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Measuring the Master Race

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Jon Røyne Kyllingstad

6. Halfdan Bryn and the Nordic Race

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Fig. 10 Halfdan Bryn at his desk.

1Physical anthropology virtually vanished in Norway after the deaths of Arbo, Guldberg and Larsen; when it re-emerged in the interwar years, eugenics had become one of its major social justifications. As noted in the previous chapter, physical anthropology was particularly relevant to the faction of the racial hygiene movement concerned with purifying and propagating the Nordic race. In the years immediately following World War I, the leading physical anthropologist in Norway was Halfdan Bryn, who would become an increasingly ardent proponent of the superiority of the Nordic race. This chapter deals with Bryn’s theoretical and methodological approach to the study of race, and how this related to his increasingly racist outlook on society.

Halfdan Bryn’s career in anthropology

2Halfdan Bryn (1864-1933) was born into the educated elite and the medical profession. His grandfather was an embetsmann (a senior official), a politician and a member of the assembly that drafted the Norwegian constitution in 1814. His father was a stadsfysikus (a leader of the public health authority) in Trondheim, Norway’s third largest town, located in the central Trøndelag counties. His father’s job as a stadsfysikus was to protect public health and maintain municipal hygiene through the implementation of a variety of measures. Bryn’s lifespan coincided with a period in which science made tremendous progress and the medical profession gained a principal position in society. Advances in bacteriology provided an increasingly self-confident medical profession with new tools to fight diseases, while the government increasingly undertook public health measures resulting, in turn, in larger and more powerful public health bodies.

  • 1 Studentene fra 1882 (Kristiania: [n. pub.], 1907 and 1932); S. Schmidt-Nielsen, ‘Halfdan Bryn: Minn (...)
  • 2 Ibid.

3Halfdan Bryn followed in his father’s footsteps and graduated with a medical degree from the University of Kristiania in 1889. After a short interlude in the United States, he settled with his young family in his hometown of Trondheim, where he ran a private practice and worked as an army doctor. Bryn was a respected member of the local elite of this provincial capital. From 1898 to 1914, he was a Liberal Party, or Venstre, representative to the Trondheim City Council, and from 1905 to 1910 he was one of its chairmen. In this role Bryn was particularly interested in municipal sanitation and hygiene, urban planning and housing policies. He travelled overseas to study sanitation and housing for workers, and became involved in the international garden city movement.1 Bryn was also a prominent member of Trondheim’s small academic community, contributed to the establishment of a biological research station on the Trondheim fjord in 1899 and was a leading member of the Trondheimbased Royal Norwegian Society of Sciences and Letters, Norway’s oldest scientific society and the little brother to the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters in Oslo. Bryn was also a respected member of the national academic and medical community — his public offices included the presidency of the Norwegian Medical Association (Den norske lægeforening, 1921-1922) — and he gained international recognition for his anthropological studies of the racial character of the Norwegian nation in the 1920s.2

  • 3 Halfdan Bryn, Trøndelagens antropologi. Bidrag til belysning av det norske folks anthropologi i beg (...)
  • 4 Aftenposten, 3 September 1917. The Kongens guldmedalje (Royal Gold Medal) was awarded by the univer (...)
  • 5 From 1917 to 1925 he produced 19 scientific publications. See Per Holck, Den fysiske antropologi i (...)
  • 6 Bryn’s archive: R. Martin to Bryn, 20 September 1920.
  • 7 On his cooperation with Lundborg, see Bryn’s archive: correspondence between Bryn and Lundborg. Bry (...)

4Like Arbo and Larsen before him, Bryn’s anthropological research was rooted in his job as an army doctor. The army medical service was headed by Hans Daae, who was deeply interested in physical anthropology, and in 1915 he relieved Bryn of many of his non-scientific responsibilities to allow him to concentrate on anthropological research. Two years later, at the age of 53, Bryn published his first major anthropological work based on measurements taken during his routine medical examinations of army conscripts from Trøndelag.3 The work received a prestigious national award,4 and Bryn gained access to research funds from the most important funding body in Norway, the Nansen Fund. In 1924, he abandoned private medical practice and the post of army doctor to engage in full-time anthropological research. In the 1920s, Bryn published several scientific articles that attracted significant national and international attention.5 In 1920, he received a letter from Rudolf Martin which was full of praise for his work and which offered to help him publish in Germany.6 Over the following few years, Bryn established a large network of colleagues in the German and Scandinavian scientific communities. He was elected to the Norwegian Royal Academy of Science and Letters in Kristiania in 1923, the German Society of Physical Anthropology in 1925, and in 1929 to the Anthropological Society of Vienna and the German Society for Blood Group Research. During the 1920s, he made several study trips to Germany and cooperated with Lundborg at the Institute for Racial Biology in Uppsala.7

  • 8 Bryn’s archive: copy of a letter from K. E. Schreiner to Rector Stang at the University of Kristian (...)

5In the interwar years the other two main professional anthropologists in Norway were Kristian Emil Schreiner at the University’s Department of Anatomy and his wife Alette Schreiner. Since the two Schreiners did not begin publishing their findings until the late 1920s, Bryn had a virtual monopoly over anthropological publications in Norway during the first decade after World War I and was described by Kristian Emil as ‘our most famous anthropologist’.8

Halfdan Bryn’s racial science

  • 9 Bryn’s archive: a number of letters from A. M. Hansen to H. Bryn in the years 1919-1920 (see, for e (...)

