This article debunks the modern myth that race was “invented” in the 1800s by Europeans who, for some bizarre reason, needed a convoluted scientific excuse to justify slavery and colonialism (unlike every other race on earth, who just enslaved people for the heck of it). It provides a brief history of race concepts dating from Classical Antiquity to the Modern Era, and contextualizes the progressive evolution of “race” through time. Please note that this article is a rough outline of major developments and by no means exhaustive.


Contents

  1. Etymology: What is a “race”?
  2. Taxonomy
  3. The five human ‘races’
  4. The history of racial anthropology and taxonomy
    4.1. Antiquity (3000 BC–50 AD)
    4.2. Middle Ages (500–1400 AD)
    4.3. Renaissance (1400–1500) and Early Modern (1500–1800)
    4.4. Late Modern (1800–1945)
    4.5. Postwar Era (1945–Present)
  5. Timeline summary
  6. Footnotes

1. Etymology: What is a “race”?

The term ‘race’ was defined in the 1500s as “a people descended from a common ancestor” or “a class of persons allied by common ancestry.” It stems from the earlier Italian term razza meaning “race, breed, lineage, family,” and was possibly influenced by Latin radix, meaning “root.”

Linguistic records show that similar concepts have existed for thousands of years. For example, the related terms ‘nation’ and ‘ethnicity’ are derived from Latin natio and Ancient Greek ethnos, both meaning “breed, stock, species, race, people, tribe.” Natio is derived from Old Latin gnasci (“to be born”), which ultimately stems from Proto-Indo-European ǵenh₁- (gene-, “to give birth”). This is also the root of ǵénh₁os, the Proto-Indo-European word for “race/lineage,” from which we drive the ancient Greek/Latin terms, génos/genus (“race, stock, kin, kind”) and modern words like genetics and genealogy.

‘Race’ was originally used as a catch-all term to describe any biological group at any level of the taxonomic hierachy, which led to scientists of yore writing things like: “I believed that the whole human race was most appropriately brought under the following five races (Johann F. Blumenbach). Confused? In this sentence, “the whole human race” refers to the human species (i.e. Homo sapiens), while the “five races” refer to human subspecies.

In modern scientific lexicon, the term ‘race’ has been largely supplanted by ‘population,’ a “politically correct” term that is used in the exact same way for the exact same purpose (i.e. to describe any biological group). Genetic testing companies, like 23andMe, use terms like “ancestral geographic populations” but what they’re actually referring to are ‘races.’

To complicate matters further, “race” in common parlance specifically refers to human subspecies and is almost never applied to non-human species. A subspecies is defined as two or more populations within the same species that have become phenotypically (physically and behaviorally) distinct from one another due to geographic separation and divergent evolution [1]. Subspecies can successfully interbreed with one another when their territories overlap but mostly choose not to, for whatever reason. Full species generally cannot interbreed to produce fertile offspring, but it should be noted that there are numerous exceptions to this rule. These are known as ‘hybrid’ species and include animals like the prizzly bear (polar bear + grizzly bear) and coywolf (coyote + wolf).

2. Taxonomy

Biological taxonomy is the process of sorting organisms into categories, according to how related they are to one another and based on their phenotypic characteristics. Taxonomic ranks (or ‘taxa’) nest together like a Russian matryoshka doll. Multiple species fit into one genus, multiple genera fit into one family, multiple families fit into one order, and so on. Each rank is more specific and narrowly defined than the last.

Note: For more information on taxonomy, see Race 101: What is taxonomy?

3. The five human ‘races’

Contemporary modern humans can be roughly divided into around five “major” racial groups, alongside several other “minor” or “mixed” racial groups:

  • West Eurasian (“Caucasoid”)
  • East Eurasian (“Mongoloid”)
  • Amerindian (West + East Eurasian mix)
  • South Eurasian or Oceanian (“Australoid”)
  • Sub-Saharan African (Often sub-divided into “Capoid” and “Congoid,” distinguishing Khoisan from other Sub-Saharan Africans)

This method of classification is backed by genetic data and has been common practice in the West for hundreds of years.

Human racial groups — which are equivalent to animal subspecies — formed via divergent evolution due to geographic and reproductive isolation following the Out of Africa migrations. Some intermediate populations were formed via admixture between major racial groups, including Central Asians (West + East Eurasian), Horn Africans (West Eurasian + African), and Madagascans (East Eurasian + African).

