2023 Audio - Gold


BBC Radio 4/BBC World Service/BBC Sounds Podcast
December 27, 2022

The winning BBC series traced the development of the eugenics movement and its repercussions in the modern age. Presenter Adam Rutherford told the story of eugenics from its origins in the middle-class salons of Victorian Britain, through the Fitter Family competitions and sterilization laws of the Gilded Age in the United States, to the genocidal horrors of Nazi Germany. The movement to breed better humans, driven in Britain by scientist Francis Galton, gained adherents in the United States and elsewhere. Attendees at the First International Eugenics Congress of 1912 in London included Winston Churchill, former prime minister Arthur Balfour, the Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral, Charles Darwin's son, American professors and ambassadors from Norway, Greece, and France. While the popularity of eugenics waned in the wake of World War II, one expert interviewed by the BBC remarked that, although no longer labelled eugenics, “Eugenic thinking is in every country, in every culture, at every time.” Insidious ideas persist, including the chants of “You Will Not Replace Us” by white supremacist marchers in Charlottesville, Virginia. Rutherford notes the persistence of simplistic views on how genes determine human characteristics. “Most of the ways that humans vary are not, in fact, due to just a few genes,” he says. To ignore such complexity, he says, “invites the kind of deterministic, categorical thinking, embraced by the eugenicists, seeing differences between people as inevitable, fixed and biological, when in reality they are complex, malleable, and messy.” Judge Henry Fraser, a producer/director for Windfall Films, said: “This superb series transported the listener through the dark ages of the eugenics movement with a deft touch, interweaving superbly told history, faultless science journalism and powerful human stories.” Adam Rutherford and Ilan Goodman commented: “To have ‘Bad Blood’ recognized with such a prestigious award goes a long way towards the continued exposure of eugenics as a historically dominant ideology that effectively shaped 20th century global politics, and crucially, that it has not gone away as a way of thinking, even if the word itself has become toxic.”