6In the early years of his anthropological research, Bryn collaborated closely with Andreas Hansen, who was then the only living member of the first generation of Norwegian racial-anthropological authors. Hansen helped Bryn with statistical calculations, they discussed research topics of common interest and Bryn supported Andreas Hansen’s pet theories, notably the ideas that the Sea Sami were unrelated to the Sami nomads and that the Norwegians were a mixture of blond dolichocephalics and dark brachycephalics.9

  • 10 Bryn, Trøndelagens antropologi, pp. 5ff., 69ff.; idem, Møre fylkes antropologi. Skr. D. n. Vidensk. (...)

7As noted in chapter 3, Hansen’s simplistic racial dichotomy had come under heavy criticism shortly after the turn of the twentieth century, with Arbo and Larsen arguing for the existence of more than two Norwegian racial types. While Arbo claimed to have identified an additional blond, short-skulled ‘North Sea Race’ in southwestern Norway, Larsen argued for the existence of a distinct, mesocephalic, local Trøndelag race, which he called the ‘Trønder-type’. In his first, award-winning anthropological work, Bryn dismissed the existence of Larsen’s ‘Trønder-type’, arguing that it was not a distinct race but a ‘bastard’ resulting from the admixture of blond dolichocephalics and dark brachycephalics.10 This first publication was followed by a series of papers in which Bryn continued to defend the theory that two races gave rise to the Scandinavian peoples.

  • 11 Søren Hansen, ‘Om Grundracer i Norden’. Forhandlinger ved De skandinaviske naturforskeres 16. møte (...)
  • 12 Halfdan Bryn, ‘To grundraser i Norge’, Nyt Mag. f. Naturvidensk (1920), pp. 32-33.

8One year before Bryn’s debut as an anthropologist, the Danish anthropologist Søren Hansen had launched a severe critique of this two-race theory. In a speech given at a Scandinavian scientific conference, he claimed that the thesis of short-skulled and long-skulled parental races was scientifically outdated. He argued that the cephalic index was a useless racial marker, since it varied significantly within each race and since the shape of the skull was related, ontogenetically and physiologically, to the size of the head and body. According to Søren Hansen there was only one undivided European race.11 In a paper of 1920, Bryn presented a number of counterarguments to this critique, accusing Hansen of focusing too narrowly on present-day appearances instead of searching for historical patterns. According to Bryn, Hansen failed to recognise that each race had developed their typical characteristics ‒ such as head shape, skin, eye and hair colour ‒ hundreds of thousands of years ago, during a long prehistoric period of isolation. According to Bryn, the ensuing mixing of different racial groups had diluted these original race-specific combinations of inherited traits, but had not obliterated them. Bryn considered racial traits like blondness and dolichocephalism to be basic attributes inherited according to Mendelian rules, and he believed that the anthropologist’s role was to reconstruct the original pure races by mapping the distribution of the various features in racially-mixed modern populations.12

  • 13 Bryn’s copy of Fischer’s book on Rehoboth (now held at the Gunnerus Library, University of Trondhei (...)
  • 14 Bryn argues against Fischer in his Selbu og Tydalen. En antropologisk undersøkelse av mænd, kvinder (...)
  • 15 Bryn, Trøndelagens antropologi.

9Bryn was influenced by Eugen Fischer’s famous study of the ‘bastards’ of Rehoboth,13 in which Fisher suggested that racial mixing led to the dissolution of the original race-specific combinations of traits and to their random distribution within the population of mixed offspring. Bryn, however, claimed to be able to reconstruct the ancestral races of a bastard population through correlation analysis, using the ‘affinity quotient’ (affinitetstall) invented by Andreas Hansen. Racial mixing was seldom complete, he argued, and so the racial markers would not be completely randomly distributed through the population. It would be possible to detect individuals and regional populations that were carriers of the originally race-specific combinations of markers.14 The admixture ratio of the original races would vary in different geographic regions, and the original race-specific combinations of traits could therefore be estimated by comparing their relative distribution in different regions. Despite the fact that neither dark short skulls nor blond long skulls were overrepresented in Trøndelag, Bryn thought he could demonstrate that the population consisted of a mix of the two types. Regions with a high frequency of brown-eyed individuals also tended to have many short and brachycephalic individuals, while regions with a high frequency of blue-eyed people had a higher percentage of dolichocephalic, tall people.15

  • 16 Halfdan Bryn, ‘Researches into Anthropological Heredity. On the Inheritance of Eye Colour in Man. I (...)
  • 17 See for example the following works by Bryn: Trøndelagens antropologi, Selbu og Tydalen, Anthropolo (...)

