Daniel Matlin

Nonblackness

The History of White People

By

W W Norton & Co 496pp £19.99 order from our bookshop

If the title of this book suggests the sort of screed that might be advertised on the BNP’s website, rest assured that it is no such thing. Indeed, The History of White People is something of a misnomer, since the story Nell Irvin Painter tells is that of the idea of white people. Unfortunately, the book’s opening words – ‘I might have entitled this book Constructions of White Americans from Antiquity to the Present’ – only add to the confusion. What, if anything, would it mean to claim that white Americans were being constructed in antiquity? Always an unstable notion, race frequently lends itself to opaque or ambiguous discussion.

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