This introductory chapter argues that modern racial thinking could not have taken the form it did if it had not been able to piggyback, so to speak, on conceptual innovations in the way science was beginning to approach the diversity of the natural world, and in particular of the living world. It also points out an oft-neglected aspect of the scope and aims of the natural and social sciences: the emergence of racial categories, of categories of kinds of humans, which may in large part be understood as an overextension of the project of biological classification that was proving so successful in the same period.
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