James Bryce Bryce.

The relations of the advanced and the backward races of mankind : delivered in the Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford, June 7, 1902 online

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Online LibraryJames Bryce BryceThe relations of the advanced and the backward races of mankind : delivered in the Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford, June 7, 1902 → online text (page 1 of 3)
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The Relations of the

Advanced and the Backward

Races of Mankind




JUNE 7, 1902




Price Two Shillings net












The Relations of the

Advanced and the Backward

Races of Mankind





JUNE 7, 1902










IN the paeans that were chanted when at the
opening of a new century the achievements of the
century preceding were reviewed, it was chiefly the
progress of the physical sciences, the enlargement of
knowledge, and the control obtained over the forces
of nature that filled our thoughts. But the exploration
of the area, with the ascertainment of the character
and resources; both actual and potential, of the globe
we inhabit, was- a scarcely less notable result of the
nineteenth century. In one aspect it was even more
remarkable, because it represented the all but final
closing of one great chapter of history, the completion
of one great task which Man had to do. Scientific
knowledge will, we may hope, go on increasing steadily
and rapidly. But the exploration of this earth is now
all but finished. Civilized man knows his home in
a sense in which he never knew it before. He knows
how high are the mountains and how deep the seas,
what are the currents- that keep the ocean in salutary
unrest, and what the winds which bring rain or heat


: 6' '* " 'The' Relations of the Advanced and

with them, and those movements of the tide wave
which the ancient poet longed to comprehend

Qua vi maria alta tumescant
Obicibus ruptis rursusque in se ipsa residant.

He knows what soils are fertile, what climates genial,
and (to a large extent) where mineral wealth is to be
found. Moreover he knows the inhabitants of the
earth, and not only the Races as they are, but the con-
ditions which have determined the progress of each of
them in the past and may affect them in the future,
their natural aptitudes, their habits of industry or in-
dolence, the features of the land wherein each dwells,
and the influence of those features upon the increase
or decay of population, upon the forms which industrial
effort takes. Much, no doubt, still remains to be ascer-
tained, for further discoveries in the sphere of biology
may render regions healthy which have been hereto-
fore haunted by disease, as further investigation of the
forces of nature may plant industries in spots hitherto
neglected. Still, broadly speaking, a point has been
reached at which the conditions likely to affect the
relative development of the various branches of man-
kind have become so far known, that students may
begin to deal with them in a positive and practical
way. They have passed from the chaos of conjecture
into the cosmos of science.

With this incomparably fuller and more exact know-
ledge of the families of Man there has come a far closer
and more widespread contact of those various families
with one another, and in particular of the more ad-
vanced and civilized races with the more backward,

Backward Races of Mankind 7

a contact so much closer and more widespread than
ever in the past that it may be deemed to mark a crisis
in the history of the world, which will profoundly affect
the destiny of all mankind. It is of the phenomena of
that contact and the problems which it raises that I pro-
pose to speak to you to-day. Upon some points it is
too soon to advance any positive conclusions, for the
data are still insufficient. But data are daily accumu-
lating, and though the time has not yet arrived for
answering certain momentous questions, the time has
arrived for formulating them. As the mists rise, the
outlines of the landscape begin to appear, and we
may venture to ask in what direction the movement
of humanity will tend, and by what paths the obstacles
that seem to bar or encumber its advance will be sur-

To describe the phenomena of race-contact in our
own time as marking a crisis may seem a strong ex-
pression, for such contact has been never interrupted
since our palaeolithic ancestors roamed hither and
thither in search of wild fruits or wild creatures.
There have been epochs, such as that of Alexander the
Great, or that of Attila, or that which followed the dis-
coveries made by Christopher Columbus, in which there
was a great impingement of some peoples upon other
peoples which created new relations between them
by way of conquest or settlement. But^-our own time
stands eminent and peculiar in this, that it marks the com-
pletion of a process by which all the races of the world
have been affected, and all the backward ones placed
in a more or less complete dependence upon the more

