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Anthropology Lewis Henry Morgan
by
Robert Launay

Introduction

Lewis Henry Morgan (b. 1818–d. 1881) is considered one of the founding fathers of modern anthropology. As a young lawyer in Rochester, New York, he founded a local club, The Grand Order of the Iroquois, whose members championed Iroquois rights to their land, claimed by the Ogden Company. In the process, he acquired a more systematic interest in Iroquois culture. His researches among them led to the publication of a book-length study. His later discovery that patterns of kinship terminology in other, even unrelated, Indian cultures were very similar to those of the Iroquois launched a systematic survey of kinship nomenclature that provided a template for modern studies of kinship in anthropology. While he was working on kinship terminology, he also conducted an extensive, pioneering field study of the activities of beavers. Toward the end of his life, he formulated a grand scheme of social evolution focusing on progress in the domains of technology, government, family, and property. His work attracted the favorable attention of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, but it was sharply criticized by a subsequent generation of anthropologists, especially followers of Franz Boas in the United States, who were skeptical of grand evolutionary schemes. Nonetheless, his work remains an enduring influence in the discipline.

Biographies

Stern 1931 is the first full-length biography of Morgan, written at a time when the evolutionary anthropology of the 19th century was systematically disparaged. Resek 1960 and Moses 2009 are more contemporary accounts of his life and career. More recently, scholars have focused on the processes that lay behind Morgan’s production of particular works: Tooker 1983 analyzes the background to Morgan’s early ethnography of the Iroquois; Trautmann 1987 is specifically centered on Morgan’s “discovery” of the field of kinship, which is expounded in Morgan 1997 (cited under Books).

Writings

Though Morgan published numerous articles during his lifetime, he is best known for his books, which were milestones in ethnography, anthropological theory, and also animal behavior, all of which have been reprinted, especially Morgan 1985 (cited under Books). More recently, his journals of trips to the American West and to Europe have also been edited and published, shedding important light on his methods of research as well as on his personal life. This section covers the Books and Journals and Miscellaneous writings of Morgan.

Books

Morgan’s first book (Morgan 1962), based on his own field research among the Iroquois, has been called the “first scientific account of an Indian tribe.” His professional travels to the upper peninsula of Michigan led him to observe the behavior of beavers (Morgan 1968). At the same time, his discovery of parallels between Iroquois and Ojibwa systems of kinship terminology led him to expand his own research among different American Indian nations as well as to send out schedules of questionnaires to correspondents, mostly missionaries, throughout the world, especially in Asia and the Pacific. The results were compiled in Morgan 1997. His best-known work, Morgan 1985, built on his ethnographic research as well as on his inquiries into comparative kinship terminologies, resulting in the production of this grand synthesis of social evolution. At the end of his life, a trip to the American Southwest led to the publication of Morgan 2003, a survey of Native American architecture.

  • Morgan, Lewis Henry. 1962. The league of the Iroquois. New York: Citadel.

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    A pathbreaking and detailed ethnography of the Iroquois, based on Morgan’s own interviews with members of the tribe. The first section on the structure of the League of the Iroquois is particularly remarkable as a description of their political organization. First published in 1851.

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  • Morgan, Lewis Henry. 1968. The American beaver: A classic of natural history and ecology. New York: Dover.

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    A study of beaver behavior based on Morgan’s observations that dwell at length on how beavers construct dams and burrows, but also includes extensive comments on animal psychology. First published in 1868.

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  • Morgan, Lewis Henry. 1985. Ancient society. Tucson: Univ. of Arizona Press.

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    An attempt to synthesize the entire course of human evolution, relating the sequence of human inventions and discoveries to the growth of the ideas of government, of the family, and of property. In addition to his own observations on the Iroquois, Morgan incorporated descriptions of native peoples as well as the Aztecs and ancient Greeks and Romans. First published in 1877.

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  • Morgan, Lewis Henry. 1997. Systems of consanguinity and affinity on the human family. Lincoln: Univ. of Nebraska Press.

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    Based on comprehensive surveys of kinship terminology that Morgan painstakingly collected among American Indians and that he elicited from correspondents around the globe, the book demonstrates underlying parallels across continents and language families. The book definitively established the paradigm for kinship studies in anthropology. First published in 1871.

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  • Morgan, Lewis Henry. 2003. Houses and house-life of the American aborigines. Salt Lake City: Univ. of Utah Press.

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    Morgan’s last book, based on his research late in life in the American Southwest. It compares the architecture of the Pueblo Indians with that of the Iroquois and other American (including ancient Mexican) societies in an attempt to elicit the relationship between house types and forms of social organization. First published in 1881.

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Journals and Miscellaneous

Many of Morgan’s notes and journals have been published, in particular thanks to the efforts of Leslie White and, more recently, Elisabeth Tooker. These include notes on Iroquois objects he collected (Tooker 1994) and journals of his field trips to the western Plains (Morgan 1959) and the Southwest (White and Morgan 1942) and of his first and only visit to Europe (Morgan 1937). The inventory of his personal library (Trautman and Kabelac 1994) serves as a guide to the influences on the development of Morgan’s thought.

