Racism – A History

HISTORY CHANNEL – Mondays from 7 September, 8.30pm

We investigate the history of racism in Europe, the Americas, Australasia and Asia

These films show how ideas of racial difference have evolved in response to historical events, and identify the profound impact that the idea of ‘race’, and the fact of racism, has had on science, culture, society and global history. By exploring the history of ‘race’- from the early emergence of racial consciousness to the manifestations of racism in contemporary society and culture – this series examines the nature of the ‘racial landscape’ which, for five centuries, has occupied such an important place in the collective imagination of the West.

Ep1 – THE COLOUR OF MONEY: An examination of prevailing attitudes towards human difference in the writings of some of the major philosophers and historians of antiquity, including Herodotus, Aristotle, and Plutarch. The episode also assesses the implications of Old Testament dogmas concerning the pre-destined attributes of the different ‘races’ (specifically, the idea that the major racial groups were supposedly the descendants of Noah’s sons – Ham, Shem and Japheth – and that Black people were victims of ‘The Curse of Ham’). The development of the idea of ‘race’ is traced as a pseudo-biological category throughout the English Tudor period (particularly the literary application of the concept in Shakespeare). Significant changes in ideas about race are identified that coincided with the event that would shape racial ideas for centuries: the Columbian adventure in the ‘New World’ and the subsequent development and institutionalisation of the Transatlantic Slave Trade – an event that led to the dehumanisation, exploitation and inferiorisation of Africans – and the outright extermination of Native Americans.