8 The Relations of the Advanced and

advanced. India, Northern Asia, almost the whole of
Africa, Madagascar, the Indian and Polynesian archi-
pelagoes, and the Philippine Islands now own civilized
masters of European stock, as do all the aboriginal
races of America. Turkey, Persia, Afghanistan, Siam,
and in a sense even China, are now overshadowed by
European Powers, and prevented from passing under
the control of some one or more of these only by the
jealous vigilance of the others. The same forces or
motives have worked to bring this result about which
induced the conquests of earlier days. But two new
factors have been more active and pervasive than ever
before-^ the desire of civilized producers of goods to
(. secure savage or semi-civilized consumers by annexing
the regions they inhabit, and th^Jrivalry of the great
civilized States, each of which has been spurred on
by the fear that the others would appropriate markets
which it might win for itself!"* The process has been
much swifter than was desirable in the interest of
either conqueror or conquered. But we can now see
v that it became inevitable, so soon as the progress of
Science had prodigiously increased the cheapness both
of production and of transportation.

The Completion of this World-process is a specially
great and fateful event, because it closes a page for
ever. The conditions that are now vanishing can
never recur. The uncivilized and semi-civilized races
cannot relapse into their former isolation. In passing
under the influences of civilized Powers they have
indeed given to the world a new kind of unity. They
have become in a new sense economic factors in its

Backward Races of Mankind 9

progress, and they must affect more powerfully than
before the economic conditions of labour and production
among the advanced races. It is hardly too much to

say that for economic purposes all mankind is fast
becoming one people, in which the hitherto backward

nations are taking a place analogous to that which the
- - - *-*. * i

unskilled workers have held in each one of the civilized
nations. Such an event opens a new stage in World-
history, a stage whose significance has perhaps been
as yet scarcely realized either by the thinker or by the
man of action, because the historical thinker sometimes
overlooks the present in his study of the past, while
the man of action may be so much occupied by the
present as to forget what the past has to teach him?

I do not, however, propose to-day to discuss this
new economic stage, but rather the conditions which
precede it and will give a character to it, viz. the
phenomena that attend the contact of the civilized
and uncivilized races, whether by way of conquest,
or of trade, or of settlement on the same ground.

We may pass by the question of what constitutes
racial difference, merely observing that stress must not
be laid upon linguistic affinities; nor need we inquire
how far the present backwardness of a race indicates
inferior natural capacity, being content to take the
existing state of things as we find it. Let us go
straight to the facts and problems which the contact
of diverse races brings into being.
-When two races differing in strength, that is to say,
either in numbers, or in physical capacity, or in mental
capacity, or in material advancement, or in military

io The Relations of the Advanced and

resources, come into political or social contact some
one of four possible results follows. Either the weaker
race dies out before the stronger, 1 or it is absorbed
into the stronger, the latter remaining practically un-
affected, or the two become commingled into something
different from what either was before, or, finally, the
two continue to dwell together unmixed, each preserving
a character of its ownr

Let us consider each of these possible cases. /Where
the backward race is either small in numbers or of
weak physical stamina, and is still in the savage stage,
it vanishes quickly. This need not be the fault of the
stronger race. Sometimes, no doubt, the invader or im-
migrant kills off the natives, who resent the seizure of
their hunting-grounds or prove themselves thievish
neighbours. Sometimes the conqueror reduces the
natives to a slavery under which the latter perish, as in
the awful instance of the extermination of the Indians
of the Greater Antilles under Spanish rule, an exter-
mination practically complete within half a century after
Columbus discovered them. Sometimes the. introduction
of new diseases, which the bodies of the natives cannot
resist, sweeps them off in vast numbers, as nearly the
whole Hottentot nation died of small-pox, and a consider-
able part of the Fijian islanders of measles. Alcoholic
drinks are specially pernicious to an aboriginal race,
because it is usually wanting in self-control, and is
supplied with liquor more fiery and poisonous than
Europeans consume. Sometimes the mere change of
habits of life induces physical decline, as when the
pursuit of wild creatures ceases to be possible, or when

