The Complexion Of Race: Categories Of Difference In Eighteenth-century British Culture by Roxann WheelerThe Complexion Of Race: Categories Of Difference In Eighteenth-century British Culture by Roxann Wheeler

The Complexion Of Race: Categories Of Difference In Eighteenth-century British Culture

byRoxann Wheeler

Paperback | June 13, 2000

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In the 1723 Journal of a Voyage up the Gambia, an English narrator describes the native translators vital to the expedition's success as being "Black as Coal". Such a description of dark skin color was not unusual for eighteenth-century Britons -- but neither was the statement that followed: "here, thro' Custom, (being Christians) they account themselves White Men". The Complexion of Race asks how such categories were possible, when and how such statements came to seem illogical, and how our understanding of the eighteenth century has been distorted by the imposition of nineteenth- and twentieth-century notions of race on an earlier period.

Tracing the emergence of skin color as a predominant market of identity in British thought, Wheeler juxtaposes the Enlightenment's scientific speculations on human variety in natural history with accounts in civil histories, travel literature, and fiction. In offering a new interpretation of skin color's role in race, Wheeler considers the range of meanings attached in white, tawny, copper and black complexion. Arguing that cultural factors, such as civility, division of labor, and property ownership, should be given greater emphasis in out understanding of eighteenth-century racial ideology in Britain, Wheeler examines the coexistence of two major systems of racialization. Over the century, an older order, based primarily on the division between Christian and heathen, gives way to a new division based on bodily differences, especially between black and white skin color. This shift is not accomplished during the eighteenth century, which is especially remarkable in fiction. For instance, non-European characters, before the 1770s, were commonly"redeemed" by Christian conversion, British apparel, the consumption of English commodities, and marriage to a European.

As a consequence of a burgeoning empire, particularly in the second half of the eighteenth century, English writers were increasingly preoccupied with differentiating their nation from its imperial outposts by naming traits that set off the rulers from the ruled. In pointing out the salient differences between the British and colonial histories of race, Wheeler demonstrates that although white complexion was one of the distinguishing traits prized by Britons, it was by no means the most important one.

Title:The Complexion Of Race: Categories Of Difference In Eighteenth-century British CultureFormat:PaperbackDimensions:360 pages, 9.19 × 6.09 × 0.96 inPublished:June 13, 2000Publisher:University Of Pennsylvania PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0812217225

ISBN - 13:9780812217223

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