Ancient Society, or Researches in the Lines of Human Progress from Savagery, Through Barbarism to Civilization is a significant contribution to studies of cultural anthropology. Its author, Lewis Henry Morgan, was an American statesman, anthropologist and critic of materialism.
Ancient Society develops Morgan's theory of the three stages of human progress, which he theorizes progressed from Savagery through Barbarism to Civilization. Morgan's goal was to trace the advance of human development from different branches of the human family. He uses Greek, Roman and Native American family structure to explain the evolution of family. Morgan conceived of human development as units called ethna, which are similar to inventions, discoveries and domestic institutions. In his book, he traces ethna beginning at subsistence living, then to establishment of government, development of language, and the various forms of family. The final ethna are religion, house and architecture, and property. Morgan was a critic of the Three-Stage theories of history, and the book discusses why he believed that classifying different eras into bronze, stone, etc. was inadequate as a measure of human progress.
Morgan was America's most influential social critic. His work was cited by Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Charles Darwin, and Sigmund Freud. Ancient Society, or Researches in the Lines of Human Progress from Savagery, Through Barbarism to Civilization is a compelling book for intellectual readers and those interested in a new way of looking at human development.