Durham Anthropology Journal
Volume 13(2) ISSN 1742-2930
Copyright © 2005, P. Sillitoe

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The Role Of Section H At The British Association For The Advancement Of Science In The History Of Anthropology 1

Paul Sillitoe

University of Durham

1. Introduction

1.1. There are various ways that one can approach the history of a discipline, such as focussing on certain scholars, time periods, particular issues or schools of thought, each allowing different views and interpretations. One is to review the history of institutions associated with a discipline. The British Association for the Advancement of Science is one of two scholarly institutions - the other being the Royal Anthropological Institute and its forerunners - that has contributed significantly to the discipline of anthropology in the United Kingdom over the course of nigh on two centuries, from the time that it emerged in the Victorian era until the current day, and doubtless has more to contribute in the future with the significant changes that one senses are taking place in the discipline. A long-term view is particularly valuable at this juncture because it allows us to see not only where the discipline has come from but also where it might be going in the future. This is particularly valuable as the social anthropology that dominated the United Kingdom for much of the twentieth century increasingly looks like an aberration. Although it was a tight-knit, powerful and highly successful intellectual force at the time, we can see that it employed a surprisingly small range of social theory to enquire into human society. A perspective that reaches back to the time when the discipline sought to live up to its dictionary definition, as the `study of humankind', is valuable as it increasingly shows signs of returning to such a broad designation of its field. We have historical and psychological enquiries increasingly common today alongside sociological ones; we countenance philosophical discussions on the nature of humanity and speculation on cultural evolution; we have biological and environmental framed enquiries; and a reawakening of interest in material culture studies and renewing of links with archaeology.

1.2. The British Association is a nationwide, open membership organisation that seeks to make science and technology accessible to the public. It continues the tradition of its founders, of taking science to venues around the UK and presenting the best of contemporary science to a wide audience. At the 1831 inaugural meeting in York, convened for `cultivators and promoters of science', the chairman Rev. W. V. Harcourt spoke about obtaining `a greater degree of national attention to the objects of science' and `taking advantage of the intellectual improvement of the nation.' (Howarth 1931: 16, 21). The British Association has grown over the years and currently supports fifteen disciplinary Sections, ranging from Chemistry, Mathematical Sciences, and Physics and Astronomy, to Geography, Biological Sciences, and Archaeology and Anthropology. It promotes openness about science in society, and makes advancements accessible through its annual Festival of Science, National Science Week, regional programmes and award schemes for schools and colleges, and by inviting the media to report on the latest discoveries and debates.

2. Early Days

2.1. The British Association for the Advancement of Science has featured in the history of anthropology from its earliest days. Anthropology had yet to appear as the discipline we know today when the Association was founded in 1831. It was not represented consequently the following year at the Association's second annual meeting in Oxford when it organised itself according to disciplinary Sections. Nonetheless the subject was present embryonically at the British Association from the start, particularly at meetings of Sections C (Geology and Geography) and D (Biology), mirroring the discipline's gradual emergence during the nineteenth century. The first ethnological presentation was by J. C. Prichard who at the 1832 Oxford meeting spoke on the physical and philological history of the human species, suggesting that linguistic evidence should take precedence in settling questions of racial affinity, while maintaining that ultimately "the various tribes of men are of one origin". According to Tylor, this currently little known medical practioner founded `modern anthropology' (Stocking 1973:x) and for Haddon (1910:107) his work "formed the cornerstone of Anthropology in England". The early accounts of travellers, missionaries, colonial officers and others of the languages, customs and physical characteristics of "savage peoples" found in overseas dominions informed other early talks. At the third annual meeting, in Edinburgh, for example, J.B. Pentland made a presentation to Section D (Biology) on the "Ancient Inhabitants of the Andes". But a second ethnological paper by C. T. Beke "Views in ethnography, the classification of languages, the progress of civilization, and the natural history of man" was excluded for contravening the Association's regulations or, as Morrell and Thackray 1981:284 suggest, threatening humans' unique place in the animal kingdom and offending the contemporary "sense of Eurocentric superiority". In 1839 W. R. Wilde spoke on the "The Topography of Ancient Tyre" to Section C (Geology), and in 1844 twelve papers with ethnological contents were presented to Section D (Biology) including "The Sandwich Islanders", "The Eastern Limits of the Australian Race and Language" and "The Ethnography of Africa as Determined by its Languages" (Harden 1955:221). Malcolm Smith (1981), a former Recorder to Section H, is of the opinion that "Before the 1860's most of the papers received and grants disbursed by the B.A. were slanted towards ethnology."

2.2. There were also attempts at this time systematically to classify humankind into races on the basis of physical differences, using techniques such as Blumenbach's craniometry. The presentation by J. C Prichard at Birmingham in 1839 entitled "On the Extinction of Native Races" is particularly noteworthy. Its prediction of the extermination of most savage races and argument that "it is of the greatest importance . . . to obtain much more extensive information than we now possess of their physical and moral characters" prompted the British Association to establish a committee to draw up a questionnaire and guidelines on the conduct of enquiries into `the manners and customs of native races' (Harden 1955:220, 224; Morrell and Thackray 1981:284-85; Stocking 1973:xcix, 1987:79, 243; 2001). It received only the miserly sum of £33 over the next four years, which T. Hodgkin argued was inadequate - he asked provocatively "has the extinction of a variety of man ever excited equal attention with that which has been paid to the loss of the dodo?" (quoted in Morrell and Thackray 1981:285), a comment that catches nicely the tenor of ethnology's relations with the scientific establishment. Nonetheless the committee's "Queries Respecting the Human Race" were to become one of the most widely read of anthropological texts, namely Notes and Queries on Anthropology for the use of Travellers and Residents in Uncivilized Lands . The committee, with Pritchard and Hodgkin its leading lights and counting a young Charles Darwin among its members, continued to met until 1843, producing the Races of Man in 1841, Questions on Human Race in 1842 and Varieties of Human Race in 1844. Not all of its recommendations were supported; for example, the Association refused to support proposals put forward in 1840 and 1842 that persons in the foreign and military services in the colonies be specifically recruited to assist with ethnological enquiries (Morrell and Thackray 1981:344).2 These productions gave way to Ethnological Enquiries in 1851 and Ethnological Queries in 1853, copies of which were sent to mission stations around the world. They subsequently evolved into Notes and Queries on Anthropology first published in 1874 under the direction of a distinguished committee that included Pitt Rivers, Tylor, Galton, Lubbock and Beddoe, and subsequently appeared in six extensively revised editions (1892, 1899, 1912, 1929 and 1951), such that the first bears little resemblance to the last, and all under the direction of committees that read like role calls of British anthropology. Its evolution into a comprehensive manual to direct enquiries, first various colonial residents corresponding with armchair academics and later anthropologists conducting fieldwork, and the relentless expansion of the socio-cultural sections at the expense of the physical ones, reflects the development of the discipline in Britain (Urry 1972; Stocking 1992:17-18, 36-38; 1995:439; 2001). It is a virtual history in itself or in Stocking's (2001:169) evocative phrase a `palimpsest of inquiry' - "a series of contemporary vignettes which, taken together, cast light upon changing assumptions about the way in which the subject matter of ethnographic inquiry was conceptualized and studied". Although the book was dated by the time of the sixth edition's fifth printing in 1971, it was still useful - at least to this author whose copy contains field annotations and notes (like some other New Guinea Highlands ethnographers who report mixed feelings about its usefulness- Hays 1992:139, 212). Few, if any, anthropological texts, can claim to have remained in use for so long.