10The theoretical edifice underpinning Bryn’s racial research was based on the assumption that racial traits are inherited independently of each other, and that there is a simple one-to-one relationship between racial traits and Mendelian factors. This basic assumption was challenged by Hansen’s insistence on the variability of skull shapes and on the physiological and ontogenetic relationship between skull shape and other presumed racial traits, like body length and head size. It was therefore urgent for Bryn to show that traits like the cephalic index and eye colour were inherited according to simple Mendelian rules. In his reply to the challenge from Søren Hansen, he drew upon arguments taken from his own genetic studies which supposedly demonstrated the Mendelian inheritance of the cephalic index and eye colour.16 We will return to these arguments in chapter 8. For now, Bryn’s research strategy can be summed up as follows: he studied the inheritance of assumed race-specific traits in order to establish that they were in fact inherited in accordance with Mendelian rules and could be regarded as true, inherent racial markers. He performed correlation analyses to ascertain the extent to which certain sets of racial markers were present in the population of a certain area. If he found a correlation, he concluded that particular combinations of traits derived from the original, ancient races. By studying the occurrence of racial traits in different geographic areas, Bryn could then ascertain the relative distribution of various racial elements in the Norwegian population (see Fig. 11).17

Fig. 11 A graph by Bryn showing the distribution of cephalic indices in an admixed population. Curve A represents Norwegians with an average cephalic index of 77; Curve B represents Sami with an average cephalic index of 83; Curve C represents the sum of the populations.

Bryn and the northern Norwegian bastards

  • 18 Halfdan Bryn, Troms fylkes antropologi, Skr. D. n. Vidensk. Selsk. MN kl 1921, no. 20 (Kristiania: (...)

11In 1921, Bryn published a work about the racial composition of Troms, Norway’s second northernmost county, which had a population of mixed Norwegian, Sami and Kven (Finnish) heritage. He had recorded the frequency of the racial traits corresponding to the Alpine, Nordic and so-called ‘Palaearctic’ (or Lapp) race in the three groups, and suggested that each group consisted of a mixture of different proportions of the three racial types. Bryn then constructed a taxonomy of ‘bastard types’, each consisting of a certain ratio of traits derived from the three basic races.18

  • 19 Bryn, Troms fylkes antropologi, pp. 73-74.
  • 20 Halfdan Bryn, ‘Raceblandingen i Troms fylke’, Norsk Tidsskrift for Militærmedicin, Vol. 26 (1922), (...)

12In defining these bastard types, Bryn placed different emphases on various traits, the cephalic index being the most important and body height the least. He started by sorting the individuals into cephalic index categories and thereafter investigated the correlation between these categories and various eye colour categories. Then he studied how the different combinations of cephalic indices and eye colours correlated to other characteristics, like hair colour, body length and so on. Bryn justified this procedure by claiming that he placed greatest emphasis on the traits that were most directly genetically determined.19 His main conclusion was that 66 per cent of the ancestry of the Troms population was Nordic, about 30 per cent was Alpine, and 4 per cent or less was Lapp. These findings did not fit well with the official census, in which 9 per cent of the population was classified as Lapp. Bryn overcame this discrepancy by explaining that the ‘Lapp racial element’ was smaller than the proportion of ‘Lapp people’ because the latter contained foreign racial elements.20

13Bryn’s conclusions were largely compatible with the theory that Andreas Hansen had put forward in his Landnåm i Norge in 1904 (see chapter 4), namely that the Sea Sami population was biologically unrelated to the ‘true’ Sami, the inland reindeer herders. Bryn argued that the Lapp race had its stronghold in the northeast of the county, an area bordering the principal reindeer herding district of the Finnmarksvidda plateau. The Nordic race was overrepresented in scattered agricultural inland communities, while the Alpine race had its stronghold along the coast. Bryn claimed that both the Norwegian and the Sea Sami coastal dwellers were of mixed racial origins and had a large share of dark short-skulled Alpine elements. According to Bryn, the proportion of Lapp racial traits was only slightly higher in the Sea Sami than in the coastal Norwegians.

From social to racial hygiene

14Bryn was a politically engaged citizen who belonged to the social-liberal Venstre movement and believed in the improvement of society based on science: his political and social engagement went hand in hand with his activities as a scientist and physician. Like many other members of the medical profession, he advocated a set of ideas that is commonly referred to as social hygiene. The social hygiene movement had its heyday in Norway in the years between 1910 and 1940 and focused on the relationship between health and the environment, housing, nutrition, personal hygiene, physical education and the living conditions of children at home and at school. Its two most important aims were the prevention of tuberculosis and other infectious diseases, and the reversal of the quantitative and qualitative consequences of the decline in birth rate. The social hygiene movement, with its measures to improve the living conditions of the population, was related to the racial hygiene movement with its aim of regulating population ‘quality’ and size. From the early 1920s, Bryn began to combine his ideas about racial hygiene with an increasingly racial-determinist outlook on human nature.

15Before moving into the field of anthropology, Bryn had argued against considering race as the cause of differences in the health and biological ‘quality’ of the population; he had advocated public intervention in the physical and social environment of citizens to improve their health and wellbeing. However, his views changed as his career in anthropology progressed. By the mid-1920s, he saw racial differences as the main driving force behind variations in human biological quality and was strongly in favour of a racist strand of eugenics. It is important to note, however, that rather than undergoing a fundamental ideological reorientation, many aspects of his paternalist, science-based and progressive worldview remained unchanged.

