Joseph Arthur Comte de Gobineau (14th July 1816 – 13th October 1882)


Gobineau was a French aristocrat, writer, diplomat, social thinker. He was born 14th July 1816 in Ville-d’Avray, near Paris. His father was an officer in the French army. When Gobineau was seven years old, his mother fled to Switzerland, taking her children with him, where Gobineau received a Germanic education. When Gobineau was 18 however, he returned to France to his father to receive a different education, learning of classics, folklore and oriental studies. Denied from a role in the military academy, Gobineau pursued manual labour in Paris, and while he was there, he published some academic works, including Mademoiselle Irnois. After the revolution, Gobineau was appointed private secretary to the French foreign minister, who had been his mentor previously. Gobinea became the first secretary in the Bern embassy, and later also had roles at Hanover and Frankfurt. Gobineau wrote An Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races (1853-1855), and was not immediately responded to with attention. Gobineau held multiple powerful diplomatic positions, including being the first secretary in Tehran in 1854, the minister to Persia in 1861, the French emissary to Athens in 1864, and French emissary to Rio de Janeiro in 1868. In 1876 however he was forced to retire from diplomacy. After this, he moved to Italy, spending his time in leisure and novel-writing, until he died on 13th October 1882.


As mentioned, Gobineau wrote An Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races (1853-55), which he dedicated to King George V, reflecting his royalist and democracy-hating position, and the fact that he saw revolutions and wars as the result of the denigration of society. His work saw Gobineau attempting to create a science of history, and drawing a relationship between the rise and fall of civilisations with racial ideas. Expectedly, Gobineau argued that the “white” race was superior, as descendants of the Vikings. Gobineau became infamous for advocating developing the racist theory of the Aryan master race and his ideas were used (and abused) in Nazism. Gobineau argued that race was the most important factor determining the nature of human society, and that the white race was responsible for all the great advances in history. He saw the barriers between races as natural, having always been there, and that if they break down, it would lead to the destruction of civilisation. Further, Gobineau believed that race created culture, and argued that distinctions between “black”, “white”, and “yellow” races were natural barriers, and that “racial-mixing” inevitably leads to chaos. Gobineau believed that ethnicity was the most important issue in history, and that ethnic differences existed permanently from the beginning of human history. Gobineau saw the Bible to be a reliable historical source, and in his book, he wrote that “Adam is the originator of our white species.” In his book he further argue that in history there have been ten great civilisations, and that they all started with the white race.