The Passing of the
Great Race

By Madison Grant
Part I - Race, Language, And Nationality

Chapter 2
The Physical Basis of Race

In the modern and scientific study of race we have long discarded the Adamic theory that man is descended from a single pair, created a few thousand years ago in a mythical Garden of Eden somewhere in Asia, to spread later over the earth in successive waves.

Many of the races of Europe, both living and extinct, did come from the East through Asia Minor or by way of the African littoral, but most of the direct ancestors of existing populations have inhabited Europe for many thousands of years. During that time numerous races of men have passed over the scene. Some undoubtedly have utterly vanished, and some have left their blood behind them in the Europeans of to-day.

It is a fact, however, that Asia was the chief area of evolution and differentiation of man, and that the various groups had their main development there, and not on the peninsula we call Europe.

We now know, since the elaboration of the Mendelian Laws of Inheritance, that certain bodily characters, the so-called unit characters, such as skull shape, stature, eye color, hair color, and nose form, are transmitted in accordance with fixed mathematical laws, and, further, that various unit characters which are normally correlated, or belong together, may, after prolonged admixture with another race, pass down separately, and form what is known as disharmonic combinations. Such disharmonic combinations are, for example, a tall brunet, or a short blond; blue eyes associated with brunet hair, or brown eyes with blond hair. In modern science the meaning of the word "character" is now limited to physical instead of mental and spiritual traits as in popular usage.

The process of intermixture of unit characters has gone far in existing populations, and with the ease of modern methods of transportation this process is going much further in Europe, and in America. The immediate results of such mixture are not blends, or intermediate types, but rather mosaics of contrasted characters. Such blends, if any, as ultimately occur, are too remote to concern us here. The first result of the crossing of a pure: brunet with a pure blond is to produce either pure blonds or pure brunets in certain known proportions, instead of offspring of an intermediate type; or else a third group which may be either blond or brunet, but which possesses latent characters of the contrasted type. Such latent or recessive characters often reappear in remote descendants.

In defining race in Europe it is necessary not only to consider pure groups or pure types, but also the distribution of unit characters belonging to each particular subspecies of man found there. The interbreeding of these populations has progressed to such an extent that in many cases such an analysis of physical characters is necessary to reconstruct the elements which have entered into their ethnic composition.

Sometimes we find a unit character appearing here and there as the sole remnant of a once numerous race, for example, the occasional appearance in European populations of a skull of the Neanderthal type, a race widely spread over Europe 40,000 years ago, or of the Cro-Magnon type, the predominant race I6,000 years ago. Before the fossil remains of the Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon races were studied and understood such reversional specimens were considered pathological, instead of being recognized as the reappearance of an ancient and submerged type.

Unit characters are to all intents and purposes immutable, and they do not change during the lifetime of a language or an empire. The skull shape of the Egyptian fellaheen, in the unchanging environment of the Nile Valley, is absolutely identical in measurements, proportions and capacity with skulls found in the predynastic tombs dating back more than six thousand years.

There exists to-day a widespread and fatuous belief in the power of environment, as well as of education and opportunity to alter heredity, which arises from the dogma of the brotherhood of man, derived in turn from the loose thinkers of the French Revolution and their American mimics. Such beliefs have done much damage in the past, and if allowed to go uncontradicted, may do much more serious damage in the future. Thus the view that the negro slave was an unfortunate cousin of the white man, deeply tanned by the tropic sun, and denied the blessings of Christianity and civilization, played no small part with the sentimentalists of the Civil War period, and it has taken us fifty years to learn that speaking English, wearing good clothes, and going to school and to church, does not transform a negro into a white man. Nor was a Syrian or Egyptian freedman transformed into a Roman by wearing a toga, and applauding his favorite gladiator in the amphitheatre. We shall have a similar experience with the Polish Jew, whose dwarf stature, peculiar mentality, and ruthless concentration on self-interest are being engrafted upon the stock of the nation.

Recent attempts have been made in the interest of inferior races among our immigrants to show that the shape of the skull does change, not merely in a century, but in a single generation.

In 191O, the report of the anthropological expert of the Congressional Immigration Commission, gravely declared that a round skull Jew on his way across the Atlantic might and did have a round skull child, but that a few years later, in response to the subtle elixir of American institutions, as exemplified in an East Side tenement, might and did have a child whose skull was appreciably longer; and that a long skull south Italian, breeding freely, would have precisely the same experience in the reverse direction. In other words, the Melting Pot was acting instantly under the influence of a changed environment.

