This Work in Context

It is especially because the present work comes under the class of popular illustrated books that it is desirable to point out that this does not detract from its educational value, but on the contrary makes it good for providing a solid foundation in anthropological study. To discuss the theoretical part, attacking or defending Professor Ratzel’s views on the diffusion of the human species over the globe, the classification of mankind by race and language, and the geography of civilization, would be to go outside the purpose of this introduction. Still less is it the duty of the introducer to seek out errors. He has simply to recommend a foreign book, pointing out to what classes of readers, and for what purposes, it is likely to be useful.

It should, however, be clearly understood that great as the progress of anthropology has been during the last half-century, yet, as in other subjects modern as to their scientific form and rank, the collection of the evidence has not yet approached completion, nor has the theory consolidated into dogmatic form. In the next century, to judge from its advance in the present, it will have largely attained to the realm of positive law, and its full use will then be acknowledged not only as interpreting the past history of mankind, but as even laying down the first stages of curves of movement which will describe and affect the courses of future opinions and institutions. This will be a gain to the systematising of human life and the arrangement of conduct on reasonable and scientific principles.

It is true that such results may be accompanied by some dwindling of the adventurous interest which belongs to the early periods of a science, and possibly the anthropologists of the next century, rich in theoretical and practical knowledge shaped into law and rule, may look back to our days of laborious acquisition of evidence and enjoyment of new results with something of the regret felt by the denizen of a colonial town in looking back to the time when settled occupation was only beginning to encroach on the hunters’ life in the wild land.


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