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Strange history: the fall of Rome explained in Hereditas.

Bengtsson, Bengt Olle LU (2014) In Hereditas 151(6). p.132-139
Abstract
In 1921 Hereditas published an article on the fall of Rome written by the famous classical scholar Martin P:son Nilsson. Why was a paper on this unexpected topic printed in the newly founded journal? To Nilsson, the demise of the Roman Empire was explained by the "bastardization" occurring between "races" from different parts of the realm. Offspring from mixed couples were of a less stable "type" than their parents, due to the breaking up by recombination of the original hereditary dispositions, which led to a general loss of competence to rule and govern. Thus, the "hardness" of human genes, together with their recombination, was - according to Nilsson - the main cause of the fall of Rome. Nilsson's argument is not particularly... (More)
In 1921 Hereditas published an article on the fall of Rome written by the famous classical scholar Martin P:son Nilsson. Why was a paper on this unexpected topic printed in the newly founded journal? To Nilsson, the demise of the Roman Empire was explained by the "bastardization" occurring between "races" from different parts of the realm. Offspring from mixed couples were of a less stable "type" than their parents, due to the breaking up by recombination of the original hereditary dispositions, which led to a general loss of competence to rule and govern. Thus, the "hardness" of human genes, together with their recombination, was - according to Nilsson - the main cause of the fall of Rome. Nilsson's argument is not particularly convincingly presented. Human "races" are taken to have the same genetic structure as inbred crop strains, and Nilsson believes in a metaphysical unity between the individual and the race to which it belongs. However, in my view, Martin P:son Nilsson and his friend Herman Nilsson-Ehle had wider aims with the article than to explain a historical event. The article can be read as indicating strong support from the classical human sciences to the ambitious new science of genetics. Support is also transferred from genetics to the conservative worldview, where the immutability and inflexibility of the Mendelian genes are used to strengthen the wish for greater stability in politics and life. The strange article in Hereditas can, thus, be read as an early instance in the - still ongoing - tug-of-war between the conservative and the liberal ideological poles over how genetic results best are socially interpreted. (Less)
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author
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
published
subject
in
Hereditas
volume
151
issue
6
pages
132 - 139
publisher
Wiley-Blackwell
external identifiers
  • pmid:25588300
  • wos:000348573000006
  • scopus:84921487709
ISSN
1601-5223
DOI
10.1111/hrd2.00080
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
b8309e79-333c-46db-b51d-6fa442de986b (old id 5040387)
date added to LUP
2015-02-10 13:48:59
date last changed
2017-01-01 03:38:19
@article{b8309e79-333c-46db-b51d-6fa442de986b,
  abstract     = {In 1921 Hereditas published an article on the fall of Rome written by the famous classical scholar Martin P:son Nilsson. Why was a paper on this unexpected topic printed in the newly founded journal? To Nilsson, the demise of the Roman Empire was explained by the "bastardization" occurring between "races" from different parts of the realm. Offspring from mixed couples were of a less stable "type" than their parents, due to the breaking up by recombination of the original hereditary dispositions, which led to a general loss of competence to rule and govern. Thus, the "hardness" of human genes, together with their recombination, was - according to Nilsson - the main cause of the fall of Rome. Nilsson's argument is not particularly convincingly presented. Human "races" are taken to have the same genetic structure as inbred crop strains, and Nilsson believes in a metaphysical unity between the individual and the race to which it belongs. However, in my view, Martin P:son Nilsson and his friend Herman Nilsson-Ehle had wider aims with the article than to explain a historical event. The article can be read as indicating strong support from the classical human sciences to the ambitious new science of genetics. Support is also transferred from genetics to the conservative worldview, where the immutability and inflexibility of the Mendelian genes are used to strengthen the wish for greater stability in politics and life. The strange article in Hereditas can, thus, be read as an early instance in the - still ongoing - tug-of-war between the conservative and the liberal ideological poles over how genetic results best are socially interpreted.},
  author       = {Bengtsson, Bengt Olle},
  issn         = {1601-5223},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {6},
  pages        = {132--139},
  publisher    = {Wiley-Blackwell},
  series       = {Hereditas},
  title        = {Strange history: the fall of Rome explained in Hereditas.},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/hrd2.00080},
  volume       = {151},
  year         = {2014},
}