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Fürer-Haimendorf, Christoph von

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0102 PP MS 19
Held at: School of Oriental and African Studies
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Full title: Fürer-Haimendorf, Christoph von
Date(s): c1917-1990
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 56 boxes, 9 outsize diagrams
Name of creator(s): Haimendorf | Christoph | Von | Fürer- | 1909-1995 | anthropologist


Administrative/Biographical history:

Christoph von Fürer-Haimendorf was born on 22 June 1909 in Vienna, Austria. In 1927 he entered the Theresianische Akademie of the University of Vienna, where he studied anthropology and archaeology. Fürer-Haimendorf received his Dr Phil in 1931, based on a doctoral thesis comparing the social organisation of the hill tribes of Assam and north-west Burma. From 1931 until 1934 he worked as an Assistant Lecturer at Vienna University.

The opportunity for fieldwork came when Fürer-Haimendorf was awarded the Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship for 1935-1937. In 1935, he undertook a period of post-doctoral study at the London School of Economics, where he attended seminars held by Bronislaw Malinowski, and met many future British anthropologists such as Raymond Firth, Meyer Fortes and Audrey Richards. In 1936, Fürer-Haimendorf left London to work among the Nagas of Assam along the north-eastern frontier of India. In this work, Fürer-Haimendorf was greatly assisted by the anthropologist J P Mills, who was then Deputy Commissioner of the Naga Hills District. He returned to Austria in 1937 after thirteen months of fieldwork.

Fürer-Haimendorf was en route to the Naga Hills for a second period of research when the Second World War broke out. Being in possession of a German passport, he was arrested and interned as an enemy alien (although his internment was carried out with great courtesy, due to his excellent connections in the British colonial administration). He was subsequently confined to Hyderabad State, under the jurisdiction of the Nizam, for the duration of the War. During this time he was able to undertake important fieldwork amongst the tribal groups of Hyderabad, including the Chenchus, Reddis and Raj Gonds. From 1944 to 1945 he was appointed Special Officer and Assistant Political Officer to the North East Frontier Agency (NEFA), and was permitted to carry out fieldwork amongst the Apa-Tanis of the Arunachal Pradesh area of Assam. From 1945 to 1949, Fürer-Haimendorf was appointed to the position of Adviser for Tribes and Backward Classes to the Nizam's Government, to deal with the issue of land reform in Hyderabad. In the course of this work, he set up various educational and other schemes for tribal peoples, with the aim of preserving and safeguarding indigenous cultures and languages. He also accepted a teaching appointment as Professor of Anthropology at Osmania University, Hyderabad.

Between 1976 and 1980, Fürer-Haimendorf undertook a series of investigations on the changes that had occurred among the tribal populations he had originally studied in the 1940s (as he termed it, a 're-study'). The main focus of this work was Andhra Pradesh, and the Gonds of the Adilabad District.

In 1949, he accepted a lectureship at the School of Oriental Studies in London. Shortly after his initial appointment he was made Reader, and then Chair of Asian Anthropology in 1951. He was founding Head of the Department of Cultural Anthropology (later Anthropology and Sociology) from 1950 until 1975. He was appointed as Acting Director for the academic session 1969-1970. By the time of his retirement from SOAS in 1976, Fürer-Haimendorf had built up the largest department of anthropology in the country.

In 1953 the Kingdom of Nepal was officially opened to outsiders, and Fürer-Haimendorf became the first foreign anthropologist to be allowed to work in Nepal. He was initially drawn to study the Sherpas of Eastern Nepal. Until the mid-1960s, he concentrated his fieldwork almost exclusively on Nepal, during which time he walked the length and breadth of the country, often in the company of Dor Bahadur Bista. He made return visits throughout the 1970s and 1980s.

Fürer-Haimendorf received numerous academic honours including the Sykes and Roy Medals; RAI Rivers Memorial Medal (1949); his appointment as President of the Royal Anthropological Institute (1975-1977); the King Birendra Prize from the Royal Nepal Academy (1976); and the Austrian Order of Merit for Art and Science (1982). He was Munro Lecturer at Edinburgh University (1959) and also gave the Myers, Foerster and Frazer Lectures. He was visiting professor at the Colegio de Mexico (1964-1966).

In 1938, he married Elizabeth Barnardo (Betty), who became his co-worker, organiser of his expeditions, and a notable ethnographer in her own right. She died in 1987. Fürer-Haimendorf died on 11 June 1995, at the age of 85.

For further information, see introduction in Culture and Morality: essays in honour of Christoph von Fürer-Haimendorf, ed Adrian C Mayer (Oxford University Press, Delhi, 1981), pp vii-xvi, and the obituary in The Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, vol lix (1996).

