The Haddon Library

Lafitau

Moeurs des sauvages amériquains

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Joseph François Lafitau (1681-1746) was a Jesuit who spent the years 1711-1717 in Canada, in close contact with many Iroquois. His agenda was that of a missionary, and he had a concern to prove parallels between the ways of the Iroquois and the ways of classical antiquity. Voltaire satirised him for that line of argument. But Lafitau’s observation of his Iroquois neighbours was, or pointed to, the method of an ethnographer.  See David Harvey’s 2008 article ‘Living antiquity: Lafitau’s Moeurs des sauvages amériquains and the religious roots of the enlightenment science of man’ for an account of how those things affected each other.

Oh and yes, of course image 2 is in the book.  But Lafitau was not a believer in headless people.

An early edition of Lafitau’s Moeurs des sauvages amériquains is in the Haddon Library. The images are from slides made by Janet Hall in the 1980s. With the generous support of Alan Macfarlane, the slides have now been digitised – the work done in Nepal, by members of the Digital Himalaya project; thanks to Mark Turin for facilitating this.

Thanks to Anita Herle and Jon Dawson for help of various kinds