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British Library of Political and Economic Science

FIRTH, Sir Raymond William, 1901-2002, Kt, anthropologist


Reference code(s): GB 0097 FIRTH

Held at: British Library of Political and Economic Science

Title: FIRTH, Sir Raymond William, 1901-2002, Kt, anthropologist

Date(s): 1902-2001

Level of description: collection

Extent: 209 boxes

Name of creator(s): Firth | Sir | Raymond William | 1901-2002 | Knight | anthropologist


Administrative/Biographical history:

Sir Raymond Firth was born in 1901 in New Zealand. He was educated at Auckland University College, where he specialised in economics and wrote his MA thesis on the local kauri gum industry. In 1924 he came to the London School of Economics to work for a higher degree in economics, but on arrival changed his subject to anthropology and completed a PhD on the primitive economics of the New Zealand Maori under the supervision of Malinowski. After obtaining his PhD, Firth returned to New Zealand and in 1928-1929 made his first and longest visit to the island of Tikopia. On his return he joined the staff of the department of anthropology at the University of Sydney, first as a lecturer and then as acting professor. In 1932 he returned to London to take up a post under Malinowski at the LSE. He was a lecturer in anthropology 1932-1935, and a reader 1935-1944. During the Second World War, Firth was posted to the Admiralty's Naval Intelligence Division, where he was responsible for compiling the geographical handbooks relating to the Pacific islands. Following Malinowski's death in 1942, Firth was appointed Professor of Anthropology of the University of London in 1944. He retired from this post in 1968, but remained professionally active right up until his death at the age of 100 in 2002. Firth had a wide range of research interests, but is best remembered for his work on Tikopia and Malaya. He wrote extensively about Tikopia society and culture throughout his career, and returned to do further fieldwork there in 1952, 1966, 1973 and 1978. He first visited Malaya in 1939-1940 to study the economics and social conditions of peasant communities in the coastal region of Kelantan, and visited again in 1947 and 1963 to continue his research. He also made a significant contribution to the field of kinship studies, leading several projects on kinship in London in the period 1947-1965.


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers relating to Sir Raymond Firth's research and professional career, including field notes and papers relating to Firth's research on the Tikopia, the Malayan peasantry and the New Zealand Maori; field notes and papers relating to Firth's studies of London kinship; texts of lectures and seminar papers delivered by Firth; subject files compiled by Firth; papers relating to relating to Firth's involvement with various academic and professional institutions, including the Association Of Social Anthropologists, the Australian National University, the Colonial Office, the Colonial Social Science Research Council, the West India Social Survey, and the London School of Economics and Political Science; correspondence, including correspondence with Bronislaw Malinowski and other professional colleagues. The collection also includes field notes, diaries and other papers relating to Rosemary Firth's research on the domestic economy of the Malayan peasantry.


Language/scripts of material: Mainly English; some Tikopia and Malayan

System of arrangement:

Arranged in sections as follows: 1. Tikopia and Oceania; 2. Malaya and South East Asia; 3. London kinship; 4. New Zealand Maoris; 5. Lectures, seminars and conferences; 6. Subject files; 7. Institutions; 8. People; 9. Publications; 10. Personal and biographical; 11. Texts by other people. For Firth's collection of negatives and photographic prints, please refer to the FIRTH PHOTOGRAPHS collection

Conditions governing access:

Mainly open; some items closed

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copyright is retained by the estate of Sir Raymond Firth.

Physical characteristics:

Finding aids:

Online catalogue available

Detailed catalogue


Appraisal, destruction and scheduling information:


Archival history:

The bulk of the collection was deposited by the Firth family, either by Firth himself (he deposited some material during his lifetime) or by Hugh Firth. The North London Kinship Project files appear to have been deposited separately, mainly by the project team (Firth, Anthony Forge and Jane Hubert) in the 1970s, with some additional files being added by Jane Hubert in 2005.

Immediate source of acquisition:


Existence and location of originals:

Existence and location of copies:

Related material:

The British Library of Political and Economic Science also holds correspondence of Firth with B Z Seligman, 1950 (Ref: Seligman Papers/7/1/3).

Cambridge University Library, Department of Manuscripts and University Archives, holds correspondence of Firth with Meyer Fortes, 1937-1982 (Ref: Add MS 8405).

Publication note:



Archivist's note: Sources: Copied from LSE Archives CALM database by Anna Towlson

Rules or conventions: Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions: Apr 2008

Colonial countries | Political systems
Higher education | Educational levels
Traditional music | Musical styles

Personal names
Firth | Rosemary | d 2001 | nee Upcott | anthropologist
Firth | Sir | Raymond William | 1901-2002 | Knight | anthropologist
Malinowski | Bronislaw Kasper | 1884-1942 | Polish anthropologist

Corporate names
Association Of Social Anthropologists
Australian National University
Colonial Office
Colonial Social Science Research Council
LSE | London School of Economics and Political Science x London School of Economics and Political Science

London | England | UK | Western Europe | Europe
Tikopia | Vanuatu | Oceania
Asia and the Pacific
South East Asia