He studied Modern Languages at Cambridge before completing a doctorate in Social Anthropology at Oxford. His first book, The Innocent Anthropologist, was based on his fieldwork in west Africa amongst the Dowayo people of North Cameroon.
Barley left academia to work as a curator at the British Museum in the Department of Ethnography, where he stayed for some twenty years.
He’s been nominated twice for the Travelex Writer of the Year Award, and in 2002 won the Foreign Press Association prize for travel writing.
We spoke about the grim reality of fieldwork, his odd attraction for monkeys, and why fiction tells us more than anthropology about what it means to be human.
These are the books we mentioned in the podcast:
- The Innocent Anthropologist
- A Plague of Caterpillars
- Not a Hazardous Sport
- Coronation Chicken
- The Duke of Puddle Dock: Travels in the Footsteps of Stamford Raffles
- Island of Demons
- The Man Who Collected Women