  • 21 Halfdan Bryn, ‘Antropologiske Undersøgelser I. Trøndelagens rekrutteringsevne’, Norsk tidsskrift fo (...)
  • 22 Bryn, ‘Trøndelagens rekrutteringsevne’, pp. 20-21.

16Let us consider a recurring theme in Bryn’s writings on military medicine and anthropology, namely the question of regional differences in the supply of capable army recruits. Around the turn of the twentieth century, Larsen and Arbo had proposed that variations in the quality of recruits from different districts were mainly due to inherent racial differences, and not to local variations in environment and living conditions. In a 1914 article, Bryn countered this argument, claiming instead that the biological quality of the conscripts stemmed from their social background: industrialised urban communities generally produced a lower biological pool of conscripts than rural districts.21 Bryn pointed to the bad living conditions of the urban working class, their dangerous work, poor nutrition, lack of hygiene and higher incidence of rickets and tuberculosis — environmental risks whose effects were exacerbated by the fact that industrial jobs attracted the poorest members of society, already bearers of biologically disadvantaged children. Towns and cities were caught up in a vicious cycle of poor environments, poor biological heritage and negative social selection. They became ‘incubators of all kinds of spiritual and material infections’.22

  • 23 Haakon Odd Christiansen and Wilhelm K. Støren, Trondheim i går og i dag: 1914-1964 (Trondheim: I ko (...)
  • 24 Halfdan Bryn and Ebenezer Howard, Havebyer og jordbruksbyer i Norge (Kristiania: Aschehoug, 1921).

17Bryn’s negative views on urbanisation and industrialisation had political implications. As a member of the city council of Trondheim, he worked to improve the living conditions of the poor through housing schemes and the implementation of stricter public controls on urban development.23 In 1921, he published a book with Ebenezer Howard, the founder of the international garden city movement, in which they argued for state expropriation of slums and tenements in order to replace them with garden cities and fight the property speculators who preyed on the poor.24 The main goal of Bryn’s involvement in politics and the garden city movement was to improve the physical and psychological living conditions of individuals at the bottom of the social ladder, but he also wanted to counter the economic pressures that had created this situation. It is important to note Bryn’s strongly paternalist approach to the issue and the fact that he considered the slum-dwellers to be of poor biological quality. However, even while accepting the influence of social selection on the geographical and social distribution of inborn ‘biological quality’, Bryn rejected the single-cause racial explanation proposed by Arbo and Larsen.

  • 25 Bryn, Trøndelagens antropologi, pp. 10-11.

18In his first anthropological work, Bryn argued that the only way to substantiate a link between race, health and mental abilities was through a quantitative study. Although Bryn did not believe it was scientifically feasible to measure the psychological characteristics of races or individuals, he argued that it would be possible to elucidate the question by counting the relative proportion of physically and psychologically inferior individuals — those with inheritable diseases or disabilities — in local populations and comparing this number with the relative frequency of cephalic indices, thus correlating the psychological and racial compositions of the local population.25

  • 26 Halfdan Bryn, ‘Om vort folks kroniske og arvelige sykdomsbelastning’, Norsk Tidsskrift for Militærm (...)
  • 27 Herman Lundborg, ‘Rassen-und Gesellschafts-probleme in Genetischer und Medizinischer Beleuchtung’, (...)

19Over the following years, Bryn collected data on chronically ill conscripts from different regions, and at a meeting of army doctors in 1921, he once again addressed the relationship between race, environment and health. This time he did not focus on the army’s need for fit soldiers, but on the nation’s need for a healthy and able population. Bryn ranked chronic diseases according to their degree of heritability and the level of their negative impact on the individual and society. He then compared this ranking to the regional distribution of the diseases: the resulting data showed the relative burden of chronic disease in different regions, demonstrating a geographical correlation between high levels of the chronically ill and a high incidence of tuberculosis.26 Tuberculosis was known to be an infectious disease associated with overcrowding, but instead of discussing the evils of the city, as he had done previously, Bryn now suggested that tuberculosis might result from ‘genotypic inferiority’ caused by racial mixing. His arguments were chiefly based on Herman Lundborg’s 1920 work on ‘genotypic degeneration’ and ‘predisposition to tuberculosis’. According to Lundborg, there were two types of ‘genotypic inferiority’: while a pathological change in a single organ could be caused by a single gene or by a small group of genes, pathological conditions involving several organs could be the result of the abnormal rearrangement of a huge number of genes, leading to a basic weakness in the very ‘constitution’ of the body. Lundborg suggested that predisposition to tuberculosis was due to a constitutional weakness caused by the genetic chaos arising from bastardisation.27

  • 28 Bryn, ‘Om vort folks kroniske’ (1922), p. 9.

20According to Bryn’s interpretation of Lundborg’s theory, the forces of natural selection had ensured that an individual of a particular race would inherit a combination of genes that were perfectly well adapted to a specific social and natural environment. Racially-mixed individuals, on the other hand, were at great risk of inheriting unusual gene combinations which would lead to an inferior physical and psychological constitution manifesting itself in characteristics such as lack of social adaptability, criminal inclinations and predisposition to diseases like tuberculosis.28

  • 29 Ibid.
  • 30 Ibid., p. 7.
  • 31 Bryn’s archive: undated clipping of a newspaper article by Bryn. The article is probably from 1924, (...)