  • Morgan, Lewis Henry. 1937. Extracts of Lewis Henry Morgan’s European travel journal. Edited by Leslie A. White. Rochester, NY: Rochester Historical Society.

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    Aside from Morgan’s personal impressions of Europe during his only trip there, late in his life, the journals include accounts of his visits with prominent colleagues, including Charles Darwin, Thomas Huxley, John Lubbock, Henry Maine, and John McLennan.

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  • Morgan, Lewis Henry. 1959. The Indian journals, 1859–62. Edited by Leslie A. White. Ann Arbor: Univ. of Michigan Press.

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    The journals contain notes from field trips to Indian reservations in Kansas and Nebraska in 1860, to Minnesota in 1861, and to the Great Plains in 1862, while he was collecting kinship terminologies for Morgan 1997 (cited under Books).

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  • Tooker, Elisabeth. 1994. Lewis H. Morgan on Iroquois material culture. Tucson: Univ. of Arizona Press.

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    Journal notes as well as elaborate reports on Iroquois artifacts that Morgan collected for the New York State Museum in Albany, where they are still displayed.

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  • Trautmann, Thomas R., and Karl Sanford Kabelac. 1994. The Library of Lewis Henry Morgan and Mary Elizabeth Morgan. Transactions of the American Philosophical Society 84.6–7: i–xiv, 1–336.

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    The inventory of Morgan’s library shows his awareness of 18th-century thinkers, particularly the Scottish Enlightenment, as well as his interest in the writings of his contemporaries.

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  • White, Leslie A., and Lewis Henry Morgan. 1942. Lewis Henry Morgan’s journal of a trip to southwestern Colorado and New Mexico, June 21 to August 7, 1878. American Antiquity 8.1: 1–26.

    DOI: 10.2307/275631Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The journal of his last field trip to the Pueblo, collecting material for Morgan 2003 (cited under Books).

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Histories of Anthropology

Global surveys of the history of anthropology as a discipline (Lowie 1937, Harris 1968, Voget 1975) all dwell at length, if sometimes critically, on Morgan’s contributions. More recently, historians of anthropology have shied away from such sweeping narratives, attempting to place Morgan within the context of a broader Western discourse about “savages” and “primitives” (Kuper 1988, Adams 1998, Ellingson 2001) and of the interrelationship of ethnological to historical discourses (Duchet 1984).

  • Adams, William Y. 1998. The philosophical roots of anthropology. Stanford, CA: CSLI.

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    The book attempts to situate modern anthropology in terms of broad themes in European and American intellectual history: progressivism, primitivism, natural law, “Indianology,” and German idealism. Morgan is categorized as a progressivist and an “Indianologist.”

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  • Duchet, Michèle. 1984. Le partage des savoirs: Discourse historique, discourse ethnologique. Paris: Editions La Découverte.

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    Duchet sketches the relationship between history and ethnology in the works of selected authors from Lafitau to Lévi-Strauss. She devotes a chapter to Morgan’s Ancient Society (Morgan 1985, cited under Books) and another to Friedrich Engels’s reading of Morgan.

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  • Ellingson, Ter. 2001. The myth of the noble savage. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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    The book situates Morgan within discourses of representation of “savages” from the 16th century to the present, stressing his insistence on the monogenetic origins of humans, as opposed to racist polygenetic arguments.

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  • Harris, Marvin. 1968. The rise of anthropological theory. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell.

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    A highly polemical history of the discipline. He castigates Morgan as racist and dwells on the numerous errors in Morgan’s evolutionary scheme, but he concedes that Morgan made important contributions to the study of kinship and to the emergence of stratification and the state.

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  • Kuper, Adam. 1988. The invention of primitive society. London and New York: Routledge.

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    Kuper argues that 19th-century evolutionary anthropology, especially that of Morgan, developed a paradigm of “primitive” society centered on kinship that has continued to haunt contemporary anthropology long after Morgan’s specific schemes have been refuted.

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  • Lowie, Robert. 1937. The history of ethnological theory. New York: Rinehart.

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    This early history of the field, written by one of Franz Boas’s most prominent students, is remarkably sympathetic to Morgan despite the wholesale rejection of his evolutionary approach, crediting him with founding modern kinship studies.

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  • Voget, Fred W. 1975. A history of ethnology. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

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    The last and least polemical of the grand surveys of the discipline’s history. The discussion of Morgan focuses mostly on Ancient Society (Morgan 1985, cited under Books) and Morgan’s evolutionary ideas.

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Precursors

Morgan’s ethnography of the Iroquois built upon two and a half centuries of descriptions of American Indians, particularly of the Iroquois and their neighbors in the eastern woodlands. His attempts in Morgan 1985 (cited under Books) to use ethnography to reconstruct the entire sweep of human history and prehistory, especially by comparing Iroquois examples to early Greek and Roman societies, built on earlier attempts, particularly in 18th-century Europe, to write universal (and Eurocentric) history in terms of a progression from “savagery” to “civilization.” This section covers Morgan’s Descriptions of Native Americans as well as his writings on Universal History.

