From Savage To Self: A History Of Anthropology

From Savage To Self is a ten part series I’ve written and presented for BBC Radio 4 with my producer, Giles Edwards, and Beth Sagar-Fenton. The series is a history of anthropology – almost entirely of social and cultural anthropology, with a brief nod to physical/biological anthropology. It takes us through the very early origins of the discipline and brings us right to the present day – and beyond. For the series, I spoke to some really incredible people, like Donna Haraway, who’ve totally changed the way I see the world through their thinking on animals and humans, and even the President of the World Bank. There are omissions, because squeezing an entire discipline’s history into ten fifteen minute chunks is rather challenging. But overall, I hope it helps to show the arc of the history. I wish I’d had something like this to listen to before I went off to study anthropology briefly myself. I’ll add more to this page at some point, about what it was like to make this series, and some of the choices we made, but I’m currently back in the depths of medicine, and it’s pretty absorbing.

The whole reason I love anthropology is because it asks questions that are meaningful to all of us. Namely: are we all basically the same? Or are we different? And what does it mean to be human? I think about these things a lot. And I reckon most people reading this do, too. If you’d like to have a listen, please click here for all the episodes in listening order.


A Haida rattle from the NW Pacific Coast (Pitt-Rivers Museum, Oxford)




2 thoughts on “From Savage To Self: A History Of Anthropology

  1. I have been an NHS doctor, now retired and living in USA and UK. For some years as a Registrar in the 50’s I moonllghted in a general practice in Bethnal Green.
    I have totally enjoyed the first 7 of your excellent BBC talks, and your English Language delivery is exactly how I wanted to come to speak when I grow up. (It actually became Wales-London-Toronto- Bostonian.)
    In political arguments I have often advised “leaders” to dip into Biology, Sociobiology and Biostatistics for essential material to bring more sense into politics.Thanks to you, I see that Anthropology must have been what I meant.
    When I ran a Medical Rehabilitation department at Brown in the 70’s , I labelled the research office door “Department of Applied Sociobiology”. Ah, words!

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