The Nordic race was one of the racial categories into which the Europeans were divided by anthropologists in the first half of the twentieth century. The debates about these schema are no longer scientific, but ideological. The racial supremacy that claims the Nordic race, particularly Scandinavians and Germans, would constitute a master race because of an innate capacity for leadership is referred to as Nordic theory, Nordicism or Nordic thought. Those ideologies were prevalent mainly in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in Western Europe and North America. Nordic thought was a major influence on the revolutionary conservatism of Nazism.
Despite this, Aphrodite was often depicted with blond hair, as were deities associated with the sun. Likewise, the Roman historian Tacitus idealized the Germanic tribes (which he considered autochthonous to their land) for qualities such as superior warlike ardor and chastity, in contrast to the Romans of his day—though his portrait is not unmixed, as he also portrays them as incurably lazy and addicted to gambling. The reference to gambling may be about their unique approach to Divination using Runes. Many Romans believed that fair features were beautiful, at least for women. Wealthy Roman women paid for blond and red wigs made from the hair of captured Germanic or Celtic women.
During the Renaissance blonde hair, blue eyes and pale skin were regularly portrayed in literature as signs of beauty, and were associated with noble moral qualities. This imagery was largely aesthetic. It was not typically theorised in terms of racial difference, drawing instead on traditional symbolism of light as opposed to darkness. From the 17th century on, as Northern European countries became more powerful, Northern peoples began to adapt such aesthetic traditions into arguments for their own superiority. Benjamin Franklin proposed a clear distinction between "white" Europeans and "swarthy" Europeans, stating that immigration to the newly-born United States should favour the "white" Saxons and Englishmen rather than the "swarthy" Germans (except for the German Saxons), Italians, French, Russians, Spaniards and Swedes. Franklin believed the white Europeans to be more "lovely", at least to his taste.
By the early nineteenth century these ideas were attached to emerging theories of racial hierarchy. The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer attributed civilizational primacy to the "white races" who gained their sensitivity and intelligence by refinement in the rigorous North:
The highest civilization and culture, apart from the ancient Hindus and Egyptians, are found exclusively among the white races; and even with many dark peoples, the ruling caste or race is fairer in colour than the rest and has, therefore, evidently immigrated, for example, the Brahmans, the Incas, and the rulers of the South Sea Islands. All this is due to the fact that necessity is the mother of invention because those tribes that emigrated early to the north, and there gradually became white, had to develop all their intellectual powers and invent and perfect all the arts in their struggle with need, want and misery, which in their many forms were brought about by the climate. This they had to do in order to make up for the parsimony of nature and out of it all came their high civilization.
Such arguments became especially significant when allied to the theory of Aryanism in the mid-19th century. This theory held that speakers of the Indo-European languages ("Aryans") are an innately superior branch of humanity, responsible for most of its greatest achievements. Its principal proponent was Arthur de Gobineau in his Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races (1855). Though Gobineau did not equate Nordic peoples with Aryans, he argued that Germanic people were the best modern representatives of the Aryan race. Adapting the comments of Tacitus and other Roman writers, he argued that "pure" Northerners regenerated Europe after the Roman empire declined due to racial "dilution" of its leadership.
By the 1880s a number of linguists and anthropologists argued that the Aryans themselves had originated somewhere in northern Europe. Theodor Poesche proposed that the Aryans originated in the north, but it was Karl Penka who popularized the idea that the Aryans had emerged in Scandinavia, and could be identified by the distinctive Nordic characteristics of blond hair and blue eyes. The distinguished biologist Thomas Henry Huxley agreed with him, coining the term "Xanthochroi" to refer to fair-skinned Europeans (as opposed to the "Melanochroi" race). This distinction was repeated by Charles Morris in his book The Aryan Race (1888), which argued that the original Aryans could be identified by their blond hair and other Nordic features, such as dolichocephaly (long skull). The argument was given extra impetus by the French anthropologist Vacher de Lapouge in his book L’Aryen, in which he argued that the "dolichocephalic-blond" peoples were natural leaders, destined to rule over more brachiocephalic (short-skulled) peoples.
