The Skull Measurer’s Mistake

And Other Portraits of Men and Women Who Spoke Out Against Racism

Enlightening stories of courageous eighteenth- and nineteenth-century men and women who defied the racial prejudices of their communities

The Skull Measurer’s Mistake is a remarkable intellectual experience, a cavalcade of human rights integrity streaking across 250 years of bad faith, bad science, and execrable social policy. It should be compulsory reading in every high school and college in America.” —David Levering Lewis, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for W. E. B. DuBois: Biography of a Race, 1868–1919

In 1981, Stephen Jay Gould exposed the bad science behind nineteenth-century American studies that “proved” that Anglo-Saxons were superior because they had larger brains. In The Skull Measurer’s Mistake, Sven Lindqvist tells the story of Friedrich Tiedemann, the nineteenth-century German doctor who dared to speak out against such racist science when it was first practiced.

Often the history of racism is reduced to the study of racists. Less well known are the stories of those who argued and fought against prejudice and persecution. In this unique book, Sven Lindqvist, Swedish author of internationally acclaimed books on Africa, China, and Latin America, profiles more than twenty nineteenth-century men and women who, while not themselves victims of racism, went against the temper of the time to expose the many faces of prejudice.

Along with Tiedemann’s story, The Skull Measurer’s Mistake recounts the antiracist efforts of Benjamin Franklin, Helen Hunt, Joseph Conrad, Alexis de Tocqueville, and others whose names have been forgotten. Well-documented and rich in anecdote, Lindqvist’s book shows how racist arguments emerged—and reemerged—over time. At the book’s core is Lindqvist’s belief that knowledge of past debates about racism can help us defeat it now.

News and Reviews

The New Press Remembers Sven Lindqvist


Books by Sven Lindqvist

A History of Bombing

Sven Lindqvist

The Dead Do Not Die
“Exterminate All the Brutes” and Terra Nullius

Sven Lindqvist

“Exterminate All the Brutes”
One Man’s Odyssey into the Heart of Darkness and the Origins of European Genocide

Sven Lindqvist

Terra Nullius
A Journey Through No One’s Land

Sven Lindqvist