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  • Cited by 3
  • Print publication year: 1985
  • Online publication date: January 2010

7 - THE ANTHROPOLOGY OF RELIGION: BRITISH AND FRENCH SCHOOLS

Summary

Nineteenth-century anthropological attitudes

Naturally enough what nineteenth-century writers on anthropological topics thought and wrote about religion grew out of the arguments of their eighteenth-century predecessors but something of the more general anthropological background needs first to be explained.

Anthropologists study the diversity of man considered both as animal species and as products of civilisation (culture). Since human beings everywhere show a marked proclivity for finding reasons to think themselves superior to ‘those bastards over the hill who do not even know how to talk properly’, it could be held that anthropology of a certain prejudiced sort is as old as humanity itself but, as a field of serious scholarly inquiry, it only became clearly recognisable during the latter part of the eighteenth century.