Archives for posts with tag: england

in Better Angels, steven pinker drew rather heavily on the work of manuel eisner, an historian of crime (see here and here for more on eisner’s work). it was from eisner that pinker got much of the data for this chart showing the decline in violence (homicide) rates in europe over the course of the middle ages:

pinker - fig. 3.3

in turn, eisner and other historians of crime today give a lot of credit to a fellow named james buchanan given who seems to be (to have been?) something of a pioneer in the history of crime in medieval europe. i’ve seen his Society and Homicide in Thirteenth-Century England, which was published in 1977, frequently referred to by these crime historians.

anyway, what i’ve never seen anyone mention is that given compared the homicide rates for different regions of thirteenth century england!


yes, you read that right! we’ve got data — albeit kinda rough data — for homicide rates from various regions of england in the 1200s. and it’s not even my birthday!

here from Society and Homicide [pgs. 35 & 37-38 and pgs. 150-152. links added by me. note that i've renumbered given's footnotes here since the same numbers were often repeated on consecutive pages -- would be confusing in this quote then]:

“Obviously these rates are, at best, only approximations. As has been pointed out in Chapter 1, the population estimates on which they are based are vague. Despite their crudity, these estimated homicide rates are nevertheless interesting. If the population estimates made by the author are used as the basis of calculation, it is found that the homicide rate varied from a high of 64/100,000 per annum reported at the 1232 eyre of Warwick to a low of 4/100,000 per annum reported at the 1227 and 1248 eyres of Bristol. Of the rural areas, Warwick consistently had the highest homicide rates, with an overall rate of about 47/100,000 per annum for the 25 years covered by the three eyres. Norfolk had the lowest rate, 9/100,000 per annum for the 23 years covered by the eyres. If the estimates based on J. C. Russell’s figures are used as a basis for calculation, some difference appears. Although the highest homicide rate still remains that of the 1232 Warwick eyre, it is much reduced, being only 30/100,000 per annum. And the overall rate for Norfolk is found to have increased to 15/100,000 per annum. If we assume that the counties in question had the same population in the thirteenth century as they did in 1801, the homicide rates found are still high. The highest, however, is that for the 1276 eyre of Bedford, 18.9/100,000, and the lowest is 6.8/100,000 for the 1227 eyre of Kent.

“Because the population estimates upon the basis of which these homicides rates have been figured are very imprecise, homicide rates have been calculated on yet a fourth, and considerably different, basis. Instead of using population as a basis for estimating homicide rates, I have used the number of settlements within the country. Homicide rates have been calculated in terms of the number of homicides per twenty settlements per annum. For example, in the four years covered by the 1202 Bedford eyre there were 22 homicide reported. Since there were about 146 settlements in Bedfordshire, this means that for every twenty settlements in the county the figure was 0.8 for homicides commited every year. Similarly, in the eleven years covered by the 1268-69 Norfolk eyre, 399 homicides were reported. Since there were 698 settlements in Norfolk, this means that for every twenty settlements there were 1.1 killings every year. With calculations on this basis, the 1232 Warwick eyre and the 1276 Bedford eyres show the highest rates, of 1.6 homicides committed every year for every twenty settlements. The 1241 Oxford eyre now shows the lowest homicide rate, with only 0.5 in every twenty settlements each year….

“In this chapter an attempt will be made to sketch the different ways in which violence manifested itself in the various agrarian societies contained within the borders of the five counties whose eyre rolls have been analyzed for this study. These counties have been divided into eight regions: rural Bedfordshire, the plains of northern Oxfordshire,[1] and Felden Warwickshire,[2] all three common-field regions containing large nucleated villages practicing communal agriculture and characterized by the prevalence of impartible inheritance and large numbers of unfree peasants; the Chiltern Hills,[3] where settlements were more scattered and individual freedom more common; rural Kent, where virtually all the peasants were free, settlement scattered, partible inheritance practiced, and agrarian activities unregulated by the village community; rural Norfolk, where partible inheritance also prevailed and the peasants were also rather free of seigneurial control, but where settlement was predominantly in large, tightly knit villages that controlled the agrarian activities of their residents; and the woodland regions of the Weald of Kent[4] and the Forest of Arden,[5] where settlements were relatively recent and very scattered and the peasantry largely free from the control of lords….

Murder appears to have been far more frequent in the counties of Kent and Warwick than anywhere else (see Table 2, pg. 36). Warwick was clearly the most violent. Kent was probably the next most violent.[6] The shire with the lowest homicide rate was Norfolk, which had a rate of only about 9/100,000 per annum. Bedford and Oxford came between these two extremes.

[1] The hundreds of Bampton, Banbury, Bloxham, Bullingdon, Chadlington, Ploughley, and Wootton have been included in the Oxford plains.
[2] The hundred of Kineton has been included in Felden Warwickshire.
[3] The hundreds of Binfield, Dorchester, Ewelme, Langtree, Lewknor, Pirton, and Thame have been included in the Chiltern Hills.
[4] The hundreds of Blackburn, Barkely, Cranbrook, Marden, East Barnfield, Rolvenden, Tenterden, and Selbrittenden have been included in the Weald.
[5] The hundreds of Barlichway, Hemlingford, Knightlow, and the Liberty of Pathlow have been included in the Forest of Arden.
[6] Although Table 2 does not indicate that Kent had homicide rates too noticeably higher than those of Oxford and Bedford, it should be remembered that those homicides committed in the Cinque Ports of Kent were not recorded in the eyre rolls. These additional killings, if their numbers were known, would push the homicide rates for Kent higher than those indicated in the table.”

here is given’s table 2:

given - table 2

to sum up the averages according to his estimates, we’ve got:

(Bristol – 4/100,000)
Norfolk – 9/100,000
(London – 12/100,000)
Oxfordshire – 17/100,000
Bedfordshire – 22/100,000
Kent – 23/100,000
Warwickshire – 47/100,000

to put these figures into perspective, the homicide rate for bristol is approximately what you find in albania or burundi today; the rate for london is like the rate for nigeria or nicaragua today; the rate for bedfordshire like the democratic republic of congo or brazil today; and the rate for warwickshire is something like belize or ivory coast (which i can’t believe are worse than the drc…). as given says [pg. 40]:

“[M]urder was a frequent phenomenon in medieval England. As has been pointed out above, the number of homicides in every twenty settlements oscillated between a high of almost 1.6, reported at the 1276 Bedford eyre and the 1232 Warwickshire eyre, and a low of 0.5, reported at the 1241 Oxfodrd eyre. In other words, there was a good possibility that there would have been a homicide in every settlement in these counties once every twenty to forty years. Therefore, it is possible that every person in England in the thirteenth century, if he did not personally witness a murder, knew or knew of someone who had been killed.

here is a map that i’ve made indicating the distribution of these averages of the homicide rates across england:

given thinks that the rate for kent ought to be higher since he had no data for the cinque ports which were located there (see footnote 6 above). i’m glad that these towns weren’t included, because i don’t think they’d tell us much about the regular population of kent. established in part as military towns, you’d think that they’d have attracted a rather rough crowd, not all of them from kent. in other words, a good portion of them would’ve been a self-sorted group — from who knows where.

oxfordshire (17), bedfordshire (22), and kent (23) all seem to be in a similar range. these counties are all in the lowland zone of england, and oxfordshire and bedfordshire were both heavily manorialized (per given), so — according the theory — we would expect to find a lot of outbreeding in these regions. and while it did not have large numbers of manors but, rather, lots of freeholds, kent had had probably the earliest secular laws prohibiting cousin marriage in england (from the 690s), so we shouldn’t be surprised if inbreeding had been avoided there for a long time as well.

