Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS:
Title: Social Darwinism and social policy : the problem of the feeble-minded, 1900-1914
Author: Owen, John
Awarding Body: University of London
Current Institution: Institute of Historical Research (University of London)
Date of Award: 1997
Availability of Full Text:
Access from EThOS:
This work is the first systematic study and analysis of Social Darwinism and social policy in order to ascertain what effects, if any, were produced on British social policy during the period 1900-14. Darwinism - both social and scientific - is examined together with such allied concepts as Eugenics and Degeneration theory. Heredity is considered, both pre- and post-publication of the 'Origin of the Species', and any change in outlook that could be attributed to Darwinism is detailed. The specific piece of Social policy that is studied is the Mental Deficiency Act of 1913 which was a direct response to the Royal Commission on the Care and Control of the Feeble-Minded 1904-08. The reasons behind the setting up of The Royal Commission and its proceedings are analysed, as well as attitudes towards the future treatment of defectives and opinions on the hereditary nature of feeblemindedness. The reception of the findings and recommendations of the Commission is examined with reference to the part taken by the Government Departments; both those with oversight of the Commission and those who wanted to be more involved (e.g. the Board of Education and the Local Government Board). A detailed study is made of the developments within the major Government departments affected. The Home Office was the main office and the minor departments - the Local Government Board, the Board of Education and the Lunacy Commission are included - what part was played by each. Churchill's involvement whilst Home Secretary is important especially when viewed against some of the theories that paint Churchill as a proto-fascist who was in favour of the sterilization of the unfit. The formulation of the first draft Bill and its development into a cogent Bill for presentation to Parliament is considered along with its relevant stages - the second reading, Committee and final failure. This is again undertaken in 1913 when it proceeds to the Statute Book. Finally, this is analysed to demonstrate that the genesis of Mental Deficiency Policy in the United Kingdom was not brought about by the application of Social Darwinism; it was an administrative reform and administrative necessity.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Mental Deficiency Act 1913