Historical race concepts

The concept of race as a rough division of anatomically modern humans (Homo sapiens) has a long and complicated history. The word race itself is modern and was used in the sense of "nation, ethnic group" during the 16th to 19th centuries and acquired its modern meaning in the field of physical anthropology only from the mid-19th century. The politicization of the field under the concept of racism in the 20th century led to a decline in racial studies during the 1930s to 1980s, culminating in a poststructuralist deconstruction of race as a social construct.

Etymology

The word "race", interpreted to mean an identifiable group of people who share a common descent, was introduced into English in about 1580, from the Old French rasse (1512), from Italian razza. An earlier but etymologically distinct word for a similar concept was the Latin word genus meaning a group sharing qualities related to birth, descent, origin, race, stock, or family; this Latin word is cognate with the Greek words "genos", (γένος) meaning "race or kind", and "gonos", which has meanings related to "birth, offspring, stock ...".[1]