In 1969, John and Prue Napier brought together researchers from a variety of fields with the intention of examining the systematics of a relatively neglected primate taxon – the Old World monkeys. After a week of intensive discussion, the revised presentations were collated and published in 1970 as Old World Monkeys: Evolution, Systematics, and Behavior (henceforth “OWM I”). The conference was noteworthy in that it marked a new phase in the study of the cercopithecoid monkeys, as a taxon meriting detailed attention in its own right.
The present volume was conceived as a tribute to the initiators and editors of OWM I, now, sadly, both deceased. We have aimed to bring together a collection of papers to exemplify important, currently active areas of research on cercopithecoid monkeys. Every scientific work is a product of a unique time and context. This is as true of this volume as it was of OWM I 1970. We therefore use this introductory chapter as a comparison between the two books to illustrate some of the paradigm shifts and (if we dare use the word) progress that has marked evolutionary primatology over the past three decades.
At the beginning of the 1970s, the cercopithecoid monkeys were, for many anthropologists, important as the “poor relations” of the hominoid primates in general, and the human species in particular.