Archives for the month of: August, 2012


avner greif — of Family structure, institutions, and growth – the origin and implications of Western corporatism fame (well, famous on this blog anyway), and who is rapidly becoming one of my favorite researchers even though he doesn’t take into account human biodiveristy things (nobody’s perfect!) — and father guido tabellini have a fantastic paper out titled: The Clan and the City: Sustaining Cooperation in China and Europe.

they really get why western europe works the way it does while china works in a whole other way — except they’re missing the underlying biological reasons, of course. here’s what they have to say:

“In a clan, moral obligations are stronger but are limited in scope, as they apply only toward kin. In a city, moral obligations are generalized towards all citizens irrespective of lineage, but they are weaker, as identi…cation is more difficult in a larger and more heterogeneous group. We refer to this distinction as limited vs generalized morality.

i like that. more…

“Institutional mechanisms also differ between the clan and the city: clan enforcement mainly relies on informal institutions, whereas the city relies more on formal enforcement procedures. In terms of economic effciency, these two arrangements have clear trade-offs. The clan economizes on enforcement costs, whereas the city exploits economies of scale because it sustains cooperation in a larger and more heterogeneous community.”


where greif and tabellini get it wrong is that they believe that people become clannish or not depending on what sort of moral system they have. *sigh* which is exactly backwards, of course (i think) — a population’s moral system stems from whether they are clannish or not, not the other way around. but here’s there take on it:

Two otherwise identical societies that differ only in the initial distributions of moral traits evolve along different self-reinforcing trajectories of both cultural traits and organizational forms. Initial diffusion of kin-based morality leads to a steady state where clan loyalty is widespread, the clan provides public goods, the share of the population living in the city is small, and intra-city institutions are weak. This equilibrium captures the arrangements that prevailed in China.

“Conversely, if generalized morality is initially widespread, the organization of society moves to an opposite steady state, where strong and large cities act as the main providers of public goods, as in the evolution of Europe. Thus, to understand the different paths in China vs Europe, we need to focus on cultural differences in their respective early histories. Even if China and Europe had access to the same technologies, and neglecting the role of geography and other factors, social organizations and cultural traits evolved endogenously and mutually reinforced each other.”

yeah. almost. but, just where did the “initial distribution of moral traits” come from in the first place?

they’ve also got a lot of interesting stuff on the return of clans in china today. ruh roh:

“The persistence of cultural attitudes is matched by a striking persistence of clans as a central organization in Modern China.

“The modernization movement in the early 20th century was hostile to the clans, that were viewed as an obstacle to economic development. In 1904, the Chinese government legalized corporations with the explicit intention to foster joint stock companies. The law failed in this regard, as Li Chun explains: ‘the idea that members of the public would be invited to join one’s business and share in its control and pro…fits was indeed repugnant. On the other hand, the notion that one’s money be put into the pocket of some strangers for them to run a business was just as unthinkable’ (Li, 1974, p. 205 cited by Kirby, 1995, p. 50).

“The communist regime officially abolished the clans upon gaining power in 1949: clans’ properties were confi…scated, elders lost their legal privileges and authority, clan legal codes were no longer recognized, and the ideology of class consciousness was promoted (e.g., Huang, 1985, p. 308). Had the clans been a product of the state, they would not have survived the crackdown since 1949. If, however, clans had been a product of the coevolution of deeply held moral convictions, social organization, and institutions [not to mention biology - h. chick], clans should have persisted and reemerged following the reforms that allowed individuals to organize themselves. This is indeed what has happened since 1978.

“A county-level survey in 2000 (by Liangqun and Murphy, 2006, in Jiangaxi) documents that 70 surnames out of 99 (in 40 villages) updated their genealogies since 1981 and 41 surnames invested in their ancestral shrines since 1991 (p. 230). A 2002 representative national survey of more tham 300 villages reveals lineage activities and kinship organizations in 66 percent of the villages (Tsai, 2007, pp. 154–7). Clans resumed their role in securing property rights from predation by officials, organizing weddings and funerals, providing welfare, contributing to public projects, and promoting mutual aid arrangements (ibid). Inter-clan confl‡icts also resumed and collectively owned rural fa…rms often formally exclude non-locals (Thøgersen, 2002). About 90 percent of the 887 households that migrated to or from one of 50 villages relocated to their ‘ancestral village’ and 60 percent relocated due to inter-lineage tension (Liangqun and Murphy, 2006, p. 623).