21Bryn maintained that individual races had different aptitudes for cultural progress as well as varying levels of resistance to disease, mortality rates and predisposition to tuberculosis. He claimed that people were misguided if they believed that environmental preconditions were the main explanation for differences in the cultural level of nations. Instead, he argued that such differences were determined by the racial composition of the population, which was linked to good or bad configurations of genes.29 Despite this, in a speech he made in 1921, Bryn nevertheless stressed that scientific insights into the relationship between the environmental and racial causes of disease and inferiority were not yet good enough to justify the use of extensive eugenic interventions such as sterilisation or the detention of genotypically inferior individuals.30 Three years later, however, Bryn had sufficiently rid himself of these reservations to present himself in a series of newspaper articles as the spokesman for racial hygiene based on the idea of the Nordic master race. The time was now ripe for Gobineau’s dogma of fundamental inequality between races, he declared, affirming that the issue of race was firmly rooted in all aspects of human history and that ‘only the Nordic race could give rise to a higher civilisation’.31

A scientific view of society

  • 32 In ‘Trøndelagens rekrutteringsevne’, Bryn argued that no one was yet able to quantify psychological (...)
  • 33 Bryn, ‘Raceblandingen i Troms’, p. 130.

22As we have seen, Bryn’s career as an anthropologist coincided with the development of an increasingly racially-determined worldview. Furthermore, the scientific conceptualisation of race upon which he based his research was intertwined with his view of the social relevance of physical anthropology. Bryn acknowledged that there was no scientifically reliable evidence for the existence of psychological differences between races and declared that, as an anthropologist, he was not qualified to shed scientific light on this question. On the other hand, he claimed that such differences were so well known that further investigation was superfluous.32 When describing the psychological profiles of various races, he did not refer to scientific research, but invoked instead public opinion, American eugenicists or literature by Gobineau, Lapouge, Ammon, Arbo, the American racial ideologue Madison Grant and the latter’s German counterpart, Hans Günther. Even though he admitted that it lacked scientific support, Bryn’s belief that psychological and health differences between races did indeed exist shaped his views on the social utility of anthropology. According to Bryn, physical anthropology would be a useless science without such differences. In a 1922 article on the racially-mixed population of Troms County, he stated that the mapping of observable racial traits was only of interest because such traits were correlated to invisible psychological characteristics and health differences.33 In a lecture given the same year, Bryn claimed that the main task of modern anthropology was ‘to identify the conditions for the prosperity and wellbeing of races and peoples, as well as the causes for their downfall and death’: these were determined by the racial composition of the people.

  • 34 Halfdan Bryn, Menneskerasene og deres utviklingshistorie (Oslo: Det Norske studentersamfund, 1925).
  • 35 Bryn’s archive: newspaper clipping from Nidaros lørdagsdagblad, 18 September 1926; Halfdan Bryn, ‘B (...)

23Bryn’s perception of the social role of anthropology was closely linked to his conception of race, which in his view meant a group of individuals who inherited a set of traits. The configuration of features specific to each race had arisen in prehistory, when human groups had existed in reproductive isolation. Bounded by geographical barriers for millennia, humankind had divided into distinct groups that had endured different selective forces and become perfectly adapted to their respective habitats (see Fig. 12).34 This adaptation included the development of specific intellectual and cultural abilities, as well as different moral attitudes, religions and beliefs. The development had taken place undisturbed for thousands of years, and so it had given rise to the ‘perfectly cohesive edifice’ which was ‘the culture of a race’.35

Fig. 12 Bryn’s map of areas of anthropological isolation.

24Each isolated within its own habitat, different races had developed biological instincts that matched their social and natural environments. After the last Ice Age, however, the barriers separating the isolated habitats had vanished. From that point on, human history had been marked by migration, racial admixture and territorial conflict, eventually giving rise to our present-day populations.

  • 36 Bryn’s archive: newspaper clipping from Nidaros lørdagsdagblad, 18 September 1926: ‘Befolkningsprob (...)

25According to Bryn, racial mixing led to two types of problems in the present-day population. At an individual level, mixing could lead to ‘genetic chaos’, disharmonious individuals and genotypic degeneration; while at the societal level, ‘bastardising’ led to alienation. Racially-mixed societies resembled bastard individuals: they were ugly and unfit for intellectual development, since racially heterogeneous societies tended to produce poorly integrated cultures.36 In a society organised in line with nature, ‘race’ would coincide with ‘nation’, and the (racially-determined) psychological drives of individuals would be in harmony with the (racially-determined) culture of the nation. Only in a society like this would it be possible for human beings to lead harmonious, free and wholesome lives.

  • 37 Bryn’s archive: undated newspaper clipping from Nidaros Lørdagsblad, interview with Halfdan Bryn: ‘ (...)

26According to Bryn, the Norwegian people were a mixture of the Nordic and the Alpine races. This blend had been beneficial because of the minor differences between the two races. However, since the Sami were inferior, their blending with Norwegians would lead to the contamination of the Nordic race. The great distance between the two races meant that the hybrids would be of even lower quality than the Sami themselves.37

  • 38 ‘Lapper og nordmenn’, in Nidaros Lørdagsblad (see note above).

