Read CHAPTER IV - ISOLATION of Introduction to the Science of Sociology , free online book, by Robert E. Park Ernest W. Burgess, on


1. Geological and Biological Conceptions of Isolation

Relations of persons with persons, and of groups with groups, may be either those of isolation or those of contact. The emphasis in this chapter is placed upon isolation, in the next chapter upon contact in a comparison of their effects upon personal conduct and group behavior.

Absolute isolation of the person from the members of his group is unthinkable. Even biologically, two individuals of the higher animal species are the precondition to a new individual existence. In man, postnatal care by the parent for five or six years is necessary even for the physiological survival of the offspring. Not only biologically but sociologically complete isolation is a contradiction in terms. Sociologists following Aristotle have agreed with him that human nature develops within and decays outside of social relations. Isolation, then, in the social as well as the biological sense is relative, not absolute.

The term “isolation” was first employed in anthropogeography, the study of the relation of man to his physical environment. To natural barriers, as mountains, oceans, and deserts, was attributed an influence upon the location of races and the movements of peoples and the kind and the degree of cultural contact. The nature and the extent of separation of persons and groups was considered by geographers as a reflex of the physical environment.

In biology, isolation as a factor in the evolution and the life of the species, is studied from the standpoint of the animal group more than from that of the environment. Consequently, the separation of species from each other is regarded as the outcome not only of a sheer physical impossibility of contact, but even more of other factors as differences in physical structure, in habits of life, and in the instincts of the animal groups. J. Arthur Thomson in his work on “Heredity” presents the following compact and illuminating statement of isolation as a factor in inheritance.

The only other directive evolution-factor that biologists are at all agreed about, besides selection, is isolation a general term for all the varied ways in which the radius of possible intercrossing is narrowed. As expounded by Wagner, Weismann, Romanes, Gulick, and others, isolation takes many forms spatial, structural, habitudinal, and psychical and it has various results.

It tends to the segregation of species into subspecies, it makes it easier for new variations to establish themselves, it promotes prepotency, or what the breeders call “transmitting power,” it fixes characters. One of the most successful breeds of cattle (Polled Angus) seems to have had its source in one farmsteading; its early history is one of close inbreeding, its prepotency is remarkable, its success from our point of view has been great. It is difficult to get secure data as to the results of isolation in nature, but Gulick’s recent volume on the subject abounds in concrete illustrations, and we seem warranted in believing that conditions of isolation have been and are of frequent occurrence.

Reibmayr has collected from human history a wealth of illustrations of various forms of isolation, and there seems much to be said for his thesis that the establishment of a successful race or stock requires the alternation of periods of inbreeding (endogamy) in which characters are fixed, and periods of outbreeding (exogamy) in which, by the introduction of fresh blood, new variations are promoted. Perhaps the Jews may serve to illustrate the influence of isolation in promoting stability of type and prepotency; perhaps the Americans may serve to illustrate the variability which a mixture of different stocks tends to bring about. In historical inquiry into the difficult problem of the origin of distinct races, it seems legitimate to think of periods of “mutation” of discontinuous sporting which led to numerous offshoots from the main stock, of the migration of these variants into new environments where in relative isolation they became prepotent and stable.

The biological use of the term “isolation” introduces a new emphasis. Separation may be spatial, but its effects are increasingly structural and functional. Indeed, spatial isolation was a factor in the origin of species because of specialized organic adaptation to varied geographic conditions. In other words, the structure of the species, its habits of life, and its original and acquired responses, tend to isolate it from other species.

Man as an animal species in his historical development has attempted with fair success to destroy the barriers separating him from other animals. Through domestication and taming he has changed the original nature and habits of life of many animals. The dog, the companion of man, is the summit of human achievement in association with animals. Nevertheless, the barriers that separate the dog and his master are insurmountable. Even if “a candidate for humanity,” the dog is forever debarred from any share in human tradition and culture.

2. Isolation and Segregation

In geography, isolation denotes separation in space. In sociology, the essential characteristic of isolation is found in exclusion from communication.

Geographical forms of isolation are sociologically significant in so far as they prevent communication. The isolation of the mountain whites in the southern states, even if based on spatial separation, consisted in the absence of contacts and competition, participation in the progressive currents of civilization.

Biological differences, whether physical or mental, between the different races are sociologically important to the extent to which they affect communication. Of themselves, differences in skin color between races would not prevent intercommunication of ideas. But the physical marks of racial differences have invariably become the symbols of racial solidarity and racial exclusiveness. The problems of humanity are altogether different from what they would have been were all races of one complexion as they are of one blood.

Certain physical and mental defects and differences in and of themselves tend to separate the individual from his group. The deaf-mute and the blind are deprived of normal avenues to communication. “My deafness,” wrote Beethoven, “forces me to live in exile.” The physically handicapped are frequently unable to participate in certain human activities on equal terms with their fellows. Minor physical defects and marked physical variations from the normal tend to become the basis of social discrimination.

Mental differences frequently offer still greater obstacles to social contacts. The idiot and the imbecile are obviously debarred from normal communication with their intelligent associates. The “dunce” was isolated by village ridicule and contempt long before the term “moron” was coined, or the feeble-minded segregated in institutions and colonies. The individual with the highest native endowments, the genius, and the talented enjoy or suffer from a more subtle type of isolation from their fellows, that is, the isolation of eminence. “The reason of isolation,” says Thoreau, a lover of solitude, “is not that we love to be alone, but that we love to soar; and when we soar, the company grows thinner and thinner until there is none left.”

So far, isolation as a tool of social analysis has been treated as an effect of geographical separation or of structural differentiation resulting in limitation of communication. Social distances are frequently based on other subtler forms of isolation.

The study of cultural differences between groups has revealed barriers quite as real and as effective as those of physical space and structure. Variations in language, folkways, mores, conventions, and ideals separate individuals and peoples from each other as widely as oceans and deserts. Communication between England and Australia is far closer and freer than between Germany and France.

Conflict groups, like sects and parties, and accommodation groups like castes and classes depend for survival upon isolation. Free intercourse of opposing parties is always a menace to their morale. Fraternization between soldiers of contending armies, or between ministers of rival denominations is fraught with peril to the fighting efficiency of the organizations they represent. The solidarity of the group, like the integrity of the individual, implies a measure at least of isolation from other groups and persons as a necessary condition of its existence.

The life-history of any group when analyzed is found to incorporate within it elements of isolation as well as of social contact. Membership in a group makes for increasing contacts within the circle of participants, but decreasing contacts with persons without. Isolation is for this reason a factor in the preservation of individuality and unity. The esprit de corps and morale of the group is in large part maintained by the fixation of attention upon certain collective representations to the exclusion of others. The memories and sentiments of the members have their source in common experiences of the past from which non-members are isolated. This natural tendency toward exclusive experiences is often reinforced by conscious emphasis upon secrecy. Primitive and modern secret societies, sororities, and fraternities have been organized around the principle of isolation. Secrecy in a society, like reserve in an individual, protects it from a disintegrating publicity. The family has its “skeleton in the closet,” social groups avoid the public “washing of dirty linen”; the community banishes from consciousness, if it can, its slums, and parades its parks and boulevards. Every individual who has any personality at all maintains some region of privacy.

A morphological survey of group formation in any society discloses the fact that there are lateral as well as vertical divisions in the social structure. Groups are arranged in strata of relative superiority and inferiority. In a stratified society the separation into castes is rigid and quite unalterable. In a free society competition tends to destroy classes and castes. New devices come into use to keep aspiring and insurgent individuals and groups at the proper social level. If “familiarity breeds contempt” respect may be secured by reserve. In the army the prestige of the officer is largely a matter of “distance.” The “divinity that doth hedge the king” is due in large part to the hedge of ceremonial separating him from his subjects. Condescension and pity, while they denote external contact, involve an assumption of spiritual eminence not to be found in consensus and sympathy. As protection against the penetration of the inner precincts of personality and the group individuality, there are the defenses of suspicion and aversion, of reticence and reserve, designed to insure the proper social distance.

3. Classification of the Materials

The materials in the present chapter are intended to illustrate the fact that individuality of the person and of the group is both an effect of and a cause of isolation.

The first selections under the heading “Isolation and Personal Individuality” bring out the point that the function of isolation in personal development lies not so much in sheer physical separation from other persons as in freedom from the control of external social contacts. Thus Rousseau constructs an ideal society in the solitude of his forest retreat. The lonely child enjoys the companionship of his imaginary comrade. George Eliot aspires to join the choir invisible. The mystic seeks communion with divinity.

This form of isolation within the realm of social contacts is known as privacy. Indeed privacy may be defined as withdrawal from the group, with, at the same time, ready access to it. It is in solitude that the creative mind organizes the materials appropriated from the group in order to make novel and fruitful innovations. Privacy affords opportunity for the individual to reflect, to anticipate, to recast, and to originate. Practical recognition of the human demand for privacy has been realized in the study of the minister, the office of the business man, and the den of the boy. Monasteries and universities are institutions providing leisure and withdrawal from the world as the basis for personal development and preparation for life’s work. Other values of privacy are related to the growth of self-consciousness, self-respect, and personal ideals of conduct.

Many forms of isolation, unlike privacy, prevent access to stimulating social contact. Selections under the heading “Isolation and Retardation” indicate conditions responsible for the arrest of mental and personal growth.

The cases of feral men, in the absence of contradictory evidence, seem adequate in support of Aristotle’s point that social contacts are indispensable for human development. The story by Helen Keller, the talented and celebrated blind deaf-mute, of her emergence from the imprisonment of sense deprivation into the free life of communication is a most significant sociological document. With all of us the change from the animal-like isolation of the child at birth to personal participation in the fullest human life is gradual. In Helen Keller’s case the transformation of months was telescoped into minutes. The “miracle” of communication when sociologically analyzed seems to consist in the transition from the experience of sensations and sense perceptions which man shares in common with animals to the development of ideas and self-consciousness which are the unique attributes of human beings.

The remaining selections upon isolation and retardation illustrate the different types of situations in which isolation makes for retardation and retardation in turn emphasizes the isolation. The reversion of a man of scientific training in the solitudes of Patagonia to the animal level of mentality suggests that the low intelligence of the savage, the peasant, and the backward races is probably due more to the absence of stimulating contacts than to original mental inferiority. So the individuality and conservatism of the farmer, his failure to keep pace with the inhabitant of the town and city, Galpin assigns to deficiency in social contacts. Then, too, the subtler forms of handicap in personal development and achievement result from social types of isolation, as race prejudice, the sheltered life of woman, exclusiveness of social classes, and make for increased isolation.

