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Celebrated ​anthropologist Margaret Mead, who studied sex in Samoa and child-rearing in New Guinea in the 1920s and ‘30s, was determined as the Second World War approached to show that anthropology could help sum up the national character of the most complex, modern societies and produce better wartime strategies. This fascinating book follows her and her closest collaborators – her lover and mentor Ruth Benedict, her third husband Gregory Bateson, and her would-be fourth husband, Geoffrey Gorer – to their triumphant climax when Mead was chosen to be one of the principal cultural ambassadors from America to Britain in 1943. Part intellectual biography, part cultural history, and part history of the human sciences, Peter Mandler’s book is a reminder that the Second World War and the Cold War were a clash of cultures, not just ideologies; examines how far intellectuals should involve themselves in politics; and speaks to modern-day concerns, such as the United States’ relationship with Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran.

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