Racism by George M. Fredrickson
A Short History

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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.


About George M. Fredrickson

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George M. Fredrickson is Edgar E. Robinson Professor of United States History at Stanford University and codirector of the Research Institute for the Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity. He is the author of five previous books on the history of racial ideologies: "The Black Image in the White Mind", "White Supremacy", "The Arrogance of Race", "Black Liberation", and "The Comparative Imagination".
Published April 30, 2009 by Princeton University Press. 224 pages
Genres: History, Political & Social Sciences. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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A selection of 17 essays written over a 20-year period by Fredickson (History/Stanford), author of The Inner Civil War (1965), The Black Image in the White Mind (1971), and White Supremacy (1981).

May 15 1988 | Read Full Review of Racism: A Short History

The New York Times

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But he also believes that racism received its fullest theoretical elaboration in the West because racist ideology developed in societies where it offended against a growing conviction that ''all men are created equal.'' As a result, as the ideology developed, it was also ''condemned and resisted....

Aug 04 2002 | Read Full Review of Racism: A Short History

Publishers Weekly

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An erudite comparison of racism and anti-Semitism throughout Western history, George M. Fredrickson's amazingly concise Racism: A Short History explains how medieval anti-Semitism influenced the ra

Mar 01 2002 | Read Full Review of Racism: A Short History

Racism Review

(In 1992, more than a decade after Mr. Fredrickson’s book, South Africans voted to end apartheid.) Yet in Mr. Fredrickson’s judgment both countries had a huge similarity: both required an ideology of equality of white males to justify ‘dehumanization of blacks.’ “ Fredrickson’s last book (he wr...

Mar 09 2008 | Read Full Review of Racism: A Short History

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