Up to this point, isolation has been treated statically as a cause. Under the heading, “Isolation and Segregation” it is conceived as an effect, an effect of competition, and the consequent selection and segregation.

The first effect of the introduction of competition in any society is to break up all types of isolation and provincialism based upon lack of communication and contact. But as competition continues, natural and social selection comes into play. Successful types emerge in the process of competitive struggle while variant individuals who fail to maintain the pace or conform to standard withdraw or are ejected from the group. Exiled variants from several groups under auspicious circumstances may in turn form a community where the process of selection will be directly opposite to that in their native groups. In the new community the process of selection naturally accentuates and perfects the traits originally responsible for exclusion. The outcome of segregation is the creation of specialized social types with the maximum of isolation. The circle of isolation is then complete.

This circular effect of the processes of competition, selection, and segregation, from isolation to isolation, may be found everywhere in modern western society. Individual variants with criminalistic tendencies exiled from villages and towns through the process of selection form a segregated group in city areas popularly called “breeding places of crime.” The tribe of Pineys, Tin Town, The Village of a Thousand Souls, are communities made up by adverse selection of feeble-minded individuals, outcasts of the competitive struggle of intelligent, “high-minded” communities. The result is the formation of a criminal type and of a feeble-minded caste. These slums and outcast groups are in turn isolated from full and free communication with the progressive outside world.

National individuality in the past, as indicated in the selections upon “Isolation and National Individuality,” has been in large degree the result of a cultural process based upon isolation. The historical nations of Europe, biologically hybrid, are united by common language, folkways, and mores. This unity of mother tongue and culture is the product of historical and cultural processes circumscribed, as Shaler points out, by separated geographical areas.

A closer examination of the cultural process in the life of progressive historical peoples reveals the interplay of isolation and social contacts. Grote gives a penetrating analysis of Grecian achievement in terms of the individuality based on small isolated land areas and the contacts resulting from maritime communication. The world-hegemony of English-speaking peoples today rests not only upon naval supremacy and material resources but even more upon the combination of individual development in diversified areas with large freedom in international contacts.



1. Society and Solitude

It had been hard for him that spake it to have put more truth and untruth together in few words than in that speech: “Whosoever is delighted in solitude is either a wild beast or a god.” For it is most true that a natural and secret hatred and aversation towards society in any man hath somewhat of the savage beast; but it is most untrue that it should have any character at all of the divine nature except it proceed, not out of a pleasure in solitude, but out of a love and desire to sequester a man’s self for a higher conversation, such as is found to have been falsely and feignedly in some of the heathen, as Epimenides the Candian, Numa the Roman, Empedocles the Sicilian, and Apollonius of Tyana; and truly and really in divers of the ancient hermits and Holy Fathers of the Church. But little do men perceive what solitude is, and how far it extendeth. For a crowd is not company, and faces are but a gallery of pictures, and talk but a tinkling cymbal, where there is no love. The Latin adage meeteth with it a little: Magna civitas magna solitudo ("A great town is a great solitude"), because in a great town friends are scattered, so that there is not that fellowship, for the most part, which is in less neighborhoods. But we may go further, and affirm most truly that it is a mere and miserable solitude to want true friends, without which the world is but a wilderness; and, even in this sense also of solitude, whosoever in the frame of his nature and affections is unfit for friendship, he taketh it of the beast and not from humanity.

2. Society in Solitude

What period do you think, sir, I recall most frequently and most willingly in my dreams? Not the pleasures of my youth: they were too rare, too much mingled with bitterness, and are now too distant. I recall the period of my seclusion, of my solitary walks, of the fleeting but delicious days that I have passed entirely by myself, with my good and simple housekeeper, with my beloved dog, my old cat, with the birds of the field, the hinds of the forest, with all nature, and her inconceivable Author.

But what, then, did I enjoy when I was alone? Myself; the entire universe; all that is; all that can be; all that is beautiful in the world of sense; all that is imaginable in the world of intellect. I gathered around me all that could delight my heart; my desires were the limit of my pleasures. No, never have the voluptuous known such enjoyments; and I have derived a hundred times more happiness from my chimeras than they from their realities.

The wild spot of the forest [selected by Rousseau for his solitary walks and meditations] could not long remain a desert to my imagination. I soon peopled it with beings after my own heart, and, dismissing opinion, prejudice, and all factitious passions, I brought to these sanctuaries of nature men worthy of inhabiting them. I formed with these a charming society, of which I did not feel myself unworthy. I made a golden age according to my fancy, and, filling up these bright days with all the scenes of my life that had left the tenderest recollections, and with all that my heart still longed for, I affected myself to tears over the true pleasures of humanity pleasure so delicious, so pure, and yet so far from men! Oh, if in these moments any ideas of Paris, of the age, and of my little author vanity, disturbed my reveries, with what contempt I drove them instantly away, to give myself up entirely to the exquisite sentiments with which my soul was filled. Yet, in the midst of all this, I confess the nothingness of my chimeras would sometimes appear, and sadden me in a moment.

3. Prayer as a Form of Isolation

He who prays begins his prayer with some idea of God, generally one that he has received from instruction or from current traditions. He commonly retires to a quiet place, or to a place having mental associations of religious cast, in order to “shut out the world.” This beginning of concentration is followed by closing the eyes, which excludes a mass of irrelevant impressions. The body bows, kneels, or assumes some other posture that requires little muscular tension and that may favor extensive relaxation. Memory now provides the language of prayer or of hallowed scripture, or makes vivid some earlier experiences of one’s own. The worshiper represents to himself his needs, or the interests (some of them happy ones) that seem most important, and he brings them into relation to God by thinking how God regards them. The presupposition of the whole procedure is that God’s way of looking at the matters in question is the true and important one. Around God, then, the interests of the individual are now freshly organized. Certain ones that looked large before the prayer began, now look small because of their relation to the organizing idea upon which attention has focused. On the other hand, interests that express this organizing idea gain emotional quality by this release from competing, inhibiting considerations. To say that the will now becomes organized toward unity and that it acquires fresh power thereby is simply to name another aspect of the one movement. This movement is ideational, emotional, and volitional concentration, all in one, achieved by fixation of attention upon the idea of God.

Persons who have been troubled with insomnia, or wakefulness or disturbing dreams, have been enabled to secure sound sleep by merely relaxing the muscles and repeating mechanically, without effort at anything more, some formula descriptive of what is desired. The main point is that attention should fix upon the appropriate organizing idea. When this happens in a revival meeting one may find one’s self unexpectedly converted. When it happens in prayer one may be surprised to find one’s whole mood changed from discouragement to courage, from liking something to hating it (as in the case of alcoholic drinks, or tobacco), or from loneliness to the feeling of companionship with God.

This analysis of the structure of prayer has already touched upon some of its functions. It is a way of getting one’s self together, of mobilizing and concentrating one’s dispersed capacities, of begetting the confidence that tends toward victory over difficulties. It produces in a distracted mind the repose that is power. It freshens a mind deadened by routine. It reveals new truth, because the mind is made more elastic and more capable of sustained attention. Thus does it remove mountains in the individual, and, through him, in the world beyond.

The values of prayer in sickness, distress, and doubt are by no means measurable by the degree to which the primary causes thereof are made to disappear. There is a real conquest of trouble, even while trouble remains. It is sometimes a great source of strength, also, merely to realize that one is fully understood. The value of having some friend or helper from whom I reserve no secrets has been rendered more impressive than ever by the Freud-Jung methods of relieving mental disorders through (in part) a sort of mental house-cleaning, or bringing into the open the patient’s hidden distresses and even his most intimate and reticent desires. Into the psychology of the healings that are brought about by this psychoanalysis we need not go, except to note that one constant factor appears to be the turning of a private possession into a social possession, and particularly the consciousness that another understands. I surmise that we shall not be far from the truth here if we hold that, as normal experience has the ego-alter form, so the continuing possession of one’s self in one’s developing experience requires development of this relation. We may, perhaps, go as far as to believe that the bottling up of any experience as merely private is morbid. But, however this may be, there are plenty of occasions when the road to poise, freedom, and joy is that of social sharing. Hence the prayer of confession, not only because it helps us to see ourselves as we are, but also because it shares our secrets with another, has great value for organizing the self. In this way we get relief from the misjudgments of others, also, and from the mystery that we are to ourselves, for we lay our case, as it were, before a judge who does not err. Thus prayer has value in that it develops the essentially social form of personal self-realization.

To complete this functional view of prayer we must not fail to secure the evolutionary perspective. If we glance at the remote beginnings, and then at the hither end, of the evolution of prayer we discover that an immense change has taken place. It is a correlate of the transformed character of the gods, and of the parallel disciplining of men’s valuations. In the words of Fosdick, prayer may be considered as dominant desire. But it is also a way of securing domination over desire. It is indeed self-assertion; sometimes it is the making of one’s supreme claim, as when life reaches its most tragic crisis; yet it is, even in the same act, submission to an over-self. Here, then, is our greater problem as to the function of prayer. It starts as the assertion of any desire; it ends as the organization of one’s own desires into a system of desires recognized as superior and then made one’s own.

4. Isolation, Originality, and Erudition

The question as to how far the world’s leaders in thought and action were great readers is not quite an easy one to answer, partly because the sources of information are sometimes scanty, and partly because books themselves have been few in number. If we could prove that since the days of Caxton the world’s total of original thought declined in proportion to the increase of published works, we should stand on firm ground, and might give orders for a holocaust such as that which Hawthorne once imagined. But no such proof is either possible or probable. We can only be impressed by the fact that the finest intellectual epoch of history was marked by a comparative absence of the manuscripts which were books to the Greeks, and if a further analysis of the lives of men of light and leading in all ages should show that their devotion to the books of the period was slight, it will only accentuate the suspicion that even today we are still minus the right perspective between the printed volume and the thinking mind.