The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche also referred in his writings to "blond beasts": amoral adventurers who were supposed to be the progenitors of creative cultures. In On the Genealogy of Morals (1887), he wrote, "In Latin malus ... could indicate the vulgar man as the dark one, especially as the black-haired one, as the pre-Aryan dweller of the Italian soil which distinguished itself most clearly through his colour from the blonds who became their masters, namely the Aryan conquering race. By 1902 the German archaeologist Gustaf Kossinna claimed to have identified the original Aryans (Proto-Indo-Europeans) with the north German Corded Ware culture, an argument that gained in currency over the following two decades. He placed the Indo-European urheimat in Schleswig-Holstein, arguing that they had expanded across Europe from there.
By the early 20th century this theory was well established, though far from universally accepted. Sociologists were soon using the concept of a "blond race" to model the migrations of the supposedly more entrepreneurial and innovative components of European populations. As late as 1939 Carleton Coon wrote that "The Poles who came to the United States during the nineteenth century, and the early decades of the twentieth, did not represent a cross-section of the Polish population, but a taller, blonder, longer-headed group than the Poles as a whole. The "high brow"/"low brow" distinction, derived from such theories, also became enshrined in language.
The term "Nordic" itself was initially proposed as a racial group by the Russian born French anthropologist Joseph Deniker in 1899. Deniker's use of Nordique was meant to simply translate as "Northern", and his idea of what it stood for was more akin to an "ethnic group" (another term which he coined) than a biological "race". He defined nordique by a set of physical characteristics: The concurrence of fair, somewhat wavy hair, light eyes, reddish skin, tall stature and a dolichocephalic skull. Of six 'caucasian' groups Deniker accommodated four into secondary ethnic groups, all of which he considered intermediate to the Nordic: Northwestern, Sub-Nordic, Vistula and Sub-Adriatic, respectively.
It was the already mentioned work of sociologist/economist William Z. Ripley which popularized the idea of three biological European races. Ripley borrowed Deniker's terminology of Nordic (he had previously used the term "Teuton"); his division of the European races relied on a variety of anthropometric measurements, but focused especially on their cephalic index and stature. Compared to Deniker, Ripley advocated a simplified racial view and proposed a single Teutonic race linked to geographic areas where Nordic-like characteristics predominate, and contrasted this areas to the boundaries of two other types, Alpine and Mediterranean, thus reducing the 'caucasoid branch of humanity' to three distinct groups.
By the early 20th century, Ripley's tripartite Nordic/Alpine/Mediterranean model was well established. Most nineteenth-century race-theorists like Arthur de Gobineau, Otto Ammon, Georges Vacher de Lapouge, and Houston Stewart Chamberlain preferred to speak of "Aryans," "Teutons," and "Indo-Europeans" instead of "Nordic Race". Only in the 1920s did a strong partiality for "Nordic" begin to reveal itself, and for a while the term was used almost interchangeably with Aryan. Later, however, Nordic would not be co-terminous with Aryan, Indo-European or Germanic. For example, the later Nazi minister for Food, Richard Walther Darré, who had developed a concept of the German peasantry as Nordic race, used the term 'Aryan' to refer to the tribes of the Iranian plains.
However, there was considerable dispute about the relative importance of these races. The fact that Mediterranean peoples were responsible for the greatest of ancient civilizations was an obvious problem for Nordicist theory. Nordicists dealt with this problem by the speculative claim that Nordics had formed upper tiers of ancient civilizations, which had declined once this dominant race has been assimilated. Thus they argued that ancient evidence suggested that leading Romans like Nero , Sulla and Cato were blond or red-haired Some Nordicists admitted the Mediterranean race was superior to the Nordic in terms of artistic and intellectual ability. However, the Nordic race was regarded as superior on the basis that, although Mediterranean peoples were culturally sophisticated, it was the Nordics who were alleged to be the innovators and conquerors, having an adventurous spirit that no other race could match. The Alpine race was usually regarded as inferior to both the Nordic and Mediterranean races, making up the traditional peasant class of Europe while Nordics occupied the aristocracy and led the world in technology, and Mediterraneans were more imaginative.
