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Bushman Society

In the 1950's Elizabeth Marshall Thomas became one of the first westerners to visit the Bushmen of the Kalahari desert, in Botswana and South-West Africa, who had survived for thousands of years as successful hunter-gatherers in one of the most inhospitable environments in the world (Thomas). Her father had just retired from his job as co-founder of Ratheon, and took the family to Africa in order to get to know them better and because his son John was interested in Africa. It took them weeks to find the Juwa Bushmen (San), who are naturally very shy, but once they found them they became enamored with them and kept returning, often for as long as a year at a time. Her mother retrained as an anthropologist, and her brother became one too. They lived with the Bushmen and got to know all their traditional ways which had helped them to survive in the desolate Kalahari desert for so many centuries. Elizabeth recorded her experiences, and eventually published them in The Harmless People, a book which became one of the classic studies of primitive peoples.

Thomas went back in the 1980s to see what had become of these primitive Bushmen, and updated her classic text. As has happened to so many indigenous societies before them, once contact with the Western world was established, the Bushmen's traditional nomadic lifestyle had finished, and along with it their defining myths. Where before they had led a harmless existence, the Bushmen had become the underclass of society, living in poverty, barely making enough to survive, subject to alcoholism and violence, and despised by their neighbors.

Qu.1 What is the importance of Elizabeth Marshall Thomas's book, The Harmless People?

Ans. This book is important because it documents the lifestyle of the Bushmen as it was for thousands of years, and how Westernization has destroyed that lifestyle and the rich mythology it contained.

Qu.2 How has the encroachment of civilization ...

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Bushman Society. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 23:26, February 26, 2017, from