Alfred Reginald Radcliffe-Brown was born in Birmingham, England in 1881 and died in 1955. The English anthropologist worked among traditional people in the south Pacific. He believed scientific methods should be applied to the study of a society and its common values, this is also known as "collective consciousness."
According to the Dictionary of Anthropology he was an
"Anthropologist, comparative sociolgist, known for the theoretical perspective that came to be called 'structural-functionalism' and for hleping to establish anthropology as a discipline in the United Kingdom and British Commonwealth. He was influential in establishing his theoretical perspective in the United States where it coexisted with and competed against the school of thought begun by Franz Boas.
He began his university career at Cambridge in 1901 where he was known as Anarachy Brown because of his political inclinations. He knew personally the anarchist writer Peter Kropotkin, whose ideas anticipated brown's notion of society as a self-regulating system.
His primary influence was as a teacher. He possessed a charismatic personality and was a brilliant lecturer, generally performing without any notes whatsoever. He published little for a person of his stature, but all his writings (often first delivered as public lectures exhibit a simple clarity and conversational style rare in the social sciences.
He turned against the debates over a diffusion and evolution. In his famous 1924 paper, "The mother's brother in South Africa," he argued against conjectural history and in favor of a synchronic approach to the explanation of social institutions.
From 1926 - 1931, he taught anthropology at the University of Sydney. From 1931-1937 he taught at the University of Chicago.
The University of Oxford, where he was the first President of the Association of Anthropologists, established lectures in his name. The first lecture was given in 1972 by Sir Raymond Firth on "The Skeptical Anthropologist? Social Anthropology and Marxist Views on Society." (Interestingly one of Bessie's papers for the good Dr. was on a review of a book by Firth!)
He wrote two books. The Andaman Islanders, was published in 1922. In it he discussed his work among the traditional people of Australia. His second book, Social Organization of Australian Tribes, written in 1931. It described his later studies of the aborigines of Australia. Order A Natural Science of Society - published after his death Structure and Function in Primitive Society-
His functional analysis advanced social anthropology as a science. Radcliffe-Brown also contributed to the study of kinship or the relationship between persons by blood or marriage. All societies recognize relationship by blood or by descent by a common ancestor. In some societies, however, the concept of kinship extends beyond the biologicalfamily. It extends to groups or clans in which blood kinship is mythological, but which are governed by laws.
His work is regarded today as overly simplistic and excessively positivistic."
Bessie had two papers which for reasons unknown found their way into the papers of Robert Redfield.
The first; "The Native of New Zealand, based on Firth's book, Primitive Economics of the New Zealand Maori. The second paper is titled, Magic, as believed and practised by most African tribes today. From the Functionalistic View Point.
She took Redfield's class, Anthropology 358 Ethnology of Africa, taught in the Autumn quarter of 1931. Anthropology 357 "The Peoples of the South Pacific," Winter Quarter 1932.
She also took Anthropology 371 -- Family, Kin and Clan from Redfield as well as Anthropology 364 -- Primitive Religions and Anthropology and Anthropology 494--Research work in Ethnology.
The papers she wrote show a growing consciousness of the people of Amazonia as people of equal value with our society. she expressed frustration at the exploitive character of much of the work at that time.
An example of this developing attitude was her frustration expressed clearly in her paper based on Firth's book. She finds Firth's conclusion that we should better understand these people to better exploit them bankrupt. "If the value of this study is to help the British to better exploit the native, wrest his land and resources from him and make him like it, we lose interest. "