Noted Anthropologist Explains Sir John Simon’s Use of ‘aryan’
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Noted Anthropologist Explains Sir John Simon’s Use of ‘aryan’

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Sir John Simon, when he referred to himself as “Aryan,” did it to avoid an ambiguity in the use of the term “English” writes Professor Sir Arthur Keith, noted anthropologist, in today’s Times.

“Sir John Simon,” he wrote, “can claim to be English. But so can Sir Herbert Samuel, Lord Reading and scores of men who have rendered great and abiding service to England and yet, although they are ‘English,’ rightly claim descent from a racial stock which was and is native to the East.

“I believe that Jews and Arabs belong to the same great division of humanity, as do the peoples of Europe — the division of stock which has been named the ‘white’ or Caucasian stock. As far back as historical records carry us we find the Caucasians divided by a linguistic frontier into a Northern group, the Aryan speakers, and a Southern group, the Semitic speakers. If Sir John Simon’s ancestry had come from South of this line—as did that of another Sir John Simon with whom apparently the present Sir John had been confused—then he would have been in a position to claim ‘Semitic’ descent, but as his ancestry seems to have come from north of that line he rightly describes himself as of ‘Aryan’ descent.


“These words ‘Aryan’ and ‘Semite’ have become charged, in many countries, with so evil a passion that we cannot afford to neglect any source of knowledge which is likely to throw light on this very ancient racial antipathy. The dislike which has so often arisen between ‘Aryan’ and ‘Semite’ is a matter which anthropologists ought to be able to explain. Modern anthropology has become divorced from all the racial problems which vex politicians and ordinary people. It is useless for anthropologists to think they can advise politicians unless they realize that the zoological methods which serve for the discrimination of ordinary forms of life are useless when applied to humanity.

“Now all the racial units of Europe have a homeland—their country—all save one. The Jews have no ‘homeland.’ This is indeed one of the most remarkable, if neglected, facts known to anthropologists. Take away their homeland and the other racial units fall to pieces.

On the other hand, the Jew maintains racial union without a homeland. His sense of raciality is so developed that he no longer needs the ‘smell’ of land to keep his raciality alive. The Jewish race could not have been always a homeless one; there must have been a time when they, too, were fixed on the soil. We know that they had a rather long sojourn in Palestine, but clearly the land of Canaan was not their original dwelling place.

Even in Biblical times Jewish people did make long sojourns in alien lands, such as Egypt and Elam, without losing their racial identity. It is also evident that the Jews could not have ‘evolved’ into a separate people until civilization had spread over a considerable area of the East. For I conceive that the Jews, originally natives of some part of Mesopotamia, came into being as trade began to spring up between the growing communities of the East—probably as early as the fifth millenium B. C. I conceive, too, that as civilization spread into Europe these trading or Jewish communities followed in its train.

“Every struggling nationality which seeks to “evolve” into a separate race insists on conformity of behavior on the part of its nations.’ The Jewish element of such a community with its own strong sense of race, resists conformity and absorption. Hence its present sense of race, resists conformity and absorption. Hence its present trouble in Germany and other lands.

“I need not add that I am seeking to explain anti-Semitism, not to justify it,” Sir Arthur concludes.

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