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entailed the separation of the sacred history of the Hebrew line of Shem,
which was recorded in the Bible, from the civil history of the gentile races.
Within this new science of society, a ˜rational civil theology of divine
providence™ which explored how fallen bestial gentiles had gradually
recovered their divine faculties and sociability after the post-Diluvial
renunciation of the religion of Noah, the extraordinary providences of
sacred history were clearly fenced oV from the rest of human history.
Designed as a Catholic rival to the anachronisms of Protestant natural
jurisprudence, the sociological investigations of the new science were
conWned to the cultures of the Japhetans, Hamites and non-Hebraic
descendants of Shem.Õ
Furthermore, scholars are now rediscovering the centrality of race as a
concern of the European Enlightenment. The disengagement of race and
ethnicity from theology was one of the achievements of the Enlighten-
ment, and in part explains why abstruse matters of human geography
captured the interest of the likes of Immanuel Kant, a critic of vulgar
environmentalism, who stopped short of polygenesis. Kant™s voluminous
writings on geography and anthropology are now being reintegrated


ÃÃ LaWtau, Moeurs des sauvages ameriquains, I, ch. 4, pp. 108“455, esp. pp. 108“10, 113,
´
119, 121, 454; Pagden, Fall of natural man, ch. 8; Marshall and Williams, Great map of
mankind, pp. 204“5; B. Trigger, Natives and newcomers: Canada™s ˜heroic age™ reconsidered
(1985: Manchester, 1986), pp. 22“3.
Õ Vico, The new science of Giambattista Vico (3rd edn, 1744, trans. T. Bergin and M. Frisch,
Ithaca, 1984), pp. 9, 37“8, 89, 92, 112“13, 117; L. Pompa, Vico: a study of the ˜New
science™ (1975: 2nd edn, Cambridge, 1990), chs. 3, 5; Lilla, Vico, ch. 4.
Prologue: the Mosaic foundations 23

within his wider philosophical project.Ã’ In human racial classiWcation as
in other Welds, the Enlightenment fostered a more naturalistic approach
to knowledge. There were already signs of this in the late seventeenth
century in a brief essay by Fran§ois Bernier (1620“88) in the Journal des
s§avans (1684), which divided the world into four or Wve racial divisions
on the basis of physical appearance, without any reference to established
Biblical categories.Ó Despite the disappearance of Noachic categories, an
underlying monogenetic orthodoxy would still set limits to the scope of
the new racial science.
ClassiWcation began in earnest during the eighteenth century in the
work of Carl Linnaeus (1707“78) and Georges de BuVon (1707“88).
These naturalists did not endorse the existing view that all the peoples of
the world derived from the three branches “ Semitic, Hamidian and
Japhetan “ of a single human stem. Linnaeus divided the races of men
into four types “ Americanus, Europeus, Asiaticus and Afer “ with an
additional category for wild men. BuVon, on the other hand, criticised the
disservice done to nature by the categories of the taxonomist. In addition,
BuVon™s crafted mixture of subversive arguments, obscured by smoke-
screen declarations of Biblical orthodoxy, and hypocritical willingness to
retract particular statements which gave oVence to the Sorbonne (while
conserving his overall position), made his theological position diYcult to
parse with any conWdence. Nevertheless, by the late 1770s it was clear
that he had broken with traditional schemes of chronology with his
estimate of about 75,000 years for the age of the cooling earth. Within the
sphere of man™s history, BuVon was more circumspect. Although they
both treated racial diVerence in a naturalistic mode, neither Linnaeus nor
BuVon “ unlike Voltaire, who espoused a heterodox variant of stable
creationism “ made any attempt to displace the sacred unity of mankind
with an alternative model of polygenesis. BuVon was quite insistent that
environmental factors alone could explain the variety of humankind:
Tout concourt donc a prouver que le genre humain n™est pas compose d™especes
` ´ `
essentiellement diVerentes entre elles, qu™au contraire il n™y a eu originairement
´
qu™une seule espece d™hommes, qui s™etant multipliee et repandue sur toute la
` ´ ´ ´
surface de la terre, a subi diVerents changements par l™inXuence du climat, par la
´
diVerence de la nourriture, par celle de la maniere de vivre, par les maladies
´ `
epidemiques, et aussi par le melange varie a l™inWni des individus plus ou moins
´ ´ ´ ´`
ressemblants.Ó
Ã’ E. C. Eze, Race and the Enlightenment: a reader (Oxford, 1997), pp. 2“4, 38“64; Greene,
Death of Adam, pp. 232“3.
Ó Fran§ois Bernier, ˜Nouvelle division de la Terre, par les diVerentes especes ou races
´ `
d™hommes qui l™habitent, envoyee par un fameux voyageur™, Journal des s§avans (1684),
´
no. 12, 133“40.
Ó Jean BuVon, ˜Varietes dans l™espece humaine™ (1749), in BuVon, Histoire naturelle
´´ `
24 Theological contexts

