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The Fall of Natural Man
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  • Page extent: 284 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.42 kg

Library of Congress

  • Dewey number: 306/.09
  • Dewey version: 19
  • LC Classification: GN308 .P253 1986
  • LC Subject headings:
    • Ethnology--History
    • Ethnology--Spain--History
    • Indians--Public opinion
    • Public opinion--Spain

Library of Congress Record


 (ISBN-13: 9780521337045 | ISBN-10: 0521337046)

This book gives a new interpretation of the reception of the new world by the old. It is the first in-depth study of the pre-Enlightenment methods by which Europeans attempted to describe and classify the American Indian and his society. Between 1512 and 1724 a simple determinist view of human society was replaced by a more sophisticated relativist approach. Anthony Pagden uses new methods of technical analysis, already developed in philosophy and anthropology, to examine four groups of writers who analysed Indian culture: the sixteenth-century theologian, Francisco de Vitoria, and his followers; the 'champion of the Indians' Bartolomé de Las Casas; and the Jesuit historians José de Acosta and Joseph François Lafitau. Dr Pagden explains the sources for their theories and how these conditioned their observations. He also examines for the first time the key terms in each writer's vocabulary - words such as 'barbarian' and 'civil' - and the assumptions that lay beneath them.


Acknowledgments; Abbreviations; Introduction; 1. The problem of recognition; 2. The image of the barbarian; 3. The theory of natural slavery; 4. From nature's slaves to nature's children; 5. The rhetorician and the theologians: Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda and his dialogue, Democrates secundus; 6. A programme for comparative ethnology (I); 7. A programme for comparative ethnology (II); 8. Joseph François Lafitau: comparative ethnology and the language of symbols; Notes; Bibliography; Index.


'Pagden's subtle account … is a model for the history of anthropology altogether. It shows, too, how constant some of the subject's central conceptions have been over the succeeding four hundred years.' The London Review of Books

' … in the subtlety of its analysis and the richness of its detail The Fall of Natural Man surpasses all previous writings on the subject in any language.' The Times Higher Education Supplement

'The strength and novelty of the book consists in the seriousness with which Pagden reconstructs the classificatory theories of sixteenth-century Iberians and uses them to explain much of their writing on the Indians.' Political Studies

'We must thank Anthony Pagden for having, in this erudite and well-written study, demonstrated in a definitive manner the importance of the ethnological contribution of sixteenth-century Spanish authors.' Revue historique

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