Papers of Max Gluckman

Scope and Content

Correspondence of Max Gluckman with anthropologists, sociologists and historians including Edward Evans-Pritchard, Alfred Radcliffe-Brown, Raymond Firth, Elizabeth Colson, Victor Turner, Clyde Mitchell, Bill Epstein, Leo and Hilda Kuper, John Hughes, and Peter Munz.

The correspondence covers a wide range of professional and academic matters relating to anthropology, including publications, research, appointments and the views of other anthropologists on the subject matter of their discipline. The collection provides some insights into the relations between members of the Manchester School of Anthropology at the height of its influence.

Administrative / Biographical History

Max Gluckman was born in Johannesburg on 26 Feb 1911. He was the son of Emmanuel Gluckmann (1881-1953), a lawyer, and Katie Gluckmann née Cohen (1884-1968), a prominent figure in South African Zionist circles. Gluckman's parents had emigrated from Russia some years earlier (Gluckman later dropped the final n from his surname).

Gluckman attended King Edward VII School, Johannesburg, before entering the University of the Witwatersrand in 1928. He originally studied law but switched to anthropology, being taught this subject by Winifred Hoernlé and Isaac Schapera. Following a successful undergraduate career, he gained a Rhodes scholarship in 1934 to continue his studies at Exeter College, Oxford.

At Oxford, Gluckman was influenced by the dominant functionalist approach to anthropology represented by Edward Evans-Pritchard, who became a lifelong friend, and Alfred Radcliffe-Brown. Gluckman received his doctorate in 1936, and thereafter undertook field research in Zululand, South Africa.

In 1939, Gluckman joined the staff of the Rhodes-Livingstone Institute in Lusaka, Northern Rhodesia (Zambia). He undertook fieldwork with the Lozi in Barotseland, which he later developed into a series of influential articles. In 1941, he was made temporary director of the Institute, an appointment which was made permanent in 1942. In 1947 Gluckman moved to Oxford as lecturer in social anthropology, before being appointed to the newly-created chair in social anthropology at the University of Manchester in 1949. During the 1950s Gluckman strove to build up the Manchester department into one of the most important in the country. He maintained fruitful connections with the Rhodes-Livingstone Institute, which his students used as a research base, and in turn, Gluckman brought Institute staff to Manchester as visiting scholars or staff members. He instituted an influential weekly seminar at Manchester, inviting economists, social scientists and philosophers to share ideas from their disciplines. Many of Gluckman's students went on to senior positions in academic anthropology.

Gluckman was a major figure, both nationally and internationally, in the institutionalisation of anthropology. He was chairman of the Association of Social Anthropologists from 1962-1966, and a member of the Human Sciences Committee of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, the Social Studies Sub-Committee of the University Grants Committee, and the Social Anthropology Committee of the Social Sciences Research Committee. In 1974 he was appointed to the Advisory Group of the Sports Council (Gluckman had been a very successful student athlete). Gluckman delivered a number of named lectures including the Frazer lecture at the University of Glasgow in 1952, the Josiah Mason lectures at the University of Birmingham in 1955, the Munro lectures at Edinburgh in 1958 and 1960, the Storrs lectures at Yale University in 1963, and the Maxwell Cumming lectures at McGill University in 1971. He was awarded the Wellcome Medal and the Rivers Medal of the Royal Anthropological Institute. Gluckman was elected FBA in 1968 and a honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1970. He married Marie Brignoli in 1939, and they had three sons. At the time of his death he was Lady Davies distinguished professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Gluckman made influential contributions to both theoretical and applied anthropology. The term 'Manchester School of Anthropology' was coined to refer to the ideas and methods of Gluckman and his associates and followers. Noted as an assiduous fieldworker, his studies in Zululand and Barotseland were developed into an influential analysis of social conflict in tribal societies. Gluckman argued that in pluralist colonial societies, conflict reflected a complicated interaction of social and political roles, which were enacted in such a way to produce ultimately a restabilisation of the social order; such societies were characterised by "rebellions" rather than "revolutions". Gluckman also played a major role in developing a new field of legal anthropology, again based on his research in central Africa. His studies of Bartose jurisprudence, which emphasised the dependence of legal concepts on pre-existing social relations, won praise from jurists and anthropologists alike.