Buddha, Christ, St. Paul, Mohammed these are names of men who changed the course of history. But do they suggest vast scholarship, or a profound acquaintance with books in any sense whatever? They were great originators, even though they built on other men’s foundations, but their originality was not inspired by libraries. Can we imagine Mohammed poring over ancient manuscripts in order to obtain the required knowledge and impetus for his new religion? With Buddha was it not 1 per cent papyrus roll and 99 per cent meditation? When St. Paul was struck down on the way to Damascus, he did not repair to the nearest Jewish seminary to read up prophecy. He says: “I went into Arabia.” The desert solitude was the only place in which to find a rationale of his new experience. And was it not in a similar life of solitude that Jesus Essene-like came to self-realization? Deane’s Pseudepigrapha: Books that Influenced our Lord and His Apostles does not suggest that the Messiah obtained his ideas from the literature of the Rabbis, much less from Greek or other sources; indeed, the New Testament suggests that in the earliest years he showed a genius for divine things.

It will be urged that to restrict this inquiry to great names in religion would be unfair because such leaders are confessedly independent of literature; indeed, they are often the creators of it. True; but that fact alone is suggestive. If great literature can come from meditation alone, are we not compelled to ask: “Where shall wisdom be found and where is the place of understanding?” Is enlightenment to be found only in the printed wisdom of the past? We know it is not, but we also know it is useless to set one source of truth over against another, as if they were enemies. The soul has its place and so has the book; but need it be said that the soul has done more wonderful things than the book? Language is merely the symbol; the soul is the reality.

But let us take other names with different associations e.g., Plato, Charlemagne, Cæsar, Shakespeare, Napoleon, Bismarck. Can it be said of any one of these that he owed one-third of his distinction to what he learned from manuscripts or books? We do know, indeed, that Bismarck was a wide reader, but it was on the selective principle as a student of history and affairs. His library grew under the influence of the controlling purpose of his life i.e., the unification of Germany, so that there was no vague distribution of energy. Of Shakespeare’s reading we know less, but there is no evidence that he was a collector of books or that he was a student after the manner of the men of letters of his day. The best way to estimate him as a reader is to judge him by the references in his plays, and these do not show an acquaintance with literature so extensive as it is intensive. The impression he made on Ben Johnson, an all-round scholar, was not one of learning quite otherwise. The qualities that impressed the author of Timber, or Discoveries upon Men and Matter, were Shakespeare’s “open and free nature,” his “excellent fancy, brave notions, and gentle expressions wherein he flowed with that facility that sometimes it was necessary he should be stopped.” And, true to himself, Ben Jonson immediately adds: “Sufflaminandus erat, as Augustus said of Haterius.” Shakespeare, when in the company of kindred spirits, showed precisely the kind of talk we should expect not Latin and Greek or French and Italian quotations, not a commentary on books past or present, but a stream of conversation marked by brilliant fancy, startling comparison, unique contrast, and searching pathos, wherein life, not literature, was the chief subject.


1. Feral Men

What would the results be if children born with a normal organism and given food and light sufficient to sustain life were deprived of the usual advantage of human intercourse? What psychic growth would be possible?

Perhaps no character ever aroused greater interest than Caspar Hauser. More than a thousand articles of varying merit have been written concerning him. In the theaters of England, France, Germany, Hungary, and Austria, plays were founded on his strange story and many able men have figured in the history of his case.

According to a letter which he bore when found at Nuernberg one afternoon in 1828, he was born in 1812, left on the doorstep of a Hungarian peasant’s hut, adopted by him, and reared in strict seclusion.

At the time of his appearance in Nuernberg, he could walk only with difficulty. He knew no German, understood but little that was said to him, paid no heed to what went on about him, and was ignorant of social customs. When taken to a stable, he at once fell asleep on a heap of straw. In time it was learned that he had been kept in a low dark cell on the ground; that he had never seen the face of the man who brought him food, that sometimes he went to sleep after the man gave him a drink; that on awakening he found his nails cut and clean clothing on his body; and that his only playthings had been two wooden horses with red ribbons.

When first found, he suffered much pain from the light, but he could see well at night. He could distinguish fruit from leaves on a tree, and read the name on a doorplate where others could see nothing in the darkness. He had no visual idea of distance and would grasp at remote objects as though they were near. He called both men and women Bua and all animals Rosz. His memory span for names was marvelous. Drawing upon the pages of Von Kolb and Stanhope, a writer in The Living Age says that he burned his hand in the first flame that he saw and that he had no fear of being struck with swords, but that the noise of a drum threw him into convulsions. He thought that pictures and statuary were alive, as were plants and trees, bits of paper, and anything that chanced to be in motion. He delighted in whistles and glittering objects, but disliked the odor of paint, fabrics, and most flowers. His hearing was acute and his touch sensitive at first, but after interest in him had lessened, all his senses showed evidence of rapid deterioration. He seemed to be wanting in sex instinct and to be unable to understand the meaning of religious ceremonies. Merker, who observed him secretly during the early days which he spent in jail, declared that he was “in all respects like a child.” Meyer, of the school at Ansbach, found him “idle, stupid, and vain.” Dr. Osterhausen found a deviation from the normal in the shape of his legs, which made walking difficult, but Caspar never wearied of riding on horseback.

His autopsy revealed a small brain without abnormalities. It simply gave evidence of a lack of development.

To speak of children who have made the struggle for life with only animals for nurses and instructors is to recall the rearing of Cyrus in a kennel and the fabulous story of the founding of Rome. Yet Räuber has collected many cases of wild men and some of them, taken as they are from municipal chronicles and guaranteed by trustworthy writers, must be accepted as authentic.

a) The Hessian Boy. Was discovered by hunters in 1341, running on all fours with wolves; was captured and turned over to the landgrave. Was always restless, could not adapt himself to civilized life, and died untamed. The case is recorded in the Hessian chronicles by Wilhelm Dilich. Rousseau refers to it in his Discours sur l’origine et les fondements de Pinegalite parmi les hommes.

b) The Irish Boy. Studied and described by Dr. Tulp, curator of the gymnasium at Amsterdam; features animal, body covered with hair; lived with sheep and bleated like them; stolid, unconscious of self; did not notice people; fierce, untamable, and indocible; skin thick, sense of touch blunted so that thorns and stones were unnoticed. Age about sixteen. (Räuber.)

c) The Lithuanian Boys. Three are described. The first was found with bears in 1657; face not repulsive nor beastlike; hair thick and white; skin dry and insensitive; voice a growl; great physical strength. He was carefully instructed and learned to obey his trainer to some degree but always kept the bear habit; ate vegetable food, raw flesh, and anything not containing oils; had a habit of rolling up in secluded places and taking long naps. The second, said to have been captured in 1669, is not so well described as the third, which Dr. Connor, in the History of Poland, says was found in 1694. This one learned to walk erect with difficulty, but was always leaping restlessly about; he learned to eat from a table, but mastered only a few words, which he spoke in a voice harsh and inhuman. He showed great sagacity in wood life.

d) The Girl of Cranenburg. Born in 1700; lost when sixteen months old; skin dark, rough, hard; understood but little that was said to her; spoke little and stammeringly; food roots, leaves, and milk. (Räuber.)

e) Clemens of Overdyke. This boy was brought to Count von der Ricke’s Asylum after the German struggle with Napoleon. He knew little and said little. After careful training it was gathered that his parents were dead and that a peasant had adopted him and set him to herd pigs. Little food was given him, and he learned to suck a cow and eat grass with the pigs. At Overdyke he would get down on his hands and knees and pull up vegetables with his teeth. He was of low intelligence, subject to fits of passion, and fonder of pigs than of men.

f) Jean de Liege. Lost at five; lived in the woods for sixteen years; food roots, plants, and wild fruit; sense of smell extraordinarily keen; could distinguish people by odor as a dog would recognize his master; restless in manner, and always trying to escape. (Räuber.)

g) The Savage of Aveyron. After capture, was given into the care of Dr. Itard by Abbe Sicard. Dermal sense duller than in animals; gaze wandering; language wanting and ideas few; food raw potatoes, acorns, and fruit; would eagerly tear open a bird and eat it raw; indolent, secretive; would hide in the garden until hunger drove him to the kitchen; rolled in new snow like an animal; paid no heed to the firing of a gun, but became alert at the cracking of a nut; sometimes grew wildly angry; all his powers were then enlarged; was delighted with hills and woods, and always tried to escape after being taken to them; when angry would gnaw clothing and hurl furniture about; feared to look from a height, and Itard cured him of spasms of rage by holding his head out of a window; met all efforts to teach him with apathy, and learned but little of language.

h) The Wolf Children of India. The two cases described by a writer in Chambers’ Journal and by Räuber were boys of about ten years. Both ate raw food but refused cooked food; one never spoke, smiled, or laughed; both shunned human beings of both sexes, but would permit a dog to eat with them; they pined in captivity, and lived but a short time.

i) Peter of Hanover. Found in the woods of Hanover; food buds, barks, roots, frogs, eggs of birds, and anything else that he could get out of doors; had a habit of wandering away in the spring; always went to bed as soon as he had his supper; was unable to walk in shoes at first, and it was long before he would tolerate a covering for his head. Although Queen Caroline furnished him a teacher, he could never learn to speak; he became docile, but remained stoical in manner; he learned to do farm work willingly unless he was compelled to do it; his sense of hearing and of smell was acute, and before changes in the weather he was sullen and irritable; he lived to be nearly seventy years old.

j) The Savage of Kronstadt. Of middle size, wild-eyed, deep-jawed, and thick-throated; elbows and knees thick; cuticle insensitive; unable to understand words or gestures perfectly; generally indifferent; found 1784.

k) The Girl of Songi. According to Räuber, this is one of the most frequently quoted of feral cases. The girl came out of the forest near Chalons in 1731. She was thought to be nine years old. She carried a club in her hand, with which she killed a dog that attacked her. She climbed trees easily, and made niches on walls and roofs, over which she ran like a squirrel. She caught fish and ate them raw; a cry served for speech. She showed an instinct for decorating herself with leaves and flowers. She found it difficult to adapt herself to the customs of civilized life and suffered many fits of sickness. In 1747 she was put into a convent at Chalons. She learned something of the French language, of domestic science, and embroidery. She readily understood what was pointed out to her but always had certain sounds which were not understood. She claimed to have first begun to reflect after the beginning of her education. In her wild life she thought only of her own needs. She believed that the earth and the trees produced her, and her earliest memory of shelter was of holes in the ground.

2. From Solitude to Society

The most important day I remember in all my life is the one on which my teacher, Anne Mansfield Sullivan, came to me. I am filled with wonder when I consider the immeasurable contrast between the two lives which it connects. It was the third of March, 1887, three months before I was seven years old.

