Biographical entry: Firth, Raymond (1901 - 2002)

25 March 1901
22 February 2002


Anthropologist Raymond Firth was born in Auckland, New Zealand on 25 March 1901. Educated at Auckland Grammar School and then Auckland University College, he graduated in economics in 1921, taking his M.A. there in 1922 and a diploma in social science in 1923. In 1924 he began doctoral research at the London School of Economics. His thesis was published as Primitive Economics of the New Zealand Maori (1928). Firth became Professor of Anthropology at the London School of Economics before he took up a professorial position at the University of Sydney.

In 1928, he made his first visit to Tikopia, an island with which his name became synonymous. He wrote We the Tikopia: A Sociological Study of Kinship in Primitive Polynesia (1936), Primitive Polynesian Economy (1939), the Work of the Gods in Tikopia (1940), Social Change in Tikopia (1959) and History and Traditions of Tikopia (1961), which are still used in tertiary anthropology courses today. Firth became an eminent anthropologist, holding positions at the London School of Economics, in British naval intelligence during the Second World War, and at the University of Hawai'i, British Columbia, Cornell, the University of Chicago, the City University of New York and University of California at Davis. He returned to Tikopia for research several times, including visits in 1952 and for three weeks in 1966, and wrote extensively about the island. Firth died on 22 February 2002. (Firth 1939, 1940, 1958, 1965, 1968, 1969, 1970; NS 7 Sept. 1966; Strathern 2002; New World Encyclopedia [accessed 27 June 2011])

Related Places

Published resources


  • Firth, Raymond, Primitive Polynesian Economy, Routledge, London, 1939. Details
  • Firth, Raymond, The Work of the Gods in Tikopia, London School of Economics and Political Science, London, 1940. Details
  • Firth, Raymond, Social Change in Tikopia: A Re-Study of a Polynesian Community after a Generation, Macmillan, New York, 1958. Details
  • Firth, Raymond, We, the Tikopia: A Sociological Study of Kinship in Primitive Polynesia, Originally published: 1936, Beacon Press, Boston, 1965. Details
  • Firth, Raymond, Rank and Religion in Tikopia: A Study in Polynesian Paganism and Conversion to Christianity, Allen & Unwin, London, 1970. Details

Book Sections

  • Firth, Raymond, 'Gods and God: An Anthropologist's Standpoint', in A.J. Ayer (ed.), The Humanist Outlook, Pemberton; Barrie and Rockliff, London, 1968, pp. 31-44. Details


  • British Solomon Islands Protectorate (ed.), British Solomon Islands Protectorate News Sheet (NS), 1955-1975. Details

Journal Articles

  • Firth, Raymond, 'Extraterritoriality and the Tikopia Chiefs', Man, vol. 4, no. 3, September, pp. 354-378. Details

Newspaper Articles

  • Strathern, Marilyn, 'Professor Sir Raymond Firth', The Independent, 5 March 2002, 2002. Details