Historical definitions of race  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The historical definition of race was an immutable and distinct type or species, sharing distinct racial characteristics such as constitution, temperament, and mental abilities. These races were not conceived as being related with each other, but formed a hierarchy of inherent value called the Great Chain of Being with Europeans usually at the top. As time progressed, Charles Darwin's theory of evolution was applied to races. By this time, anthropologists considered humans to be related to each other. The word "race," interpreted to mean common descent, was introduced into English in about 1580, from the Old French rasse (1512), from Italian razza, which may have been derived from the Latin word generatio (a begetting). The etymology can be further traced back to Latin gens (clan, stock, people) and genus (birth, descent, origin, race, stock, family) cognate with Greek genos (γένος) "race, kind," and gonos "birth, offspring, stock [...]."




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