Captain George Henry Lane-Fox Pitt-Rivers and the origins of the IUSSP

Landis MacKellar, Population Council
Bradley Hart, California State University, Fresno

The International Union for the Scientific Study of Population (IUSSP) was re-constituted in 1947 following the collapse of its precursor, the International Union for the Scientific Investigation of Population Problems (IUSIPP), during World War II. A combination of money woes and politicization of the national committees who comprised its membership had weakened the Union during the turbulent 1930s, and the chaos of war delivered the coup de grâce. This paper focuses on the Secretary General and Treasurer of the IUSIPP, Captain George Henry Lane-Fox Pitt-Rivers. Pitt-Rivers, one of the wealthiest men in England, was a prominent supporter of Nazi Germany and enjoyed close links with the Nazi racial eugenics establishment. This paper describes how Pitt-Rivers’ engagement with the Germans and disputes with the mainstream of the English eugenics movement affected his performance as Secretary General, and dissects the idiosyncratic Secretary General’s Report to the 1937 IUSIPP General Assembly at the International Population Conference in Paris. It presents insights which follow the discovery of the Pitt-Rivers papers and their subsequent housing in the Churchill Archives Centre at Cambridge University. These findings are supported by other archival material, including the minutes of the Regulation 18B Review Board hearing which adjudicated Pitt-Rivers’ wartime detention and the papers of German national committee head Eugen Fischer in the Archives of the Kaiser-Wilhem Institute in Berlin, of IUSIPP President Sir Charles Close in the Archives of the Royal Geographical Society in London, of Pitt-Rivers’ doctoral supervisor Bronislaw Malinowski in the Archives of the London School of Economics, and of founding IUSIPP President Raymond Pearl in the Archives of the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia. Also vital are photocopies of contributions prepared by members of the IUSSP Working Group on the History of the Union in 1984 which are deposited in the IUSSP Archives in Paris.

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Presented in Session 45: Demographic discourses in the 18-20th century