Backward Races of Mankind n

pasture lands have been enclosed for cultivation by the
stronger immigrant. Even a change in housing or
clothing may prove deadly. I was told in Hawaii
that the reduction of the native population from about
300,000 in Captain Cook's time to about 30,000 in 1883
was largely due to the substitution of wooden houses
for the old wigwams, whose sides, woven of long grass,
had secured natural ventilation, and to the use of clothes,
which the native, accustomed to nothing more than
a loincloth, did not think of changing or drying when
drenched with rain. Moreover, many primitive races
are always on the verge of want ; and when a famine
occurs, they may be brought so low that the survivors
scatter and disappear. Some of the hill-tribes of north-
western and middle Jndia, as for instance certain Bhil
communities, are said to have been practically extin-
guished by the recent famines. It is through one or
more of these causes for they often act simulta-
neously that the Red Indians have almost vanished
from North America east of the Rocky Mountains
(a few tribes having, however, been, peaceably trans-
ported to new seats) ; that the aborigines of Tasmania
died out thirty years ago ; that those of Australia have
gone from the civilized south-eastern corner of that
continent, and may soon be confined to its northern
coasts; that the Ainos are diminishing in Northern Japan,
as the Ostiaks and Tunguses are in Siberia; that the
Bushmen are practically extinct in South Africa, and
that the Veddas of Ceylon had, long before Europeans
reached that isle, been driven into the recesses of the
forests, where now only a handful are left.

12 The Relations of the Advanced and

From cases of Destruction I pass to cases of
Absorption. When the aborigines among whom a
stronger immigrant race comes are neither low
savages nor physically feeble, it may befall them to
be imperceptibly blent with and lost among the
stronger and more numerous or more prolific race.
This is of course most likely to happen when the
interval between the peoples is not a wide one.
Probably it was thus that the Celts of Britain
absorbed, being perhaps modified by, their so-called
Iberian predecessors, as the Russian settlers are
to-day absorbing some of the tribes they have found
in Siberia. The Yakut learns to speak Russian and
becomes a sort of Christian, while the Russian,
though he adopts the Yakut dress and way of life,
does not sink into a savage; and the population ends
by being Russian. So those natives who in the
Canary Isles survived the strife with the Spanish
settlers became in the end for all purposes Spaniards.
So in India Hinduism has for many centuries been
slowly spreading among the aboriginal hill-tribes,
turning them into Hindus like those of the plains,
and obliterating their distinctive tongues and cus-
toms. So in the Caucasus tiny peoples that had
for ages dwelt apart in upland valleys, with might}?-
glaciers above them and forest gorges beneath, have
now been brought under the yoke of Russia, and are
losing their ancient faiths and modes of, speech to
become, if not Russians, yet Georgians or Imeritians
of the low country. There are cases in which
Absorption may proceed not so much by mixture of

Backward Races of Mankind 13

blood as by the imposition on the less civilized
race of the type characteristic of the more advanced.
The Slavs who entered Hellas in and after the eighth
century have become Greeks ; and the Albanian Toskhs
who moved southward later are now also virtually
Greeks, though so far south as Eleusis they spoke
Albanian into our own time.

Ar The race that accepts an alien type may be the
stronger race in everything but intelligence and
culture. Sometimes strength, if it take the form
or~a~clogged persistence in its ancient ways, is the
undoing of a people. Many of the Red Indian tribes
have perished off the earth because they could not or
would not adjust themselves to the conditions which
the advent of the whites imposed. The black man
submits and survives.

Through these two processes of Extinction and
Absorption an enormous change has passed upon the
population of the globe. More than half of the tribes
or peoples that existed when authentic history begins
would seem to have vanished. There must have been,
at a remote epoch, a process of differentiation, whereby
first the great families of mankind, and then the sub-
divisions of those families, were under the influence
of their physical environment acquiring those definite
characteristics which distinguish from one another
those that still remain. This process must have re-
quired untold ages : and it doubtless continued in some
parts of the world, while in others the opposite process
of reducing the number of types through the killing
off or assimilation of the weaker had already begun.

