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Essay: The origins of races

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  • Subject area(s): History essays
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  • Published: August 9, 2018*
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  • Words: 740 (approx)
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  • The origins of races
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Increasingly encountered people they believed were not physically like them and ideas about curses were “One way of harmonising” their religion with their experiences.
The beginning of the nineteenth century saw Europeans try to explain “race” through “science”. Despite belief that religion provided a decent explanation was still somewhat believable or at the very least popular as many early nineteenth century scientists suggested that their findings did not dispute religious beliefs but instead their “explanation for ‘race’ differentiation was consistent with Christian theology” .

Many Christians saw the different “races” living in Africa, America and Asia as individuals they could help through evangelism they felt “that Jews and blacks had souls” they could save. Many thought “civilisation” was a European virtue that could be taught and people could be “improved” by Europeans who were considered superior because of their supposed civilization which “was initially considered attainable by human all beings, including the most ‘savage’” .

The early to mid-nineteenth century saw human conceptions of diversity change, the Bible was no longer seen as a completely credible history of human origins it “was no longer considered satisfactory” . “scientists” stopped trying to reconcile their “scientific” views with religion as. This transformed conceptions of human diversity as when the Christian account for diversity was no longer held as truth the way in which different races were and what they had the capacity to become changed.

There are many reasons for this. By the early nineteenth century Europeans had been interacting with the populations they had encountered outside of Europe for a nearly a century. There had been a significant amount of movement of Europeans going into Africa and Africans going to mostly America but Europe also . If the efforts of evangelists could improve people then many thought that surely 1840s there should be some changes in physical attributes and perhaps those who had moved to Africa. This did not happen though “environmental factors, including climate, were incapable of altering the physical features of ‘race’” . Secondly the enlightenment was taking place by this time, there was an emphasis on reason. So to understand diversity many began to look to science it was no longer always acceptable to suggest anything that could not be explained simply was a result of the supernatural. Lastly the works of Charles Darwin had been published in the mid to late nineteenth century and this lead to a surge of people trying to apply evolution to race because it “provided an explanation”

At the beginning of the 19th century the enlightenment was starting to encourage Europeans and Americans to approach race scientifically.

As a result there was in increase in the study of race and the emergence of several measurements used to determine, classify and rank the races. Scientists would measure “For example, cranial capacity, facial angle and cranial index” and try to use this to determine intelligence. Anthropologists also observed non-Europeans and studied their behaviour and came to believe “that each race was innately associated with distinct social and cultural, and moral traits” .

In the late 1850s Charles Darwin released a book. The origins of the species was an 1859 book about evolution. In 1871 the descent of man was published, this book focused on humans and evolution “it had a major impact on nineteenth-century thought” . Darwin was not the first to talk about the idea of passing traits on Jean-Baptist Lamarck did this in 1809 . His work however was more extensive and as a writer had the greatest impact. He increased the popularity of evolution as a theory and others were encouraged by him to examine evolution in humans.

From the 1860s onwards there was an increase in the opening of anthropological societies like the “Anthropological Society of London, [which] joined the ranks of England’s scientific institutions” in 1863 and scientific organisations devoted to race. Overall the relation between science and race became more significant during the mid to late nineteenth century.

Science greatly transformed conceptions of human diversity. Behaviours associated with race were now considered “fixed condition[s]” and therefore they said the state of many races was permanent. The measurement of skulls and brains led some to believe that some races were “intellectually stunted” . The existing hierarchy of the races was further establishe

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