A General History for Colleges and High Schools (Myers)/General Introduction: The Races and their Early Migrations, pp. 1-7

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The Races and Their Early Migrations.

Divisions of History[edit]

History is usually divided into three periods -- Ancient, Mediaeval, and Modern. Ancient History begins with the earliest nations of which we can gain any certain knowledge, and extends to the fall of the Roman Empire in the West, A.D. 476. Mediaeval History embraces the period, about one thousand years in length, lying between the fall of Rome and the discovery of the New World by Columbus, A.D. 1492. Modern History commences with the close of the Mediaeval period and extends to the present time. (It is thought preferable by some scholars to let the beginning of the great Teutonic migration, A.D. 375, mark the end of the period of ancient history. Some also prefer to date the beginning of the modern period from the capture of Constantinople by the Turks, A.D. 1453; while still others speak of it in a general way as commencing about the close of the 15th century, at which time there were many inventions and discoveries, and a great stir in the intellectual world.)

Antiquity of Man[edit]

We do not know when man first came into possession of the earth. We only know that, in ages vastly remote, when both the climate and the outline of Europe were very different from what they are at present, man lived on that continent with animals now extinct; and that as early as 4000 or 3000 B.C., -- when the curtain first rises on the stage of history, -- in some favored regions, as in the Valley of the Nile, there were nations and civilizations already venerable with age, and possessing languages, arts, and institutions that bear evidence of slow growth through very long periods of time before written history begins. (The investigation and study of this vast background of human life is left to such sciences as Ethnology, Comparative Philology, and Prehistoric Archaeology.)

The Races of Mankind[edit]

Captives of Thebes.jpg

Distinctions in form, color, and physiognomy divide the human species into three chief types, or races, known as the Black (Ethiopian, or Negro), the Yellow (Turanian, or Mongolian), and the White (Caucasian). But we must not suppose each of these three types to be sharply marked off from the others; they shade into one another by insensible gradations.

There has been no perceptible change in the great types during historic times. The paintings upon the oldest Egyptian monuments show us that at the dawn of history, about five or six thousand years ago, the principal races were as distinctly marked as now, each bearing its racial badge of color and physiognomy. As early as the times of Jeremiah, the permanency of physical characteristics had passed into the proverb, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin?”

Of all the races, the White, or Caucasian, exhibits by far the most perfect type, physically, intellectually, and morally.[1]

The Black Race[edit]

Africa is the home of the peoples of the Black Race, but we find them on all the other continents, whither they have been carried as slaves by the stronger races; for since time immemorial they have been “hewers of wood and drawers of water”[2] for their more favored brethren.

The Yellow, or Turanian Race[edit]

The term Turanian is very loosely applied by the historian to many and widely separated families and peoples. In its broadest application it is made to include the Chinese and other more or less closely allied peoples of Eastern Asia; the Ottoman Turks, the Hungarians, the Finns, the Lapps, and the Basques, in Europe; and (by some) the Esquimaux and American Indians.

The peoples of this race were, it seems, the first inhabitants of Europe and of the New World; but in these quarters, they have, in the main, either been exterminated or absorbed by later comers of the White Race. In Europe, however, two small areas of this primitive population escaped the common fate -- the Basques, sheltered among the Pyrenees, and the Finns and Lapps, in the far north; (the Hungarians and Turks are Turanian peoples that have thrust themselves into Europe during historic times) while in the New World, the Esquimaux and the Indians still represent the race that once held undisputed possession of the land.

The polished stone implements found in the caves and river-gravels of Western Europe, the shell-mounds, or kitchen-middens, upon the shores of the Baltic, the Swiss lake-habitations, and the barrows, or grave-mounds, found in all parts of Europe, are supposed to be relics of a prehistoric Turanian people.

Although some of the Turanian peoples, as for instance the Chinese, have made considerable advance in civilization, still as a rule the peoples of this race have made but little progress in the arts or in general culture. Even their languages have remained undeveloped. These seem immature, or stunted in their growth. They have no declensions or conjugations, like those of the languages of the Caucasian peoples.

The White Race and its Three Families[edit]

The White Race embraces the historic nations. This type divides into three families,--the Hamitic, the Semitic, and the Aryan, or Indo-European (formerly called the Japhetic).

