Early ethnography
Pages 2

Our information on the coast of East Africa dates back to classical Greek and Arab sources and, from the sixteenth century, to the reports of Portuguese navigators. Occasional news on the interior of East Africa, merely of a geographical nature, began to reach Europe in the first decades of the nineteenth century; its second half brought in some reliable information of a crude ethnographic type, normally scattered in the daily records of voyagers and explorers, colonial administrators and missionaries. All of these were pioneers in their own ways, but very few had an academic training. When based on firsthand knowledge, their information is still priceless. Normally, however, their reports are uncritical, and even valueless when dependent on hearsay evidence or distorted by stereotyped prejudices. Only a few early twentieth-century sources are distinguished by their accuracy and thoroughness as classics of the anthropological literature, such as the monograph of Gerard Lindblom, a Swedish scholar, on the Kamba of Kenya, and the two volumes on the Thonga of Mozambique by †H.A.Junod, a Swiss evangelist. Both covered the entire spectrum of local culture, aiming at an encyclopedic survey as required by the ethnographic method of the day.