Return from the Natives


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How Margaret Mead Won the Second World War and Lost the Cold War

Peter Mandler

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Celebrated anthropologist Margaret Mead, who studied sex in Samoa and child-rearing in New Guinea in the 1920s and '30s, was determined to show that anthropology could tackle the psychology of the most complex, modern societies in ways useful for waging the Second World War. This fascinating book follows Mead and her closest collaborators—her lover and mentor Ruth Benedict, her third husband Gregory Bateson, and her prospective fourth husband Geoffrey Gorer—through their triumphant climax, when Mead became the cultural ambassador from America to Britain in 1943, to their downfall in the Cold War.

Part intellectual biography, part cultural history, and part history of the human sciences, Peter Mandler's book is a reminder that the Second World War and the Cold War were a clash of cultures, not just ideologies, and asks how far intellectuals should involve themselves in politics, at a time when Mead's example is cited for and against experts' involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Peter Mandler is professor of modern cultural history at the University of Cambridge. Among his books is The English National Character, published by Yale. He lives in Cambridge and London.

"Balanced, fascinating, and extremely detailed . . . Excellent."—Library Journal

“Bracing and lively.”Books and Culture

"Peter Mandler’s account of an important episode in the history of American social science is carefully researched, balanced and consistently interesting."—Adam Kuper, Times Literary Supplement

"Mandler has done an excellent job recovering the important work they did and showing that Mead et al. were not simply 'nervous liberals' defending their ideals but part of a wider mobilization of intellectuals and scholars that sought to promote liberal and universalist values worldwide."David Ekbladh, Journal of American Studies

"An outstanding scholarly accomplishment and a most intriguing and provocative book."—Michael E. Latham, Journal of Cold War Studies

“[Return from the Natives] is a rigorously researched and largely sympathetic portrait of Mead and her cohort of anthropologists and social scientists . . . elegantly weaves intellectual biography and institutional history.”—George Blaustein, American Quarterly
ISBN: 9780300187854
Publication Date: May 7, 2013
384 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
8 b/w illus.
The English National Character

The History of an Idea from Edmund Burke to Tony Blair

Peter Mandler

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