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Legal primitivism was a complex phenomenon that combined the study of early European legal traditions with studies of the legal customs of indigenous peoples. Lawyers and Savages: Ancient History and Legal Realism in the Making of Legal Anthropology explores the rise and fall of legal primitivism, and its connection to the colonial encounter. Through examples such as blood feuds, communalism, ordeals, ritual formalism and polygamy, this book traces the intellectual revolution of legal anthropology and demonstrates how this scholarship had a clear impact in legitimating the colonial experience. Detailing how legal realism drew on anthropology in order to help counter the hypothetical constructs of legal formalism, this book also shows how, despite their explicit rejection, the central themes of primitive law continue to influence current ideas – about indigenous legal systems, but also of the place and role of law in development.
Written in an engaging style and rich in examples from history and literature, this book will be invaluable to those with interests in legal realism, legal history or legal anthropology.