Europeans described human variation in several different ways in the eighteenth century, drawing upon contemporary discussions of beauty, breeding, climate, and humoral theory. The undifferentiated application of the term "race" as currently understood to all early modern writing on other peoples demands replacement by a more historicist account of the plurality of these knowledge traditions invoked by philosophes when describing human variation. Degeneration and the means to correct it became politically prominent issues in France from the 1770s onwards, as part of a broader call for national reform. Thus, "race" was discussed amid concerns about how social institutions and climate created the nation. The medical management of creolization was a practical problem faced by all travelers, as medical handbooks reveal. The mutability of the notion of race implied by medical accounts of the creolization process stands in stark contrast to legal and customary classifications of colonial inhabitants on the basis of color.