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Sir Richard Francis Burton: Explorer, Linguist, Race Realist
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Sir Richard Francis Burton, in 1864

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Sir Richard Francis Burton (1821–1890) was a nineteenth-century British explorer made famous by being one of the first White men to venture into the forbidden city of Mecca, plumb the depths of Africa with Sir Jonathan Speke in search of the source of the Nile, and to complete a translation of the Arabian Nights.

Most descriptions of him tick off his long list of accomplishments: world-class fencer, army officer, linguist reputed to have mastered dozens of languages, author of countless articles and books.

Burton, though born in England a thoroughly identified as an Englishman, was at the same time a Continentalist, preferring the cuisine and climate of France and Italy (where he had spent much of his childhood) to the deprivations of British boarding school.

He cultivated a reputation for bucking authority. He was expelled from Oxford for leading a group of students on a day trip to a steeplechase, and refusing to apologize for it.

With the British army in the Sind, he was assigned to investigate a “boy brothel” in Karachi that command feared was frequented by some soldiers. His report was so thorough, it generated whispers, though scholars do not think Burton was a participant—merely unafraid to roll up his sleeves and get the bottom of anything anthropological, no matter how taboo.

On religion, he was probably an atheist, and only played along with being a Catholic to satisfy his wife, Isabel. He thought Christian missionary efforts were foolish. At parties, he delighted in shocking his listeners with his exploits. It was rumored that during his exploration of Mecca, he’d killed an Arab who’d discovered him to be merely posing as a faithful Muslim. Whether this happened or not, he never denied it.

He is sometimes pictured in uniform; other times, disguised as an Arab. The National Portrait Gallery in London shows him with a massive scar on his cheek, the result of a Somali spear that pierced his entire face and smashed out two molars[1]This painting, by Sir Frederick Leighton, can be seen hanging on the wall of Professor Henry Higgins’ home in My Fair Lady..

The spear-piercing was re-enacted in Mountains of the Moon, a 1990 movie starring Patrick Bergin as the rakish and mustachioed Burton.[2]Burton should not be confused with the actor Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor’s fifth (and sixth) husband. The same movie shows him ducking in and out of huts with African women, a nod to suspicions that when exploring a foreign land, he left nothing unexplored.

An interest in Burton is easy to indulge. In addition to his own writings, which include some 43 volumes on his own explorations, there are countless biographies of him and his wife (including one by his wife), scholarly articles, and even societies dedicated to Burton’s life and works.

In many ways, Richard Burton might be described as one of the West’s first ethnologists. What fascinated Burton more than the geography of the lands he explored was the people. But one must dive deep to discover that Burton was a race realist of the first order.

He was emphatically not a racial egalitarian, but escapes the tag of crude “racist” by virtue of being an erudite and worldly Briton. Whatever the scientific explanation for racial difference, Burton believed in it unreservedly. What is more, he mocked those who held fast to visions of equality for putting sentiment over fact.

As much as he loved to explore, he did not think highly of colonial attempts to control foreign peoples. To him, it was a deck of cards waiting for a stiff wind. Miscegenation as a colonial strategy was a complete failure.

Jews, meanwhile, were seen as a sharply distinct people who, despite a long history in England, had the capacity to exercise outsized control of White societies. The “Aryan”, Burton said, has a poor understanding of Jews.

Black Africans

Burton had extensive travels into the heart of Africa. Perhaps most famous was his journey south with Sir Jonathan Speke in search of the source of the Nile, which brought him into contact with several different types of Africans and the Arab slave traders who bought and sold them.

He was unsparing in his descriptions. In the biography The Devil Drives, author Fawn Brodie[3]Brodie herself was descended from the Mormon community, and married a Jewish academic. wrote that while Burton had some respect for the Arabs he encountered in travels, Black Africans “fascinated but mostly repelled him.”[4]Fawn M. Brodie, The Devil Drives (W.W. Norton & Co., 1967), page 150.

Coastal Black tribes Burton called “supersubtle and systematic liars” who “deceive when duller men would tell the truth.” The Wanyika of east Africa he called a “futile race of barbarians, drunken and immoral; cowardly and destructive; boisterous and loquacious; indolent, greedy and thriftless.”[5]Id.