Opponents of Nordicism rejected these arguments. The anti-Nordicist writer Giuseppe Sergi argued in his influential book The Mediterranean Race (1901) that there was no evidence that the upper tiers of ancient societies were Nordic, insisting that historical and anthropological evidence contradicted such claims. Sergi argued that Mediterraneans constituted "the greatest race in the world", with a creative edge absent in the Nordic race. They were the creators of all the major ancient civilizations, from Mesopotamia to Rome. This argument was later repeated by C. G. Seligman, who wrote that "it must, I think, be recognized that the Mediterranean race has actually more achievement to its credit than any other". Even Carleton Coon insisted that among Greeks "the Nordic element is weak, as it probably has been since the days of Homer...It is my personal reaction to the living Greeks that their continuity with their ancestors of the ancient world is remarkable, rather than the opposite.
The notion of a distinct northern European race was also rejected by several anthropologists on craniometric grounds. Rudolf Virchow attacked the claim following a study of craniometry, which gave surprising results according to contemporary scientific racist theories on the "Aryan race." During the 1885 Anthropology Congress in Karlsruhe, Virchow denounced the "Nordic mysticism," while Josef Kollmann, a collaborator of Virchow, stated that the people of Europe, be they German, Italian, English or French, belonged to a "mixture of various races," furthermore declaring that the "results of craniology" led to "struggle against any theory concerning the superiority of this or that European race"..
Nevertheless, by the early twentieth century the concept of a "masterly" Nordic race had become so familiar that the British psychologist William McDougall, writing in 1920, could say with confidence:
Among all the disputes and uncertainties of the ethnographers about the races of Europe, one fact stands out clearly — namely, that we can distinguish a race of northerly distribution and origin, characterized physically by fair color of hair and skin and eyes, by tall stature and dolichocephaly (i.e. long shape of head), and mentally by great independence of character, individual initiative, and tenacity of will. Many names have been used to denote this type, ... . It is also called the Nordic type.
They went on to argue that "the original Indo-Germanic civilization" was carried by Nordic migrants as far as India, and that the physiognomy of upper-caste Indians "disclose a Nordic origin".
By this time, Germany was well-accustomed to theories of race and racial superiority due to the long presence of the Völkish movement, the philosophy that Germans constituted a unique people, or volk, linked by common blood. While Völkism was popular mainly among Germany's lower classes and was more a romanticized version of ethnic nationalism, Nordicism attracted German anthropologists and eugenicists.
The word "Nordischer Gedanke" first occurred in a textbook on "heritability science" and "race hygiene" by Baur, Fischer and Lenz. Hans F. K. Günther, one of Fischer's students, first defined "Nordic thought" in his programmatic book Der Nordische Gedanke unter den Deutschen. He became the most influential German in this field. His Short Ethnology of the German People (1929) was very widely circulated.
In his Rassenkunde des deutschen Volkes (Race-Lore of the German Volk), published 1922, Günther identified five principal European races instead of three, adding the East Baltic race and Dinaric race to Ripley's categories. He used the term Ostic instead of Alpine. He focused on their supposedly distinct mental attributes. Günther criticised the Völkish idea, stating that the Germans were not racially unified, but were actually one of the most racially diverse peoples in Europe. Despite this, many Völkists who merged Völkism and Nordicism embraced Günther's ideas, most notably the Nazis.
With the rise of Hitler, Nordic theory became the norm within German culture. In some cases the "Nordic" concept became an almost abstract ideal rather than a mere racial category. Hermann Gauch wrote in 1933 that the fact that "birds can be taught to talk better than other animals is explained by the fact that their mouths are Nordic in structure." He further claimed that in humans, "the shape of the Nordic gum allows a superior movement of the tongue, which is the reason why Nordic talking and singing are richer. Such views were extreme, but more mainstream Nordic theory was institutionalized. Hans F. K. Günther, who joined the Nazi Party in 1932, was praised as a pioneer in racial thinking, a shining light of Nordic theory. Most official Nazi comments on the Nordic Race were based on Günther's works, and Alfred Rosenberg presented Günther with a medal for his work in anthropology. Fischer and Lenz were also appointed to senior positions overseeing the policy of Racial Hygiene. Madison Grant's book was the first non-German book to be translated and published by the Nazi Reich press, and Grant proudly displayed to his friends a letter from Hitler claiming that the book was "his Bible. The Nazi state used such ideas about the differences between European races as part of their various discriminatory and coercive policies which culminated in the Holocaust. Ironically, in Grant's first edition of his popular book, he classified the Germans as being primarily Nordic, but in his second edition, published after the USA had entered WWI, he had re-classified the now enemy power as being dominated by "inferior" Alpines. Günther's work agreed with Grant's, and the German anthropologist frequently stated that the Germans are definitely not a fully Nordic people. Hitler himself was later to downplay the importance of Nordicism in public for this very reason. The standard tripartite model placed most of the population of Hitler's Germany in the Alpine category, especially after the Anschluss.
