Encyclopedia of Taboos
by Lynn Holden
December 2000, 302pp, 7x10
1 volume, ABC-CLIO

Hardcover: 978-1-57607-069-7
$83, £62, 70€, A119
eBook Available: 978-1-57607-391-9
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

What are the origins of table manners? What are the politics of cannibalism? Why is the left hand thought to be sinister? This book provides the answers. These apparently unrelated questions all hinge on the fundamental notion of taboo and the author explains that, far from being peripheral leftovers from distant times and places, taboos are a crucial part of any society, determining how people must and must not behave.

From ancient times to the present, taboos have affected our societies, as demonstrated in this encyclopedia full of unusual information from around the world.

The topic of taboos has rarely been discussed in any comprehensive way in recent years, as though the word itself has become taboo in our efforts to dispel the myth of the irrationality of supposedly ‘primitive’ cultures. The Encyclopedia of Taboos is a mine of unusual information from around the world, including a comprehensive analysis of individual taboos from the ancient world to the present day, covering both well- and lesser-known examples.

The A–Z articles cover the topics naturally associated with the concept of taboo—incest, cannibalism, pollution, food, art, dress, sex, and death—and also the foremost writers on the subject, including Sigmund Freud, Mary Douglas, Edmund Leach, Franz Steiner, and Frederick Barth.


  • 150 A–Z entries including separate entries on the foremost writers on the subject, including Sigmund Freud, Mary Douglas, Edmund Leach, Franz Steiner, and Frederick Barth
  • Includes an introduction and bibliography
Lynn Holden is a post-doctoral fellow at the School of Scottish Studies, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, Scotland.


"Public libraries and junior college and college libraries where there is interest will find this a useful addition."—Booklist, March 1, 2001

"Recommended for public and academic libraries."—Choice, May 1, 2001

"Casual readers will be intrigued by the variety of taboos covered, which include those relating to beans, the color red, the origin of table manners, and cannibalism. Students and researchers will find most entries well detailed and based on solid research. Recommended for reference collections in both academic and public libraries."—Library Journal, January 1, 2001

"Written in an engaging style, this fascinating book is sure to interest both those with a special interest in the field as well as general readers. It is recommended for academic and public libraries."—American Reference Books Annual, January 1, 2001

"Taken in conjunction with the scholarly approach to the subject, the book is an 'encyclopedia-plus', usefully filling the gap in the subject noted by the author in her brief preface."—Reference Reviews, April 15, 2001
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