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Early Anthropology in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries

Early Anthropology in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries

Margaret T. Hodgen
Copyright Date: 1964
Pages: 528
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  • Book Info
    Early Anthropology in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries
    Book Description:

    Although social sciences such as anthropology are often thought to have been organized as academic specialties in the nineteenth century, the ideas upon which these disciplines were founded actually developed centuries earlier. In fact, the foundational concepts can be traced at least as far back as the sixteenth century, when contact with unfamiliar peoples in the New World led Europeans to create ways of describing and understanding social similarities and differences among humans. Early Anthropology in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries examines the history of some of the ideas adopted to help understand the origin of culture, the diversity of traits, the significance of similarities, the sequence of high civilizations, the course of cultural change, and the theory of social evolution. It is a book that not only illuminates the thinking of a bygone age but also sheds light on the sources of attitudes still prevalent today.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-0671-5
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-6)
  2. Foreword
    (pp. 7-10)
    M. T. H.

    It has become a convention in dealing with the historical careers of the social studies to fix their birth dates somewhere in the nineteenth century, when the academic departmentalization of the study of man had its inception; and then, when unfavorable comment is heard, to defend them singly or jointly on the score of their youth and immaturity.

    This is unfortunate. The study of man in the Western world is not young. It is one of the oldest subjects of serious thought. Neither sociology nor anthropology sprang de novo and fully formed from the reflections of their presumptive “fathers,” Auguste...

  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. 11-15)
  4. The Medieval Prologue

    • CHAPTER I The Classical Heritage
      (pp. 17-48)

      When “a certayne Caravelle sayling the West Ocean … was driven to a land unknowne, and not described by any Map or Carde of the Sea,” medieval conceptions of savagery began slowly to lose their hold on the European mentality. For it was not so much that a Genoese sailor became the discoverer of new lands across the Ocean Sea, or that a little band of European seamen looked for the first time on the Red Men of America. It was rather that for once savagery was seen, at least in a measure, through eyes unblurred by medieval fantasy, and...

    • CHAPTER II The Ethnology of the Medieval Encyclopedists Pilgrims, Merchants, and Missionaries
      (pp. 49-77)

      One difficulty that besets the student of the history of ethnological ideas, especially during the pre-Columbian period, is that of placing himself in sympathetic rapport with the man of the Middle Ages, the credulous reader of Mela and Solinus; of coming to an understanding of why medieval thought, though grounded in the Hebrew Scriptures, contained so large an ingredient of the pagan, the fantastic, the monstrous, and the fabulous. It is possible, of course, that real sympathy with minds so far in the past is unachievable. Or perhaps we tend to make another error. Perhaps no such creature as medieval...

    • CHAPTER III Ethnology, Trade, and Missionary Endeavor
      (pp. 78-108)

      Though the complex records of European thought seem at times to lend themselves to a portrayal of the Middle Ages as confused, geographically ignorant, and wedded ethnologically to immemorial and fabulous tradition, another body of evidence suggests a somewhat different conclusion. For obviously, if those old mixers of the human family—trade and religion—be given their due, and if to these be added the migrations of the barbarians, the pilgrimages to holy places, and the movements of armies over both the European peninsula and the Eurasian landmass, the period was certainly not one of uninterrupted isolation and introversion. Due...

  5. The Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries

    • CHAPTER IV The Fardle of Façions: or, the Cabinet of Curios
      (pp. 111-161)

      When Christopher Columbus dropped anchor in the Tagus River at the port of Lisbon on that fateful day of his return to the Old World, he brought with him seven kidnapped Indians of the so-called Taino culture of the Arawack linguistic group. The Admiral and his charges were received with great interest by King John. His caravel “became the Mecca for the idle and curious who flocked to see the Indians and the popinjays.” Nevertheless, astonishment was expressed that these aborigines were not Negroes such as the Portuguese mariners had been wont to import into Europe for upwards of forty...

    • CHAPTER V Collections of Customs: Modes of Classification and Description
      (pp. 162-206)

      Though the questing spirit of the Renaissance was displayed in the multiplication of collections in all the capitals of Europe, most of the collectors themselves were unaware of their importance. Few, relatively speaking, attempted by classification or other scientific procedures to ferret out the meaning of their treasures. The addition of new items as quickly as possible, the expansion of their stores of “curios,” was about all they asked.