Descriptions of Native Americans

Sayre 1997 surveys both French and English colonial representations of Native Americans in the 17th and 18th centuries. Though little evidence exists that Morgan was familiar with French descriptions from New France (modern Quebec), they constitute an extremely rich body of literature (Sayre 1997), written by both soldier/explorers (Lescarbot 1907–1914, Lahontan 1905) and missionaries (Sagard 1939, Thwaites 1896–1901). In the 18th century, Lafitau 1974, written by a French Jesuit (see also Launay 2010), prefigured Morgan, with the author comparing his own observations among the Iroquois to sources on Greek and Roman society.

  • Lafitau, Joseph François. 1974. Customs of the American Indians compared with the customs of primitive times. 2 vols. Edited and translated by William Fenton and Elizabeth Moore. Toronto: Champlain Society.

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    Lafitau relied on his firsthand knowledge as a missionary among the Iroquois to write a detailed description that also attempted to fit the Iroquois into a universal, theologically oriented account of the world that relied heavily on classical sources. More than a century before Morgan, he also published an accurate account of Iroquois kinship terminology. First published in French in 1724.

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  • Lahontan, Luis Armand. 1905. New voyages to North America. 2 vols. Chicago: A. C. McClurg.

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    First published in French in 1703, the work includes an (questionably reliable) account of the author’s travels, a long description of the Indians of New France, and a fictional dialogue between the author and Adario, a Huron, fiercely satirizing European institutions as opposed to “natural” Indian beliefs and practices.

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  • Launay, Robert. 2010. Lafitau revisited: American “savages” and universal history. Anthropologica 52.2: 337–343.

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    Contrasts Lafitau’s and Morgan’s attempts to use their firsthand knowledge of the Iroquois to write universal history by comparing the Iroquois to ancient Greeks and Romans.

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  • Lescarbot, Marc. 1907–1914. History of New France. 3 vols. Toronto: Champlain Society.

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    These volumes, a translation of the 1618 French edition, constitute a very early and broadly sympathetic account of the Mi’kmaq Indians of New France.

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  • Sagard, Gabriel. 1939. The long journey to the country of the Hurons. Toronto: Champlain Society.

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    First published in French in 1632, this is a detailed account of the first French mission to the Huron, written years afterward by a Recollet friar, in large measure to demonstrate his order’s priority over the Jesuits.

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  • Sayre, Gordon M. 1997. Les sauvages américains: Representations of Native Americans in French and English colonial literature. Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press.

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    A very comprehensive and insightful comparison of French and British depictions of North American Indians from the perspective of literary studies.

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  • Thwaites, Reuben Gold, ed. 1896–1901. The Jesuit relations and allied documents. 73 vols. Cleveland: Burrows Brothers.

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    This massive compilation includes annual reports on the missions in New France published by the Jesuits from 1610 to 1791. Relations by Le Jeune in 1634 and Brébeuf in 1636 include particularly rich firsthand accounts.

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Universal History

Morgan’s attempt in Morgan 1985 (cited under Books) to encompass the entire sweep of human history and prehistory from “savagery” through “barbarism” to “civilization” built upon earlier Enlightenment theories of society and attempts to write university history (Launay 2010, Meek 1976, Pocock 1999, Pocock 2005). Morgan was particularly well-read in the works of Scottish 18th-century thinkers (Schneider 1967), which are reviewed notably in Smith 1978 and Ferguson 1995.

  • Ferguson, Adam. 1995. An essay on the history of civil society. Edited by Fania Oz-Salzberger. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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    An 18th-century attempt to theorize the progress of humanity from “savagery,” paradigmatically embodied by the Iroquois, to “civilization” and potentially to “corruption.”

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  • Launay, Robert. 2010. Foundations of anthropological theory: From classical antiquity to early modern Europe. Malden, MA and Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.

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    An anthology of early European descriptive and theoretical writings about non-Europeans. Includes selections from French descriptions of Indians of New France as well as from French and Scottish social theorists.

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  • Meek, Ronald L. 1976. Social science and the ignoble savage. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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    Meek locates the origins of the theory of stages of human development from hunting to pastoralism to agriculture to commerce at the heart of Morgan’s scheme back to the works of Anne-Robert Turgot in France and Adam Smith in Scotland.

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  • Pocock, J. G. A. 1999. Barbarism and religion. Vol. 2, Narratives of civil government. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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    The second volume in a series of books by a prominent intellectual historian centering on the background to Edward Gibbon’s The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. This volume treats 18th-century historiography, particularly in Scotland.

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  • Pocock, J. G. A. 2005. Barbarism and religion. Vol. 4, Barbarians, savages and empires. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511490682Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The fourth book in the series focuses on changing notions of “savagery” and “barbarism” in the 18th century.

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  • Schneider, Louis, ed. 1967. The Scottish moralists: On human nature and society. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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    An anthology of writings by Scottish Enlightenment thinkers, including David Hume and Adam Smith, who were significant influences on Morgan’s thought.