J. Kaup led a movement opposed to Günther. Kaup took the view that a German nation, all of whose citizens belonged to a "German race" in a populationist sense, offered a more convenient sociotechnical tool than Günther's concept of an ideal Nordic type to which only a very few Germans could belong. Nazi legislation identifying the ethnic and "racial" affinities of the Jews reflects the populationist concept of race. Discrimination was not restricted to Jews who belonged to the "Oriental-Armenoid" race, but was directed against all members of the Jewish ethnic population.
The German journalist Kurt Caro (*1905) who emigrated to Paris in 1933 and served in the British army from 1943, published a book under the pseudonym Manuel Humbert unmasking Hitler's "Mein Kampf" in which he stated the following racial composition of the Jewish population of Central Europe: 23,8% Lapponid race, 21,5% Nordic race, 20,3% Armenoid race, 18,4% Mediterranean race, 16,0% Oriental race.
By 1939 Hitler had abandoned Nordicist rhetoric in favour of the idea that the German people as a whole were united by distinct "spiritual" qualities. Nevertheless, Nazi eugenics policies continued to favor Nordics over Alpines and other racial groups, particularly during the war when decisions were being made about the incorporation of conquered peoples into the Reich. In 1942 Hitler stated in private,
I shall have no peace of mind until I have planted a seed of Nordic blood wherever the population stand in need of regeneration. If at the time of the migrations, while the great racial currents were exercising their influence, our people received so varied a share of attributes, these latter blossomed to their full value only because of the presence of the Nordic racial nucleus.
Hitler and Himmler planned to use the SS as the basis for the racial "regeneration" of Europe following the final victory of Nazism. The SS was to be a racial elite chosen on the basis of "pure" Nordic qualities.
Addressing officers of the SS-Leibstandarte "Adolf Hitler" Himmler stated:
The ultimate aim for those 11 years during which I have been the Reichsfuehrer SS has been invariably the same: to create an order of good blood which is able to serve Germany; which unfailingly and without sparing itself can be made use of because the greatest losses can do no harm to the vitality of this order, the vitality of these men, because they will always be replaced; to create an order which will spread the idea of Nordic blood so far that we will attract all Nordic blood in the world, take away the blood from our adversaries, absorb it so that never again, looking at it from the viewpoint of grand policy, Nordic blood, in great quantities and to an extent worth mentioning, will fight against us.
In the USA, the primary spokesman for Nordicism was the eugenicist Madison Grant. His 1916 book, The Passing of the Great Race, or the Racial Basis of European History about Nordicism was highly influential among racial thinking and government policy making. Grant used the theory as justification for immigration policies of the 1920s, arguing immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe represented a lesser type of European and their numbers in the United States should not be increased. Grant and others urged this as well as the complete restriction of non-Europeans, such as the Chinese and Japanese. Grant argued the Nordic race had been responsible for most of humanity's great achievements, and admixture was "race suicide" and unless eugenic policies were enacted, the Nordic race would be supplanted by inferior races. Future president Calvin Coolidge agreed, stating "Biological laws tell us that certain divergent people will not mix or blend. The Nordics propagate themselves successfully. With other races, the outcome shows deterioration on both sides. The Immigration Act of 1924 was signed into law by President Coolidge. This was designed to reduce the number of Eastern and Southern European immigrants, exclude Asian immigrants altogether, and favor immigration from Northern and Western European countries.
The spread of these ideas also affected popular culture. F. Scott Fitzgerald invokes Grant's ideas through a character in part of The Great Gatsby, and Hilaire Belloc jokingly rhapsodied the "Nordic man" in a poem and essay in which he satirised the stereotypes of Nordics, Alpines and Mediterraneans. Writers such as Jack London, Robert E. Howard and H. P. Lovecraft reflected Nordicist ideas in their fictions.