The Wagago men he described as “idle and debauched, spending their days in unbroken crapulence and drunkenness,” “celebrated as thieves” who would “rather die under the stick than level themselves with women by using a hoe.”[6]Id.

Brodie notes that “this sounds like rabid racial hatred, but Burton was first of all an exact observer. There was filth, mutilation, ignorance, indolence, drunkenness and violence. The natives did live in huts populated with ‘a menagerie of hens, pigeons and rates of peculiar impudence’, just like the poor in Ireland, as Burton was careful to add.

Another famous explorer, David Livingstone, is described by Brodie as loving the African natives. “Unlike Burton, he had faith in the Negro’s educability, industry, and capacity for moral improvement through Christianity.”[7]Id. at 223.

Burton was a contemporary of Francis Galton,[8]Galton, a eugenicist, was a half-cousin of Charles Darwin. and, along with James Hunt and Monckton Milnes, founded the Anthropological Society of London. Burton hoped the society would publish ethnological studies and operate as “a refuge for Destitute Truth,” permitting a “liberty of thought and a freedom of speech unknown to any other society in Great Britain.”[9]Devil Drives at 205.

More specifically, Burton was likely imagining frank talk about racial differences, sexual practices, and other forbidden topics.

In one early article for the society, Hunt wrote that “Negro cranial sutures closed earlier than those of the White man, therefore his brain was smaller.” Brodie writes that Burton, “long puzzled by his own observation that the Negro child, though as quick if not quicker in learning than the White child, seemed to stop developing in adolescence, accepted this.”[10]Id. at 206.

Burton, in a letter to Hunt in response to his paper “The Negro’s Place in Nature”, wrote: “Like other students of anthropology, I am truly grateful to you for having so graphically shown the great gulf, moral and physical, separating the Black from the White races of men, and for having placed in so striking a light the physiological cause of the difference—namely, the arrested physical development of the negro.”[11]Richard Burton , A Mission to Gelele, King of Dahome, Volume II (Tylston and Edwards, 1893), at 119.

Burton ascribes this, like Hunt, to an insight that the sutures of the cranium of “lower breeds of mankind” close at an earlier age, such that his “physical and mental powers become stationary at an age when, in nobler races, the perceptive and reflective principles begin to claim ascendency.”[12]Id. at 119.

This letter is reprinted in one of Burton’s books, A Mission to Gelele, King of Dahome, which describes Burton’s experiences in what is now modern-day Benin. He had been sent there by the British government to persuade the king to stop participating in the slave trade.

In the letter, Burton indicates that as early as the 1800’s, “wishy-washy sentimentality” was affecting the Western mind on race. He suspects that “my statements will be far from popular” and writes that “the pure negro ranks in the human family below the two great Arab and Aryan races. … The propensities and passions are tolerably well grown, the perceptives and reflectives are of inferior power, and the sentimental or moral regions remain almost undeveloped.”[13]Gelele at 132.

The chapter containing the letter to Hunt begins with a quote from the Encyclopedia Britannica’s 1797 entry on Blacks: “Vice the most notorious seem to be the portion of this unhappy race—idleness, treachery, revenge, cruelty, impudence, stealing, lying, profanity, debauchery and intemperance, are said to have extinguished the principles of natural law and to have silenced the reproofs of conscience. They are strangers to every sentiment of compassion, and are an awful of example of the corruption of man when left to himself.”[14]Gelele at 118.

Africans freely adopt foreign customs, manners and costumes, “however incongruous,” Burton observes, and they despise agriculture. In descriptions that echo modern-day Black behavior, he says that “the cruelty of the negro is, like that of a schoolboy, the blind impulse of rage combined with want of sympathy. Thus he thoughtlessly tortures and slays his prisoners, as the youth of England torment and kill cats.”[15]Gelele at 134.

Burton predicted that the “negro, in mass, will not improve beyond a certain point” and remains, mentally, a child. He seems to suggest climate influence here, where the tropics “engender but few wants” and do not compel its inhabitants to hard work and foresight.

