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Fortes, Meyer, 1906-1983 (anthropologist)



  • Existence: 1906 - 1983


Meyer Fortes was born in South Africa of Russian Jewish parents. He came to England in 1927 to carry out research at University College London on intelligence tests, for which he was awarded a Ph.D in 1930. He then accepted a research studentship at the London School of Economics, where he came under the influence of Bronislaw Malinowski and C. G. Seligman. Supported by fellowships from the International Institute of African Languages and Cultures and from the Rockefeller Foundation, he and his first wife Sonia undertook two terms of fieldwork among the Tallensi people of the northern Gold Coast between 1934 and 1937. He lectured at the London School of Economics (1938-39) and at Oxford (1939-41); and then returned to West Africa, gathering information in Nigeria for Margery Perham’s Nuffield College Colonial Research project, engaging in intelligence work for the Gold Coast government (including a mission to Ouagadougu), and finally (while head of the Sociological Department of the West African Institute at Accra 1944-46) directing a major social survey in Ashanti. In 1946 he became Reader in Social Anthropology at Oxford, and moved to Cambridge four years later as William Wyse Professor of Social Anthropology, with a fellowship at King’s College. He retired from his chair in 1973, but continued to write, lecture and travel almost up to his death on 27 January 1983.

Found in 2 Collections and/or Records:


Meyer Fortes: Ashanti Social Survey

Reference Code: GBR/0012/MS Add.9359
Scope and Contents Papers relating mainly to Fortes's research and social survey in Ashanti [now a region of southern Ghana], 1945-46. This includes field data, blank questionnaires, completed questionnaires, background research in preparation for the survey and papers relating to the reports and articles produced as a result. Additional material includes a collection of offprints loosely on the subject of West African history and anthropology, mostly Nigeria and Ghana, and papers relating to the establishment...
Dates: 1873-1978 (Circa)
Conditions Governing Access: Unless restrictions apply, the collection is open for consultation by researchers using the Manuscripts Reading Room at Cambridge University Library. For further details on conditions governing access please contact Information about opening hours and obtaining a Cambridge University Library reader's ticket is available from the Library's website (

Meyer Fortes: Notebooks, correspondence and papers

Reference Code: GBR/0012/MS Add.8405
Scope and Contents Comprises: correspondence with British anthroplogists and ethnologists, including former pupils and junior colleagues of Meyer Fortes, arranged in chronological order by year; a series of subject files, many relating to research in the Gold Coast [i.e. Ghana] and Ashanti and on the Tallensi (or Talensi) people, notes, offprints, typescripts of articles, lecture notes ; desk notebooks, journals and diaries; two volume typescript of 'Kinship and social order'. The series of subject files which...
Dates: 1923-1983
Conditions Governing Access: Catalogued material (except for noted restricted correspondence) is available for consultation, but readers are advised that copyright remaining in the writings of Meyer Fortes is the property of his daughter, whose permission is necessary for publication.