Nature and nurture in French social sciences, 1859-1914 and beyond

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Main Author: Staum, Martin S.
Format: Book Electronic
Published:Montréal ; Ithaca [N.Y.] : McGill-Queen's University Press, c2011.
Series:McGill-Queen's studies in the history of ideas ; 53.
Online Access: Available only to UIC users
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Review by Choice Review

Staum (emer. Univ. of Calgary, Canada) presents an intriguing study of how nature and nurture debates in French social sciences (ethnography, anthropology, psychology, sociology) were momentous. The year 1859 is well known for The Origin of the Species, but less known for the appearance of Societe d'ethnographie americaine et orientale and Societe d'anthropologie de Paris (Second Empire). Using archival sources, the author closes an exhaustive presentation before the Great War (Third Republic). Nature theory affected all the social sciences, but Staum proves that nurture was influential. The debate certainly "energized" social sciences, impacted lives, and shaped ideas about race, gender, and colonial policies. Significantly, allegiance to hierarchy prevailed in both camps. Staum examines ethnographers, anthropologists, and Durkheimians in chapters on psychology and the Revue philosophique; he devotes chapters to Alfred Binet, non-Durkheimians, and pre-1914, closing with Vichy and "beyond." Absent is the Febvre-Bloch Annales initiative, but Staum offers an admirable study germane to modern identity and purpose. An excellent addition to the McGill-Queen's "Studies in the History of Ideas" series. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Graduate level and above. L. A. Rollo formerly, York College of Pennsylvania and Millersville University

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.

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