Page 39 Robert Bartlett University of St. Andrews St. Andrews, Scotland Historians working in the present day, just like their medieval and early modern predecessors, are confronted with difï¬cult choices when they write of human population groups.1 When, if at all, is it reasonable to employ the word race, the word nation, the word tribe ? What collective term best describes, say, the Goths, the English, the Jews? What meaning does the concept âethnic identityâ have? It is hard to do without some collective terms, but neither the medieval nor the modern terminology of race and ethnicity is simple or uncomplicated. Even the distinction between those two central terms, race and ethnicity, is drawn in different ways by different people. In the United States both popular and ofï¬cial usage tends to associate race with the troubled history of white and black, while the term ethnicity summons up Italians, Irish, or Greeks, for example. Hence the former term suggests a distinction based on an inherited biological feature, skin color, while the latter points to cultural differences between groups. Recent large-scale immigration into the United States from Asia and Latin America has complicated the issue by posing the question of
Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies – Duke University Press
Published: Jan 1, 2001
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