The morning after my teacher came she led me into her room and gave me a doll. The little blind children at the Perkins Institution had sent it and Laura Bridgman had dressed it; but I did not know this until afterward. When I had played with it a little while, Miss Sullivan slowly spelled into my hand the word “d-o-l-l.” I was at once interested in this finger play and tried to imitate it. When I finally succeeded in making the letters correctly I was flushed with childish pleasure and pride. Running downstairs to my mother I held up my hand and made the letters for doll. I did not know that I was spelling a word or even that words existed; I was simply making my fingers go in monkey-like imitation. In the days that followed I learned to spell in this uncomprehending way a great many words, among them pin, hat, cup and a few verbs like sit, stand, and walk. But my teacher had been with me several weeks before I understood that everything has a name.

One day, while I was playing with my new doll, Miss Sullivan put my big rag doll into my lap also, spelled “d-o-l-l” and tried to make me understand that “d-o-l-l” applied to both. Earlier in the day we had had a tussle over the words “m-u-g” and “w-a-t-e-r.” Miss Sullivan had tried to impress it upon me that “m-u-g” is mug and that “w-a-t-e-r” is water, but I persisted in confounding the two. In despair she had dropped the subject for the time, only to renew it at the first opportunity. I became impatient at her repeated attempts and, seizing the new doll, I dashed it upon the floor. I was keenly delighted when I felt the fragments of the broken doll at my feet. Neither sorrow nor regret followed my passionate outburst. I had not loved the doll. In the still, dark world in which I lived there was no strong sentiment or tenderness. I felt my teacher sweep the fragments to one side of the hearth, and I had a sense of satisfaction that the cause of my discomfort was removed. She brought me my hat, and I knew I was going out into the warm sunshine. This thought, if a wordless sensation may be called a thought, made me hop and skip with pleasure.

We walked down the path to the well-house, attracted by the fragrance of the honeysuckle with which it was covered. Some one was drawing water and my teacher placed my hand under the spout. As the cool stream gushed over one hand she spelled into the other the word water, first slowly, then rapidly. I stood still, my whole attention fixed upon the motions of her fingers. Suddenly I felt a misty consciousness as of something forgotten a thrill of returning thought; and somehow the mystery of language was revealed to me. I knew then that “w-a-t-e-r” meant the wonderful cool something that was flowing over my hand. That living word awakened my soul, gave it light, hope, joy, set it free! There were barriers still, it is true, but barriers that could in time be swept away.

I left the well-house eager to learn. Everything had a name, and each name gave birth to a new thought. As we returned to the house every object which I touched seemed to quiver with life. That was because I saw everything with the strange, new sight that had come to me. On entering the door I remembered the doll I had broken. I felt my way to the hearth and picked up the pieces. I tried vainly to put them together. Then my eyes filled with tears; for I realized what I had done, and for the first time I felt repentance and sorrow.

I learned a great many new words that day. I do not remember what they all were; but I do know that mother, father, sister, teacher, were among them words that were to make the world blossom for me, “like Aaron’s rod, with flowers.” It would have been difficult to find a happier child than I was as I lay in my crib at the close of that eventful day and lived over the joys it had brought me, and for the first time longed for a new day to come.

3. Mental Effects of Solitude

I spent the greater part of one winter at a point on the Rio Negro, seventy or eighty miles from the sea. It was my custom to go out every morning on horseback with my gun, and, followed by one dog, to ride away from the valley; and no sooner would I climb the terrace and plunge into the gray universal thicket, than I would find myself as completely alone as if five hundred instead of only five miles separated me from the valley and river. So wild and solitary and remote seemed that gray waste, stretching away into infinitude, a waste untrodden by man, and where the wild animals are so few that they have made no discoverable path in the wilderness of thorns.

Not once nor twice nor thrice, but day after day I returned to this solitude, going to it in the morning as if to attend a festival, and leaving it only when hunger and thirst and the westering sun compelled me. And yet I had no object in going no motive which could be put into words; for, although I carried a gun, there was nothing to shoot the shooting was all left behind in the valley. Sometimes I would pass an entire day without seeing one mammal and perhaps not more than a dozen birds of any size. The weather at that time was cheerless, generally with a gray film of cloud spread over the sky, and a bleak wind, often cold enough to make my bridle hand quite numb. At a slow pace, which would have seemed intolerable in other circumstances, I would ride about for hours at a stretch. On arriving at a hill, I would slowly ride to its summit, and stand there to survey the prospect. On every side it stretched away in great undulations, wild and irregular. How gray it all was! Hardly less so near at hand than on the haze-wrapped horizon, where the hills were dim and the outline blurred by distance. Descending from my outlook, I would take up my aimless wanderings again, and visit other elevations to gaze on the same landscape from another point; and so on for hours; and at noon I would dismount and sit or lie on my folded poncho for an hour or longer. One day, in these rambles, I discovered a small grove composed of twenty or thirty trees, growing at a convenient distance apart, that had evidently been resorted to by a herd of deer or other wild animals. This grove was on a hill differing in shape from other hills in its neighborhood; and after a time I made a point of finding and using it as a resting-place every day at noon. I did not ask myself why I made choice of that one spot, sometimes going miles out of my way to sit there, instead of sitting down under any one of the millions of trees and bushes on any other hillside. I thought nothing at all about it, but acted unconsciously. Only afterward it seemed to me that, after having rested there once, each time I wished to rest again the wish came associated with the image of that particular clump of trees, with polished stems and clean bed of sand beneath; and in a short time I formed a habit of returning, animal-like, to repose at that same spot.

It was perhaps a mistake to say that I would sit down and rest, since I was never tired: and yet, without being tired, that noonday pause, during which I sat for an hour without moving, was strangely grateful. All day there would be no sound, not even the rustle of a leaf. One day while listening to the silence, it occurred to my mind to wonder what the effect would be if I were to shout aloud. This seemed at the time a horrible suggestion, which almost made me shudder; but during those solitary days it was a rare thing for any thought to cross my mind. In the state of mind I was in, thought had become impossible. My state was one of suspense and watchfulness; yet I had no expectation of meeting with an adventure, and felt as free from apprehension as I feel now when sitting in a room in London. The state seemed familiar rather than strange, and accompanied by a strong feeling of elation; and I did not know that something had come between me and my intellect until I returned to my former self to thinking, and the old insipid existence.

I had undoubtedly gone back, and that state of intense watchfulness, or alertness rather, with suspension of the higher intellectual faculties, represented the mental state of the pure savage. He thinks little, reasons little, having a surer guide in his instincts; he is in perfect harmony with nature, and is nearly on a level, mentally, with the wild animals he preys on, and which in their turn sometimes prey on him.

4. Isolation, and the Rural Mind

As an occupation farming has dealt largely, if not exclusively, with the growth and care of plant and animal life. Broadly speaking, the farmer has been engaged in a struggle with nature to produce certain staple traditional raw foods and human comfort materials in bulk. He has been excused, on the whole, from the delicate situations arising from the demands of an infinite variety of human wishes, whims, and fashions, perhaps because the primary grains, fruits, vegetables, fibers, animals, and animal products, have afforded small opportunity for manipulation to satisfy the varying forms of human taste and caprice. This exemption of the farmer in the greater part of his activity from direct work upon and with persons and from strenuous attempts to please persons, will doubtless account very largely, perhaps more largely than mere isolation on the land, for the strong individualism of the country man.

In striking contrast, the villager and city worker have always been occupied in making things or parts of things out of such impressionable materials as iron, wood, clay, cloth, leather, gold, and the like, to fit, suit, and satisfy a various and increasingly complex set of human desires; or they have been dealing direct with a kaleidoscopic human mind, either in regard to things or in regard to troubles and ideals of the mind itself. This constant dealing with persons in business will account even more than mere congestion of population for the complex organization of city life. The highly organized social institutions of the city, moreover, have reinforced the already keen-edged insight of the city man of business, so that he is doubly equipped to win his struggles. The city worker knows men, the farmer knows nature. Each has reward for his deeper knowledge, and each suffers some penalty for his circle of ignorance.

Modern conditions underlying successful farm practice and profit-making require of the farmer a wider and more frequent contact with men than at any time in the past. His materials, too, have become more plastic, subject to rapid change by selection and breeding.

The social problem of the farmer seems to be how to overcome the inevitable handicap of a social deficiency in the very nature of his occupation, so as to extend his acquaintance with men; and secondly, how to erect social institutions on the land adequate to reinforce his individual personality so as to enable him to cope with his perplexities.

Occasions must be created, plans must be made, to bring people together in a wholesale manner so as to facilitate this interchange of community acquaintance. Especially is it necessary for rural children to know many more children. The one-room district school has proved its value in making the children of the neighborhood acquainted with one another. One of the large reasons for the consolidated and centralized school is the increased size of territorial unit, with more children to know one another and mingle together. Intervisiting of district schools one school, teachers and pupils, playing host to a half-dozen other schools, with some regularity, using plays and games, children’s readiest means of getting acquainted is a successful means of extending acquaintance under good auspices.

If large-scale acquaintance men with men, women with women, children with children in a rural community once becomes a fact, the initial step will have been taken for assuring the rise of appropriate social institutions on the land of that community.

5. The Subtler Effects of Isolation

The mechanics of modern culture is complicated. The individual has access to materials outside his group, from the world at large. His consciousness is built up not only by word of mouth but by the printed page. He may live as much in German books as in fireside conversation. Much more mail is handled every day in the New York post-office than was sent out by all the thirteen states in a year at the close of the eighteenth century. But by reason of poverty, geographical isolation, caste feeling, or “pathos,” individuals, communities, and races may be excluded from some of the stimulations and copies which enter into a high grade of mind. The savage, the Negro, the peasant, the slum dwellers, and the white woman are notable sufferers by exclusion.

Easy communication of ideas favors differentiation of a rational and functional sort, as distinguished from the random variations fostered by isolation. And it must be remembered that any sort is rational and functional that really commends itself to the human spirit. Even revolt from an ascendant type is easier now than formerly because the rebel can fortify himself with the triumphant records of the non-conformers of the past.

