An early school of Anthropology
which tried to define a ladder of societal evolution
, from the lowest or least developed to the highest or most developed.
Was heavily influenced by reports brought back by explorers who had 'discovered' many 'primitive' societies. Also influenced, of course, by Darwin.
Many evolutionsists, such as E.B. Tylor and James Frazer were fascinated by animism, since they believed it to be one of the most basic forms of religion. They were trying to discover the laws through which societies developed.
Often described as rationalist or intellectualist. Replaced by functionalism.