Eugenics, which I'll define here as the selective breeding, sterilization, and biological engineering of humans with political or utopian aims, was a major historical force between the Late Victorian era and the end of WWII.

My question pertains to the Early Modern period. The Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment were a high point for scientific optimism, ambitious political philosophy, the expansion of state power, utopian writing, and a belief in the perfectibility of humankind. It also saw major developments in the social sciences and medicine, and much theorizing about the causal processes involved in heredity and biological life.

Were there any Early Modern precursors to eugenics, in Europe, as defined above?

I'm interested from the vantage of intellectual history, in terms of social engineering, class, and disability as opposed to a focus on the development of ideas about race.

  • Plato's Republic is mentioned by Wikipedia as a very early precursor. – Lars Bosteen Mar 18 '20 at 0:37
  • 3
    Jonathan Swift had A Modest Proposal concerning this – Dave Gremlin Mar 18 '20 at 10:34

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.