The Harmless People

Finalist, National Book Awards 1960 for Nonfiction

The Harmless People by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas
ISBN 978-0679724469
vintage | Knopf
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Elizabeth Thomas

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In the 1950s Elizabeth Marshall Thomas became one of the first Westerners to live with the Bushmen of the Kalahari desert in Botswana and South-West Africa. Her account of these nomadic hunter-gatherers, whose way of life had remained unchanged for thousands of years, is a ground-breaking work of anthropology, remarkable not only for its scholarship but for its novelistic grasp of character. On the basis of field trips in the 1980s, Thomas has now updated her book to show what happened to the Bushmen as the tide of industrial civilization — with its flotsam of property rights, wage labor, and alcohol — swept over them. The result is a powerful, elegiac look at an endangered culture as well as a provocative critique of our own.

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