Gobineau and the Aryan Myth

Michael D. Biddiss describes one of the chief originators of the pernicious racist doctrines that have played so malevolent a part in the history of modern Germany. Gobineau was a French historian whom a nineteenth-century German professor once described as a ‘God-inspired hero’.

One of the most harmful historical legacies that passed from the nineteenth century to the twentieth was that of Aryan racism. It provided a basis for the theories of Germanism, Anglo-Saxonism and Celticism that loomed large in the intellectual history of the early twentieth century. It had many sources and no single progenitor. But a central position must be given to Count Arthur de Gobineau, the French diplomat, historian and novelist, to whom later racists paid frequent homage.

He was born one hundred and fifty years ago, on July 14th, 1816, the son of a royalist army officer. That he entered the world on Bastille Day was a life-long source of annoyance to one who regarded the French Revolution as anathema. His father, imprisoned under Napoleon, had gained little from the Bourbon restoration of 1815, and family prospects declined further when Louis-Philippe became King after the Revolution of 1830.

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