Academy,  2 (1870–71), 38–40.

[Review of Pre-Historic Times and The Origin of Civilization, by Sir John Lubbock, and Researches into the Early History of Mankind, by Edward B Tylor]  [2/2]

George Rolleston


Review, Serial

Publications reviewed:

Lubbock 1869 Lubbock 1870 Tylor 1870


Anthropology, Human Species, Ethnography, Fieldwork, Specialization, Disciplinarity, Race, Morality, Evolution, Utilitarianism, Progress, Darwinism, Superstition, Class

    Although pointing out 'certain fallacies' amongst the 'enormous array' of facts gathered by John Lubbock and Edward B Tylor, Rolleston insists that he must not be 'suspected of hinting that if some of these facts should be set aside on examination the whole argument must be looked upon as thereby vitiated'. He warns that the ethnographer must remain cautious as to the value of the testimony of primitive peoples and of the influence of their own position as an observer: 'It is only a little less difficult to judge of the feelings and views of a savage without being a savage one's self, than it is to judge of the mental processes of one of the lower animals, without being received into its sensorium, and yet escaping identification with it'. Also notes that a 'savage has as little to do with his time as Sir John Chester is represented as having in Barnaby Rudge'. (38) Insists on 'the absolute necessity of combining linguistic with other physical science' in ethnographic fieldwork, and comments on the 'ill-informed class who hold that every natural historian must necessarily confine his attention to the material and overlook the moral conditions in any problem which he may enquire into'. Although it is 'of course, neither unnatural nor unlikely that any expert should have a tendency to specialism', it is important that 'a real anthropologist [...] come safely out of this temptation'. Lubbock, for example, is 'inclined to account by reference to the unfortunate (moral and social) circumstances in which half-breeds are generally placed, for the abject or other repulsive characteristics which so often have been attributed to or observed in them'. Complains that Lubbock's 'method of accounting for the genesis of the notions of right and wrong, like that of all other utilitarians, actually presupposes their existence!' (39), and notes that on this point 'the dialecticians for once [have] a real victory over the Natural Historian' (40).

© Science in the Nineteenth-Century Periodical Project, Universities of Leeds and Sheffield, 2005 - 2020

Printed from Science in the Nineteenth-Century Periodical: An Electronic Index, v. 4.0, The Digital Humanities Institute <> [accessed ]