Dr Andrew Wells, Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Edinburgh
This paper will briefly explore the interaction between theories of race and those of ‘generation’ which were most prominent in eighteenth-century Britain. The division of theories of race into two groups (those – ‘monogenist’ – which endorsed the biblical account of creation, and those – ‘polygenist’ which did not) parallels that of theories of generation (preformationist and epigenesist). Yet where there appear to be similarities – between, for example, polygenist and epigenesist theories, which both emphasised the creation of the individual from the union of its parents – these did not play out in the scientific and popular discourses of the day. This paper will examine why these parallels were not established in the period, and how religious considerations played perhaps the most important role in the formation of modern identities in both racial and embryological theories.
Andrew Wells has recently completed a doctorate at the University of Oxford on the interrelation of sex and race in eighteenth-century Britain. He is currently Newby Trust Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Edinburgh. He is working on a study of the legal constitution of identity in eighteenth-century Britain.
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