Jump to Content Jump to Main Navigation

In This Article Lewis Henry Morgan

  • Introduction
  • Biographies
  • Histories of Anthropology
  • Collaborators
  • Disciples
  • Impact on Marxist Thought
  • Boas and the Anti-Evolutionary Reaction

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).

  • Moses, Daniel Noah. 2009. The promise of progress: The life and work of Lewis Henry Morgan. Columbia: Univ. of Missouri Press.

    E-mail Citation »

    A biography that focuses on Morgan’s early enthusiasm and eventual ambivalence about social progress.

  • Resek, Carl. 1960. Lewis Henry Morgan: American scholar. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

    E-mail Citation »

    A short, straightforward, and very readable biography, the standard reference on the life of Morgan.

  • Stern, Bernhard Joseph. 1931. Lewis Henry Morgan, social evolutionist. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

    E-mail Citation »

    The first full-length biography of Morgan, a highly sympathetic account by an anthropologist whose sympathies for evolutionary perspectives ran counter to the prevailing tendencies of his day.

  • Tooker, Elisabeth. 1983. The structure of the Iroquois League: Lewis H. Morgan’s research and observations. Ethnohistory 30.3: 141–154.

    DOI: 10.2307/481022E-mail Citation »

    Based on Morgan’s papers at the University of Rochester, Tooker reevaluates the process by which Morgan collected and published his research on the Iroquois League.

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

    E-mail Citation »

    The book focuses on both the genesis and the impact of Morgan 1997 (cited under Books) and its establishment of the anthropological study of kinship. Includes a very complete bibliography of Morgan’s publications.

LAST MODIFIED: 01/11/2012

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780199766567-0050

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions and individuals. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.

Purchase an Ebook Version of This Article

Ebooks of the Oxford Bibliographies Online subject articles are available in North America via a number of retailers including Amazon, vitalsource, and more. Simply search on their sites for Oxford Bibliographies Online Research Guides and your desired subject article.

If you would like to purchase an eBook article and live outside North America please email onlinemarketing@oup.com to express your interest.

Article

Up

Down