Freeman is famous for his history of the Norman conquest. There are a few good quotes in the early part of this reading.

There is an early section where he talks about race as an artificial construct:

A hundred years ago a man’s political likes and dislikes seldom went beyond the range which was suggested by the place of his birth or immediate descent. […] That feelings such as these, and the practical consequences which have flowed from them, are distinctly due to scientific and historical teaching there can, I think, be no doubt.

Which is a thought that I’ve never had before: that our ability to hate our fellow human beings has in modern times has been enhanced by science and history’s creation of the concept of race.

Freeman goes on to argue that while race is an artificial construct, it’s an important construct – if only because it effects the behavior of a large number of people:

A belief or a feeling which has a practical effect on the conduct of great masses of men, sometimes on the conduct of whole nations, may be very false and very mischievous; but it is in every case a great and serious fact, to be looked gravely in the face.

This all seems fair enough.

After these initial insights the reading gets pretty cringy pretty fast. I went on to read the Wikipedia page for Edward Augustus Freeman and overall he seems like a racist piece of shit, so I don’t feel too bad for abandoning the first reading of the course.

This reading does make me a little anxious about the shelf’s ability to contextualize the readings in a way that’s relevant to me.