‘Exterminate all the brutes’: modern settler colonialism and the future of endangered races

Dr Sadiah Qureshi is currently working on the notions of human extinction for a book provisionally entitled ‘Exterminate all the Brutes’: Modern Settler Colonialism and the Future of Endangered Races. This research is supported by a Philip Leverhulme Prize in Medieval, Early Modern and Modern History awarded by the Leverhulme Trust in 2012.

Lamenting the predicament of dying races became an increasingly prominent occupation in the long nineteenth century. Novelists, painters, scientists, politicians, poets, travel writers and missionaries all contributed to creating and perpetuating the sense that some peoples were doomed to a speedy extinction. Early-modern writers had long noted the apparent decimation of some indigenous peoples; however, such discussions took on a new and urgent form in the nineteenth century as commentators were increasingly able to appeal to a new scientific understanding of extinction as an endemic feature of natural change. Covering North America, Great Britain, Africa and Oceania, this research will provide a transnational account of how theories of extinction were both made relevant to and mobilised in the debates over the nature of modern settler colonialism in the long nineteenth century. In doing so, the project will explore the relationships between scientific knowledge and political policy-making, competing visions of endangered peoples’ lives and the nature of intercultural contact.’