cover image Skull Measurers Mistake

Skull Measurers Mistake

Sven Lindqvist. New Press, $22 (182pp) ISBN 978-1-56584-363-9

In a book that should be useful to high school students and undergraduates alike, Swedish author Lindqvist (Exterminate All the Brutes) presents sketches of 22 18th- and 19th-century crusaders against racism. It was a London civil servant named Granville Sharp who reasoned that laws should apply to slaves--and in 1772 a judge ruled that escaped slaves could no longer be hunted in London. Thomas Winterbottom, the first ethnographic scholar to actually do field work, found evidence to counteract the prevailing wisdom that ""the Negro"" was insensitive to pain and had blood of a different hue. The book's title concerns German surgeon Friedrich Tiedemann, who criticized those who concluded that whites had greater intelligence than others because their skulls were bigger. Some of the author's heroes were ignored in their day: Briton Langfield War argued in 1874 that every colony should have an ombudsman to speak for the natives. Profiled in the book are anthropologist Mary Kingsley, South African crusader Olive Schreiner and American George Cable, whose The Silent South (1885) warned against the dangers of white supremacy. While his writing is fluent, Lindqvist displays one annoying tic: rather than quote his subjects directly, he paraphrases them and it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between the voice of the author and that of his subjects. (June)