Eighteenth-century racial discourse remained transitional, a hodge-
podge of biological, climatic and stadialist interpretations of racial and
cultural diVerence. There was a basic consensus that the human race
shared a common origin, though a variety of environmental factors were
proposed as explanations for subsequent biological variations, including
skin pigmentation.Ô For example, the inXuential anthropological system
of Johann Friedrich Blumenbach (1752“1840), who developed the
science of comparative human anatomy, has been described as a fusion of
˜Christian and enlightened™ approaches. Although Blumenbach divided
humanity into Wve racial varieties, he stressed that the four variant races,
the Mongolian, Ethiopian, Malay and American, were degenerations of
an original Caucasian stock.•»
The question of race (and its theological implications) was felt most
acutely in North America. There European settlers directly confronted
both the various indigenous peoples of the New World and an imported
population of black African ˜slave™ labour. White colonists faced peculiar-
ly intractable problems when explaining racial diversity. On the one hand,
there was the need to justify European expropriation of Amerindian
territory, the legitimacy of an “ evolving “ unfree labour system, the
discouragement of miscegenation and, from the revolution of 1776, the
exclusion of ˜inferior™ black slaves (whose human political value for
electoral purposes was later precisely calibrated in the Constitution at
three-Wfths of a white American) from the full beneWts of the United
States™ democratic creed.•¦ On the other hand, the assertion of diVerence

(selection ed. J. Varloot, Paris, 1984), pp. 142“3; J. Roger, BuVon (1989: trans. S.
Bonnefoi, Ithaca, 1997), pp. 42“3, 73, 84, 92, 100“5, 110, 171, 174“83, 186“9, 237,
298, 322, 339, 346, 379, 404“12, 417“18, 422, 426, 431; Greene, Death of Adam, pp.
226“9, 362; S. J. Gould, The mismeasure of man (2nd edn, Harmondsworth, 1997), p.
404; S. Toulmin and J. GoodWeld, The discovery of time (1965: Harmondsworth, 1967),
pp. 175“82; J. BurchWeld, Lord Kelvin and the age of the earth (1975: Chicago, 1990), p. 4;
I. Hannaford, Race: the history of an idea in the west (Baltimore, 1996), pp. 204“5.
Ô C. A. Bayly, Imperial meridian: the British Empire and the world 1780“1830 (London and
New York, 1989), p. 147; K. Thomas, Man and the natural world (1983: Harmonds-
worth, 1984), pp. 135“6. For the emergence of the race concept at varying rates in
diVerent spheres of discourse, see N. Hudson, ˜From ˜˜nation™™ to ˜˜race™™: the origin of
racial classiWcation in eighteenth-century thought™, ECS 29 (1996), 247“64.
•» H. F. Augstein, ˜Introduction™, in Augstein (ed.), Race: the origins of an idea, 1760“1850
(Bristol, 1996), p. xvii; Greene, Death of Adam, pp. 223“6; Gould, Mismeasure of man,
pp. 401“12. For the development of Blumenbach™s theories “ including the appearance
of the term ˜Caucasian™ in 1781 and the displacement of ˜varietas™ by ˜gens™ “ between the
Wrst edition in 1775 and the third in 1795, see Hannaford, Race, pp. 205“13.
•¦ Race slavery emerged gradually in the American colonies over the course of the seven-
teenth and eighteenth centuries in a complex hierarchy of labour with various subtle
gradations of status and freedom, including punitive white English servitude, contrac-
tually indentured white English service and, at Wrst, black servants. The justiWcation at
Wrst for African-American bondage was confessional rather than racial. A Virginia law of
1670 deWned slaves as ˜all servants not being Christians™ brought in by sea. However,
from the 1660s colonial legislatures began to close the option whereby a Negro could
Prologue: the Mosaic foundations 25

could not be pushed too far, for there was also a pressing need to conWrm
the narrative authority of the white man™s Bible. While the relationship of
white, red and black was clearly conceptualised in racial terms, sugges-
tions by heterodox thinkers such as Thomas JeVerson (1743“1826) that
the races of mankind might have plural origins were deeply oVensive. As
T. F. Gossett has emphasised, JeVerson™s Xirtation with the atheistic and
blasphemous notion that blacks might constitute a distinct race, dabbled
with ˜a much more explosive issue than the question of Negro equality™.• 
The magisterial strain of the Enlightenment in America remained within
safe monogenetic parameters, despite the countervailing pressures to
account for substantial ethnic variation. America™s leading racial theorists
such as the Reverend Samuel Stanhope Smith (1750“1819), professor of
moral philosophy at the College of New Jersey, and the Philadelphia
physician Benjamin Rush (1745“1813), defended the unity of the human
species against the heresy of separate creations. Both rejoiced in the
celebrated case of Henry Moss, a black man who, within three years of
spots appearing on his body in 1792, had become almost ˜white™. A visit
to Moss conWrmed Rush in his explanation that blackness was a symptom
of a mild form of leprosy which aZicted Africans, darkening their pig-
ment. Rush had produced a remarkable solution to the American racial
quandary. The diagnosis of this racially speciWc leprosy simultaneously
bolstered the veracity of Genesis, justiWed a philanthropic white paternal-
ism over the unfortunate African-American invalids and, on medical
grounds, reinforced the prohibition on interracial marriage.•À
The American experience serves to reinforce Richard Popkin™s
extricate himself from slavery through baptism. Henceforth, the basis of slavery became
progressively more racialist; although in 1753 the Virginia code still used anachronistic
religious deWnitions. See e.g. O. Handlin and M. Handlin, ˜Origins of the Southern labor
system™, WMQ 3rd ser. 7 (1950), 199“222; D. B. Davis, The problem of slavery in western
culture (Ithaca, 1966), esp. pp. 210, 446; W. Billings, ˜The cases of Fernando and
Elisabeth Key™, WMQ 3rd ser. 30 (1973), 467“74; W. Wiecek, ˜The statutory law of
slavery and race in the thirteen mainland colonies of British America™, WMQ 3rd ser. 34
(1977), esp. 263“4; E. Morgan, American slavery, American freedom (New York, 1975);
D. MacLeod, ˜Towards caste: blacks in eighteenth-century America™, in A. C. Hepburn
(ed.), Minorities in history (Historical studies 12, Belfast, 1978); T. H. Breen, ˜A changing
labor force and race relations in Virginia™, in Breen, Puritans and adventurers (New York,
1980). However, for an alternative view which emphasises the racist origins of slavery,
though not without an awareness of attitudes to the ˜heathen™, see W. Jordan, White over
black: American attitudes towards the Negro, 1550“1812 (Chapel Hill, 1968), pp. 91“8.
Nevertheless, recent scholarship reemphasises that racism was a consequence rather than
a cause of slavery; see D. B. Davis, ˜Constructing race: a reXection™, WMQ 3rd ser. 54
(1997), 7“18, which introduces a special issue on this theme. Cf. T. Michals, ˜˜˜That sole
and despotic dominion™™: slaves, wives, and game in Blackstone™s Commentaries™, ECS 27
(1993“4), 196“7. •  Gossett, Race, p. 44.
•À W. Stanton, The leopard™s spots: scientiWc attitudes toward race in America 1815“1859
(Chicago, 1960), pp. 3“13. See also M. A. Noll, Princeton and the Republic, 1768“1822:
the search for a Christian Enlightenment in the era of Samuel Stanhope Smith (Princeton,
1989), pp. 115“21.
26 Theological contexts

argument that the emergence of modern racialist ideas was predicated, in
the Wrst instance, upon deviant Scriptural exegesis and, secondly, upon
enlightened assaults on the value of Scripture itself.•Ã However, it would
be a mistake to assume premature emancipation of ethnological discourse
from theological categories. Johann Gottfried Herder (1744“1803), the
philosophical father of modern nationalism, constructed his theory of
the Volk on theological foundations. Although Herder rejected notions
of the divine inspiration of language, his alternative thesis, which traced
the growth of language in organic folk communities, was no less theologi-
cal. Ethnic diversity was a vital part of the providential patterning of the
universal moral order. Men related to God not as individuals but within
communities, which were themselves in their very incommensurability
expressions of the divine will. Indeed, reversing Vico™s stance on the
Semitic line, Herder included the Hebrews within his hybrid socio-
theological vision as the most ancient and admirable example of an
authentic Volk.•• Philosophically, the parallel ascents of racism and na-
tionalism were inextricably bound up with the fate of ethnic theology.
Into the nineteenth century, even the pathbreaking “ and paradigm-
shattering “ science of geology held out the possibility of a recent catas-
trophe similar to the Noachian Deluge. The Swiss“French palaeontol-
ogist Georges Cuvier (1769“1832), who was no supernaturalist though a
member of the French Protestant community, was able to conserve a
notional Deluge as the most recent of a longer chronology of geological
catastrophes. Similarly, the new sciences of ethnology, though drawing
on naturalistic evidence and argument, continued to conform to the
pattern of monogenesis. Even the craniologist Anders Retzius (1796“

