E. B. Tylor and the problem of primitive culture

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17 Citations (Scopus)


Edward Burnett Tylor's (1832-1917) theory of survivals, or elements of the "primitive" or archaic past that continued to play an active part in the beliefs of the present day, hallmarks the Victorian effort to isolate and display what were thought to be the most developed features of the contemporary world. However, in focusing on what was outmoded in society, the theory of survivals brought primitive beliefs into an uncomfortable relationship with the beliefs of the present, threatening to disrupt the harmony of this conception. The resulting problems of recognition and understanding in the theory of survivals led Tylor finally to affirm a static and mechanical view of the continuity of cultures, in opposition to the radical, dynamic view with which he had been working until the publication in 1871 of Primitive Culture.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)131-142
Number of pages12
JournalHistory and Anthropology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Anthropology


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