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Edward Burnett Tylor

Updated on November 20, 2015
Edward Burnett Tylor
Edward Burnett Tylor

E.B.Tylor was born on 2nd October, 1832 in England. He championed anthropology, he was often called as the Father of Anthropology. Tylor was a lawyer by profession and an anthropologist by interest. When he was young, on his way to Havana he met Henry Christy, a businessman turned archaeologist and ethnologist. Tylor accompanied Christy on an anthropological expedition to Mexico. With his careful observations, Tylor reconstructed the pre-history of Mexico.

Tylor took into consideration the material remains of culture, antiquities and observed them among the contemporary people of Mexico. He found that many extant customs were similar to the customs of the ancient people. By this observation he formulated the theory of Cultural Survivals. He also observed that the practice of Mexican penitents, scourging themselves at church under the fierce exhortations of moth were similar to the Egyptian festival of Isis.

With the observations and the analysis he has drawn, he gained good recognition and that led the way to establish anthropology as a separate discipline. It was he who laid foundations for experimental archaeology. He introduced statistics in the methodology of anthropological research.

Contributions of Edward Burnett Tylor

  • Anahuac also known as Mexico-Mexican, Ancient and Modern. Published in 1861.
  • Researches into the early history of Mankind and development of civilization. Published in 1865.
  • Primitive Culture. Published in 1871.
  • Anthropology: An introduction to the study of Man and Civilization. Published in 1881.
  • Essay- A Method of Investigating the Development of Institutions: Applied to the Laws of Marriage and Descent. Published in 1889.

Anahuac - Mexico-Mexican, Ancient and Modern

This book was published in the year 1861. Evolution or reconstruction of history of Mexico was detailed in it. According to Tylor, culture of Mexico-Mexican has developed from primitive to civilized stage.

Tylor used the following techniques for the reconstruction of cultural history of Mexico:

  • Conditions opposite to present one to early stage of development.
  • Concept of Survivals: He inquired about the customs and opinions and concluded that even though they lose their utility they continued to persist by force of habit.

Example for the Concept of Survivals: Saying "God Bless You" to someone when who sneezed. This was the custom existing even in civilized society. The belief was, sneezing was an attempt of the soul to leave the body and people say God Bless You to encounter this danger.

Civilization has evolved from savagery through barbarism.
Civilization has evolved from savagery through barbarism.

Researches into the early history of Mankind and development of civilization

This book was published in 1865. Progressive theory of cultural development on the basis of similarities of human mind was the subject detailed in it.

Tylor's approach for the above said study was collecting material and non-material aspects of cultural survivals and comparing them in time sequence.

By the above study he concluded that, progress that took place in culture as a whole has differentiated primitive and civilized people. Also his researches indicated that present civilization has evolved from savagery through barbarism

He analyzed and explained that psychic unity of mankind was the cause for the similarities in the culture of the world. Mankind were equally capable of progress was his conclusion in this book.


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    • dilipchandra12 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dilip Chandra 

      6 years ago from India

      Hello Maraiya, thanks for commenting. I wish you all the best for your cultural anthropology studies. I appreciate your thought you've presented over here, waiting for your hubs on the cultural anthropology.

    • Maraiya Storm profile image

      Maraiya Storm 

      6 years ago from Prescott, Arizona

      I am just now beginning a college class in cultural anthropology so this sounded interesting. I have always been fascinated by the cultural history of Mexico and so would someday like to read the book you refer to. I think that as mankind has become more civilized, this has caused both improvements and detriments. Primitive peoples knew some good things that civilization did away with and they lived closer to the earth and its beauty which was healthier. I don't really see them as just stupid savages and that viewpoint is what caused the English settlers to want to genocide an entire race of native Americans. Some primitive peoples are pretty strange and backward, while others seem to have been and still are quite wise and spiritual. Anyway, that's just my few thoughts right now. When I get more into my studies I'll be able to comment more intelligently on anthropology and maybe even write about it myself.

    • jimagain profile image


      6 years ago from Hattiesburg, Mississippi

      Certainly an interesting man although, I confess, I hadn't heard of him before. I can be sure there are plenty of other contributors thatI also know nothing about.

      Good Hub!

    • profile image

      Anna Gambier 

      7 years ago

      Very interesting and compassionate man, I don't think I've heard of him before so I'm glad to have read your hub. The Victorians were an astonishing lot!

    • halola1999 profile image


      7 years ago from cairo

      historical ' i like history alot'thanks for sharing such info.

    • Rachelle Williams profile image

      Rachelle Williams 

      7 years ago from Tempe, AZ

      I took Intro to Cultural Anthropology, I sailed through it with an A, but I have absolutely no memory of Edward Burnett Taylor... Sheesh! Thank you for educating me about something I should have known about.

    • dilipchandra12 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dilip Chandra 

      7 years ago from India

      Thanks 'subdomain' for stopping by and commenting. Glad you learned something new :)

    • subdomain profile image


      7 years ago

      I never heard of him till I read this hub. I learned something new today.

      Thank you very much for this informative hub.

    • dilipchandra12 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dilip Chandra 

      7 years ago from India

      Thanks Nell for stopping by and commenting. Edward Burnett Tylor belongs to the group of 19th century Cultural Evolutionists, who propounded the theory of Cultural Evolutionism. Cultural Evolution was like Biological Evolution of Darwinism.

      According to Tylor, the pioneer and father of Cultural Evolutionists School, Evolution occurred from simple to complex, homogeneity to heterogeneity and indefinite to definite. The theory of Cultural Evolution was based on Charles Darwin's theory of Origin of Species.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      7 years ago from England

      Hi, fascinating man, and I must admit that I had never heard of him, we hear so much about Darwin, we seem to forget others that made such a difference too, cheers nell


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