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  • Smith, Adam. 1978. Lectures on jurisprudence. Edited by R. L. Meek, D. D. Raphael, and P. G. Stein. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

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    Based on unpublished notes from lectures given in 1762–1763 and in 1766 at Glasgow University. Though Morgan would never have had access to these lectures, they delve in great detail into the relationship between forms of property and social institutions in early human history, an issue central to Morgan’s later preoccupations.

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Contemporaries

Morgan’s writings were situated precisely at the intersection of the very different preoccupations of his scholarly contemporaries in the United States and in Europe, especially in England. In the United States, he not only added to the growing corpus of knowledge about American Indians, he also set the standards for future research. In Europe, the tradition of Universal History was given an evolutionary twist in the mid-19th century, with a particular emphasis on the development of forms of kinship and the family.

American Indian Studies

Beginning in the 1820s, American scholars began to pay increasing attention to American Indians as a focus of their research (Bieder 1996). In particular, a decade or so before Morgan, Henry Rowe Schoolcraft (Schoolcraft 1956, Schoolcraft 2002) undertook field research among various tribes, including Ojibwa and Iroquois. In the next generation, Francis Parkman began writing the history of Native Americans, albeit very much from the point of view of their Anglo-American conquerors (Parkman 1995).

  • Bieder, Robert E. 1996. Science encounters the Indian, 1820–1880: The early years of American ethnology. Norman: Univ. of Oklahoma Press.

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    Surveys the development of studies of American Indians in the 19th century from Albert Gallatin’s classification of Indian languages through the works of Samuel Morton, Ephraim Squier, and Schoolcraft and culminating in Morgan’s ethnography.

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  • Parkman, Francis. 1995. The conspiracy of Pontiac and the Indian war after the conquest of Canada. 2 vols. Lincoln: Univ. of Nebraska Press.

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    A classic of nationalist American history that depicts Pontiac as a doomed romantic hero pitted against an inevitably triumphant Anglo-American civilization. Parkman cites Morgan among his sources.

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  • Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe. 1956. Schoolcraft’s Indian legends from Algic researches. East Lansing: Michigan State Univ. Press.

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    A collection of tales from various Indian groups in the northeastern United States. This is a pioneering study of Indian oral literature, based on Schoolcraft’s own field research. First published in 1839.

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  • Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe. 2002. Notes on the Iroquois, or, contributions to American history, antiquities, and general ethnology. East Lansing: Michigan State Univ. Press.

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    Published a few years before Morgan’s League of the Iroquois, (Morgan 1962, cited under Books) the book served as a precursor for Morgan’s far more thorough and systematic monograph. First published in 1847.

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Kinship Studies

From the 1860s onward, European and especially British authors, many of them lawyers like Morgan, were elaborating theories about the progression of human history centered on kinship (see Burrow 1966, Stocking 1987, Bachofen 1973, Maine 1963, McLennan 1970, and Tylor 1889). Kuper 1985 and Tooker 1992 debated the extent to which Morgan drew on British theorists or vice versa.

  • Maine, Sir Henry Sumner. 1963. Ancient law. Boston: Beacon.

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    Maine argues that the great historical contribution of Roman law is the transition from “status,” one’s inherited position, to “contract,” the ability to freely negotiate one’s rights and obligations. He traces the origins of “status,” at least in Indo-European societies, to a primordial patriarchal family. Both McLennan and Morgan took issue with his “patriarchal theory.” First published in 1861.

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  • McLennan, John F. 1970. Primitive marriage. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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    Taking as his point of departure the prevalence worldwide of rituals of marriage by capture, McLennan theorizes the origins of the family in terms of matrilineal descent, polyandry, and exogamy. Despite important points of convergence, McLennan and Morgan debated the importance of kinship terminology and of polyandry, and the applicability of the terms exogamy and endogamy. First published in 1865.

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  • Stocking, George W., Jr. 1987. Victorian anthropology. New York: Free Press.

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    A detailed account of the emergence of evolutionary anthropology in mid-19th-century Britain by the most prominent contemporary historian of anthropology, though curiously it does not extensively discuss Morgan’s work.

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  • Tooker, Elisabeth. 1992. Lewis H. Morgan and his contemporaries. American Anthropologist 94.2: 357–375.

    DOI: 10.1525/aa.1992.94.2.02a00050Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Basing her work on Morgan’s papers in Rochester, Tooker rebuts Kuper’s contention that Morgan’s theories drew on the publications of British anthropologists, suggesting instead that they relied on some of his data, stressing as well the importance of Morgan’s personal experience in the field as opposed to the speculations of his European contemporaries.

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  • Tylor, Edward B. 1889. On a method of investigating the development of institutions: Applied to laws of marriage and descent. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland 18:245–272.

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    In a paper famous for its pioneering use of statistical correlations to support an anthropological argument, Tylor attempts to reconcile the ideas of Morgan and McLennan by relating forms of in-law avoidance to rules of postmarital residence.