Every human race has at least some degree of ancestry from various extinct archaic hominin species. This is generally estimated as follows:

Homo neanderthalensisHomo denisovaAfrican Ghost Population
Europeans1-2%None or trace amountsNone or trace amounts
East Asians2-4%Trace amountsNone or trace amounts
Southeast Asians“Less than Europeans”“Significant amounts” (No solid data available)None or trace amounts
Australo-Melanesians (Oceanians)“More than Europeans but less than East Asians”4-6%Unknown
Sub-Saharan AfricansNone or trace amountsNone or trace amounts2-19%


4. The history of racial anthropology and taxonomy

4.1. Antiquity (3000 BC–50 AD)

The practice of cataloging and dividing humanity into distinct tribal, ethnic, or racial groups dates back to the beginning of recorded history, e.g. the Egyptian Book of Gates (1500 BC). Ancient civilizations, from Rome to China, produced lengthy ethnographic texts, comparing and contrasting the behaviors and appearances of the various peoples they encountered throughout the world. These include Herodotus’ Histories (430 BC), Sima Qian’s Records of the Grand Historian (94 BC), and Pliny’s Natural History (77 AD).

The roots of European racial sciences can be traced back to the founders of Western Civilization themselves: The ancient Greeks, who pioneered numerous scientific fields, including anthropology, taxonomy, zoology, paleontology, geology, chemistry, and physics. It was Herodotus (484–425 BC), the “Father of Anthropology,” who first defined the term ‘ethnic group’ as “[a people with] shared blood, language, and culture,” while Aristotle (384–322 BC), the “Father of Biology,” invented taxonomy. Greek science was adopted by the Roman Empire and spread throughout Europe during the Middle Ages, Renaissance, and Early Modern Period. Their pioneering works are influential to this day.

Greco-Roman thinkers recognized Europe, Asia, and Africa as distinct biogeographic regions, populated by unique peoples. Classical authors referenced ‘Europeans’, ‘Asians’, and ‘Africans’ in a generalized sense while discussing their collective phenotypic characteristics. They developed scientific theories to explain the origins of these characteristics, and concluded that they were predominantly defined by environmental factors.

“I wish to show how Asia and Europe, in all respects, differ from one another, and concerning the figure of the inhabitants, for they do not at all resemble one another. […] The forms and dispositions of mankind correspond with the nature of the country. […] This is why I think the physiques of Europeans show more variety than those of Asians […] in such inconsistent environments, savagery, anti-social attitudes and boldness tend to arise. The frequent shocks to the mind make for wildness and impair the development of civilized and gentle behaviors. This is why I think those living in Europe are more courageous than those in Asia. Laziness is a product of uniform climate.”
— Airs, Waters, and Places, Hippocrates (5th C. BC)

These early theories of environmental determinism can be seen as a precursor to Darwin’s theory of evolution, in that they described the environmental impact on evolution without describing the process of evolution itself. However, Greco-Roman thinkers generally believed that phenotypic characteristics were heritable, and some even proposed genuine theories of evolution. Anaximander (610–546 BC) suggested that human beings may have evolved from ancient aquatic creatures that emerged from the ocean.

Contrary to the claims of modern ideologues, designating racial groups by skin color (one of the most pronounced human physical characteristics) was common throughout the ancient world. For example, the name ‘Ethiopia’ etymologically stems from ‘Αἰθιοπία, Aithiops,’ a Greek compound word derived from ‘αἴθω, aitho’ (“I burn”) and ‘ὤψ, ops’ (“face”), directly translating to “burnt-face.” Evidently, the Greeks believed that skin pigmentation was a significant enough characteristic to name an entire country “Land of the Burnt Faces.”

Yet, in spite of all of their scientific advancements and ethnographic studies, the ancient Greeks seemed to lack a formal taxonomy for human races, as we are familiar with today.

4.2. Middle Ages (500–1400 AD)

The collapse of the Roman Empire in the 5th Century AD rendered many Classical scientific works inaccessible to the majority of Europeans, forcing scholars to rely on incomplete sources and simplified summaries. De-urbanization and Christianization resulted in educational centers relocating to church and cathedral schools, while the focus of academics shifted away from the natural sciences and towards theology.