27Bryn thought that the crucial difference between superior and inferior races lay in their aptitude for cultural innovation. Superior races, the Nordic race in particular, possessed a great ability to develop culturally, which was lacking in inferior races like the Sami. The latter had been shielded from the struggle for existence by physical isolation, and they had consequently had lost their ability to develop and become ‘fossilised’. When such a race was exposed to the rigours of the struggle for existence, it would, and should, disappear. Bryn assumed that the natural relationship between the so-called primitive and the advanced races was mirrored in the relationship between the indigenous peoples and the European colonisers in the age of European empires. Then, the encounter between colonisers and colonised inevitably led to the extinction of inferior races, a mechanism that was the main driving force behind the biological and cultural evolution of humankind.38

  • 39 See, for example, Halfdan Bryn, Norske folketyper, D. Kgl. n. Videns. selsk. Skr. 6, 1933 (Trondhei (...)

28The Western world had a problem, however, since the theories of the struggle for survival and natural selection had been replaced by the idea of social selection. In this context, bastards and other inferior racial elements did not die out, but sank to the bottom of the social hierarchy, while the superior elements rose to the top. It followed that the upper layer of civilised societies had a much greater proportion of people with Nordic racial characteristics such as elongated skulls and blond hair, while the lower layer of the population was characterised by inferior physical features.39

Anthropology as applied science

  • 40 Bryn’s archive: undated clipping from unnamed newspaper, article by Halfdan Bryn, ‘Amerikanske innv (...)

29According to Bryn, modern society was unnatural: the struggle for survival had ceased, pure races were being contaminated and the progress of Western civilisation was coming to a halt; political measures were needed to counteract this threat. In a newspaper article about immigration to the U. S., Bryn wrote that American civilisation was threatened by racial admixture and the erosion of the Nordic racial element. To solve this perceived problem, he suggested the introduction of a caste system, even claiming that its basic features were already in place. The policy of racial segregation in many American states relegated blacks to the lowest caste of society, and the U. S. legislation on immigration of 1924, which established quotas for immigrants of different nationalities, limited the entry of inferior elements into the country. However, these measures alone were not adequate to protect the Nordic race. The high fertility of American blacks was a threat to Western civilisation, and so it should be countered by mass sterilisation. Bryn further suggested the deliberate inbreeding of Nordic individuals.40

  • 41 Ibid.
  • 42 Bryn’s archive: newspaper clipping from Laagen, 13 March 1931, Halfdan Bryn, ‘Det haster’.
  • 43 Bryn, ‘Raceblandingen’, p. 132.
  • 44 Bryn’s archive: undated newspaper clipping from Nidaros Lørdagsblad, interview with Halfdan Bryn: ‘ (...)

30Even in Norway, the Nordic race was under threat, and Bryn held that the Norwegians should learn from the Americans how to deal with the problem.41 He claimed that inferior elements were migrating to Norway from southern and eastern regions of Europe,42 and in northern Norway, the Nordic race was being tainted by miscegenation with Lapps. Bryn argued that this situation was comparable to the ‘Negro’ problem in the U.S.43 — though on a lesser scale and therefore requiring less radical measures. Bryn rejected the currently prevailing Norwegian policy of cultural assimilation of the Sami because he believed that although eradicating Sami language and culture would erase the visible traces of the Sami, the Sami racial element itself would persist, gradually blending into the Norwegian people and deteriorating their genetic makeup. Instead, Bryn proposed that the Sami should be encouraged to maintain the nomadic lifestyle which naturally suited their racial instincts, as this would allow the inferior racial element to gradually die out.44

Racial determinism and the struggle for survival

31In 1914, when Bryn had tried to explain geographical differences in the supply of fit military recruits, he emphasised environmental conditions: differences in material living conditions and socio-cultural environments determined variations in the physical and psychological development of different social groups. This line of scientific reasoning echoed his political attitude. Bryn advocated public intervention in order to improve the cultural and material living conditions of those at the bottom of the social ladder. During the 1920s, however, his academic interests shifted to a racial explanation of cultural and health differences; moreover, his political work to improve living conditions was replaced by a desire to intervene in biological reproduction. Bryn’s main goal, however, remained the same: to create happier, abler and socially adjusted citizens by improving their biological makeup.

32As we have seen, Bryn’s social hygienic and eugenic views were both based on the assumption that human beings belonged to different levels of cultural and psychological development, and that their intellectual abilities determined their position on the social ladder and their physical well-being. He explained this concurrence partly by arguing that social conditions affected the intellectual, physical and psychological development of individuals, and also by claiming that cultural and social differences were products of innate racial disparity. Over the years, however, there was a shift in his thinking from environmental explanations to racial determinism. Bryn based his reasoning increasingly on the notion of innate biological differences between inferior and superior races.

33To put it bluntly, Bryn’s engagement with racial hygiene from the mid-1920s onwards had the same goal as his anthropological research, namely to reconstruct an original, natural society in which ‘race’ was synonymous with ‘culture’— a society where the tension between the inner drives of individuals (largely determined by race) and societal mores would be eliminated. Bryn’s ideal was a world in which social stratification mirrored racial hierarchy and natural selection could proceed unhindered, so that the strong, dynamic and culturally-advanced Nordic race could propagate at the expense of inferior races and thus advance human civilisation.

