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The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century

The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century

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The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century (Die Grundlagen des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts, 1899) was the best-selling work by Houston Stewart Chamberlain
Houston Stewart Chamberlain
Houston Stewart Chamberlain was a British-born German author of books on political philosophy, natural science and the German composer Richard Wagner. He later became a German citizen. Chamberlain married Wagner's daughter, Eva, some years after Wagner's death...

. In it he advances various racist and especially völkisch
Völkisch movement
The volkisch movement is the German interpretation of the populist movement, with a romantic focus on folklore and the "organic"...

 antisemitic theories on how he saw the Aryan race
Aryan race
The Aryan race is a concept historically influential in Western culture in the period of the late 19th century and early 20th century. It derives from the idea that the original speakers of the Indo-European languages and their descendants up to the present day constitute a distinctive race or...

 as superior to others, and the Teutonic
Teutons
The Teutons or Teutones were mentioned as a Germanic tribe by Greek and Roman authors, notably Strabo and Marcus Velleius Paterculus and normally in close connection with the Cimbri, whose ethnicity is contested between Gauls and Germani...

 peoples as a positive force in European civilization and the Jews as a negative one. Chamberlain was a germanophile
Germanophile
A Germanophile is a person who is fond of German culture, German people, and Germany in general, exhibiting as it were German nationalism in spite of not being an ethnic German or a German citizen. Its opposite is Germanophobia...

 who adopted German citizenship and wrote most of his works in German (on numerous subjects, from biographies to biology).

Synopsis


Published in German, the book focuses on the controversial notion that Western civilization
Western culture
Western culture, sometimes equated with Western civilization or European civilization, refers to cultures of European origin and is used very broadly to refer to a heritage of social norms, ethical values, traditional customs, religious beliefs, political systems, and specific artifacts and...

 is deeply marked by the influence of the Teutonic
Teutons
The Teutons or Teutones were mentioned as a Germanic tribe by Greek and Roman authors, notably Strabo and Marcus Velleius Paterculus and normally in close connection with the Cimbri, whose ethnicity is contested between Gauls and Germani...

 peoples. Chamberlain grouped all European peoples—not just Germans, but Celts, Slavs, Greeks, and Latins—into the "Aryan race
Aryan race
The Aryan race is a concept historically influential in Western culture in the period of the late 19th century and early 20th century. It derives from the idea that the original speakers of the Indo-European languages and their descendants up to the present day constitute a distinctive race or...

", a race built on the ancient Proto-Indo-European
Proto-Indo-Europeans
The Proto-Indo-Europeans were the speakers of the Proto-Indo-European language , a reconstructed prehistoric language of Eurasia.Knowledge of them comes chiefly from the linguistic reconstruction, along with material evidence from archaeology and archaeogenetics...

 culture. At the helm of the Aryan race, and, indeed, all races, were the Nordic or Teutonic peoples.
Chamberlain's book focused on the claim that the Teutonic peoples were the heirs to the empires of Greece and Rome, something which Charlemagne
Charlemagne
Charlemagne was King of the Franks from 768 and Emperor of the Romans from 800 to his death in 814. He expanded the Frankish kingdom into an empire that incorporated much of Western and Central Europe. During his reign, he conquered Italy and was crowned by Pope Leo III on 25 December 800...

 and some of his successors also believed. He argued that when the Germanic tribes destroyed the Roman Empire, Jews and other non-Europeans already dominated it. The Germans, therefore, saved Western civilization
Western culture
Western culture, sometimes equated with Western civilization or European civilization, refers to cultures of European origin and is used very broadly to refer to a heritage of social norms, ethical values, traditional customs, religious beliefs, political systems, and specific artifacts and...

 from Semitic
Semitic
In linguistics and ethnology, Semitic was first used to refer to a language family of largely Middle Eastern origin, now called the Semitic languages...

 domination. Chamberlain's thoughts were influenced by the writings of Arthur de Gobineau
Arthur de Gobineau
Joseph Arthur Comte de Gobineau was a French aristocrat, novelist and man of letters who became famous for developing the theory of the Aryan master race in his book An Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races...

 who had argued the superiority of the "Aryan race
Aryan race
The Aryan race is a concept historically influential in Western culture in the period of the late 19th century and early 20th century. It derives from the idea that the original speakers of the Indo-European languages and their descendants up to the present day constitute a distinctive race or...