Nevertheless, the first definitive, genealogical racial classification was coined during the Early Middle Ages (500–1000 AD) by Isidore of Seville (560–636 AD), “the last scholar of the ancient world.” Taking inspiration from the Biblical Book of Genesis (~500 BC), he divided humanity into three major races, corresponding to the three known continents of the world. He argued that each race was descended from one of the three Sons of Noah: Africans (‘Hamites’) from Ham, Asians (‘Semites’) from Shem, and Europeans (‘Japhetites’) from Japheth. Isidore’s encyclopedia, Etymologiae, was the most used educational textbook of the Middle Ages.

A T and O map from the first printed version of Etymologiae:

Jewish works of the Middle Ages, such as the Pirke De-Rabbi Eliezer (7th to 12th Century), classified the races of man based on skin pigmentation: Shem is “black but comely [שחורים ונאים]”, Ham is “black like the raven [שחורים כעורב]”, and Japheth is “entirely white [כלם לבני]”. The association of the Sons of Noah with specific phenotypic characteristics dates back to Classical Antiquity. For example, the Babylonian Talmud (350–500 AD) states that the descendants of Ham (Africans) were “cursed” with black skin pigmentation. This idea was particularly influential on Islamic writers of the Middle Ages and was used to justify the Islamic enslavement of Black Africans. Even so, some influential Islamic philosophers, such as Al-Jahiz (9th Century) and Ibn Khaldun (14th Century), debunked the Talmudic claim and continued the Greco-Roman tradition of attributing human pigmentation differences to environmental conditions.

The Mozarabic Chronicle (754 AD), an eyewitness account of the Umayyad conquest of Hispania written by an unknown Iberian Christian, is supposedly the earliest surviving Latin text to use the word ‘Europeans’ in a collective, racialized sense. It describes soldiers from various European nations (both Northern and Southern) as “the Europeans [‘Europenses’],” in contrast to the Saracen invaders. However, as previously mentioned, the term ‘Europeans’ was already in use during the Classical era, and the term ‘Japhetites’ (synonymous with ‘Europeans’) was in use a century earlier. Either way, this source provides further evidence that a collective European racial identity had evolved in some regions of Europe by the Early Middle Ages.

In the 9th Century, Charlemagne, founder of the Carolingian Empire, created a program of educational and cultural reform throughout Western Europe, which led to the Carolingian Renaissance. Academic focus shifted away from original scientific investigation and towards the study and recovery of lost ancient Greco-Roman works, laying the foundations for later scientific advancements.

During the High Middle Ages (1000–1300 AD), Greek taxonomic theories were developed by Scholastic philosophers, who aimed to reconcile Christianity with the philosophy of Classical Antiquity, particularly that of the Neoplatonists. Although their work was largely inspired by scientific rationalism, Scholastics took a more abstract and philosophical approach. For example, the Scholastic “Great Chain of Being” (‘Scala Naturae’) was based on Aristotle’s non-theistic theory of biological taxonomy. The Great Chain of Being placed organisms in an existential, God-given, natural order: God > Angelic beings > Humanity > Animals > Plants > Minerals.

Finally, during the Late Middle Ages (1300–1500 AD), numerous Europeans embarked on grand expeditions along the Silk Road, documenting their journeys via detailed ethnographic studies. The Italian diplomat Giovanni da Pian del Carpine (1185–1252 AD), author of the groundbreaking Ystoria Mongalorum, was the first European to have visited Mongolia and returned to tell the tale. Marco Polo (1300–1324 AD), the Venetian merchant who explored the Middle East, Central Asia, East Asia, Southeast Asia, and the eastern coast of Africa, is often regarded as another founder of modern anthropology (alongside Herodotus). His seminal work Book of the Marvels of the World systematically documented the nature, people, and geography of his travels, giving Europeans their first comprehensive look into the mysterious cultures of the east, including China and Japan.

Major geopolitical changes during the Late Middle Ages set the scene for the forthcoming Renaissance. Firstly, the Reconquista finally succeeded in liberating Muslim-occupied Hispania, after an 800-year-long struggle. Secondly, the Black Death and the collapse of the Mongol Empire caused the collapse of the Silk Road. Finally, the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople granted the Islamic world total control of the Eastern Mediterranean.

