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Lewis Henry Morgan studied the American Indian way of life and collected an enormous amount of factual material on the history of primitive-communal society. All the conclusions he draws are based on these facts; where he lacks them, he reasons back on the basis of the data available to him. He determined the periodization of primitive society by linking each of the periods with the development of production techniques. The "great sequence of inventions and discoveries;” and the history of institutions, with each of its three branches — family, property and government — constitute the progress made by human society from its earliest stages to the beginning of civilization. Mankind gained this progress through 'the gradual evolution of their mental and moral powers through experience, and of their protracted struggle with opposing obstacles while winning their way to civilization.'
Posted January 20, 2000
Lewis Henry Morgan could be considered an enlightened anthropologist. Most important in this work is the theoretical concept of cultural evolution. LHM attributed evolution to the progress of family type development, which in turn influenced political structure, religion and cultural advancement. Most of his theory stems for his long involvement with the Iroquois (he was an adopted member of one of the tribes) Confederacy. Although he did not speak in terms of modes of production or population pressures, the implications are clearly seen in his descriptions of the growth and development of concentrated areas of population and accompanying advancement of production techniques. This work should be revisited and LHM be given the credit as the father of American Anthropology. LHM's influence down to this day has been considerable. Unfortunately he fell from grace because of the use of this volume by Marx and Engles in their theories on pre-capitalistic economic evolution. The largest problem is LHM's over emphasis on religious (divine) influences and the impossibility of full modern cultural status without conversion to Christianity. If you can put aside the religious bias and 19th Century misconcepts of intelligence and cranial evolution being linked to cultural advancement, his general theories and systemic approach to the study of anthropology should continue to be a foundation for all graduate anthropologists today.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.