“We quantify clans’ persistence using a random sample of 76 counties, 205 villages and 4274 individuals from China General Social Survey, 2005 (GSS05). The GSS05 asks (only) rural residents whether there is a clan organization in their community and, whether it is a surname-based or a temple-based clan organization. Although under-reporting of clan organizations is likely given tradition of suppression by the communist authorities, the census reveals 277 clan-based organizations. A clan organization almost always (90 percent) has a genealogy, a graveyard, or both. The two organizational types differ, however, in their economically-relevant assets such as land, estates (other than ancestral hall), and trust funds. Only 26 percent of the surname-based network have such an asset compared to 78 percent of the temple-based organizations (F12). On average there is 1.35 organizations per-village and one organization per 15.5 respondents. The highest number of people per-clan organization is in the eastern region (35) and the lowest is the northwest.

Almost 70 percent of the population live in a county with positive sample probability of a village having an organization and in 41 percent of the counties the village-probability of having a clan organization is at least 50 percent. In fact, clan organizations currently exist in each of China’s six regions although there are no temple-based clan organizations in the north (Figure 2, note that the northwest is a separate region) but they are particularly strong in the south-central region and, speci…cally, in Guandong, the richest province. These findings correspond to our historical discussion in which we noted the relations between out-migration from the North and the rise of clans.

“Table 5 presents the number and fraction of organizations –out of the 277 in our sample that ful…ll various functions. Most common are cooperation-promoting functions –resolving private disputes within the village and handling inter-village relations –and providing public goods in the village or the clan.

“Our online appendix also documents that the frequency and strength of clans in modern China is negatively correlated with urbanization in townships (i.e. excluding major cities), as predicted by the model. Speci…cally, data from China County-prefectural Statistical Yearbook, 2006 (YB06) and China General Social Survey, 2005 (GSS05) reveals that in the sample of 76 counties, clan strength is negatively correlated with urbanization even after controlling for such variable as education, infrastructure investment, and distance from the coast.

This re-emergence of clans is particularly noteworthy given that the reforms were not designed to foster clan organizations. Households, and not clans, were given land-use rights in the former collective farms and privately-owned businesses were permitted. Yet, kin-based and relations-based exclusive organizations have re-emerged and resumed their traditional role in supporting cooperation.”

previously: the return of chinese clans and china today… and whatever happened to european tribes?

(note: comments do not require an email. father guido sarducci: vita est lavorum)

i left this in the comments here not that long ago, from Rome and its Frontiers: The Dynamics of Empire [pgs. 205-212 - links and empahses added by me]:

[I]n the later Roman Empire frontiers became softer and immigration control more lax at the same time as citizenship and ethnic distinctions within the Empire were becoming blurred. The universal grant of citizenship by the Constitutio Antoniniana of 212 AD was only a formal recognition by the state of a long process that had diminished the concept of citizenship and eroded the distinction between cives and peregrini in the provinces. By the fourth century status and wealth counted for more socially and legally than citizenship….

“To sum up, far from the homogenization of what the Constitutio Antoniniana called the patria communis, that is, the population of the Roman community, internal, social divisions became stronger. Ironically, however, the refinements of status distinctions and social divisions served as a more effective vehicle than any legal measure to allow immigrants to integrate at all levels. What mattered was not whether you were a citizen but whether you could attain equal social or economic status. In this respect, the Roman Empire of the fourth century was the reverse image of the nation-state in the nineteenth century. The juridical personality of the citizen was almost eliminated as frontier controls relaxed and as immigrants were accomodated in ever greater numbers….

“Immigrants provided substitutes for rural recruits, thus leaving agricultural workers on the land to increase state revenue, since they increased the capitation tax and added extra income through the system of adaeratio, which bought them exemption from the military levy. There clearly were concerns in the imperial chancellery for the tax regime and for the rents from imperial estates, which was reflected in contemporary legislation….

“These fiscal and economic benefits to rural production coincide with the concern expressed by the Gallic panegyricists about agri deserti and high taxes, and hence their praise for ‘so many farmers in the Roman countryside’, both as immigrants and as returning prisoners… The essential point, however, is that … immigrants were officially perceived as good for the economy by bringing down the price of food and by servicing local markets through increased production.

“Whether the peasants of the Gallic countryside felt the same pleasure at the fall in market prices is another matter, and it may have provoked resentment. If modern experience is any guide, there is a sharp difference between economists, who calculate that immigrants are essential to economic growth, and popular opinion, which always believes that immigrants are undesirable because they depress the labor market. But there is no evidence to show that there was institutional, social discrimination against foreign-born workers, once settled inside the Roman Empire….

the author also refers to [pg. 212]:

“The long history, since Augustus [r. 27b.c.-19a.d.], of frontiers open to foreign migrants, and the even longer history of liberal access to citizenship and Romanization…”

gee. all sounds awfully familiar (presumably the roman senators even claimed they were worried about crops rotting in the fields…).

now last night i came across this in Marriage and the Family in the Middle Ages [pg. 30]:

“[I]mpelled from their homes by cataclysms still shrouded in mystery, they [the germans] began pressing westward and southward in a series of waves climaxing in the fifth and sixth centuries. In addition to feeling pressures from behind — famine, drought, Huns — they were drawn into the Roman Empire by the magnet of an economically and technically advanced region, with its cities and villas, granaries and warehouses, shops, tools, coins, and ornaments, in a species of ‘gold rush’ (in the phrase of a modern historian). Columns of thousands or tens of thousands of Goths, Gepids, Alemanni, and other peoples from the north and east, men, women, children, and animals, filtered or flooded through the Roman frontier defenses, sometimes peacefully and by permission, sometimes violently or by taking advantage of the moments when the legions were absent contesting the Imprerial succession on behalf of their generals….