Blacks are terrible with animals, Burton observes. They never invented an alphabet, a musical scale, or “any other element of knowledge.”[16]Gelele at 134. “The negro, in his wild state, makes his wives work; he will not, or rather he cannot, labour, except by individual compulsion, as in the Confederate States; or by necessity, as in Barbadoes.”[17]Gelele at 136.

Burton visited Sierra Leone, a British colony of free Blacks, and came away horrified by the spectacle of Whites living under Black rule. The juries were “a machinery for tyranny” where “the worst of the Aku criminals were invariably found innocent and most of the innocent Whites guilty.”[18]Devil Drives at 208. The best approach, thought Burton, was White juries for Whites and Black juries for Blacks.

Racial dislike in Africa seemed to run both ways. Burton could not help but note that African demons were depicted as White and ugly, while European demons were depicted as Black and ugly.[19]Id. at 208. “The Africans will say that the White man is an old ape, and doubt that he is human. Thus we observe, that whilst the Caucasian doubts the humanity of the Hamite, the latter repays the compliment in kind.”

Burton mocked the efforts of the Christian missionaries to Africa. What must have been going through the Africans’ minds, he laughed, when the missionaries commanded them to replace their magic teeth, bones and wizard’s mats with consecrated palm leaves?

Burton observed the strong tendency of Black Africans toward unnecessary torture, something we see played out in news articles of today.[20]The South African practice of “necklacing”, whereby a burning tire is place around a victim’s neck, comes to mind. Wrote Burton, “Cruelty seems to be with him a necessary way of life, and all his highest enjoyments are connected with causing pain and inflicting death. His religious rites—a strong contrast with those of the modern Hindoo—are ever causelessly bloody.[21]Id. at 211.

Some European explorers, like race-deniers of today, wanted to attribute the Africans’ lack of progress to a simple lack of civilizational infrastructure. Burton dabbled with this thinking, but ultimately concluded that the problem was in their very bodies and brains.

Of their cruelty, he wrote, “I can hardly believe … this abnormal cruelty to be the mere result of unciviliation; it appears to me the effect of an arrested development, which leaves to man all the ferocity of the carnivore, the unreflecting cruelty of the child.”[22]Richard Burton, Two Trips to Gorilla Land and the Cataracts of the Congo, 2 vols (London, 1876), I, 217-18.

Some Burton biographers attribute his views on Black Africans to the “prejudices of the time” or a colonialism-inspired sense of superiority. The problem with this dismissal is that Burton was very much the iconoclast: he was often cross-wise with the mores of Victorian England, and willing—even at the expense of his career and reputation—to openly challenge them.

He was a sexual liberationist who thought British women were entitled to more than just lying back and thinking of England. He was a religious skeptic who thought Christian missionary efforts did not actually convert foreign peoples to Christianity. He predicted that Britain would be unable to maintain its empire in the face of constantly rebelling natives, as with India.

Later, as we will see, he was even willing to challenge Jews—which seems to have been as suicidal a mission to take in the 1800’s as today. So to say that he was simply echoing the small-minded racial bigotry of the time is incorrect. Burton was beholden to no man. He did and said as he pleased.

Nor can it be said that Burton lacked first-hand experience. He was in Africa. He interacted directly with Black Africans, observed their ceremonies, lived in their camps. He may well have spoken some of their languages. Add to all this the fact that Burton styled himself a professional observer, as a member of the military and later, the Royal Geographical Society.

Finally, the truth of Burton’s observations are backed up by more modern research. On the issue of rapid development of Black children followed by an abrupt leveling-off, J. Phillippe Rushton has written extensively.[23]William Robertson Boggs, Race and Physical Differences, American Renaissance, December 1992.

Whatever can observed of Africa and Africans, for Burton, it was no place for White Western man. “There is a time to leave the Dark Continent. … Madness comes from Africa.”[24]Richard Burton, Camoens: His Life and His Lusiads, 2 vols (London, 1881) II, 514-517.