14 The Relations of the Advanced and

For the last three thousand years this latter process
has been the prevailing tendency over all or nearly all
the earth. It is more energetic to-day than ever before,
for barbarism was not more pitiless than is civilization,
even where civilization may wish to spare.

We all remember the many nations or tribes
enumerated by Herodotus as inhabiting Scythia and
Libya. How few could a geographer enumerate in
the same regions now! In Europe and its isles (ex-
cluding Russia) there are now about thirty languages
spoken, and of course still fewer of those national types,
or aggregates referable to a definite type, which we call
nationalities. In the time of Herodotus the number must
have been three or four times as large. The moun-
tain fastnesses of the Caucasus have preserved about
ten peoples, dissimilar in speech, aspect, and habits.
A century hence scarcely one of these may be left.

I have referred to the hill-tribes of India, singular
relics of an unrecorded past, singular evidence of what
the primitive world must have been. On the rolling
upland of the Nilghiri Hills in the Presidency of
Madras, I saw one of these tribes, the Todas, not
a feeble race, for the men are tall and handsome.
There are to-day not 2,000 of them all told. But
they are wholly unlike all their neighbours, not only
in speech, but in appearance, in customs, in their
pastoral way of life^-a tiny nation, standing alone in
the world, and likely in a few generations to vanish
for ever. The same thing is happening over most
of the earth. Every decade sees some little race or
tribe engulfed in the rising tide of the great peoples.

Backward Races of Mankind 15

Within two centuries there may be less than forty
languages left remaining, and less than twenty nationali-
ties, that is to say, branches of mankind using the same
tongue and deeming themselves members of the same

So far we have been mainly concerned with
conspicuously differing in strength. Burl now come i
to those cases in which the colliding peoples are so
nearly matched that neither yields to and sinks beneath
the other. It is here that we find the greatest variety
of phenomena and the most difficult problems.' It is
here that the interest of the future lies, because these
stronger races will be factors in history for some
generations or centuries to come.

The elements of strength present in two diverse
races brought into contact need not be the same
elements. One race may have physical strength and
courage, the other may be strong through patient
industry. One may be gifted with a highly developed
brain and store of knowledge : the other may possess
that prolific quality which ensures an abundant offspring.
Accordingly I use the term ' strength ' not as implying
either physical or intellectual or volitional excellence,
but rather to denote the capacity of a stock to maintain
itself in the struggle for life against other stocks.

When two strong races come into contact, be it
hostile or pacific, there are two possible issues. The
races may become mixed by intermarriage, or they may
remain separate, necessarily influencing one another
but not mingling their blood.

All the great peoples of the world are the result of

16 The Relations of the Advanced and

a mixing of races. Taking our own continent, we
see that in France Gauls, Iberians, and Teutons ; in Ger-
many, Teutons, Slavs, and doubtless also Celts; in Russia
Slavs, Finns, and (to a less extent) tribes of Turkic or
Mongolic stock, have been blent to form one nation.
The Basques and the Lapps, and the four Scandinavian
peoples seem to be of comparatively pure race, but
may seem so only because we know little of their early
history. In India three or four great stocks have
been commingled, and the same thing has apparently
happened in Eastern Asia. The original source of the
largest of all civilized nations, that which inhabits
the temperate parts of North America, was not only
itself the product of diverse sources before it crossed
the ocean, but has within the last seventy years received
such enormous accretions from Ireland, Germany,
Scandinavia, and the Slavs of Central Europe, that it
is becoming the most mixed of all the peoples we know 1 .
Conquest_and_ colonization have in modern times
been the chief factors in the process of race-blending.
In the ancient world, however, another cause of extra-
ordinary and long-continued potency was at work, viz.
the importation of forced labour, whether war-captives
brought from a distance, or barbarians brought from
the countries outside civilization into places where
work-people, and especially field-workers, were scarce.
From the sixth century B.C. to the fifth A.D. a vast
stream of slaves steadily flowed into the Greco-Italic

1 I omit the negro element, as it is really a different nation,
dwelling beside or among but not intermingled with the white

Backward Races of Mankind 17

world, replacing the losses which the original population
suffered through war, pestilence, and various social and
economic causes. It may well be that in the days of
Diocletian two-thirds of the blood flowing in the veins
of his subjects had come from a servile source.

