The Devil in the White City

by Erik Larson

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What historical reference is found on pages 310-311 of The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson?

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The main historical reference on these pages is to the ideas about race that were current at the time and the ways in which Americans looked at people from less “civilized” countries.

On page 311, we see descriptions of the swimming races that were held in which people from various countries competed against one another.  The language used to describe these is striking because we would see it as terribly racist today.  It talks about, for example, how the Turks were “as hairy as gorillas.”  Today, we would never characterize any group of non-white people in this way because of the racist overtones.  The account also talks somewhat mockingly about how hard the people competed for the $5 prizes.  This kind of condescending attitude towards non-whites was common in this time.  It is a major difference between their historical era and our own.  Thus, this is an important historical reference. 

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