Historical race concepts

disused conception of a person's racial or ethnic makeup

People from different places tend to look different. Some scientists in the 18th century decided to classify them into a limited number of variants or races. Some spoke of three races of mankind: The Caucasian race living in Europe, North Africa and West Asia, the Mongoloid race living in East Asia, Australia, and the Americas, and the Negroid race living in Africa south of the Sahara. Others preferred two, with the others arising from mixtures, and some chose four, five, or other numbers of races.

Map of human races (Meyers Konversations-Lexikon, 1885–1890)

  North Mongol

These ideas were popular from the late 18th century to the middle of the 20th century. These are now called historical definitions of race or historical race concepts. Today, scientists agree that there is only one human race. Modern genetic research has shown that the idea of three (or four, or five) races was wrong.[1][2]: 360 

19th century


Johann Friedrich Blumenbach's classification, first proposed in 1779,[3] was widely used in the 19th century, with many variations.

Middle of the 20th century


The mid-twentieth century racial classification by American anthropologist Carleton S. Coon, also used five races but divided some of them differently:

  • Negroid (Black) race
  • Australoid (Australian Aborigine and Papuan) race
  • Capoid (Bushmen/Hottentots) race
  • Mongoloid (Oriental/Amerindian) race
  • Caucasoid (White) race

Further reading



  1. American Association of Physical Anthropologists (27 March 2019). "AAPA Statement on Race and Racism". American Association of Physical Anthropologists. Retrieved 19 June 2020.
  2. Templeton A. 2016. Evolution and notions of human race. In Losos J. & Lenski R. (eds) How evolution shapes our lives: essays on biology and society (pp. 346-361). Princeton; Oxford: Princeton University Press. doi:10.2307/j.ctv7h0s6j.26. That this view reflects the consensus among American anthropologists is stated in: Wagner, Jennifer K.; Yu, Joon-Ho; Ifekwunigwe, Jayne O.; Harrell, Tanya M.; Bamshad, Michael J.; Royal, Charmaine D. (February 2017). "Anthropologists' views on race, ancestry, and genetics". American Journal of Physical Anthropology. 162 (2): 318–327. doi:10.1002/ajpa.23120. PMC 5299519. PMID 27874171.
  3. The anthropological treatises of Johann Friedrich Blumenbach. Google Books The anthropological treatises of Johann Friedrich Blumenbach