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A Short History
George M. Fredrickson

One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2003

Paperback | 2003 | $26.95 | £18.95 | ISBN: 9780691116525
224 pp. | 5 x 8
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George M. Fredrickson
Lectures at Princeton:

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Religion and Invention of Racism

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Rise of Modern Racism(s)

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Climax and Retreat

Are antisemitism and white supremacy manifestations of a general phenomenon? Why didn't racism appear in Europe before the fourteenth century, and why did it flourish as never before in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries? Why did the twentieth century see institutionalized racism in its most extreme forms? Why are egalitarian societies particularly susceptible to virulent racism? What do apartheid South Africa, Nazi Germany, and the American South under Jim Crow have in common? How did the Holocaust advance civil rights in the United States?

With a rare blend of learning, economy, and cutting insight, George Fredrickson surveys the history of Western racism from its emergence in the late Middle Ages to the present. Beginning with the medieval antisemitism that put Jews beyond the pale of humanity, he traces the spread of racist thinking in the wake of European expansionism and the beginnings of the African slave trade. And he examines how the Enlightenment and nineteenth-century romantic nationalism created a new intellectual context for debates over slavery and Jewish emancipation.

Fredrickson then makes the first sustained comparison between the color-coded racism of nineteenth-century America and the antisemitic racism that appeared in Germany around the same time. He finds similarity enough to justify the common label but also major differences in the nature and functions of the stereotypes invoked. The book concludes with a provocative account of the rise and decline of the twentieth century's overtly racist regimes--the Jim Crow South, Nazi Germany, and apartheid South Africa--in the context of world historical developments.

This illuminating work is the first to treat racism across such a sweep of history and geography. It is distinguished not only by its original comparison of modern racism's two most significant varieties--white supremacy and antisemitism--but also by its eminent readability.


"In Racism: A Short History, written in . . . [Fredrickson's] characteristically crisp, clear prose, he draws both on a wide range of recent work by others and on nearly half a century of his own writings on immigration, race and nationalism, in the United States and elsewhere, to provide us with a masterly--though not uncontroversial--synthesis. . . . The book is worth reading just for its pathbreaking attempt to tell the stories of anti-Semitism and white supremacy together, while insisting both on their inter-connections and their differences."--Kwame Anthony Appiah, The New York Times Book Review

"Fredrickson deftly combines intellectual with social and political history to explain the emergence of racism and its recent decline. Learned and elegant."--William H. McNeill, The New York Review of Books

"Fredrickson [stands] out from a number of distinguished collegues [because of] his continuing urge to widen the comparative framework he uses to try to understand why these relations have developed as they did. Racism: A Short History is his most drastic venture to date--a brisk positioning of Southern racial domination within world history as a whole."--John Dunn, Times Literary Supplement

"An erudite comparison of racism and anti-Semitism throughout Western history. . . . Fredrickson offers a scholarly but compelling and accessible narrative."--Publishers Weekly

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Table of Contents:

ONE: Religion and the Invention of Racism 15
TWO: T e Rise of Modern Racism(s): White Supremacy and Antisemitism in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries 49
THREE: Climax and Retreat: Racism in the Twentieth Century 97
EPILOGUE: Racism at the Dawn of the Twenty-First Century 139
APPENDIX: THe Concept of Racism in Historical Discourse 151

This book has been translated into:

  • Italian
  • Portuguese
  • French
  • Swedish
  • German
  • Swedish
  • Japanese

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