CAIRN-INT.INFO : International Edition

The nineteenth century saw science making advances in knowledge on colonised regions and on the people living there. What became known as “Ethnography” would spread the idea that, firstly, not all “races” were equal and, secondly, that the European “race” was superior to the others. Scholars during this period were classifying species from lower to higher orders, and within the human species, they ranked individuals according to “race,” distinguishing them primarily on the basis of skin color. The recognition of prehistory as a scientific discipline, in the 1860s to 1880s, initially reinforced this view of “races” as unequal. By making comparative analyses between apes and humans, both current and, by then, fossil, anthropologists reinforced the presupposition that there were superior and inferior “races.” Furthermore, cultural evolution was seen as a gradual and unilinear progression from the primitive savage (represented by prehistoric “cavemen” and “savages”) to civilization. These hierarchical classifications, both biological and cultural, would lead to the development of ideologies whose consequences for certain humans were dramatic.


  • “races”
  • hierarchy
  • prehistory
  • cultural evolution
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