Notes

1 Studentene fra 1882 (Kristiania: [n. pub.], 1907 and 1932); S. Schmidt-Nielsen, ‘Halfdan Bryn: Minnetale i Fellesmøtet 10 de april 1933’, Det kgl. n. Vid. Selsk. Forhandlinger, Vol. 6, no. 16 (Trondheim: I kommisjon hos F. Bruns bokhandel, 1933); Per Holck, ‘Halfdan Bryn’, in Norsk biografisk leksikon, http://nbl.snl.no/Halfdan_Bryn

2 Ibid.

3 Halfdan Bryn, Trøndelagens antropologi. Bidrag til belysning av det norske folks anthropologi i begyndelsen av det 20de aarhundrede, Det kgl. n. Vid. selsk. Skr. 1917 (Trondheim: Aktietrykkeriet, 1918).

4 Aftenposten, 3 September 1917. The Kongens guldmedalje (Royal Gold Medal) was awarded by the university. Bryn’s work answered the Faculty of Medicine’s call for a paper entitled ‘A Survey of the Anthropology of a District in Norway’ (‘En undersøgelse over de antropologiske forhold i et større eller mindre distrikt af vort land’). The evaluation committee (K. E. Schreiner and Justus Barth) praised the great wealth of empirical knowledge put forward in Bryn’s work, but was skeptical about the actual scholarly analysis, arguing that Bryn had underestimated the difficulties of his chosen research topic and exaggerated the importance of his findings.

5 From 1917 to 1925 he produced 19 scientific publications. See Per Holck, Den fysiske antropologi i Norge. Fra anatomisk institutts historie 1815-1990 (Oslo: Anatomisk institutt, University of Oslo, 1990), p. 95ff.: Bibliography of Physical Anthropological Research in Norway.

6 Bryn’s archive: R. Martin to Bryn, 20 September 1920.

7 On his cooperation with Lundborg, see Bryn’s archive: correspondence between Bryn and Lundborg. Bryn was awarded an honorary doctorate at the University of Uppsala in 1927.

8 Bryn’s archive: copy of a letter from K. E. Schreiner to Rector Stang at the University of Kristiania, 31 March 1924.

9 Bryn’s archive: a number of letters from A. M. Hansen to H. Bryn in the years 1919-1920 (see, for example, letters dated 30 January and 30 November 1919).

10 Bryn, Trøndelagens antropologi, pp. 5ff., 69ff.; idem, Møre fylkes antropologi. Skr. D. n. Vidensk. Selsk. MN kl. (Kristiania: I kommission hos J. Dybwad, 1920), pp. 66-67.

11 Søren Hansen, ‘Om Grundracer i Norden’. Forhandlinger ved De skandinaviske naturforskeres 16. møte i Kristiania den 10.-15. juli 1916 (Kristiania: A. W. Brøggers boktrykkeri, 1918), pp. 822-38.

12 Halfdan Bryn, ‘To grundraser i Norge’, Nyt Mag. f. Naturvidensk (1920), pp. 32-33.

13 Bryn’s copy of Fischer’s book on Rehoboth (now held at the Gunnerus Library, University of Trondheim (NTNU)) is full of underlining and comments in the margins. Eugen Fischer, Die Rehobother Bastards und das Bastardierungsproblem beim Menschen: anthropologische und ethnographische Studien am Rehobother Bastardvolk in Deutsch-Südwest-Afrika (Jena: G. Fischer, 1913).

14 Bryn argues against Fischer in his Selbu og Tydalen. En antropologisk undersøkelse av mænd, kvinder og barn i to norske indlandsbygder, Skr. D. n. Vidensk. Selsk. MN kl 1921, no. 5 (Kristiania: I kommisjon hos Jacob Dybwad, 1921), p. 81.

15 Bryn, Trøndelagens antropologi.

16 Halfdan Bryn, ‘Researches into Anthropological Heredity. On the Inheritance of Eye Colour in Man. II. The Genetic of Index Cephalicus’, Hereditas, Vol. 1, no. 2 (1920), pp. 186-212; Arvelighetsundersøkelser. Om arv av øienfarven hos mennesker’, Tidsskrift for den Norske Lægeforening, Vol. 40, no. 10 (1920), pp. 329-42; idem, ‘Arvelighetsundersøkelser vedrørende index cephalicus’, Tidsskrift for den Norske Lægeforening, Vol. 41, no. 10 (1921), pp. 431-52.

17 See for example the following works by Bryn: Trøndelagens antropologi, Selbu og Tydalen, Anthropologia Nidarosiensis, ‘Anthropologia Nidarosiensis’ and Møre fylkes antropologi.

18 Halfdan Bryn, Troms fylkes antropologi, Skr. D. n. Vidensk. Selsk. MN kl 1921, no. 20 (Kristiania: I kommission hos J. Dybwad, 1922), pp. 72-90.