The peasant [at the middle of the nineteenth century], limited in a cultural respect to his village life, thinks, feels, and acts solely in the bounds of his native village; his thought never goes beyond his farm and his neighbor; toward the political, economic, or national events taking place outside of his village, be they of his own or of a foreign country, he is completely indifferent, and even if he has learned something of them, this is described by him in a fantastic, mythological way, and only in this adopted form is it added to his cultural condition and transmitted to his descendants. Every peasant farm produced almost exclusively for itself, only to the most limited extent for exchange; every village formed an economic unit, which stood in only a loose economic connection with the outer world. Outwardly complete isolation of the village settlements and their inhabitants from each other and from the rest of the country and other classes of society; inwardly complete homogeneity, one and the same economic, social, and cultural equality of the peasant mass, no possibility of advance for the more gifted and capable individuals, everyone pressed down to a flat level. The peasant of one village holds himself, if not directly hostile, at least as a rule not cordial to the peasants of another village. The nobles living in the same village territory even wanted to force upon the peasants an entirely different origin, in that with the assistance of the Biblical legend they wished to trace him from the accursed Ham (from this the curse and insult Ty chamie, “Thou Ham"), but themselves from Japhet, of better repute in the Bible, while they attributed to the Jews, Shem as an ancestor.

The pathetic effect of isolation on the state of knowledge is recorded in many of the stories of runaway slaves:

With two more boys, I started for the free states. We did not know where they were, but went to try to find them. We crossed the Potomac and hunted round and round and round. Some one showed us the way to Washington; but we missed it, and wandered all night; then we found ourselves where we set out.

For our purposes race prejudice may be regarded as a form of isolation. And in the case of the American Negro this situation is aggravated by the fact that the white man has developed a determination to keep him in isolation “in his place.” Now, when the isolation is willed and has at the same time the emotional nature of a tabu, the handicap is very grave indeed. It is a fact that the most intelligent Negroes are usually half or more than half white, but it is still a subject for investigation whether this is due to mixed blood or to the fact that they have been more successful in violating the tabu.

The humblest white employee knows that the better he does his work, the more chance there is for him to rise in the business. The black employee knows that the better he does his work, the longer he may do it; he cannot often hope for promotion.

All these careers are at the very outset closed to the Negro on account of his color; what lawyer would give even a minor case to a Negro assistant? Or what university would appoint a promising young Negro as tutor? Thus the white young man starts in life knowing that within some limits and barring accidents, talent and application will tell. The young Negro starts knowing that on all sides his advance is made doubly difficult, if not wholly shut off, by his color.

In all walks of life the Negro is liable to meet some objection to his presence or some discourteous treatment. If an invitation is issued to the public for any occasion, the Negro can never know whether he would be welcomed or not; if he goes he is liable to have his feelings hurt and get into unpleasant altercation; if he stays away, he is blamed for indifference. If he meet a lifelong white friend on the street, he is in a dilemma; if he does not greet the friend he is put down as boorish and impolite; if he does greet the friend he is liable to be flatly snubbed. If by chance he is introduced to a white woman or man, he expects to be ignored on the next meeting, and usually is. White friends may call on him, but he is scarcely expected to call on them, save for strictly business matters. If he gain the affections of a white woman and marry her he may invariably expect that slurs will be thrown on her reputation and on his, and that both his and her race will shun their company. When he dies he cannot be buried beside white corpses.

Kelly Miller, himself a full-blooded black (for which the Negroes have expressed their gratitude), refers to the backwardness of the negro in the following terms:

To expect the Negroes of Georgia to produce a great general like Napoleon when they are not even allowed to carry arms, or to deride them for not producing scholars like those of the Renaissance when a few years ago they were forbidden the use of letters, verges closely upon the outer rim of absurdity. Do you look for great Negro statesmen in states where black men are not allowed to vote? Above all, for southern white men to berate the Negro for failing to gain the highest rounds of distinction reaches the climax of cruel inconsistency. One is reminded of the barbarous Teutons in Titus Andronicus, who, after cutting out the tongue and hacking off the hands of the lovely Lavinia, ghoulishly chided her for not calling for sweet water with which to wash her delicate hands.

It is not too much to say that no Negro and no mulatto, in America at least, has ever been fully in the white man’s world. But we must recognize that their backwardness is not wholly due to prejudice. A race with an adequate technique can live in the midst of prejudice and even receive some stimulation from it. But the Negro has lost many of the occupations which were particularly his own, and is outclassed in others not through prejudice but through the faster pace of his competitors.

Obviously obstacles which discourage one race may stimulate another. Even the extreme measures in Russia and Roumania against the Jew have not isolated him. He has resources and traditions and technique of his own, and we have even been borrowers from him.


1. Segregation as a Process

Within the limitations prescribed, however, the inevitable processes of human nature proceed to give these regions and these buildings a character which it is less easy to control. Under our system of individual ownership, for instance, it is not possible to determine in advance the extent of concentration of population in any given area. The city cannot fix land values, and we leave to private enterprise, for the most part, the task of determining the city’s limits and the location of its residential and industrial districts. Personal tastes and convenience, vocational and economic interests, infallibly tend to segregate and thus to classify the populations of great cities. In this way the city acquires an organization which is neither designed nor controlled.

Physical geography, natural advantages, and the means of transportation determine in advance the general outlines of the urban plan. As the city increases in population, the subtler influences of sympathy, rivalry, and economic necessity tend to control the distribution of population. Business and manufacturing seek advantageous locations and draw around them a certain portion of the population. There spring up fashionable residence quarters from which the poorer classes are excluded because of the increased value of the land. Then there grow up slums which are inhabited by great numbers of the poorer classes who are unable to defend themselves from association with the derelict and vicious. In the course of time every section and quarter of the city takes on something of the character and qualities of its inhabitants. Each separate part of the city is inevitably stained with the peculiar sentiments of its population. The effect of this is to convert what was at first a mere geographical expression into a neighborhood, that is to say, a locality with sentiments, traditions, and a history of its own. Within this neighborhood the continuity of the historical processes is somehow maintained. The past imposes itself upon the present and the life of every locality moves on with a certain momentum of its own, more or less independent of the larger circle of life and interests about it.

In the city environment the neighborhood tends to lose much of the significance which it possessed in simpler and more primitive forms of society. The easy means of communication and of transportation, which enables individuals to distribute their attention and to live at the same time in several different worlds, tends to destroy the permanency and intimacy of the neighborhood. Further than that, where individuals of the same race or of the same vocation live together in segregated groups, neighborhood sentiment tends to fuse together with racial antagonisms and class interests.

In this way physical and sentimental distances reinforce each other, and the influences of local distribution of the population participate with the influences of class and race in the evolution of the social organization. Every great city has its racial colonies, like the Chinatowns of San Francisco and New York, the Little Sicily of Chicago, and various other less pronounced types. In addition to these, most cities have their segregated vice districts, like that which until recently existed in Chicago, and their rendezvous for criminals of various sorts. Every large city has its occupational suburbs like the Stockyards in Chicago, and its residence suburbs like Brookline in Boston, each of which has the size and the character of a complete separate town, village, or city, except that its population is a selected one. Undoubtedly the most remarkable of these cities within cities, of which the most interesting characteristic is that they are composed of persons of the same race, or of persons of different races but of the same social class, is East London, with a population of 2,000,000 laborers.

The people of the original East London have now overflowed and crossed the Lea, and spread themselves over the marshes and meadows beyond. This population has created new towns which were formerly rural villages, West Ham, with a population of nearly 300,000; East Ham, with 90,000; Stratford, with its “daughters,” 150,000; and other “hamlets” similarly overgrown. Including these new populations we have an aggregate of nearly two millions of people. The population is greater than that of Berlin or Vienna, or St. Petersburg, or Philadelphia.

It is a city full of churches and places of worship, yet there are no cathedrals, either Anglican or Roman; it has a sufficient supply of elementary schools, but it has no public or high school, and it has no colleges for the higher education, and no university; the people all read newspapers, yet there is no East London paper except of the smaller and local kind.... In the streets there are never seen any private carriages; there is no fashionable quarter ... one meets no ladies in the principal thoroughfares. People, shops, houses, conveyances all together are stamped with the unmistakable seal of the working class.

Perhaps the strangest thing of all is this: in a city of two
millions of people there are no hotels! That means, of course,
that there are no visitors.

In the older cities of Europe, where the processes of segregation have gone farther, neighborhood distinctions are likely to be more marked than they are in America. East London is a city of a single class, but within the limits of that city the population is segregated again and again by racial and vocational interests. Neighborhood sentiment, deeply rooted in local tradition and in local custom, exercises a decisive selective influence upon city population and shows itself ultimately in a marked way in the characteristics of the inhabitants.

2. Isolation as a Result of Segregation

There is the observed tendency of mental defectives to congregate in localized centers, with resulting inbreeding. Feeble-mindedness is a social level and the members of this level, like those in other levels, are affected by social and biological tendencies, such as the congregation of like personalities and the natural selection in matings of persons of similar mental capacities. These are general tendencies and not subject to invariable laws. The feeble-minded are primarily quantitatively different from normals in mental and social qualities, and do not constitute a separate species. The borderline types of high-grade feeble-minded and low-grade normals may therefore prove exceptions to the general rule. But such studies as Davenport and Danielson’s “Hill Folk,” Davenport and Estabrook’s “Nams,” Dugdale’s “Jukes,” Kostir’s “Sam Sixty,” Goddard’s “Kallikaks,” Key’s “Vennams” and “Fale-Anwals,” Kite’s “Pineys,” and many others emphatically prove that mental defectives show a tendency to drift together, intermarry, and isolate themselves from the rest of the community, just as the rich live in exclusive suburbs. Consequently they preponderate in certain localities, counties, and cities. In a large measure this segregation is not so much an expression of voluntary desire as it is a situation forced upon mental defectives through those natural intellectual and social deficiencies which restrict them to environments economically and otherwise less desirable to normal people. This phenomenon is most conspicuous in rural communities where such migratory movements as the modern city-drift have exercised a certain natural selection, but it is also plainly evident in the slums and poorer sections of the cities, both large and small, as any field worker will testify. Closely related to this factor of isolation are the varying percentages of mental defectives found in different states and in different sections of the same state, city or community. It is therefore likely that the percentages of mental defectives among different groups of juvenile delinquents will vary according to the particular ward, city, county, or state, whence the delinquents come. For this reason it is essential to any study of the number of mental defectives in a group of juvenile delinquents coming from a particular locality, that some idea should be available as to the probable or approximate number of mental defectives in that community. If more mental defectives are found among the population in the slum quarter of a city than in the residential quarter, it is to be expected that there will be more mental defectives in groups of juvenile delinquents from the slum quarter, because, in the first place, they constitute a larger proportion of the population, and because, secondly, of their greater proneness to social offenses. Moreover, the prevalence of the feeble-minded in certain localities may affect the attitude of the law-enforcing machinery toward the children of that community.

