Review of Source Book for Social Origins

Carl Kelsey

Thomas, W. I. Source Book for Social Origins. Pp. xvi, 932. Price, $4.77. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1909

"The study of savage and prehistoric man is one of the most fascinating and important of the social sciences, and at the same time one of the most esoteric. . . . On every score it deserves a wider recognition, and I should be happy if I could assist it to come to its own."

Every careful student realizes the importance of a greater knowledge of the customs, morals, conditions both physical and social, of other people and times. Existing literature is voluminous but scattered, and of great differences in value. Recognizing this, Professor Thomas seeks to put in convenient form some of the best authorities, and to suggest further literature.

The editor's plan is perhaps best shown by a brief analysis in tabular form :

Part I.—The Relation of Society to Geographic and Economic Environment. 114 pages, 8 papers with 4 pages of comment and б of bibliography.

Part II.—Mental Life and Education. 282 pages, 10 papers, 2 pages of comment and 14 of bibliography.

Part III.—Invention and Technology. 112 pages, 5 papers, 4 pages of comment and 4 of bibliography.

Part IV.—Sex and Marriage. 97 pages, 6 papers, 4 pages of comment and 5 of bibliography.

Part V.—Art, Ornament and Decoration. 108 pages, б papers, 8 pages of comment and 12 of bibliography.

Part VI.—Magic, Religion and Myth. 102 pages, 5 papers, 3 pages of comment and 14 of bibliography.


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Part VII.—Social Organization, Morals, The State. 120 pages, 7 papers, з pages of comment and II of bibliography.

These separate bibliographies are supplemented by a very large general bibliography of fifty-four pages. It is evident that Professor Thomas, aside from the introductory chapter of twenty-four pages and two papers included in the text, has personally contributed little to the make-up of the volume. His comments are briefly explanatory of the significance of the papers or are critical of the methods and statements of the writers. Here his suggestions are excellent.

Many of the best known writers are drawn upon: Ratzel (5 times), Howitt (4), Spencer (4), Spencer and Gillen (4), Mason, Westermarck, Pitt-Rivers, Tyler, Morgan, Boas and Thomas (2 each), and 17 others for single papers.

The selections are excellent. It is hard to see how they could be improved. The volume is well arranged; the index adequate and satisfactory. It is altogether a most useful volume of great value, particularly in the many schools and libraries poorly equipped in these fields. It should find a place in every library and can be widely used. The reviewer heartily concurs in the almost nave opening sentence of the preface, "This book will be found very interesting if read slowly" and would add—very confusing as to details if read too fast. No one but a master can hastily go through such a mass of evidence without becoming bewildered.

CARL KELSEY. University of Pennsylvania.

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