19 Bryn, Troms fylkes antropologi, pp. 73-74.

20 Halfdan Bryn, ‘Raceblandingen i Troms fylke’, Norsk Tidsskrift for Militærmedicin, Vol. 26 (1922), p. 127.

21 Halfdan Bryn, ‘Antropologiske Undersøgelser I. Trøndelagens rekrutteringsevne’, Norsk tidsskrift for Militærmedicin (1914), p. 21.

22 Bryn, ‘Trøndelagens rekrutteringsevne’, pp. 20-21.

23 Haakon Odd Christiansen and Wilhelm K. Støren, Trondheim i går og i dag: 1914-1964 (Trondheim: I kommisjon hos F. Bruns bokhandels forlag, 1973), pp. 117-32.

24 Halfdan Bryn and Ebenezer Howard, Havebyer og jordbruksbyer i Norge (Kristiania: Aschehoug, 1921).

25 Bryn, Trøndelagens antropologi, pp. 10-11.

26 Halfdan Bryn, ‘Om vort folks kroniske og arvelige sykdomsbelastning’, Norsk Tidsskrift for Militærmedicin, Vol. 25 (1921), pp. 138-46, Vol. 26 (1922), pp. 1-15.

27 Herman Lundborg, ‘Rassen-und Gesellschafts-probleme in Genetischer und Medizinischer Beleuchtung’, Hereditas, Vol. 1, no. 2 (1920), pp. 135-63.

28 Bryn, ‘Om vort folks kroniske’ (1922), p. 9.

29 Ibid.

30 Ibid., p. 7.

31 Bryn’s archive: undated clipping of a newspaper article by Bryn. The article is probably from 1924, since it discusses the U.S. Immigration Act of 1924.

32 In ‘Trøndelagens rekrutteringsevne’, Bryn argued that no one was yet able to quantify psychological abilities, despite contemporary researchers' repeted attempts to do so. The first standardised intelligence tests — precursors of present-day IQ tests — were developed during World War I. These tests were partly aimed at investigating whether intellectual differences between races existed, research occasionally referred to by Bryn. In ‘Raceblandingen i Troms fylke’ (p. 130), Bryn claimed that ‘new research’ had substantiated the existence of such differences: Otto Schläginhaufen, Rasse, Rassenmischung und Konstitution (Bern, 1921), and Eugen Fischer, Die Rassenunterschiede beim menschen (München, 1921). However, Bryn generally refrained from claiming that the connection between race and mental abilities had been scientifically proven. When, in the late 1920s, Bryn conducted his own research on this topic, he was eager to emphasise that his research was not ‘scientific’. See chapter 9 in this book; Halfdan Bryn, Der Nordische mensch (Munchen: J. F. Lehmann, 1929); idem, ‘Den nordiske rases sjelelige trekk’, Ymer, Vol. 49, no. 4 (1929), pp. 347-48.

33 Bryn, ‘Raceblandingen i Troms’, p. 130.

34 Halfdan Bryn, Menneskerasene og deres utviklingshistorie (Oslo: Det Norske studentersamfund, 1925).

35 Bryn’s archive: newspaper clipping from Nidaros lørdagsdagblad, 18 September 1926; Halfdan Bryn, ‘Befolkningsproblemer, del 2, Raserenhetens betydning’.

36 Bryn’s archive: newspaper clipping from Nidaros lørdagsdagblad, 18 September 1926: ‘Befolkningsproblemer, del 1, Jordens overbefolkning’. Bryn’s archive: undated clipping from unnamed newspaper, article by Halfdan Bryn: ‘Amerikanske innvandringsspørsmål’.

37 Bryn’s archive: undated newspaper clipping from Nidaros Lørdagsblad, interview with Halfdan Bryn: ‘Lapper og nordmenn, de fysiske og sjelelige følger av raceblandingen’, probably dating around 1922, since the content is very similar to Halfdan Bryn, ‘Raceblandingen i Troms’.

38 ‘Lapper og nordmenn’, in Nidaros Lørdagsblad (see note above).

39 See, for example, Halfdan Bryn, Norske folketyper, D. Kgl. n. Videns. selsk. Skr. 6, 1933 (Trondheim: I kommission hos F. Bruns bokhandel, 1934), p. 7.

40 Bryn’s archive: undated clipping from unnamed newspaper, article by Halfdan Bryn, ‘Amerikanske innvandringsspørsmål’.

41 Ibid.

42 Bryn’s archive: newspaper clipping from Laagen, 13 March 1931, Halfdan Bryn, ‘Det haster’.

43 Bryn, ‘Raceblandingen’, p. 132.

44 Bryn’s archive: undated newspaper clipping from Nidaros Lørdagsblad, interview with Halfdan Bryn: ‘Lapper og nordmenn, de fysiske og sjelelige følger av raceblandingen’.

Table des illustrations

Légende Fig. 10 Halfdan Bryn at his desk.
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/2384/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 16k
Légende Fig. 11 A graph by Bryn showing the distribution of cephalic indices in an admixed population. Curve A represents Norwegians with an average cephalic index of 77; Curve B represents Sami with an average cephalic index of 83; Curve C represents the sum of the populations.
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/2384/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 20k
Légende Fig. 12 Bryn’s map of areas of anthropological isolation.
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/2384/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 14k

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