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Collaborators

Throughout his researches, Morgan needed to rely on the assistance of outside collaborators. For his ethnography of the Iroquois, he drew on notes by other members of the Grand Order of the Iroquois (Bieder 1980), a society he founded, and especially on the help of an educated Seneca, Ely Parker (Parker 1919, Armstrong 1978), who both introduced him to prominent members of the Iroquois Confederacy and served as his translator. For Morgan 1997 (cited under Books), he relied on missionary correspondents, particularly for kinship terminology in the Pacific (Spoehr 1981). He corresponded with Reverend Asher Wright (Stern 1933) to verify details about Iroquois government for Morgan 1985 (cited under Books).

  • Armstrong, William H. 1978. Warrior in two camps: Ely S. Parker, Union general and Seneca chief. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse Univ. Press.

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    A biography of Morgan’s remarkable Seneca interpreter, go-between, and early protégé, who went on to become a Union general under Ulysses S. Grant during the Civil War and a commissioner of Indian affairs.

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  • Bieder, Robert E. 1980. The Grand Order of the Iroquois: Influences on Lewis Henry Morgan’s ethnology. Ethnohistory 27.4: 349–361.

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    Discusses the importance of papers by other members of the society founded by Morgan, especially those of Isaac Hurd, in shaping Morgan’s ethnography of the Iroquois.

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  • Parker, Arthur C. 1919. The life of General Ely S. Parker, last grand sachem of the Iroquois and General Grant’s military secretary. Buffalo, NY: Buffalo Historical Society.

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    An early biography of Parker written by his great-nephew, himself an ethnologist and archaeologist of the Iroquois, with a chapter on the relationship of Parker and Morgan in their early careers.

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  • Spoehr, Alexander. 1981. Lewis Henry Morgan and his Pacific collaborators: A nineteenth-century chapter in the history of anthropological research. Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 125.6: 449–459.

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    Discusses the correspondence of Morgan with missionaries in Hawaii, Micronesia, New Zealand, and Fiji to whom he sent out printed schedules for determining kinship terminologies to serve as the basis of Systems of Consanguinity and Affinity on the Human Family (Morgan 1997, cited under Books).

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  • Stern, Berhnard J. 1933. The letters of Asher Wright to Lewis Henry Morgan. American Anthropologist 35.1: 138–145.

    DOI: 10.1525/aa.1933.35.1.02a00130Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Shows how, even late in his career, as he was writing Ancient Society (Morgan 1985, cited under Books), Morgan continued to verify his facts by corresponding with missionaries in the field. These letters concern details about the social organization of the Seneca.

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Disciples

Morgan directly inspired others to undertake ethnological and even archaeological research. Reverend Lorimer Fison was originally contacted by Morgan to provide Fijian kinship terms. When Fison moved to Australia, he was encouraged by Morgan to undertake ethnographic research. With the help of A. W. Howitt, he published the first monograph on Australian ethnography (Fison and Howitt 1967, Hiatt 1996). After Fison’s departure, Howitt continued his research (Howitt 1904). Morgan also corresponded with a young Swiss immigrant, Adolph Bandelier, who pursued archeological research in Mesoamerica and South America as well as in the Southwest, inspired by Morgan’s theories (Bandelier 1940; see also Lange 1996). John Wesley Powell (Hinsley 1981) at the Smithsonian Institution was also heavily influenced by Morgan.

  • Bandelier, Adolph. 1940. Pioneers in American anthropology: The Bandelier-Morgan letters, 1873–1883. 2 vols. Edited by Leslie White. Albuquerque: Univ. of New Mexico Press.

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    As his letters reveal, Bandelier was heavily influenced by Morgan’s theories, in particular about the Aztec, who, Morgan was convinced, were much more similar to the Iroquois than to European empires.

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  • Fison, Lorimer, and A. W. Howitt. 1967. Kamilaroi and Kurnai. Oosterhout, The Netherlands: Anthropological Publications.

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    With Morgan’s blessing, Fison and Howitt pioneered the ethnography of Australia. Morgan had already used their material as the basis for a chapter in Ancient Society (Morgan 1985, cited under Books), and he wrote the introduction to the volume. First published in 1880.

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  • Hiatt, L. R. 1996. Arguments about Aborigines: Australia and the evolution of social anthropology. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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    Criticizes numerous scholarly misconceptions about Australian society, beginning with Morgan’s and Fison’s paradigm of group marriage among the Australians.

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  • Hinsley, Curtis. 1981. Savages and scientists. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press.

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    A history of the Smithsonian Institution’s researches on American Indians in the 19th century. The chapter on John Wesley Powell’s creation of the Bureau of American Ethnology dwells at length on his debt to Morgan, whom he eulogized.

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  • Howitt, A. W. 1904. Native tribes of south east Australia. New York and London: Macmillan.

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    Additional ethnographic research undertaken among aboriginal Australians by Fison’s collaborator after his departure.

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  • Lange, Charles H. 1996. Bandelier: The life and adventures of Adolph Bandelier. Salt Lake City: Univ. of Utah Press.

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    A biography of the Swiss-born archaeologist who undertook research inspired by Morgan in the American Southwest, Mexico, and South America.