". This term was increasingly being used to describe Caucasian
Caucasian race
The term Caucasian race has been used to denote the general physical type of some or all of the populations of Europe, North Africa, the Horn of Africa, Western Asia , Central Asia and South Asia...

 or European peoples, as opposed to Jews, who were conceptualised as "infusing Near Eastern poison into the European body politic". For Chamberlain the concept of an Aryan race was not simply defined by ethno-linguistic origins. It was also an abstract ideal of a racial elite (see Racism). The Aryan, or 'noble' race was always in the process of creation as superior peoples supplanted inferior ones in evolutionary struggles for survival.

Building somewhat on the theories of de Gobineau and Georges Vacher de Lapouge
Georges Vacher de Lapouge
Georges Vacher de Lapouge was a French anthropologist and a theoretician of eugenics and racialism.- Biography :...

, Chamberlain developed a relatively complex theory relating racial origins, physical features and cultural traits. According to Chamberlain, the modern Jew (Homo judaeica) mixes some of the features of the Hittite
Hittites
The Hittites were a Bronze Age people of Anatolia.They established a kingdom centered at Hattusa in north-central Anatolia c. the 18th century BC. The Hittite empire reached its height c...

 (H. syriaca) - notably the "Jewish nose", retreating chin, great cunning and fondness for usury
Usury
Usury Originally, when the charging of interest was still banned by Christian churches, usury simply meant the charging of interest at any rate . In countries where the charging of interest became acceptable, the term came to be used for interest above the rate allowed by law...

 and of the true Semite - the Bedouin Arab
Bedouin
The Bedouin are a part of a predominantly desert-dwelling Arab ethnic group traditionally divided into tribes or clans, known in Arabic as ..-Etymology:...

 (H. arabicus), in particular the dolichocephalic (long and narrow) skull, the thick-set body, and a tendency to be anti-intellectual and destructive. According to this theory, the product of this miscegenation was compromised by the great differences between these two stocks:
Chamberlain also considered the Berbers
Berber people
Berbers are the indigenous peoples of North Africa west of the Nile Valley. They are continuously distributed from the Atlantic to the Siwa oasis, in Egypt, and from the Mediterranean to the Niger River. Historically they spoke the Berber language or varieties of it, which together form a branch...

 from North Africa as belonging to the Aryan family.
Chamberlain (who had graduate training in biology), rejected Darwinism, evolution and social Darwinism
Social Darwinism
Social Darwinism is a term commonly used for theories of society that emerged in England and the United States in the 1870s, seeking to apply the principles of Darwinian evolution to sociology and politics...

 and instead emphasized "gestalt" which he said derived from Goethe. Chamberlain said that Darwinism was the most abominable and misguided doctrine of the day.

Chamberlain used an old biblical notion of the ethnic make up of Galilee
Galilee
Galilee , is a large region in northern Israel which overlaps with much of the administrative North District of the country. Traditionally divided into Upper Galilee , Lower Galilee , and Western Galilee , extending from Dan to the north, at the base of Mount Hermon, along Mount Lebanon to the...

 to argue that while Jesus may have been Jewish by religion, he was probably not Jewish by race. During the inter-war period, certain pro-Nazi theologians developed these ideas as part of the manufacture of an Aryan Jesus.

Reception


The Foundations sold extensively: eight editions and 60,000 copies within ten years, 100,000 copies by the outbreak of World War I and 24 editions and more than a quarter of a million copies by 1938.

