The skull measurer’s mistake

Swedish title: Antirasister

Category: Non Fiction / Narrative non-fiction & Essays

Pub date: 02-05-2007

The skull measurer’s mistake

Sven Lindqvist

In 1981, Stephen Jay Gould exposed the bad science behind nineteenth-century American studies that “proved” that Anglo-Saxons were superior because they had larger brains. In The skull Measurer´s Mistake, Sven Lindqvist tells the story of Friedrich Tiedemann, the nineteenth-century German doctor who dared to speak out against such racist science when it was first practiced.

Often the history of racism is reduced to the study of racist. Less well known are the stories of those who argued and fought against prejudice and persecution. In this unique book, Sven Lindqvist, Swedish author of internationally acclaimed books on Africa, China and Latin America, profiles more than twenty nineteenthcentury men and women, who while not themselves victims of racism, went against the temper of the time to expose the many faces of prejudice. Along with Tiedemann´s story, The Skull Measurer´s Mistake recounts the antiracist efforts of Benjamin Franklin, Helen Hunt, Joseph Conrad, Alexis de Tocqueville, and others whose names have been forgotten. Well-documented and rich in anecdote, Lindqvist´s book shows how racist arguments emerged- and re-emerged — over time. At the book´s core is Lindqvist´s belief that knowledge of past debates about racism can help us defeat it now.

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