Durante los siglos XIX y XX, muchos antropólogos occidentales clasificaron a los seres humanos en una variedad de razas y subrazas. De éstos, la raza mediterránea fue dada a un tipo físico predominante en el sur de Europa (incluido el sur de Francia), áreas del norte de África y Asia occidental, así como en ciertas partes de la Europa oriental, Asia central, Asia del sur, las islas británicas o Alemania.      Caracterizados por tener una piel clara rosácea o bronceada, o también considerados como morenos, o sea, color de piel diferente a la de los nórdicos, estatura baja, mediana o alta, y en mayoría de cabello y ojos oscuros.
Son considerados un subgrupo de la raza caucásica. Este modelo fue definido en el libro de Wiliam Ripley "The Races of Europe" (1899), donde propusieron tres categorías europeas: Teutónica (más adelante llamada nórdica), mediterránea y alpina. La raza mediterránea sería responsable de grandes civilizaciones de la antigüedad como Roma, Grecia, Mesopotamia, Egipto, Cartago, India o Persia.
Esta raza era considerada como una de las superiores de la raza caucasoide y una de las más populares del continente europeo, pero fue una de las razas más discutidas junto con los nórdicos, porque su apariencia física era muy parecida a la de los nórdicos en ciertos aspectos. Ambos grupos, especialmente los mediterráneos europeos, por ejemplo, se consideraban dolicocéfalos.
- John Higham (2002). Strangers in the Land: Patterns of American Nativism, 1860–1925. Rutgers University Press. p. 273. ISBN 0-8135-3123-3.
- Bryan S Turner (1998). The Early Sociology of Class. Taylor & Francis. p. 241. ISBN 0-415-16723-X.
- The Races of Europe by Carlton Stevens Coon. From Chapter XI: The Mediterranean World – Introduction: "The next strip to follow, in a geographical sense, would be the whole highland belt of central Europe stretching over to the Balkans, to Asia Minor, and across to the Caucasus and Turkestan. This second zone, however, is one of immense racial complexity. In it various branches of the greater Mediterranean family, of Neolithic date and later, have been modified by combining in various proportions with each other and with the autochthonous Alpine race. The key to the complexity of this zone lies in the genetic action of this last entity, which is apparently a reduced, somewhat foetalized, or more highly evolved branch of the old Paleolithic stock than those which we have been studying in the north. Since, however, it is the action of this element upon the Mediterranean family which is important here, it will be easier to study this zone after having surveyed the population of a third belt, that occupied by the purest living representatives of the Mediterranean race. This third racial zone stretches from Spain across the Straits of Gibraltar to Morocco, and thence along the southern Mediterranean shores into Egipto, Arabia, East Africa, Mesopotamia, and the Persian highlands; and across Afghanistan into India. This zone is one of comparative racial simplicity. In it the brunet Mediterranean race lives today in its various regional forms without, in most cases, the complication of the Paleolithic survivals and reemergences which have so confused the racial picture on the ground of Europe itself. Only in the mountains of Morocco and Algeria, and in the Canary Islands, is such a survival of any importance. The Careful study of living populations of the Mediterranean race in its early homelands will do much to simplify the task which lies ahead."
- The Races of Europe by Carlton Stevens Coon. From Chapter X: The British Isles: "The Neolithic economy was probably first brought to Britain by the bearers of the Windmill Hill culture from the Continent, and they in turn were members of the group which had invaded western Europe from North Africa by way of Gibraltar. The racial type to which these Windmill Hill people presumably belonged was a small Mediterranean, but there is little or no direct skeletal evidence from England to confirm this. By far the most important Neolithic movement into Great Britain, and into Ireland as well, came by sea from the eastern Mediterranean lands, using Spain as a halting point on the way. It was this invasion which passed up the Irish Channel to western and northern Scotland, and around to Denmark and Sweden. The settlers who came by sea were the Megalithic people, and belonged to a clearly differentiated variety of tall, extremely long-headed Mediterranean, which was presumably for the most part brunet. This racial group furnished both Great Britain and Ireland, which consisted, before their arrival, of nearly empty land, with a numerous and civilized population which has left many descendants today."
- Patrizia Palumbo. A Place in the Sun: Africa in Italian Colonial Culture from Post-Unification to the Present. University of California Press, 2003. P. 66.
- Anne Maxwell. Picture Imperfect: Photography and Eugenics, 1870–1940. Paperback edition. Sussex Academic Press, 2010. P. 150.
- Aaron Gillette (2001/2002). Racial Theories in Fascist Italy. Routledge.