Distribution of Human Races in the 19th Century

The idea of race as a rough classification of anatomically modern humans has a problematic history. Before the 19th centuries, the word ‘race’ was used in the sense of “ethnic group” and got its contemporary meaning in the area of anthropology only from the mid-nineteenth century.

Amongst the 19th century scientists who established the field were Georges Cuvier, James Pritchard, Louis Agassiz, Charles Pickering. Cuvier listed three races, Pritchard seven, Pickering eleven and Agassiz twelve races.

In the 19th century, scientists tried to change race from a taxonomic to a biological concept. Races were distinguished by skin colour, facial type, the shapes and sizes of a skull, texture and colour of hair. Besides, human races were supposed to reveal group variations in moral character and intelligence.

Throughout the late 19th century and early 20th century, the tension between some who believed in the inborn supremacy, and others who thought in human equality, was at a supreme.

Cultural and political progress that happened at the end of the 19th century and into the 20th century led to the change in the discussion of race.

The distribution of the human race (1851)

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