norfolk (9) had extraordinarily low homicide rates. that county did have some manors, but not loads of them. and i have been guessing that they were, in fact, slight inbreeders given the closeness of their extended families — i’ve been guessing that they were some of my inbetweeners. unfortunately, i have not had any data on their mating patterns! perhaps they were extreme outbreeders. perhaps not. definitely need to find out more about the people in norfolk (east anglia)! they will be a test case.

what excited me about my little map there is that the population of warwickshire — in england’s intermediate zone, almost in the highland zone — had such high homicide rates. highlanders are normally inbreeders (maybe) — and so the population in warwickshire should’ve been more inbred than the lowlanders down in oxfordshire, etc. — and they, therefore, should also be more violent (according to the theory). so i thought that these numbers, maybe, fit the theory pretty well.

now i’m not so sure. i think there might be an even more interesting explanation!

much of the data for warwickshire comes from the forest of arden, that “desert inaccessible under the shade of melancholy boughs.” the arden was heavily colonized during the medieval period starting in the eleventh century, although there are some indications that there had been a few earlier settlements by the anglo-saxons before the conquest (see A Study of Medieval Colonization in the Forest of Arden, Warwickshire). much of the eleventh century settlement of the forest of arden was done by independent individuals and their families establishing their own homesteads — the area was not, at least initially, structured along the lines of manorialism. quite the reverse [pg. 4]:

“The pattern of settlement in the Arden remained that of a forest, slowly cleared and settled by individuals or families rather than by communities. A traditional open-field system had never existed in the Arden: much of the arable land had always been enclosed, and where open fields were present, their pattern was highly irregular. Enclosure continued throughout the seventeenth century, usually undertaken by gentry in co-operation with yeomen and richer husbandmen. Medieval Arden had had more freeholders and lighter labour services than the south of the country….”

the question then is: who were these individuals who settled the forest? where did they come from? if they came from further west than, or even from the north of, the arden, you’d think they’d have emanated from more inbred groups — if they came from the lowlands to the south or east, more outbred groups. i don’t have an answer for you (although it might be in this article which i don’t have access to just now).

what i was thinking, though, was that these were clearly a self-sorted group of people — individualists — who were happy to strike out on their own to seek their fortune in the world. really, they sound a bit like the type of people who settled the american west! perhaps, just like the individuals who settled the west, this was a bit of a rough crowd, and therefore they were more prone to explosive types of violence. don’t know. just speculating. (~_^)

and/ooorrr…maybe many of them came from even further afield than just areas neighboring the arden. in reading through A Study of Medieval Colonization in the Forest of Arden, Warwickshire, i noticed that an awful lot of the names mentioned in the rolls and registers of the time from arden appear to be NORMAN names!: Herbert, son of Dolfin (sounds norman to me); Thomas de Hawkeshawe; Henry de Ladbroke (norman?); William de Bereford; Hugh de Benetford; the Archers (how much more norman could you get?!); Roger Gerin; Philip Duruvassal; William de Barnvile. do these names sound norman to you? because they do to me, although i could be wrong.

if many of the settlers of the arden were norman, maybe this explains the high homicide rate. remember what gregory clark had to say about the normans [The Son Also Rises - pgs. 254-257]:

“Norman surnames are also significantly overrepresented in English armies in the years 1369–1453, more than three hundred years (ten generations) after the Norman Conquest. This was the period of the Hundred Years’ War, the long struggle between the French and English crowns for control of the English-held territories in France. The evidence on the composition of armies comes from surviving muster rolls, which list soldiers engaged in English armies in France, Scotland, Wales, and elsewhere.

“What is surprising, however, is the heavy concentration of Norman-derived surnames at all ranks of the armed forces. Even among the lowest ranks of the army, the archers, Norman surnames still show up at three or four times the frequency predicted by their population share. Archers were skilled workers, with wages comparable to artisans, but did not rank particularly high on the social scale. The preponderance of Norman surnames among them thus does not stem from the relatively high social status of these names: to the contrary, this should have led to Norman surnames’ being underrepresented in these ranks. Instead it seems to suggest that even ten generations after the conquest, the descendants of the Norman conquerors still had a taste and facility for organized violence. This hypothesis is supported by the share of knights and esquires in these armies with Norman surnames. This was 3–11 percent, much greater than the share of Norman surnames found in the more pacific realm of Oxford and Cambridge at the same time.

This particular concentration of Norman surnames in the realm of violence is not contemplated in the general theory of social mobility advanced here and thus represents an unexplained anomaly.

well, that’s all i’ve got for you today — a bunch o’ speculations. hope you don’t mind! (~_^)

i shall endeavor to find out more about the east anglians. i also wish that there were more homicide data for other regions of medieval england — maybe there are! i shall have to keep an eye out for those, too.

previously: outbreeding, self-control and lethal violence and kinship, the state, and violence

(note: comments do not require an email. the forest of arden.)

Quick Questions for Peter and Rosemary Grant“There is widespread misunderstanding about evolution; that it occurs extremely slowly and therefore cannot be studied in a person’s lifetime. This was the view of Charles Darwin. Many biologists and others now know that this is not correct…. The idea that animals as large as birds might evolve before our eyes is not so well known, yet our study in the entirely natural world of Daphne Major island has revealed this does in fact happen when there is a change in the environment, and it takes place over a period as short as a year, and repeatedly.” – h/t billare!

Is DNA Multilingual?“The genetic code has traditionally been viewed as a universal set of instructions, exquisitely tuned to maintain robust stability and allow evolution-sustaining mutations. But the pervasive occurrence of recoded stop codons, and the backchannel crosstalk between microbes and viruses, paints a more intricate picture of multilingual genetic instructions.”

Jelly genome mystery“The uniqueness of this ctenophore’s nervous system leads Moroz and his team to argue that it must have evolved independently, after the ctenophore lineage branched off from other animals some 500 million years ago.”

Genomic divergence in a ring species complex“Ring species provide particularly clear demonstrations of how one species can gradually evolve into two, but are rare in nature…. Here we use genome-wide analyses to show that, although spatial patterns of genetic variation are currently mostly as expected of a ring species, historical breaks in gene flow have existed at more than one location around the ring, and the two Siberian forms have occasionally interbred.” – h/t razib!

Natural selection and infectious disease in human populations“The ancient biological ‘arms race’ between microbial pathogens and humans has shaped genetic variation in modern populations, and this has important implications for the growing field of medical genomics. As humans migrated throughout the world, populations encountered distinct pathogens, and natural selection increased the prevalence of alleles that are advantageous in the new ecosystems in both host and pathogens. This ancient history now influences human infectious disease susceptibility and microbiome homeostasis, and contributes to common diseases that show geographical disparities, such as autoimmune and metabolic disorders.”

High genetic differentiation between populations often driven by classic selective sweeps“‘We demonstrate that while sites of low differentiation represent sampling effects rather than balancing selection, sites showing extremely high population differentiation are enriched for positive selection events and that one half may be the result of classic selective sweeps. Among these, we rediscover known examples, where we actually identify the established functional SNP, and discover novel examples including the genes ABCA12, CALD1 and ZNF804, which we speculate may be linked to adaptations in skin, calcium metabolism and defense, respectively. Conclusions: We have identified known and many novel candidate regions for geographically restricted positive selection, and suggest several directions for further research.'” – @dienekes’.