4.3. Renaissance (1400–1500) and Early Modern (1500–1800)

The transition from the rudimentary racial theories of the Middle Ages to modern racial science occurred during the Renaissance (1400–1500 AD) and Early Modern Period (1500–1800 AD). It can be attributed to two major sociological developments. Firstly, the rediscovery of lost ancient knowledge, which led to a revival of Classical sciences, and, secondly, European colonial expansion, which led to the discovery of many formerly uncharted territories and unknown peoples.

The Renaissance began shortly after the fall of Constantinople when many Greek Byzantine scholars fled to the West, reintroducing ancient manuscripts that had been lost since the fall of the Roman Empire. As a result, the ‘natural sciences’ of Classical Antiquity — divided into ‘natural history’ (biology and geology) and ‘natural philosophy’ (physics and chemistry) — quickly became a major branch of European academic knowledge, alongside ‘divinity’ and ‘the humanities.’

The Muslim conquest of Byzantium, combined with the collapse of the Silk Road, isolated Europeans from Eastern world trade, forcing the sea-faring Western nations to seek out new trade routes via the Atlantic Ocean. During the Age of Exploration (15th to 18th Century), Europeans discovered many previously unknown lands, including Australia and the Americas, along with their native inhabitants. Although, North America was technically a rediscovery, as it was previously settled by Norse Vikings in the 10th Century.


Europeans quickly developed new scientific theories to explain and categorize the diverse peoples they encountered around the world. The re-popularization of the natural sciences had revived academic interest in studying and classifying organisms. Racial sciences, such as biological anthropology and human taxonomy, developed holistically alongside other scientific fields. Modern biological taxonomy was pioneered by botanists, like the Italian philosopher Andrea Cesalpino (1519–1603).

Early Modern Europeans continued the ancient historic trend of identifying racial and ethnic groups based on skin color. Philosophers, such as Giordano Bruno (1548–1600) and Jean Bodin (1530–1596), attempted rudimentary racial taxonomies based on skin color and geography. The influential German historian, Georgius Hornius, described Japhetites as “white” (albos), Hamites as “black” (nigros), and Semites as “brownish-yellow” (flavos) in his 1666 book, Arca Noae. He presented an ethnographic view of history, which included peoples of the New World (see: ‘De originibus Americanis,’ 1652).

By the late 1600s, Native Americans (or Amerindians) were widely recognized as the fourth major human racial group, alongside Europeans, Asians, and Africans. In 1684, Europe’s first academic journal, Journal des Sçavans, published what is believed to be the first comprehensive modern racial classification, authored by the French physician and traveler, François Bernier. His essay, New Division of the Earth by the Different Species or ‘Races’ of Man that Inhabit It, moved away from Biblically-inspired classification and assigned races based on the “four quarters of the globe” (America, Europe, Asia, and Africa). Bernier notably used the term ‘race’ as synonymous with ‘species,’ in contrast to earlier thinkers who favored terms such as ‘tribe’ and ‘peoples.’ Bernier also discussed the heritability of phenotype vs environmental influence, concluding that environmental factors were at least partially responsible.

During the 16th and 17th Centuries, European biologists debated whether humanity was comprised of multiple distinct species or one single species to which multiple subspecies belonged. This question was resolved in 1686 by the English scientist John Ray, who provided the first scientific definition of ‘species’ in Historia Plantarum: “One species never springs from the seed of another nor vice versa.” By establishing species as the ultimate taxonomic unit, Ray laid the foundations of all modern taxonomy. Still, the debate on human origins continued well into the Late Modern Period. The ‘polygenists’ argued that individual races evolved from multiple distinct hominid species, while the ‘monogenists’ argued that all races evolved from one single ancestral species.

In the mid-18th Century, the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778) revolutionized the field of biology by introducing the modern taxonomic system, which remains in use to this day. Drawing inspiration from past taxonomic works, such as the Great Chain of Being, he divided the physical components of the world into three kingdoms: Minerals, Plants, and Animals. In Systema Naturae (1758), Linnaeus classified humanity as one single species (‘Homo sapiens’), divided into four major subspecies (races or “varieties”):

  • Homo sapiens americanus
  • Homo sapiens europaeus
  • Homo sapiens asiaticus
  • Homo sapiens after

(Note: Homo = Genus, sapiens = Species, americanus = Subspecies)

These subspecies groups correspond to the native populations of the Americas, West Eurasia, East Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa, respectively. In terms of skin pigmentation, Linnaeus described the races as ‘red,’ ‘white,’ ‘yellow/sallow,’ and ‘black.’