2.3. The intellectual turbulence that was to result in the subsequent scientific triumph of evolutionary theory was also evident in these early days. There were challenges to the Biblical versions of the origins and time span of life on earth, notably by geologists and palaeontologists such as Lyell (1830; Harris 1969:111-114). We can see the intellectual community gradually agreeing that human beings had a longer history than the Bible suggested, for example accepting the evidence that humans had existed together with extinct animals. At the British Association meeting at Leeds in 1858, for instance, W. Pengelly reported on his finds of knapped flints together with undisturbed extinct mammals in a cave at Brixham, and received support from, among others, Lyell, Owen and Prestwich (Haddon 1910:121; Harris 1969:148). And Lyell formally announced that he agreed with the arguments for human antiquity at the Aberdeen meeting the following year (Stocking 1987:74). We see these debates continuing in various British Association Section meetings that featured precursor anthropological presentations, most famously in 1860 at the Section D (Biology) meeting in Oxford when T.H. Huxley and Bishop Wilberforce clashed in debate about Darwin's recently published Origin of Species and the propriety of suggesting that humans might descend from ape-like creatures (Huxley 1903: 259-274). As Hays (1958:31) puts it, "Students jeered, Lady Brewster fainted, and Admiral Robert Fitzroy, who had been captain of the Beagle , waved his Bible and screamed that Darwin was a viper". It is reported that when Wilberforce frivolously asked Huxley if he was descended from an ape on his paternal or maternal side, he replied "If I am asked whether I would choose to be descended from the poor animal of low intelligence and stooping gait, who grins and chatters as we pass, or from a man, endowed with great ability and a splendid position, who would use these gifts to discredit and crush humble seekers after truth, I hesitate what answer to make" (Pilbeam 1968:368). The dispute continued for several years, for example at the 1862 meetings Huxley, in debate with Owen, presented evidence that the hippocampus minor was not unique to the human brain, and in 1867 and 1868 J. Lubbock, who had supported Huxley at the famous 1860 meeting, attacked the argument that contemporary "savages" are degenerate human lines that thereby sought to prevent their use as "missing link" ancestors of civilized humans (Stocking 1987:147, 154). The humans-are-apes argument was to come to dominate within twenty years, as Huxley observed at the 1878 meeting in Dublin it was "a fact that no rational man could dispute", making the point that the "horrible paradoxes of one generation became the commonplaces of schoolboys".

3. Anthropology's Emergence

3.1. We can see that the "is anthropology a science of humanity?" question has been with the discipline since its faltering inception. It took several years to convince powerful elements that recognizing ethnology would not compromise the British Association's scientific standing with political and religious arguments. As Morrell and Thackray (1981:283-4) note, ethnology was an example of a "science being excluded from the British Association as long as it appeared to be a political, social, and religious tinderbox, and then being reluctantly incorporated when it had been stripped of dangerous features" - such as criticizing British imperialism, missionary activities, even the Church itself, as evidenced for instance by the Aborigines Protection Society founded in 1837. Prichard, together with Hodgkin another member of the Notes and Queries precursor committee, used the Ethnological Society - which emerged in 1843 from Hodgkin's Aborigines Protection Society (Burrow 1966: 121; Stocking 1987:244; 2001:170) - as a vehicle to lobby the British Association in 1846 for the establishment of an Ethnological Section (Prichard's paper in the 1847 Report [pp. 230-53] "On the various methods of research which contribute to the advancement of ethnology, and the relations of that science to other branches of knowledge" was part of this campaign). Although unsuccessful, they secured the formation of an Ethnological sub-section to Section D (Zoology and Botany). It saw a range of presentations, such as Baron Bunsen who spoke in 1847 "On the Results of the Recent Egyptian Researches in Reference to Asiatic and African Ethnology, and the Classification of Languages". Other papers from this time include "The Aborigines of Newfoundland", "The Malay Languages" and "The Races of Cimbric Cheronese" (Harden 1955:221). There was some disagreement over where ethnology should feature, Prichard objecting for example in 1847 to its inclusion within the biology section, particularly its subordination to zoology, because it was `more nearly allied to history than natural science' (Pritchard 1847:231), and consequently more cognate to geology and archaeology (Stocking 1973:c, 1987:52, 245).

3.2. After further lobbying the British Association agreed in 1851 to the establishment of a new Section E (Geography and Ethnology) separate from Section C (Geology). The meeting that year featured an early physical anthropology presentation from J. Brent "The Comparison of Athletic Men in Great Britain with Greek Statues". When president of Section E thirteen years later, Sir Roderick Murchison took some of the credit for proposing the Section, although he was more concerned at the subordination of geography to geology than the plight of itinerant ethnology (Stocking 1987:245). The geographers came to dominate Section E and speakers continued to present papers with an anthropological content in other Sections, reflecting the interdisciplinary nature of the discipline, as indeed continues to this day with the General Section X, for example, having a President's day in 2003 entitled `Traditional Knowledge and Modern Science' and the Foundation for Science, Technology and Civilization organizing a day's session entitled `Science and Islam: past, present and future'. Several explorer-ethnographers spoke at Section E, including the well-known African explorers Burton, Speke, Livingstone and Baker who attracted large audiences. Indeed Speke met his death in a shooting accident while staying near Bath for the British Association meeting there in 1864 ending his furious debate with Burton over the discovery of the source of the Nile.

3.3. It was common for Section C (Geology) to host reports on research into flint implements and ancient human remains, shadowing the subsequent emergence of prehistory, and D (Biology) to have papers on biological issues, shadowing the subsequent emergence of physical anthropology, while the newly formed Section E (Geography and Ethnology) featured a range of racial and ethnological contributions, shadowing the subsequent emergence of ethnographic studies. At the meeting in Cambridge in 1862, for example, six papers on flint implements were presented to Section C, including Mr. Doughty on the Hoxne and Dr. Daubeny the Abbeville assemblages, and W. Boyd Dawkins talking about the "Wokey Hole Hyaena Den". G. W. Child spoke to Section D on "Marriage of Consanguinity". And J. Crawfurd, President of the Ethnological Society, spoke to Section E on colour and language tests and human races, and R. Dunn spoke on the `psychological differences' that exist between races. The following year, Section C featured a discussion of the Neanderthal Skull, a discussion that switched to Section D at Bath the next year, where G. Busk compared it with various skulls, including the Gibraltar cranium, which he concluded most resembled that of a Tasmanian - the British Association subsequently made him a grant of £150 to explore further the Gibraltar caves (Penniman 1965:168). Several ethnological papers feature in the proceedings for that year of 1864 including one from A.R. Wallace "On the Progress of Civilization in Northern Celebes", and J. Crawfurd "On the Supposed Infecundity of Human Hybrids", which referred to the offspring of the "Bounty" mutineers as evidence.