Native Americans

A visit to the United States took Burton to Utah, where he intended to observe the Mormons. Along the way he observed American Indians, who were not “red” but reminded him of “a Tartar or an Afghan after a summer march” or the Mongolians he had seen in northern India.[25]Devil Drives at 183.

The Indian rode his horse “like the Abyssinian eunuch, as if born upon and bred to become part of the animal.” He saw their proximity to Whites as corrupting to them: the Indians closest to emigrant routes had become “beggars, liars, horse-stealers and prostitutes.” He doubted that Indians ever truly became Christians.[26]Devil Drives at 183.

Yet another journey—this one, through a diplomatic post to Brazil, brought him into contact with South American natives. Paraguayans, he said, were “a palaeozoic humanity,” but he took a dim view, as well, of the Jesuits trying to turn them into Whites.[27]Devil Drives at 243.

Burton, more eager than perhaps any man alive to explore foreign cultures, detested unnatural culture-mixing. Writes Brodie, “Though he himself delighted in burying his identity in an alien culture, the spectacle of others crossing over into a different society always troubled him, whether it was the Hindu in Goa who had become Christian, the African who wore the White man’s clothes, or the mountain man in the Rockies who, Burton wrote, ‘Betrays a remarkable aptitude for facile descent into savagery.’”[28]Id. at 183.


The small province of Goa is a territory on the western edge of India. After travels there, it became the subject of Burton’s first book, Goa and the Blue Mountains. Published in 1851, it describes the racial decline of a colony owing to interbreeding with the locals.

Recounting the glory of old Goa under Portuguese viceroys, Burton wrote: “The introduction of the Jesuits, the Holy Tribunal, and its fatal offspring, religious persecution; pestilence, and wars with European and native powers, disturbances arising from an unsettled home government, and, above all things, the slow but sure workings of the short-sighted policy of the Portuguese in intermarrying and identifying themselves with the Hindoos of the lowest castes, made her fall as rapid as her rise was sudden and prodigious.”[29]Richard Burton , Goa and the Blue Mountains, Digibooks OOD/Demetra Publishing, (Bulgaria), 26. Book originally published in 1851.

Intermarriage and interbreeding, while perhaps considered strategic by some European colonizers, plunged Goa into a morass. “The reader may remember that it was Albuquerque who advocated marriages between the European settlers and the natives of India. However reasonable it might have been to expect the amalgamation of the races in the persons of their descendants, experience and stern facts condemn the measure as a most delusive and treacherous daydream. … It has lost the Portuguese almost everything in Africa as well as Asia. May Heaven preserve our rulers from following their example!”[30]Id. at 48.

Burton found the offspring ugly. “The Mestici, or mixed breed, composes the great mass of society at Goa. … It would be, we believe, difficult to find in Asia an uglier or more degraded looking race than that which we are now describing.”[31]Id. at 53.

Rather than creating “hybrid vigor,” Burton saw the offspring as worse than either parent. “Their characters may be briefly described as passionate and cowardly, jealous and revengeful, with more of the vices than the virtues belonging to the two races from which they are descended.”[32]Id. at 55.

The starting material was not great, Burton wrote of native Goans. “This race is decidedly the lowest in the scale of civilized humanity we have yet seen. In appearance they are short, heavy, meagre, and very dark; their features are uncomely in the extreme; they are dirtier than Pariahs, and abound in cutaneous diseases.”[33]Id. at 57.

Burton took the view that long exposure to cold climates helped to forge White men into what they are today, and that some degeneration can be caused by climate alone, “All who have sojourned long in the southern parts of Europe, such as Italy or Spain, must have remarked the deleterious effects of a hot and dry climate upon a race that thrives only in a cold and damp one. An English child brought up in Italy is, generally speaking, more sickly, more liable to nervous and hepatic complaints, and, consequently, more weakened in mind as well as body, than even the natives of the country.”[34]Id. at 84.