“In the later stage of the Migrations, large numbers of several major groupings — Burgundians, Ostrogoths, Visigoths, Franks — entered Gaul and Italy as foederati, or allies, by a negotiated arrangement that settled barbarian families on arable land in much the same fashion that Roman veterans had been settled in the earlier period. This episode in the Great Migrations apparently took place with little friction between newcomers and old inhabitants.**

“**Walter Goffart (Barbarians and Romans, A.D. 418-584: The Techniques of Accomodation) postulates that instead of being given lands expropriated from Roman and Gallo-Roman proprietors, many of the Germans were assigned revenues from normal taxation in the provinces in which they were settled, in return for which they garrisoned the frontiers against later arrivals.”

little friction? why? how?

i’m sure that a big part of the reason why westerners today don’t seem to be very concerned about mass immigration to their countries is ’cause times are good (or they were up until very recently). maybe something like that was also the case for roman empire days? i dunno.

but here’s something interesting that might’ve possibly affected roman attitudes (might’ve) [pg. 22]:

Even stronger than the bar to interclass marriage was the proscription against incest or marrying ‘in.’ Early Rome forbade marriage between second cousins, but over time the rule was relaxed, and even first cousins were allowed to marry. When the Emperor Claudius (reigned A.D. 41-54) chose for his fourth wife his niece Agrippina, the public was shocked, but the Senate obligingly revised the legal definition of incest, and (according to Suetonius) at least two other uncle-niece marriages were recorded. This was an exceptional case, but in revealing the flexible nature of exogamy rules it foreshadowed much medieval controversy.”

so in early rome — in the days of the republic — you couldn’t marry anyone closer than second cousins. hmmm…. i’ll have to check the dates on when the changes started to happen, and also how strong enforcement was and all that. but, interesting. very interesting!

(note: comments do not require an email. hi there!)

just some random notes that i want to keep track of — and that i thought might interest some of you guys out there — but that i haven’t, or am not planning to, work into a full post — not just now anyhoo. enjoy!

the law of wihtred from the 690s:

“The Law of Wihtred is an early English legal text attributed to the Kentish king Wihtred (died 725). It is believed to date to the final decade of the 7th century and is the last of three Kentish legal texts…. It is devoted primarily to offences within and against the church, as well as church rights and theft.”

from The Anglo-Saxons from the Migration Period to the Eighth Century: An Ethnographic Perspective [pg. 216]:

“Marriage was redefined, as a consequence of the influence of the Church, in the laws of Wihtred; four chapters (Wi. 3-6) condemn illicit unions — namely unconsecrated unions, bigamous unions or unions within the forbidden degrees.”

so here we have a secular, anglo-saxon (jutish!) law from the late 600s banning cousin marriage (should be out to second cousins according to canon law at this point in time). this was in kent. this was also just at the beginning of the era when mating practices were loosened in england — right after the anglo-saxon-jutes converted to christianity. who knows how well … or for how long … the law of wihtred was enforced.

from The development of the family and marriage in Europe [pg. 144]:

“Much later this [the church's cousin marriage ban] was reduced to the second degree [i.e. first cousins] for Indians of South American origin in 1537, for Blacks in 1897, and then for the world at large in 1917.”

the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church (gotta love the full title!) regularly offered concessions on the whole cousin marriage thing for new converts: they did so for the anglo-saxons/other germanic tribes, and again for the baltic populations. not surprising that they should also do so for native americans and africans.

i don’t know if the 1537 exemption applied to mexican/central american populations as well or just to south american indians. that’s something i need to find out.

previously: east anglia, kent and manorialism

(note: comments do not require an email. men of kent.)

sam worby refers to charles donahue jr.‘s Law, Marriage, and Society in the Later Middle Ages as “magisterial” and there’s no hyperbole in that i can assure you. at a mere 696 pages(!), it’s a very thorough examination of marriage litigation in fourteenth and fifteenth century england and, what donahue calls, franco-belgia. donahue himself describes the book as “obscenely long.” (^_^) it’s not at all! it’s just very, very complete. and very, very awesome!

donahue studied the records of five medieval episcopal courts: york, ely, paris, cambrai and brussels. and, afaict, he looked at the data from every which way possible. i haven’t read the whole thing … yet … but i’ve gleaned a couple of interesting points so far:

