Macfarlane, Alan (Donald James) 1941-
MACFARLANE, Alan (Donald James) 1941-
PERSONAL: Born December 20, 1941, in Assam, India; son of Donald Kennedy (a military officer) and Iris (Stirling) Macfarlane; married Gillian Ions, 1966 (divorced); married Sarah Tarring Harrison, 1981; children: (first marriage) Katharine. Education: Worcester College, Oxford, B.A., M.A., 1963, D.Phil., 1967; London School of Economics, M.Phil., 1968; School of Oriental and African Studies, Ph.D., 1972. Hobbies and other interests: Walking, gardening, music, second-hand book hunting.
ADDRESSES: Home—25 Lode Rd., Lode, Cambridge CB5 9ER, England. Office—Department of Social Anthropology, Free School Ln., Cambridge CB2 1ST, England. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: University of Cambridge, Cambridge, England, senior research fellow in history at King's College, 1971-74, lecturer, 1975-81, fellow, 1981—, reader in historical anthropology, 1981-91, professor of anthropological science, 1991—. Has lectured at other academic institutions, including University of Liverpool, 1974, London School of Economics, 1978, Oxford University, 1995, Keio University, 1999, and School of Oriental and African Studies, 2000.
MEMBER: Royal Historical Society (fellow), Royal Anthropological Institute (fellow), British Academy (fellow), Academia Europaea (fellow), Association of Social Anthropologists.
AWARDS, HONORS: Rivers Memorial Medal, Royal Anthropological Institute, 1984; William J. Goode Medal, American Sociological Association, 1987.
Witchcraft in Tudor and Stuart England: A Regional and Comparative Study, Harper (New York, NY), 1970.
(Editor) The Diary of Ralph Josselin, 1616-1683, Oxford University Press (London, England), 1976.
Resources and Population: A Study of the Gurungs of Nepal, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1976.
(With Sarah Harrison and Charles Jardine) Reconstructing Historical Communities, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1977.
The Origins of English Individualism: The Family, Property, and Social Transition, Blackwell (Oxford, England), 1978, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1979.
(With Sarah Harrison) The Justice and the Mare's Ale: Law and Disorder in Seventeenth-Century England, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1981.
A Guide to English Historical Records, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1983.
(Editor and author of foreword) Christina Larner, Witchcraft and Religion: The Politics of Popular Belief, Blackwell (New York, NY), 1984.
Marriage and Love in England: Modes of Reproduction, 1300-1840, Blackwell (New York, NY), 1986.
The Culture of Capitalism (essays), Blackwell (New York, NY), 1987.
(With Indrabahadur Gurung) Gurungs of Nepal: A Guide to the Gurungs, Ratna Pustak Bhandar (Kathmandu, Nepal), 1990.
The Savage Wars of Peace: England, Japan, and the Malthusian Trap, Blackwell (Cambridge, MA), 1997.
The Riddle of the Modern World: Of Liberty, Wealth and Equality, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2000.
The Making of the Modern World: Visions from the West and East, Palgrave (New York, NY), 2002.
(With Gerry Martin) Glass: A World History, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 2002, published as The Glass Bathyscaphe: How Glass Changed the World, Profile Books (London, England), 2002.
The Empire of Tea: The Remarkable History of the Plant That Took over the World, Overlook Press (New York, NY), 2004.
Letters to Lily: On How the World Works, Profile Books (London, England), 2005.
SIDELIGHTS: British academician and author Alan Macfarlane has published several works in the field of historical anthropology. Though he has also written about the Gurung people of Nepal, he has focused primarily on English people living in pre-modern centuries. Macfarlane is perhaps best known for his 1978 volume, The Origins of English Individualism: The Family, Property, and Social Transition. In this and other books he has asserted the controversial argument that England never really had the pre-industrial peasant society posited by nineteenth-century communist theorist Karl Marx and used by Marxist philosophers ever since as part of their theoretical justifications. Some of Macfarlane's other titles include Resources and Population: A Study of the Gurungs of Nepal, Witchcraft in Tudor and Stuart England: A Regional and Comparative Study, Marriage and Love in England: Modes of Reproduction, 1300-1840, The Culture of Capitalism, and Glass: A World History.
