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Chapter Five. Ethnicity, Nationality, and Race in Colonial America

Jeffrey Elton Anderson


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Some of the finest books and articles of the past fifty years have dealt with the history of race. Traditionally, however, the most persistent goal of the historical profession has been the production of narratives detailing the rise, maturation, and, if applicable, fall of nations. Books tracing the historical development of the United States, Great Britain, and other Western countries have been popular for hundreds, and in some cases thousands, of years. Following the upheavals of the French Revolution of the late eighteenth century, scholars began to produce an increasing number of works telling the story of ethnicities, often for the purpose of mobilizing particular populations in the cause of nationalism. Only during the last two hundred years have substantial numbers of works examined the histories of particular races. This trend has grown in popularity in the United States following the success of the Civil Rights Movement during the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. Today, courses in African American history and minority studies are common fare on most college campuses. Clearly race has come to rival the nation as a focus of group identity. One of the most profound changes of the second half of the twentieth century was the realization that identity, whether national, ethnic, racial, or otherwise, is a social construct. This fact has had little impact on the world outside of academia ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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