1902 Encyclopedia > Anthropology > Races of Mankind

(Part 3)

III. Races of Mankind -- The classification of mankind into a number of permanent varieties or races, rests on grounds which are within limits not only obvious but definite. Whether from a popular or a scientific point of view, it would be admitted that a Negro, a Chinese, and an Australia, belong to three such permanent varieties of men, all plainly distinguishable from one another and from any European. Moreover, such a division takes for granted the idea which is involved in the word race, that each of these varieties is due to special ancestry, each race thus representing an ancient breed or stock, however these breeds or stocks may have had their origin. The anthropological classification of mankind is thus zoological in its nature, like that of the varieties or species of any other animal group, an the character on which it is based on in great measure physical, though intellectual and traditional peculiarities, such as moral habit and language, furnish important aid. Among the best-marked race-characters are the following:--

The colour of the skin has always been held as specially distinctive. The coloured race-portraits of ancient Egypt remain to prove the permanence of complexion during a lapse of a hundred generations, distinguishing coarsely but clearly the types of the red-brown Egyptian, the yellow-brown Canaanite, the comparatively fair Libyan, and the Negro (see Wilkinson, Ancient Eg.; Bruhsch, Geogr. Inschr. Altagypt. Denkm, vol. ii.) These broad distinctions have the same kind of value as the popular terms describing white, yellow, brown, and black races, which often occur in ancient writings, and are still used. But for scientific purposes greater accuracy is required, and this is now satisfactorily attained by the use of Dr. Broca's graduated series of colours as a standard (Memoires de la Societe d'Anthropologie de Paris, ii.) By this table the varieties of the human skin may be followed from the fairest hue of the Swede and the darker tint of the Provencal, to the withered-leaf brown of the Hottentot, the chocolate brown of the Mexican, and the brown-black of the West African. The colour of the eyes and hair is also to be defined accurately by Broca's table. This affords, however, less means of distinction, from the extent in which dark tints of hair and iris are common to races whose skins are more perceptibly different; yet some varieties are characteristic, such as the blue eyes and flaxen hair of that fair race of Northern Europe.

As to the hair, its structure and arrangement is a better indication of race than its tint. The fair differs in quantity between scantiness of the body of the Mongol and profusion on the body of the Aino; while as to the arrangement on the scalp, the tufts of the Bushman contrast with the more equal distribution on the European head. The straight hair of the North American or Malay is recognizable at once as different from the waving or curling hair of the European, and both from the naturally frizzed hair of the Negro. These marked differences are due to the structure of the hair, wick, examined in sections under the microscope, varies from the circular section proper to the straight-haired races, to the more or less symmetrically oval or reniform sections belonging to races with curled and twisted hair (see Pruner-Bey in Mem. De la Soc. Anthrop., vol. ii)

Stature is by no means a general criterion of race, and it would not, for instance, be difficult to choose groups of Englishmen, Kafirs, and North American Indians, whose mean height should hardly differ. Yet in many cases it is a valuable means of distinction, as between the tall Patagonians and the stunted Fuegians, and even as a help in minuter problems, such as separating the Teutonic and Keltic ancestry in the population of England (see Beddoe, "Stature and Bulk of Man in the British Isles," in Mem. Anthrop. Soc. London, vol. iii). Proportions of the limbs, compared in length with the trunk, have been claimed as constituting peculiarities of African and American races; and other anatomical points, such as the conformation of the pelvis, have speciality. But inferences of this class have hardly attained to sufficient certainty and generality to be set down in the form of rules.

