Chamberlain, Houston Stewart (1855–1927)
British-born publicist for neopagan religion in Germany
and precursor of Nazi racial theorists. Chamberlain was born
at Sothsea, England, on September 9, 1855, the son of an admiral
in the British navy. His mother died while he was still an infant,
and he was raised by his grandmother and an aunt who
lived in Versailles, France. In 1867 he returned to England to
attend boarding school. He grew to adulthood with no true
sense of his English identity, and in 1870 came under the influence
of a German tutor who gave him both a love of Germany
and an interest in botany. His father died in 1878, and with the
financial independence it gave him he soon married a German
woman and settled in Geneva to pursue studies at the university.
He quickly finished his basic degree but took many years
(because of recurring ill health) to finish his doctorate. During
these years he also became an enthusiastic fan of the music of
Richard Wagner.
In the 1890s Chamberlain combined his scientific background,
which included a critique of Darwinian approaches to
Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed. Chamberlain, Houston Stewart
evolution, and his increasing mastery of Wagner’s ideas into a
comprehensive vision he conceived the idea of producing an
epic history of humanity. The result was his most famous and
important book, Foundations of the 19th Century (1899). Lacking
training in history, Chamberlain used artistic license to tell the
story of human history in such a way as to substantiate two basic
ideas he argues that humanity is divided into various distinct
races, each of which has its own physical structure and mental
and moral capacity, and that history is best understood as the
struggle between these different races.
Historical epochs were marked by the coming to the fore of
a dominant racial type, according to Chamberlain, and modern
European civilization was built on the Germanic or Teutonic
race. As to the components of modern (i.e., nineteenth century)
culture, he hypothesizes six major influences Hellenic art
and philosophy; Roman law and organization; the revelation
of Christ; racial chaos in the wake of the fall of the Roman Empire;
the negative and destructive influence of the Jews; and the
creative and regenerative mission of the Teutonic (or Aryan)
race. Chamberlain’s anti-Semitism led him to reject the idea of
the Jewish-born Messiah of Christianity and to propose an essentially
Germanic religion deriving from the symbols of the
Aryan race.
The mysticaloccult underpinnings of Chamberlain’s beliefs
had a great influence on Hitler’s Nazi faith. He wrote a number
of other books, but none were as influential as Foundations of the
19th Century. He died at Beyreuth, Germany, on January 9,
Field, Geoffrey G. Evangelist of Race The Germanic Vision of
Houston Stewart Chamberlain. New York Columbia University
Press, 1981.
Ravencroft, Trevor. The Spear of Destiny. New York G. P.
Putnam’s Sons, 1973.
Sklar, Dusty. Gods and Beasts The Nazis and the Occult. New
York Thomas Y. Crowell, 1977.
Williamson, Roger Andrew. ‘‘Houston Stewart Chamberlain
A Study of the Man and His Ideas, 1855–1927.’’ Ph.D
diss., University of California-Santa Barbara, 1973.

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