A further result of the innate characteristics and tendencies of the feeble-minded is to be found in the effect upon them of the biological law of natural selection, resulting from the universal struggle for existence and the survival of the fittest. We need not discuss here its profound influences, economic and otherwise, upon the lives of the mentally defective in general, but it will be profitable to review briefly the effect of natural selection upon the juvenile delinquent group.

Any group of delinquents is subject to this selection from the times of offenses to final commitment. It undergoes a constant sifting process whose operation is mainly determined by the natural consequences of the group members; a large proportion of the “lucky,” the intelligent, or the socially favored individuals escape from the group, so that the remaining members of the group are the least fit socially and intellectually. The mentally defective delinquents constitute an undue proportion of this unfit residue, for although they may receive as many favors of chance as do their intellectually normal fellow-delinquents, they cannot, like them, by reason of intelligence or social status, escape the consequences of their delinquent acts. Furthermore, the feeble-minded offender is caught oftener than are his more clever and energetic companions of normal endowments, and after apprehension he is less likely to receive the benefits of police and court prejudices, or the advantages of family wealth and social influence. If placed on probation he is more likely to fail, because of his own weaknesses and his unfavorable environment. Hence the feeble-minded delinquent is much more likely to come before the court and also to be committed to a reformatory, jail, or industrial school than is his companion of normal mind. Therefore practically every group of juvenile delinquents which ultimately reaches commitment will have a very different aspect with regard to its proportion of mental defectives from that larger group of offenders, apprehended or non-apprehended, of which it was once a part. In fact, it is doubtful if any group of apprehended, detained, or probationed offenders can be said to be representative, or at least to be exactly representative, of the true proportion of mental defectives among all delinquents. Except where specific types of legal procedure bring about the elimination of the defectives, it seems as if it must inevitably result that the operation of natural selection will continually increase the proportion of mental defectives above that existing in the original group.

This factor of natural selection has not to our knowledge been given adequate consideration in any published investigation on delinquency. But if our estimate of its effects is at all justified, then most examinations of juvenile delinquents, especially in reform and industrial schools, have disclosed proportions of mental defectives distinctly in excess of the original proportion previously existent among the entire mass of all offenders. The reports of these examinations have given rise to quite erroneous impressions concerning the extent of criminality among the feeble-minded and its relation to the whole volume of crime, and have consequently led to inaccurate deductions. The feeble-minded are undoubtedly more prone to commit crime than are the average normals; but through disregard of the influences of this factor of natural selection, as well as of others, both the proportion of crime committed by mental defectives and the true proportion of mental defectives among delinquents and criminals have very often been exaggerated.


1. Historical Races as Products of Isolation

The continent of Europe differs from the other great land-masses in the fact that it is a singular aggregation of peninsulas and islands, originating in separate centers of mountain growth, and of enclosed valleys walled about from the outer world by elevated summits. Other continents are somewhat peninsulated; Asia approaches Europe in that respect; North America has a few great dependencies in its larger islands and considerable promontories; but Africa, South America, and Australia are singularly united lands.

The highly divided state of Europe has greatly favored the development within its area of isolated fields, each fitted for the growth of a separate state, adapted even in this day for local life although commerce in our time binds lands together in a way which it did not of old. These separated areas were marvelously suited to be the cradles of peoples; and if we look over the map of Europe we readily note the geographic insulations which that remarkably varied land affords.

Beginning with the eastern Mediterranean, we have the peninsula on which Constantinople stands a region only partly protected from assault by its geographic peculiarities; and yet it owes to its partial separation from the mainlands on either side a large measure of local historic development. Next, we have Greece and its associated islands, which a safe stronghold for centuries permitted the nurture of the most marvelous life the world has ever known. Farther to the west the Italian peninsula, where during three thousand years the protecting envelope of the sea and the walls of Alps and Apennines have enabled a score of states to attain a development; where the Roman nation, absorbing, with its singular power of taking in other life, a number of primitive centers of civilization, grew to power which made it dominant in the ancient world. Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica, have each profited by their isolation, and have bred diverse qualities in man and contributed motives which have interacted in the earth’s history. Again, in Spain we have a region well fitted to be the cradle of a great people; to its geographic position it owed the fact that it became the seat of the most cultivated Mahometanism the world has ever known. To the Pyrénées, the mountain wall of the north, we owe in good part the limitation of that Mussulman invasion and the protection of central Europe from its forward movement, until luxury and half-faith had sapped its energies. Going northward, we find in the region of Normandy the place of growth of that fierce but strong folk, the ancient Scandinavians, who, transplanted there, held their ground, and grew until they were strong enough to conquer Britain and give it a large share of the quality which belongs to our own state.

To a trifling geographic accident we owe the isolation of Great Britain from the European continent; and all the marvelous history of the English folk, as we all know, hangs upon the existence of that narrow strip of sea between the Devon coast and the kindred lowlands of northern France.

East of Britain lie two peninsulas which have been the cradle of very important peoples. That of Sweden and Norway is the result of mountain development; that of Denmark appears to be in the main the product of glacial and marine erosion, differing in its non-mountainous origin from all the other peninsulas and islands of the European border. Thus on the periphery of Europe we have at least a dozen geographical isolated areas, sufficiently large and well separated from the rest of the world to make them the seats of independent social life. The interior of the country has several similarly, though less perfectly, detached areas. Of these the most important lie fenced within the highlands of the Alps. In that extensive system of mountain disturbances we have the geographical conditions which most favor the development of peculiar divisions of men, and which guard such cradled peoples from the destruction which so often awaits them on the plains. Thus, while the folk of the European lowlands have been overrun by the successive tides of invasion, their qualities confused, and their succession of social life interrupted, Switzerland has to a great extent, by its mountain walls, protected its people from the troubles to which their lowland neighbors have been subjected. The result is that within an area not twice as large as Massachusetts we find a marvelous diversity of folk, as is shown by the variety in physical aspect, moral quality, language, and creed in the several important valleys and other divisions of that complicated topography.

After a race has been formed and bred to certain qualities within a limited field, after it has come to possess a certain body of characteristics which gives it its particular stamp, the importance of the original cradle passes away. There is something very curious in the permanence of race conditions after they have been fixed for a thousand years or so in a people. When the assemblage of physical and mental motives are combined in a body of country folk, they may endure under circumstances in which they could not have originated; thus, even in our domesticated animals and plants, we find that varieties created under favorable conditions, obtaining their inheritances in suitable conditions, may then flourish in many conditions of environment in which they could not by any chance have originated. The barnyard creatures of Europe, with their established qualities, may be taken to Australia, and there retain their nature for many generations; even where the form falls away from the parent stock, the decline is generally slow and may not for a great time become apparent.

This fixity of race characteristics has enabled the several national varieties of men to go forth from their nurseries, carrying the qualities bred in their earlier conditions through centuries of life in other climes. The Gothic blood of Italy and of Spain still keeps much of its parent strength; the Aryan’s of India, though a world apart in its conditions from those which gave it character in its cradle, is still, in many of its qualities, distinctly akin to that of the home people. Moor, Hun and Turk all the numerous folk we find in the present condition of the world so far from their cradle-lands are still to a great extent what their primitive nurture made them. On this rigidity which comes to mature races in the lower life as well as in man, depends the vigor with which they do their appointed work.

2. Geographical Isolation and Maritime Contact

Greece, considering its limited total extent, offers but little motive, and still less of convenient means, for internal communication among its various inhabitants. Each village or township occupying its plain with the inclosing mountains, supplied its own main wants, whilst the transport of commodities by land was sufficiently difficult to discourage greatly any regular commerce with neighbors. In so far as the face of the interior country was concerned, it seemed as if nature had been disposed from the beginning to keep the population of Greece socially and politically disunited by providing so many hedges of separation and so many boundaries, generally hard, sometimes impossible, to overleap. One special motive to intercourse, however, arose out of this very geographical constitution of the country, and its endless alternation of mountain and valley. The difference of climate and temperature between the high and low grounds is very great; the harvest is secured in one place before it is ripe in another, and the cattle find during the heat of summer shelter and pasture on the hills, at a time when the plains are burnt up. The practice of transferring them from the mountains to the plain according to the change of season, which subsists still as it did in ancient times, is intimately connected with the structure of the country, and must from the earliest period have brought about communication among the otherwise disunited villages.

Such difficulties, however, in the internal transit by land were to a great extent counteracted by the large proportion of coast and the accessibility of the country by sea. The prominences and indentations in the line of Grecian coast are hardly less remarkable than the multiplicity of elevations and depressions which everywhere mark the surface. There was no part of Greece proper which could be considered as out of reach of the sea, while most parts of it were convenient and easy of access. As the only communication between them was maritime, so the sea, important even if we look to Greece proper exclusively, was the sole channel for transmitting ideas and improvements, as well as for maintaining sympathies social, political, religious, and literary throughout these outlying members of the Hellenic aggregate.

The ancient philosophers and legislators were deeply impressed with the contrast between an inland and a maritime city: in the former, simplicity and uniformity of life, tenacity of ancient habits and dislike of what is new or foreign, great force of exclusive sympathy and narrow range both of objects and ideas; in the latter, variety and novelty of sensations, expansive imagination, toleration, and occasional preference for extraneous customs, greater activity of the individual and corresponding mutability of the state. This distinction stands prominent in the many comparisons instituted between the Athens of Pericles and the Athens of the earlier times down to Solon. Both Plato and Aristotle dwell upon it emphatically and the former especially, whose genius conceived the comprehensive scheme of prescribing beforehand and insuring in practice the whole course of individual thought and feeling in his imaginary community, treats maritime communication, if pushed beyond the narrowest limits, as fatal to the success and permanence of any wise scheme of education. Certain it is that a great difference of character existed between those Greeks who mingled much in maritime affairs and those who did not. The Arcadian may stand as a type of the pure Grecian landsman, with his rustic and illiterate habits his diet of sweet chestnuts, barley cakes, and pork (as contrasted with the fish which formed the chief seasoning for the bread of an Athenian) his superior courage and endurance his reverence for Lacedaemonian headship as an old and customary influence his sterility of intellect and imagination as well as his slackness in enterprise his unchangeable rudeness of relations with the gods, which led him to scourge and prick Pan if he came back empty-handed from the chase; while the inhabitant of Phokaea or Miletus exemplifies the Grecian mariner, eager in search of gain active, skilful, and daring at sea, but inferior in steadfast bravery on land more excitable in imagination as well as more mutable in character full of pomp and expense in religious manifestations toward the Ephesian Artemis or the Apollo of Branchidae: with a mind more open to the varieties of Grecian energy and to the refining influences of Grecian civilization.