Johann Friedrich Blumenbach (1752-1840), a founder of comparative zoology and anthropology, was one of the most influential racial theorists in history. He identified five human races, or subspecies, based on extensive craniological and anatomical studies, describing them as follows in his work The Natural Varieties of Mankind (1795):

  • The Caucasian or weiss “white” race (Europeans, Middle Easterners, and North Africans)
  • The Mongolian or gelbbraun “yellow-brown” race (all East Asians and some Central Asians)
  • The American or kupferroth “copper-red” race (all Native Americans)
  • The Malayan or schwarzbraun “black-brown” race (Southeast Asian and Pacific Islanders)
  • The Ethiopian or schwarz “black” race (Sub-Saharan Africans)

Blumenbach, like Linnaeus, believed that all human races belonged to the same species. His racial classifications formed the basis of 19th and 20th Century taxonomy and are still used to this day, even by those who deny the biological reality of race (see: Leftists screeching “Black Lives Matter! Stop Asian hate! All White people are evil colonizers!”). Blumenbach regarded race as an unquestionably valid biological concept while still acknowledging that it is a man-made categorization with boundaries that are somewhat arbitrary and ill-defined. He noted the steady gradation between some racial groups, pointing to the ‘mixed-race’ populations of Central Asia and the Horn of Africa.

4.4. Late Modern (1800–1945)

Human taxonomy of the Late Modern Period rarely diverged from the templates outlined by Blumenbach and Linnaeus. Minus a few ongoing debates, racial concepts were finalized in their contemporary form during this era. Evolution was widely accepted, the field of genetics was founded, and humanity came to be regarded as one species divided into multiple subspecies (races), with three-to-five ‘major’ racial groups, alongside several ‘minor’ and ‘hybrid’ races.

The term ‘Australoid’ or Australo-Melanesian was coined in the late 1800s by “Darwin’s Bulldog,” Thomas Henry Huxley, to describe the native inhabitants of Australia, Melanesia, and the dark-skinned tribal populations of South and Southeast Asia (‘Veddoids’ and ‘Negritos’). Although Europeans first encountered these peoples in the early 1600s, scientists originally believed that they were a branch of Sub-Saharan Africans due to their phenotypic similarities. There was (and still is) some debate as to whether or not Veddoids and Negritos are of Australo-Melanesian origin, but Late Modern scientists generally regarded some or all of these peoples to be the fifth and final major racial group. Blumenbach’s “Malayan” race was generally demoted to a minor race and grouped with other East Asians.

Between the 1830s and ’70s, polygenism was popularized throughout the West among scientists of all stripes; many refused to believe that Africans and Eurasians could stem from the same source population. Although monogenism is broadly accepted today, recent genetic discoveries have ironically proven that the polygenists were at least partially correct. As mentioned earlier in this article, Sub-Saharan Africans trace up to 19% of their ancestry from an unknown archaic hominid species, while all non-Africans have at least 1-2% ancestry from other archaic hominids, like Neanderthals and/or Denisovans.

Although Charles Darwin (1809–1882) rarely discussed human races, his theories were incredibly influential on biological anthropology. In The Descent of Man (1871), Darwin argues that the existence of race cannot be denied, even if scientists disagree on how many races (subspecies) constitute the human species.

Man has been studied more carefully than any other animal, and yet there is the greatest possible diversity amongst capable judges whether he should be classed as a single species or race, or as two (Virey), as three (Jacquinot), as four (Kant), five (Blumenbach), six (Buffon), seven (Hunter), eight (Agassiz), eleven (Pickering), fifteen (Bory St. Vincent), sixteen (Desmoulins), twenty-two (Morton), sixty (Crawfurd), or as sixty-three, according to Burke. This diversity of judgment does not prove that the races ought not to be ranked as species, but it shews that they graduate into each other, and that it is hardly possible to discover clear distinctive characters between them.