- apparently, there weren’t a whole lot of cases (requesting annulment or whatever) brought before the courts on the basis of consanguinity — it really seems to have been a (relatively speaking) non-issue at this point in time in england and franco-belgia;

- the types of cases brought before the courts in england indicate that there were more marriages entered into independently by the parties involved in that country, whereas in franco-belgia it seems that parents were much more involved in arranging their children’s marriages;

- property was held independently by husbands and wives in england (what property a woman brought to her marriage remained hers, although husbands usually managed those properties), while in franco-belgia the property was shared, communally, between husband and wife;

- primogeniture was the rule of the day in england, while all the kids (or all the sons anyway) inherited in franco-belgia.

the last three points are really interesting because those are the same ones made by emmanuel todd in The Explanation of Ideology, only he was referring to more modern times in england and france (1500-1900). it seems, however, that todd’s family types, and their characteristics, for these two nations — absolute nuclear family in england and egalitarian nuclear family in france — go right back to at least the 1300-1400s.

another, possibly minor, point to note — maybe it’s not important at all, or maybe it will turn out to be later — is that donahue’s “franco-belgia” seems to be more or less where early medieval austrasia was — and austrasia is significant because, according to mitterauer, that’s where manorialism got started in europe.

here are some bits from donahue:

pg. 604: “It is a characteristic, then, of English marital property patterns that husband and wife hold their property separately and of English inheritance patterns at all levels of society that one child takes his parents’ property to the exclusion of his siblings. In the Franco-Belgian regions, on the other hand, the tendency is to community property between the spouses and to partible inheritance among children….

“The Franco-Belgians, we might argue, were more concerned with their children’s marriages than were the English because under most Franco-Belgian inheritance customs, all of their children stood to inherit their property. In England, only the marriage of the heir needed to be arranged, whereas in the Franco-Belgian region the marriages of all children needed to be arranged because almost all children were heirs. Hence, we see more litigation in the Franco-Belgian region about marriage contracts because they were more common. We also see more concern with informal marriages — punishing them with automatic excommunication — but fewer informal marriages, in fact because more marriages were arranged….”

what a selection pressure!: “English inheritance patterns at all levels of society that one child takes his parents’ property to the exclusion of his siblings.” and going right back to at least the 1300s in england.

pgs. 609-610: “What we need, then, is some overarching explanation on which both the marriage practices and the property rules can be seen as dependent. The overarching explanation that I offer is both complicated and fuzzy, but it seems right now to be the most plausible: The difference we are trying to explain is a small one heightened by the litigation pattern. Many Franco-Belgian marriages were probably indistinguishable from many English ones. But the difference that produced the difference in results, I would like to suggest, is fundamental, in the sense that it goes to the very core of how people understood themselves. The legal difference are dependent on it. However strong the sense of family and of community was in England, it was weaker than it was in the Franco-Belgian region. The English, with their separate ownership system of marital property, with their winner-take-all inheritance system, with their abundant evidence of do-it-yourself marriages, with their strict attitude toward judicial separation, but with their apparent do-it-yourself system of separation, are, for the Middle Ages, an unusually individualistic people. The Franco-Belgians, with their community property, with their shared inheritance system, with their carefully planned marriages, their reluctance to hold that a marriage, particularly an informal marriage, existed, with their system of judicial separation that brought more cases before the courts but judged them by broader standards, are more communitarian. We are dealing here, we might suggest, with a cultural phenomenon that developed independently over the course of centuries and of which both the property system and the marriage cases are an expression.

i would, of course, say we are dealing here with a biological phenomenon. (~_^) i might be willing to go so far as to say a bio-cultural one, though.

“Like the property argument offered previously, this argument needs to be spelled out and qualified. The individualism of the separate ownership system of English marital property has to be qualified by the great power of the husband to manage his wife’s property while the marriage lasted and by the expectancy that each spouse had in the other’s land. The individualism of the English impartible inheritance system has to be qualified by the fact that the present holder of landed wealth had responsibilities to past and future generations in the management of that wealth, responsibilities that could, in some circumstance, be legally enforced. The evidence of English do-it-yourself marriage comes largely from court cases, and it may be that a disproportionate number of do-it-yourself marriages ended up in court. Despite these qualifications, however, and despite the fact that great variations could be achieved in the property system by private action, the core systems, the default systems, of succession and marital property in England seem to focus much more on the individual property holder than do the core or default systems reflected in the *coutumiers*. The fact that the default system of succession in England concentrated wealth in the hands of one person meant that in many families, the children who did not inherit were left to seek their fortunes, to a greater or lesser extent, on their own. Similarly, however aberrant the do-it-yourself marriages that we see in the English church court records may be, the records of all those *de presenti* informal marriages are there, and there are few, if any, like them in the Franco-Belgian regime. Similarly, there are many more records of judicial separation in the Franco-Belgian region than there are in England.

