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Robert Ranulph Marett

University of Oxford Anthropology Diploma class of 1910-11. Marett is in the front and on the right
Part of a series on
Anthropology of religion
Social and cultural anthropology

Robert Ranulph Marett (13 June 1866, Jersey – 18 February 1943, Oxford) was a British ethnologist. An exponent of the British evolutionary school, his work focused primarily on anthropology of religion. In this field he modified the theories of E. B. Tylor.

Marett was the only son of Sir Robert Pipon Marett, poet and Bailiff of Jersey, and Julia Anne Marett. He succeeded E.B. Tylor as Reader in Anthropology at Oxford in 1910, teaching the Diploma in Anthropology at the Pitt Rivers Museum. He worked on the palaeolithic site of La Cotte de St Brelade from 1910–1914, recovering some hominid teeth and other remains of habitation by Neanderthal man. In 1914 he established a Department of Social Anthropology, and in 1916 he published "The Site, Fauna, and Industry of La Cotte de St. Brelade, Jersey" (Archaeologia LXVII, 1916). He became Rector of Exeter College, Oxford. His students included Marius Barbeau, Dorothy Garrod, Earnest Albert Hooten, Henry Field[1] and Rosalind Moss [2]

Whereas E.B. Tylor had considered animism to be the earliest form of human religion, Marett was convinced that primitive man had not developed the intellectual ability to form the conceptual structures Tylor proposed, and this led Marett to criticize Tylor’s theories of animism, suggesting that early religion was more emotional and intuitional in origin. Marett therefore argued that animism was preceded by an earlier form of belief, a magical "pre-animism" characterized by an impersonal force which Marett identified with the Melanesian concept of mana. Marett's idea of mana was developed in The Threshold of Religion (1909), Anthropology (1912), and Psychology and Folklore (1920).

Works and lectures

  • The Threshold of Religion, (1909)
  • Anthropology, (1912)
  • Psychology and Folklore, (1920)
  • Faith, Hope and Charity in Primitive Religion, (1930–1932)
  • Sacraments of Simple Folk, (1930–1932)
  • A Jerseyman at Oxford, (1941) autobiography


  1. ^ Field 1952. p. 35
  2. ^ James, TGH. "Moss, Rosalind Louisa Beaufort (1890–1990)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 19 October 2013. 
  • Field, Henry. The Track of Man. New York: Doubleday, 1952.

External links

  • Wikisource logo Works written by or about Robert Ranulph Marett at Wikisource
Academic offices
Preceded by
Lewis Richard Farnell
Rector of Exeter College, Oxford
Succeeded by
Eric Arthur Barber

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