What the Melting Pot actually does in practice, can be seen in Mexico, where the absorption of the blood of the original Spanish conquerors by the native Indian population has produced the racial mixture which we call Mexican, and which is now engaged in demonstrating its incapacity for self-government. The world has seen many such mixtures of races, and the character of a mongrel race is only just beginning to be understood at its true value.

It must be borne in mind that the specializations which characterize the higher races are of relatively recent development, are highly unstable and when mixed with generalized or primitive characters, tend to disappear. Whether we like to admit it or not, the result of the mixture of two races, in the long run, gives us a race reverting to the more ancient, generalized and lower type. The cross between a white man and an Indian is an Indian; the cross between a white man and a negro is a negro; the cross between a white man and a Hindu is a Hindu; and the cross between any of the three European races and a Jew is a Jew.

In the crossing of the blond and brunet elements of a population, the more deeply rooted and ancient dark traits are prepotent or dominant. This is matter of everyday observation, and the working of this law of nature is not influenced or affected by democratic institutions or by religious beliefs.

As measured in terms of centuries, unit characters are immutable, and the only benefit to be derived from a changed environment and better food conditions, is the opportunity afforded a race which has lived under adverse conditions, to achieve its maximum development, but the limits of that development are fixed for it by heredity and not by environment.

In dealing with European populations the best method of determining race has been found to lie in a comparison of proportions of the skull, the so-called cephalic index. This is the ratio of maximum length to maximum width taken at the widest part of the skull above the ears. Skulls with an index of 75 or less, that is, when the width is three-fourths or less than the length, are considered dolichocephalic, or long skulls. Skulls of an index of 80 or over are round skulls, or brachycephalic. Intermediate indices, between 75 and 80, are considered mesocephalic. These are cranial indices. To allow for the flesh on living specimens, about two per cent is to be added to the index, and the result is the cephalic index. In the following pages only long and round skulls are considered and the intermediate forms, or mesocephs, are assigned to the dolichocephalic group.

This cephalic index, though an extremely important if not the controlling unit character, is, nevertheless, but a single character and must be checked up with other somatological traits. Normally, a long skull is associated with a long face, and a round skull with a round face.

The use of this test, the cephalic index, enables us to divide the great bulk of the European populations into three distinct subspecies of man, one northern and one southern, both dolichocephalic or characterized by a long skull, and a central subspecies which is brachycephalic, or characterized by a round skull.

The first is the Nordic or Baltic subspecies. This race is long skulled, very tall, fair skinned, with blond or brown hair and light colored eyes. The Nordics inhabit the countries around the North and Baltic Seas, and include not only the great Scandinavian and Teutonic groups, but also other early peoples who first appear in southern Europe and in Asia as representatives of Aryan language and culture.

The second is the dark Mediterranean or Iberian subspecies, occupying the shores of the inland sea, and extending along the Atlantic coast until it reaches the Nordic species. It also spreads far east into southern Asia. It is long skulled like the Nordic race, but the absolute size of the skull is less. The eyes and hair are very dark or black, and the skin more or less swarthy. The stature is stunted in comparison to that of the Nordic race and the musculature and bony framework weak.

The third is the Alpine subspecies occupying all central and eastern Europe, and extending through Asia Minor to the Hindu Kush and the Pamirs. The Armenoids constitute an Alpine subdivision and represent the ancestral type of this race which remained in the mountains and high plateaux of Anatolia and western Asia. The Alpines are round skulled, of medium height and sturdy build, both as to skeleton and muscles. The coloration of both hair and eyes was originally very dark and still tends strongly in that direction, but many light colored eyes, especially gray, are now found in the Alpine populations of western Europe.

While the inhabitants of Europe betray as a whole their mixed origin, nevertheless the three main subspecies are each found in large numbers and in great purity, as well as sparse remnants of still more ancient races represented by small groups or by individuals, and even by unit characters.

These three main groups have bodily characters which constitute them distinct subspecies of Homo sapiens. Each has several varieties, but for the sake of clearness the word race and not the word species or subspecies will hereafter be used nearly, but not quite, exclusively. In zoology the term species implies the existence of a certain definite amount of divergence from the most closely related type, but race does not require a similar amount of difference. In man, where all groups are more or less fertile when crossed, so many intermediate or mixed types occur that the word species has too limited a meaning for wide use. Related species when grouped together constitute subgenera and genera.