Goa and the Blue Mountains caught the attention of a professor at the University of Delhi, who described the book as pure racism, a mindset meant to justify British colonialism.[35]Khan Aateka, Burton’s Racist Critique of Portuguese Goa, Research Review Journals (March 2019). The professor describes Burton as a dedicated imperialist, which is not the impression I got while researching. Burton certainly availed himself of the exploration and employment opportunities of the British empire, but did not endorse the enterprise in its entirety.

In fact, Burton concludes, regarding European colonization of India generally, that it was an unsustainable proposition. The Indians, whatever they said or did under colonial rule, hated the White English. “Everyone knows that if the people of India could be unanimous for a day, they might sweep us from their country as dust before a whirlwind.”[36]Id. at 85.


Sir Richard Burton disguised as a Muslim Arab
Sir Richard Burton disguised as a Muslim Arab

Burton seemed to think that Islam was a healthy influence for Bedouin and Arab peoples, who before Mohammed were given to gambling, drinking and other vices. Like so many other religions, Islam’s influence was ethnically bounded.

While “El Islam prospered amongst the kindred races, it fell flat elsewhere. No power of propagandism prevailed in China. In Southern Spain the faith maintained itself for a long time; its letter and spirit, however, were almost lost. The Zegris and Abencerrages were European knights, not Eastern. And when pushed forward into a Northern people, a single destructive defeat sufficed to set for it bounds which it has never attempted to cross.”

Burton here is likely referring to Charles Martel’s 732 A.D. defeat of the Muslims led by Abd al-Rahman al-Ghafiqi at the Battle of Tours, which effectively stopped the Umayyad invasion of Gaul (and in the view of some, secured Europe for White Christianity.


Burton once famously wrote that “Had I a choice of race, there is none to which I would more willingly belong than the Jewish.”[37]Richard Burton, The Highlands of Brazil, (London, 1869), Vol. I, 403n. Add to this many selected comments from Jew, The Gypsy and El Islam, his foremost work on Jews, and one might get the impression that Burton was philosemitic.

The full picture is more complex, and many of Burton’s conclusions about Jews align with standard White advocacy objections to Jews and their influence in Western societies. He does not see them as “Whites who go to a different church,” in the popular understanding of today. They are ethnically distinct, boldly deceptive, and unified.

Among all Jews, he wrote, one finds those who are “fierce-eyed, dark-browed, and hollow-cheeked, with piercing acuteness of glance, and an almost reckless look of purpose.” He attributed to the Jews immense passion, pugnacity, love of mysticism, symbolism, and the occult arts, as well as “abnormal powers of lying” and “excessive optimism”.[38]Devil Drives at 265.

Jews are “bold and resolute, persistent and heroic but, but also subtle and unscrupulous. They may be guilty of greed and craft, and even ferocity, but rarely weakness and never imbecility.”

A formative experience came for Burton during his consulship in Damascus. For years, it had been the practice for Jewish moneylenders to use British officials as muscle for the collection of debts. The moneylenders expected Burton to carry on this tradition, but Burton had other ideas.

As recounted in The Devil Drives, there were three Jewish moneylenders who were especially hated by Burton. One, who Burton said had “sucked dry 41 villages,” approached him for assistance in collecting 60,000 pounds in debts. Burton replied: “I was not sent here as a bailiff, to tap the peasant on the shoulder in such cases as yours.”[39]Devil Drives at 256.

This then set off a round of letters to powerful Jews in London, accusing Burton and his wife of anti-Semitism. These powerful Jews included Sir Moses Montefiore and Sir Francis Goldsmid, the chief rabbi of London. The Jewish complaints may well have played a part in Burton’s being recalled from the consulship.

But Burton’s thinking on Jews was best set out by one of his own writings, Jew, The Gypsy and El Islam. Burton had a few negative things to say about Gypsies[40]Alternatively known as the “Roma” people. and Muslims, but about Jews, he had both powerful praise and deep scorn. Most of what Burton wrote went to print, though Wilkins, his publisher, censored a part dealing the Sephardic Jewish ritual murder of one Padre Tomaso in Damascus in 1840.[41]Also, “Father Thomas”, the episode was known as the Damascus Affair. Brodie says that this part was “sold” to Manners Sutton, who tried to publish it, but was blocked by a lawsuit filed by Isabel Burton’s literary trustee, D.L. Alexander.[42]Devil Drives, footnote 7 to Chapter XXIII. Brodie cites The Times, March 28, 1911.