“The communitarianism of the Franco-Belgian marital property system also has to be qualified by the great power of the husband to manage the community while the marriage lasted. The communitarianism of the Franco-Belgian inheritance system needs to be qualified by the power of the current property holder in many of the customs to prefer one child over another by endowment or testament or both. The evidence of arranged marriages in the church court records needs to be qualified by the fact that many of the *de futuro* marriages in the Franco-Belgian records seem to be informal and made without much concern for family consent (consider, for example, Tanneur et Doulsot). Despite these qualifications, however, the core or default system of property in the Franco-Belgian region remains more communitarian than the English. One simply does not find many, if any, English wives seeking separation from their husbands for incurring obligations *ipsa inscia et absque eius [uxoris] proficuo*. The basic principle of inheritance remains *egalite entre heritiers*. The canonic system of marriage is modified, at every turn it would seem, so that concerns other than those of the marriage partners are considered.

“The distinction between individualism and communitarianism that we are seeking to make does not correspond exactly to the traditional distinctions in family types — joint versus stem, horizontal versus vertical, kin group versus lineage, extended versus nuclear — nor does it necessarily tell us much about authority within the family. Obviously, concern for the individual is more likely in situations where family ties are less extended and where authority within the family is weak. Too much depends, however, on the strength of the kinship ties and how the authority is exercised for there to be an exact correspondence between our dichotomy and any of the broader types of family or of authority….

“Can we go any further? Can we offer an explanation for why the English might be more individualistic than the Franco-Belgians, the Franco-Belgians more communitarian than the English? In a previous essay, in attempting to explain why the Franco-Belgians developed community property and the English did not, I suggested that after one took into account the technical legal explanations for the differences between the two regions and explanations based on the differences in the relative power and interests of lords and families, there remained an unexplained residue of variance that could only be accounted for by what I called the ‘anthropological’ explanation, a difference in attitudes toward the family, reflecting, perhaps, an historical difference in family type or structure. This difference in attitude was independent of any economic differences, for the two regions were remarkably similar economically, particularly in the thirteenth century when the difference in marital property systems seems to have emerged.”

hmmmm. what might the underlying reason for this “anthropological” difference between the individualistic english and the more communitarian franco-belgians be? my guess, of course, would be some sort of difference in mating patterns, but i haven’t come up with a whole lot of data for the medieval french yet (i’ll have to get to work on that!), so … can’t say much of anything about that possibility just now.

one social or economic difference between medieval england and the continent that mitterauer pointed out is that banal lordship did not develop in england whereas it did everywhere else in nw europe. this, i think, might have had a signficant impact on the genetic structure of both societies (england vs. everyone else in nw europe on the continent) because the banal lords controlled their subjects so much more directly — including, possibly, their mating opportunities. from mitterauer [pgs. 41, 45, & 56]:

“Most important among these transformational processes was the growth of the ‘immunities’ of ‘banal lordship’ (Bannherrschaft, seigneurie banale) that began in the tenth century. This primiarlity involved the manorial estates of the nobility…. Banal lordships of the nobility could practice jurisdictional and other rights of authority related to dues and services — including rights over subject on ecclesiastical estates….

“On one point, however, the English manorial system diverged from the continental one: banal lordship did not take hold in England….

“With the rise of banal lordship in the tenth century, these buildings [housing knights and their horses and equipment] were frequently converted to fortresses, so that they took on the particularly striking appearance of a seat of lordship. The numerous seats of noble and ecclesiastical lords demonstrated how decentralized the organization of lordship was — a pattern without counterpart in the formation of empires outside Europe. The decentralized organization of lordship contributed in turn to a certain autonomous heft shared by the peripheral regions over against the center. This would promote federalist tendencies in the later history of Europe.”

i have to admit that i don’t fully understand this banal lordship business. from what i gather, they seem to have been a middle order of lords (sort-of feudal middle managers) having power/control over a rather local population. if that’s correct, then it’s very interesting that there weren’t really banal lords in england, because that might mean that the english were that much freer to move about or to marry whomever they wanted, which seems to have been the case. if you have a system with local lords controlling what goes on in relatively small areas, then they might very well want to keep the local laborers on the land and not let them marry out very far — we actually have an example of this from the manors of eighteenth century poland.

if this is at all correct, perhaps this can (partly) account for the differences between england and franco-belgia that donahue picked up on. if franco-belgia had banal lords that restricted the population’s mating patterns and england did not — well maybe that’s part of the “anthropological” explanation donahue is looking for for why the medieval english were so individualistic while the franco-belgians were more communal and “clannish” (or “extended family-ish”).

dunno. just thinking aloud.

previously: “l’explication de l’idéologie” and traditional family systems in medieval britain and ireland and medieval manoralism and the hajnal line

(note: comments do not require an email. bipedalism – not just for humans anymore.)

