Canadian Journal of History

"The book's subtitle promises coverage of the twentieth century, though Cassata rewards the reader with treatment of the movement in the late nineteenth century. He does well to demonstrate the multidisciplinary character of eugenics, from its early days in Italy onward. Eugenics drew on the study of demography, biology, anthropology, law, statistics, economy, sociology and medicine. Central European University Press lists Building the New Man in its series on the history of medicine, though Cassata demonstrates that Italian eugenics owed its intellectual heritage to more than medicine. Cassata demonstrates that fascists were driven less by negative eugenics than one might have thought. Perhaps from Germany, Italy absorbed the use of sterilization sterilization, abortion and euthanasia to minimize the number of so-called degenerates. But not all fascists embraced these ideas. After World War II conflict arose between eugenicists who were racists and those who opposed racism. Tensions also arose between old-line eugenicists who favoured sterilization and abortion and Catholic eugenicists who favoured reproductive rights. Only after World War II did Italian eugenicists begin to co-opt the ideas of genetics to legitimize the movement, adding further credence to the insight that Italy was a latecomer to genetics."
Reviewed book: 
Francesco Cassata
$55.00 / €44.95 / £40.00