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Impact on Marxist Thought

Karl Marx was particularly impressed by Morgan’s Ancient Society (Morgan 1985, cited under Books), and he took copious notes on the volume (Marx 1972). After Marx’s death, Friedrich Engels published The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State (Engels 1986) with the explicit aim of providing a Marxist reading of Morgan’s findings. As a result, Morgan’s work developed a life of its own in Marxist circles, outside of anthropology other than in the Soviet Union. With the more recent growth of non-Soviet Marxist anthropology, the issue of the relationship of the thought of Morgan, Marx, and Engels has again been subject to debate (Terray 1972, Shaw 1984).

  • Engels, Friedrich. 1986. The origin of the family, private property and the state. London: Penguin.

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    Originally subtitled “in the light of the researches of Lewis H. Morgan,” the book attempts to provide a materialist interpretation of Morgan’s Ancient Society (Morgan 1985, cited under Books), which subsequently was incorporated into the orthodox Marxist canon. First published in German in 1884.

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  • Marx, Karl. 1972. The ethnological notebooks of Karl Marx. Edited with an introduction by Lawrence Krader. Assen, The Netherlands: Van Gorcum.

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    Marx’s often cryptic personal notes on Morgan and his contemporaries, notably Henry Maine and John Lubbock. The notes clearly show that Marx was far more impressed by Morgan’s work than by that of his English colleagues.

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  • Shaw, William H. 1984. Marx and Morgan. History and Theory 23.2: 215–228.

    DOI: 10.2307/2505007Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Shaw argues that, if Marx might be labeled a “Morganist,” Morgan was definitely not a Marxist.

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  • Terray, Emmanuel. 1972. Marxism and “primitive” societies: Two studies. New York: Monthly Review Press.

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    A reassessment of Morgan’s work by a prominent French Marxist anthropologist. Terray argues that Marx and Engels’s “materialist” reading of Morgan needs to be counterbalanced by an equally plausible “idealist” reading. First published in French in 1969.

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Boas and the Anti-Evolutionary Reaction

Under the leadership of Franz Boas (Boas 1896, Boas 1938), American anthropology in the early 20th century turned sharply away from evolutionary theories of society, including those of Morgan. Boas’s students (see Kroeber 1909 and Lowie 1928) formulated sharp criticisms of Morgan’s analysis of kinship terminology, specifically his contrast of “classificatory” to “descriptive” systems. Lowie 1947 was explicitly written as an alternative vision of anthropology to Morgan 1985 (cited under Books).

  • Boas, Franz. 1896. The limitations of the comparative method in anthropology. Science 4.103: 901–908.

    DOI: 10.1126/science.4.103.901Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An early formulation of Boas’s sweeping critique of the methodology and assumptions of grand evolutionary social theory, questioning the basis for the speculations of Morgan and his contemporaries.

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  • Boas, Franz. 1938. The mind of primitive man. New York: Macmillan.

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    A summary of the conclusions of his researches, written near the end of his career, calling into question biological theories of racial inferiority as well as evolutionary theories, like those of Morgan, of “progress” and implicitly of cultural inferiority.

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  • Kroeber, Alfred L. 1909. Classificatory systems of relationship. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland 39:77–84.

    DOI: 10.2307/2843284Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A critique of Morgan’s distinction between “classificatory” and “descriptive” kinship terminologies on the grounds that all kinship terminologies constitute systems of classification reflecting or ignoring a host of distinctions. Kroeber, the most radical of Boas’s students in this regard, questions all sociological explanations of kinship terminologies.

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  • Lowie, Robert. 1928. A note on relationship terminologies. American Anthropologist 30.2: 263–267.

    DOI: 10.1525/aa.1928.30.2.02a00060Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A further critique of Morgan’s typology of kinship terminologies, suggesting that “description” and “classification” belong to two logically distinct forms of activity.

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  • Lowie, Robert. 1947. Primitive society. New York: Liveright.

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    A broad theoretical synthesis of systems of kinship, gender, property, and government. The title deliberately echoes Morgan 1985 (cited under Books), and the book is meant as an answer and an alternative to Morgan’s evolutionary scheme. However, unlike some other students of Boas, notably Kroeber, Lowie was not hostile to sociological explanations. First published in 1920.

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Influence

In the early 20th century, many anthropologists, both in America and in Europe, contested the validity of constructing broad histories of human evolution. However, Morgan’s work set the agenda for Kinship Studies, in terms of the questions he framed rather than the answers he suggested. Anthropologists devised various competing schemes to account for the broad worldwide distribution of a very restricted number of patterns of kinship terminology. In the 1960s, certain anthropologists, especially in the United States, began to contest Boas’s wholesale rejection of evolutionary theory and attempted, using Morgan as their model, to devise revised, more accurate, and less ethnocentric scenarios (Neo-Evolutionary Theory). These models continue to be prevalent in contemporary archaeology, though less so in social–cultural anthropology.