Mendelian-Mutationism: The Forgotten Evolutionary Synthesis – h/t neuroskeptic! who tweeted: “Did geneticists ‘crack’ the secret of evolution much earlier than believed?”

this one’s for linton!: Why Marrying Your Cousin May Pay Off“In line with previous findings, the researchers found that among non-foraging societies, a couple’s relatedness was linked with having more surviving children. But among foraging societies, the opposite was true: More-closely related spouses had fewer surviving children. Furthermore, the more family intermarriage in a society, the greater the benefit of intermarrying on the number of children couples had. In other words, in societies in which people frequently married their relatives, intermarrying showed a stronger link to having more children.”

The Closest of Strangers“[I]dentical twins who are aunts and uncles invest more in caring for the children of their twins (their ‘genetic’ sons and daughters) than do fraternal twins.”

Why Do Honor Killings Defy the First Law of Homicide? And Will Smaller Families Lead to Fewer Of Them? – h/t tom farsides! – previously: inclusive inclusive fitness.

Genetic and educational assortative mating among US adults“We find that spouses are more genetically similar than two individuals chosen at random but this similarity is at most one-third the magnitude of educational similarity.”

Irish fair skin can be traced to India and the Middle East“A major new US study at Penn State University has found that Europeans’ light skin stems from a gene mutation from a single person who lived 10,000 years ago…. Keith Cheng from Penn State College of Medicine reported that one amino acid difference in the gene SLC24A5 is a key contributor to the skin color difference between Europeans and West Africans…. ‘The mutation in SLC24A5 changes just one building block in the protein, and contributes about a third of the visually striking differences in skin tone between peoples of African and European ancestry, he said…. The mutation, called A111T, is found in virtually everyone of European ancestry. A111T is also found in populations in the Middle East and Indian subcontinent, but not in high numbers in Africans. All individuals from the Middle East, North Africa, East Africa and South India who carry the A111T mutation share traces of the ancestral genetic code. According to the researchers, this indicates that all existing instances of this mutation originate from the same person.” – h/t 23andMe!

The puzzle of European hair, eye, and skin color“The physical appearance of Europeans seems to result from a selection pressure that acted primarily on women and only secondarily on men. This is especially true for highly visible traits on or near the face—the focus of visual attention.” – from peter frost.

The Dark Triad of Personality – special issue of Personality and Individual Differences. – h/t claire lehmann!

Heritability of brain volume change and its relation to intelligence“Human brain volumes change throughout life, are highly heritable, and have been associated with general cognitive functioning…. Results show that changes in volumes of total brain (mean=-6.4ml; -0.5% loss), cerebellum (1.4ml, 1.0% increase), cerebral white matter (4.4ml, 0.9% increase), lateral ventricles (0.6ml; 4.8% increase) and in surface area (-19.7cm2, -1.1% contraction) are heritable (h2=43%; 52%; 29%; 31%; and 33%, respectively). An association between IQ (available for 91 participants) and brain volume change was observed, which was attributed to genes involved in both the variation in change in brain volume and in intelligence. Thus, dynamic changes in brain structure are heritable and may have cognitive significance in adulthood.”

Cognitive abilities amongst the Sámi population“Lapps have an IQ around 100.8 are tilted towards visuospatial ability and away from verbal ability.” – from elijah armstrong, michael woodley the younger, and richard lynn. edit: original paper here on elijah’s blog! (^_^)

The Flynn Effect in a Nutshell – from elijah.

Does brain structure determine your political views?“‘People like to believe that their own political beliefs are rational, that they’re a sensible response to the world around them, so when we come along and say, “Maybe there are these predispositions, influential but perhaps not fully in your conscious awareness,” that’s not the way we like to view our own political beliefs.'” – h/t mr. robert ford!

Sex-Related Neuroanatomical Basis of Emotion Regulation Ability“Behavioral research has demonstrated that males have a higher capability of regulating their own and others’ emotions than females; however, little is known about the sex-specific brain mechanisms involved in emotion regulation ability…. we found the sex differences in the neuroanatomical basis of emotion regulation ability. Males showed a stronger positive relation between emotion regulation ability and regional gray matter volume (rGMV) in the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. In contrast, females demonstrated a stronger positive relation between emotion regulation ability and rGMV in an anatomical cluster that extends from the left brainstem to the left hippocampus, the left amygdala and the insular cortex.”

More Maps of the American Nations – from jayman.

Privilege and Morality“Our species isn’t good at nuance. The ‘privilege’ debate will and must take place in a morally charged context. It is not possible to sanitize the discussion by scrubbing it free of moral emotions. That is one of the many reasons why it is so important to understand what morality is and why it exists. It does not exist as a transcendental entity that happened to pop into existence with the big bang, nor does it exist because the Big Man upstairs wants it that way. It exists because it evolved.” – from helian.

Economic Growth & Human Biodiversity“Economic growth in lower-IQ countries does not invalidate either the reality of IQ differences between countries or the persistence of those disparities.” – from pseudoerasmus.

Good Fences: The Importance of Setting Boundaries for Peaceful Coexistence“Switzerland is recognized as a country of peace, stability and prosperity. This is surprising because of its linguistic and religious diversity that in other parts of the world lead to conflict and violence. Here we analyze how peaceful stability is maintained. Our analysis shows that peace does not depend on integrated coexistence, but rather on well defined topographical and political boundaries separating groups, allowing for partial autonomy within a single country. In Switzerland, mountains and lakes are an important part of the boundaries between sharply defined linguistic areas. Political canton and circle (sub-canton) boundaries often separate religious groups. Where such boundaries do not appear to be sufficient, we find that specific aspects of the population distribution guarantee either sufficient separation or sufficient mixing to inhibit intergroup violence according to the quantitative theory of conflict. In exactly one region, a porous mountain range does not adequately separate linguistic groups and that region has experienced significant violent conflict, leading to the recent creation of the canton of Jura.”

Was Territoriality Important in the Pleistocene? A Commentary on Johnson and Toft – @peter turchin’s.

Southern Europe is suspicious: the evolution of trust in the EU – ess and wvs results.

Trust and In-Group Favoritism in a Culture of Crime [pdf] – h/t ben southwood! who tweeted: “Areas in Palermo with high Mafia involvement have lower generalised trust but higher in-group favouritism.”

In dogs’ play, researchers see honesty and deceit, perhaps something like morality – woof!

What is Phonemic Diversity? — And Does It Prove the Out-of-Africa Theory? – h/t james winters!

How a Protestant spin machine hid the truth about the English Reformation“It seems that in 1533, the year of Henry’s break from Rome, traditional Catholicism was the religion of the vast majority of the country. And in most places it was absolutely thriving. It had developed a particularly English flavour, with a focus on the involvement of ordinary people in parish churches, village greens, plays, and pageants – much of which seemed to involve a good deal of community parties, dancing, and drinking. It is true that English religion in the early 1500s was not especially studious or erudite. The people did not spend hours a day in biblical studies, contemplation, and moralising in the manner of the more intense European reformers. But England had a nationally cohesive spirituality that was alive and exuberant, with a distinctly community feel…. The conclusion of this modern grassroots scholarship is that bulldozing the Catholic Church off the face of medieval England was not a ‘bottom up’ revolution in which Henry merely acquiesced to his people’s wishes by throwing off a widely hated foreign domination. To the contrary, it looks increasingly like Henry and his circle imposed the Reformation ‘top down’, unleashing 100 years of deep anger and alienation that was only overcome by sustained politicking and ruthless force.” – h/t william briggs!

bonus: “No Oxygen? No Problem!” Says Squid That Can Shut Down Its Metabolism – h/t kyle hill!

bonus bonus: A Theory on How Flightless Birds Spread Across the World: They Flew There

bonus bonus bonus: Chicken project gets off the ground“Effort aims to unravel the history of bird’s domestication.” – cluck!