The old idea that fertility or infertility of races of animals was the measure of species, is now abandoned. One of the greatest difficulties in classifying man is his perverse predisposition to mismate. This is a matter of daily observation, especially among the women of the better classes, probably because of their wider range of choice.

The cephalic index is of less value in the classification of Asiatic populations, but the distribution of round and long skulls is similar to that in Europe. The vast central plateau of that continent is inhabited by round skulls. In fact, Thibet and the western Himalayas were probably the centre of radiation of all the round skulls of the world. In India and Persia south of this central area occurs a long skull race related to Mediterranean man in Europe.

Both skull types occur, much intermixed, among the American Indians, and the cephalic index is of little value in classifying the Amerinds. No satisfactory explanation of the variability of the skull shape of this species has as yet been found, but the total range of variation of physical characters from northern Canada to southern Patagonia is less than the range of such variation from Normandy to Provence in France.

In Africa the cephalic index is also of small classification value because all of the populations are characterized by a long skull.

The distinction between a long skull and a round skull in mankind probably goes back at least to early Paleolithic times, if not to a period still more remote. It is of such great antiquity that when new species or races appear in Europe at the close of the Paleolithic, between IO,OOO and 7,000 years B.C., the skull characters among them are as clearly defined as they are to-day.

The fact that two distinct species of mankind both have long skulls, as have the north European and the African negro, is no necessary indication of relationship, and in that instance is merely a case of parallel specialization. The fact, however, that the Swede has a long skull and the Savoyard a round skull does prove them to be descendants of distinct subspecies.

The claims that the Nordic race is a mere variation of the Mediterranean race, and that the latter is, in turn, derived from the Ethiopian negro, rest upon a mistaken idea that a dolichocephaly in common must mean identity of origin, as well as upon a failure to take into consideration many somatological characters of almost equal value with the cephalic index. In this connection it is well to remark that this measurement, being merely a ratio, may yield identical figures for skulls differing in every other proportion and detail, as well as in absolute size and capacity.

Eye color is of very great importance in race determination, because all blue, gray, or green eyes in the world to-day came originally from the same source, namely, the Nordic race of northern Europe. This light colored eye has appeared nowhere else on earth, and is a specialization of this subspecies of man only, and is consequently one of extreme value in the classification of European races. Dark colored eyes are all but universal among wild mammals, and entirely so among the primates, man's nearest relatives. It is, therefore, an absolute certainty that all the original races of man had dark eyes.

One subspecies of man, and one alone, specialized in light colored eyes. This same subspecies also evolved light or blond hair, a character far less deeply rooted than eye color, as blond children tend to grow darker with advancing years, and populations largely of Nordic extraction, such as those of Lombardy, upon admixture with darker races, lose their blond hair more readily than their light colored eyes.

Blond hair also comes everywhere from the Nordic species, and from nowhere else. Whenever we find blondness among the darker races of the earth we may be sure some Nordic wanderer has passed that way. When individuals of perfect blond type occur, as sometimes in Greek islands, we may suspect a recent visit of sailors from a passing ship, but when only single characters remain spread thinly, but widely, over considerable areas, like the blondness of the Atlas Berbers or of the Albanian mountaineers, we must search in the dim past for the origin of these blurred traits of early invaders.

The range of blond hair color in pure Nordic peoples runs from flaxen and red to shades of chestnut and brown. The darker shades may indicate crossing in some cases, but absolutely black hair certainly does mean an ancestral cross with a dark race-in England with the Mediterranean race.

In Nordic populations the women are, in general, lighter haired than the men, a fact which points to a blond past and a darker future for those populations. Women in all human races, as the females among all mammals, tend to exhibit the older, more generalized and primitive traits of the race's past. The male in his individual development indicates the direction in which the race is tending under the influence of variation and selection.

It is interesting to note in connection with the more primitive physique of the female, that in the spiritual sphere also, women retain the ancient and intuitive knowledge that the great mass of mankind is not free and equal, but bond and unequal.