Famously, Isabel Burton burned many of her husband’s papers after his death. It can only be speculated what papers were burned. It was the Victorian age, and there was always embarrassment about Burton’s English translation of the Kama Sutra and other erotic material. We may never know what accounts of Jews may have been burned.

Still, Jew, The Gypsy and El Islam is a treasure trove.

Some descriptions have the Jews as racially pure and, as a result, powerful. The “oldest family on earth, … indestructible and irrepressible life-power enables this nation without a country to maintain an undying nationality and to nourish a sentiment of caste with a strength and a pertinacity unparalleled in the annals of patriotism.”[43]Richard Burton , Jew, The Gypsy and El Islam, 5 (Herbert S. Stone & Company, Chicago and New York, 1898) (republished by Kessinger Publishing’s Rare Mystical Reprints,

Those who drove Jews from Biblical lands are gone. The Romans, too, are gone. “Eighteen hundred years after the Fall of Jerusalem, the dispersed Jewish people have a distinct existence, are a power in every European capital, conduct the financial operations of nations and governments, and are to be found wherever civilization has extended and commerce has penetrated; in fact, it has made all the world its home.”[44]Id. at 6.

Burton describes Jews as having “reporters in every chief centre of the world, … know all projects set to be undertaken, and entwine themselves in them, dictating that this man should be allowed to participate in these profits, that another should be excluded from those advantages.”[45]Id. at 61.

“(The Jew) may confidently look forward to the time when the whole financial system, not only of Europe from one end to the other, but of the whole world, will be in the hands of a few crafty capitalists, whose immense wealth shall, with a few pulsations of the telegraphy, unthrone dynasties and determine the destinies of nations.”[46]Id. at 62. Here, it is almost as if Burton is predicting Jewish Internet, financial, and media control.

Jews’ isolation and separation “justified the Hebrew in treating his brother-men as heathens barely worthy of the title of human.”[47]Id. at 11. “The inevitable conclusion of such a policy was that eventually they came into collision with all around them.”[48]Id. at 12.

In one amusing anecdote, Burton describes some back-and-forthing in the House of Commons, where at issue was legislation to lift civil disabilities for Jews. One William Abbott described how Jews prefer “sordid pursuits,” and is rebuffed by Lord Macaulay, who called opposition to Jews “bigotry.”

Burton himself, however, rebuffs Macaulay, stating that “our European ancestors had other reasons for expelling the Jews than the mere ‘bigotry’ and ‘brutality’ so unphilosophically ascribed to them by Lord Macaulay”.[49]Id. at 19.

In a chapter titled “Opinion of the Jew in England,” Burton is puzzled by the respectful treatment of Jews in England, which he regards as naïve. Its “confident ignorance in indiscriminate philanthropy are bestowed upon them equally with the African negro.”

Burton observed wild oscillations in opinion on Jews. “The Hebrew race is so marked in its characteristics that it has ever been the theme of over-praise or undue blame.”[50]Id. at 23. Changes of English opinion on Jews are “comically abrupt”.

He ridiculed the “vapid utterances” of “the Liberal School,” which declared that happiness and harmony would result from “battering down the ponderous walls of prejudice.”[51]Id. at 62. Because, though the Christian would give up his faith and race, “the Jew … will cling to (faith and race) with greater tenacity, as it will be the very root and main foundation of his power.”

He is repeatedly critical of British writers who defend Jews. “Popular books like The British Jew (Rev. John Mills), for instance, are mostly written in the apologetic tone; they are advocates and missionaries, not describers. … Glowing descriptions of Jews were preferred, these writers would not crowd their pages with the superstitions of the ignorant.”[52]Id. at 37.

Better, Burton says, is a quote from Saturday Review magazine, on what makes for Jewish power. “They are: religion, the capacity for making money, and internal union. … They are like the tenants of a beleaguered fort cut off from the rest of mankind, and obliged to protect themselves and to help each other.”

