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Eugenics and the Welfare State

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Eugenics and the Welfare State: Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland
Edited by Gunnar Broberg and Nils Roll-Hansen. (Michigan State University Press, East Lansing: 2005. Pg. xviii, 294.) ISBN: 0-87013-758-1.

Reviewed by Simone Bonim - March 31, 2006

Eugenics and the Welfare State: Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland provides a rigorous, academic overview of the eugenics programs in Scandinavia, and by extension, programs in Europe and the United States are also touch upon. Edited by Gunnar Broberg and Nils Roll-Hansen, this book consist of four main essays: Also included is a brief overview of the shared history of Scandinavia, and it concludes with a survey that places Scandinavia eugenics programs in context with European and American programs. Extensive end notes are included following each essay, as is a comprehensive selected bibliography. The endnotes and bibliography will prove invaluable to those seeking to study this subject in greater detail.

First published in 1996, and now reprinted with a new introduction, Eugenics and the Welfare State offers the most comprehensive overview, in English, of Eugenics programs in Scandinavia. It provides a detailed history of how these programs functioned before, during, and since World War II. Throughout you will find insights into how these programs were developed, operated, and how they were regarded by both the common people and by those in authority that were administering the programs. The moral and social implications of the programs are addressed, as are the historical and political consequences of eugenics.

The wide spread availability of genetic testing, the growing acceptance and necessity of rationing medical care, and the development of new reproductive technologies makes this book especially timely, as many of the moral and scientific issues associated with the practice of eugenics are once again upon us. How we, as a society, chooses to deal with these issues will illustrate not only our humanity - or lack thereof - but it will also affect our moral and social development for generations to come.

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in eugenics, and it will well serve scholars in this field. The book is well suited for use as a supplemental text in university level history, sociology, and science course. General readers may find the text a bit pedantic, but it is well worth the effort for those truly interested in learning more about the fascinating, albeit troubling, subject of eugenics.

Related Reviews:

Better For All the World, by Harry Bruinius.
The Secret History of Forced Sterilization and America's Quest for Racial Purity. A general history of eugenics in the United States.

Public Health Law: Power, Duty, Restraint, 2nd Edition, by Lawrence O. Gostin.
Newly revised and expanded, this is a comprehensive introduction to the field of public health law, and the role that the government does, and should play in protecting the health of its citizens.

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