The Africans’ “Place in Nature”

  • Philip D. Curtin

Abstract

The terms “racism” and “racist” have become highly emotive since the 1930’s, when a special variety of racism was taken up and carried to power in Germany by the National Socialist Party. The atrocities committed during the 1940’s in the name of pseudo-scientific racism give special overtones to any discussion of the history of Western thought about race differences. Race prejudice, racial consciousness, and racism can mean many things. At one level, there is the simple and unavoidable fact that major racial differences are recognizable. In every racially mixed society, in every contact between people who differ in physical appearance, there has always been instant recognition of race: it was the first determinant of inter-group social relations.

Keywords

Sugar Europe Mold Brittle Resi 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Footnotes

  1. 1.
    R. Redfield, The Little Community and Peasant Society and Culture (Chicago, 1960).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    See J. H. Parry, The Spanish Theory of Empire in the Sixteenth Century (Cambridge, 1940);Google Scholar
  3. S. A. Zavala, New Viewpoints on the Spanish Colonization of America (Philadelphia, 1943);Google Scholar
  4. L. U. Hanke, The Spanish Struggle for Justice in the Conquest of America (Washington, 1949).Google Scholar
  5. 4.
    The most accessible sample of mid-eighteenth century attitudes is T. Astley (Publisher), A New General Collection of Voyages and Travels, 4 vols. (London, 1745– 1747).Google Scholar
  6. For representative later works see: William Snelgrave, A New Account of Guinea and the Slave Trade (London, 1754);Google Scholar
  7. Bryan Edwards, The History, Civil and Commercial, of the British Colonies in the West Indies, 2nd ed., 2 vols. (London, 1794);Google Scholar
  8. John Matthews, Voyage to the River Sierra-Leone … (London, 1788), esp. pp. 91–94.Google Scholar
  9. See also B. Davidson, Black Mother (London, 1961), pp. 101–2.Google Scholar
  10. 5.
    J. J. Hecht, Continental and Colonial Servants in Eighteenth Century England (Northampton, Mass., 1954), PP. 33–36, 45–47.Google Scholar
  11. 6.
    R. Norris, Memoirs of the Reign of Bossa Ahadee, King of Dahomey (London, 1789).Google Scholar
  12. 7.
    Matthews, Voyage to Sierra-Leone, pp. 158–59; Edward Long, History of Jamaica, 3 vols. (London, 1774), II, 373–74.Google Scholar
  13. 8.
    T. Bendyshe, “The History of Anthropology,” Memoirs Read Before the Anthropological Society of London, I, 335 (1863–1864).Google Scholar
  14. 9.
    Charles White, An Account of the Regular Graduations in Man … (London, 1799), P. 1.Google Scholar
  15. See also A. O. Lovejoy, The Great Chain of Being (Cambridge, Mass., 1936).Google Scholar
  16. 10.
    A. C. Haddon, History of Anthropology, 2nd ed. (London, 1934), p. 71.Google Scholar
  17. 11.
    J. F. Blumenbach, “On the Natural Variety of Mankind” (1775 and 1795), p. 264;Google Scholar
  18. John Hunter, “An Inaugural Disputation on the Varieties of Man” (1775), pp. 366–67. Both translated in T. Bendyshe (Ed.), The Anthropological Treatises of Johann Friedrich Blumenbach (London, 1865). This John Hunter, a physician (d. 1809) should not be confused with his more famous namesake, the anatomist (1723–1793). See DNB biographies. It is an interesting commentary on the staying power of these first formulations that Blumenbach’s terminology and the substance of his classification was still in use by the United States Immigration Service in 1961.Google Scholar
  19. 13.
    Haddon, History of Anthropology, p. 16: W. E. Miihlmann, Geschichte der Anthropologie (Bonn, 1948), p. 60.Google Scholar
  20. 14.
    P. L. Moreau de Maupertuis, “Venus Physique” (1745), II, pp. 106–10, 129– 30, in Oeuvres de Maupertuis, 4 vols. (Lyon, 1756).Google Scholar
  21. Blumenbach, “Varieties of Mankind,” pp. 209–13; Hunter, “Inaugural Disputation.” See also J. C. Greene, “Some Early Speculations on the Origin of Human Races,” American Anthropologist, LVI, 33 (February 1954).Google Scholar
  22. 16.
    E. W. Count, “The Evolution of the Race Idea in Modern Western Culture during the Period of the Pre-Darwinian Nineteenth Century,” Transactions of the New York Academy of Sciences, VIII (2nd series), 143–45 (February, 1946); A. O. Lovejoy, “Kant and Evolution,” in B. Glass and others, Forerunners of Darwin, 1745–1859 (Baltimore, 1959), pp. 186–87.Google Scholar
  23. 17.
    Bendyshe, “History of Anthropology,” pp. 345–49; Count, “The Race Idea,” p. 158; John Atkins, Navy Surgeon … (London, 1734), pp. 23–24.Google Scholar
  24. 18.
    David Hume, “Of National Character,” The Philosophical Works of David Hume, 4 vols. (London, 1898), III, 252. The essay was first published in 1742, but the passage quoted was added as a footnote in the edition of 1753–54.Google Scholar