3.4. The history of the British Association sections continued to reflect the wider hesitant emergence of anthropology and disputes over the scope of the discipline. At Nottingham in 1866 the Association created a Department of Anthropology as part of Section D (Biology), of which T. H. Huxley was president that year - one of several examples of his efforts to create a secure institutional identity for the discipline- and in 1869 Section E dropped "Ethnology" to became "Geography" only. The Department's first president was A.R. Wallace, famous for his research in the Malay archipelago, incorporating current day Indonesia and New Guinea, and co-authorship with Darwin of the ground breaking Journal of the Linnean Society paper on natural selection in evolution. He defined the Department's remit for anthropology as "the science which contemplates man under all his aspects (as an animal, and as a moral and intellectual being) in his relation to lower organisms, to his fellow men, and to the universe", and he concluded that "The anthropologist must ever bear in mind that, as the object of his study is man, nothing pertaining to or characteristic of man can be unworthy of his attention". At its inception it featured twenty-nine papers on various anthropological topics, including one by E. B. Tylor "On Phenomena of Higher Civilization Traceable to a Rudimental Origin among Savage Tribes" that focussed on Burmese and Polynesian myths and burial customs. Nonetheless, anthropological papers continued to be presented to other Sections, notably C (Geology) with its customary reports on flint implements and E (Geography) which that year hosted ten ethnological papers.

3.5. After this auspicious start the Department of Anthropology lapsed for the next two years (Harden 1955:222). In 1868, Tylor presented his paper "Remarks on Language and Mythology as Departments of Biological Science" to the Department of Anatomy and Physiology of Section D (Biology), together with other anthropological contributions such as Rolleston's discussion of sixteen Eskimo skulls. There followed some in-fighting over appropriate titles, reflecting the secession of the Anthropological Society of London from the Ethnological Society. In 1869, Section D established a Department of Ethnology but in 1871 it re-instituted the Department of Anthropology, which remained in existence until 1883 - again paralleling wider events, with the rapprochement that year of the two rival Societies and foundation of today's Royal Anthropological Institute. The Department hosted twenty-five to thirty papers annually (Harden 1955:223) and remained wide in scope with ethnological, physical anthropological, prehistoric and linguistic presentations, as intimated by its presidents who included Tylor, J. Evans, Pitt-Rivers, J. Beddoe, W. R. Wilde, T. H. Huxley, F. Galton and W. Pengelly. Whatever the title of the sections that hosted anthropological contributions, they were very popular and attracted large audiences in these early days of the discipline, something that Huxley ascribed at the Dublin meeting in 1878 to the opportunity that anthropology offered participants to satisfy their natural `bellicose instincts' (Haddon 1910:50).

4. Learned Society Politics

4.1. We see from the beginning various political influences on the shape of learned societies. This is perhaps unavoidable, as factions sought to establish their different views, and has continued, for example with the advent of the Association of Social Anthropologists in the mid-twentieth century and today's battles over a `relevant' anthropology. The issues may have changed, with those of previous generations even making us smile today, although we should perhaps bear this in mind when engaging in current conflicts. And we may find some attitudes distasteful. The debate on human origins, for example - did it feature a single creative act between Adam and Eve or many independent acts of creation - had a sharp political undertow with advocates of the former supporting the abolition of slavery on the grounds of common humanity and the latter arguing against it on the grounds of radical difference (Haddon 1910:53; Harris 1969:83-93). This debate influenced markedly the shape of early learned societies. In his Section H presidential address at Winnipeg in 1909, J. L. Myres refers for example to the Anthropological Society of London ceding from the Ethnological Society in 1863 because of differences over slavery and race (Penniman 1965:91; Harris 1969:100), although the purported reason for the split was a difference of opinion over the scope of anthropology (Malefijt 1974:268) and the Ethnological Society admitting women to its meetings (which according to the Anthropological Society inhibited the discussion of certain topics, such as priapic rites - Burrow 1966:121; Stocking 1987:253).

4.2. The Reports give us an insight into views prevalent at the time. Addressing Section D (Biology) at the Cambridge annual meeting in 1862, R. Owen, Director of the Natural History Museum, observed in a paper entitled `On the Zoological Significance of the Cerebal and Pedial Characteristics of Man', that "The American Indians . . . are averse to civilisation, and slow in acquiring knowledge. They are restless, stern, silent and moody, . . . revengeful, wild, vindictive, cunning . . . too dangerous to be trusted by the white man in social intercourse, and too obtuse and intractable to be worth coercing into servitude" - with the extinction of such views it is perhaps fitting that Owen coined the word `dinosaur'. When J. Hunt, who was instrumental in the breakaway of the Anthropological Society and was its first president, presented an abstract of his paper "The Negro's Place in Nature" at the 1863 meeting in Newcastle it created a considerable stir, and an outspoken "coloured speaker enlivened the subsequent discussion" (Haddon 1910:67). This is hardly surprising given the tone of Hunt's remarks, concluding that "the Negro is intellectually inferior to the European, and that the analogies are far more numerous between the ape and Negro than between the ape and the European . . . the Negro becomes more humanised when in his natural subordination to the European than under any other circumstances". The Reports of the British Association also contain several examples of persons arguing against racism, such as W. Flower in 1881 who talks about the contemptuous use of nasty epithets and the low ebb of racial studies. And Myres in his opening address at Winnipeg, who notes that "The customs and institutions of alien people have been viewed too often, even by reasonable and good men, simply as `ye beastlie devices of ye heathen', and the pioneers of our culture, perversely mindful only of the narrower creed . . . have set out to civilise savages by wrecking the civilisations which they had".

4.3. On a more pleasant note, it is noteworthy that while feminism was some generations away, it appears that anthropology at the British Association had a long tradition of including women in its meetings, in the spirit of the early Ethnological Society. Smith (1981:11) quotes a newspaper report from 1906 on the annual meeting at York, which comments on Section H, "A rather interesting feature was the large number of ladies present", and mentions that there was "a table laden with skulls, and several ladies examined these with as little trepidation as they would a water melon". Indeed the British Association has been seeking to popularise anthropology for decades. It has a long tradition of welcoming interested lay persons to its sessions, extending to the current day with its educational outreach programme to the wider public, including school parties. And arranging its meetings in provincial cities, previously including some in the Empire, it attracts a proportion of its audience from locally interested persons (Kuklick 1991:60).

4.4. The British Association's annual meetings were the major venues for the `ethnological' and `anthropological' factions to air their differences. They figured in the battles for disciplinary Section status. In 1864 the `anthropologicals' tried unsuccessfully to have Section E (Geography and Ethnology) renamed to include anthropology, and the following year in Birmingham they argued without success for a separate section, the scientific establishment rallying to defeat them, in what was said to be "one of the most disgraceful pieces of cliquism ever known in the British Association" (Stocking 1987:254). The up-shot, as related previously, was the formation in 1866 of the Department of Anthropology under Section D (Biology), although the following year in Dundee the Association cancelled its sessions fearing the provocative subject matter of a group that "sought a "liberty of thought and freedom of speech" unrivalled by any other scientific society" (Stocking 1987:253) would offend the conservative Scottish establishment, and again the next year in Norwich anthropology featured in a parallel conference when the British Association met with the International Congress of Prehistoric Archaeology (Stocking 1987:254). The `anthropological' perspective established itself as encompassing the `science of man' and with its return after twenty years to Section D (Biology) it came to dominate, and at Liverpool in 1870 the two factions met together relatively cordially under the same subsection Ethnology and Anthropology, laying the foundations the following year, with assiduous politicking by Huxley and others, for their amalgamation into the (now Royal) Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland (Kuklick 1991:44; Stocking 2001:172).

