Describe the evolution of the notions of race that were derived from Iberian rule in America and the development of constitutional rule in Britain and the Netherlands, and explain how things were different in each.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Let's begin by talking about ideas of race in Spanish- and Portuguese-ruled areas of the Americas. The conquistadors, of course, were white, but intermarriage with the native population quickly began, and therefore, a mixed race people grew up almost at once.

As the years went by, the people were organized into a caste system of sorts based on the how much Native American blood a person had. The more Native American blood, the lower the position in the system. Those who wanted to belong to the ruling class had to have a certain "purity of blood." The colonists also imported African slaves into their colonies, and this added another level of racial difficulty. The Africans were on the lowest rung of the social ladder, and they had few if any ways to move up. Brazil didn't even abolish slavery until the late date of 1888.

Now let's think about constitutional rule in Britain and the Netherlands. Both of these countries limited the absolute rule of their monarchs. Constitutions in these countries allowed for the rights of citizens and their representation in parliaments. In England, the Glorious Revolution of 1688 put William and Mary on the throne, and the next year, Parliament legislated that absolute monarchy would never occur again in England. It also enacted a Bill of Rights. In the Netherlands, the Constitution was first written in 1814 and has been since revised, ensuring the rights and freedoms of the people. The king and the ministers of Parliament govern the Netherlands together, with the king's power accordingly limited.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team