Eugenics: the skeleton that rattles loudest in the left’s closet

, guardian.co.uk

Socialism’s one-time interest in eugenics is dismissed as an accident of history. But the truth is far more unpalatable

William Beveridge

William Beveridge, who argued that those with 'general defects' should be denied not only the vote, but 'civil freedom and fatherhood'. Photograph: Hans Wild/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

Does the past matter? When confronted by facts that are uncomfortable, but which relate to people long dead, should we put them aside and, to use a phrase very much of our time, move on? And there’s a separate, but related, question: how should we treat the otherwise admirable thought or writings of people when we discover that those same people also held views we find repugnant?

Those questions are triggered in part by the early responses to Pantheon, my new novel published this week under the pseudonym Sam Bourne. The book is a thriller, set in the Oxford and Yale of 1940, but it rests on several true stories. Among those is one of the grisliest skeletons in the cupboard of the British intellectual elite, a skeleton that rattles especially loudly inside the closet of the left.

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