5. Committees

5.1. In addition to papers read at annual meetings, the British Association also coordinated research through various committees (Harden 1955:223-25; Stocking 1992:19). It sponsored several initiatives during the nineteenth century as testified by its committees' annual `Reports on the State of Science'. There were several with anthropological remits in addition to the Notes and Queries Committee and its precursors, the first established in the subject. The next was in 1851 at the initiative of Rev. W. Donaldson on `Two Unresolved Problems in Indo-Germanic Philology', the obscure title of which hides its promotion of ethnography within the Association, arguing that "while no science is more steadily progressive than ethnography and while none more rapidly accumulates the materials of induction, its encyclopaedic range and the want of communication between the many active minds engaged upon it, especially necessitate a periodic report of its existing state". There were several cave committees in prehistoric archaeology, including the Kent's Cavern (1866-1880), the Settle Caves (1873), Tenby Caves (1878), and Jersey Caves (1914-20), and overseas the caves of Borneo (1879), Malta (1866) and Gibraltar Committees. There was also a British Earthworks Research Committee (1877-78), in addition to support to several excavations including Glastonbury (1894-1915), Silchester (1897-1901), Crete (1901-9) and Galilee (1930).

5.2. In the emerging field of physical anthropology a committee was established to conduct "Systematic Examination of the Heights, Weights, and Other Physical Characteristics of the Inhabitants of the British Isles" (1875) that convened for several years under the secretaryship of F. Galton. The Anthropometric Committee, as it became, drew up particularly ambitious research plans between 1903 and 1909 to document the physical characteristics of the British but absence of funding prevented their realisation (Urry 1984:99). It subsequently initiated another committee to collect photographs of the "typical races of the British Isles" (Stocking 1987:261). While the delineation of different populations across the United Kingdom according to physical characteristics, reflecting origins from different racial stocks, was not very convincing, this work probably contributed to an awareness of the need to do something to assist the urban `lower classes' who consistently showed up as stunted. In the 1890s there was the Association's Ethnographic Survey of the British Isles, which absorbed an earlier committee studying Scottish place-names, which drew up a code of research and sought out suitable locations "as containing populations where there had been comparatively little admixture of race" (Howarth 1931:200). It was supported by folklorists, including local societies and amateurs, with Galton initially as chairman and subsequently E. W. Brabrook who had initially proposed the Survey at the 1892 meeting in Liverpool, and on which Haddon subsequently acted for a period as principal investigator (Urry 1984; Stocking 1992:21-22). The Survey was conducted in the same salvage spirit as much ethnographic work at the time, with the aim of documenting folk customs before they disappeared with the relentless expansion of industrialism. It is an example of `anthropology at home', long before it came to prominence in the later part of the twentieth century - the 1951 Edinburgh meeting foreshadows this much later development with a session of three papers on anthropology of the United Kingdom, including J. Littlejohn on "Fieldwork in Contemporary Society".

5.3. The Association also supported work elsewhere, such as Canada, where the research it sponsored included that of Boas on the North-West Coast for a decade, through a committee set up in 1884 and chaired by Tylor "for the purpose of investigating and publishing reports on the physical characters, languages, and industrial and social condition of the North-western Tribes of the Dominion of Canada" (Hays 1958:258; Stocking 1992:18-20; 66; 1995:84-85). During the Victorian era, the British Association was the principal source of grants supporting anthropological work (Stocking 1987:267). Other committees with an ethnographic focus included "The Tribes of Asia Minor" (1888), "The Natives of India" (1889), "The Transformation of Native Tribes in Mashonaland" (1891), together with committees to support expeditions including the Cambridge Torres Straits Expedition (1897), the Cambridge Expedition to Malaya (1898), and W. H. R. River's Expedition to the Nilgiri Hills (1902), all of which contributed to varying extends to the advance of the discipline.

5.4. Over the years the number of research committees proliferated, with fifteen to twenty sitting every year by the twentieth century. There were twenty-two Section H committees in 1926, for example, which was representative of the period, covering the following fields: thirteen in archaeology, three in social anthropology, three in physical anthropology and three dealing with general issues (Smith 1981:13). They were often at the forefront of developments in their fields, such as the one chaired by Fleure in 1933 to arrange blood group studies among Tibetans, its remit extended in 1936 to "primitive peoples", which focused attention on the new field of blood group serology as genetic markers in evolutionary and taxonomic research.

6. Section H

6.1. Anthropology finally came of age in 1884 when British Association announced in that year's Report: "The Council after consideration resolved to form a separate section of Anthropology, with the title Section H - Anthropology". A possible contributing factor was that the American Association for the Advancement of Science had established a section for anthropology, also called Section H, two years previously (Malefijt 1974:225). At that year's annual meeting in Montreal, the new Section's first president was E.B. Tylor - this coincided with his appointment in the same year to the first professional post in the discipline (Readership in Anthropology at Oxford). The formation of Section H acknowledged that anthropology had developed into a clear field of research and contributed significantly to the discipline's recognition by the academic establishment. There was no discernible change in anthropology at the British Association with its formation. It remained eclectic, as can be seen by subsequent presidents who included Galton (1885), Pitt-Rivers (1888), Max Muller (1891), Flinders Petrie (1895) and Haddon (1902 & 1905).

6.2. From the start, Section H represented anthropology in the widest sense, as outlined by Tylor in the preface of his two volume Anthropology: an introduction to the study of Man and Civilization (1881), where he writes of the "the science of Man and Civilization, which connects into a more manageable whole the scattered subjects of an ordinary education . . . the various departments of the science of Man are extremely multifarious, ranging from body to mind, from language to music, from fire-making to morals". The British Association was among the first institutions to support anthropology in the broad sense as "the study of mankind" (OED), when the discipline was otherwise fragmented, as it had been in the Association's early days. As Howarth (1931:74) observes, it is "the business of our anthropological section to keep track of an extensive range of subject-matter". And it has continued to do so until the present day, regardless of fashions and political struggles to establish independent disciplines from its constituent parts, notably social anthropology and archaeology. When president at Newcastle in 1916, Marett, Tylor's Oxford successor, expressed this view in his talk "Anthropology and University Education" stating that "The all-important condition of success in my belief, is that all branches of anthropological study and research should be concentrated within a single school. At present for physical anthropology a would be student must resort to the medical school, for social anthropology to the faculty of arts, for linguistics to the department of philology, for prehistorics to the archaeological museum and so on. Such a policy, to my mind, is a downright insult to our science." Others have echoed this view of Section H periodically, such as Harden who as president in 1955 argued that "it would defeat the whole object of the Association if the annual programme of Section H became just one more specialist conference". The wisdom of this stance is evident currently as social anthropology increasingly looks like a second half of the twentieth century affair, intellectually too restricted for a discipline seeking to understand human behaviour and address today's problems.