One of Macfarlane's first books was 1970's Witchcraft in Tudor and Stuart England. In it, he examines many of the accusations of witchcraft made in England during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in which those found guilty were often burned to death at the stake. Macfarlane focuses particularly on the English county of Essex, and takes into account the records of assizes and trials available to scholars. As Lee Ash pointed out in Library Journal, the author places far more emphasis on the economic and social circumstances surrounding each case than he does on the religious issues involved. Similarly, an Economist reviewer observed that Macfarlane "reject[s] general explanations which relate witchcraft to the battle between religions or the survival of a pagan cult." Ash went on to declare Witchcraft in Tudor and Stuart England to be "probably one of the most significant modern contributions" to the subject.
In the same year that Witchcraft in Tudor and Stuart England saw print, Macfarlane's The Family Life of Ralph Josselin, a Seventeenth-Century Clergyman: An Essay in Historical Anthropology became available to interested readers. The author gathered the basic material for this work from Josselin's existing diary, which he later edited as a more inclusive version than that first printed. Josselin was a Puritan clergyman who kept a diary from 1616 to 1683—including the time when the long line of British monarchs was interrupted by the Puritan-supported protectorate of Oliver Cromwell—but according to one of the reviewers of the volume, Macfarlane does not make clear to which specific Puritan sect the minister belonged. He is more concerned with analyzing Josselin's references to his various and many family members. Austin Woolrych, in the English Historical Review, maintained that the author "would surely have reached more generally valid conclusions if he had extended his detailed analysis to the life records of other Puritan clergymen such as Oliver Heywood, Henry Newcome, Thomas Jolly and Adam Martindale." A Times Literary Supplement commentator, however, gave high praise to The Family Life of Ralph Josselin, calling it "a crisply written and penetrating study of a man's mind, circumstances and environment," and predicting that historians would decree that "Macfarlane has … added something very worthwhile indeed to our knowledge and understanding."
Macfarlane, according to Alan Ryan in Listener, "sets out the central features of a peasant society such as did exist in Eastern Europe, and such as historians have supposed to exist in England" in The Origins of English Individualism. Ryan went on to explain: "The central features concern the way families relate to the land; property is family property and heads of households cannot alienate it except to avert disaster; there is, thus, no land market. Labour," the reviewer continued, "is provided from within the family; family members automatically have a right to subsistence from family land and a duty to work it; in consequence, the age of marriage is low, because the pool of labour has to be kept up by the family unit of cultivation." Macfarlane then reveals to the reader that English society as it has existed since the middle ages has contained practices in opposition to the peasant model. Such practices include property owners being able to choose who to bestow their property upon; the frequent sale of land; commoners working for wages; and an average marriage age much higher than that of true peasant societies.
Spectator contributor Colin Welch, reviewing Macfarlane's The Origins of English Individualism, reported that "his thesis provoked roars of dissent from academic bigwigs who … took a quite opposite and then conventional view. Some were very rude." The Origins of English Individualism did draw praise from some critics, however, including Ryan, who hailed it as "an altogether admirable piece of work." A Choice reviewer judged it to be "a very important work implying new directions and interpretations for English, economic, and social history." "Most history collections will need it," affirmed Richard C. Hoffman in Library Journal.
Macfarlane further explored the way English marriage customs helped prepare the country for the Industrial Revolution in his 1986 effort, Marriage and Love in England. According to Macfarlane, the English during the years of the book's subtitle engaged in marital and familial practices that greatly differed from those of the Marxist peasant model. In the latter model, parents usually choose spouses for their children, often formalizing the marriage before the bride and groom reached adulthood. By contrast, in England people generally chose their own marriage partners—frequently for love, though parents, of course, often tried to influence the choice. Also, marriage was generally put off until the man could be confident of an income that would support a wife and children, and until the woman could bring a large portion of money into the marriage from her dowry. Marriage and Love in England met with much approbation from critics. "Much of what Macfarlane says about marriage is already well-known," asserted R. A. Houlbrooke in the English Historical Review. "His originality lies in the bold and incisive way in which he demonstrates the connections between different parts of the pattern, illuminates it by means of challenging comparisons, and sets it in the larger context of social history." Ferdinand Mount lauded Marriage and Love in England in his Spectator appraisal as "a spirited and authoritative work."