The ancient Egyptians were the chief people of the Hamitic branch. In the gray dawn of history we discover them already settled in the Valley of the Nile, and there erecting great monuments so faultless in construction as to render it certain that those who planned them had had a very long previous training in the art of building.

The Semitic family includes among its chief peoples the ancient Babylonians and Assyrians, the Hebrews, the Phoenicians, and the Arabians. We are not certain what region was the original abode of this family. We only know that by the dawn of history its various clans and tribes, whencesoever they may have come, had distributed themselves over the greater part of Southwestern Asia.

It is interesting to note that the three great historic religions of the world,-- The Hebrew, the Christian, and the Mohammedan,-- the three religions that alone (if we except that of Zoroaster) teach a belief in one God, arose among peoples belonging to the Semitic family.

The Aryan[3], or Indo-European, though probably the youngest, is the most widely scattered family of the White Race. It includes among its members the ancient Hindus, Medes, and Persians, the classic Greeks and Romans, and the modern descendants of all these nations; also almost all the peoples of Europe, and their colonists that have peopled the New World, and taken possession of other parts of the earth.

Migrations of the Aryans[edit]

The original seat of the Aryan peoples was, it is conjectured (some scholars seek the primitive home in Europe), somewhere in Asia. At a period that cannot be placed later than 3000 B.C., the Aryan household began to break up and scatter, and the different clans to set out in search of new dwelling-places. Some tribes of the family spread themselves over the table-lands of Iran and the plains of India, and became the progenitors of the Medes, the Persians, and the Hindus. Other clans entering Europe probably by the way of the Hellespont, pushed themselves into the peninsulas of Greece and Italy, and founded the Greek and Italian states. Still other tribes seem to have poured in successive waves into Central Europe. The vanguard of these peoples are known as the Celts. After them came the Teutonic tribes, who crowded the former out on the westernmost edge of Europe -- into Gaul and Spain, and out upon the British Isles. These hard-pressed Celts are represented to-day by the Welsh, the Irish, and the Highland Scots. Behind the Teutonic peoples were the Slavonic folk, who pushed the former hard against the Celts, and, when they could urge them no farther to the west, finally settled down and became the ancestors of the Russians and other kindred nations.

Although these migratory movements of the various clans and tribes of this wonderful Aryan family began in the early morning of history, some five thousand or more years ago, still we must not think of them as something past and unrelated to the present. These movements, begun in those remote times, are still going on. The overflow of the population of Europe into the different regions of the New World, is simply a continuation of the prehistoric migrations of the members of the primitive Aryan household.

Everywhere the other races and families have given way before the advance of the Aryan peoples, who have assumed the position of leaders and teachers among the families of mankind, and are rapidly spreading their arts and sciences and culture over the earth.

Early Culture of the Aryans[edit]

One of the most fascinating studies of recent growth is that which reveals to us the customs, beliefs, and mode of life of the early Aryans, while they were yet living together as a single household. Upon comparing the myths, legends, and ballads of the different Aryan peoples, we discover the curious fact that, under various disguises, they are the same. Thus our nursery tales are found to be identical with those with which the Hindu children are amused. But the discovery should not surprise us. We and the Hindus are kinsmen, children of the same home; so now, when after a long separation we meet, the tales we tell are the same, for they are the stories that were told around the common hearth-fire of our Aryan forefathers.

And when we compare certain words in different Aryan languages, we often find them alike in form and meaning. Thus, take the word father. This word occurs with but little change of form in several of the Aryan tongues. (Sanscrit, pitri; Persian, padar; Greek, πατήρ, patēr; Latin, pater; German, vater.) From this we infer that the remote ancestors of the now widely separated Aryan peoples once lived together and had a common speech.

Our knowledge of the prehistoric culture of the Aryans, gained through the sciences of comparative philology and mythology, may be summed up as follows: They personified and worshipped the various forces and parts of the physical universe, such as the Sun, the Dawn, Fire, the Winds, the Clouds. The all-embracing sky they worshipped as the Heaven-Father (Dyaus-Pitar, whence Jupiter). They were herdsmen and at least occasional farmers. They introduced the sheep, as well as the horse, into Europe: the Turanian people whom they displaced had neither of these domestic animals. In social life they had advanced to that stage where the family is the unit of society. The father was the priest and absolute lord of his house. The families were united to form village-communities ruled by a chief, or patriarch, who was assisted by a council of elders.