Financial dealings keep Jews from physical labor, writes Burton. “He—the ordinary Englishman—may be dimly conscious that the Jew is the one great exception to the general curse upon the sons of Adam, and that he alone eats bread, not in the sweat of his own face, but in the sweat of his neighbor’s face—like the German cuckoo, who does not colonize, but establishes himself in the colonies of other natives.”[53]Id. at 25.

Lower-class Jews pursue enterprises “held mean or dishonorable … such as demoralizing usury, receiving stolen goods, buying up old clothes, keeping gambling houses and betting cribs, dealing in a literature calculated to pervert the mind of youth.”[54]Id. at 28.

Burton observed a psychological strength in Jews, compared to the ease with which Whites were prone to depression: “I incline to the opinion that Gentiles have a natural alacrity in sinking—look how heavy I can be—but that the Chosen People have a natural tendency toward buoyancy.”[55]Id. at 27.

A few choice items from the book:

  • He says that there are “six millions of Jews scattered over the face of the earth,” a number that seems to make multiple appearances throughout history.
  • Higher-class Jewish women are “strongly and symmetrically shaped” though their features are not admired by the Christian eye.
  • Burton considered Jews, at least the Ashkenazi kind, to be physically hardy. Ancient practices of walking and fasting bred out weakness, he claimed.
  • He also thought they were resistant to disease, having avoided typhus in 1505, fevers in Rome in 1691, and cholera in London.
  • High achievers among Jews in any field often outdo the high-achieving gentiles.
  • Some old English families have Jewish blood.
  • Burton describes the two great branches of Jews as the Sephardim and the Ashkenazim. The Sephardim are identified with modern Spain and Portugal and claim descent from the tribe of Judah. Its three sub-orders are the Cohen, the Levites and the “Ammon Israelite.”
  • Ashkenazim, meanwhile, are identified with more northern areas, and take their name from Ashkenaz, the son of Gomer. They claim descent from Benjamin. They were present at the building of the Second Temple, described in the Book of Ezra.
  • On the restoration of a Jewish homeland in Israel, Burton says that “wealthy and prosperous Jews openly declare that they take no interest in the matter.”
  • But: those who “proved themselves hostile to Israel must be killed at all risk, either by the Jews themselves, or, better still, through the local authorities.”

Burton thought Jewish immigration to England was a terrible idea. Ashkenazi Jews living in the holy land were ordered by the Russian Consulate-General to return home biennially in order to renew their passports or give up their nationality, he wrote. Many landed in London, the “City of Refuge”, a step that could “hardly be looked upon with satisfaction.”[56]Id. at 50.

The Talmud, first published in Venice in 1520, according to Burton, was given a thorough treatment in Jew, The Gypsy and El Islam. Whatever else can be said of the Talmud, Burton said, Rabbi Ascher’s assertion that it enjoins Jews to treat Christians “as our own brethren” is grossly false.[57]Id. at 106.

“The most important and pregnant tenet of modern Jewish belief is that the Ger, or stranger, in fact all those who do not belong to their religion, are brute beasts, having no more rights than the fauna of the field,” Burton wrote[58]Id. at 73.

More choice examples:

  • Burton describes that in the “tract of Sanhedrin,” it states that a Gentile who strikes a Jew has committed a capital offense; “this ordinance is as old as the sojourn of Moses in Egypt. He who strikes a Jew strikes the Deity.”
  • In tract Ohaleth it says that sitting upon the grave of a gentile does not defile, because “they are not tenanted by human beings.”[59]Id. at 87.
  • Tract Bechoroth tells us that two things prevent the Jew from keeping the law of God—demons, and dependence on gentiles.

Burton sticks up for Whites in the “who attacked first” debate, writing that “Those who are so ready to admit and deplore the mighty provocations which roused a spirit of retaliation in the Rabbinical mind should equally make allowance for the natural feelings of the unfortunate Gentiles and heathens when the “People of the Synagogue” had their wicked will.”[60]Id. at 115.