*But although we see no cases in which a large nation
can claim pure blood, we also see cases in which races
whose close juxtaposition would permit them to mix
do not in fact mix. The question follows: What are
the causes which favour or check intermarriage between
races brought into contact ?

Forjntermarriage to take place, it is not necessary
that the races should stand on the same or nearly the
same level of civilization, still less be equal in mental
gifts or physical force. ~ Two colliding races are seldom '
equal, as indeed congurors are presumably superior ^
in force, colonizers presumably more active and enter-
prising. Neither does language form a serious bar.
Neither have ethnological affinities, as measured by
linguistic affinities, much to do with the matter. The
Finnic peoples of North-eastern Europe have blent
easily and naturally with the Teutonic Swedes and
the Slavonic Russians, though the ethnographer would
place them far from both these races. So in Hungary,
both Germans and men of Jewish stock intermarry
freely with the Magyars, ethnologically remote from
both, and the offspring are usually ardently Magyar
in sentiment. Celts, Teutons, and Slavs are so far
from being repelled by differences of race that the
difference frequently operates as an attraction, making
the union complementary.


i8 The Relations of the Advanced and

' Nothing really arrests intermarriage except physical
repulsion, and physical repulsion exists only where
there is a marked difference in physical aspect, and
especially in colour 1 . Roughly speaking (and subject
to certain exceptions to be hereafter noted), we may
say that while all the races of the same, or a similar,
colour intermarry freely, those of one colour intermarry
very little with those of another.

This is most marked as between the white and the
black races. The various white races are, however,
by no means equally averse to such unions. Among
Arabs and Turks the sense of repulsion from negroes
is weakest, partly no doubt owing to the influence of
Islam, on which a word must be said hereafter. The
South European races, though disinclined to such
L unions, do not wholly eschew them. In the ancient
world we hear little of any repugnance in the Roman
Empire to the dark-skinned Africans, for the con-
temptuous references to Egyptians seem to spring
from dislike rather to the character and religion than
to the colour of that singular people. In modern
times the Spanish settlers in the Antilles and South
America, and the Portuguese in Brazil, as well as on
the East and West coasts of Africa, have formed many
unions with negro women, as the Spaniards have done
with the Malayan Tagals in the Philippines, and the
Portuguese with the .Hindus in Malabar. There is

1 Where other conspicuous physical dissimilarities are found
there is always a difference, and usually a marked difference, in
colour also.

Backward Races of Mankind 19

to-day a negro strain in many of the whites of Cuba,
and a still stronger one in the whites of Brazil.
The aversion to colour reaches its maximum among n
the Teutons. The English in North America and the
West Indies did, indeed, during the days of slavery,
become the parents of a tolerably large mixed popula-
tion, as did the Dutch in South Africa. But they
scarcely ever intermarried with free 'coloured people :
and when slavery came to an end, illicit unions prac-
tically ceased in all these countries. One is assured.
in the Southern States of America that hardly any
children are now born from a white father and a
coloured mother. (So the Enriisl^jn_India havejfelt^
a like aversion to marriages with native women, and
even such illicit connexions as were not rare a century
ago are now seldom found. "?v

Where a white race comes into contact with a.
so-called 'red' or 'yellow' race I use these terms
as convenient though not exact the sense of repul-
sion is much less pronounced. The English settlers
intermarry, though less frequently than the French

1 3

Online LibraryJames Bryce BryceThe relations of the advanced and the backward races of mankind : delivered in the Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford, June 7, 1902 → online text (page 1 of 3)