He also writes:

[There is] no doubt that the various races, when carefully compared and measured, differ much from each other – as in the texture of hair, the relative proportions of all parts of the body, the capacity of the lungs, the form and capacity of the skull, and even the convolutions of the brain. But it would be an endless task to specify the numerous points of difference. The races differ also in constitution, in acclimatization and in liability to certain diseases. Their mental characteristics are likewise very distinct; chiefly as it would appear in their emotion, but partly in their intellectual faculties.

During the Late Modern Period, racial classification informed various political policies, including anti-miscegenation laws, segregation or apartheid, and immigration restriction. (Though, it should be noted that similar laws have existed since time immemorial, see Athenian ‘blood and soil’ citizenship laws or Spanish Limpieza de Sangre laws of the Reconquista, for example). This upset people of certain races and political persuasions, who were vying for power in Western society. As such, they aggressively attempted to undermine racial theories and “disprove” the existence of race, which is like trying to disprove the existence of dog breeds.

When it comes to race-denialism, no figure is more influential than Franz Boas (1858–1942), a Jewish immigrant to the United States and professor at Columbia University (home to the infamous pioneers of Cultural Marxism, the Frankfurt School). Boas had a seething resentment towards the American scientific establishment, which had played a leading role in crafting immigration restriction legislation, such as the Immigration Act of 1924. He was heavily influenced by the ideology of his Marxist uncle, Abraham Jacobi, who was a close personal friend of Marx and Engels.

Boas and his legion of loyal students relentlessly attacked the concept of race and heredity using fraudulent studies and fallacious arguments, in what could be described as the original “Long March Through The Institutions.” In a stereotypically Marxist fashion, they argued that man is a hollow shell, molded by society and devoid of any innate, biologically-derived characteristics. Boasian Anthropology (i.e. Marxist anthropology) set about dismantling the intrinsically interlinked concepts of race, genetics, behavior, and culture, laying foundations for race-denialist arguments that persist to this day.

4.5. Postwar Era (1945–Present)

Following the Second World War, the entire field of human racial science was declared “pseudoscientific” and “obsolete” by the newly established global order, people who openly state that they aim to create “One World” and “One Humanity.” Western elites have spent the last seven decades attempting to convince the masses that race is not a biological reality but a fabricated “ideology” or “social construct,” created by evil White people specifically for the purpose of oppressing innocent ‘people of color.’ They claim that even if race does exist, it should never be taken into account because scientifically categorizing human beings is evil, divisive, and will inevitably lead to a revival of slavery or another holocaust.

Despite the constant propaganda, human racial classifications — which are based on observable reality and developed naturally over the course of millennia — are still used intuitively throughout the world today. As previously mentioned, Leftists paradoxically claim that race is a “meaningless social construct” while chanting: Black Lives Matter, Stop Asian Hate, all White people are racist colonizers!” Nobody truly believes that race does not exist, it’s just politically expedient rhetoric used by nefarious swindlers.

When push comes to shove, a race-denialist will never deny the existence of Asians, Africans, or Arabs — the “oppressed races.” They only deny the existence of Europeans. However, the same people who claim that “Whiteness” is a socially constructed myth have no problem identifying a White person when complaining about systemic privilege, institutional racism, colonialism, or imperialism. Here we see the paradox of “Whiteness”: Simultaneously non-existent and responsible for all of the world’s ills.

However, all is not lost. Race-denialism is increasingly ridiculed and maligned, even by “anti-racist” or Left-Wing individuals. Many Left-Wing academics, like David Reich, have explicitly warned their compatriots that race-denialism is untenable in the face of the genetics revolution. Moreover, modern scientists regularly use all of the “offensive” and “obsolete” racial terminology of the past; they just shuffled a few words around and hoped that nobody would notice:

  • “Races” became “populations”
  • “Caucasoid” became West Eurasian
  • “Mongoloid” became East Eurasian
  • “Australoid” became South Eurasian
  • “Negroid” became Sub-Saharan African
  • “Amerindian” became Native American (though, Amerindian is still used today and not classified as offensive or obsolete)

Here’s an article from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology discussing “West and East Eurasian peoples,” aka “Caucasoids” and “Mongoloids”: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/02/210222124643.htm.