The conformation of the skull is second only to the colour of the skin as a criterion for the distinction of race. The principal modes of estimating the differences of skulls are the following: - The skull being seen from above, the proportions of the two diameters are estimated on the principle employed by Retzius: taking the longer diameter from front to back as 100, if the shorter or cross diameter falls below 80, the skull may be classed as long (dolichocephalic; while if it exceeds 80, the skull may be classed as broad (brachycephalic); or a third division may be introduced between these as intermediate (mesocephalic), comprehending skulls with a proportionate breadth of 75 to 80, or thereabout. The percentage of breadth to length measured in this manner is known as the cephalic index; thus, the cephalic index of a Negro or Australian may be as low as 72, and that of a Tatar as high as 88, while the majority of Europeans have an index not departing in either direction very far from 78. The cephalic height is measured in the same way as a percentage of the length. The back view (norma occipitalis) of the skull is distinguished as rounded, pentagonic, &c., and the base view of the skull shows the position of the occipital foramen and the zygomatic arches. The position of the jaws is recognized as important, races being described as prognathous when the jaws project, far, as in the Asutralian or Negro, in contradistinction to the orthognathous type, which is that of the ordinary well-shaped European skull. On this distinction in great measure depends the celebrated "facial angle," measured by Camper as a test of low and high races; but this angle is objectionable as resulting partly from the development of the forehead and partly from the position of the jaws. The capacity of the cranium is estimated in cubic measure by filling it with sand, &c., with the general result that the civilized white man is found to have a larger brain than the barbarian or savage.

Classification of races on cranial measurements has long been attempted by eminent anatomists, such as Blumenbach and Retzius, while the later labours of Von Baer, Welcker, Davis, Broca, Busk, Lucae, and many others, have brought the distinctions to extreme minuteness. In certain cases great reliance may be placed on such measurements. Thus the skulls of an Asutralian and a Negro would be generally distinguished by their narrowness and the projection of the jaw from that of any Englishman; while, although both the Australian and Negro are thus dolichocephalic and prognathous, the first would usually differ perceptibly from the second in its upright sides and strong orbital ridges. The relation of height to breadth may furnish a valuable test; thus both the Hafir and the Bushman are dolichocephalic, with an index of about 72, but they differ in the index of height, which may be 73 and 71 respectively, in the one case more than the width and in the other less. It is, however, acknowledged by all experienced craniologists, that the shape of the skull may vary so much within the same tribe, and even the same family, that it must be used with extreme caution, and if possible only in conjunction with other criteria of race.

The general contour of the face, in part dependent on the form of the skull, varies much in different races, among whom it is loosely defined as oval, lozenge-shaped, pentagonal, &c. Of particular features, some of the most marked contrast to European types are seen in the oblique Chinese eyes, the broad-set Kamchadal cheeks, the pointed Arab chin, the snub Kirghis nose, the fleshy protuberant Negro lips, and the broad Kalmuk ear. Taken altogether, the features have a typical character which popular observation seizes with some degree of correctness, as in the recognition of the Jewish countenance in a European city.

The state of adaptation in which each people stands to its native climate forms a definite race-character. In its extreme form this is instanced in the harmful effect of the climate of India on children of European parents, and the corresponding danger in transporting natives of tropical climates to England. Typical instances of the relation of race-constitutions to particular diseases are seen in the liability of Europeans in the West Indies to yellow fever, from which Negroes are exempt, and in the habitation by tribes in India of so-called "unhealthy districts," whose climate is deadly to Europeans, and even to natives of neighboruing regions. Even the vermin infesting different races of men are classified by Mr. A. Murray (Trans. R. Soc. Edin., vol. xxii.) as distinct.

The physical capabilities of different races are known to differ widely, but it is not easy to discriminate here between hereditary race-differences and those due to particular food and habit of life. A similar difficulty has hitherto stood in the way of any definite classification of the emotional, moral and intellectual characters of races. Some of the most confident judgment which have been delivered on this subject have been dictated by prejudice or willful slander, as in the many lamentable cases in which slave-holders and conquerors have excused their ill-treatment of subject and invaded races on the ground of their being creatures of bestial nature in mind and morals. Two of the best-marked contrasts of mental type recorded among races are Mr. A. R. Wallace's distinction between the sky, reserved, and impassive Malay and the sociable and demonstrative Papuan (Tr. Eth. Soc., vol. iii. p. 200), and the very similar difference pointed out by Spix and Martius between the dull and morose natives of the Brazilian forests, an the lively sensuous African Negroes brought into contact with them (Riese in Brasilien, vol. I). In general, however, descriptions of national or racial character are so vitiated by the confusion of peculiarity of natural character with stage of civilization, that they can only be made use of with the greatest reserve.

