Images of Savages
Ancient roots of modern prejudice in Western culture

Author: Gustav Jahoda Routledge

London and New York, 1999

Here is a book whose author examines racism in more depth than does Philip Yale Nicholson in his book Who Do We Think We Are?  Jahoda writes about ancient people's primitive view of foreigners. The Hebrews, for example, believed that interbreeding with others produced a wild and evil race, that from Ham (Noah's youngest son) a breed of wild men were born. Jahoda writes of Europeans looking upon "savages" as people of greater animality than they. He writes of Cuvier, the naturalist, in the early 19th century providing scientific arguments supporting this view. In hunting and gathering societies, monkeys and apes were believed to have souls and to be partners in life with humans. In European society "savage" people were associated with monkeys and apes in a derogatory sense of animality. The ape had been linked symbolically with the devil and then with sin. In Europe were tales of women being raped by apes. Europeans in the 1400s depicted "savage" people as wild and as extremely hairy, a view that took some time to overcome in the centuries to come with more mingling with other peoples and descriptions of them as being less hairy than Europeans.

Images of Savages has four parts:

Part I:  From Renaissance to Enlightenment

Part II:  Animality and beastly man-eating

Part III:  The image of the savage as child-like

Part IV:  Perspectives and interpretations