British School of Diffusionism: British, German, and American Schools of Diffusionism for Competitive Exams

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British School Of Diffusionism: British, German, And American Schools Of Diffusionism (Anthropology)

Schools of Diffusionism

Schools of Diffusionism
  • British School of Diffusion is known as Pan-Egyptian School. This school considered Egypt as the cradle of culture. It is from this centre of culture that cultural traits have diffused and migrated to rest parts of the world.
  • Grafton Elliot Smith (1871 - 1937)
    • In his famous book entitled The Origin of Civilization was published in 1928, he emphasized upon Egypt as the origin of civilizations. Smith was aware that many primitive or non-literate societies were without pyramids or monuments indicating no influence of Egypt. He called all people outside the civilization as natural man. He described their cultures (culture different from Egypt) or collections of negative traits, because there was no clothing, housing, ornaments, government, burials, etc.
  • Willium James Perry
    Willium James Perry (1877 - 1949)
    • W. J. Perry was a devout supporter of Elliot Smith՚s Scheme of diffusion of culture. He did not make a specific theoretical contribution but blindly supported Smith՚s theory that Egypt was the only cultural cradle in the world.
    • Perry was involved in archeological excavations in Cairo where he saw remains of the Sun Temple
  • Perry collected information on beliefs and attitudes related to sun-worship among the people of Cairo He analyzed the data and published them in the form of a book ‘The Children of the Sun’ .
  • In his book, he called Egyptians as children of the Sun, because only Sun-God was regarded as a universal deity. Such idea related to Sun- God diffused to other parts of the world, from Egypt.
William H. R. Rivers
  • Perry was against psychic unity and independent inventions of evolutionists. He was of the opinion that similarities were caused due to diffusion of cultural traits, and Egypt was the ancient centre of civilization.
  • William H. R. Rivers (1864 - 1922)
    • W. H. R Rivers was a medical doctor of Britain. He was also a member of the famous Torres Strait Expedition (1898) . This was the first interdisciplinary anthropological expedition meant to cover all sides of primitive life by trained investigators.
    • His famous article entitled “A Geneological Method of Collecting Social and Vital Statistics” , was published in 1900. He recorded Geneological and Kinship terms, observing specific behavior patterns associated with them, including rights, duties, privileges, status and roles
  • In 1904, W. H. R. Rivers came to India to study the polyandrous Toda of Nilgiri hill. Monograph on Toda was published from New York in 1906. This was regarded as a classic monograph ever presented to the world on the study of an Indian Tribe.
  • In 1907, he wrote an important paper, ‘Origin of the Classificatory kinship of Relationships’ in honor of E. B. Tylor. The paper was later incorporated in his own book Social Organisation in 1914.
  • The theory of degeneration and uninventiveness became major tool of explanation in his book, The History of Melanesian Society published in 1914.
  • Rivers opined the similarities in cultures could be explained in better way by taking into consideration the imitation and migration. He strongly supported the theory of uninventiveness put forward by his contemporizes.
Other Famous Books by Rivers

Weakness of British School of Diffussion

  • The British diffusionist school՚s thought uninventiveness as rare was its greatest weakness. Though every culture group borrows more than it invents. It does not mean that inventions are made only once and at a particular place.
  • They were so biased in their scheme that they did not consider places other than Egypt as the centre of culture traits.
  • They took into account only simple forms of diffusion, i.e.. , diffusion of cultural traits, but they never emphasized upon the diffusion of culture complex


Q1. The book ‘The Children of the Sun’ published in 1923 was published by:

  1. W. J. Perry
  2. Grafton Elliot Smith
  3. William H. Rivers
  4. None of these

Answer: (A) W. J. Perry

Q2. The ‘Toda’ Tribe of India was studied by:

  1. W. J. Perry
  2. W. H. R. Rivers
  3. R. R. Marett
  4. Franz Boas

Answer: (B) W. H. R. Rivers

Q3. Which of the following do not belong to the British Diffusionist School?

  1. G. E. Smith
  2. W. J. Perry
  3. A. L. Kroeber
  4. W. H. Rivers

Answer: (c) A. L. Kroeber

Q4. Melanesian Society was studied by

  1. F. Ratzel
  2. W. H. R. Rivers
  3. G. E. Smith
  4. W. J. Perry

Answer: (B) W. H. R. Rivers

Q5. The famous Torres Strait Expedition was undertaken in which year?

  1. 1900
  2. 1898
  3. 1914
  4. 1890

Answer: (B) 1898

#British School of Diffusionism

#G. E. Smith

#W. J. Perry

#W. H. R. Rivers

#Weaknesses of British School of Diffusion

#Anthropological Theories

#Socio- cultural Anthropology


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