(note: comments do not require an email. humble humboldt squid!)

busy reading all about crime and punishment (i.e. the death penalty) in medieval england, so you don’t have to! (^_^) in the meantime, until i post about that, here are some random notes:

the law codes of ine king of wessex (688-726) are some of the earliest anglo-saxon law codes still surviving. they were issued ca. 694. ine took his christianity seriously and demanded that [pg. 27]:

“[A]ll children were to be baptised within 30 days of their birth, failing which their guardians had to pay a fine of 30 shillings. If a child died before baptism its guardian lost all he possessed….”

so there are some strong incentives for the populace to convert to christianity or remain christian once they’d done so.

æthelstan, king of the anglo-saxons and then the first king of the north english (924-939), also passed a bunch of laws including [pg. 32]:

“[T]he first social legislation in England, providing for the relief of the poor. If a king’s reeve failed to provide, from the rents of the royal demesne, for the poor in the manner prescribed he had to find 30 shillings to be distributed among the poor under the bishop’s supervision.”

nice of him! (^_^)

some examples of concerns about consanguinity issues in the late anglo-saxon period [pg. 226]:

“General concern about marriage and sexual relations within the kin is expressed throughout our period, for example, in the late ninth century in letters from Pope John VIII to Burgred, king of the Mercians, and to Æthelred, archbishop of Canterbury, and another from Fulk, archbishop of Reims, to King Alfred. In the 950s, according to the ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’, ‘Archbishop Oda separated King Eadwig and Ælfgifu because they were too closely related’. They may have shared a great-great-grandfather, King Æthelwulf of Wessex….”

so there you go.

and in anglo-norman england [pgs. 435-437]:

“As in the Anglo-Saxon period, a central issue was consanguinity. In the second half of the eleventh century and particularly under the influence of the reformer Peter Damian, the method of counting the prohibited degrees was established in its most extensive form. Instead of counting to see if there was a common ancestor within four generations, the counting was taken a further three generations back, to the seventh. This had the effect of extending the range of prohibited marriage partners to sixth cousins.[12] In England, the prohibition ‘to the seventh degree’ was decreed at ecclesiastical councils at London in 1074 x 1075, and at Westminster in 1102 and 1125: ‘between those related by blood or relatives by affinity [i.e. by marriage], up to the seventh generation, we prohibit marriages to be contracted. If indeed anyone shall have been thus joined together, let them be separated’. Reformers also emphasised other non-blood relationships, especially spiritual kinship. The potential for conflict with lay practice must have increased significantly, as it has been suggested that whilst the layity did not commonly contract marriages within four degrees, they did within five or six.[15]

“[12] It has been suggested that blood relationships alone might mean that the bride or groom had over 2,500 cousins of their own generation whom they were prohibited to marry; J.-L. Flandrin, Families in Former Times, trans. R. Southern (Cambridge, 1979), 24.

“[15] E.g. Green, Aristocracy, 348-9.”

2,500 cousins that you couldn’t marry. awkward that.

interestingly (at least to me!), from late anglo-saxon england [pg. 242 - link added by me]:

“A further important tie was that of spiritual kinship, created particularly at baptism, but also at the catechumenate and confirmation. It seems that in England, unlike the Continent, there was only one sponsor, of the same sex as the person undergoing the ceremony. This is one reason for the relatively limited emphasis in England on the need for the group of godparents and their godchild to avoid sexual relations or marriage within the group.[114]

“[114] J.H. Lynch, Christianizing Kinship: Ritual Sponsorship in Anglo-Saxon England. 1998.”

huh! who knew?

and, finally, just to remind everyone how barbaric the barbarians were [pg. 186]:

“The laws of Æthelstan mention drowning or throwing from a cliff for free women, stoning for male slaves, burning for female slaves:

“‘In the case of a male slave, sixty and twenty slaves shall go and stone him. And if any of them fails three times to hit him, he shall himself be scourged three times. When a slave guilty of theft has been put to death, each of those slaves shall give three pennies to his lord. In the case of a female slave who commits an act of theft anywhere except against her master or mistress, sixty and twenty female slaves shall go and bring three logs each and burn that one slave; and they shall pay as many pennies as males slaves would have to pay, or suffer scourging as has been stated above with references to male slaves.’

“However, the literary and archaeology evidence just cited suggests that hanging and beheading were the most common methods.”


(note: comments do not require an email. æthelstan – earliest surviving portrait of an english king.)

in The Realm: The True history behind Game of Thrones ed west reminds us that medieval europeans were batsh*t crazy violent and that if you met one of them coming down the street, you would almost certainly want to cross over to the other side! [kindle locations: 563-615 - links added by me]:

“Drunkenness had always been a common feature of life in the Realm. As far back as the eighth century St Boniface, the Devonian who converted the Germans, complained that it was ‘a vice peculiar to the heathens and to our race, and that neither Franks, Gauls, Lombards, Romans nor Greeks indulge in’. Twelfth-century writer William of Malmesbury said of the English that ‘Drinking in parties was an universal practice, in which occupation they passed entire nights as well as days.’ In the early 13th century England went through one of its periodic booze epidemics, so that ‘the whole land was filled with drink and drinkers ’, and leading the way was the drunken King John, whose fondness for booze and lechery inadvertently gave the world its most important legal document – Magna Carta.

“By the end of the 13th century there were 354 drinking establishments in London…”

the population of london in 1340 was somewhere between 40,000-50,000 people, so that’s ca. one bar for every 140 persons!

“…and everyone drank heavily, although they did so among their own class – the wealthy drank in inns, the middle ranks in taverns, while at the bottom of the social ladder there were the alehouses, where violence was almost guaranteed. During this period court rolls, which began in the reign of the Lionheart (before 1189 in English law is literally ‘time immemorial’) are filled with accounts of drink-fuelled incidents, often involving ill-judged horseplay with axes, swords and farmyard animals….

“The worst drink-related incident occurred in 1212 when London Bridge burned down, with up to 3,000 charred or drowned bodies turning up on the banks of the river the following morning. The fire started in Southwark at a bring your own bottle party, or ‘Scot-Ale’ as they were called.

“John certainly led the way in the drinking stakes. He kept 180,000 gallons of wine at his personal disposal, a slight hint at alcoholism, and drank anything he could find. His drunken antics were famed, and no woman was safe.

“John also displayed signs of a violent temperament from an early age. As a boy he once lost his temper while playing chess, and smashed his opponent over the head with a heavy piece….

“John violated all the rules of war; after his victory over the King of France in 1202, he kept his prisoners ‘so vilely and in such evil distress that it seemed shameful and ugly to all those who witnessed this cruelty’. He massacred a garrison of his own men in Normandy, because he’d switched sides without telling them. Perhaps worst of all was the sexual depredations he committed against females of all ages, including several noblemen’s daughters; and he almost certainly murdered his 16-year-old nephew Arthur in a drunken rage….

“There was also inheritance tax. Some noblemen were charged up to £7,000 to take over their father’s or brother’s land, and the king often kept barons in a state of permanent debt, and threatened arrest or worse. The king kidnapped the wife and son of one such baron, his loyal follower William de Briouze, who had failed to cough up £3,500. When Matilda de Briouze blurted out to one of John’s men that they knew about his nephew’s murder, she and her son were taken prisoner and starved to death; their corpses were found huddled together, with the boy bearing tooth-marks on his body from where his mother had tried to eat him.”

aaaaand THAT gave me a nightmare! (or maybe it was the leftover pasta i ate just before going to bed. (~_^) ) somebody please tell me that matilda (maud) tried to eat her son after he was already dead. =/

that was all in the 1200s. what about later in the 1400 and 1500s? [kindle locations: 1171-1242]:

Elizabeth of York had already endured an unsettled upbringing. When she was three, her father was forced into exile, and his cousin killed her grandfather. Later one uncle murdered another and probably her brothers too. In 1475 she was betrothed to the dauphin of France and her training as a princess would have began; however that match was broken, and she was now free, or as it could be interpreted, vulnerable….

“Henry Tudor died in 1509, and within days his heir Henry VIII had two of his father’s moneylenders tried and executed in a show trial. It was a sign of things to come. As well as thousands of common people, the king had numerous aristocrats executed, most of them close relations with outside claims to the throne. Edmund, Earl of Suffolk, the White Rose, had been handed over to Henry VII in 1506, who had made a solemn pledge not to execute him. He kept that pledge, and instructed his son to kill him when he became king; this the youngster did. Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, who was descended from Edward III on both sides of his family, was tried for treason and executed by Henry VIII merely for ordering a new coat of arms with the royal insignia inserted. His father the Duke of Norfolk was already in the Tower of London awaiting execution, and would be saved only by the king’s death….

“Henry famously went on to have six wives in total, having executed Anne for adultery, and divorced Anne of Cleves, the sister of the Duke of Cleves, a powerful German state on the Rhineland. Apart from political reasons, Henry had fallen in love with her portrait, drawn by renowned German artist Hans Holbein. Unfortunately Holbein, the finest artist in the land, was not in the habit of upsetting his clients, and Anne was in reality rather plain, so much so that Henry called her the ‘Flanders Mare’. She also had bad breath and body odour, and the king confessed to a friend: ‘I had neither the will nor courage to proceed further.’ The marriage was never consummated, and Anne agreed to a divorce; strangely, they stayed good friends….

“The king remarried within a month, to 20-year-old Katherine Howard, who really did commit adultery; she was executed alongside her lover Thomas Culpeper, and just to make sure that his honour remained intact, Henry executed two previous lovers of Katherine, despite there being no suggestion of anything occurring since: one was her old music teacher and the other her cousin. And for good measure he had Howard’s lady-in-waiting executed just for knowing about the affair.

“Of his six wives, he is said to have only truly loved number three, Jane Seymour, who had given him a son, Edward, who succeeded his father in 1547. The boy king, just nine, was a fanatical Protestant and at 12 he had called the Pope the Antichrist in a tract. He once ripped apart a live falcon in a rage, and when he was 11 he had his own uncle, Thomas Seymour, executed.”

et cetera, et cetera. you get the idea. still pretty violent later in the medieval period. and these were the upper classes!

which got me to wondering, if the nonviolent english today really are descended, a la greg clark’s theory, from the upper classes of the past — well, how on earth, then, were all these violent traits knocked out of the population when the upper classes were the batsh*t crazy way that they were?

one really good theory for why violence declined markedly in europe beginning in the middle ages (and it has) is that the state simply removed from the population via execution the most violent members of society. took them right out of the gene pool and largely stopped them from reproducing. henry harpending has shown that, theoretically, this should’ve been possible in the time given (the ca. 800 years from the 1200s to the 2000s) if enough violent individuals were executed early enough in their criminal careers so that they wouldn’t have reproduced much or at all.

but were violent members of the aristocracy regularly executed? they were “the state,” weren’t they? were death penalty laws applied equally to that class? maybe. i really don’t know. but if not, wouldn’t their descendents just continually replenish the lower classes with individuals with violent traits? how did the upper classes become less violent?

in Better Angels, steven pinker references norbert eliasThe Civilizing Process on this [kindle locations: 1839-1847]:

“Once Leviathan was in charge, the rules of the game changed. A man’s ticket to fortune was no longer being the baddest knight in the area but making a pilgrimage to the king’s court and currying favor with him and his entourage. The court, basically a government bureaucracy, had no use for hotheads and loose cannons, but sought responsible custodians to run its provinces. The nobles had to change their marketing. They had to cultivate their manners, so as not to offend the king’s minions, and their empathy, to understand what they wanted. The manners appropriate for the court came to be called ‘courtly’ manners or ‘courtesy.’ The etiquette guides, with their advice on where to place one’s nasal mucus, originated as manuals for how to behave in the king’s court. Elias traces the centuries-long sequence in which courtesy percolated down from aristocrats dealing with the court to the elite bourgeoisie dealing with the aristocrats, and from them to the rest of the middle class. He summed up his theory, which linked the centralization of state power to a psychological change in the populace, with a slogan: Warriors to courtiers.

so, the idea, maybe, is that over time going forward through the middle ages it was the less violent aristocrats who became more successful at court and, therefore, more successful reproductively (and some of their kids filtered down into the lower classes)? dunno. haven’t read The Civilizing Process (now on The List). would be nice to have some numbers. there’s a ph.d. thesis here for some brave student. (~_^)

what would need to be worked out, too, imho, is whether or not the english artistocracy in, say, the 1400-1500s was less violent than the aristocracy of the 1200-1300s (and so on and so forth), because violence had already declined from 1300 to 1500. and, of course, it kept on declining. from pinker’s Better Angels:

pinker - fig. 3.3

that’s all i’ve got for ya today! i definitely recommend reading west’s The Realm! it’s a kindle single, so it won’t take you ages. just don’t read it before going to bed! (~_^)

oh, and wrap up…winter is coming!

previously: “violence around the world” and kinship, the state, and violence

(note: comments do not require an email. where are my dragons?!)

in jack goody’s The Development of the Family and Marriage in Europe, i came across two examples of hajnal mating patterns (i.e. comparatively high rates of late- and/or never-marriage) which occurred historically outside the hajnal line [pgs. 8-9]:

“The notion of the uniqueness of a late marriage for women and of frequent celibacy for both sexes may require some modification in view of the evidence from twentieth-century Tibet and from Roman Egypt, even if this is less substantial than one would like. In Egypt Hopkins writes of a ten-year post-pubertal delay for women (1980: 333) while in a survey this century among the Khams of eastern Tibet, there were numerous unmarried women and nearly 40 per cent of households had no married couple (Carrasco 1959: 69).”

goody suggests that these examples might (might) refute some researchers’ suggestions that the late-/no-marriage pattern of western europe somehow explains western europe and capitalism and all that, although goody acknowledges that further evidence would, of course, be needed [pg. 9]:

“[I]t [these examples from tibet and roman egypt] would tend to reduce the claims that this demographic regime is linked by a causal nexus with the rise of the West, that is, of Western Europe.

“While Hajnal suggested that these patterns emerged in the late sixteenth century and were possibly to be linked with the development of capitalism and Protestantism, other writers have seen these same features as present in a yet earlier period, but characterising the north-west rather than the whole of Western Europe.1 Some take the view that England was unique in these and other important respects, and Macfarlane has recently seen this singularity as including the presence of a strongly ‘individualistic’ streak, which he tentatively derives from its roots in the German woods (1978: 206) [i partly disagree w/the german woods part-h.chick]. Those who find these features present before the sixteenth century see them as predisposing factors in the rise of capitalism.”

and footnote 1:

“Hajnal himself thought that medieval villagers did not follow a ‘European marriage pattern'; Razi has given support to this idea, finding that in the pre-plague period in the village of Halesowen in the West Midlands of England, marriages took place between the ages of 18 and 22 (1980: 63; also Dyer 1980: 234); however the basis of the calculations has been criticised by Smith (1979: 112), who, like Macfarlane, leans towards the view that the late marriage of women is early and English. See also Smith’s valuable comments (1981) on Herlihy and Klapisch-Zuber (1978).”

i don’t want to get into a discussion about the marriage patterns in medieval halesowen or the ones that dyer discusses in worcester right now, but i do want to point out that both of these places are located in the west midlands and, so, are quite possibly on the edge of the core area of outbreeding/manorialism in europe/england and perhaps, therefore, hajnal’s late marriage arrived in these areas much later. dunno. i’ll come back to this some other time.

back to the tibetan and roman egyptian examples of hajnal mating patterns…

there are two reasons — well, one set of unanswered questions and one known reason — that neither of these examples is comparable to what happened in northwest europe:

1) we don’t have any idea for how long late-/never-marriage was present in either tibet or roman egypt. for tibet we have only a twentieth century survey revealing late-/never-marriage (close to 40% of kham households in eastern tibet had no married couple at all in 1949 – pg. 145) — for roman egypt we have some info about late-marriage (ten year post-pubertal for women – pg. 8), but i don’t know for how long (don’t have access to the paper). but since we’re talking about evolutionary processes, we do need some amount of time for anything to happen. in northwest europe, late-/never-marriage is at least a four hundred year old practice (altho, imho, it’s the coterminous outbreeding that’s really the key here, not the late-marriage — not if you want to explain the rise of capitalism and such things). if, for instance, late-/never-marriage was new to tibet in the twentieth century, well — that’s not going to make a whole lot of difference yet. also, wrt the roman egyptian example, the late-marriage probably only applied to a small subgroup of that society — see point 2 for more on this.

2) both of these societies — tibet and roman egypt — had, or had up until fairly recently, practiced close marriage. the roman egyptians — who, btw, were actually greeks in roman egypt — married, as everyone has heard, their siblings. (but contrary to what you might have heard, brother-sister marriage was not ever common in pharaonic or roman egypt. yes, the pharaohs practiced sibling marriage but probably not the general populace, and the historic records we have for sibling marriage in roman egypt are accounts of greeks who had settled in the kingdom who, for various reasons, mostly to do with maintaining their class status, did not want to marry in with the locals. i keep meaning to do a post on this, and i just haven’t gotten around to it yet.) wrt the kham people in tibet, i don’t know about them specifically, but in general it’s my understanding that tibetan peoples today generally avoid marriage between paternal relatives out to the seventh generation and also avoid marriage between maternal relatives out to the third generation. however, per ippolito desideri, first cousin maternal cousin marriage was common in tibet as recently as the early 1700s [pg. 192], which would fit with the general pattern of marriage in east asia (i.e. with maternal cousins, usually mother’s brother’s daughter marriage). the question is, when did the tibetans abandon this first cousin marriage? it’s sometime within the last three hundred years anyway. (btw, tibetan groups in india still regularly practice maternal first cousin marriage.)

[edit 03/26: but see slng.uls' comment below and my response to it. thanks, slng.uls!]

so, while these are two interesting examples of hajnal mating patterns occurring outside the hajnal line, they’re really not comparable to what happened in northwest europe. the case in roman egypt really isn’t comparable since there we’re talking about a small subgroup of the population — their mating patterns would hardly have affected the larger society. and in the case of tibet, we have pretty recent cousin marriage — as recent as what probably happened in peripheral places in europe like ireland — which is to be found outside the hajnal line.

previously: big summary post on the hajnal line

(note: comments do not require an email. ippolito desideri.)

mr. mangan, esq., tweeted not too long ago (link inserted by me): Finnish nationalism was really weird in that it was begun and lead by ethnic Swedes.”

i don’t think that’s weird at all, because i bet that swedes have a longer history of outbreeding than ethnic finns, and, with more and more outbreeding, a group’s “circle of inclusiveness” widens (i think). i’m not 100% certain that the swedes have a longer history of outbreeding than ethnic finns, but i’m betting that they do based on the fact that the finns are outside the hajnal line and the swedes are not, and the general pattern seems to be that those populations that are inside the hajnal line are long-term outbreeders, while the rest are just not. another example resembling the swedish-finnish one is the irish nationalist movement of the 1700-1800s which was heavily influenced by the more outbred anglo-irish.

(btw, daniel olsson tweeted back to mr. mangan that finnish nationalism started with the fennoman movement which, according to him, was comprised of ethnic finns, but, in actuality, it appears that the earliest fennomen were indeed ethnic swedes!)

in “Nationalism and Vernaculars, 1500-1800″ in The Oxford Handbook of the History of Nationalism, peter burke mentions that in thinking about early european nationalist movements [pgs. 23-24]:

“…a number of distinctions need to be made. One important distinction is that between older nations such as England and France, for instance, and newer nations such as Britain or the United Provinces of the Dutch Republic, which has a better claim than the United States of America to be the ‘first new nation’, since it was founded nearly two hundred years earlier.”

so there we have it yet again — as in so many other aspects (the decline of internal violence, for instance), it is the earliest outbreeders in europe that are the “older nations”, whereas the later nation states, like italy, are inbreeders. unfortunately (for me and my theory), germany doesn’t really fit this picture, unless we try to imagine the holy roman empire as a naiton state?…no, that won’t work…always causing trouble the germans. i still think it’s significant, though, that the earliest european nations were some of my “core”, outbreeding europeans and not any of the peripheral groups.

more from burke:

“A second distinction separates small nations such as the Swedes or the Venetians from larger ones such as France or Spain. (The Venetians were surely as much a nation as anyone in early modern Europe, since the city state was independent, and its inhabitants spoke a distinctive language, now classified as a dialect, while expressions of Venetian patriotism were common.)”

this is also directly related to my point about outbreeding and nationalism — yes, the early modern venetians were a nation, but the reason their nation was so small/narrow compared to england or france was because the italians had a longer history of inbreeding than the english or french. the nation was just venice and not “northern italy” or something larger, because the northern italians’ “circle of inclusiveness” was not as broad as that of the english or french (because the italians were not as outbred).


A third is the distinction between nationalism, in the sense of an organized social and political movement, and a more diffuse national sentiment, national consciousness, or national identity — which may be stronger or weaker in different places and times and among different social groups. The fact that in French, for instance, the term *patriotisme* came into use around the middle of the eighteenth century, while the term *nationalisme* emerged in the 1790s, suggests that important cultural changes were taking place at that time. It should be added that although the term ‘nation’ was used more rarely and more vaguely before the late eighteenth century than it has been since that time, proud references to the English, French, Spaniards, Germans, and so on are not difficult to find in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, as will be seen later in this chapter, even if the question as to who is Dutch, Swedish, Polish, et cetera, was rarely if ever raised in this pre-passport age.”

yes. this is now on my To Do List — find out more about the evolution of national sentiments/consciousness around europe (and the rest of the world) as well as nationalistic movements. the two are obviously related, but not exactly the same thing. it would be very interesting to know which populations were the earliest at feeling like a nation — especially feeling like a big nation, like “french”.

the historian patrick wormald has argued that the english viewed themselves as “english” already at the time the venerable bede (d.735) was writing his famous history (see, for example, chapter five in The Making of English National Identity). that would be truly incredible if it’s true! presumably the “english” at that time would’ve been just the anglos and not any of the enslaved britons. also, hard to know if it was only the intelligensia, like bede, who held this view, or also the anglo-saxon man on the street.

daniel hannan also makes a cautious argument for an early appearance of the english as a nation in Inventing Freedom [pgs. 73-74]:

“[T]he birth of England as a nation-state can be dated to Alfred’s wars. In 876, according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, ‘all the English people who were free to give him their allegiance [in other words, were not under Danish occupation] owned Alfred as their King.’

“This is not the first reference to the English people. The concept of an English race, an Angelcynn, had existed from at least the eighth century, possibly earlier. What was new was the idea that all the Angelcynn, by virtue of their common identity, should recognize a single sovereign.”

again, this seems incredibly early for ideas of a nation to be floating about, but perhaps it’s true. still, hard to know if the english people also felt this, or if it was mostly chroniclers and kings and princes.

Further Research (and Rumination) RequiredTM! (^_^)

nowadays, of course, the “circle of inclusiveness” that many outbreeders hold to has expanded waaaay beyond nationalism to include pretty much everyone on the planet (“invite the world!”) and even the members of other species (for example the calls for human rights for chimps — not there’s there’s anything necessarily wrong with that! (~_^) )

(note: comments do not require an email. i can haz human rights?)

Your Ancestors, Your Fate“The notion of genetic transmission of ‘social competence’ — some mysterious mix of drive and ability — may unsettle us. But studies of adoption, in some ways the most dramatic of social interventions, support this view. A number of studies of adopted children in the United States and Nordic countries show convincingly that their life chances are more strongly predicted from their biological parents than their adoptive families. In America, for example, the I.Q. of adopted children correlates with their adoptive parents’ when they are young, but the correlation is close to zero by adulthood. There is a low correlation between the incomes and educational attainment of adopted children and those of their adoptive parents. These studies, along with studies of correlations across various types of siblings (identical twins, fraternal twins, half siblings) suggest that genetics is the main carrier of social status.” – from gregory clark. see also The Son Also Rises: Surnames and the History of Social Mobility.

Reductionism! Determinism! Straw-man-ism!” The main problem, it seems to me, is a fundamental misunderstanding of what genetics as a science studies and how it relates to the function of complex systems. The following statements are not contradictory: 1. The function of a complex system emerges from the complex and dynamic interactions between all of the components of the system, in a context- and experience-dependent manner. 2. Variation in single components of the system (or in multiple components) can affect how it functions. Geneticists investigate the second question. Showing that variation in Gene X affects the behaviour or outcome of a system is not the same as saying that Gene X fully determines that behaviour or fully accounts for the entire system. Gene X is just a piece of DNA sitting in a cell somewhere – it doesn’t do anything by itself. But a *difference* in Gene X can account for a *difference* in how the system works. – from kevin mitchell.

The Problem with HBD, the Dark Enlightenment, Neoreaction, Alt-Rightism, and All That Jazz – READ THIS! – from jayman (and misdreavus).

There’s nothing wrong with looking for ‘gay genes’“The Left loves to tell the Right that it’s anti-science, pointing (not without reason) to the correlation between conservative beliefs and a failure to come to terms with the scientific facts of evolution and human-caused climate change. But there’s a subtler tendency on the Left; a fear of research into human nature, in case the findings are in some way politically uncomfortable.”

Evolution equally efficient in removing deleterious variants in Europeans and West Africans“…but apparently not in Denisovans who accumulated deleterious mutations at a higher rate than modern humans.” – @dienekes’.

Scientists unlock a ‘microbial Pompeii’“An international team of researchers have discovered a ‘microbial Pompeii’ preserved on the teeth of skeletons around 1,000 years old. The key to the discovery is the dental calculus (plaque) which preserves bacteria and microscopic particles of food on the surfaces of teeth, effectively creating a mineral tomb for microbiomes.”

The effect of paternal age on offspring intelligence and personality when controlling for paternal trait level [pdf] – “We examined the effect of father’s age at birth on offspring intelligence, head circumference and personality traits. Using the Minnesota Twin Family Study sample we tested paternal age effects while controlling for parents’ trait levels measured with the same precision as offspring’s. From evolutionary genetic considerations we predicted a negative effect of paternal age on offspring intelligence, but not on other traits. Controlling for parental intelligence (IQ) had the effect of turning an initially positive association non-significantly negative. We found paternal age effects on offspring IQ and Multidimensional Personality Questionnaire Absorption, but they were not robustly significant, nor replicable with additional covariates. No other noteworthy effects were found.” – from lars penke.

Reversed hierarchy in the brain for general and specific cognitive abilities: A morphometric analysis“Here, we analyze gray matter with three morphometric indices (volume, cortical surface area, and cortical thickness) at three levels of the intelligence hierarchy (tests, first-order factors, and a higher-order general factor, g)…. The key finding reveals substantial variability in gray matter correlates at the test level, which is substantially reduced for the first-order and the higher-order factors. This supports a reversed hierarchy in the brain with respect to cognitive abilities at different psychometric levels: the greater the generality, the smaller the number of relevant gray matter clusters accounting for individual differences in intelligent performance.” – h/t ben southwood!

A nice bunch of flowers“The general factor of intelligence is strongest at lower levels of intelligence. It may be a case of ‘All neurones to the pump’. When abilities are low, most problems are difficult. In such cases, all resources have to be thrown at the problem. When abilities are higher there is more spare capacity for differentiation of abilities. Brighter persons have a lower proportion of their abilities accounted for by a common factor, even though the have higher absolute abilities.” – from dr. james thompson.

GED scores by Ethnicity and Nation – from chuck @human varieties.

The Unfortunately Innate Nature of Intelligence“You cannot blame people for being what they were born, and you cannot expect them to do what they cannot.”

Psychologist on a mission to give every child a learning chip“Prof Robert Plomin wants educators to take notice of genes, and has a new big idea – personalised learning.”

Fruit-loving lemurs score higher on spatial memory tests“Food-finding tests in five lemur species show that fruit-eaters may have better spatial memory than lemurs with a more varied diet. The results support the idea that relying on foods that are seasonally available and far-flung gives a competitive edge to individuals with certain cognitive abilities — such as remembering where the goodies are.”

What Does Our DNA Say About How We Look?“A biologist aims to profile suspects from genetic material left at crime scenes.’ – h/t matthew wygant!

Four Lame Responses to Sam Harris’ Moral Landscape Challenge“Moral emotions, like every other evolved trait, exist because their presence increased the probability that the genes responsible for the existence of those traits would survive and reproduce. Moral emotions, and the associated illusions of the existence of Good and Evil as things in themselves, exist as subjective impressions in the minds of individuals.” – from helian.

Free will beliefs and motivation to punish“In a paper forthcoming in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Cory J. Clark and co-authors provide evidence that widespread belief in the existence of free will is bolstered by a fundamental desire to punish wrongdoers…. As Clark et al. put it, ‘There seems little doubt that the subjective experience of choosing and acting supports people’s belief in free will, but our findings suggest another powerful motivating factor: the human impulse to blame and punish. People believe in free will – at least in part – because they wish to affirm that people who do immoral things could have and should have acted differently’.”

A small contribution to the free-will thingy – from elijah.

Is there a ‘dark intelligence’? Emotional intelligence is used by dark personalities to emotionally manipulate others“Narcissism and psychopathy increased link between emotional intelligence facets and emotional manipulation.” – h/t claire lehmann!

Theory of mind: did evolution fool us?“Although sophisticated ToM is believed to have high adaptive fitness, broad experimental evidence from behavioural economics, experimental psychology and linguistics point towards limited recursivity in representing other’s beliefs.” – h/t neuroskeptic!

Creativity and personality in classical, jazz and folk musicians“[J]azz musicians are more frequently engaged in extracurricular musical activities, and also complete a higher number of creative musical achievements. Additionally, jazz musicians show higher ideational creativity as measured by divergent thinking tasks, and tend to be more open to new experiences than classical musicians. This study provides first empirical evidence that jazz musicians show particularly high creativity with respect to domain-specific musical accomplishments but also in terms of domain-general indicators of divergent thinking ability that may be relevant for musical improvisation.” – h/t mary louise cowan!

