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James Frazer

Sir James George Frazer (January 1, 1854 - May 7, 1941) was a social anthropologist born in Glasgow, Scotland. He studied at Glasgow University and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he graduated with honors in Classics (his dissertation would be published years later as The Growth of Plato's Ideal Theory), and went on to to study law at the Middle Temple, though he never practiced. He was four times elected to Trinity's Title Alpha Fellowship, and was associated with Trinity for most of his life, except for a brief period at the University of Liverpool. He was knighted in 1914. He was, if not blind, then severely visually impaired from 1930 on.

Except for Italy and Greece, Frazer was not widely travelled. His prime sources of data were ancient histories and questionnaires mailed to missionaries and Imperial officials all over the globe. The study of myth and religion became his areas of expertise. He was the first to suggest a relation between myths and rituals. The Golden Bough, a study of ancient cults, rites, myths and their parallels with early Christianity, was arguably his greatest work. The first edition, in two volumes, was published in 1890. The third edition was finished in 1915 and ran to twelve volumes, with a thirteenth supplement volume added in 1936. He also published a single volume abridgement, largely compiled by his wife Lady Frazer, in 1922, with some controversial material removed from the text.

Selected Works