The configuration of the Grecian territory, so like in many respects to that of Switzerland, produced two effects of great moment upon the character and history of the people. In the first place, it materially strengthened their powers of defense: it shut up the country against those invasions from the interior which successively subjugated all their continental colonies; and it at the same time rendered each fraction more difficult to be attacked by the rest, so as to exercise a certain conservative influence in assuring the tenure of actual possessors: for the pass of Thermopylae between Thessaly and Phokis, that of Kithaeron between Boeotia and Attica, or the mountainous range of Oneion and Geraneia along the Isthmus of Corinth, were positions which an inferior number of brave men could hold against a much greater force of assailants. But, in the next place, while it tended to protect each section of Greeks from being conquered, it also kept them politically disunited and perpetuated their separate autonomy. It fostered that powerful principle of repulsion, which disposed even the smallest township to constitute itself a political unit apart from the rest, and to resist all idea of coalescence with others, either amicable or compulsory. To a modern reader, accustomed to large political aggregations, and securities for good government through the representative system, it requires a certain mental effort to transport himself back to a time when even the smallest town clung so tenaciously to its right of self-legislation. Nevertheless, such was the general habit and feeling of the ancient world, throughout Italy, Sicily, Spain, and Gaul. Among the Hellens it stands out more conspicuously, for several reasons first, because they seem to have pushed the multiplication of autonomous units to an extreme point, seeing that even islands not larger than Peparethos and Amorgos had two or three separate city communities; secondly, because they produced, for the first time in the history of mankind, acute systematic thinkers on matters of government, amongst all of whom the idea of the autonomous city was accepted as the indispensable basis of political speculation; thirdly, because this incurable subdivision proved finally the cause of their ruin, in spite of pronounced intellectual superiority over their conquerors; and lastly, because incapacity of political coalescence did not preclude a powerful and extensive sympathy between the inhabitants of all the separate cities, with a constant tendency to fraternize for numerous purposes, social, religious, recreative, intellectual, and aesthetical. For these reasons, the indefinite multiplication of self-governing towns, though in truth a phenomenon common to ancient Europe as contrasted with the large monarchies of Asia, appears more marked among the ancient Greeks than elsewhere; and there cannot be any doubt that they owe it, in a considerable degree, to the multitude of insulating boundaries which the configuration of their country presented.

Nor is it rash to suppose that the same causes may have tended to promote that unborrowed intellectual development for which they stand so conspicuous. General propositions respecting the working of climate and physical agencies upon character are indeed treacherous; for our knowledge of the globe is now sufficient to teach us that heat and cold, mountain and plain, sea and land, moist and dry atmosphere, are all consistent with the greatest diversities of resident men: moreover, the contrast between the population of Greece itself, for the seven centuries preceding the Christian era, and the Greeks of more modern times, is alone enough to inculcate reserve in such speculations. Nevertheless we may venture to note certain improving influences, connected with their geographical position, at a time when they had no books to study, and no more advanced predecessors to imitate.

We may remark, first, that their position made them at once mountaineers and mariners, thus supplying them with great variety of objects, sensations, and adventures; next, that each petty community, nestled apart amidst its own rocks, was sufficiently severed from the rest to possess an individual life and attributes of its own, yet not so far as to subtract it from the sympathies of the remainder; so that an observant Greek, commercing with a great diversity of half-countrymen, whose language he understood, and whose idiosyncrasies he could appreciate, had access to a larger mass of social and political experience than any other man in so unadvanced an age could personally obtain. The Phoenician, superior to the Greek on shipboard, traversed wider distances and saw a greater number of strangers, but had not the same means of intimate communion with a multiplicity of fellows in blood and language. His relations, confined to purchase and sale, did not comprise that mutuality of action and reaction which pervaded the crowd at a Grecian festival. The scene which here presented itself was a mixture of uniformity and variety highly stimulating to the observant faculties of a man of genius who at the same time, if he sought to communicate his own impressions, or to act upon this mingled and diverse audience, was forced to shake off what was peculiar to his own town or community, and to put forth matter in harmony with the feelings of all. It is thus that we may explain, in part, that penetrating apprehension of human life and character, and that power of touching sympathies common to all ages and nations, which surprises us so much in the unlettered authors of the old epic. Such periodical intercommunion of brethren habitually isolated from each other was the only means then open of procuring for the bard a diversified range of experience and a many-colored audience; and it was to a great degree the result of geographical causes. Perhaps among other nations such facilitating causes might have been found, yet without producing any results comparable to the Iliad and Odyssey. But Homer was nevertheless dependent upon the conditions of his age, and we can at least point out those peculiarities in early Grecian society without which Homeric excellence would never have existed the geographical position is one, the language another.

3. Isolation as an Explanation of National Differences

To decide between race and environment as the efficient cause of any social phenomenon is a matter of singular interest at this time. A school of sociological writers, dazzled by the recent brilliant discoveries in European ethnology, show a decided inclination to sink the racial explanation up to the handle in every possible phase of social life in Europe. It must be confessed that there is provocation for it. So persistent have the physical characteristics of the people shown themselves that it is not surprising to find theories of a corresponding inheritance of mental attributes in great favor.

This racial school of social philosophers derives much of its data from French sources. For this reason, and also because our anthropological knowledge of that country is more complete than for any other part of Europe, we shall confine our attention primarily to France. In the unattractive upland areas of isolation is the Alpine broad-headed race common to central Europe. At the north, extending down in a broad belt diagonally as far as Limoges and along the coast of Brittany, there is intermixture with the blond, long-headed Teutonic race; while along the southern coast, penetrating up the Rhone Valley, is found the extension of the equally long-headed but brunet Mediterranean stock. These ethnic facts correspond to physical ones; three areas of geographical isolation are distinct centers of distribution of the Alpine race.

The organization of the family is the surest criterion of the stage of social evolution attained by a people. No other phase of human association is so many-sided, so fundamental, so pregnant for the future. For this reason we may properly begin our study by an examination of a phenomenon which directly concerns the stability of the domestic institution viz., divorce. What are the facts as to its distribution in France? Marked variations between different districts occur. Paris is at one extreme; Corsica, as always, at the other. Of singular interest to us is the parallel which at once appears between this distribution of divorce and that of head form. The areas of isolation peopled by the Alpine race are characterized by almost complete absence of legal severance of domestic relations between husband and wife.

Do the facts instanced above have any ethnic significance? Do they mean that the Alpine type, as a race, holds more tenaciously than does the Teuton to its family traditions, resenting thereby the interference of the state in its domestic institutions? A foremost statistical authority, Jacques Bertillon, has devoted considerable space to proving that some relation between the two exists. Confronted by the preceding facts, his explanation is this: that the people of the southern departments, inconstant perhaps and fickle, nevertheless are quickly pacified after a passionate outbreak of any kind. Husband and wife may quarrel, but the estrangement is dissipated before recourse to the law can take place. On the other hand, the Norman peasant, Teutonic by race, cold and reserved, nurses his grievances for a long time; they abide with him, smoldering but persistent. “Words and even blows terminate quarrels quickly in the south; in the north they are settled by the judge.” From similar comparisons in other European countries, M. Bertillon draws the final conclusion that the Teutonic race betrays a singular preference for this remedy for domestic ills. It becomes for him an ethnic trait.

Another social phenomenon has been laid at the door of the Teutonic race of northern Europe; one which even more than divorce is directly the concomitant of modern intellectual and economic progress. We refer to suicide. Morselli devotes a chapter of his interesting treatise upon this subject to proving that “the purer the German race that is to say, the stronger the Germanism (e.g., Teutonism) of a country the more it reveals in its psychical character an extraordinary propensity to self-destruction.”

Consider for a moment the relative frequency of suicide with reference to the ethnic composition of France. The parallel between the two is almost exact in every detail. There are again our three areas of Alpine racial occupation Savoy, Auvergne, and Brittany in which suicide falls annually below seventy-five per million inhabitants. There, again, is the Rhone Valley and the broad diagonal strip from Paris to Bordeaux, characterized alike by strong infusion of Teutonic traits and relative frequency of the same social phenomenon.

Divorce and suicide will serve as examples of the mode of proof adopted for tracing a number of other social phenomena to an ethnic origin. Thus Lapouge attributes the notorious depopulation of large areas in France to the sterility incident upon intermixture between the several racial types of which the population is constituted. This he seeks to prove from the occurrence of a decreasing birth-rate in all the open, fertile districts where the Teutonic element has intermingled with the native population. Because wealth happens to be concentrated in the fertile areas of Teutonic occupation, it is again assumed that this coincidence demonstrates either a peculiar acquisitive aptitude in this race or else a superior measure of frugality.

By this time our suspicions are aroused. The argument is too simple. Its conclusions are too far-reaching. By this we do not mean to deny the facts of geographical distribution in the least. It is only the validity of the ethnic explanation which we deny. We can do better for our races than even its best friends along such lines of proof. With the data at our disposition there is no end to the racial attributes which we might saddle upon our ethnic types. Thus, it would appear that the Alpine type in its sterile areas of isolation was the land-hungry one described by Zola in his powerful novels. For, roughly speaking, individual land-holdings are larger in them on the average than among the Teutonic populations. Peasant proprietorship is more common also; there are fewer tenant farmers. Crime in the two areas assumes a different aspect. We find that among populations of Alpine type, in the isolated uplands, offenses against the person predominate in the criminal calendar. In the Seine basin, along the Rhone Valley, wherever the Teuton is in evidence, on the other hand, there is less respect for property; so that offenses against the person, such as assault, murder, and rape, give place to embezzlements, burglary, and arson. It might just as well be argued that the Teuton shows a predilection for offenses against property; the native Celt an equal propensity for crimes against the person.

