Former Prime Minister Winston Churchill, best known for battling Adolf Hitler, once was an enthusiastic advocate of forced sterilization to eliminate the "feeble-minded," The Guardian reported Saturday.
The newspaper, in a report citing newly released government documents, described a series of correspondence in which Churchill, as a member of Parliament and later home secretary, advocated sterilization for those of lower intelligence or aberrant social behavior.Churchill advocated the concepts soon after entering Parliament in 1900, when political theories of social Darwinism were popular in the West and when Britain in particular was rapidly losing its industrial dominance.
Appointed home secretary in 1910, making him responsible for policies on crime and punishment, Churchill became interested in the program of forcible sterilization used at the time in Indiana, the report said.
Churchill rebuffed suggestions the idea would not be politically plausible in Britain, saying, "I am drawn to this subject in spite of many parliamentary misgivings," The Guardian report said, citing documents recently released by the government's Public Record Office in Kew.
The documents showed Churchill, remembered mainly today as Britain's World War II hero for leading the battle against Nazi Germany, also began advocating in the early 1900s the idea of forced labor camps for those considered "feeble-minded" or otherwise socially undesirable.
"As for tramps and wastrels, there ought to be proper labor colonies where they could be sent for considerable periods and made to realize their duty to the state," Churchill said.
The term "feeble-minded" was used at the time to cover a wide range of mental deficiencies.
Churchill, as home secretary, proposed a system that would allow him to send to a labor camp any convicted criminal classified as "feeble-minded."