Firth, Raymond, 1901-2002

Alternative names
Birth 1901-03-25
Death 2002-02-22
New Zealanders

Biographical notes:

Sir Raymond Firth was born in 1901 in New Zealand. He was educated at Auckland University College, where he specialised in economics and wrote his MA thesis on the local kauri gum industry. In 1924 he came to the London School of Economics to work for a higher degree in economics, but on arrival changed his subject to anthropology and completed a PhD on the primitive economics of the New Zealand Maori under the supervision of Malinowski. After obtaining his PhD, Firth returned to New Zealand and in 1928-1929 made his first and longest visit to the island of Tikopia. On his return he joined the staff of the department of anthropology at the University of Sydney, first as a lecturer and then as acting professor. In 1932 he returned to London to take up a post under Malinowski at the LSE. He was a lecturer in anthropology 1932-1935, and a reader 1935-1944. During the Second World War, Firth was posted to the Admiralty's Naval Intelligence Division, where he was responsible for compiling the geographical handbooks relating to the Pacific islands. Following Malinowski's death in 1942, Firth was appointed Professor of Anthropology of the University of London in 1944. He retired from this post in 1968, but remained professionally active right up until his death at the age of 100 in 2002. Firth had a wide range of research interests, but is best remembered for his work on Tikopia and Malaya. He wrote extensively about Tikopia society and culture throughout his career, and returned to do further fieldwork there in 1952, 1966, 1973 and 1978. He first visited Malaya in 1939-1940 to study the economics and social conditions of peasant communities in the coastal region of Kelantan, and visited again in 1947 and 1963 to continue his research. He also made a significant contribution to the field of kinship studies, leading several projects on kinship in London in the period 1947-1965.

From the guide to the FIRTH, Sir Raymond William, 1901-2002, Kt, anthropologist, 1902-2001, (British Library of Political and Economic Science)


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