The relation of language to race is discussed below. (Section V.)

Were the race-character indicated in the foregoing paragraphs constant in degree or even in kind, the classification of races would be an easy task. In fact it is not so, for every division of mankind presents in every character wide deviations from a standard. Thus the Negro race, well marked as it may seem at the first glance, proves on closer examination to include several shades of complexion and features, in some districts varying far from the accepted Negro type; while the examination of a series of native American tribes shows that, notwithstanding their asserted uniformity of type, they differ in stature, colour, features, and proportions of skull. (See Prichard, Nat. Hist of Man; Waitz, Anthropology, part i. sec. 5.) Detailed anthropological research, indeed, more and more justifies Blumenbach's words, that "innumerable varieties of mankind run into one another by insensible degrees." This state of things, due partly to mixture and crossing of races, and partly to independent variation of types, makes the attempt to arrange the whole human species within exactly bounded divisions an apparently hopeless task. It does not follow, however, that the attempt to distinguish special races should be given up, for there at least exist several definable types, each of which so far prevails in a certain population as to be taken as its standard. M. Quetelet's plan of defining such types will probably meet with general acceptance as the scientific method proper to this branch of anthropology. It consists in the determination of the standard, or typical "mean man" (homme moyen) of a population, with reference to any particular quality, such as stature, weight, complexion, &c. In the case of statute, this would be done by measuring a sufficient number of men, and accounting how many of them belong to each height on the scale. If it be thus ascertained, as it might be in an English district, that the 5 ft. 7 in. men form the most numerous group, while the 5 ft. 6 in. and 5 ft. 8 in. men are less in number, and the 5 ft. 5 in. and 5 ft. 9 in. still fewer, and so on until the extremely small number of extremely short or tall individuals of 5 ft. or 7 ft. is reached, it will thus be ascertained that the stature of the mean or typical man is to be taken as 5 ft. 7 in. The method is thus that of selecting as the standard the most numerous group, on both sides of which the groups decrease in number as they vary in type. Such classification may show the existence of two or more types in a community, as, for instance, the population of a Californian settlement made up of Whites and Chinese might show two predominant groups (one of 5 ft. 8 in., the other of 5 ft. 4 in) corresponding to these two racial types. It need hardly be said that this method of determining the mean type of a race, as being that of its really existing and mist numerous class, is altogether superior to the ere calculation of an average, which may actually be represented by comparatively few individuals, and those the exceptional ones. For instance, the average stature of the mixed European and Chinese population just referred to might be 5 ft. 6 in -- a worthless and, indeed, misleading result. (For particulars of Quetelet's method, see his Physique Sociale, 1869, and Anthropometrie, 1870). The measurement and description of the various races of men are now carried to great minuteness (the tables in Scherzer and Schwarz, Reise der Novara, and those of Fritsch Die Eingeborenen Sud-Afrika's, 1872, may be cited as examples of modern method), so that race classification is rapidly improving as to both scope and accuracy. Even where comparatively loose observations have been made, it is possible, by inspection of considerable number of individuals, to define the prevalent type of a race with tolerable approximation to the real mean or standard man. It is in this way that the subdivision of mankind into races, so far as it has been done to any purpose, has been carried out by anthropologists.

