Vere Gordon Childe

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Vere Gordon Childe (14 April 1892 – 19 October 1957) was an Australian philologist by training who later specialised in archaeology. Usually known as just Gordon Childe, he was perhaps best known for his excavation of the unique Neolithic site of Skara Brae in Orkney and for his Marxist views which influenced his thinking about prehistory. He is also credited with coining the terms "Neolithic Revolution" and "Urban Revolution" and combined with his innovative theories, he is recognized as a major contributor to the field of sociocultural evolution. With new found emphasis on African history, he was one of the great archaeological synthesizers attempting to place his discoveries inside a theory of prehistoric development on a wider European and world scale.


Early years

Childe was born in 1892 in Sydney, New South Wales. He was educated privately for the first fifteen years of his life.[1] Shortly after, in 1910, his mother died and Childe left home to continue his education. A continuous conflict with his father, an Anglican Rector, may have also prompted Childe to leave. At the University of Sydney, he obtained a B.A. in 1914. Childe then went to Britain to attend the Queen's College at the University of Oxford and was awarded a B.Litt. in 1916 and a B.A. in 1917.[2] While at Oxford, he acquired an interest in European prehistory and Hegelian and Marxist philosophy, which transformed into his commitment to socialism.[3] He returned to Australia, and in 1917 was appointed Senior Resident Tutor at St Andrew's College, Sydney University. After addressing a pacifist meeting in 1918 he was asked by the College Principal to resign his position and was then refused an appointment as Ancient History Tutor by the University of Sydney.[4]

In 1918 he became Private Secretary to John Storey, Member of the New South Wales Legislative Council for Balmain, and shortly thereafter New South Wales Premier. His 1923 book How Labour Governs was based on his experience in this period of his life. On Storey's sudden death in 1921, Childe left politics and traveled in Europe.

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