Hybrids and History. The Role of Race and Ethnic Crossing in Individual and National Achievement

Hybrids and History. The Role of Race and Ethnic Crossing in Individual and National Achievement

The Quarterly Review of Biology
Volume 26, Number 4 (December, 1951)
pages 331-347

George D. Snell (1903-1996)
Roscoe B. Jackson Memorial Laboratory, Bar Harbor, Maine

It is curious to reflect that almost the requisite three or four hundred years have passed since the intercrossing began in America; and it is possible that the United States of America may be quite near to a brilliant efflorescence of genius in thought and art, and perhaps even nore in the scientific organization of natural resources for the good of its own life and for the life of mankind” (Murphy, 1941), This quotation from a British author is based on phenomenon often noted by anthropologists and historians. Sir Flinders Petrie (1911) and numerous writers after him have remarked that the rise of great civilizations, usually and perhaps invariably, is preceded by a mixing of races, and that an incubation period of several centuries follows the first invasion of alien groups before the civilization comes to full flower.

Toynbee (1935) has attached less significance to the crossing than most writers, and his discussion of the subject may be taken as conservative. He distinguishes twenty-one civilizations, and finds clear evidence of crossing in eleven of these. Moreover, most of the remaining ten can also be said to involve crossing if some additional permissible divisions are made in the races of man. The ten civilizations in which the evidence of crossing is least clear are the Babylonic, Syriac, Arabic, Hindu, Sinic (yellow), Far Eastern (yellow), Andean, Mayan, Yucatec, and Mexican. Nine of the great white civilizations including the Hellenic, Western and Egyptic are known beyond question to be the product of hybrid peoples with the Alpine race being one of the components of the mixture and the Nordic and/or Mediterranean the other. Toynbee concludes that “the number of civilizations created by the unaided endeavours of a single race in each case would present themselves as exceptions to a prevalent law—a law to the effect that the geneses of civilizations require creative contributions from more races than one.”

There has been little agreement among those who have discussed the subject as to reason for this relation between race crossing and the progress of civilizations. It is the purpose of this paper to examine the possibility that race crossing, even between subgroups of the white race, produces individuals of exceptional vitality and vigor (hybrid vigor), and that its role in the development of civilizations lies largely or in significant part in the unusual contributions which these individuals, both as leaders and as laborers, are able to make. Few writers seem to have considered this possibility. Hooton (1926) has recognized the probable occurrence of heterosis within the white race, and Hankins (1926) has proposed heterosis as an explanation of the role of race mixture in the genesis of civilizations. Other writers have looked elsewhere in seeking to explain the phenomenon…

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