Review of Source Book for Social Origins
Source Book for Social Origins. Ethnological Materials, Psychological Standpoint, Classified and Annotated Bibliographies for the Interpretation of Savage Society. By W. I. Thomas. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1909. 8vo, pp. xv+932. $4.50 net.
Our age, in academic circles at least, is an age of "source books." Latest, largest, and most sumptuous in outward appearance of these aids to learning is this new volume by Professor Thomas of the University of Chicago. The subtitle more correctly indicates the nature of its contents than does the main title; for of the forty-seven selections in it less than a third are "sources" in the usual acceptance of that term. The bulk of the book consists of excerpts from current anthropological literature. Such well-known and eminent authors as Tylor, Spencer, Ratzel, Westermarck, Morgan, Powell, and Boas, are represented in lengthy and characteristic passages.
For convenience of presentation Professor Thomas has grouped his materials under seven heads. Part Í deals with "The Relation of Society to Geographic and Economic Environment." Part II treats of "Mental Life and Education." Subsequent divisions include in order, technology, matrimonial institutions, art, magic and religion, and finally, social organization and morality.
There can be no doubt that the volume will be found very interesting, if the compiler's advice be taken, to read it "slowly." As a collection of well-chosen extracts designed to illustrate the (English) anthropological interpretation of social origins at its best, little improvement in the contents of the book can be suggested. The selections are in no sense scrappy or unrelated. Each is of sufficient length to provide a satisfactory treatment of the topic with which it deals.
The volume thus recalls in many ways a book which economists have long found useful—Dr. Rand's Selections illustrating economic history. But that work contains quotations from foreign writers, though unfortunately, not in translation. We confess to a rather fervent wish that Professor Thomas had chosen to incorporate in his volume at least some specimens of contemporary French and German thought. We should like to have set before our students some renderings from such writers as Van Gennep, Hubert and Mauss, Durkheim, Reinach, Krauss, Koch, Preuss—writers who are doing so much at the present moment to found a new science.
However, regarding a compilation of this sort no criticism is easier than the suggestion of what should have been included, if the critic were himself making up the book. Only its actual editor can realize the inexorable limitations of space and expense imposed upon him.
From another point of view, it may perhaps be properly questioned whether this is just the sort of book most needed for the university classes where it will naturally find its greatest use. The size is likely to be appalling to the average undergraduate, the price not less so. And even a modest library ought to con-
( 66) -tain the greater proportion of the books and journals from which the passages have been taken. One cannot but feel some regret that the editor did not utilize his opportunity to provide in a cheaper and handier form a volume of readings from the sources, the usually inaccessible sources, of anthropology. Buried in the files of technical periodicals and museum publications, and in the older works of travel, there is a veritable mine of valuable literature which still awaits its exploiter. Professor Thomas not having undertaken this task, the present reviewer is more than half-minded to attempt it himself !
The original part of the volume consists of an introductory chapter and the "comment" following each part. This is all good—shrewd, sensible criticism which is really helpful both as providing a general standpoint and as assisting in the interpretation of the several selections. The only drawback is that the editor has kept himself too modestly in the background. We should like more of Professor Thomas in the book. We wish now that he would supplement his compilation with a much-needed textbook. It would find no rivals. Tylor's Anthropology, though classical, is nearly thirty years old. Since 1881 our knowledge of primitive society has wonderfully widened. But there exists in English no work which gathers up this knowledge in succinct and classified form, for the benefit of the beginner. In such a textbook Professor Thomas could bring out in more satisfactory fashion that "vital though incompletely realized relation" of anthropology to historical, sociological, and pedagogical studies, upon which he animadverts in his preface.
Much praise must be assigned to the bibliographies. Each division of the work is followed by a select list of titles, about 1,300 in all. These are in English, French, and German—the very cream of the best literature. The titles ought perhaps to have received further classification. The purely alphabetical arrangement often makes strange bed-fellows of the works cited. We miss, too, many well-known English books. Such recent works as Haddon's Study of Man, Macculloch's Childhood of Fiction, Frazer's Psyche's Task, Farnell's Evolution of Religion, Hartland's Legend of Perseus, to name only a few titles that occur to us, ought to have been cited. They illustrate, in very happy fashion, that interpretation of old facts in the light of modern anthropology, which is doing so much to revivify our knowledge of social origins.
Besides the topical references, the editor has supplied an exceedingly useful bibliography of works of travel, arranged under a geographical classification. Nearly a thousand of the best books are noticed. The Dutch and Italian literature, as being presumably less accessible, is, however, omitted.
For the benefit of the smaller libraries and of individual purchasers there is also a list of books recommended for purchase. Besides indicating prices and publishers, the editor has supplied most helpful comments. We commend his practice, and heartily agree with his statement that "bibliographies are not much used unless annotated." In case the demand justifies a second edition, we suggest that there be added a list of the more important journals, museum issues, and encyclopedias devoted in whole or in part to anthropological topics. We think, too, that folklore should be more liberally represented in the references.
An index of names in the bibliographies and a general index of subjects help to make this a thoroughly usable volume.
In his preface the author has expressed a hope that his book "may be a
( 67) means of extending the interest in the beginnings of human society to a larger public. 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." We feel sure that this hope will be abundantly justified.
Professor Thomas' book is fortunate in appearing at an opportune moment. The study of social origins, though comparatively neglected in the United States, is beginning to receive its weed of attention abroad. The year 1908, for instance, witnessed the founding of a chair of social anthropology in the new University of Liverpool. Its first incumbent is the prince of living English scholars, Dr. J. G. Frazer. The same year saw established in Paris, that congenial home of special journals, the Revue des études éthпographiques et sociologiques, a periodical solely devoted to social anthropology. May we not express a feeling of confidence that before long our American universities, with their Attic fondness for the new thing, will find a place for this rising science in their curricula? Although our programmes are already overcrowded, the study of social anthropology should lessen rather than increase the burden of learning. As Tylor wrote years ago, of all the branches of education "there is not one which may not be the easier and better learnt for knowing its history and place in the general science of man."
THE UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA