Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 26, 1915.djvu/226

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.


The History of Melanesian Society. By W. H. R. Rivers, F.R.S. Two volumes. Cambridge: University Press. 1914.

These two volumes not merely record the result of the anthro- pological enquiries made during the Percy Sladen Trust Expedition to Melanesia, they endeavour to interpret the meaning of the facts, so as to lay bare the process of evolution which has issued in the complex phenomenon of Melanesian society. Dr. Rivers has wisely presented his facts separately in the first volume, where they stand for the use of any future enquirer, as well as for evidence of his own case. The long unfolding of his ingenious argument occupies the second volume.

Briefly put, his conclusions amount to these. At a certain unknown period in the past the Melanesian islands were occupied by a people (themselves probably the product of an amalgamation of at least two separate bodies of immigrants), whom he calls " the dual people," because socially they were divided into two distinct exogamous and matrilineal moieties, who were to some extent hostile. They were governed by a body of old men, who mono- polized all the young women, and thereby produced highly complicated relationships. Enter to them another body of immigrants of somewhat higher culture. Having few women, or none at all, they intermarried with the islanders ; but their moral sense, somewhat more highly developed than that of the aborigines, revolted at the matrimonial customs they found. They broke the power of the old men and introduced better laws, though they did not succeed in doing away with all the former customs, or in completely rooting out the native terms expressive of the relation- ships resulting from the practices of the gerontocracy. Desirous