6.3. The British Association has also featured in the various attempts to secure substantial funding, both from government and other institutions, to support the establishment of a well endowed national anthropological research institute. The argument was that knowledge of its subject native peoples would be of value to the government. There was some discussion of culture contact problems at the 1895 Ipswich meeting with Haddon presenting a critique of colonialism, what he dubbed "the red paint of British aggression" a reference to the red customarily used to show regions of the British empire on the world map (Stocking 1995:372). The next year in Liverpool, Section H passed a resolution calling for the establishment of an imperial `Bureau of Ethnology for Greater Britain' to parallel the recently established Bureau of American Ethnology in the United States. As C. H. Read, the mover of the resolution pointed out, if the United States supported such a bureau with only one "race" within its borders, "how much more is it the duty of Great Britain to attempt some record of the many vanishing or, at any rate, quickly changing races within her borders?" (Stocking 1995:372). When president of the British Association in 1899, Sir Michael Foster presented a petition to the government urging the establishment of a bureau (Kuklick 1991:46-47). Another deputation to Asquith in 1912 was also unsuccessful (Kuper 1983:101; Mills 2003:9). These attempts to demonstrate the relevance of anthropology have been paralleled by occasional Section H sessions arguing the case, such as Sir Richard Temple's address as president at Birmingham in 1913, who drawing on his Indian Civil Service experience, urged university education of colonial officers in anthropology. He was supported by a panel on "The Practical Application of Anthropological Teaching in the Universities", at which several colonial officers and academic anthropologists spoke in favour of his proposals. One up-shot was the establishment of a joint British Association and Royal Anthropological Institute committee on anthropological teaching to "encourage the systematic teaching of Anthropology to persons either about to proceed to or actually working in those parts of the British Empire which contain populations alien to the British people" (Stocking 1995:379). After the Great War attempts were made to revive the initiative, the British Association holding a conference on anthropological teaching and research in 1922, but it fell foul of power struggles between different university departments.

7. Socio-Cultural Anthropology

7.1. Evolution dominated thinking with attempts to formulate sequences for cultures based on technological and supposed social development, from stone tool using hunter-gatherers to urban dwelling civilization. This was what the prehistoric flint implements found in caves suggested had occurred in Europe. The concern with "survivals" also fed an interest in folklore. The first decade of the twentieth century sees a move from evolution towards diffusion and migration as explanations of culture change, although the evolutionists gave ground slowly. In 1899 for example, Marrett (at the invitation of J. Myres that he present something provocative) caused a stir by challenging Tylor's animism, speaking on "preanimistic beliefs" and the origins of religion, foreshadowing subsequent criticism of Tylor's and Frazer's "ideational" approach or intellectualism (Hays 1958:140; Stocking 1995:165, 2001:114). And at Cambridge in 1904, H. Balfour argued in his presidential address that stringed instruments had evolved from the bow - citing Pitt-Rivers' observations that changes in muskets featured a series of gradual improvements, as "Through noticing the unfailing regularity of this process of gradual evolution in the case of firearms, he was led to believe that the same principles must probably govern the development of the other arts, appliances, and ideas of mankind" (Penniman 1965:153).

7.2. In 1911 at Portsmouth, W. H. R. Rivers argued strongly in his presidential address "The Ethnological Analysis of Culture" for the discipline to move away from "crude" evolutionary theory and embrace diffusionism "the mixture of cultures and peoples", in a landmark presentation cited by subsequent presidents H. J. E. Peake at Hull in 19223 (the year of Rivers' death) and M. Fortes in 1953 as a defining moment in the discipline (Harris 1969:380). The Portsmouth meeting also featured a symposium on totemism, something that fascinated anthropologists at the time, which showed the disarray then evident in evolutionary thinking, speakers included A. C. Haddon, A. Goldenweiser and F. Graebner (Stocking 1995:179). Diffusion, strongly supported by Rivers, dominated briefly. It was undermined by the outrageous arguments of some of its proponents, such as were heard at the British Association meeting the subsequent year when Section H's president was Elliot Smith, a leading diffusionist. One paper that year argued that the builders of the megalithic monuments of Western Europe had migrated from Egypt, and Rivers reportedly agreed that the practice of mummification on the Torres Straits convinced him that "the complex most suitably known as megalithic developed in Egypt and spread thence to the many parts of the world where we find evidence of its existence at the present time" (Stocking 1995:214). In his address Smith argued for the use of comparative anatomical methods in research into human cerebral evolution, such as the cognitive capacity of Neanderthals, reflecting again the broad spectrum of interests supported by Section H to this day.

7.3. In addition to these grand theories that sought to explain the origins and history of humankind, there was a sprinkling of more solidly ethnographic papers that herald the discipline's future development. L. Fison spoke at the 1894 meeting on his Aboriginal work. In 1899, and again during Haddon's presidency, sessions at Section H were devoted to reports and discussions of the substantial ethnographic data collected by the Torres Straits expedition (Sillitoe 1977; Herle & Rouse 1998). And at the 1911 meeting, B. Malinowski presented a paper on his Aboriginal research entitled "The Economic Function of Intichiuma Ceremonies", although doubtless more significantly for subsequent advances in the discipline, notably on the methodological front, the British Association defrayed Malinowski's travel expenses to Australia in 1914 to serve as secretary to that year's meeting in Melbourne, facilitating his subsequent path breaking Trobriand research (Stocking 1992:42; 242). After the same meeting Rivers, who gave a presentation on the complexity of Australian culture, departed on a tour of various Melanesian islands in search of reported living megalithic cultures (Stocking 1995:237). A further illustration of old and the new intellectual currents running parallel at the Association. Smith 1981:9 estimates that there was a decline in what he calls "ethnology" presentations at British Association meetings, those describing peoples' physical, cultural and linguistic attributes, and increase in "anthropology" presentations, those seeking to interpret socio-cultural issues. He notes that, "we can see the balance of emphasis shift over the decades. In the 1870's there were on average 6.3 ethnology papers to 1.2 anthropology; in the 1880's the ratio was 6.2: 3.2, and in successive decades 7.0: 6.5 and 3.7: 6.2."

7.4. We can trace the further emergence of socio-cultural anthropology at the British Association. At the 1924 meeting in Toronto speakers included R. Benedict, E. Sapir and M. Mead, a meeting at which Jung's psychological work was of some interest (Stocking 1992:298), although the president was a physical anthropologist F. C. Shrubsall whose address "Health and physique through the centuries" reported on the status of British populations. Another good illustration of Section H's support of anthropology in the widest sense, in the manner of American anthropology, something that was in the process of going out of fashion in Britain. And at the centenary meeting in London in 1931 Section H's president was A. Radcliffe-Brown who, auguring things to come, spoke in his "The Present Position of Anthropological Studies" about social theory, comparative sociology and contemporary society. He was effectively administering the final rites over ethnology as speculative history, arguing that "the function of culture as a whole is to unite individual human beings into more or less stable social structures . . . a sort of primary postulate of any objective and scientific study of culture". Other lecturers that year included E. E. Evans-Prichard speaking about "The Nuer of the Nilotic Sudan", L. Mair on "Economic man in Primitive Society", and G. Bateson on "Shamanism on Sepik River". In 1934 there was a joint session of Section H with the American Anthropological Association and American Folklore Society in Pittsburgh at which Radcliffe-Brown was again present to put the sociological case (Harris 1969:519). The British Association's Reports show however that diffusion, like evolution before it, clung on for some years. In 1937 at Nottingham, for example, J. H. Hutton, newly appointed to the Wyse chair in Cambridge, spoke as president on "Assam origins in relation to Oceania", a speculative piece on diffusion of traits through Indonesia.

7.5. Social anthropology was only to feature intermittently at the British Association, as intimated by the `is social anthropology a natural science or a humanity battle?' Evans-Prichard was a prominent advocate of the humanities perspective, as he wrote, "social anthropology studies societies as moral, or symbolic, systems and not as natural systems, that it is less interested in process than design, and that it therefore seeks patterns and not laws" (1951:62). An Association that aims to advance science was not apparently appropriate for a subject that came to see itself as a humanity, although there were exceptions such as the first post war meeting in Dundee in 1947, at which Daryll Forde spoke as president on "The Anthropological Approach in Social Science", arguing that "some of the most substantial contributions in Anthropology lie in the sociological sphere". This meeting also featured a colloquium on "Cultural Change", which featured "papers from social anthropologists dealing with different aspects of culture change among non-European peoples whose ways of life are being profoundly modified by the impact of Western industrial civilisation", which we can see as a successor to earlier British Association initiatives to establish a bureau of anthropology to address practical problems, which itself had roots going back to the Association's early days, such as at the 1863 meeting where Crawfurd spoke of the effects of converting a chief to Free Trade and 50,000 natives to Christianity (Burrow 1966:122). The speakers were A. I. Richards, L .P. Mair, K. L. Little and C. von Fürer-Haimendorf, and a comment by Richards - strikingly contemporary for those of us working for the better incorporation of anthropology in development - catches the tone of the meeting "Anthropologists have been accused of neglecting their scientific work for the sake of doing studies of practical importance to the administrator, such as land tenure or urban surveys, but it is a mistake to put `scientific' and `practical' work in opposition, as is sometimes done". Nonetheless, `applied anthropology' as it was then called was to remain unpopular.

7.6. In 1948 at Brighton speakers included M. Gluckman, J. G. Peristiany, R. F. Fortune and J. D. Freeman, the latter speaking on "The Fono Manu of Sa'anapu, Western Samoa", although with no hint of the furore that was to come with his criticism of M. Mead's Samoan work. During M. Fortes' presidency in 1953 at Liverpool, the programme comprised several archaeological sessions, with the exception of his address "Analysis and Description in Social Anthropology" and two Africanist papers from I. Schapera and A. I. Richards. A noteworthy feature of that year was the premiere of Harry Powell's film "The Trobriand Islands". Ethnographic film has featured in other years too, in 1975 in Guildford, when there was a day of films, and in 1976 at Lancaster, when a panel `Problems of Anthropological Filming' was convened at which several persons with experience working on Granada TV's `Disappearing World' series made presentations and screened films they had worked on, including B. Moser, C. Curling, M. Llewelyn-Davies and A. Singer. Section H has recently revived this tradition, with the screening of new ethnographic films such as the Royal Anthropological Institute's Film Festival winning entry "Duka's Dilemma" at the 2003 Salford meeting. This reflects the important place that ethnographic film now occupies within the discipline. Furthermore, it is envisaged as a way of further popularising the discipline by drawing in the wider public.

7.7. The estrangement of social anthropology from Section H's brand of anthropology as an all-encompassing science of humanity becomes evident in the 1960s with social anthropologists speaking more often to Section N (Sociology). In 1961 at Norwich M. Gluckman served as president of Section N, speaking on "African Jurispudence", and the following year in Manchester the Section's speakers included L. Mair, W. Watson and A. L. Epstein. In 1964 in Southampton L. Mair served as president of Section N speaking on "How Do Small-Scale Societies Change" and other speakers that year included M. Freedman "Changing Leadership in the Hong Kong New Territories", E. Ardner "The `Personal Enemy' in African Politics" and T. S. Epstein "Regional Development and Social Change", others included A. Giddens talking on suicide and J. A. Rex on sociological theory. Two years later in Nottingham, the president of Section N was F. G. Bailey who spoke on "The Peasant View of the Bad Life".

7.8. Folklore featured throughout this period. In 1933 at Leicester the president Lord Raglan asked "What is Tradition?", in a paper dealing with narratives and myths, and in 1948 at Brighton the president R. U. Sayce spoke on "Folk-life Studies in Britain and Abroad". Such folklore studies filled the void left by social anthropology in the 1950s and 1960s, some of the Section H presidents during that time being well-known folklorists, including I. C. Peate in 1958 at Glasgow, P. Opie in 1963 at Aberdeen and G. Ewart Evans in 1971, which if known to social anthropologists would have been a further reason for distancing themselves from the British Association. Nonetheless, the Section has hosted some truly innovatory sessions during this time, such as that of R. N. Salaman, the author of The History and Social Influence of the Potato, who as president at Birmingham in 1950 spoke on "The Influence of Food Plants on Social Structure", which although it contains some original ideas was largely ignored as out of step with its time.

8. Biological Anthropology

8.1. The British Association nevertheless continued to host meetings on anthropology in the widest sense, including archaeology. J. Beddoe and H. J. Fleure reported regularly on work in physical anthropology, notably anthropometrics, much of it through committees. When president in 1926 at Oxford, Fleure spoke on "The Regional Balance of Racial Evolution", and the following year in Leeds F. G. Parsons spoke from the chair on "The Englishman of the Future" based on lists of skull measurements. During this period large amounts of anthropometric data, both measurements of the living and bones of the dead, were collected and analysed, seeking to identify "types" within modern populations and document the conditions for the "degeneration of race". But it was largely the amassing of measurements with little biometric analysis, although this work subsequently played a part in the development of the theory of inheritance with the rediscovery of Mendelian genetics. Regardless of the paucity of interpretation, anthropometry was popular, particularly the measurement of crania. The paper presented by J. Grey at the 1902 meeting on "Measurements of the Indian Coronation Contingent" was typical. But the dubiety of using such measurements to characterise hereditary characters was early evident; as evidenced in A. Macalister's address as Section H president in 1892, where he observed there is "no unifying hypothesis; so that when we, in our sesquipedalian jargon, describe an Australian skull as microcephalic, phaenozygous, tapeino-dolichocephalic, prognathic, palyyrhine, hypselopalatine, lepostaphyline, dolichuranic, chamaseprosopic, and microseme, we are no nearer to the formulation of any philosophic concept of the general principles which led to the assumption of there characters of the cranium in question" (cited by Haddon 1910:42).

8.2. Furthermore classifications made on such measurements frequently conflicted with linguistic evidence, as M. Muller4 noted at Cardiff in 1891 "There ought to be no compromise between ethnological and phonological science. It is only by stating the glaring contradictions between the two that truth can be elicited". In his address in 1920 from the chair "The Science of Man, its Needs and Prospects", again in Cardiff, K. Pearson showed how the methods and aims of anthropometry with its concept of `pure races' were inadequate in the context of genetic theory, arguing for psychometric and energetics research (Penniman 1965:210). The issues of genetics and race took a sinister turn in the subsequent decade, and at the last British Association meeting before the outbreak of the Second World War, the physical anthropologist Le Gros Clarke, as president of Section H, sounded prescient warnings in a talk entitled "The Scope and Limitations of Physical Anthropology", in which he referred, for example, to "the unsatisfactory claims of Dr. Lenz, Professor of Racial Hygiene in the University of Munich". The Section returned to the issue of race years later in 1986 at Bristol, during two days presided over by M. Banton covering both biological and cultural issues, showing how these two wings of anthropology, so long treated separately, can be brought together to mutual advantage.

8.3. The study of genetic markers in blood started to appear in the Section's programme after the last war. They featured in joint symposia with Sections D and I (Zoology and Physiology) in 1948 and 1956, entitled "Human Blood Groups" and "Blood Groups and Anthropology". A. E. Mourant spoke at the latter as president on "Blood Groups and Anthropology", other speakers included J. A. Fraser Roberts, J. M. Tanner, D. F. Roberts, A. C. Kope and N. A. Barnicot. Subsequent years have featured discussion of other genetic markers such as E. Sunderland's talk in 1964 "Regional Variations in PTC Tasting in Great Britain" and a panel in 1978 at Bath on `Dermatoplyphic Studies' which included a discussion of forensic fingerprint analysis. Human adaptation was the theme of the 1966 Nottingham meeting with J. S. Weiner as president speaking on "Aspects of Adaptation", other speakers included J. R. Napier "Environmental Aspects of Primate Evolution", J. Hierneaux "Adaptation and Race", J. P. Garlick "Genetic Adaptation in Man", and P. V. Tobias "The Human Adaptations of Man's African Ancestors".

8.4. Palaeoanthropology continued to have a presence through the decades. A. Keith spoke several times about early hominids, such as the Neanderthal and Java fossils, and debated, for example at the 1912 meeting in Dundee, their possible status as human ancestors, both seeming too brutish and small brained to him to have evolved into modern humans in the relatively brief interval from the early Pleistocene (to which they were attributed) to the current day. The Piltdown `discovery' was announced later in that year and was thought to answer many questions about the course of human evolution, as an ape with human cranial capacity. Smith Woodward attended the 1913 meeting in Birmingham to defend his reconstruction of Eoanthropus dawsoni. Keith, unfortunately with hindsight, drew on the Piltdown `evidence' when president of the British Association in 19275, in an address entitled "Darwin's Theory of Man's Descent as it Stands Today", oblivious to the subsequent irony of observations such as, "If merely a lower jaw had been found at Piltdown, an ancient Englishman would have been wrongly labelled `higher anthropoid ape'" (Penniman 1965:201-204). The Section's transactions for that year interestingly feature a preliminary report, scarcely noted at the time, by L.S.B. Leakey and B.H. Newman on excavations in the colony of Kenya. It was such research that would increasingly indicate that Africa not Europe was the home of our early ancestors. The British Association continued to host discussions of African finds. At the 1929 meeting in South Africa, R. Dart showed off the controversial Taung infant skull, and H. Balfour, the president for that year, spoke on "South Africa's contribution of prehistoric archaeology". In 1931 R. Broom spoke about early African hominids and G.E. Smith on Peking man, and in 1939 at Dundee, Dart and Broom contributed corresponding papers on the Australopithecines, and S. Zuckerman the evolution of the human brain. But British finds continued to have a place. A.T. Marston exhibited the Swanscombe occipital bone at the Norwich meeting in 1935, and there was a symposium on Swanscombe three year's later in Cambridge. At the Association meeting in 1949, K. Oakley announced the results of fluorine tests on the Piltdown materials that revealed them to be fake. Palaeoanthropology has continued to feature in Section H's programmes, sometimes as the year's theme. In 1961 at Norwich there was "Pleistocene Dating and Man", where speakers included E. Higgs, C. P. M. McBurney, J. Waechter and J. S. Weiner, and in 1968 there was the theme "Evolution and Adaptation in Primates, Modern and Fossil Man". There have periodically been sessions updating the position on human evolution, the last occurring at Leicester in 2002 and Salford in 2003, both organised by J. Gowlett, speakers including R. Dunbar on the evolution of the human mind.

9. Archaeology

9.1. Archaeology was represented early on by such figures as A. Evans and Flinders Petrie reporting on research into Cretan and Egyptian civilization, the former reporting on his discovery of the Cretan pictographic writing at Oxford in 1894 (Penniman 1965:162). When president in 1923 at Liverpool, P. E. Newberry spoke on "Egypt as a Field for Anthropological Research" and T. Ashby, two years later in Southampton, spoke on "Practical Engineering in Ancient Rome", and G. MacDonald in 1928 in Glasgow spoke, appropriately enough, on "The Archaeology of Scotland". R. E. Mortimer Wheeler spoke on the Verulamium excavation at St Albans at the 1931 centenary meeting. The president at the 1936 British Association meeting in Blackpool was D.A.E. Garrod who spoke on the significance of recent Upper Palaeolithic discoveries and at the 1938 British Association meeting in Cambridge V. Gordon Childe was president with several other well known archaeologists speaking, including C. F. C. Hawkes, K.P. Oakley, M. L'Abbé Breuil and G.E. Daniel, who spoke about the megaliths of Britain. The part archaeology played in Section H resulted in 1947 in the renaming of the Section to `Anthropology and Archaeology', although some diehards were unhappy (Harden 1955:226) and there was a close fought battle in the 1990s to split into two sections. In 1951 at Edinburgh, C. Fox spoke as president on "The Study of Early Celtic Metalwork in Britain" and S. Piggott gave a paper in the same session, as did P. Lawrence on "Pig exchanges among the Garia, Madang District, New Guinea", another illustration of Section H's eclectic approach to the disciplines that it encompasses. The following year's programme in Belfast was given over entirely to archaeology, with one session on Irish folk-culture, encapsulated in E. O. James presidential address "Archaeology, Folklore and Sacred Tradition". Thirty-six years later in the same city, Section H again featured several sessions focussing on Ulster's archaeology and history. The meetings in Oxford in 1954 with Mortimer Wheeler as president speaking on "Colonial Archaeology", in 1957 in Dublin with C. F. C. Hawkes as president speaking on "Archaeology as Science: Purposes and Pitfalls", and in York in 1959 with I. A. Richmond as president speaking on "The Nature and Scope of Archaeology" were all dominated by archaeology with a sprinkling of folklore presentations. The 1957 meeting had a strong Irish flavour and included a symposium on `Ancient Agriculture in Ireland and North-East Europe, and among the 1959 speakers were J. G. D. Clark, D. R. Brothwell and R. Cramp, and in 1960 at Cardiff K. Kenyon spoke on "Digging up Jericho". Archaeology again dominated the programme in 1964 at Southampton, with C. A. Ralegh Radford as president speaking on "History and Archaeology", other speakers included B. Cunliffe. And in 1976 at Lancaster where G. Dimbleby presided over two days focussing on archaeological impacts on the environment, which featured among other projects the Butser Ancient Farm. In 1983, a day long visit was arranged to Butser from Brighton, as part of a programme focussing again on environmental and scientific archaeology. Environmental issues have come to hold a prominent place in archaeology, as evidenced with these again taking pride of place at the 150th Annual Meeting of the British Association at Oxford in 1988 with P. Ucko in the chair.

9.2. In 1932 the British Association started its Regional Scientific Surveys to investigate the locality where the annual meeting was held that year, which were initially included in the Annual Reports and subsequently published separately. They invariably contain something on the region's prehistory and archaeology, a tradition that continues to this day with the excursions arranged as part of the programme that regularly include something with an archaeological theme. Excursions also have a long history. At the 1905 meeting in South Africa, for example, the Rhodesian government arranged for delegates to meet some Bantu people at the Victoria Falls for the purposes of anthropometric measurement and photographs (Kuper 1983:6), and at the Melbourne meeting in 1914 there was an afternoon of Aboriginal dances (Stocking 1995:170). The excursions are sometimes associated with panels discussing aspects of the local region, such as the aforementioned meetings in Belfast. Recently, in 2001 at Glasgow, Section H, following this tradition, devoted much of the week to Scottish heritage and identity. Industrial archaeology has made an appearance in the second half of the twentieth century, for instance at Aston in 1977, Bath in 1978, and Salford in 1980, featuring canals and water, and factories and railways. In 1982 at Liverpool two days were devoted to seafaring and ships.

