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From the Crusades to the Twentieth Century
Francisco Bethencourt

Hardcover | 2014 | $39.50 / £27.95 | ISBN: 9780691155265
464 pp. | 8 x 10 | 73 halftones. 18 maps. | SHOPPING CART

eBook | ISBN: 9781400848416 |
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Groundbeaking in its global and historical scope, Racisms is the first comprehensive history of racism, from the Crusades to the twentieth century. Demonstrating that there is not one continuous tradition of racism in the West, distinguished historian Francisco Bethencourt shows that racism preceded any theories of race and must be viewed within the prism and context of social hierarchies and local conditions. In this richly illustrated book, Bethencourt argues that in its various aspects, all racism has been triggered by political projects monopolizing specific economic and social resources.

Bethencourt focuses on the Western world, but opens comparative views on ethnic discrimination and segregation in Asia and Africa. He looks at different forms of racism, particularly against New Christians and Moriscos in Iberia, black slaves and freedmen in colonial and postcolonial environments, Native Americans, Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, and Jews in modern Europe. Exploring instances of enslavement, forced migration, and ethnic cleansing, Bethencourt reflects on genocide and the persecution of ethnicities in twentieth-century Europe and Anatolia. These cases are compared to the genocide of the Herero and Tutsi in Africa, and ethnic discrimination in Japan, China, and India. Bethencourt analyzes how practices of discrimination and segregation from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries were defended, and he systematically integrates visual culture into his investigation.

Moving away from ideas of linear or innate racism, this is a major interdisciplinary work that recasts our understanding of interethnic relations.

Francisco Bethencourt is the Charles Boxer Professor of History at King’s College London. He is the author of The Inquisition and the coeditor of Correspondence and Cultural Exchange in Europe, Portuguese Oceanic Expansion, and Racism and Ethnic Relations in the Portuguese-Speaking World. He has served as director of the Gulbenkian Cultural Center in Paris (1999-2004) and the National Library of Portugal (1996-1998).


"[A]nalytically sophisticated. . . . Bethencourt tacks deftly between cultural and social history. His binocular vision marks Racisms out from most previous studies."--David Armitage, Times Literary Supplement

"Bethencourt, professor of history at King's College London, examines how expansion abroad shaped European systems of ethnic prejudice in a tour de force spanning the Americas, West Africa, India, and other colonial environs."--Publishers Weekly

"[W]ell worth reading."--Christie Davies, Standpoint

"Francisco Bethencourt's Racisms could not be more timely . . . Bethencourt's incisive analysis ought to be compulsory reading in the think tanks, chanceries and ministries of the developed world."--Maria Misra, Prospect

"To understand what fuelled such racist ideologies and practices, I can think of no better book than Francisco Bethencourt's Racisms. It is an ambitious, bold project. . . . Bethencourt addresses the 'scientific' turn in racial classification systems. There is a vast literature on the ideas of influential men such as . . . Charles Darwin and many others. However, Bethencourt's summary is the clearest and most sophisticated to date. . . . [An] impressive book."--Joanna Bourke, New Statesman

"[A]mbitious and wide-ranging. . . . Racisms['s] cataloguing of successive centuries of poisonous bigotry, of tangled, self-serving myth and murderous victimisation, creates a powerful cumulative effect. To chart some of my own emotions while reading it: anger; pain, disgust and sorrow. This is an unlovely history. But a necessary one that appears, sadly for the wrong reasons, at the right time."--Ekow Eshun, Independent

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      Hardcover: $39.50 ISBN: 9780691155265

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      File created: 3/10/2015

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