      It was more or less clearly recognized, however, that collections of customs were a little different. These might divert and entertain, but they also possessed an utilitarian value. Did the theologian...

    • CHAPTER VI The Ark of Noah and the Problem of Cultural Diversity
      (pp. 207-253)

      One of the major differences between the thought of the Middle Ages and that of the Renaissance was the value attached to the trait of curiosity. During the earlier and longer period, this spring of scientific inquiry was profoundly distrusted as meddlesome and impertinent. It was spoken of as turpis curiositas. To encourage the mind to play wantonly with its own powers was denounced as self-indulgence; to seek learning outside the accustomed categories of medieval logic and information was to invite scandal. The Renaissance, on the other hand, was a period of a restless search for knowledge. Why? Whence? What?...

    • CHAPTER VII Diffusion, Degeneration, and Environmentalism
      (pp. 254-294)

      The Biblical solution of the problem of cultural differences was an European one, based upon a narrowly European system of ideas and beliefs. It was regarded by most men as the best that reason and faith could propose. To others, however, it was neither as simple nor as satisfying as it seemed. The first eleven chapters of Genesis, with their artless bias in favor of one people, with their historical or genealogical ideas, with their unaccountable reservations and condensations, became the source of labyrynthine inferences which led ethnological thought and allied inquiry down many a winding way.

      A first inference,...

    • CHAPTER VIII Similarities and Their Documentary Properties
      (pp. 295-353)

      If diversities in culture were puzzling to thoughtful men during the Renaissance, so also were similarities. For there are two types of mind among scholars. There are those who in their efforts to understand the world submit to the methodological principle of specification or particularization. When drawn into making comparisons, they resist assertions of likeness, similarity, analogy, unity. The phenomenon of differentness in culture prevails against even the most persuasive arguments from likeness. The other type adheres to the principle of homogeneity; to the fruitfulness in explanation of arguing from the similar, the corresponding, the parallel, or the identical. These...

    • CHAPTER IX The Problem of Savagery
      (pp. 354-385)

      But why this inordinate expenditure of energy in eliciting cultural correspondences? The deists, the theists, the atheists, and the infidels, so called by their orthodox brethren, were tireless in their efforts to undermine confidence in many of these too easy-going and uncritical likenesses, but at the same time they proposed some of their own. Why the persistent effort to clothe savagery with documentary significance? Why, indeed, the emphasis upon savagery? With all the problems regarded as subject to solution by the employment of similarities supposedly solved, it still remains far from clear why identifications of contemporary savagery with classical antiquity,...

    • CHAPTER X The Place of the Savage in the Chain of Being
      (pp. 386-430)

      But neither the cultural relativists of the Renaissance, nor the moralists, nor even the degenerationists, were allowed to have the last word in solving the problem of savagery. Their explanations failed to explain. The relativists were too coolly neutral to meet adequately the dramatic challenge of the facts; the moralists and degenerationists were too orthodox to see them in anything other than a theological context. Furthermore, the heart of the difficulty lay elsewhere. It lay in the settled and unshakable belief that the native tribes of the New World were not only alien to Europeans in that minor sense in...

  6. The Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries

    • CHAPTER XI From Hierarchy to History
      (pp. 433-477)

      Wherever in the chain of being the savage was allotted a place—below or in company with European man—there in theory he was ordained to stay. The medieval mind made no provision for the mutability of animal species, or, among human beings for the transmutation of cultures from incivility to civility. Nor did most minds in the Renaissance. Basically Christian, they adhered to a serial cosmos in which the Good Bookkeeper, God, kept each category in a position eternally fixed, its classificatory bounds firmly established, its value unvarying. One of the major characteristics of the hierarchical view of things,...

    • CHAPTER XII Aftermath
      (pp. 478-516)

      The mind’s fidelity to the old has left its mark on anthropology as well as on other fields of thought. Modem cultural investigation has taken up its abode in a mansion of organizing ideas already designed, built, and richly furnished with traditional assumptions more closely related to the early levels of Western theology and philosophy than to the data of human history. Nearly all the principles of inquiry employed by recent generations of scholars in Europe and elsewhere are of great age and authority. Were their genealogies consulted, it would become quickly apparent that their antecedents are to be found...

  7. Index
    (pp. 517-526)
  8. Back Matter
    (pp. 527-527)