9.3. Material culture and museum ethnography have also featured on occasion at the Association's meetings. During his presidential address in 1888 at Bath, Pitt Rivers advocated the establishment of an `educational museum' designed to display material according to his evolutionary ideas. Some forty years later in 1930 at Bristol, H. S. Harrison's presidential paper was "Evolution in Material Culture", in which he opens with the observation that "The systematic study, and the systematic teaching, of the material side of human culture receive less than their due share of attention in this country", something that we have only recently started to address. In 1948 at Brighton there was a session on "Primitive Techniques and their Influence on Economic Organisation", at which J. H. Hutton gave "A Brief Comparison between Dry and Irrigated Cultivation economies in the Naga Hills", E. R. Leach spoke on "Some Aspects of Shifting Dry Rice Cultivation in North Burma and British Borneo", and A. Digby spoke on a theme that he revisited several years later in his presidential address "The Relation Between Techniques and Economic Organisation Among Primitive People, and the Importance of the Time Factor". The Manchester meeting in 1962, at which Digby, then Keeper of Ethnography at the British Museum, was president, also focussed on material culture with sessions on "Early and Primitive Textiles", "Interplay Between Technical and Social Changes in Agriculture", "Modern Primitive Life", and "Other Peoples' Music". According to Digby in his address "Time the Catalyst: Or Why we should Study the Material Culture of Primitive Peoples", "We may see material culture studies no longer limited to their traditional roles . . . They have a far wider prospect. By invoking time as a catalyst, correlations between techniques and social institutions become a possibility in a number of fields. The possibilities are immense". They are possibilities that remain to be exploited. He commented further that among "The best remaining fields for the collection of the information that we require are perhaps the interior of New Guinea". This observation is eerily familiar to me, although unknown when I embarked on a project to study material culture in the region. Technology has continued to feature at intervals, notably in archaeological sessions, such as Leicester in 2002 with investigation of the scientific basis of ancient technological practices.

10. The Current Day

10.1. During the post-war period, the British Association has somewhat changed its aims, from scholars addressing one another, to seeking more explicitly to reach the general public in science debates and involving the media. It has had to overcome various resource constraints. The programmes of Section H have varied in length and structure, dipping at times to between ten and twenty papers and at others approaching the scholarly heyday of fifty presentations. Throughout its history it has sought to represent anthropology in the widest sense as the science of humanity, but with evermore specialisation it has become increasingly difficult for meetings to serve as a home for all branches of the discipline. The discipline's tentative return to cognitive issues is evident. Sessions at Guildford in 1975 and Aston in 1977 were devoted to human thought, covering biosocial aspects of intelligence, with C. Hallpike presenting at the former his controversial ideas on `primitive mentality'. In 1999 at Sheffield these issues were addressed further with T. Ingold presiding, in respect of the question of the existence of human nature.

10.2. The format has varied with some joint sessions with other Sections on interdisciplinary themes, such as 2003 when several Sections dealt with issues relating to "Local Science versus Global Science" or so-called indigenous knowledge. Sometimes the meetings have a thematic focus to promote breadth of presentations, such as in 1955 when speakers from several disciplines addressed the issue of the "Disposal of the Dead and Beliefs Regarding the After Life" in sessions extending over four days, the seventeen presentations including K. P. Oakley "Earliest Evidence of the Disposal of the Dead", R. Berndt "Cannibalism in the Eastern Central Highlands of New Guinea", J. Goody "Death and Social Control among the Lo Dagaa of the Gold Coast", and G. H. Bushell "Disposal of the Dead in Ancient Peru". The subject of death and burial has featured many times as a theme for panels, notably for archaeologists, most recently in 1999 at Sheffield. At Sheffield in 1956 there were two symposia, the aforementioned "Blood Groups and Anthropology", and "The Technology of Ancient Glass and Metal". The theme of the 1965 Cambridge meeting was "Exploitation of Environment", which brought together speakers from all branches of the discipline, including E. M. Jupe as president "Man's Exploitation of Natural Resources", M. Fortes "The Use of Fuel among the Tallensi of Northern Ghana", A. I. Richards "Fuel Collection and the Seasonal Calendar of Work in Central Africa", G. W. Dimbleby "Man's Impact on Vegetation", and D. A. Pilbeam "The Genealogy of Man".

10.3. In the mid 1990s socio-cultural anthropologists reasserted their presence in Section H, after leaving it to fall largely into the hands of archaeologists and antiquarians with the emergence of the Association of Social Anthropologists following World War II. It was a fraught time with some anthropological representatives arguing that the Section should be split in two, as anthropology and archaeology are separate disciplines, while others argued that this would probably reduce the Section's appeal considerably. The current arrangement is that each discipline supplies the president in alternate years, the other maintaining a presence by arranging some sessions too. This reconnection of the Section with the stream of social enquiry so prominent in anthropology has re-established the British Association's comprehensive credentials. In this respect it is going with the flow, as the subject itself moves this way and interdisciplinary connections become de rigueur . It promises a fertile source of wider representation in the future and platform for popularising the discipline (Sillitoe 2003).

10.4. The current storm tearing through higher education makes change necessary, both on professional and popular fronts. We can see that while the British Association originated as a quintessentially Victorian learned institution, it has evolved with the times. It contrasts interestingly with the Royal Anthropological Institute, our other learned society with 19th century ancestry, that has perhaps cleaved more strongly to its Victorian scholarly roots with its medals and honorary lectures. The strengths of the British Association include a change of presidents every year, this rapid turn over promoting the constant influx of new ideas. The appointment is not democratic but depends on the old boy/girl network, like that to offices in all our scholarly bodies (Mills 2003:13). Also, although the British Association has a central London headquarters, it arranges its annual meetings at different universities around the UK, and previously the dominions too - similar to the Association of Social Anthropologists - which helps to overcome the `golden triangle' versus the `dark provinces' divide that is increasingly damaging higher education with current structural changes and resource concentration. Furthermore, the British Association aims specifically to reach the interested public, with large-scale press involvement. If we wish to make our work more widely known, it is one established route that we are not currently using perhaps to its full (e.g. Section H papers presented in 2003 made it to the front pages of the national press). We conclude that a rounded history of anthropology, not one focussed too exclusively on the twentieth century heyday, may help us to chart our way through the uncertain waters in which we currently find ourselves. Our forefathers have found themselves in similar situations, as evidenced by the occasional strikingly modern comment, such as when H. J. E. Peake, president in 1922, opens his address "In all sciences there comes a time when it is well to pause and to take stock of our labours, to consider our position and to focus our attention on our ultimate goal. Such a time seems to have arrived in the study of Anthropology". Few, if any, readers will need reminding which book appeared that year and subsequently served as a totem for changes wrought in the discipline in the early twentieth century. One senses that we may be on the brink of further substantial changes with anthropology's traditional subjects increasingly representing themselves, participant observation giving way to participatory engagement.


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1. An abbreviated illustrated version of this paper appeared in Anthropology Today volume 20 number 6. It has benefitted greatly from the time that I have recently spent working on the Committee of Section H of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. I am particularly grateful to David Shankland and Malcolm Smith, both of whom have served as Recorders for Section H, for generously sharing their knowledge and reminiscences of the Section with me.

2. See also Pritchard 1847 on various methods of ethnological research.

3. In his address the "The Study of Man" in which he discusses the shift from evolution to diffusion.

4. He was initially introduced by the Prussian ambassador Baron Bunsen into British academic circles at the Oxford British Association meeting in 1847 where he read a paper on comparative philology and the relation of Bengali to the Aryan language - Burrow 1966:150; Stocking 1987:57, 311

5. Having served as Section H president in 1919, the year annual meetings were recommenced after the Great War