"Nordish" is a variant of the more established term Nordic race intended to bring a wider array of racial types under that umbrella. Indigenous Northern European peoples and their descendants around the world are said to be part of this race.
On his website The Racial Compact, McCulloch argues for "racial rights" and "racial preservation" in the face of encroaching "multiracialism." He focuses in particular on the rights of the "Nordish people."
Following Carleton S. Coon (1939), McCulloch's Nordish group encompasses several subtypes: Hallstatt Nordic, Keltic Nordic, Brünn, Borreby, Anglo-Saxon, Trønder, Fälish, North-Atlantid, Paleo-Atlantid, Neo-Danubian, East Baltic, Noric and Sub-Nordic. Even though there are different subraces with varying phenotypes, idealized traits of the race are light hair, light eyes, light skin, wide shoulders, long head and tall stature with big bones and heavy musculature.
Even before the rise of Nazism, Grant's concept of "race" lost favor in the USA in the polarizing political climate after World War I, including the Great Migration and the Great Depression. The influx of African-Americans into the Northern states resulted in a "flattening" of racial categories into what eugenicist Lothrop Stoddard named as "bi-racialism" — an absolutist black/white distinction maintained by declaring mixed-race people to be considered "black". This required the abandonment of Grant's gradations of "white" in favour of the "One-drop theory" — which was embraced by white supremacists and black nationalists alike. Among the latter were Marcus Garvey, and, in part, W.E.B. Du Bois, at least in his later thought.
With the rise of Nazism many critics pointed to the flaws in the theory, repeating the arguments made by Sergi and others that the evidence of ancient Nordic achievement is thin when set against the civilizations of the Mediterranean and elsewhere. The equation of Nordic and Aryan identity was also widely criticised. In 1936 M.W. Fodor, writing in The Nation, claimed that racialised Germanic nationalism arose from an inferiority complex:
No race has suffered so much from an inferiority complex as has the German. National Socialism was a kind of Coué method of converting the inferiority complex, at least temporarily, into a feeling of superiority.
After World War II, the categorization of peoples into "superior" and "inferior" groups fell even further out of political and scientific favor, eventually leading to the characterization of such theories as scientific racism. The tripartite subdivision of "Caucasians" into Nordic, Alpine and Mediterranean groups persisted among some scientists into the 1960s, notably in Carleton Coon's book The Origin of Races (1962). Already race academics such as A. James Gregor were heavily criticizing Nordicism. In 1961 Gregor called it a "philosophy of despair", on the grounds that its obsession with purity doomed it to ultimate pessimism and isolationism. As late as 1977 the Swedish author Bertil Lundman wrote a book The Races And Peoples Of Europe mentioning a "Nordid Race". The development of the Kurgan theory of Indo-European origins weakened the Nordicist equation of Aryan and Nordic identity, since it placed the earliest Indo-European speakers in central Asia. The emergence of population genetics further undermined the categorisation of Europeans into clearly defined racial groups. A 2007 study using samples exclusively from Europe found an unusually high degree of European homogeneity: "there is low apparent diversity in Europe with the entire continent-wide samples only marginally more dispersed than single population samples elsewhere in the world.
Recent IQ studies have also provided little support for Nordicist claims. According to IQ and Global Inequality, a book published by Richard Lynn in 2006, Italians possess the highest IQ among European nations. However, Asian nations dominate overall with Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, North Korea, Japan, People's Republic of China, and the Republic of China occupying the Top 7 positions. These studies show little correlation to the "Nordic" model. Among some white supremacists Nordic theory is still maintained, as, for example in the writings of Roger Pearson and Richard McCulloch, who adopted the term Nordish race, as a somewhat more inclusive label.
Tarling wins Nordic race in NCAAs ; Sam Tarling of Cumberland, skiing for Dartmouth, captures the 10- kilometer freestyle event at the national championships.
Mar 10, 2011; GLENN JORDAN Staff Writer Portland Press Herald (Maine) 03-10-2011 Tarling wins Nordic race in NCAAs ; Sam Tarling of Cumberland,...