Skip to main content
COLLECTION Identifier: 2003.37

Elizabeth Marshall Thomas journal


The 150 page journal dates from July 4, 1955-August 14, 1955 and documents Thomas's observations of the !Kung people of the Kalahari Desert.


  • 1955

Conditions Governing Access



.2 linear feet (1 folders)
The journal dates from July 4, 1955 to August 14, 1955. It comprises 150 numbered pages, with the dated entries handwritten in ink and sometimes pencil, including some drawings in margins, and one loose sheet tucked in the front. There is also an index (for the first part only), and additional notes and quotations. Thomas also appears to have gone back and made corrections to her own writing, both of grammar and of content, often in different color ink.

In 1955, the Marshall family's expedition included spending a month with /Gwi in Botswana, in addition to the Ju/’hoansi at Nyae Nyae in Namibia. The entries concern Thomas's observations about the people she encountered, their practices, and the natural surroundings, including plants, animals, and weather. She discusses food preparation and customs, dancing and musical instruments, and their interactions with each other and with her family. She also discusses her feelings about the nature of anthropological study and about her homesickness.

Biographical Sketch

Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, daughter of Lorna and Laurence Marshall, was born in 1931. She attended Smith College, but interrupted her studies to go to Africa when her father, former co-founder of Raytheon Corporation, retired and decided he wanted to get reacquainted with his family. In the 1950s she traveled with her family to what is now Namibia, and the Marshalls undertook ethnographic research on the Ju/'hoansi people of the Kalahari Desert.

Upon her return to America, she attended Radcliffe College and married Stephen Thomas. She had two children, and went on to write several works of fiction and nonfiction. Her first book, 1959's The Harmless People, was about her experience with the Ju/'hoansi. She continued her writing and ethnographic research, spending a year in Uganda and writing Warrior Herdsman: The Story of the Dodoth Tribesmen of Northern Uganda (1965). Reindeer Moon (1987) and The Animal Wife (1990) are fiction about the Paleolithic Era, and she has also written The Hidden Life of Dogs (1993), The Tribe of the Tiger: Cats and their Culture (1994), and The Social Lives of Dogs: The Grace of Canine Company (2000).

  1. McCarthy, Susan. ElizabethMarshall Thomas at at
  2. Collins, Geneva. EpicKalahari documentary may help bushmen repel 'the Myth' at

Physical Location

Peabody Museum Archives

Immediate Source of Acquisition


These papers are a gift of Elizabeth Marshall Thomas

December 2003

Related Peabody Museum Material

  1. Diaries and Logs of Lorna and Laurence Marshall PM#2003.36
  2. Laurence K. and Lorna Marshall Photograph Collection PM#2001.29
  3. Exhibit: Regarding the Kalahari: TheMarshall Family and the Ju/'hoansi !Kung, 1950-1961 3/18-9/29/2004

General note

Collections records may contain language, reflecting past collecting practices and methods of analysis, that is no longer acceptable. The Peabody Museum is committed to addressing the problem of offensive and discriminatory language present in its database. Our museum staff are continually updating these records, adding to and improving content. We welcome your feedback and any questions or concerns you may want to share.

Processing Information

Processed by: Beth Bayley Simmons College archives intern;

Link to catalog
Thomas, Elizabeth Marshall. Journal of Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, 1955 : A Finding Aid
Peabody Museum Archives

Repository Details

Part of the Peabody Museum Archives Repository

The Peabody Museum Archives contains primary source materials that reflect the Museum’s archaeological and ethnographic research and fieldwork since its founding in 1866. Archival collections contain photographs, documents, papers, and records of enduring value that were created or collected by the Museum, its individual affiliates, or other related entities. The collections also document the history or provenience, as well as the creation of many of the Museum’s artifact collections. To learn more about research visits at the Peabody Museum, please see

11 Divinity Ave.
Harvard University
Cambridge MA 02128 USA