Prof Charles Gabriel Seligman (Biographical details)

Prof Charles Gabriel Seligman (anthropologist; collector; British; Male; 1873 - 1940 19 September)

Also known as

Seligman, Charles Gabriel; Seligmann, Charles Gabriel


Charles Gabriel Seligman (1873 – 1940) was a doctor and ethnologist who developed a life-long interest in anthropology while attached as a doctor to the Torres Straits expedition of 1898 led by A.C. Haddon (q.v.). He Joined the 1904 Cooke-Daniels expedition to New Guinea, as scientific director where he collected material from the south coast of Papua New Guinea, including the Mekeo, Roro, and Massim areas. This expedition, together with his notes from 1898, provided the basis for his 1910 publication ‘The Melanesians of British New Guinea’. In 1907 Seligman had accepted a government invitation to study the Veddas in Ceylon, resulting in a book by him and his wife ‘The Veddas’ published in 1911. (His wife, Brenda Zara Salaman (q.v.) whom he had married in 1905, was greatly involved in the Royal Anthropological Institute and became his collaborator in ethnology and an anthropologist in her own right.) Together they conducted an ethnological survey in Sudan (1909–10, 1911–12), later jointly published as ‘Pagan Tribes of the Nilotic Sudan’ (1932).

Seligman was appointed to a lectureship in ethnology at the London School of Economics in 1910 and became part-time professor of ethnology at the LSE in 1913. In the 1920s Seligman with his wife entered the field of Chinese, Korean and Indo-Chinese art. Correspondence with H.R.H. Hall (q.v.), newly appointed Keeper of the Dept of Egyptian & Assyrian Antiquities at The British Museum, refers to him having "a short holiday in Paris to see museums, pictures etc. I still have to take life very gently and want to minimise my efforts as much as possible, but I do want to see de Morgan's stuff from Susa and have it explained to me [by a curator at the Louvre] (ME archives, letter dated 12 September 1924). There is sporadic correspondence in various departments (e.g. ME, 24/2/36, filed under "G"; January 1937).

Seligman continued to hold the chair of part-time professor of ethnology at the LSE until 1934 when he retired due to ill health and following methodological disagreements with a fellow LSE academic and former student (protégé), the social anthropologist Bronislav Malinowski (q.v.).

Seligman’s wife continued to develop their joint collection after his death which was bequeathed by her in both their names to the Arts Council for a period of ten years (during which time an exhibition was held in London in 1966: 'The Seligman Collection of Oriental Art') on the understanding that afterwards the collection was to be divided between the British Museum (the majority of pieces) and the Victoria & Albert Museum.

Seligman published 'The Melanesians of British New Guinea' (1910); 'The Veddas' (1911 jointly with his wife); 'The Pagan Tribes of Nilotic Sudan' (1932, jointly with his wife); 'Egypt and Negro Africa: A Study in Divine Kingship' (1934); 'The Races of Africa' (1930); and various contributions to the 'Proceedings of the Royal Society', 'British Association Reports', 'Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute', 'The Lancet', and 'The British Journal of Psychology'.

Seligman was a member of the Karlbeck Syndicate (q.v.) - for collecting Chinese antiquities.

The Museum has approaching 4,400 items collected and/or donated by Seligman and his wife including over 2,200 photographs principally taken in Africa and Europe (Crete). Of the 2,200 or so ‘Seligman’ artefacts, around 1,700 come from Oceania (nearly all from the Cook-Daniels 1904 expedition to New Guinea) and around 270 are from China and 130 from Africa.
Publications:‘Early Pottery from Southern China’, TOCS, vol. 12, 1934-1935, pp. 26-34;‘Early Chinese Glass’, TOCS, vol. 18, 1940-1941, pp. 19-26;


Harrison-Hall, 2001, p.594 & 595; Davids and Jellinek, 2011, p. 395 & 396; Pierson 2007, p. 125, 140-1, 164, 200; John Ayers, 'The Seligman Collection of Oriental Art', Volumes I & II, 1964. “Transactions of the Oriental Ceramic Society”, vol. 18, 1940-1941, pp 15&16, obituary, L.C.G.C.(Louis C. G. Clarke.). British Museum Quarterly, Vol. XV, 1941-50, p. 95.
Obituary in 'Man' XLI 1941 pp.1-6 by M.Fortes
'Who was Who, Vol. III: 1929-1940' (London: A. & C. Black, 1967, second edition); Mary Tregear, 'The Seligman Collection of Oriental Art', Arts Council 1966, catalogue raisonné.