ourselves: What have become of the tribal instincts which were so deeply grafted in the nature of our ancestors? Our tribal forefathers are not so far removed from us. We can still trace the distribution of the Highland clans in Scotland; the tribal spirit is still strong in the Scottish glens. The organization of Ireland was on a tribal basis even when the Anglo-Normans settled there; in subsequent centuries, even until the times of the British settlements, the tribal spirit was still rampant in Ireland; even now it is very much alive. Two thousand years ago Great Britain was in a tribal state from end to end. Practically every one of us is the descendant of ancestors who, forty generations back, were exercising their tribal instincts to the full. The Roman occupation did much to break down the tribal organization of Britain; the Saxon colonization did still more. The forces, however, which forged the tribal links into a national chain were commerce, communication, and the building of massed populations. Tribes were united to form nations, but there is no greater mistake than to suppose that the subconscious tribal impulses or instincts were wholly converted into a sense of common nationality.


We have only to watch our commoner actions and predilections to see that in our modern States the spirit of nationality has only absorbed a fraction of our tribal instincts. Every one of you regards your own college and all the men belonging to it with pride; other colleges and other men you view with a critical eye. You cheer your own crews and teams; you want to see them beat all their rivals; you take sides. In all of these actions and prejudices you manifest the elementary basis of a tribal spirit. Every week we see hundreds of thousands attend football or other competitive games, not so much to see an exhibition of skill as to see their own side win. The spectators, as they cheer, are moved by a tribal spirit. If we do not belong to a cricketing county we may go so far as to adopt one as a foster-parent in order that we may exercise our tribal instincts in being elated by its success or cast down by its failure. Local national politics give us many opportunities of exercising our tribal instincts. In politics we have to take sides; a political party is a tribal organization, using ancient means for compelling a unity of sentiment amongst its members. The church, too, provides modern tribesmen with occasions for exercising their inherited impulses; a heresy hunt finds its counterpart in the most ancient of tribal communities. Women even more than men are slaves of their tribal instincts; they are as susceptible to the dictates of fashion as their ancient sisters were impressionable to the movings of the tribal spirit. The local spirit which is so inherent a trait of the countryman, particularly in the case of the Scotsman, Irishman, and Welshman, is another, and often a very powerful, manifestation of the tribal spirit. Men from the same locality or district, when they go to live in foreign communities, are drawn together by a clannish sentiment—a manifestation of their inherited tribal instincts. Turn in what direction you will, you will find amongst modern peoples innumerable tribal manifestations which find no room for display in the more intellectual exhibitions of a national spirit.

In present-day politics we see the tribal spirit striving to work out certain novel effects. Although in ancient times a tribal frontier usually corresponded to a territorial frontier, such was not always the case. The tribal spirit is strong enough to hold a people together even when there is no territorial boundary. In modern massed populations, as in the organization of both ancient and modern India, the tribal spirit works so as to produce frontiers between classes of citizens; trades unions are in essence artificial tribal organizations. Except for the existence of tribal instincts within the inherited mental organization of the manual workers, such unions were impossible. Many writers believe that class or sectional tribal organizations can actually be made to cut across national and even racial frontiers. We have seen, however, that at the declaration of war, all such sectional bonds snap, for war is the match which fires the tribal spirit, exalts it to a national flame, and destroys intertribal schisms. All the petty manifestations of the tribal spirit are changed by war; the impulses which moved men and women in peace time to games and sports, to party politics, to heresy hunting—even to displays of fashion—are turned to patriotic desires and deeds.


Several modern statesmen have grasped the important part played by the tribal spirit in unifying the action of modern nations. I shall cite only three examples to illustrate this form of political insight—Bismarck, Lincoln, and Lloyd George. Bismarck employed war to rouse and unify the German peoples; three campaigns were sufficient to raise an unbounded feeling of tribal confidence and superiority. He gave the German Empire a sharply demarcated tribal frontier; he purposely surrounded his country with a ring of animosity, true to his tribal instincts. Abraham Lincoln's tribal problem was of another kind. The conditions which led up to the Civil War concerned the freeing of slaves; but Lincoln made the war, when it became inevitable, an intratribal quarrel. He realized that the danger to the United States was disintegration, one which must continually threaten all nationalities compounded out of great massed populations. Lincoln therefore made the main issue of the war the right of a single state or a confederation of states to secede from the main tribe or union. The Civil War determined the issue in favour of the North: the natural process of tribal disruption was declared illegal. Lloyd George's task was of a different nature. He touched and wakened Britain's sleeping tribal instincts with the insight of genius. War gave him his opportunity, but had he not known that tribal instincts lie deeply buried in man's emotional nature and are intertwined with his most primitive feeling he could not have known how to touch the ancient strings. Intellectual appeals had failed to stir the primitive and basal tribal impulses of the people.


There was one part of the country, however, where Lloyd George's appeal did not succeed in evoking British patriotism; it left the greater part of the people of Ireland not only apathetic but even more actively hostile than before. Yet their country formed an intrinsic part of these islands; their economic interests had much more to gain by the success of Britain than of Germany. History throws light on only part of this thorny problem; the real difficulty thus encountered dates back to prehistoric days—to the origin of the inherent, inherited, and deeply-rooted tribal instincts of the Irish people. The Irish spirit leapt up, as it had often done before, into a naming tribal antagonism directed against everything British. What then is a British statesman to do? We too have our tribal instincts, and their first impulse on being awakened is—as it was in ancient days—to meet force with force, even to extermination. That is the ancient tribal practice; but in these days we have entered another era in the world's history when intelligent effort must master and direct our inherited instincts. Statesmen know that forcible means, when applied to extinguish a national flame, only serve to feed it. Statecraft has never discovered, and I think it never will discover, a method of forcing or grafting a new national or tribal spirit on an old people. We have seen that a nation can colonize only when the force which drives its members to migrate arises spontaneously within the communities; a colonization initiated and conducted by a government always fails to hold. Nationalization is a similar process; the forces which control and guide it must arise within the hearts of the people; it cannot be imposed on them from above. All that a statesman can do is to provide conditions in which a favourable spirit is most likely to develop and mature. He must sow judiciously for years and wait patiently for his harvest—even if it be for generations. Ireland's friendship is a prize which is worth working for and waiting for, even if it costs Britain a weary century of patient courtship.


[1] I have dealt more fully with primitive tribal organization in 'Certain Factors concerned in the Evolution of Human Races', Journ. Royal Anthropological Institute, 1916, vol. 46, p. 10.


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