Kinship Studies

British anthropologists were not nearly as disposed as were their American contemporaries to dispense with Morgan’s notion of “classificatory” kinship terminologies. W. H. R. Rivers, countering Kroeber’s argument, insisted, along with Morgan, that the determinants of kinship terminology were sociological (Rivers 1968). Alfred Radcliffe-Brown concurred, while rejecting the “conjectural history” of both Morgan and Rivers (Radcliffe-Brown 1941), a position reiterated by his student Meyer Fortes (see Fortes 1970). In the United States, Leslie White also insisted on the relevance of the distinction between “classificatory” and “descriptive” terminology (White 1958). George Peter Murdock attempted to use statistical methods to identify the determinants of kinship terminology (Murdock 1949). Claude Lévi-Strauss pioneered a structuralist approach to kinship, focusing on marriage rather than descent (Lévi-Strauss 1969). These and other contemporary approaches to kinship theory are presented in Reining 1972.

  • Fortes, Meyer. 1970. Kinship and the social order: The legacy of Lewis Henry Morgan. Chicago: Aldine.

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    Fortes, one of the most prominent British structural-functionalists, ardently insists on Morgan’s foundational status for kinship studies in anthropology. He contends that Morgan’s insistence on the systematic properties of kinship and its relationship to other social institutions directly prefigured Alfred Radcliffe-Brown. The book is a revision of his contribution to the distinguished series of Morgan Lectures at the University of Rochester.

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  • Lévi-Strauss, Claude. 1969. The elementary structures of kinship. Boston: Beacon.

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    Lévi-Strauss’s first major book, inaugurating structural analysis by attempting to relate “elementary” kinship systems to patterns of cousin marriage rather than to rules of matrilineal or patrilineal descent, is dedicated “to the memory of Lewis H. Morgan.” First published in French in 1949.

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  • Murdock, George Peter. 1949. Social structure. New York: Macmillan.

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    Using data compiled from 250 societies, Murdock tests hypotheses about the determinants of kinship terminology using statistical correlations.

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  • Radcliffe-Brown, Alfred R. 1941. The study of kinship systems. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland 71.1–2: 1–18.

    DOI: 10.2307/2844398Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    While rejecting Morgan’s evolutionary “conjectural history,” Radcliffe-Brown accepts his paradigm of “classificatory” kinship terminology and its systematic character, explicitly rebutting Kroeber’s antisociological stance.

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  • Reining, Priscilla, ed. 1972. Kinship studies in the Morgan centennial year. Washington, DC: Anthropological Society.

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    A series of papers commemorating the centennial of the publication of Morgan 1997 (cited under Books) by presenting examples of very different perspectives on the analysis of kinship systems and kinship terminology, all of which can trace their beginning to Morgan’s work.

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  • Rivers, W. H. R. 1968. Kinship and social organization. London: Athlone.

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    An early defense of Morgan’s paradigm of “classificatory” terminology using data from Melanesian societies and suggesting different modes of relating kinship terminology to social organization than those suggested by Morgan. First published in 1914.

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  • White, Leslie A. 1958. What is a classificatory kinship term? Southwestern Journal of Anthropology 14:378–385.

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    White is among the first 20th-century American anthropologists to defend Morgan’s distinction between classificatory and descriptive systems of kinship terminology and to argue that the distinction is important in evolutionary terms.

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Neo-Evolutionary Theory

Leslie White (White 1949, White 1959) was, more than any other single scholar, responsible for reviving Morgan’s reputation in the United States. Aside from publishing and editing Morgan’s journals and his correspondence with Adolph Bandelier, he developed his own neo-evolutionary approach, drawing on Engels as well as Morgan, which stressed the importance of technology and the harnessing of energy as motors of human social evolution. In the next generation, Elman Service (Service 1962, Service 1975) and Morton Fried (Fried 1967), taking their cue from Morgan’s distinction between kin-based and territorial-based societies, elaborated rival schemes for the origin of the state.

  • Fried, Morton. 1967. The evolution of political society. New York: Random House.

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    Fried identifies a series of stages of kin-based societies, from egalitarian to rank to stratified societies, as precursors to the state. His sequence is intended as an alternative to Service, though it is equally inspired by Morgan.

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  • Service, Elman. 1962. Primitive social organization: An evolutionary perspective. New York: Random House.

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    Inspired by Morgan and Engels, Service traces the evolution of society from bands to tribes to chiefdoms to states.

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  • Service, Elman. 1975. Origins of the state and civilization. New York: Norton.

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    In this later volume, Service rejects his earlier explanations of the origins of the state based on Engels while still retaining his earlier sequence of evolutionary stages.

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  • White, Leslie A. 1949. The science of culture. New York: Grove.

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    In this highly influential volume, White rejects the antievolutionary biases of Boas and his students in favor of an approach that closely parallels Engels’s reading of Morgan 1985 (cited under Books). White argues that technology and the efficiency of harnessing energy are the primary determinants of culture, with government, kinship, law, and other institutions all deriving from this one factor.

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Contemporary Reappraisals

More than a century later, broad consensus exists that Morgan’s writings set the agenda for anthropological research, for better or for worse. Recently, scholars have also reexamined his pioneering work on animal behavior and cognition and the light it sheds on his other more strictly anthropological preoccupations.

