Before Boas

9780803255425: Hardback
Release Date: 1st July 2015

9781496203854: Paperback
Release Date: 1st September 2018

9780803277380: EPUB
Release Date: 1st July 2015

10 images; 6 maps; 12 tables

Dimensions: 152 x 229

Number of Pages: 746

Series Critical Studies in the History of Anthropology

UNP - Nebraska

Before Boas

The Genesis of Ethnography and Ethnology in the German Enlightenment

Hardback / £62.00
Paperback / £33.00
EPUB / £33.00

The history of anthropology has been written from multiple viewpoints, often from perspectives of gender, nationality, theory, or politics. Before Boas delves deeper into issues concerning anthropology’s academic origins to present a groundbreaking study that reveals how ethnography and ethnology originated during the eighteenth rather than the nineteenth century, developing parallel to anthropology, or the “natural history of man.”

Han F. Vermeulen explores primary and secondary sources from Russia, Germany, Austria, the United States, the Netherlands, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, France, and Great Britain in tracing how “ethnography” originated as field research by German-speaking historians and naturalists in Siberia (Russia) during the 1730s and 1740s, was generalized as “ethnology” by scholars in Göttingen (Germany) and Vienna (Austria) during the 1770s and 1780s, and was subsequently adopted by researchers in other countries.

Before Boas argues that anthropology and ethnology were separate sciences during the Age of Reason, studying racial and ethnic diversity, respectively. Ethnography and ethnology focused not on “other” cultures but on all peoples of all eras. Following G. W. Leibniz, researchers in these fields categorized peoples primarily according to their languages. Franz Boas professionalized the holistic study of anthropology from the 1880s into the twentieth century.


Han F. Vermeulen is an alumnus of Leiden University, the Netherlands, and a research associate at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle (Saale), Germany.

“This important book introduces the scholarship that underlies the development of modern ethnography and ethnology, especially that of Franz Boas. With exhaustive research, Han Vermeulen demonstrates the significance of the German Enlightenment, the ‘ethno-linguistics’ of Leibniz, and the ‘ethnography’ of those inspired by him who undertook ‘scientific’ descriptions of the peoples of Siberia.”—Herbert S. Lewis, author of In Defense of Anthropology: An Investigation of the Critique of Anthropology

Herbert S. Lewis