in looking for an explanation for why democracy today works better in northern as opposed to southern italy, putnam, et. al., point to the long history of civic behavior in northern italy, stretching back to the middle ages, in contrast to the feudal system of southern italy which lasted really into the 1800s [pg. 130]:

“In the North the crucial social, political, and even religious allegiances and alignments were horizontal, while those in the South were vertical. Collaboration, mutual assistance, civic obligation, and even trust — not universal, of course, but extending further beyond the limits of kinship than anywhere else in Europe in this era — were the distinguishing features in the North. The chief virtue in the South, by contrast, was the imposition of hierarchy and order on latent anarchy.”

in other words, northern italy was full of republican communes, while the south was run from the top down by the monarch.

medieval communes were a type of corporate society, but you can’t have a corporate society if you have clans or tribes or any sort of extended families produced by extensive inbreeding. you need a good deal of outbreeding to get the republican communes that putnam talks about. you need to have a society full of individuals looking out for their own best interests, and those of their immediate family (wife, children), as opposed to a society of extended families or clans or tribes looking out for the interests of their whole group. then, because of the effects of inbreeding on the evolution of social behaviors, you get clan vs. clan, not individuals coming together in guilds to promote their profession or mutal aid societies.

so, what were the mating patterns of northern and southern italians during the medieval period?

i don’t have any info (yet) for southern italy, but samuel kline cohn, jr., in Marriage in the Mountains, 1348-1500 (pg. 174+), finds that the marriage system of the people in the areas surrounding florence was very exogamous in the late-fourteenth and fifteenth centuries — a full three-quarters of the people married outside their parish, and just about half married beyond the pieve, a secular district larger than, and encompassing, the parishes. to me, that sounds potentially more exogamous than nineteenth and twentieth century rural greece in which the people had a preference for marrying within their village or to someone in a neighboring village. it was certainly much more exogamous than marriage patterns in twentieth century sicily and other parts of southern italy.

kline cohn doesn’t examine cousin marriages, but i think it’s safe to say that marriages over greater geographic distances (his “cross-boundary marriages,” for instance) are prolly unlikely to represent any close inbreeding. his data, btw, relates mostly to peasants:

pg. 192:

“The marriage records for the mountains of the early Renaissance in the territory of Florence do not highlight isolated communities, hollows of cultural and biological endogamy. Rather, it was in the plains near the city that one-third of those sampled married within their own parish….

“When the second geographical rung is considered — that of the pieve or the newer secular districts — little difference appears between these three regions. But a glance at a map shows that such intermarriages in the mountains could cover considerably more distance than in the smaller pievi of the plains surrounding the city of Florence….”

so, that’s one example of quite exogamous marriage patterns in northern medieval italy.

previously: democracy in italy

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