Centuries from now, future generations will view our era as a time of collective insanity.

5. Timeline summary

Antiquity (3000 BC–50 AD)

  • Prototypical “racial science” via ethnography and rudimentary theories of evolution (e.g. Greco-Roman environmental determinism).
  • The peoples of Europe, Asia, and Africa were recognized as distinct from one another.
  • Ancients regularly judge and classify other groups by skin pigmentation (e.g. Egyptian Book of Gates from 1500 BC).
  • Greeks invent biology and taxonomy but do not develop a formal taxonomic system to classify human races.

Early Middle Ages (500–1000 AD)

  • 9th Century: Isidore of Seville divides the known races of man into Africans (‘Hamites’), Asians (‘Semites’), and Europeans (‘Japhetites’), based on the Biblical Book of Genesis.
  • People of the Middle Ages continue to judge and classify other groups by skin pigmentation.
  • 8th Century: Earliest recorded use of “Europeans” as a collective racial descriptor in the Mozarabic Chronicle.

High Middle Ages (1000–1300 AD)

  • Greek taxonomic theories are developed by Scholastic philosophers into the “Great Chain of Being” (or ‘Scala Naturae’), placing organisms in a hierarchical order: God > Angelic beings > Humanity > Animals > Plants > Minerals.

Late Middle Ages (1300–1500 AD)

  • Europeans explore the world via the Silk Road, creating ethnographies that document the peoples and cultures of West, Central, East, and Southeast Asia.
  • 14th Century: Marco Polo’s Book of the Marvels of the World gives many Europeans their first comprehensive look at the mysterious cultures of the East.
  • Geopolitics disrupt world trade and drive Europeans to colonize the world (e.g. the Reconquista, collapse of the Mongol Empire, Ottoman conquest of Constantinople, and subsequent Islamic domination of the Mediterranean).

Renaissance (1400–1500 AD)

  • Fleeing Byzantine scholars reintroduce ancient ‘natural sciences’ of Classical Antiquity to the West, including biology, geology, physics, and chemistry.
  • Natural sciences skyrocket in popularity, Western academics focus on studying and classifying organisms.

Early Modern Period (1500–1800 AD)

  • European colonial powers discover many previously unknown lands and peoples during the Age of Exploration (15th to 18th Century).
  • Racial sciences, such as biological anthropology and human taxonomy, develop holistically alongside other scientific fields (such as botany and zoology).
  • 16th Century: Rudimentary human taxonomies based on skin color and geography.
  • 17th Century: First European academic journal (Journal des Sçavans) publishes the first comprehensive, modern racial classification, moving away from Biblical terminology and assigning races based on the “four quarters of the globe” (Europeans, Asians, Africans, Amerindians).
  • 17th Century: John Ray defines the term “species.”
  • 18th Century: Carl Linnaeus invents modern taxonomy, claims that humanity is one species with four subspecies.
  • 18th Century: Blumenbach’s racial taxonomy popularizes “White, Yellow, Black, etc.” racial terminology.
  • Scientists acknowledge that some racial groups are not clearly defined and consist of a mixture between other racial groups.

Late Modern (1800–1945)

  • Australo-Melanesians are categorized as the fifth and final major race (Blumenbach’s “Malay” race is generally demoted to a variant of East Asian).
  • Darwin develops theory of evolution, claims that races clearly exist, even if people cannot decide how many there are, and that they differ in terms of physical, behavioral, and mental characteristics.
  • Racial classification informs various political policies, including anti-miscegenation laws, segregation or apartheid, and immigration restriction.
  • This upsets various subversive groups, who began to attack the concept of race. See, for example, Boasian Anthropology (i.e. Marxist Anthropology).

6. Footnotes

[1] The definition of species/subspecies from a recent scientific study (De-Extinction Novak, 2018):

A simplistic approach to the species concept is to consider how biologists typically discriminate two populations holistically. Do the two populations occupy distinct habitat zones, or niches, within the same or separate geographic ranges? Do the two populations exhibit different morphology and/or physiology? Do the two populations exhibit different behaviour? Do the two populations avoid interbreeding? Can the two populations be genetically distinguished from one another? If the answer to all or most of those questions is yes, then any biologist will consider the two populations as separate species or separate subspecies, depending on how divergent the traits happen to be.