These classifications have been numerous, and though, regarded as system,s most of them are now seen at the first glance to be unsatisfactory, yet they have been of great value in systematizing knowledge, and are all more or less based on indisputable distinctions. Blumenbach's division, though published nearly a century ago (1781), has had the greatest influence. He reckon five races, viz., Caucasian, Mongolian, Ethiopian, American, Malay (see the collected edition of his Treatises, p. 264, published by the Anthropological Society). The ill-chosen name of Caucasian, used by Blumenbach to denote what may be called white men, is still current; it brings into one race peoples such as the Arabs and Swedes, although these are scarcely less different than the Americans and Malays, who are set down as two distinct races. Again, two of the best-marked varieties of mankind are the Australians and the Bushmen, neither of whom, however, seem to have a natural place in Blumebach's series. The yet simpler classification by Cuvier into Caucasian, Mongol, and Negro, corresponds in some measure with a division by mere complexion into white, yellow, and black races; but neither this threefold division, nor the ancient classification into Semitic, Hamitic, and Japhetic nations can be regarded as separating the human types either justly or sufficiently (see Prichard, Natural History of Man, sec. 15; Waitz, Anthropology, vol. i. part i. sec. 5). Schemes which set up a larger number of distinct races, such as the eleven of Pickering, the fifteen of Bory de St Vincent, and the sixteen of Desmoulins, have the advantage of finding niches for most well-defined human varieties; but no modern naturalist would be likely to adopt any one of these as it stands. In criticism of Pickering's system, it is sufficient to point out that he divides the white nations into two races, entitled the Arab and the Abyssinian (Pickering, Races of Man, chap. i.) Agassiz, Nott, Crawfurd, and others who have assumed a much larger number of races or species of man, are not considered to have satisfactorily defined a corresponding number of distinguishable types. On the whole, Professor Huxley's recent scheme (Journal of the Ethnological Society, vol. ii. p. 404, 1870) probably approaches more nearly than any other to such a tentative classification as may be accepted in definition of the principal varieties of mankind, regarded from a zoological point of view, though anthropologists may be disposed to erect into separate races several of his widely-differing sub-races. He ditinsguishes four principal types of mankind, the Australioid, Negroid, Mongoloid, and Xanthochoroic, adding a fifth variety, the Melanochroic.

The special points of the Australioid are a chocolate-brown skin, dark brown or black eyes, black hair (usually wavy), narrow (dolichocephalic) skull, brow-ridges strongly developed, projecting jaw, coarse lips, and broad nose. This type is best represented by the natives of Australia, and next to them, by the indigenous tribes of Southern India, the so-called coolies. The Egyptians to some degree approach this type; they are, however, held by good authorities to be a modified African race.

The Negroid type is primarily represented by the Negro of Africa, between the Sahara and the Cape district, including Madagascar. The skin varies from dark brown to brown-black, with eyes of similar dark hue, and hair usually black, and always crisp or woolly. The skull is narrow (dolichocephalic), with orbital ridges not prominent, prognathous, with depressed nasal, bones, causing the nose to be flat as well as broad; and the lips are coarse and projecting. Two important families are classed in this system as special modifications of the Negroid type. First, the Bushman of South Africa is diminutive in stature, and of yellowish-brown complexion; the Hottentot is supposed to be the result of crossing between the Bushman and ordinary Negroid. Second, the Negritos of the Andaman Islands, the peninsula of Malacca, the Philippines and other islands, to New Caledonia and Tasmania, are mostly dolichocephalic, with dark skins and woolly hair. In various districts they tend towards other types, and show traces of mixture.

The Mongoloid type prevails over the vast area lying east of a line drawn from Lapland to Siam. Its definition includes a short, squat build, a yellowish brown complexion, with black eyes and black straight hair, a broad (brachycephalic) skull, usually without prominent brow-ridges, flat small nose, and oblique eyes. The dolichocephalic Chinese and Japanese in other respect correspond. Various other important branches of the human species are brought into connection with the Mongoloid type, though on this view the differences they present raise difficult problems of gradual variations, as well as of mixture of race; these are the Dyak-Malays, the Polynesians, and the Americans.

The Xanthochroi, or fair whites-tall, with almost colourless skin, blue or grey eyes, hair from straw colour to chesnut, and skulls varying as to proportionate width- are the prevalent inhabitants of Northern Europe, and the type may be traced into North Africa, and eastward as far as Hindostan. On the south and west it mixes with that of the Melanochroi, or dark whites, and on the north and east with that of the Mongoloids.