Gluckman's methodological approach to anthropology involved a careful balance of the abstract and the empirical; his theoretical works were always grounded in data gathered from fieldwork. Gluckman and his followers emphasised the importance of studying the actual workings of given social practices within wider social systems, a practice-oriented approach which contrasted with structuralist and functionalist approaches to anthropology. The emphasis on a case-study approach was held to be distinguishing feature of the Manchester School. Gluckman also advocated comparative studies between radically different societies, for example, contemporary African and medieval European societies, and he believed strongly that anthropology could both inform and be influenced by other disciplines. This cross-disciplinary approach was exemplified by his Manchester seminars; papers from which were published as Closed systems and open minds: the limits of naivety (1964).

Gluckman authored many works, the most significant of which were The judicial process among the Barotse of Northern Rhodesia (1955), Custom and conflict in Africa (1955), Order and rebellion in tribal Africa (1963),Politics, law and ritual in tribal society (1965), and The ideas in Barotse jurisprudence (1965).


Arranged alphabetically by correspondent. This follows Professor Gluckman's arrangement of the material.

Access Information

Most of the collection is open to any accredited reader, although material containing personal information may be restricted. The collection and this finding aid may contain personal or sensitive personal data about living individuals.

Under Section 33 of the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA), The Library (UmL) has the right to process such personal data for research purposes. The Data Protection (Processing of Sensitive Personal Data) Order 2000 enables the JRUL to process sensitive personal data for research purposes. In accordance with the DPA, the JRUL has made every attempt to ensure that all personal and sensitive personal data has been processed fairly, lawfully and accurately, according to the Data Protection Principles. Individuals have the right to make a request to see data relating to them held by the JRUL which falls under the provisions of the DPA. Access requests must be made formally in accordance with the provisions set out in the DPA and all enquiries should be directed to the University's Data Protection Officer.

Acquisition Information

Transferred by the Department of Social Anthropology, University of Manchester in February 2005. It is believed that the collection had been kept at the Department since Professor Gluckman's death.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies and photographic copies of material in the archive can be supplied for private study purposes only, depending on the condition of the documents.

A number of items within the archive remain within copyright under the terms of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988; it is the responsibility of users to obtain the copyright holder's permission for reproduction of copyright material for purposes other than research or private study.

Prior written permission must be obtained from the Library for publication or reproduction of any material within the archive. Please contact the Head of Special Collections, John Rylands University Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3EH.


No further accruals expected.

Related Material

No other personal papers of Max Gluckman are known to exist.

Gluckman's correspondence with Meyer Fortes (who is not represented in this collection) is held by the University of Cambridge Library, Add. MS. 8405.

The University of Manchester Archives contain some records concerning the department of social anthropology during Gluckman's time. These include: Vice-Chancellor's files VCA/7/404, VCA/7/87 - Gluckman's appointment as professor in 1949 , and VCA/7/549 his appointment as (temporary) research professor in 1969. There is also a Vice-Chancellor's file on the Israeli Research Trust (1961-1974), which Gluckman helped establish to undertake anthropological research in Israel.


For further biographical information on Max Gluckman, see the DNB entry by Meyer Fortes, and the obituary by Raymond Firth in Proceedings of the British Academy, 61, 1975, 479-496. Bruce Kapferer's essay, "The anthropology of Max Gluckman", Social Analysis 22, 1987, pp. 2-19, provides intellectual background.

For the "Manchester School" in general, see the essay by Ann Schmidt on the Anthropological theories website of the University of Alabama department of anthropology [accessed 19 May 2010]; also Richard Werbner's essay "The Manchester School In South-Central Africa", Annual Review of Anthropology  13, 1984, pp. 57-85.