i’ve written before (here, here and here) about the hgdp samples and the fact that there is very little to no provenance info connected to them. the problem with this, afaics, is that it’s difficult to know whether or not the hgdp samples are truly representative, in all ways, of the populations from which they came.

i was particularly concerned initially about the french (and the japanese) hgdp samples — and then i got over that — but now i’m concerned about them again. here’s why:

the hgdp samples from france are described thusly:

“France – French/various regions (relatives) – This sample from various regions of France is part of the Human Genome Diversity Cell Line Panel collected by the Human Genome Diversity Project (HGDP) and the Foundation Jean Dausset (CEPH). This sample consists of unrelated individuals and was collected with proper informed consent.”


hang on — which regions?

auvergne? where, in some villages in the eighteenth century, groups of families regularly inbred with one another? lorraine? which, in some areas, had consanguinity rates of up to 50% between 1810 and 1910? burgundy or brittany, both of which had reportedly higher cousin marriage rates in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries than other regions of france? or were the hgdp samples collected in places like central france which, historically, had much lower rates (in the range of 1-3.5%) of close marriages?

the thing is: we don’t know.

what we do know is that the hgdp sampling seems kinda biased towards unique little groups like basques and orcadians, sardinians and the adygei. which is understandable ’cause these are all interesting, unusual groups and there’s legitimate concern that their unique genomes might sorta disappear in our modern, outbreeding world, and it would be a shame to miss out on the chance to at least keep a record of all that human biodiversity.

but then i have to wonder how representative of the majority of french people are the french hgdp samples? do they truly represent “the french,” or did the samples come from some of those crazy little villages way up in the mountains? i dunno. and neither does anybody else (afaik).

and the reason i wonder is: if teh scientists are gonna do really awesome genetic studies to check for the relatedness between the members of different human populations — like runs of homozygosity (roh) studies or identity by descent (ibd) studies — i think they need to know if the samples they’re looking at are representative or not. do the results for “the french” in studies like this or this or this truly represent the average french, or do they represent some special sub-groups of mountain dwelling french?

in the most recent roh study i posted about, the “french” don’t appear to be much more in- or out-bred than orcadians or the basques, something which strikes me as odd. perhaps — perhaps — that’s because the french hgdp samples are not truly representative of the broader french population. perhaps. i don’t know. nor do the researchers.

rinse and repeat above discussion for the other samples, too.

previously: hgdp samples and relatedness and more on the hgdp samples and why i care about the hgdp samples and meanwhile, in france… and runs of homozygosity and inbreeding (and outbreeding) and ibd and historic mating patterns in europe and runs of homozygosity again

(note: comments do not require an email. not out on a limb, am i?)

from jack goody’s The development of the family and marriage in Europe [pgs. 186-87 -- links added by me]:

“Throughout its [the church's] history reformers pointed to the ease with which the congregation continued to fall into earlier ways. At the domestic level the Church’s prohibitions and injunctions were frequently avoided, even disobeyed (Turlan 1957: 480). The actual extent of this disobedience is not known. Except for the registers of dispensations, which may themselves represent only the tip of the iceberg, the evidence for the practice of close marriage among the rural population is unlikely to achieve statistical reliability. But some accounts give a glimpse of the persistence of such forms of marriage. After the end of the eighteenth century the small isolated village of Pinon in the Auvergne gained fame as an example of ‘communal’ exploitation of the soil, with the different branches of one ‘family’ marrying among themselves. In 1787 the commune consisted of four such branches totalling 19 persons in all who married amongst themselves. Indeed, according to one source, the Pope had granted them a permanent dispensation against ‘cousinage’ (Dupin 1929: 47; Champeaux 1933: 248). They feared that out-marriage would ‘enfeeble their customary ways’, although one commentator, voicing an anxiety that runs as a continuing thread in Western European belief from the Dark Ages down to today, expressed the alternative view that the recent loss of population which they had experienced had been caused by this very practice of marrying kin.”

the amount of close marriages in pinon in the eighteenth century is not out of character for mountainous regions in europe, or elsewhere for that matter. (the unusual thing is when mountain folks outbreed a lot.) pinon is unlikely to be representative for france as a whole, however, although it could very well be representative for alpine and other mountainous regions of france.

continuing from goody:

“More substantial evidence of close marriage is provided by Karnoouh’s study of French peasants in Lorraine in the last two centuries, a part of the country that had a very strong Catholic tradition. Nevertheless, claims the author, ‘they have always transgressed in very significant proportions, with or without the agreement of their bishops, the rules on the prohibited degrees of marriage laid down by the Church.’ Between 1810 and 1910 as many as 50 per cent of marriages went against those rules. Many were between first cousins, while others were between uncle and niece. The majority were between individuals born and resident in the same village (1971: 41). The last point is critical, for it suggests that the parties and their families had overlapping interests in matters other than marriage itself.”

a 50% consanguinity rate for lorraine between 1810 and 1910 sounds high, but may very well be correct. parts of southern italy, another devoutly roman catholic nation, had such rates in 1910-1914, so it’s certainly not completely out of character for europeans. however, the consanguineous marriage rate for catholics in alsace-lorraine in the 1870s was 0.997%. that’s quite a remarkable difference. i haven’t seen the original karnoouh article so i don’t know exactly where in lorraine he conducted his research. was it in the eastern mountainous region? i don’t know.