The color of the skin is a character of importance, but one that is exceedingly hard to measure as the range of variation in Europe between skins of extreme fairness and those that are exceedingly swarthy, is almost complete. In general the Nordic race in its purity has an absolutely fair skin, and is consequently the Homo albus, the white man par excellence.

Many members of the Nordic race otherwise apparently pure have skins, as well as hair, more or less dark, so that the determinative value of this character is uncertain. There can be no doubt that the quality of the skin and the extreme range of its variation in color from black, brown, red, yellow to ivory-white are excellent measures of the specific or subgeneric distinctions between the larger groups of mankind, but in dealing with European populations it is sometimes difficult to correlate shades of fairness with other physical characters.

It often happens that an individual with all the Nordic characters in great purity, has a skin of an olive or dark tint, and it much more frequently happens that we find an individual with absolutely pure brunet traits in possession of a skin of almost ivory whiteness and of great clarity. This last combination is very frequent among the brunets of the British Isles. That these are, to some extent, disharmonic combinations we may be certain, but beyond that our knowledge does not lead. Owners, however, of a fair skin have always been, and still are, the objects of keen envy by those whose skins are black, yellow, or red.

Stature is another unit character of greater value than skin color, and perhaps than hair color, and is one of much importance in European classification because on that continent we have the most extreme variations of human height.

Exceedingly adverse economic conditions may inhibit a race from attaining the full measure of its growth, and to this extent environment plays its part in determining stature, but fundamentally it is race, always race, that sets the limit. The tall Scot and the dwarfed Sardinian owe their respective sizes to race, and not to oatmeal or olive oil. It is probable that the fact that the stature of the Irish is, on the average, shorter than that of the Scotch, is due partly to economic conditions, and partly to the depressing effect of a considerable population of primitive short stock.

Mountaineers all over the world tend to be tall and vigorous, a fact probably due to the rigid elimination of defectives by the unfavorable environment. In this case altitude would operate like latitude, and produce the severe conditions which seem essential to human vigor. The short stature of the Lapps and the Esquimaux may have been originally attributable to the trying conditions of an Arctic habitat, but in any event it has long since become a racial character.

So far as the main species of Europe are concerned, stature is a very valuable measure of race.

To recapitulate as to this character, the Mediterranean race is everywhere marked by a relatively short stature, sometimes greatly depressed, as in south Italy and in Sardinia, and also by a comparatively light bony framework and feeble muscular development.

The Alpine race is taller than the Mediterranean although shorter than the Nordic, and is characterized by a stocky and sturdy build.

The Nordic race is nearly everywhere distinguished by great stature. Almost the tallest stature in the world is found among the pure Nordic populations of the Scottish and English borders, while the native British of Pre-Nordic brunet blood are, for the most part, relatively short; and no one can question the race value of stature who observes on the streets of London the contrast between the Piccadilly gentleman of Nordic race and the cockney costermonger of the old Neolithic type.

In many cases where these three European races have become mixed, stature seems to be one of the first Nordic characters to vanish, but wherever in Europe we find great stature in a population otherwise lacking in Nordic characters, we may be certain of Nordic crossing, as in the case of a large proportion of the inhabitants of Burgundy, of Switzerland, of the Tyrol, and of the Dalmatian Alps south to Albania.

These four unit characters, skull shape, eye color, hair color, and stature, are sufficient to enable us to differentiate clearly between the three main races of Europe, but if we wish to discuss the minor variations and mixtures, we would have to go much further and take up other proportions of the skull than the cephalic index, as well as the shape and position of the eyes, and the proportions and shape of the jaws and chin.

The nose also is an exceedingly important character. The original human nose was, of course, broad and bridgeless. This trait is shown clearly in new-born infants who recapitulate in their development the various stages of the evolution of the human genus. A bridgeless nose with wide flaring nostrils is a very primitive character, and is still retained by some of the larger divisions of mankind throughout the world. It appears occasionally in white populations of European origin, but is everywhere a very ancient, generalized, and low character.

The high bridge and long, narrow nose, the so-called Roman, Norman, or aquiline nose, is characteristic of the most highly specialized races of mankind. While an apparently unimportant character, the nose is one of the very best clews to racial origin, and in the details of its form, and especially in the lateral shape of the nostrils, is a race determinant of the greatest value.

The lips, whether thin or fleshy or whether cleancut or everted, are race characters. Thick, protruding, everted lips are very ancient traits and are characteristic of primitive races. A high instep also has long been esteemed an indication of patrician type, while the flat foot is often the test of lowly origin.

