David N. LivingstoneJan 30, 2014
Race, Religion, and the Politics of Human Origins
Johns Hopkins University Press 2011
A report to the General Assembly of Scottish Presbyterians of 1923 contains the following passage: "God placed the people of this world in families, and history which is the narrative of His providence tells us that when kingdoms are divided against themselves they cannot stand. Those nations homogenous in race were the most prosperous and were entrusted by the Almighty with the highest tasks." Strange as it appears today, such a racial theology was commonplace among Christians prior to 1945. Where did the notion that races had providential roles come from? One origin was a theory that the world had been inhabited by humans before Adam. The history of this theory, which formed at the intersections of science, religion and colonial geography, is taken up in Adam's Ancestors: Race, Religion, and the Politics of Human Origins (Johns Hopkins UP, 2011). In this interview with its author, David N. Livingstone, Professor of Geography and Intellectual History at Queen's University Belfast, we discuss how Pre-Adamism moved from being a seventeenth-century heresy to a widely accepted theological and scientific theory of the nineteenth century.