Frazer, Sir James George


Frazer, Sir James George
born Jan. 1, 1854, Glasgow, Scot.
died May 7, 1941, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, Eng.

British anthropologist, folklorist, and classical scholar.

Frazer attended Glasgow University and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he became a professor and remained the rest of his life. In The Golden Bough (1890; enlarged to 12 vols., 1911–15), Frazer examined the evolution of modes of thought from the magical to the religious and, finally, to the scientific. Although his evolutionary sequence is no longer accepted, Frazer's synthesis of the new science of cultural anthropology with traditional humanistic concerns and his lively descriptions of exotic cultural beliefs and practices had a wide influence. His other works include Totemism and Exogamy (1910) and Folk-Lore in the Old Testament (1918).

* * *

▪ British anthropologist

born Jan. 1, 1854, Glasgow, Scot.
died May 7, 1941, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, Eng.

      British anthropologist, folklorist, and classical scholar, best remembered as the author of The Golden Bough.

      From an academy in Helensburgh, Dumbarton, Frazer went to Glasgow University (1869), entered Trinity College, Cambridge (1874), and became a fellow (1879). In 1907 he was appointed professor of social anthropology at Liverpool, but he returned to Cambridge after one session, remaining there for the rest of his life.

      His outstanding position among anthropologists was established by the publication in 1890 of The Golden Bough: A Study in Comparative Religion (enlarged to 12 vol., 1911–15; abridged edition in 1 vol., 1922; supplementary vol. Aftermath, 1936). The underlying theme of the work is Frazer's theory of a general development of modes of thought from the magical to the religious and, finally, to the scientific. His distinction between magic and religion (magic as an attempt to control events by technical acts based upon faulty reasoning, religion as an appeal for help to spiritual beings) has been basically assumed in much anthropological writing since his time. Although the evolutionary sequence of magical, religious, and scientific thought is no longer accepted and Frazer's broad general psychological theory has proved unsatisfactory, his work enabled him to synthesize and compare a wider range of information about religious and magical practices than has been achieved subsequently by any other single anthropologist.

      The Golden Bough directed attention to the combination of priestly with kingly office in the “divine kingships” widely reported from Africa and elsewhere. According to Frazer, the institution of divine kingship derived from the belief that the well-being of the social and natural orders depended upon the vitality of the king, who must therefore be slain when his powers begin to fail him and be replaced by a vigorous successor.

      In making a vast range of primitive custom appear intelligible to European thinkers of his time, Frazer had a wide influence among men of letters; and, though he traveled little himself, he was in close contact with missionaries and administrators who provided information for him and valued his interpretation of it. His other works include Totemism and Exogamy (1910) and Folk-Lore in the Old Testament (1918). He was knighted in 1914.

Additional Reading
Robert Ackerman, J.G. Frazer: His Life and Work (1987).

* * *


Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Frazer,Sir James George — Fra·zer (frāʹzər), Sir James George. 1854 1941. British anthropologist who examined the importance of magic, religion, and science to the development of human thought in his most famous work, The Golden Bough (1890). * * * …   Universalium

  • Frazer, Sir James George — (1854 1941)    An anthropologist who held that all human societies have evolved through similar stages of magical and religious belief. These he established by comparing ancient mythologies with the beliefs and rituals of tribal societies in… …   A Dictionary of English folklore

  • Frazer, Sir James George — (1 ene. 1854, Glasgow, Escocia–7 may. 1941, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, Inglaterra). Antropólogo británico, experto en folclor y textos clásicos. Estudió en la Universidad de Glasgow y en el Trinity College, Cambridge; llegó a ser profesor en este …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Frazer, Sir James George — (1854 1941) Born and educated in Scotland, Frazer came to Cambridge to carry out research in 1879, remaining there for the rest of his long career. Originally trained as a classicist, he came to comparative anthropology under the influence of the …   Dictionary of sociology

  • FRAZER, Sir James George — (1854 1941)    a British lawyer influenced by William Robertson SMITH who became the first ever professor of SOCIAL ANTHROPOLOGY at the University of Liverpool, England in 1907. He quickly retired from this post and devoted his life to writing.… …   Concise dictionary of Religion

  • Sir James George Frazer — noun English social anthropologist noted for studies of primitive religion and magic (1854 1941) • Syn: ↑Frazer, ↑James George Frazer • Instance Hypernyms: ↑anthropologist …   Useful english dictionary

  • James George Frazer — noun English social anthropologist noted for studies of primitive religion and magic (1854 1941) • Syn: ↑Frazer, ↑Sir James George Frazer • Instance Hypernyms: ↑anthropologist …   Useful english dictionary

  • James George Frazer — Sir James George Frazer (1933) Sir James George Frazer (* 1. Januar 1854 in Glasgow; † 7. Mai 1941 in Cambridge) war ein schottischer Ethnologe und Klassischer Philologe. Er gilt neben Sir Edward Burnett Tylor und Émile Durkheim als Mitbegr …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • James George Frazer — Sir James George Frazer Nacimiento 1 de enero de 1854 …   Wikipedia Español

  • James George Frazer — Sir James George Frazer (January 1, 1854, Glasgow, Scotland ndash; May 7, 1941), was a Scottish social anthropologist influential in the early stages of the modern studies of mythology and comparative religion. [Mary Beard, Frazer, Leach, and… …   Wikipedia


Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.