Lewis Henry Morgan (Dictionary of World Biography: The 19th Century)
Article abstract: Extending kinship studies, first among the Iroquois, then to cultures around the world, Morgan devised a theory of social and cultural evolution that provided both a theoretical paradigm for late nineteenth century anthropology and a theory of early family evolution that Karl Marx used in his interpretation of history.
Lewis Henry Morgan was born November 21, 1818, in Aurora, New York, to Harriet Steele and Jedediah Morgan. Morgan’s father, a wealthy landholder, died when Morgan was eight, and the farm’s operation was placed in the hands of young Morgan’s older brothers. After receiving an education at the Cayuga Academy in Aurora and being graduated from Union College in 1840, Morgan decided to pursue a career in law. In Aurora, while reading for his bar exams, Morgan joined a secret men’s organization called the Grand Order of the Iroquois. Morgan’s participation and leadership in this organization proved to be the beginning of his ethnological career. In order to model the order after the political organization of the six Indian nations of New York, known as the Iroquois Confederacy, Morgan and other members of the club made trips to several Iroquois reservations to study their history and culture.
Later, Morgan took an active role in protesting the loss of Iroquois land, specifically reservations of the Seneca—one of the six Iroquois nations—to a land company,...
(The entire section is 1998 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of this article. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!