Anthropology can be defined as the scientific study
of people, their societies and culture.
The origin of anthropology started from ancient time when travellers and philosophers speculated about human culture and physical differences which bordered on language, body-shape and skin colour from place to place.
The concept of culture was developed out of the need for an objective term to characterise the similarities and wide differences between groups of people. Many people, for example, hold the view that culture is synonymous with development or improvement by training and education – a cultured person, they say is one who has acquired a command of certain specialised fields of knowledge or cultivation in the art of social graces, and on the other hand, persons who are not well educated in these fields, or those of low socio-economic status, are often referred to as uncultured.
The impact of anthropology on the development of African culture became apparent in the middle of last century when Englishmen of science and letters concerned themselves with the problems of slavery, the treatment of the native people of the empire and the attitude of colonial administration which needed the facts of anthropology to find answers of their position. For instance, in 1838, the Aborigines’ Protective Society was established in London. The academic faction wanted to study native people to find out how they lived and what their opinions were before trying to help them. This group seceded in 1843 and formed the Ethnological Society of London in 1863.
The Anthropological Society of London was highly successful and very popular because of its position on racial superiority. A leading member of the society, Dr James Hunt, argued that science had proved the Black man of African origin to be physically, intellectually and morally inferior, to the European man. However, modern anthropologists today have revised the white man’s works and literature in the areas of human physical and cultural evolution, human diversity and human race a new insight into the story of man. The Black African man now has new perspective of himself; he now feels equal, if not superior to the white man, who has earlier subjugated him and regarded him as sub-human.
Nevertheless, the Black man admits that he lags behind technologically, but he has the confidence in himself to know that given the opportunity to utilise his potentiality and resources, he will develop and advance in his own way, perhaps a better or more desirable way.