The Melanochroi, or dark whites, differ from the fair whites in the darkening of the complexion to brownish and olive, and of the eyes and hair to black, while the stature is somewhat lower and the frame lighter. To this class belong a large part of those classed as Kelts, and of the populations of Southern Europe, such as Spaniards, Greeks, and Arabs, extending as far as India; while endless intermediate grades between the two white types testify to ages of intermingling. Professor Huxley is disposed to account for the Melanochroi as themselves the result of crossing between the Xanthochroi and the Australioids. Whatever ground there may be for his view, it is obviously desirable to place them in a class by themselves, distinguishing them by an appropriate name.

In determining whether the races of mankind are to be classed as varieties of one species, it is important to decide whether every two races can unite to produce fertile offspring. It is settled by experience that the most numerous and well-known crossed races, such as the Mulattos, descended from Europeans and Negroes-the Mestizos, from Europeans and American indigenes -- the Zambos, from these American indigenes and Negroes, &c., are permanently fertile. They practically constitute sub-races, with a general blending of the characters of the two parents, and only differing from fully established races in more or less tendency to revert to one or other of the original types. It has been argued, on the other hand, that not all such mixed breeds are permanent, and especially that the cross between European and Australian indigenes is almost sterile; but this assertion, when examined with the care demanded by its bearing on the general question of hybridity, has distinctly broken down. On the whole, the general evidence favours the opinion that any two races may combine to produce a new sub-race, which again may combine with any other variety. (See Waitz, Anthropology, vol. i. part i. sec. 3; Darwin, Descent of Man, part i. ch. 7; Prichard, Nat Hist. Of Man, sect. 5; on the other hand, Broca, Phenomena of Hybridity in the Genus Homo, 1864). Thus, if the existence of a small number of distinct races of mankind be taken as a starting-point, it is obvious that their crossing would produce an indefinite number of secondary varieties, such as the population of the world actually presents. The working out in detail of the problem, how far the differences among complex, nations, such as those of Europe, may have been brought about by hybridity, is still, however, a task of almost hopeless intricacy. Among the boldest attempts to account for distinctly-marked population as resulting from the intermixture of two races, are Professor Huxley's view that the Hottentots are hybrid between the Bushmen and the Negroes, and his more important suggestion, that the Melnochroic peoples of Southern Europe are of mixed Xanthochoric and Australioid stock.

