This article examines ethnic stereotypes in biological race classification of Europeans between the 1830s and 1940s as part of political discourse on national identity. Anthropologists linked physical-psychological types to nations and national character stereotypes through 'national races', achieving an often quite enduring international consensus on each race's mentality. The article argues that race mentality narratives were therefore partly dictated by their place within a dynamic interlocking European system. I focus on two key interacting elements that structured this system: the central role of the Germanic-Nordic blond and the geographically uneven process of modernisation. I consider the spatiality of socio-cultural and political factors 'external' to the stereotype system, such as geopolitics and modernisation, but also emphasise that discursive relationships between national stereotypes helped structure the international stereotype system. My conclusion argues for greater consideration of the influence of both scientific and international systemic factors in research on national identity.