Primitive Culture (book)

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Primitive Culture is an 1871 book by Edward Burnett Tylor. In his book, Tylor debates the relationship between "primitive" societies, and "civilized" societies, a key theme in 19th century anthropological literature.

Primitive Culture
AuthorEdward Burnett Tylor
SubjectCultural anthropology


Tylor's work can be connected to theories present in 19th century literature including Lewis Henry Morgan's "ethnical periods". Among 19th century anthropologists, many saw what now may be called "tribal" states and societies, as lacking in form, progress, and development. Both Tylor and Morgan aligned somewhat with this viewpoint, Morgan believing in stages in order from savagery, barbarism, to civilization, and Tylor concluding that savagery is the lower stage of civilization. Today, most anthropologists generally believe these views to be unsubstantiated.

See also[edit]




American anthropology

• Lowie, Robert H. “Edward B. Tylor.” American Anthropologist, vol. 19, no. 2, 1917, pp. 262–268. JSTOR, Accessed 16 Apr. 2021.

• LARSEN, TIMOTHY. “E.B. Tylor, Religion and Anthropology.” The British Journal for the History of Science, vol. 46, no. 3, 2013, pp. 467–485. JSTOR, Accessed 16 Apr. 2021.

Further reading[edit]

  • Stanley Diamond, In Search of the Primitive, Transaction Publishers, U.S. 1987, ISBN 0-87855-582-X
  • Adam Kuper, The Reinvention of Primitive Society. Transformations of a Myth, Taylor & Francis Ltd. 2005, ISBN 0-415-35761-6
  • Joseph Campbell, The Masks of God: Primitive Mythology, Viking, 1959; reissued by Penguin, 1991 ISBN 978-0-14-019443-2
  • Joseph Campbell, The Historical Atlas of World Mythology, vols. I and II, Harper and Row 1988, 1989.
  • Morgan, Lewis, H. (1877) Ancient Society, "Ethnical Periods".