Zenosbooks

9780393049343The History of White People by Nell Irvin Painter. New York. 2010. Norton. 496 pages. Cover design by Keenan. 9780393049343.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

    A mind-expanding and myth-destroying exploration of notions of white race - not merely a skin color but also a signal of power, prestige, and beauty to be withheld and granted selectively. Our story begins in Greek and Roman antiquity, where the concept of race did not exist, only geography and the opportunity to conquer and enslave others. Not until the eighteenth century did an obsession with whiteness flourish, with the German invention of the notion of Caucasian beauty. This theory made northern Europeans into ‘Saxons,’ ‘Anglo-Saxons,’ and ‘Teutons,’ envisioned as uniquely handsome natural rulers. Here was a worldview congenial to northern Europeans bent on empire. There followed an explosion of theories of race, now focusing on racial temperament as well as skin color. Spread by such intellectuals as Madame de Stael and Thomas Carlyle, white race theory soon reached North America with a vengeance. Its chief spokesman, Ralph Waldo Emerson, did the most to label Anglo-Saxons - icons of beauty and virtue - as the only true Americans. It was an ideal that excluded not only blacks but also all ethnic groups not of Protestant, northern European background. The Irish and Native Americans were out and, later, so were the Chinese, Jews, Italians, Slavs, and Greeks - all deemed racially alien. Did immigrations threaten the very existence of America? Americans were assumed to be white, but who among poor immigrants could become truly American? A tortured and convoluted series of scientific explorations developed - theories intended to keep Anglo-Saxons at the top: the ever-popular measurement of skulls, the powerful eugenics movement, and highly biased intelligence tests - all designed to keep working people out and down. As Nell Irvin Painter reveals, power - supported by economics, science, and politics - continued to drive exclusionary notions of whiteness until, deep into the twentieth century, political realities enlarged the category of truly American. A story filled with towering historical figures, THE HISTORY OF WHITE PEOPLE forcefully reminds us that the concept of one white race is a recent invention. The meaning, importance, and reality of this all-too-human thesis of race have buckled under the weight of a long and rich unfolding of events.

 

Painter Nell Irvin NELL IRVIN PAINTER, Edwards Professor of American History, Emerita, at Princeton University, is the author of seven books, including SOJOURNER TRUTH and STANDING AT ARMAGEDDON. She has served as president of the Organization of American Historians and the Southern Historical Association and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She lives in Newark, New Jersey, and the Adirondacks.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Search

Zeno's Picks

Neglectedbooks.com

The Neglected Books Page

20 June 2019

www.NeglectedBooks.com: Where forgotten books are remembered
  • Blitz Writing: Night Shift and It Was Different at the Time, by Inez Holden (2019)

    As a rule, I don’t cover in print books on this site: the fact that a book is in print is proof that it may be underappreciated, but it’s certainly not forgotten. However, I have to make an exception in the case of the Handheld Press’s recent release of two of Inez Holden’s three books... Read more

    The

    ...
  • Journey Through a Lighted Room, by Margaret Parton (1973)

    I knew I was going to like Margaret Parton’s memoir, Journey Through a Lighted Room, on page two, when she writes of reflecting upon a Quaker meeting while “wandering aimlessly about the garden with a vodka and tonic in hand.” This is the story of a woman who wasn’t ashamed by the fact that she... Read more

    The post ...

  • The Mere Living, by B. Bergson Spiro (Betty Miller) (1933)

    Had The Mere Living not been largely forgotten by now, it would undoubtedly be saddled with an shakeable and unfavorable comparison to Virginia Wolf’s Mrs. Dalloway. For both are circadian novels (taking place within the space of a single day) set in London and both really heavily on the use of a stream of consciousness... Read more

    The post ...

  • My Heart for Hostage, by Robert Hillyer (1942)

    I feel a little trepidation in writing about My Heart for Hostage. It may be the closest thing to a perfect book that I’ve come across in nearly 13 years of working on this site. It’s so good that early in reading it, I felt a frisson of fear that Robert Hillyer would not be... Read more

    The post ...

  • Linked in the Lutheran Underworld, from Direction North, by John Sykes (1967)

    It is not that I am a particularly avid drinker, but one partial to a glass of beer or a glass or two of wine with a meal, and then a lift at the start of the evening—apart from specific drinking occasions; but since I came to Finland I have been goaded almost to a... Read more

    The post ...

  • The Rabbit’s Umbrella, by George Plimpton (1955)

    The rabbit with the umbrella in George Plimpton’s children’s book, The Rabbit’s Umbrella, is every bit as real as Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny: that he might exist matters more than that he actually does. In this case, the rabbit, plus three robbers, shouting parrots, and a giant dog named Lump serve as bait... Read more

    The post ...

  • The Bloater, by Rosemary Tonks (1968)

    The bloater of Rosemary Tonks’ title is an opera singer, and The Bloater itself is a bit like Così fan tutte updated for the Swinging Sixties. Min, married to George, who seems to have a bird on the side, is being pursued by the Bloater (he never gets a real name), while she contemplates if... Read more

    The post ...

  • The Autobiography of Ethel Firebrace, by Gay Taylor and Malachi Whitaker (1937)

    In The Autobiography of Ethel Firebrace, Malachi Whitaker and Gay Taylor offered the world a feminine match for H. H. Bashford’s really good man, Augustus Carp, Esq. Lost now to literary history, Ethel Firebrace was prolific novelist of the early 20th century, churning out dozens and dozens of works such as Clothed in White Samite,... ...

  • The Well-Meaning Young Man, by Luise and Magdalen King-Hall (1930)

    I decided to read The Well Meaning Young Man after stumbling across this passage: Horatio Swann, the famous portrait painter, was at his wit’s end. Harry Ames, the well-known scene designer, was at his wit’s end. The Russian chauffeur, Boris, was lying upstairs under a neat check bedspread, in a bedroom of the inn, suffering... Read more

    The

    ...
  • Opium Fogs, by Rosemary Tonks (1963)

    Though Rosemary Tonks’ Emir includes Opium Fogs in its “by the same author” list and not vice-versa, it’s a safe bet that Opium Fogs was written second. On all counts — particularly form, style, and characterization — it’s the more successful book. What’s more, throughout the book there are signs of material from Emir being... Read

    ...
Copyright © 2019 Zenosbooks. All Rights Reserved.
Joomla! is Free Software released under the GNU General Public License.