Social–Cultural Anthropology

More than a century later, the nature and value of Morgan’s contributions to anthropology remain controversial. While some (Eggan 1972, Makarius 1977, Trautmann 1987) claim that his research on kinship opened up important avenues of anthropological research, others (Schneider 1972, Kuper 1988) consider that “kinship,” like “totemism,” is an illusory fabrication of 19th-century speculation and that Morgan’s research sparked fruitless debates in the field. His admittedly involuntary incorporation into the Marxist canon has led Marxist anthropologists (Godelier 1973, Makarius 1977) to look favorably on his attempts to devise a unitary theory of social evolution, although Service 1981 argues that his canonization is essentially unmerited. Even so, Service 1985 argues that Morgan’s writings initiated key scholarly controversies in a variety of domains.

  • Eggan, Fred. 1972. Lewis Henry Morgan’s Systems: A reevaluation. In Kinship studies in the Morgan centennial year. Edited by Priscilla Reining, 1–16. Washington, DC: Anthropological Society.

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    An overview of Morgan’s kinship theory that praises his quest for a broad and unified approach and insists that, despite his errors, he defined central problems in anthropological inquiry.

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  • Godelier, Maurice. 1973. Horizon, trajets marxistes en anthropologie. Paris: François Maspero.

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    A noted French Marxist anthropologist, taking stock of the trajectory of Marxist theory in the discipline, signals Morgan’s contribution as foundational.

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  • Kuper, Adam. 1988. The invention of primitive society. London and New York: Routledge.

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    Kuper argues that the varieties of kinship theory pioneered by Morgan have served to perpetuate a false and pernicious dichotomy between “primitive” and “modern” societies.

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  • Makarius, Raoul. 1977. Ancient Society and Morgan’s kinship theory 100 years after. Current Anthropology 18.4: 709–729.

    DOI: 10.1086/201976Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A Marxist anthropologist argues for the continued pertinence of Morgan’s evolutionary approach to kinship, and the utility of his analytical distinctions between classificatory and descriptive terminologies as well as between familial and tribal organization. The article includes critical comments by other scholars as well as the author’s reply.

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  • Schneider, David M. 1972. What is kinship all about? In Kinship studies in the Morgan centennial year. Edited by Priscilla Reining, 32–63. Washington, DC: Anthropological Society.

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    Schneider argues that “kinship” as a category exists only in European and American thought, and that it has no analytical relevance to other societies worldwide. From this perspective, Morgan 1997 (cited under Books) inaugurated a century of misperceptions and fruitless debate.

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  • Service, Elman R. 1981. The mind of Lewis Henry Morgan. Current Anthropology 22.1: 25–43.

    DOI: 10.1086/202601Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Service argues that Morgan was neither an idealist nor a materialist, but in fact a mentalist, and that his evolutionism was, in important respects, theologically inspired. He suggests that the subsequent incorporation of Morgan into one or another anthropological canon has obscured his original ideas and intentions. The article includes critical comments by other scholars as well as the author’s reply.

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  • Service, Elman R. 1985. A century of controversy: Ethnological issues from 1860 to 1960. Orlando, FL: Academic Press.

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    Service suggests that Morgan’s writings, whatever, and perhaps despite, their original intentions, sparked debates in anthropology about kinship terminology, social organization and descent, the origin of government, and the economic life of “primitive” peoples that continue to provoke controversy in the discipline.

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  • Trautmann, Thomas R. 1987. Lewis Henry Morgan and the invention of kinship. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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    Argues for the continued relevance of Morgan’s thought, especially Morgan 1997 (cited under Books), to the discipline of anthropology.

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Ethology

Morgan 1968 (cited under Books), a study of beaver behavior and cognition, has received less attention than much of his other work, although it was equally pathbreaking, not only because of the quality of the field observations but also because it systematically avoided erecting qualitative barriers between thought in animals and humans. Swetlitz 1988 and Feeley-Harnik 1999 reconsider the relationship of Morgan’s study of beavers to his anthropological writings.

  • Feeley-Harnik, Gillian. 1999. “Communities of blood”: The natural history of kinship in nineteenth-century America. Comparative Studies of Society and History 41.2: 215–262.

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    Feeley-Harnik compares Morgan’s work on beavers with his anthropological writings in order to reevaluate his use of the metaphor of “blood”—consanguinity; she suggests that the metaphor has less to do with biology than with linking “biblical inquiries about creation to new speculations about the nature of life in historical material terms.”

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  • Swetlitz, Marc. 1988. The minds of beavers and the minds of humans: Natural suggestion, natural selection, and experiment in the work of Lewis Henry Morgan. In Bones, bodies, behavior: Essays on biological anthropology. Vol. 5, History of anthropology. Edited by George W. Stocking, 56–83. Madison: Univ. of Wisconsin Press.

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    Swetlitz argues that Morgan applied the commonsense perspective of Scottish Enlightenment philosophers toward understanding the thought of both beavers and humans.

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LAST MODIFIED: 01/11/2012

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780199766567-0050

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