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L. H. Morgan (1818-1888) | American anthropologist

L. H. Morgan

L. H. Morgan or Lewis Henry Morgan (1818-1888) was born in New York and settled as a lawyer in Rochester in the United States of America. This area had a significant population of Iraquous Indians-Red Indians. He had a very intimate relationship with them. The way of life of those Red Indians had put an impact on his work as for as evolutionary Idea was concerned.

Morgans’ contributions to the evolutionary study

Morgan worked on institutions, whole society and cultural traits as well. And his contributions to evolutionary study of anthropology are as follows:

Evolution of kinship terminology

In his famous book “Systems of Consanguinity and Affinity of the Human Family” in 1871, he offered a classification of ‘kin’ term as below:

Morgan classification of 'kin' term

Morgan was basically interested in the evolutionary placement of kinship terminology and believed that the Malayan type of classificatory kinship terminology came first. Followed by North American kinship type and finally came descriptive kinship terminology.

Evolution of whole/entire Society

Morgan collected a lot of materials and published them in his book “Ancient society” in 1877, which proposes the evolutionary scheme of the entire human society.

Morgan borrowed some terms from French philosophers Montesque and said that human society passed through three phases namely:

Savagery  → Barbarism  → Civilization

He further elaborated this classification in the following way:

  1. Savagery: It is a stage of food gathering and hunting.
    • Lower savagery: fruits and nuts subsystems; ate unbaked food; held property in common; no evidence of fire.
    • Middle savagery: Discovery of fire; fish subsistence; Example- Australian aboriginals
    • Upper savagery: Bow and arrow; e.g. Indians of western Canada- Athabaskan.
  2. Barbarism: Surplus food; the invention of pottery and the iron.
    • Lower barbarism: pottery and surplus food
    • Middle barbarism: Domestication of animals and cultivation of maize by irrigation. e.g. VIllage Indians in Mexico.
    • Upper barbarism: Iron tools.
  3. Civilization/civilized Society
    • Script, metallurgy, the emergence of town and city becomes the cradle of Civilization.
    • He was an evolutionist and consequently, he gave the sequence of human evolution in the society as:

Savagery  → Barbarism  → Civilization

Evolution of Marriage (Family)

  1. Promiscuity: Anyone can mate with anyone.
  2. Consanguinous marriage: A marriage between brother and sister.
  3. Punaluan marriage: A marriage in which brother not supposed to marry sister; a kind of group marriage allowed.
  4. Syndasmian marriage: (Pairing) loosely paired male and female who still live with others.
  5. Patriarchal marriage: A marriage among Hebrews – Polygynous marriage) Husband-dominated family.
  6. Monogamous marriage: (Western society) Husband and wife are equal in status.

Evolution of political organisation

  1. Morgan made a distinction between ‘societus’ and ‘civitas’.
  2. According to him, civitas is a situation where kinship is independent of the political system that is the existence of modern state.
  3. Societus is a political system which is dependent on kinship system. Example- band and drive

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