He lists atrocities against gentiles, such as one in the fifth century near Medina where “thousands of the Christians of the Nejeran” were burned alive in a trench filled with combustibles, or this one: “A.D. 1135. The Jews crucified a boy at Norwich. According to the general report, they hired a Christian lad aged twelve as a leather-sewer, and converted him into a Paschal offering; they placed a bit in his mouth, and after a thousand outrages they crucified him, … leaving the remains hanging upon a tree.”[61]Id. at 121.

Whether there is truth to the list, I am not sure, though scholars are naturally disinclined to believe any of it. Burton wrote that European gentiles were close-minded to the notion that Jews would commit physical atrocities against them.

Burton to me had the right approach. He appreciated world cultures, wanted to see and write about them, and often had positive things to say about them. But he never confused cultural appreciation with cultural relativism. Travel, explore and exchange, he might have advised, but for day-to-day living, keep races in their places.

Christopher Donovan is a writer and White advocate living somewhere in America.


[1] This painting, by Sir Frederick Leighton, can be seen hanging on the wall of Professor Henry Higgins’ home in My Fair Lady.

[2] Burton should not be confused with the actor Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor’s fifth (and sixth) husband.

[3] Brodie herself was descended from the Mormon community, and married a Jewish academic.

[4] Fawn M. Brodie, The Devil Drives (W.W. Norton & Co., 1967), page 150.

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

[7] Id. at 223.

[8] Galton, a eugenicist, was a half-cousin of Charles Darwin.

[9] Devil Drives at 205.

[10] Id. at 206.

[11] Richard Burton , A Mission to Gelele, King of Dahome, Volume II (Tylston and Edwards, 1893), at 119.

[12] Id. at 119.

[13] Gelele at 132.

[14] Gelele at 118.

[15] Gelele at 134.

[16] Gelele at 134.

[17] Gelele at 136.

[18] Devil Drives at 208.

[19] Id. at 208.

[20] The South African practice of “necklacing”, whereby a burning tire is place around a victim’s neck, comes to mind.

[21] Id. at 211.

[22] Richard Burton, Two Trips to Gorilla Land and the Cataracts of the Congo, 2 vols (London, 1876), I, 217-18.

[23] William Robertson Boggs, Race and Physical Differences, American Renaissance, December 1992.

[24] Richard Burton, Camoens: His Life and His Lusiads, 2 vols (London, 1881) II, 514-517.

[25] Devil Drives at 183.

[26] Devil Drives at 183.

[27] Devil Drives at 243.

[28] Id. at 183.

[29] Richard Burton , Goa and the Blue Mountains, Digibooks OOD/Demetra Publishing, (Bulgaria), 26. Book originally published in 1851.

[30] Id. at 48.

[31] Id. at 53.

[32] Id. at 55.

[33] Id. at 57.

[34] Id. at 84.

[35] Khan Aateka, Burton’s Racist Critique of Portuguese Goa, Research Review Journals (March 2019).

[36] Id. at 85.

[37] Richard Burton, The Highlands of Brazil, (London, 1869), Vol. I, 403n.

[38] Devil Drives at 265.

[39] Devil Drives at 256.

[40] Alternatively known as the “Roma” people.

[41] Also, “Father Thomas”, the episode was known as the Damascus Affair.

[42] Devil Drives, footnote 7 to Chapter XXIII. Brodie cites The Times, March 28, 1911.

[43] Richard Burton , Jew, The Gypsy and El Islam, 5 (Herbert S. Stone & Company, Chicago and New York, 1898) (republished by Kessinger Publishing’s Rare Mystical Reprints,

[44] Id. at 6.

[45] Id. at 61.

[46] Id. at 62.

[47] Id. at 11.

[48] Id. at 12.

[49] Id. at 19.

[50] Id. at 23.

[51] Id. at 62.

[52] Id. at 37.

[53] Id. at 25.

[54] Id. at 28.

[55] Id. at 27.

[56] Id. at 50.

[57] Id. at 106.

[58] Id. at 73.

[59] Id. at 87.

[60] Id. at 115.

[61] Id. at 121.

(Republished from The Occidental Observer by permission of author or representative)
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