Researches Into the Physical History of Man

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University of Chicago Press, 1813 - Social Science - 568 pages
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Originally published in 1813, James Cowles Prichard's Researches into the Physical History of Man was perhaps the most important anthropological work in English of the pre-Darwinian nineteenth century. Attacking the heterodox speculations of "polygenist" writers, Prichard defended the biblically based argument that all mankind was one species. He advanced interesting hypotheses concerning the processes of racial differentiation, and suggested the then daring possibility that the original men were black-skinned.

In his extensive introductory essay, "From Chronology to Ethnology: Prichard and British Anthropology, 1800-1850," George W. Stocking, Jr., uses Prichard's career to illuminate this previously neglected period—the "dark age" between the Victorian evolutionists and their eighteenth-century Scottish precursors. Focusing on the heritage of Christian chronological writing as a source of nineteenth-century anthropological speculation, Professor Stocking shows how Prichard's work gradually transformed this tradition into "ethnology."

Prichard's central problem was to trace to a single source all the races of men from the earliest historical records to the dispersion of mankind after the Deluge. It was in the attempt to solve this "ethnological problem" that the "embracive" tradition of late nineteenth-century English and American anthropology had its roots. As Prichard's work illustrates, every type of evidence—linguistic, cultural, and physical—was brought forth to establish affinities between different human groups.

Expanded in subsequent editions to five volumes, Prichard's Researches was to remain the major compendium of ethnological knowledge in the English language until the second half of the nineteenth century. The present reprinting of the 1813 edition in its entirety should help to reestablish Prichard's reputation as one of the "fathers" of anthropology.

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