The importance of cousin marriages in the recent past of the French village of Minot in Burgundy is noted by Verdier. ‘Before’, declared one mother, ‘of course people used to marry cousins, the marriages would be arranged when people gathered in the evenings, they used to talk about them.’ She hastened to add that today she would prefer her son to marry anyone other than a cousin and even a Black or Japanese for her daughter, but Verdier remarks that ‘the proportion of in-marriage and out-marriage remains remarkably stable’ (1979: 287-8).”

again, i haven’t seen the original work (by verdier) so i don’t know what the in- and out-marriage rates were for minot, nor exactly what time we’re talking about.

In a general survey of rural France in the nineteenth century, Segalen claims that in-marriage, both within the community and between relatives, actually increased over that period (1980: 19). But unlike the figures from Lorraine, the recorded rates are not exceptionally high; the records consist of dispensations registered with the Church, which represent only a proportion of the actual total of such unions. In Loir-et-Cher [in central france], such marriages formed about 3.5 per cent of the total, rising at times to 5 and 6 per cent; in Finistere [in brittany], the percentage was higher even at the beginning of the twentieth century.

a 3.5 percent consanguineous marriage rate on average is more in line with what i would expect for central france in the nineteenth century. those numbers fit better with the alsace-lorraine data referenced above, not to mention the figures for france’s neighbors, england and spain, in the same time period. it also fits better with early twentieth century figures for france [h/t m.g.!] which max out at 3.5+ percent for roman catholics in certain regions of the country (click on map for LARGER view):

also, segalen’s findings that consanguinity rates increased in france in the nineteenth century fit with a general pattern that has been found for europe — or western europe at any rate — as a whole.


“Rates of in-marriage varied with the size of the village, the area in which it was located, and the freedom with which the dispensations were granted. Flandrin claims that in some mountain areas of France in the eighteenth century, the frequency was very high and ‘almost all marriages had to take place with dispensations from the impediments on the grounds of kinship’ (1979: 34). Such unions were often between cousins, some of whom had been brought up together because of the death of parents, a situation of which the registers of dispensations of marriage provide ‘innumerable examples’.”

again, mountain folks. typically rather high consanguinity rates.

references from goody:

- Champeaux, E. 1933. Jus sanguinis. ‘I’rois fagons de calculer la parenté au Moyen Age. “Revue Historique de Droit Fiungais et Etmnger,” 4e série, 12: 241-90.

- Dupin, C.-R. 1929. Une communaute familiale en Auvergne, “L’Auvergne Litteraire, Artistique et Historique” 48: 41-52.

- Flandrin, J.-L. 1979. Families in Former Times, Cambridge.

- Karnoouh, C. 1971. L’oncle et le cousin, Études rurales No. 42, Recherches sur la parenté paysanne (Apr.-Jun., 1971), pp. 7-51.

- Segalen, M. 1980. Mari et femme dans la societe paysanne, Paris.

- Turlan, Julliette M. 1957. Recherches sur le mariage dans la pratique coutumière, XIIe-XVIe siècles, “Revue historique de droit français et étranger” 4th sér., 35: 477-528.

- Verdier, Y. 1979. Façons de dire, façons de faire, Paris.

previously: inbreeding in nineteenth century alsace-lorraine (including jews) and what about the franks?

(note: comments do not require an email. balance skillz.)

as we’ve seen, some societies experience a lot more difficulties implementing liberal democracy (or any sort of democracy) than others, and very often the ones that have these difficulties have a history of cousin marriage (see here and here).

liberal democracy (fwiw) is, of course, a relatively modern invention, but it’s not as though democratic tendencies weren’t around before the enlightenment. many societies have, or have had, democratic elements to them even if they are/were not fully functioning democracies, probably mostly because people will have a say in matters. there’s even been talk that the ancient sumerians engaged in a “primitive democracy” so … well … there you go.

in The Tribal Imagination, robin fox described so well what is so ODD about our modern liberal democray. i quoted him once before on liberal democracy, and here i go again [pg. 60 - bolding added by me]:

“Again in England, it was not until 1688, after a bitter civil-religious war and a period of hard totalitarianism, that we were able to set up a system whereby political factions could compete for votes and, most amazingly, the loser would *voluntarily cede power*. This transformation took a long time and hard practice with many missteps.”