The Culture of Capitalism, which appeared in 1987, is a collection of Macfarlane's essays providing an expanded explanation of his assertion that capitalism gained a head start in England and, to a lesser degree, in other Western European nations. In the words of Jack A. Goldstone in Journal of Economic History, "Macfarlane's book is devoted to showing that in a variety of ways—in their attitudes toward property, kin, evil, nature, and love—English peasants, as far back as we can trace the evidence, show 'modern' attitudes, with a high degree of rationality, flexibility, and individualism." Goldstone added that The Culture of Capitalism "raise[s] important hypotheses." Spectator contributor Colin Welch declared Macfarlane's analysis in this volume to be "calm … fruitful … original and penetrating."
Glass, cowritten by Macfarlane with Gerry Martin, makes the argument that the manufacture of glass in Western civilization was a central reason for that region's scientific revolution beginning in the twelfth century. While detailing the many uses to which glass was put in scientific research, including the creation of lenses for microscopes and telescopes, and the many products created from the substance, including test tubes and other instruments, the authors also compare the European use of glass to the uses found in other parts of the world. In East Asia, for example, where little scientific advancement occurred, glass was primarily used for decorative purposes. Robert Macfarlane, in the Spectator, found that the authors make "a very convincing case for glass as a key historical driver." Michael D. Cramer, writing in Library Journal, described Glass as "a thoroughly readable, carefully argued work, filled with delightful surprises." In Booklist, Gilbert Taylor concluded that Glass was "a novel and inquisitive examination of a common but remarkable technology."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Historical Review, February, 1999, review of The Savage Wars of Peace: England, Japan, and the Malthusian Trap, p. 155.
Booklist, October 15, 2002, Gilbert Taylor, review of Glass: A World History, p. 370.
Canadian Journal of History, April, 2000, Philip C. Brown, review of The Savage Wars of Peace, p. 85.
Choice, June, 1979, review of The Origins of English Individualism: The Family, Property, and Social Transition, pp. 598-599.
Economist, January 23, 1971, review of Witchcraft in Tudor and Stuart England: A Regional and Comparative Study, p. 51.
English Historical Review, April, 1971, pp. 412-413; April, 1987, R. A. Houlbrooke, review of Marriage and Love in England: Modes of Reproduction, 1300-1840, pp. 419-422.
Independent Review, fall, 2002, Deepak K. Lal, review of The Riddle of the Modern World: Of Liberty, Wealth and Equality, p. 289.
Journal of Economic History, December, 1991, Jack A. Goldstone, review of The Culture of Capitalism, pp. 1001-1003.
Journal of Economic Literature, March, 2002, review of The Riddle of the Modern World, p. 228.
Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 2004, review of The Empire of Tea: The Remarkable History of the Plant That Took over the World, p. 60.
Library Journal, March 1, 1971, Lee Ash, review of Witchcraft in Tudor and Stuart England, p. 843; February 15, 1979, Richard C. Hoffman, review of The Origins of English Individualism, p. 490; November 1, 2002, Michael D. Cramer, review of Glass, p. 126.
Listener, December 14, 1978, Alan Ryan, review of The Origins of English Individualism, p. 790.
London Review of Books, November 11, 1999, review of Withcraft in Tudor and Stuart England, p. 34.
Publishers Weekly, December 15, 2003, review of The Empire of Tea, p. 60.
Spectator, February 15, 1986, Ferdinand Mount, review of Marriage and Love in England, pp. 21-22; September 5, 1987, Colin Welch, review of The Culture of Capitalism, pp. 28-29; July 20, 2002, Robert Macfarlane, "The Invisible Friend of Man," p. 36.
Times Literary Supplement, August 7, 1970, review of The Family Life of Ralph Josselin, a Seventeenth-Century Clergyman: An Essay in Historical Anthropology, p. 870.*
Alan Macfarlane Web site, http://www.alanmacfarlane.com/ (July 24, 2005).*
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