Appeal to the social geography of other countries, wherein the ethnic balance of power is differently distributed, may be directed against almost any of the phenomena we have instanced in France as seemingly of racial derivation. In the case either of suicide or divorce, if we turn from France to Italy or Germany, we instantly perceive all sorts of contradictions. The ethnic type, which is so immune from propensity to self-destruction or domestic disruption in France, becomes in Italy most prone to either mode of escape from temporary earthly ills. For each phenomenon culminates in frequency in the northern half of the latter country, stronghold of the Alpine race. Nor is there an appreciable infusion of Teutonism, physically speaking, herein, to account for the change of heart. Of course, it might be urged that this merely shows that the Mediterranean race of southern Italy is as much less inclined to the phenomenon than the Alpine race in these respects, as it in turn lags behind the Teuton. For it must be confessed that even in Italy neither divorce nor suicide is so frequent anywhere as in Teutonic northern France. Well, then, turn to Germany. Compare its two halves in these respects again. The northern half of the empire is most purely Teutonic by race; the southern is not distinguishable ethnically, as we have sought to prove, from central France. Bavaria, Baden, and Wuertemberg are scarcely more Teutonic by race than Auvergne. Do we find differences in suicide, for example, following racial boundaries here? Far from it; for Saxony is its culminating center; and Saxony, as we know, is really half-Slavic at heart, as is also eastern Prussia. Suicide should be most frequent in Schleswig-Holstein and Hanover, if racial causes were appreciably operative. The argument, in fact, falls to pieces of its own weight, as Durkheim has shown. His conclusion is thus stated:

“If the Germans are more addicted to suicide, it is not because of the blood in their veins, but of the civilization in which they have been raised.”

A summary view of the class of social phenomena seemingly characteristic of the distinct races in France, if we extend our field of vision to cover all Europe, suggests an explanation for the curious coincidences and parallelisms noted above, which is the exact opposite of the racial one.

Our theory, then, is this: that most of the social phenomena we have noted as peculiar to the areas occupied by the Alpine type are the necessary outcome, not of racial proclivities but rather of the geographical and social isolation characteristic of the habitat of this race. The ethnic type is still pure for the very same reason that social phenomena are primitive. Wooden ploughs pointed with stone, blood revenge, an undiminished birth-rate, and relative purity of physical type are all alike derivatives from a common cause, isolation, directly physical and coincidently social. We discover, primarily, an influence of environment where others perceive phenomena of ethnic inheritance.

4. Natural versus Vicinal Location in National Development

In contradistinction to continental and intercontinental location, anthropogeography recognizes two other narrower meanings of the term. The innate mobility of the human race, due primarily to the eternal food-quest and increase of numbers, leads a people to spread out over a territory till they reach the barriers which nature has set up, or meet the frontiers of other tribes and nations. Their habitat or their specific geographic location is thus defined by natural features of mountain, desert, and sea, or by the neighbors whom they are unable to displace, or more often by both.

A people has, therefore, a twofold location, an immediate one, based upon their actual territory, and a mediate or vicinal one, growing out of its relations to the countries nearest them. The first is a question of the land under their feet; the other, of the neighbors about them. The first or natural location embodies the complex of local geographic conditions which furnish the basis for their tribal or national existence. This basis may be a peninsula, island, archipelago, an oasis, an arid steppe, a mountain system, or a fertile lowland. The stronger the vicinal location, the more dependent is the people upon the neighboring states, but the more potent the influence which it can, under certain circumstances, exert upon them. Witness Germany in relation to Holland, France, Austria, and Poland. The stronger the natural location, on the other hand, the more independent is the people and the more strongly marked is the national character. This is exemplified in the people of mountain lands like Switzerland, Abyssinia, and Népal; of peninsulas like Korea, Spain, and Scandinavia; and of islands like England and Japan. Today we stand amazed at that strong primordial brand of the Japanese character which nothing can blur or erase.

Clearly defined natural locations, in which barriers of mountains and sea draw the boundaries and guarantee some degree of isolation, tend to hold their people in a calm embrace, to guard them against outside interference and infusion of foreign blood, and thus to make them develop the national genius in such direction as the local geographic conditions permit. In the unceasing movements which have made up most of the historic and prehistoric life of the human race, in their migrations and counter-migrations, their incursions, retreats, and expansions over the face of the earth, vast unfenced areas, like the open lowlands of Russia and the grasslands of Africa, present the picture of a great thoroughfare swept by pressing throngs. Other regions, more secluded, appear as quiet nooks, made for a temporary halt or a permanent rest. Here some part of the passing human flow is caught as in a vessel and held till it crystallizes into a nation. These are the conspicuous areas of race characterization. The development of the various ethnic and political offspring of the Roman Empire in the naturally defined areas of Italy, the Iberian Peninsula, and France illustrates the process of national differentiation which goes on in such secluded-locations.


1. Isolation in Anthropogeography and Biology

A systematic treatise upon isolation as a sociological concept remains to be written. The idea of isolation as a tool of investigation has been fashioned with more precision in geography and in biology than in sociology.

Research in human geography has as its object the study of man in his relations to the earth. Students of civilization, like Montesquieu and Buckle, sought to explain the culture and behavior of peoples as the direct result of the physical environment. Friedrich Ratzel with his “thorough training as a naturalist, broad reading, and travel” and above all, his comprehensive knowledge of ethnology, recognized the importance of direct effects, such as cultural isolation. Jean Brunhes, by the selection of small natural units, his so-called “islands,” has made intensive studies of isolated groups in the oases of the deserts of the Sub and of the Mzab, and in the high mountains of the central Andes.

Biology indicates isolation as one of the factors in the origin of the species. Anthropology derives the great races of mankind the Caucasian, the Ethiopian, the Malay, the Mongolian, and the Indian from geographical separation following an assumed prehistoric dispersion. A German scholar, Dr. Georg Gerland, has prepared an atlas which plots differences in physical traits, such as skin color and hair texture, as indicating the geographical distribution of races.

2. Isolation and Social Groups

Anthropogeographical and biological investigations have proceeded upon the assumption, implicit or explicit, that the geographic environment, and the physical and mental traits of races and individuals, determine individual and collective behavior. What investigations in human geography and heredity actually demonstrate is that the geographic environment and the original nature of man condition the culture and conduct of groups and of persons. The explanations of isolation, so far as it affects social life, which have gained currency in the writings of anthropologists and geographers, are therefore too simple. Sociologists are able to take into account forms of isolation not considered by the students of the physical environment and of racial inheritance. Studies of folkways, mores, culture, nationality, the products of a historical or cultural process, disclose types of social contact which transcend the barriers of geographical or racial separation, and reveal social forms of isolation which prevent communication where there is close geographical contact or common racial bonds.

The literature upon isolated peoples ranges from investigations of arrest of cultural development as, for example, the natives of Australia, the Mountain Whites of the southern states, or the inhabitants of Pitcairn Island to studies of hermit nations, of caste systems as in India, or of outcast groups such as feeble-minded “tribes” or hamlets, fraternities of criminals, and the underworld of commercialized prostitution. Special research in dialects, in folklore, and in provincialism shows how spatial isolation fixes differences in speech, attitudes, folkways, and mores which, in turn, enforce isolation even when geographic separation has disappeared.

The most significant contribution to the study of isolation from the sociological standpoint has undoubtedly been made by Fishberg in a work entitled The Jews, a Study of Race and Environment. The author points out that the isolation of the Jew has been the result of neither physical environment nor of race, but of social barriers. “Judaism has been preserved throughout the long years of Israel’s dispersion by two factors: its separative ritualism, which prevented close and intimate contact with non-Jews, and the iron laws of the Christian theocracies of Europe which encouraged and enforced ‘isolation.’"

3. Isolation and Personality

Philosophers, mystics, and religious enthusiasts have invariably stressed privacy for meditation, retirement for ecstatic communion with God, and withdrawal from the contamination of the world. In 1784-86 Zimmermann wrote an elaborate essay in which he dilates upon “the question whether it is easier to live virtuously in society or in solitude,” considering in Part I “the influence of occasional retirement upon the mind and the heart” and in Part II “the pernicious influence of a total exclusion from society upon the mind and the heart.”

Actual research upon the effect of isolation upon personal development has more of future promise than of present accomplishment. The literature upon cases of feral men is practically all of the anecdotal type with observations by persons untrained in the modern scientific method. One case, however, “the savage of Aveyron” was studied intensively by Itard, the French philosopher and otologist who cherished high hopes of his mental and social development. After five years spent in a patient and varied but futile attempt at education, he confessed his bitter disappointment. “Since my pains are lost and efforts fruitless, take yourself back to your forest and primitive tastes; or if your new wants make you dependent on society, suffer the penalty of being useless, and go to Bicetre, there to die in wretchedness.”

Only second in importance to the cases of feral men are the investigations which have been made of the results of solitary confinement. Morselli, in his well-known work on Suicide, presented statistics showing that self-destruction was many times as frequent among convicts under the system of absolute isolation as compared with that of association during imprisonment. Studies of Auburn prison in New York, of Mountjoy in England, and penal institutions on the continent show the effects of solitary incarceration in the increase of cases of suicides, insanity, invalidism, and death.

Beginnings have been made in child study, psychiatry, and psychoanalysis of the effects of different types of isolation upon personal development. Some attention has been given to the study of effects upon mentality and personality of physical defects such as deaf-mutism and blindness. Students of the so-called “morally defective child,” that is the child who appears deficient in emotional and sympathetic responses, suggest as a partial explanation the absence in infancy and early childhood of intimate and sympathetic contacts with the mother. An investigation not yet made but of decisive bearing upon this point will be a comparative study of children brought up in families with those reared in institutions.

Psychiatry and psychoanalysis in probing mental life and personality have related certain mental and social abnormalities to isolation from social contact. Studies of paranoia and of egocentric personalities have resulted in the discovery of the only or favorite child complex. The exclusion of the boy or girl in the one-child family from the give and take of democratic relations with brothers and sisters results, according to the theory advanced, in a psychopathic personality of the self-centered type. A contributing cause of homosexuality, it is said by psychoanalysts, is the isolation during childhood from usual association with individuals of the same sex. Research in dementia praecox discloses a symptom and probably a cause of this mental malady to be the withdrawal of the individual from normal social contacts and the substitution of an imaginary for a real world of persons and events. Dementia praecox has been related by one psychoanalyst to the “shut-in” type of personality.

The literature on the subject of privacy in its relation to personal development is fragmentary but highly promising for future research. The study of the introspective type of personality suggests that self-analysis is the counterpart of the inhibition of immediate and impulsive self-expression in social relations. Materials for an understanding of the relation of retirement and privacy to the aesthetic, moral, and creative life of the person may be found in the lives of hermits, inventors, and religious leaders; in the studies of seclusion, prayer, and meditation; and in research upon taboo, prestige, and attitudes of superiority and inferiority.