Edmund R. Leach (1910–1989) was a British anthropologist. He is widely credited with introducing Anglophone readers to the work of Claude Lévi-Strauss. Leach served as provost of King’s College, Cambridge from 1966 until 1979; he was made a Fellow of the British Academy in 1972 and knighted in 1975. A two-volume selection of his writings, The Essential Edmund Leach, was published by Yale University Press in 2001.

Anthropology Upside Down

The enigmatic title of this antitextbook may best be explained by an analogy. In the flush of radical enthusiasm which was briefly dominant in England between 1645 and 1660, left-wing religious sectarians—Diggers, Seekers, Quakers, Ranters, Muggletonians, Fifth Monarchy Men, and what have you—vied with one another to reinvent Christianity. They …

The Politics of Karma

The three volumes noted here are part of a flood of recent English-language writing on Eastern religions. The stimulus seems to come from two main sources. On the one hand there is a genuine interest in how far these systems of thought offer intellectually satisfying alternatives to the Jewish and …

Mythical Inequalities

“Pour étudier l’homme…il faut d’abord observer les différences pour découvrir les propriétés.” —J.-J. Rousseau In this year of Grace 1971 anthropology has the curious status of being both in fashion and on its last legs. The fashion stems from the revival of Rousseauism. As Lévi-Strauss has pointed out, our …

Bedtime Story

As will presently be apparent, my reaction to this book is hostile—so, before my prejudices get out of hand, let me try to explain what it is all about. Both authors are internationally celebrated professors of the History of Science, the one from M.I.T., the other from Frankfurt. The latter …

African Hitler

This book, or something very like it, was accepted for publication about six years ago, and its final, long-delayed appearance is welcome. It is a study of despotic rule by terror and violence, a form of government all too familiar both from the pages of history and the newspapers of …

High School

Mysticism is in fashion. Just at the moment nothing brings in the bread more easily than a careful description of the horrors and delights of hippydom, pot, LSD, St. Teresa, or what have you. So any book of this sort invites caution. The general tone is Coleridge-de Quincey by Rousseau …

Ignoble Savages

These books are all concerned with violence as a form of human behavior, but they cover a very wide spectrum ranging from personal subliminal tendencies at one extreme to nuclear warfare at the other. It is quite impossible for a reviewer to treat the various arguments with equal justice, but …

Nonsense and Sensibility

Dr. Hall’s recent book is an expansion of Chapter 10 of The Silent Language, and those familiar with the earlier work, now in its tenth printing, may need to know no more than that. Dr. Hall is a homegrown, very old-fashioned, practical-problem kind of American anthropologist who has been quite …

Brain-twister

The problem is, Just where do we fit in? Are we better or worse or indeed in any way different from our prehistoric ancestors or our primitive contemporaries? We are animals and, therefore, a part of Nature, but we are also self-conscious human beings who can somehow or other conceive …

Culture Cults

The publishers describe The Paths of Culture as “a general ethnology translated from the Danish” which has been “long accepted as an anthropological classic”; they refer to its “timeless appeal,” but they do not otherwise indicate its history. The original Danish two-volume version, Kulturens Veje, in fact appeared as long …

Don’t Say “Boo” to a Goose

As a mine of scientific-sounding misinformation Mr. Robert Ardrey would be hard to beat, but his application of the techniques of TV drama writing to the more musty corners of academic orthodoxy certainly livens things up. Looking up a well-known and easily accessible reference acquires the excitement of a James …

Sermons By a Man on a Ladder

Merlin and his magic forest must be cut down to size before we can see the shape of the trees, but first let us examine the undergrowth. After graduating from the University of Bucharest in 1928 Mircea Eliade spent three years in Calcutta studying classical texts of Indian mysticism. His …

Malinowski Revisited

The arrogance of the British is really quite intolerable. Consider the present case. A distinguished American professor writes a short but elegant essay which his publishers extol to the skies as a major contribution to anthropological theory. In his opening chapter the author curtly dismisses the fashions in statistical comparison …

Man and Superman

Taxonomy provides one of the oldest and most persistent philosophical problems. Should we assume that the things in the world belong to natural kinds which have existed from the beginning, or should our categories vary according to our special interests? Formal zoologists may feel that since a whale is a …

Testament of an English Eccentric

Fitzroy Richard Somerset, 4th Baron Raglan, born 1885, died 1964, was great-grandson of the ill-fated British Commander-in-Chief in the Crimean War and his tall, lanky, cavalry-officer appearance had such a strong flavor of the Charge of the Light Brigade and of Don Quixote battling with windmills that it was hard …

Ladies on the War Path

The spectrum of anthropology is very wide and these two books are at either end of it; apart from the sex of the authors they have hardly anything in common. Yet some reflection on the contrast of manner may be rewarding. Dr. Weltfish’s book is a full-scale ethnography of the …

A Classic of Anthropology

In this beautifully printed and superbly edited book one of the great classics of anthropological literature is for the first time given the kind of presentation it deserves. Its previous publication history is curious. In 1877 the author thought of it as no more than a “summary and conclusions” to …