to voluntarily cede power. very odd system, indeed!

in digging around for stuff on mating patterns in different societies, i’ve found that i keep coming across an alternate democratic system that seems to pop up again and again in places with more inbreeding than the anglo world, and that is consensus democracy. and if it’s not a democratic system, it’s a system of governing that involves getting/having a consensus in some shape or form. i don’t know if this is an actual general pattern or not — i.e. more consensus building in more inbred societies — it’s just something i’ve noticed lately.

tribal societies, like those in the arab world, definitely seem to operate with consensus building systems [pg. 212 - emphases added by me]:

“Arab society during Muhammad’s day and for more than a century afterward never really developed a stable political order worthy of being called a state. There was no state per se and no administrative structure of government. Arab society remained what it had always been, a tribal society characterized by personal leadership and appointed retainers that drew no distinctions between the social, religious, and military aspects of life. Indeed, there was never a formal army as such. Instead, there was an alliance of powerful tribal chiefs who led their personal retinues in battle. There was no financial system, and what treasury there was came from gifts and booty obtained in raids. Government was essentially an enlarged tribal system of negotiated consensus among powerful tribal chieftans, and it was these warrior chiefs who controlled the Arab populace and the army. Governance was effected indirectly through tribal intermediaries. This system of indirect rule plagued the Muslim Empire until its end. Power ebbed and flowed from the center of authority, but no caliph ever was able to retain control of the tribal and regional armies for very long. Revolts and insurrections rooted in jealousy, political interests, religious apostasy, and blood feuds went on for centuries.”

but i’ve also noticed the concept of “consensus” in other places like in the medieval republic of novgorod which is meant to be one of these examples of early democracy in eastern europe. however, consensus was a big part of novgorod’s democratic system [pg. 47 - link and emphasis added by me]:

“Another source of stability in the region which is grounded in the historic inheritance of Novgorod is the concept of democratic consensus. Although, in Novgorod’s history, consensus was sometimes achieved through violent means (the medieval chronicles depict how recalcitrant minorities within the assembly, or veche, might face physical assault, including being hurled off the principle bridge of the city into the river Volkhov), the idea that elected representatives have an obligation, once in power, to seek consensus for the good of society beyond narrow partisan, ethnic, or geographic interests has been critical in helping to achieve stability…. As former First Deputy Governor Valery Trofimov put it, ‘all of civil society’ — elected officials, academics, entrepreneurs — worked together to forge a policy commonly referred to as ‘politics of the round table.’”

and poland’s era of golden liberty — another example of early democracy in eastern europe — was undone by its consensus building mechanism, the liberum veto [emphasis added by me]:

“The liberum veto (Latin for ‘the free veto’) was a parliamentary device in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. It allowed any member of the Sejm (legislature) to force an immediate end to the current session and nullify any legislation that had already been passed at the session by shouting Nie pozwalam! (Polish: ‘I do not allow!’). From the mid-16th to the late 18th century, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth had the liberum veto, a form of unanimity voting rule, in its parliamentary deliberations….

“This rule evolved from the principle of unanimous consent, which derived from the traditions of decision making in the Kingdom of Poland, and developed under the federative character of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Each deputy to a Sejm was elected at a sejmik (the local sejm for a region) and represented the entire region. He thus assumed responsibility to his sejmik for all decisions taken at the Sejm. A decision taken by a majority against the will of a minority (even if only a single sejmik) was considered a violation of the principle of political equality.

in other words, there had to be consensus.

i might be wrong, but it seems to me that consensus building systems have something to do with the presence of different interest groups — in the case of tribal societies, different tribes — in the case of clannish societies, different clans. i think you might wind up with liberal democracy arising naturally only in places where these interest groups have been removed from the system — like in england where society was “atomized” into bunches of individuals and their nuclear families in the early medieval period.

let’s see — who else likes consensus? oh, yes — some north american native americans in canada, eh! probably have a history of mating endogamously. the sveeedes. late outbreeders. and, my personal favorite, one of those rabble-rousing scots-irishmen, john c. calhoun!:

“The ‘Disquisition on Government’ is a 100-page abstract treatise that comprises Calhoun’s definitive and fully elaborated ideas on government; he worked on it intermittently for six years before it was finished in 1849. It systematically presents his arguments that 1) a numerical majority in any government will typically impose a despotism over a minority unless some way is devised to secure the assent of all classes, sections, and interests and 2) that innate human depravity would debase government in a democracy.

“Calhoun offered the concurrent majority as the key to achieving consensus, a formula by which a minority interest had the option to nullify objectionable legislation passed by a majority interest.”

hmmmm. that “innate human depravity would debase government in a democracy.” how true.

previously: consanguinity and democracy and pathogens and consanguinity and democracy and “hard-won democracy”

(note: comments do not require an email. wild man, john c. calhoun.)


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 228 other followers