from steven pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature, chapter 3: The Civilizing Process (links and emphases added by me):


“The Civilizing Process spread not only downward along the socioeconomic scale but outward across the geographic scale, from a Western European epicenter. We saw in figure 3–3 that England was the first to pacify itself, followed closely by Germany and the Low Countries. Figure 3–8 plots this outward ripple on maps of Europe in the late 19th and early 21st centuries. [click on image for LARGER view. - h.chick]:

FIGURE 3–8. Geography of homicide in Europe, late 19th and early 21st centuries.

In the late 1800s, Europe had a peaceable bull’s-eye in the northern industrialized countries (Great Britain, France, Germany, Denmark, and the Low Countries), bordered by slightly stroppier Ireland, Austria-Hungary, and Finland, surrounded in turn by still more violent Spain, Italy, Greece, and the Slavic countries. Today the peaceable center has swelled to encompass all of Western and Central Europe, but a gradient of lawlessness extending to Eastern Europe and the mountainous Balkans is still visible. There are gradients within each of these countries as well: the hinterlands and mountains remained violent long after the urbanized and densely farmed centers had calmed down. Clan warfare was endemic to the Scottish highlands until the 18th century, and to Sardinia, Sicily, Montenegro, and other parts of the Balkans until the 20th. It’s no coincidence that the two blood-soaked classics with which I began this book — the Hebrew Bible and the Homeric poems — came from peoples that lived in rugged hills and valleys.”

this is the same pattern we’ve seen several times now: an epicenter of england (+ poss. the netherlands) with some feature originating and spreading out from there (or thereabouts) to eventually encompass most of “core” nw europe — england, france, belgium, the netherlands, northern italy, germany, denmark and maybe sweden/norway — but missing out the periphery of europe — highland scotland, ireland, parts of southern france, spain and portugal (especially to the south), southern italy, the balkans including greece, and eastern europe.

we see this pattern in the history and spread of manorialism in medieval europe (the epicenter is actually more northern france/belgium in this case); we see it in the hajnal line; we see the pattern in the varying levels of civicness in different european populations; pinker’s seen it in the dropping levels of violence in europe over the course of history (see also this post); and, of course, it seems to be the general pattern of the history of outbreeding in europe, i.e. more/longer in the epicenter, and less and less the further away you get from it. as ya’ll know, i think that last one is important.

here’s more from pinker from earlier in the same chapter:

“In 1981 the political scientist Ted Robert Gurr, using old court and county records, calculated thirty estimates of homicide rates at various times in English history, combined them with modern records from London, and plotted them on a graph. I’ve reproduced it in figure 3–1, using a logarithmic scale in which the same vertical distance separates 1 from 10, 10 from 100, and 100 from 1000. The rate is calculated in the same way as in the preceding chapter, namely the number of killings per 100,000 people per year. The log scale is necessary because the homicide rate declined so precipitously. The graph shows that from the 13th century to the 20th, homicide in various parts of England plummeted by a factor of ten, fifty, and in some cases a hundred—for example, from 110 homicides per 100,000 people per year in 14th-century Oxford to less than 1 homicide per 100,000 in mid-20th-century London.

“FIGURE 3–1. Homicide rates in England, 1200–2000: Gurr’s 1981 estimates.

“The graph stunned almost everyone who saw it (including me—as I mentioned in the preface, it was the seed that grew into this book). The discovery confounds every stereotype about the idyllic past and the degenerate present. When I surveyed perceptions of violence in an Internet questionnaire, people guessed that 20th-century England was about 14 percent more violent than 14th-century England. In fact it was 95 percent less violent….

“Were the English unusual among Europeans in gradually refraining from murder? Eisner looked at other Western European countries for which criminologists had compiled homicide data. Figure 3–3 shows that the results were similar. Scandinavians needed a couple of additional centuries before they thought the better of killing each other, and Italians didn’t get serious about it until the 19th century. But by the 20th century the annual homicide rate of every Western European country had fallen into a narrow band centered on 1 per 100,000….

FIGURE 3–3. Homicide rates in five Western European regions, 1300–2000.”

of course the scandinavians needed a couple of extra centuries to become not-so-violent — they were a couple of centuries behind the rest of nw europe in converting to christianity and, therefore, in starting their outbreeding project. but once they did, they took the cousin marriage regulations to heart — the swedes, at least, continued to ban first cousin marriage even after the protestant reformation. and the italians — well, they just never took the church’s precepts seriously, especially in the south.

huh. i just noticed that there was an increase in homicides in nw europe in the nineteenth century — see those bumps there on the last chart? apparently, there was also an increase in cousin marriage rates in many countries in europe in the nineteenth century (see second half of this post). hmmmm….

previously: outbreeding, self-control and lethal violence

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