•Ã R. Popkin, ˜The philosophical bases of modern racism™ and ˜Hume™s Racism™, in Popkin,
The high road to Pyrrhonism (ed. R. A. Watson and J. E. Force, 1980: Indianapolis, 1993).
See Pocock, ˜Gibbon and the idol Fo™, p. 31: ˜It was a tactic of Enlightenment historiog-
raphy to destroy the unity of the human race and human history, because both of these
unities were founded upon the authority of the Bible.™ Harrison, ˜Religion™ and the
religions, pp. 128“9, shows that, by undermining the universal genetic transmission of
Adam™s original sin, polygenesis ˜called into question the whole drama of Fall and
Redemption and the uniqueness of Jesus Christ™. See also D. McKee, ˜Isaac de La
Peyrere, a precursor of eighteenth-century critical deists™, PMLA 59 (1944), esp. 479“
`
80; Poliakov, Le mythe aryen, esp. pt 2, ch. 2.
•• F. M. Barnard, ˜The Hebrews and Herder™s political creed™, Modern Language Review 54
(1959), 533“46; Barnard, Herder™s social and political thought (Oxford, 1965), esp. pp.
55“63; Manuel, Eighteenth century confronts the gods, pp. 291“301; G. Stocking, Victorian
anthropology (1987: New York pbk, 1991), p. 20. See N. Hope, ˜Johann Gottfried
Herder: the Lutheran clergyman™, in K. Robbins (ed.), Protestant evangelicalism: Britain,
Ireland, Germany and America c. 1750“c. 1950 (Ecclesiastical History Society, Oxford,
1990), pp. 109“34. For an alternative Francophone line of descent for ethnic nationalism
(which includes, among various other factors and personalities, the place of an orthodox
scheme of universal chronology in Chateaubriand™s reactionary nationalist project), see
M. Thom, Republics, nations and tribes (London, 1995), esp. pp. 130“1.
Prologue: the Mosaic foundations 27

1860), who concocted the notion of the cephalic index to distinguish skull
types, maintained a monogenist position.•’ An explicitly anti-Biblical
theory of polygenetic racial origins would Xourish only in the middle of
the nineteenth century and, in France especially, in the work of scientists
such as Paul Broca (1824“80). Broca™s British counterparts generally
kept abreast of anthropological developments without departing from the
monogenist paradigm, though a polygenist subculture did Xourish in the
Anthropological Society.•“



Sacred genealogies
The defence of Scripture was the primary concern of ethnic theology.
However, antiquarians also hitched their own particular national and
ethnic identities to the larger truths of universal history. In this way, the
Mosaic account of the dispersal of peoples laid the groundwork for the
construction of early modern European patriotisms. A seminal text was
Isidore of Seville™s seventh-century history, which told the story of the
peopling of Europe by the stock of Japhet.•“ By the late medieval period,
this extension of the ethnology adumbrated in Genesis had contributed to
the myths of origin which accompanied the rise of regnal solidarity in
many kingdoms of Europe.•” Nevertheless, many of the myths of ethnic
origin which had satisWed medieval chroniclers came unstuck in the
Renaissance. The growing sophistication of Renaissance historiography,
and the gestation of allied auxiliary disciplines, including chronology and
a rudimentary diplomatic, would eventually put an end to many medieval
myths of national origins.’» Origin myths were purged of classical vanities
and monkish inventions, especially in Protestant realms, but less obvious-
ly fabricated myths of ethnic origin, ancient constitutions and the like
proliferated. Yet adherence to the Mosaic account of the peopling of the
world did not immediately become a sign of reactionary orthodoxy or of

•’ G. Stocking, ˜Race™, in W. F. Bynum, E. J. Browne and R. Porter (eds.), Dictionary of the
history of science (London, 1981), p. 357.
•“ Stocking, Victorian anthropology, pp. 67, 247“52; J. W. Burrow, ˜Evolution and anthro-

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