Halliday Sutherland

"A born writer, especially a born story-teller. Dr. Sutherland, who is distinguished in medicine, is an amateur in the sense that he only writes when he has nothing better to do. But when he does, it could hardly be done better." G.K. Chesterton.

Exterminating Poverty book explained in under three minutes

Exterminating Poverty is the true story about the 1921 eugenic plan to get rid of the poor and Dr Halliday Sutherland’s fight against it. The book is available at amazon.comamazon.co.uk and amazon.com.au.

Three elements set the conflict in motion:

  • Tuberculosis (TB) – an infectious disease that killed 70,000 Britons each year, mostly among the poor (50,000 died from “Consumption” or TB of the lungs);
  • Eugenics – a pseudo-science whose adherents believed that Consumption was caused primarily by the defective heredity of its victims, and
  • The heartless eugenicists who saw TB as beneficial for Britain because it did a rough but effective job of killing the so-called “unfit”.

In 1921, a eugenic birth control clinic opened in a poor part of London with the aim of getting rid of poverty by breeding out the poor. From here “Prorace” and “Racial” brand contraceptives were dispensed to the poor women who wanted them, while the founder – Dr Marie Stopes – campaigned for the compulsory sterilization of the poor women (and men) who did not.

Dr Halliday Sutherland was a tuberculous specialist who came to oppose eugenics. The reason was that, while he thought TB was an infectious disease, eugenicists said that it was inherited and that the solution was to let nature takes it course. Sutherland described eugenicists as “race-breeders with the souls of cattle breeders” and, in due course, he accused Stopes of “exposing the poor to experiment.” In May 1922 she sued him for libel.

To a contemporary reader, it perhaps sounds easy… after all, who would be in favour of eugenics? Yet, one-hundred years ago, eugenics was The ScienceTM of that era, enthusiastically advocated by John Maynard Keynes, George Bernard Shaw, H.G. Wells, Bertrand Russell, Sir James Barr, Sir William Arbuthnot Lane, Karl Pearson (Professor of Eugenics at University College, London), the Rt Hon George Roberts M.P., the Lady Constance Lytton and, if Stopes herself is to be believed, Prime Minister Lloyd George.

Exterminating Poverty tells the true story of Dr Halliday Sutherland’s brave fight against the “settled science” of his era and how the eugenic ideology continues to this day.

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Stopes v Sutherland libel trial 1922-24

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