Importance of Aryan Studies[edit]

This picture of life in the early Aryan home, the elements of which are gathered in so novel a way, is of the very greatest historical value and interest. In these customs and beliefs of the early Aryans, we discover the germs of many of the institutions of the classical Greeks and Romans, and of the nations of modern Europe. Thus, in the council of elders around the village patriarch, political historians trace the beginnings of the senates of Greece and Rome and the national parliaments of later times.

Just as the teachings of the parental roof mould the life and character of the children that go out from under its discipline, so have the influences of that early Aryan home shaped the habits, institutions, and character of those peoples and families that, as its children, went out to establish new homes in their “appointed habitations.[4]


I. Black Race (Ethiopian, or Negro)

A. Negroid. Tribes of Central and Southern Africa
B. Australoid. The Papuans[5] and Australians

II. Yellow Race (Turanian, or Mongolian)

A. The Chinese, Burmese, Japanese, and other kindred peoples of Eastern Asia
B. The Malays of Southeastern Asia, and the inhabitants of many of the Pacific islands
C. The Nomads (Tartars, Mongols, etc.) of Northern and Central Asia and of Eastern Russia
D. The Turks, the Magyars, or Hungarians, the Finns and Lapps, and the Basques, in Europe
E. The Esquimaux and the American Indians. Languages of these peoples are monosyllabic or agglutinative.

III & IV. Note that the Malays and American Indians were formerly classified as distinct races.

V. White Race (Caucasian)

A. Hamitic Family
1. Egyptians
2. Libyans
3. Ethiopians
B. Semitic Family
1. Chaldaeans (partly Turanian)
2. Assyrians
3. Babylonians[6]
4. Canaanites (chiefly Semitic)[7]
5. Phoenicians
6. Hebrews
7. Arabs
C. Aryan, or Indo-European Family
1. Indo-Iranic Branch
a. Hindus
b. Medes
c. Persians[8]
2. Graeco-Italic Branch
a. Greeks
b. Romans
3. Celtic Branch
a. Gauls[9]
b. Britons
c. Scots (Irish)
d. Picts
4. Teutonic Branch
a. High Germans
b. Low Germans
c. Scandinavians
5. Slavonic Branch
a. Russians
b. Poles, etc.
6. Modern Europeans. (See Mediaeval and Modern History, pp, 169 - 178.)
a. Teutonic descendants. The peoples of modern Germany are the descendants of various Germanic tribes. The Swedes, Norwegians, and Danes represent the Scandinavian branch of the Teutonic family.
b. Celtic descendants. The Irish, the Welsh , the Scotch Highlanders, and the Bretons of Brittany (anciently Armorica), in France, are the present representatives of the ancient Celts.
c. Blended descendants. The French, Spaniards, Portuguese, and Italians have sprung, in the main, from a blending of the Celts, the ancient Romans, and the Germanic tribes that thrust themselves within the limits of the Roman Empire in the West. The English are the descendants of the Angels, Saxons, and Jutes (Teutonic tribes), slightly modified by interminglings with the Danes and Normans (also of Teutonic origin).

  1. This problematic statement may refer to such things as the 19th-century war against the Plains Indians, who lived in stone-age tepees, wore feather headdresses and hunted bison. The author mentions his sources in the preface.

  2. The cliché "hewers of wood . . ." alludes to the peacemaking efforts in Joshua 9 of the Old Testament.
  3. Aryan, a tribal name in Iran and India and by extension someone from Indo-Europe who thus speaks an Indo-European language.
  4. “Appointed habitations” suggests Paul’s speech at Mars' hill in Acts 17: 22 - 33 of the New Testament.
  5. Papuans, languages of Papua New Guinea & islands nearby.
  6. Babylonians, 2500 - 539 B.C.
  7. Canaanites, 3000 - 1000 B.C.
  8. Persians, Iranians
  9. Gaul, B.C. France

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1923.

The author died in 1937, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 75 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.