Ancient Society  

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"The growth of the idea of property, and the rise of monogamy, furnished motives sufficiently powerful to demand and obtain [a] change in order to bring children into the gens of their father, and into a participation in the inheritance of his estate. Monogamy assured the paternity of children; which was unknown when the gens was instituted, and the exclusion of children from the inheritance was no longer possible. "--from Lewis H. Morgan's Ancient Society.

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Ancient Society is a book written by Lewis H. Morgan published in 1877. Building on the data about kinship and social organization presented in his 1871 Systems of Consanguinity and Affinity of the Human Family, Morgan develops his theory of the three stages of human progress, i.e., from Savagery through Barbarism to Civilization. Contemporary European social theorists such as Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels were influenced by Morgan's work on social structure and material culture, as shown by Engels' The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State (1884).

Morgan elaborated upon his theory of social evolution. He introduced a critical link between social progress and technological progress. He emphasized the centrality of family and property relations. He traced the interplay between the evolution of technology, of family relations, of property relations, of the larger social structures and systems of governance, and intellectual development. Looking across a vastly expanded span of human existence, Morgan presented three major stages: savagery, barbarism, and civilization. These stages were further divided and defined by technological inventions, like use of fire, bow, pottery in the savage era; domestication of animals, agriculture, metalworking in the barbarian era; and development of alphabet and writing in the civilization era. (In part, this was an effort to create a structure for North American history that was comparable for the three ages of European pre-history, developed by scholars in Denmark during these years.)

Excerpt on the rise of monogamy

"The growth of the idea of property, and the rise of monogamy, furnished motives sufficiently powerful to demand and obtain [a] change in order to bring children into the gens of their father, and into a participation in the inheritance of his estate. Monogamy assured the paternity of children; which was unknown when the gens was instituted, and the exclusion of children from the inheritance was no longer possible. "--from Lewis H. Morgan's Ancient Society.

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