Lafitau revisited: American savages and universal history

Robert Launay*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Like the Victorian anthropologists, Lafitau constructed a comparison between "savages" and "ancients." Specifically, he asserted the universality of three fundamental human institutions: religion, marriage, and government. However, he constructed his arguments in radically different ways for each of these institutions. First, he compiled a generalized account of "pagan" religion amalgamated from classical sources and descriptions of Native American religious practices. Secondly, he compared the Iroquois practices he observed with an absolute template of marriage as a divinely ordained institution. Thirdly, he provided a functional analysis of Iroquois institutions to demonstrate the effectiveness of their form of government.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)337-343
Number of pages7
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2010


  • Government
  • History of anthropology
  • Iroquois
  • Kinship
  • Missionaries
  • Religion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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