The Territorial Imperative: A Personal Inquiry into the Animal Origins of Property and Nations (Robert Ardrey)

A territory is an area of space which an animal guards as its exclusive possession and which it will defend against all members of its kind. In this revolutionary book Robert Ardrey takes a concept familiar to every biologist, brings together for the first time a fair sampling of all scientific observations of this form of behaviour, and demonstrates that man obeys the same laws as does many other animal species. 

With African Genesis Mr Ardrey stirred up enough storms to last an author, one would think, for a lifetime. In The Territorial Imperative, however, he explores more deeply and incisively man’s evolutionary nature and threatens even more forcefully some of our most precious assumptions. 

In a time when we attribute to man either no instincts at all, or instincts too weak to be of significance, Mr Ardrey’s conclusions concerning the instinctual force exerted on human life by territory will undoubtedly raise an even greater storm. The author concludes, for example, that a common cause for war lies in our ignorance of man’s animal nature - in particular, in the aggressor’s ignorance of the enormous animal energies which his intrusion will release in a seemingly weak territorial defender. 

In a quite different vein, he concludes that family loyalty and responsibility, in men no less than in gibbons or beavers or robins, rests on joint attachment to a private territory. Perhaps the author’s most far-reaching, most controversial conclusion is that morality - our willingness to make personal sacrifice for interests larger than ourselves - has its origins in dim evolutionary beginnings, is as essential to the life of the animal as to the lives of men, and could probably not exist in the human species without property either privately or jointly defended and the ultimate command of the territorial imperative. 

Like its predecessor, The Territorial Imperative is a work of wit, of literary wealth, of high adventure. Again the author draws on his inexhaustible knowledge of animal ways, and again his wife presents her intriguing sketches of animal life. But this time Mr Ardrey takes his readers on far deeper excursions into the ancient animal world, and on far deeper penetrations of the contemporary human wilderness. 

While evolutionary science has advanced markedly since Ardrey's times, his insights on human behaviour have a timeless quality and The Territorial Imperative remains a classic reference for anyone wishing to begin an adventure exploring life's biggest questions. 

Praise for the 1966 edition: “One of the most exciting books about the nature of man that has ever been presented.” - Newsday “Robert Ardrey’s vision of man’s future is as hopeful as any doctrinaire utopian’s, and, in my opinion, a good deal more interesting… He ranks as the lyric poet of human evolution, a superb writer with a special vision.” - E. O. Wilson “One of the most intellectually exciting books of humanised sciences we have ever recommended in the Club’s long history, a fascinating inquiry into the nature of the human animal, and an invaluable, as well as beautifully written, treatise on recent extensions of the boundaries of the biological sciences.” 

- Clifton Fadiman, Book-of-the-Month Club News “This is a fascinating, stimulating, fruitful, thought-provoking, and irritating book.” - Dr Abraham Maslow, Department of Psychology, Brandeis University “Few books are as fresh in concept, lively in style, and potentially important in understanding human behavior.” - Wall Street Journal “Ardrey belongs to the long and distinguished tradition of first-rate scientific amateurs… the love of science, especially biological science, animates every page.” - The New Yorker

Author: Robert Ardrey