Fürer-Haimendorf's numerous publications included: The Naked Nagas (1939); The Chenchus (vol 1 of The Aboriginal Tribes of Hyderabad, 1943); The Reddis of the Bison Hills (vol 2, 1945); The Raj Gonds of Adilabad (vol 3, 1948); Himalayan Barbary (1955); The Apa Tanis and their Neighbours (1962); The Sherpas of Nepal (1964); Caste and Kin in Nepal, India and Ceylon (1966); Morals and Merit (1967); The Konyak Nagas (1969); Himalayan Traders (1975); Return to the Naked Nagas (1976); The Gonds of Andhra Pradesh (1979); A Himalayan Tribe, from Cattle to Cash (1980); Asian Highland Societies in Anthropological Perspective (1981); Highlanders of Arunachal Pradesh (1982); Tribes of India: the Struggle for Survival (1982); Himalayan Adventure (1983); The Sherpas Transformed (1984); Tribal Populations and Cultures of the Indian Subcontinent (1985); The Renaissance of Tibetan Civilization (1990). He also edited René de Nebesky-Wojkowitz's Tibetan Religious Dances after the author's sudden death in 1959. He published his autobiography, Life Among Indian Tribes: the Autobiography of an Anthropologist, in 1990.


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers, c1917-1990, of Christoph von Fürer-Haimendorf relating to his work on tribes and anthropology in India, Ceylon, Nepal, Tibet and the Philippines.

Papers relating to anthropological fieldwork, 1936-1989, comprise diaries, 1936-1985, some by Betty Fürer-Haimendorf, including detailed accounts of fieldwork; field-notes, 1936-1989; research proposals and reports relating to fieldwork, c1953-1985; fieldwork questionnaires, 1949-1957, on marriage, economic status and kinship; house-lists and genealogies, undated; diagrams and charts on distribution of tribes, families, households, and herds, undated; maps, undated; official correspondence and permits to travel, c1974-1988; miscellaneous papers, c1960-1981, including some relating to travel arrangements.

Papers relating to tribal welfare and development, Andhra Pradesh, c1918-1985, comprise tour notes, c1918, 1945-1946; correspondence between Fürer-Haimendorf and the Revenue Department of the Nizam's Government, 1939-1949; reports on Hyderabad Tribal Affairs, c1935-1949; Gondi reading charts for adults produced as part of an education scheme, 1943-1948; correspondence with tribesmen concerning the alienation of tribal land, 1976-1978; notes on the position of Indian tribal populations, c1960-1985; press cuttings on tribal affairs in India, c1977-1984; Government reports and publications, c1949-1979; miscellaneous papers on tribal welfare, undated.

Working papers for teaching and research, c1949-1979, comprise conference and symposia papers, 1960-1978; lectures and seminar papers, c1949-1977; working papers (subject files) on miscellaneous research topics, c1960-1979 but largely undated; working papers created by René de Nebesky-Wojkowitz on Tibetan dance, religion and ritual, and on medicine and medicinal plants, undated.

Publications and accompanying material, c1917-1990, comprise published texts and articles, 1932-1990; rough drafts and working copies (books) [1939]-[1990]; rough drafts and working copies (articles), largely undated; publications containing photographs by Fürer-Haimendorf, 1937-1960; illustrations used in texts by Fürer-Haimendorf, undated; reviews of Fürer-Haimendorf's publications, 1943-1982; reviews by Fürer-Haimendorf, 1958-1983; extracts and notes from anthropological works by other authors, undated; bibliographies compiled by Fürer-Haimendorf, undated; a large collection of published and unpublished works by other authors, c1917-1989, largely on social and cultural anthropology, and particularly on India, Nepal and Tibet.

Miscellaneous papers, c1935-1989, include further correspondence with colleagues, other scholars, students, publishers, academic institutions and other organisations.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:
English, German, French and Tibetan

System of arrangement:

The arrangement of the papers aims to represent the range of activities undertaken by Fürer-Haimendorf during the course of his career, and reflect his methods of working. Where possible, Furer-Haimendorf's original order for his papers was preserved. The diaries and field-notes had been carefully labelled and numbered, and the reconstruction of these series was straightforward. Elsewhere, the original order was less apparent, and it was necessary to impose a degree of order drawing on common themes or subject matter. Papers relating to Fürer-Haimendorf's involvement with the work of the Revenue Department of the Nizam's Government, Hyderabad State, in addressing issues of tribal welfare and deelopment in the 1940s, have been brought together and associated with papers relating to his continued interest in this area and later visits to these areas in the 1970s and 1980s.

Conditions governing access:


Conditions governing reproduction:

No publication without written permission. Apply to archivist in the first instance.

Finding aids:

Unpublished handlist and database.

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

The papers were donated by Mr Nicholas von Fürer-Haimendorf in 1999, although a number were received prior to the death of Professor Christoph von Fürer-Haimendorf.

Allied Materials

Related material:

The School of Oriental and African Studies also holds photographs, colour slides and sound recordings from Fürer-Haimendorf's extensive collection of audio-visual material, which is uncatalogued and unavailable for consultation. SOAS also holds papers of Fürer-Haimendorf's friend and colleague, J P Mills, on the Naga Hills region of India (Ref: PP MS 58). A large collection of published texts and reports by Christoph von Fürer-Haimendorf is held in SOAS Library.

The University of Cambridge holds films from Fürer-Haimendorf's audio-visual collection and video copies. Copies of the catalogue by Mark Turin, Alan Macfarlane, Pat Bidinger and Sarah Harrison (Department of Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge, 1996) are available at SOAS Special Collections Reading Room.

National Register of Archives: Click here to view NRA record

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Compiled by Joanne Ichimura, SOAS. Revised by Rachel Kemsley as part of the RSLP AIM25 project.

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:
Oct 2000, revised Mar 2002

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