“Races” and Civilizations in the Eighteenth Century


The understanding of “races” and “civilizations” in the eighteenth century was contradictory and more concerned with the alleged global superiority of an enlightened Europe or of Whiteness than with Germanness specifically. Yet Whiteness as a category has always influenced the negotiation of Germanness, even when that was not made explicit. While “Gypsies” (Sinti and Roma) were defined as foreign people and “suspicious immigrants” to Europe, the status of Blacks in courtly society continued to depend on their status and specific location. The recognition of “Court Moors” was an individual privilege and did not inform the basic view of other peoples or ethnicities, which was quite wide ranging. Thus, some desk ethnologists postulated that the “ugly Negroes” were also less productive, and they explained difference by physically immutable characteristics in order to superordinate and subordinate peoples and civilizations. Other media presented the “Muslim Moor” as “treacherous” and sexually violent, seeking to establish difference on the basis of religion, ethnicity, and gender.


  1. < Becoming a Male Citizen: A Particular Elite, Universal Aspirations
  2. What is German Politics? Revolution, Participation, and Public Discourse in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries >