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An Adaptive People1

Nature volume 88, pages 450451 (01 February 1912) | Download Citation



THE British Protectorate of Uganda has the distinction of possessing one of the most perfect types of a barbarous people to be found in the world. The Baganda are a Bantu race, exceptionally well built and healthy. Courteous and sociable, they are to a remarkable degree exempt from social vices and perversions. They have “gone straight,” as it were, while other races of the same level have gone crooked. Their only weakness seems to have been one frequently resulting from religious fervour, namely, a predilection for human sacrifice. Their physical evolution similarly has been free from perversions; they have not, as so many barbarians have done, tampered with their bodies, and they practise no form of cutting, scarification, or mutilation. Intellectually they are remarkable for an extraordinary faculty of imitation, “especially in all kinds of mechanism. Give a man time to examine an object, and he will apprehend the mode of its construction, and will go and produce one so much like it that it is often well-nigh impossible to tell which is the original. Chairs, tables, shoes, &c., have each in their turn been closely copied. This power of reproduction extends to house-building in all its details; thus there are numbers of houses made of sun-dried bricks, with iron roofs, which the natives themselves have built and completed without any supervision from Europeans. This trait of imitation is noticeable even in small children, who may be seen making toy guns, after the pattern of those used by their fathers. These toy guns are often so well made that, when the triggers are pulled, they make a sharp report. Bicycles have been cleverly imitated by boys, with wheels and spokes made of reeds.

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