The absence or abundance of hair and beard and the relative absence or abundance of body hair are characters of no little value in classification. Abundant body hair is, to a large extent, peculiar to populations of the very highest as well as the very lowest species, being characteristic of the north European as well as of the Australian savages. It merely means the retention in both these groups of a very early and primitive trait which has been lost by the Negroes, Mongols, and the Amerinds.

The Nordic and Alpine races are far better equipped with head and body hair than the Mediterranean, which is throughout its range a glabrous or relatively naked race.

The so-called red haired branch of the Nordic race has special characters in addition to red hair, such as a greenish cast of eye, a skin of peculiar texture tending either to great clarity or to freckles, and certain peculiar temperamental traits. This was probably a variety closely related to the blonds, and it first appears in history in association with them.

In the structure of the head hair of all races of mankind we find a regular progression from extreme kinkiness to lanky straightness, and this straightness or curliness depends on the shape of the cross section of the hair itself. This cross section has three distinct forms, corresponding with the most extreme divergences among human species.

While the three main European races are the subject of this book, and while it is not the intention of the author to deal with the other human types, it is necessary at this point to state that these three European subspecies, are subdivisions of one of the primary groups or subgenera of the genus Homo which, taken together, we must call the Caucasian for lack of a better name.

The great mass of the rest of mankind can be roughly divided into the Negroes and Negroids, and the Mongols and Mongoloids.

The former apparently originated in south Asia and entered Africa from the northeasterly corner of that continent. Africa south of the Sahara is now the chief home of this race, though remnants of Negroid aborigines are found throughout south Asia from India to the Philippines, while the very distinct black Melanesians and the Australoids lie farther to the east and south.

A third subgenus of mankind includes the round skulled Mongols and their derivatives, the Amerinds, or American Indians. This group is essentially Asiatic, and occupies the centre and the eastern half of that continent. A description of these Negroid and Mongoloid subgenera and their derivatives, as well as of certain aberrant species of man, lies outside of the scope of this work.

In the consideration of this measurement, the cross section of the hair in connection with these main subgenera, we find that a permanent relation exists, and that each of the three primary divisions of mankind is, in the shape of the cross section of its hair, differentiated from the others.

The cross section of the hair of the Negro and Negroid races is a flat ellipse with the result that all the members of this subgenus have kinky hair.

The cross section of the hair of the Mongols and their derivatives, the Amerinds, is a complete circle, and the hair of this subgenus is perfectly straight and lank.

The cross section of the hair of the so-called Caucasians, including the Mediterranean, Alpine, and Nordic subspecies, is an oval ellipse, and consequently is intermediate between the cross sections of the Negroids and Mongoloids. Hair of this structure is wavy or curly, never either kinky or absolutely straight, and is characteristic of all the European populations, almost without exception.

We have confined our discussion to the most important unit characters, but there are many other valuable aids to classification to be found in the proportions of the body and the relative length of the limbs. For an example, it is a matter of common knowledge that there occur among white women two distinct types in this latter respect, the one long legged and short bodied, the other long bodied and short legged. All such facts have a race value as yet not understood.

Without going into further physical details, it is probable that all relative proportions in the body, the features, the skeleton, and the skull which are fixed and constant and lie outside of the range of individual variation represent dim inheritances from the past. Every human being unites in himself the blood of thousands of ancestors, stretching back through thousands of years, superimposed upon a prehuman inheritance of still greater antiquity, and the face and body of every living man offer an intricate mass of hieroglyphs that science will some day learn to read and interpret.

We shall use the foregoing main unit characters as the basis of our definition of race, and shall later call attention to such temperamental and spiritual traits as seem to be associated with distinct physical types.

We shall only discuss European populations and shall not deal with those quarters of the globe where the races of man are such that other physical characters must be called upon to provide clear definitions.

A fascinating subject would open up if we were to dwell upon the effect of racial combinations and disharmonies, as, for instance, where the mixed Nordic and Alpine populations of Lombardy retain the skull shape, hair color, and stature of the Alpine race, with the light eye color of the Nordic race, or where the mountain populations along the east coast of the Adriatic from the Tyrol to Albania have the stature of the Nordic race and an Alpine skull and coloration.

Continue on to Chapter 3 - Race and Habitat