The 1911 translation received positive reviews in most of the English press. It was praised in The Spectator
The Spectator
The Spectator is a weekly British magazine first published on 6 July 1828. It is currently owned by David and Frederick Barclay, who also owns The Daily Telegraph. Its principal subject areas are politics and culture...

as "a monument of erudition"; the Birmingham Post
Birmingham Post
The Birmingham Post newspaper was originally published under the name Daily Post in Birmingham, England, in 1857 by John Frederick Feeney. It was the largest selling broadsheet in the West Midlands, though it faced little if any competition in this category. It changed to tabloid size in 2008...

said that it was "glowing with life, packed with fresh and vigorous thought"; the Glasgow Herald thought that it would be difficult to "over-estimate the stimulating qualities of the book." In the Times Literary Supplement it was declared to be "one of the books that really mattered". In the left-wing Fabian News George Bernard Shaw
George Bernard Shaw
George Bernard Shaw was an Irish playwright and a co-founder of the London School of Economics. Although his first profitable writing was music and literary criticism, in which capacity he wrote many highly articulate pieces of journalism, his main talent was for drama, and he wrote more than 60...

 called it a "historical masterpiece". Those who failed to read it, he continued, would be unable to talk intelligently about contemporary sociological and political problems. In the U.S., Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt was the 26th President of the United States . He is noted for his exuberant personality, range of interests and achievements, and his leadership of the Progressive Movement, as well as his "cowboy" persona and robust masculinity...

, altogether more cautious, highlighted the extreme bias of the author, a judgement that seems to have escaped other contemporary readers, but praised Chamberlain's denunciation of social egalitarianism.

The book was important to Wilhelm II, who became Chamberlain's friend (the two held a correspondence), and as a "spiritual" foundation of the Third Reich. Chamberlain's ideas on race were greatly influential to Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

, who readily adapted them into his Nazi ideology; Chamberlain himself joined the Nazi party, and both Hitler and Goebbels visited Chamberlain whilst on his deathbed.

Publishing history


The U.S. Library of Congress
Library of Congress
The Library of Congress is the research library of the United States Congress, de facto national library of the United States, and the oldest federal cultural institution in the United States. Located in three buildings in Washington, D.C., it is the largest library in the world by shelf space and...

 owns and lists six distinct edition
Edition
In printmaking, an edition is a number of prints struck from one plate, usually at the same time. This is the meaning covered by this article...

s or imprint
Imprint
In the publishing industry, an imprint can mean several different things:* As a piece of bibliographic information about a book, it refers to the name and address of the book's publisher and its date of publication as given at the foot or on the verso of its title page.* It can mean a trade name...

s of this text for the following years: 1911, 1912, 1913 (two), 1968, and 2005.

See also

  • Antisemitism
  • Kirchenkampf
    Kirchenkampf
    Kirchenkampf is a German term that translates as "struggle of the churches" or "church struggle" in English. The term is sometimes used ambiguously, and may refer to one or more of the following different church struggles:...

  • Positive Christianity
    Positive Christianity
    Positive Christianity was a slogan of Nazi propaganda adopted at the NSDAP congress 1920 to express a worldview which is Christian, non-confessional, vigorously opposed to the spirit of "Jewish Materialism", and oriented to the principle of voluntary association of those with a common...

  • Race of Jesus
    Race of Jesus
    The race and appearance of Jesus have been discussed on a number of grounds since early Christianity, although the New Testament includes no description of the physical appearance of Jesus before his death and its narrative is generally indifferent to racial appearances.Despite the lack of direct...

  • Esoteric Nazism#Collective Aryan unconscious
  • Adolf Hitler's religious views

Primary reference

  • Library of Congress
    Library of Congress
    The Library of Congress is the research library of the United States Congress, de facto national library of the United States, and the oldest federal cultural institution in the United States. Located in three buildings in Washington, D.C., it is the largest library in the world by shelf space and...

    :
LC Control No.: a 11000252
Type of Material: Book (Print, Microform, Electronic, etc.)
Personal Name: Chamberlain, Houston Stewart, (1855-1927)
Main Title: The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century, by Houston Stewart Chamberlain;
a translation from the German: by John Lees, MA, with an introduction by Lord Redesdale.
Published/Created: London, New York, John Lane, 1911.
Related Names: Lees, John, translator
Description: 2 v. illus., maps. 22 cm.
Subjects: Nineteenth century
History--Philosophy
Civilization--History
LC Classification: CB83 .C45 1911
Dewey Class No.: 901
Other System No.: (OCoLC)1219756

External links