Migration and interaction in a contact zone: mtDNA variation among Bantu-speakers in southern Africa“In this study, we analyze complete mtDNA genome sequences from over 900 Bantu-speaking individuals from Angola, Zambia, Namibia, and Botswana to investigate the demographic processes at play during the last stages of the Bantu expansion. Our results show that most of these Bantu-speaking populations are genetically very homogenous, with no genetic division between speakers of Eastern and Western Bantu languages. Most of the mtDNA diversity in our dataset is due to different degrees of admixture with autochthonous populations.”

Silver Blaze“[I]n most parts of Europe, it looks as if modern populations inherited the three EEF/WHG/ANE groups (Levantine farmers, West Hunters and Sibermen) via only two proximate ancestral populations. Europe at the time was almost entirely occupied by Sardinian-like farmers – then another population moved in, one that had about 3 times as much West Hunter as Sibermen.” – from greg cochran.

Replacement or continuity?“Ancient DNA seems to promise a clearer picture because the only source of uncertainty is the age of the skeletal material. Unfortunately, this new method is more sensitive to uncertainty from another source: natural selection. Late hunter-gatherers and early farmers had to adapt to different environments. There certainly was a genetic divide between the two, but did it result from differences in origin or from differences in natural selection?” – from peter frost.

Dystopian diversity – from the awesome epigone.

“I regret studying social anthropology” – me, too. *sigh* – see also the original post.

The parasite that escaped out of Africa: Tracing origins of malaria parasite“An international team has traced the origin of the second-worst malaria parasite of humans to Africa. The closest genetic relatives of human *Plasmodium vivax* were found only in Asian macaques, leading researchers to believe that *P. vivax* originated in Asia. This study overturns that, finding that wild-living apes in central Africa are widely infected with parasites that, genetically, are nearly identical to human *P. vivax*.” – h/t hbd bibliography!

Are Rich People Really That Selfish? – New Study Looks At Impact of Socio-Economic Status on Altruistic Tendencies“‘Our personality impacts every aspect of our life – the choices we make, the people we surround ourselves with, the career we pursue, the way we respond to life experiences, the way we manage our finances, and whether or not we share our good fortune,’ explains Dr. Jerabek, president of the company…. [H]ow individuals conduct themselves when they have money has everything to do with who they are as a person. Money doesn’t make a person more or less selfish. If you are a genuinely kind and giving person, you’ll continue to be that way no matter how many zeros are on your paycheck.'”

Babies born in England and Wales to non-UK born mothers infographic“Total Fertility Rate in England/Wales by where mother born: 4.3 Afghanistan, 3.8 Pakistan, 3.3 Nigeria, 2.4 India, 1.8 UK.”

The Tale of a CRISPR Clone – from razib.

Graft Probe in Scientific Community Widens in Southern China“A corruption probe has so far snared more than 50 scientists and research administrators in Guangdong, one of China’s wealthiest provinces.”

Quick Winter Olympics Digit Ratio Note – from sisyphean the mad contrarian.

Scientist proposes revolutionary naming system for all life on Earth“…a naming convention based on genome sequencing to enhance the way organisms are classified.” – h/t super mario!

Burials uncovered in Ireland reflect fusion of Paganism and Christianity“Excavations at Caherconnell in County Clare, Ireland, have uncovered ancient burials that reflect a fusion of Pagan practices with Christianity. Although it was initially believed that Christianity was well established in Ireland by the 5th Century, the latest finding reveals that Celtic Paganism was not quick to die out.” – h/t derek hopper!

The Society of Mutual Autopsy“The Society of Mutual Autopsy was an organisation formed in the late 1800s to advance neuroscience by examining dead members’ brains and to promote atheism by breaking sacred taboos.”

Heavy metal bands per 100,000 people – global map.

A Campus More Colorful Than Reality: Beware That College Brochure – h/t conrad hackett! who tweeted: “The whiter the college, the more diversity depicted in the brochures.”

bonus: Confirmed: Oldest Fragment of Early Earth is 4.4 Billion Years Old

bonus bonus: Hubble Finds Possible Oldest Object Ever Seen“The Hubble Telescope’s new set of Frontier Fields images includes a galaxy some 13-billion light-years away, which makes it a candidate for the most distant object ever seen.”

bonus bonus bonus: Rust Cohle, Guidance Counselor – heh. (~_^)

(note: comments do not require an email. rust cohle for president!)

if you discovered your friend’s wife in bed with another man in thirteenth century england, you’d tell your friend, right? [edit: and/or conclude that one or more of you must be a time lord(s)!] how to tell him though? hmmmm. email? text? nooooo. send him a letter! yeah, send him a letter.

it would’ve been an awkward sorta letter to write, though, but you know what? there was a form letter for the occasion! i know! who knew that they even had form letters in the 1200s?! but they did! and they were kept in collections called formularies, some of which are still hanging around in archives like at the british museum.

here from Lost Letters of Medieval Life: English Society, 1200-1250 [pg. 222 - link added by me]:

“A Man Warns His Friend that He Has Seen the Latter’s Wife Naked in Bed with Another Man, and Sends Her Girdle [no, not one of these, one of these - h.chick] as Evidence

“F. tells G. that he has seen another man in bed with G.’s wife

“To his beloved friend A., B. sends greetings. Except that I believed it would offend you, I would reveal something that I lately saw. But because it is wicked to conceal wickedness, I prefer to disclose [it] rather than to have the odium of the heavenly realm. For I saw your wife in R.’s bed, the two of them alone and naked together. And so that she cannot deny it, I took her girdle [i.e., belt] as a token, which I send to you, and the sight of it should serve you as evidence of this misdeed. You should see to it that she is punished, together with him. Farewell.”

so there you go.

the editors of Lost Letters reckon that this form letter was composed a bit tongue-in-cheek, but still with a serious lesson in mind [links added by me]:

“At first sight, this would seem to be an odd candidate for inclusion in a collection of model letters, since the compiler is unlikely to have assumed that there was a need for a form letter in which one friend notified another of the adultery of the latter’s wife. It seems likely that this letter was included in the collection for somewhat different reasons. First, it may have been intended, at least in part, for the amusement of the business students and other male readers for whom the formulary was primarily designed. In a similar fashion John of Garlande included some smutty material in his ‘Dictionarius’, a contemporary treatise designed to teach Latin vocabulary but written primarily in the form of a walking tour of Paris. Second, and more seriously, this letter may have been included to remind readers that, if they ever made a serious accusation against another person in writing, they had better have solid evidence — such as the wife’s girdle, in this case — to support their allegation.”

in anglo-saxon england/the early medieval period, you could just kill a guy if you caught him sleeping with your wife, and everyone would be very understanding. by the 1200s, however, this course of action was no longer permitted [pg. 226 - link added by me]:

“Around 1215, Thomas of Chobham, a canon laywer and subdean of Salisbury, summarized the legal recourse available to an outraged husband, as he understood it: ‘It is worth noting that secular law once allowed a man to kill an adulterer found with his wife. This is no longer permitted, but only for him to cut off the man’s genitals so that he will never spawn another who will follow him in his vileness.‘”

so there was that possibility!

you had to keep your wife under control, though. if you didn’t, you couldn’t accuse her of adultery in the ecclesiastical courts or castrate anybody:

“[S]ince women were considered to be sexually voracious, and certain occupations, such as that of barmaid, exposed them to dangerous temptations, a husband who allowed his wife to work in a drinking-house was not permitted to press charges of adultery against her if she succumbed.



“Canon lawyers also ruled that a wife who had been raped could not be charged with adultery….”

fair enough.

(note: comments do not require an email. master john of garlande!)


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