The problem of ascertaining how the small number of races, distinct enough to be called primary, can have assumed their different types, has been for years the most disputed field of anthropology, the battle-ground of the rival schools of monogenists and polygenists. The one has claimed all mankind to be descended from one original stock, and generally from a single pair; the other has contended for the several primary races being separate species of independent origin. It is not merely as a question of natural history that the matter has been argued. Biblical authority has been appealed to, mostly on the side of the monogenists, as recording the descent of mankind from a single pair. (See, for example, Horne's Introduction to the Scriptures; the Speaker's Commentary, Gen. I). On the other hand, however, the polygenists not less confidently claim passages from which they infer the existence of non-Adamite, as well as Adamite races of man. (See, for example, R.S. Poole, Genesis of the Earth and Man.) Nor have political considerations been without influence, as where, for instance, one American school of ethnologists have been thought to have formed, under the bias of a social system recognizing slavery, their opinion that the Negro and the white man are of different species. (See Morton, Crania Americana; Nott and Gliddon, Types of Mankind.) Of the older school of scientific monogenists, Blumenbach and Prichard are eminent representatives, as is Quatrefages of the more modern. The great problem of the monogenist theory is to explain by what course of variation the so different races of man have arisen from a single stock. In ancient times little difficulty was left in this, authorities such as Aristotle and Vitruvius seeing in climate and circumstance the natural cause of racial differences, the Ethiopian having been blackened by the tropical sun, &c. Later and closer observations, however, have shown such influences to be, at any rate, far slighter in amount and slower in operation than was once supposed. M. de Quatrefages brings forward (Unite de l'Espece Humanine, Paris, 1861, ch. 13) his strongest arguments for the variability of races under change of climate, &c (action du milieu), instancing the asserted alteration in complexion, constitution, and character of Negroes in America, and Englishmen in America and Australia. But although the reality of some such modification is not disputed, especially as to stature and constitution, its amount is not enough to upset the counter-proposition of the remarkable permanence of type displayed by races ages after they have been transported to climates extremely different from that of their former home. Moreover, physically different races, such as the Bushmen and Negroids in Africa, show no signs of approximation under the influence of the same climate; while on the other hand, the coast tribes of Tierra del Fuego and forest tribes of tropical Brazil continue to resemble one another, in spite of extreme differences of climate and food. Mr. Darwin, than whom no naturalist could be more competent to appraise the variation of a species, is moderate in his estimation of the changes produced on races of man by climate and mode of life within the range of history (Descent of Man, part i. ch. 4 and 7). The slightness and slowness of variation in human races having become known, a great difficulty of the monogenist theory was seen to lie in the shortness of the chromology with which it was formerly associated. Inasmuch as several well-marked races of mankind, such as the Egyptian, Phoenician, Ethiopian, &c., were much the same three or four thousand years ago as now, their variation from a single stock in the course of any like period could hardly be accounted for without a miracle. This difficulty was escaped by the polygenist theory, which, till a few years since, was gaining ground. (see Pouchet, Plurality of the Human Race, and ed., 1864. Introd.) Two modern views have, however, intervened which have tended to restore, though under a new aspect, the doctrine of a single human stock. One has been the recognition of man having existed during a vast period of time (see sec. IV., Antiquity of Man0, which made it more easy to assume to continuance of very slow natural variation as having differenced even the white man and the Negro among the descendants of a common progenitor. The other wise is that of the evolution or development of species, at the present day so strongly upheld among naturalists. It does not follow necessarily form a theory of evolution of species that mankind must have descended from a single stock, for the hypothesis of development admits of the arguments, that several simious species may have culminated in several races of man (Vogt, Lectures on Man, London, 1864, p. 463). The general tendency of the development theory, however, is against constituting separate species where the differences are moderate enough to be accounted for a due to variation from a single type. Mr. Darwin's summing up of the evidence as to unity of type throughout the races of mankind is as distinctly a monogenist argument as those of Blumenbach, Prichard or Quatrefages-

"Although the existing races of man differ in many respects, as in colour, hair, shape of skull, proportions of the body, &c., yet, if their whole organization be take into consideration, they are found to resemble each other closely in a multitude of points. Many of these points are of so unimportant, or of so singular a nature, that it is extremely improbable that they should have been independently acquired by aboriginally distinct species or races. The same remark holds good with equal or greater force with respect to the numerous points of mental similarity between the most distinct races of man. . . Now, when naturalists observe a close agreement in numerous small details of habits, tastes, and dispositions between two or more domestic races, or between nearly allied natural forms, they use this fact as an argument that all are descended from a common progenitor, who was thus endowed; and consequently, that all should be classed under the same species. The same argument may be applied with much force to the races of man." (Darwin, Descent of Man, part i. ch. 7)

A suggestion by Mr. A.R. Wallace has great importance in the application of the development theory to the origin of the various races of man; it is aimed to meet the main difficulty of the monogenist school, how races which have remained comparatively fixed in type during the long period of history, such as the white man and the Negro, should have, in even a far longer period, passed by variation from a common original. Mr. Wallace's view is substantially that the remotely ancient representatives of the human species, being as yet animals too low in mind to have developed those arts of maintenance and social ordinances by which man holds his own against influences from climate and circumstance, were in their then wild state much more plastic than now to external nature; so that "natural selection" and other causes met with but feeble resistance in forming the permanent varieties or races of man, whose complexion and structure still remain fixed in their descendants. (See Wallace, Contributions to the Theory of Natural Selection, p. 319.) On the whole, it may be asserted that the doctrine of the unity of mankind now stands on a firmer basis than in previous ages. It would be premature to judge how far the problem of the origin of races may be capable of exact solution; but the experience of the last few years countenances Mr. Darwin's prophecy, that before long the dispute between the monogenists and the polygenists will die a silent and unobserved death.

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