  25. See also M. Cook, “Jean Jacques Rousseau and the Negro,” Journal of Negro History, XXI, 294–303 (July, 1936).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 19.
    Lovejoy, Great Chain of Being, pp. 233 ff.; A. O. Lovejoy, “Some Eighteenth Century Evolutionists,” Popular Science Monthly, LXV, 327 (1904).Google Scholar
  27. 20.
    A. O. Lovejoy, “Monboddo and Rousseau,” Modern Philology, XXX, 275–96 (February, 1933);CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. James Burnet, Lord Monboddo, The Origin and Progress of Language, 8 vols. (Edinburgh, 1773–1792), I, 279–90;Google Scholar
  29. Henry Home, Lord Karnes, Sketches of the History of Man, 2nd ed., 4 vols. (Edinburgh, 1788), I, 11–13, 36–40.Google Scholar
  30. 26.
    J. C. Greene, “The American Debate on the Negro’s Place in Nature, 1780– 1815,” Journal of the History of Ideas, XV, 387 (June, 1954).Google Scholar
  31. 28.
    S. T. von Soemmering, Über die Köperlich Verschiedenbeit des Negers vom Europäer (Frankfurt am Main, 1785).Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    A Smith, “The Theory of Moral Sentiments,” Essays (London, 1869), p. 175. First published 1757.Google Scholar
  33. 34.
    J. F. Blumenbach, “Observations on the Bodily Conformation and Mental Capacity of the Negroes,” Philosophical Magazine, III, 141–47 (1799).Google Scholar
  34. 35.
    J. L. Phelan, The Millennial Kingdom of the Franciscans in the New World (Berkeley, 1956), pp. 64–65.Google Scholar
  35. 36.
    For the theme of the noble savage, the best general treatment is H. N. Fairchild, The Noble Savage (New York, 1928), on which much of the following account is based.Google Scholar
  36. 37.
    A. O. Lovejoy, “The Supposed Primitivism of Rousseau’s Discourse on Inequality,” Modem Philology, XXI, 165–86 (November, 1923); Cook, “Rousseau and the Negro.”CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. 38.
    Alexander Pope, Essay on Man (1732), Epistle I, lines 95–104.Google Scholar
  38. 39.
    For a discussion of this literature see Wylie Sypher, Guinea’s Captive Kings (Chapel Hill, 1942)Google Scholar
  39. and E. B. Dykes, The Negro in English Romantic Thought (Washington, 1942).Google Scholar
  40. 43.
    Thomas Day and John Bicknell, The Dying Negro (London, 1775), pp. 7–8. First published 1773.Google Scholar
  41. 45.
    Thomas Clarkson, History of the Rise, Progress, and Accomplishment of the Abolition of the African Slave Trade by the British Parliament, 2 vols. (London, 1808), I, 7.Google Scholar
  42. 46.
    For the varying points of view on the anti-slave-trade movement, see, in addition to Clarkson: R. Coupland, The British Anti-Slavery Movement (London, 1933);Google Scholar
  43. R. Coupland, Wilberforce: A Narrative (Oxford, 1923);Google Scholar
  44. F. J. Klingberg, The Anti-Slavery Movement in England (New Haven, 1926);Google Scholar
  45. G. R. Mellor, British Imperial Trusteeship 1783–1850 (London, 1951);Google Scholar
  46. Eric Williams, Capitalism and Slavery (Chapel Hill, 1944).Google Scholar
  47. 47.
    Granville Sharp, A Representation of the Injustice and Dangerous Tendency of Tolerating Slavery in England (London, 1769).Google Scholar
  48. 49.
    G. Sharp to J. Bryant, 19 October 1772, quoted in Sharp, The Just Limitation of Slavery in the Laws of God … (London, 1776), pp. 44–46.Google Scholar
  49. 50.
    John Wesley, “Thoughts upon Slavery” in Works (London, 1872), XI, 65. First published 1774;Google Scholar
  50. M. T. Hodgen, “The Negro in the Anthropology of John Wesley,” Journal of Negro History, XIX, 308–23 (July, 1934).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. 52.
    Prince Hoare, Memoirs of Granville Sharp, 2nd ed., 2 vols. (London, 1828), I, 221–22, 224–26;Google Scholar
  52. Sharp, A General Plan for Laying out Towns and Townships, of the New Acquired Lands, 2nd ed. (London, 1804), pp. 21–23. First published 1794.Google Scholar
  53. 53.
    William Wilberforce, Commons, 12 May 1789, Parliamentary Register, XXVI, 147; 18 April 1791, Parliamentary Register, XXIX, 184, 196–97;Google Scholar
  54. Edmund Burke, Commons, 21 May 1789, Parliamentary Register, XXVI, 201; Coupland, Wilberforce, pp. 170, 292–93.Google Scholar
  55. 54.
    G. Sharp, Just Limitation of Slavery; Sharp, The Law of Liberty … (London, 1776);Google Scholar
  56. Sharp, The Law of “Passive Obedience … (London, 1776); Hoare, Granville Sharp, II, xiii–xvi.Google Scholar
  57. 55.
    James Ramsay, Essay on the Treatment and Conversion of African Slaves in the British Sugar Colonies (London, 1784), PP. 179–263.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Regents of the University of Wisconsin 1964

Authors and Affiliations

  • Philip D. Curtin

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations