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Title: Representations of 'race' in British science and culture during the eighteenth century
Author: Newberry, George T.
ISNI:       0000 0004 2722 6704
Awarding Body: University of Sheffield
Current Institution: University of Sheffield
Date of Award: 2011
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A dominant narrative of change is fundamental to how recent historiography has accounted for the apparent emergence of 'racial' theories in the late eighteenth century. This model argues that non-Europeans were largely evaluated and differentiated by their relative cultural qualities during the early-modern period, rather than through 'racialised' bodily features such as skin colour. With the evolution of Enlightenment sciences, these cultural varieties were supposedly eroded by categorical, scientifically validated differences between Europeans and non-Europeans. Thus modern ideas of 'racial' hierarchy are seen to originate from the 1770s onwards. This thesis re-evaluates the British contribution to 'racial science' during the eighteenth century, examining sources in a more comprehensive and intertextual manner than has so far been achieved. Juxtaposing the post-1770s anatomy, natural history and philosophy with texts from the late seventeenth century onwards, this thesis argues that there are profound representational continuities throughout this period which challenge the above shift. Common belief in specific categories of human variety, established through repeated attention to particular bodily features, is seen to be prevalent in travel literature throughout the period. Here it is maintained that the tendency towards a basic comparative anatomy in earlier texts is tantamount to a 'racial science' in itself. Four distinct representational motifs are studied herein, which are seen to operate in texts throughout the eighteenth century. Stereotypes of animality were used to convey a sense of inferior distinctiveness upon 'savage' peoples: an idea which becomes apparent in both travelogues and later anatomical works. Disproportional depictions of sensory capacity are part of this representation, whilst the use of animalised metaphor in discussions of 'interracial' breeding shows an awareness of 'racial' divides from at least the 1690s. Also explored are the connections between 'racial science' and scientific theories of sex and gender, which offer a similar challenge to the dominant historical narrative.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available