Oxford Languages defines anthropology “as the study of human societies and cultures and their development”. It also defines it as “the study of human biological and physiological characteristics and their evolution”. Merriam-Webster defines it as “the science of human beings, especially the study of human beings and their ancestors through time and space and in relation to physical character, environmental and social relations, and culture”. It also defines it as “theology dealing with the origin, nature, and destiny of human beings”. defines anthropology as “the science that deals with the origins, physical and cultural development, biological characteristics, and social customs and beliefs of humankind” and as “the study of human beings’ similarity to and divergence from other animals” and as “the science of humans and their works” and finally as “the study of the nature and essence of humankind”.

Anthropology was defined in the 1590’s as the “science of the natural history of man”. Originally, the primary interest of anthropology was the relation between physiology and psychology. It either originated from the “Modern Latin anthropologia or [it was] coined independently in English from anthropo- + -logy”.[1]

“Anthropology at large has not yet developed an acute historical consciousness.”
– Irving Hallowell (1967)[2]

“…the speculative anthropology of the 18th and of the early 19th century is distinct in its scope and method from the science which is called anthropology at the present time…”
– Franz Boas (1904)[3, p.513]

“At the present time anthropologists occupy themselves with problems relating to the physical and mental life of mankind as found in varying forms of society, from the earliest times up to the present period, and in all parts of the world.”
– Franz Boas (1904)[3, p.513]

“…we find in anthropology two distinct methods of research and aims of investigation : the one, the historical method, which endeavors to reconstruct the actual history of mankind ; the other, the generalizing method, which attempts to establish the laws of its development.”
– Franz Boas (1904)[3, p.514]

“One hears a fair amount these days, some of it hopeful, much of it skeptical, and almost all of it nervous, about the supposed impact of Anthropology, the Science, upon History, the Discipline.”
– Clifford Geertz (1990)[4, p.321]

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[1] – Accessed 21 August 2020.

[2] – Whiteley, Peter M. “Why Anthropology Needs More History.” Journal of Anthropological Research, vol. 60, no. 4, 2004, pp. 487-514. JSTOR, Accessed 21 Aug. 2020.

[3] – Boas, Franz. “The History of Anthropology.” Science, vol. 20, no. 512, 1904, pp. 513-524. JSTOR, Accessed 21 Aug. 2020.

[4] – Geertz, Clifford. “History and Anthropology.” New Literary History, vol. 21, no. 2, 1990, pp. 321–335. JSTOR, Accessed 21 Aug. 2020.

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