Claude Lévi-Strauss

Histoire et ethnologie

Ve Conférence Marc-Bloch, 2 juin 1983

Conférence publiée in : Annales. Économies, Sociétés, Civilisations, 38 (6), 1983, p. 1217-1231 ; archive numérique sur Persée.


History and Ethnology. – Societies of the types studied by anthropologists, as well as others better known to historians, cross a critical threshold when their traditional marriage rules or preferences become ill tolerated by their members. Each family seeks more freedom in its matrimonial alliances so that it may outdo the others by contriving advantageous connections. In such situations a new type of social unit arises. Called “house” by the author, it is neither patrilineal nor matrilineal, neither exogamous nor endogamous, and it does not correspond to any of the known anthropological categories.

This type of social unit can be better observed and analyzed by closely studying the matrimonial strategies of royal and noble families. Anthropology may have contributed to the birth and development of the so-called “New History”. However it is factual history, down to the more petty details, that anthropology is now calling upon to bridge the gap between simple and complex societies.

École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales