Archives for posts with tag: kindreds

when it comes to clan-based societies vs. nation-states and all that, the reigning paradigm is that peoples resort to relying on their extended families/clans/tribes for all sorts of things like justice and economic support in the absence of a (strong?) state, but if they somehow miraculously acquire a state, people quickly drop the connections with their extended families. this to me seems completely upside-down-and-backwards.

never mind, for instance, that there have been strong states in the middle east since…*ahem*…the days of hammurabi if not before, and yet for some reason middle easterners are amongst the most clannish peoples on the planet (see: syria) — and i mean clannish as in actually relying on their clans in their daily lives. and never mind that the chinese — especially the southern chinese — still organize themselves along clan lines, too, with their clan clubhouses and everything — even though they’ve had really strong and powerful states for millennia as well.

see? upside-down-and-backwards.

what appears to be the case, rather, is that, for whatever (*cough*genetic*cough*) reasons, people stop relying on their extended families/clans when they stop being very closely related to those family members, i.e. after a long period of outbreeding (avoiding cousin or other forms of close marriage). i’ve already shown in a previous post that the importance of the clan/kindred in anglo-saxon england was waning in the early 900s (in southern england anyway), before england was unified, so before there was a nice, cozy state for people to fall back on. the same appears to be true of the medieval french (at least some of them — there are regional differences, as there are in britain).

but i’m getting ahead of myself. first things first: picking up where we left off at the end of the last post on medieval france — mating patterns of the medieval franks. let’s look at the importance of the kindred and feuding amongst the franks. then i’ll get to how and when the franks/french dropped all the kindred and feuding business.

for those of you who don’t want to wade through all the details, tl;dr summary at the bottom of the post (click here). you’re welcome! (^_^)
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as we saw in the previous post, the franks — and really i mean the salian franks who gave rise to the merovingian dynasty in austrasia — like all the other pre-christian germanic groups (and the pre-christian irish and britons and scots, too) married their cousins. who knows how much, but enough that the various christian missionaries to these groups raised loud and very vocal objections to their marriage practices.

the result, imho, is that frankish society — like early medieval anglo-saxon society — was “clan”- or kindred-based. from The Laws of the Salian Franks (1991) [pgs. 39-41]:

“The Frankish family was the small family usually found among the other Germanic barbarians: it consisted of husband, wife, minor sons, unmarried daughters, and other dependents including half-free dependents (*lidi*) and slaves. However, although the basic family group was the same for the Franks as for most other Germanic barbarians who settled within the territory of the Roman Empire, the Franks relied more heavily on the larger kin group than did the Burgundians, Visigoths, or Lombards (it is difficult to know about the Anglo-Saxons, for the early Anglo-Saxon laws are uninformative on this subject)….

that last bit is debatable, but anyway…

“The kin group was important because the individual alone, or even with his immediate family, was in a precarious position in Frankish society. One needed the support of a wider kin to help him bring offenders against his peace before the courts, and one needed kin to help provide the oathhelpers that a man might be required to present in order to make his case or to establish his own innocence before the court. These roles of the kin are familiar to all the Germans. But the Frankish kin group had further responsibilities and privileges. For example, if a man were killed, his own children collected only half of the composition due, the remaining half being equally divided between those members of his kin group who came from his father’s side and those who came from his mother’s side (LXII, i)….

“The right of the kin group to share in the receipt of composition involved also the responsibility for helping members of the group to pay composition. If a man by himself did not have sufficient property to pay the entire composition assessed against him, he could seek help from his closest kin, father and mother first, then brothers and sisters. If sufficient help was still not forthcoming, more distant members of the maternal and paternal kin (up to the sixth degree, i.e., second cousins [XLIV, 11-12]), could be asked to help. This responsibility of the kin to aid their kinsmen is known in Frankish law as *chrenecruda* (LVIII)….

“The importance of the kin group should thus be obvious, and added importance derived from the fact that one shared in the inheritance of one’s kin up to the sixth degree should closer heirs be lacking. Normally the advantages and disadvantages of belonging to a kin groups (legally related in an association known as parentela) evened themselves out, and the security of association plus the opportunity to inherit well justified the potential liability of the kin. However, on occasion the liabilities overshadowed the advantages. The debts of an uncontrollable relative might endanger a man’s property, or movement away from the area in which the kin group lived might have made the operation of parentela awkward if not impossible. So the law provided the means whereby a man could remove himself from his kin’s parentela, thereby avoiding responsibility for his kin — but in return he forfeited his position in the line of inheritance of that kin group (LX).”

and then there was the feuding as well. from Language and History in the Early Germanic World (2000) [pgs. 50-51]:

“The other form of protection provided by the kindred concerns blood-vengeance and the prosecution of a feud, for these act as a disincentive to violence and therefore offer protection in advance. It is not enough to define a feud as a state of hostility between kindreds; we must extend it to the threat of such hostility, but also, if the mere threat fails to prevent the outbreak of actual hostility, to a settlement on terms acceptable to both parties by means of an established procedure. In other words, the feud is a means of settling disputes between kindreds through violence or negotiation or both….

Central to feuding is the idea of vengeance, the willingness of all members of a kindred to defend one of their number and to obtain redress for him…. If a conflict nonetheless broke out it was waged not between individuals, but collectively between kindreds, as is best revealed by the way in which satisfaction could be obtained by vengeance on any member of the culprit’s kindred, not necessarily on the perpetrator himself. An offence to one was therefore an offence to all, as is most pithily expressed by Gregory of Tours in the case of a feud involving a woman with the words: *ad ulciscendam humilitatem generis sui*. In this case the kindred exacts vengeance from one of its members who is felt to have disgraced it; a refusal to act thus would have brought even greater shame up the kindred. An example like this shows, even in the language used, just what difficulties the Church had to face in dealing with such a mentality, for the word *humilitas*, in Germanic eyes the ‘humiliation’ or ‘shame’ done to the kindred, was for the Christian the virtue of humility. This virtue, including even a readiness to forgive an insult, was the undoing of Sigbert of Essex who, so Bede reports, was killed by his kinsmen who complained that he had been too ready to forgive his enemies and had thereby brought dishonour on his kindred. Such forgiveness and willingness to abandon the duty of feuding dealt a shocking blow to the kindred as a central support of Germanic society.”

the gauls also practiced feuding, so their society was probably clan- or kindred-based, too. from Medieval French Literature and Law (1977) [pg. 67]:

“[The vendetta's] sole justification was a prior injury or offense. Sanctioned in Roman Gaul in cases of murder, rape, adultery, or theft, the blood vengeance implied a solidarity of family lineage….”
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today the french are (mostly) not a clannish, feuding, kindred-based society — especially compared to, say, the arabs. what happened? when did they quit being clannish?

the kindred-based blood feud was still common during the carolingian empire (800-888) despite efforts of the authorities (the state!) to put a stop to it. from The Carolingian Empire (1978, orig. pub. 1957) [pg. 138 and 168-169]:

“It was in vain that orders were given for all who refused to abandon private feuds and to settle their quarrels in a court of law to be sent to the king’s palace, where they might expect to be punished by banishment to another part of the kingdom. Not even the general oath of fealty imposed by Charles contained a general prohibition of feuds. Instead the government contented itself with prohibiting the carrying of arms ‘within the fatherland’, and with setting up courts of arbitration with the possibility of appeal to the tribunal of the palace. But as far as the prohibition of carrying arms was concerned, not even the clergy were inclined to obey it. The lesser vassals who were themselves hardly in a position to conduct a feud, could always induce their lords to interfere in their quarrels by invoking their right to protection…. But not even the most primitive form of private warfare, the blood feud, actually died out. On the contrary, it appears to have flourished especially among the lesser nobility and the stewards of large domains….

“Just as a lord could force a serf against his will to become a secular priest, so also he could force him to take the tonsure of a monk….

“It certainly suited the secular authorities to rid themselves in this way of opponents or of those involved in a blood feud. In the case of a man involved in a blood feud, however, there was always the danger that the family of the victim would turn their ancient right of revenge against the whole convent.”

and then the carolingian empire broke apart, and all h*ll broke loose (until the capetians gained control of the area we now know as france, and even then it took some time for the kingdom of france to be fully consolidated). various authorities — the church and different barons, etc. — did try to bring peace to the land, but it really didn’t work for very long, if at all. from the wikipedia page on the peace and truce of god:

The Peace and Truce of God was a medieval European movement of the Catholic Church that applied spiritual sanctions to limit the violence of private war in feudal society. The movement constituted the first organized attempt to control civil society in medieval Europe through non-violent means. It began with very limited provisions in 989 AD and survived in some form until the thirteenth century.”

interestingly, the peace and truce of god movement began in southern france, not in the north where The Outbreeding Project had began earliest. perhaps those populations in southern france experienced more feuding in the late-900s than in the north? i don’t know. don’t have any direct proof (yet). in Medieval French Literature and Law (1977) we learn that everyone — the church, the lords of manors, the kings — tried EVERYthing they could think of over the next three to four hundred years to stop the feuding, with, as we shall see, very limited success [pgs. 108-113 and 116 - long quote here]:

Direct opposition to the blood feud began to make itself felt in southern France toward the end of the century. Combining ideology with expediency, the horror of blood with a desire for clerical immunity from attack, the Council of Charroux (989) ratified a special treaty of protection. Under God’s Peace, or the *paix de Dieu*, acts of violence against church property, laborers, peasants, their livestock, and clerics were forbidden under pain of official sanction. The Peace of Charroux took the form of voluntary submission rather than true prohibition and was sponsored by local prelates with the cooperation of the local nobility. It must have been at least partially successful, for similar accords were adopted by the Council of Narbonne in 990 and that of Anse in 994. An agreement concluded at the Synod of Puy (990) extended the protection of God’s Peace to merchants, mills, vineyards, and men on their way to or home from church. Pacts of ‘justice and peace’ were signed in 997 by the Bishops of Limoges, the Abbot of Saint-Martial, and the Bishop and Duke of Acuitaine. It was decided at the Council of Poitiers in 1000 that all infractions pertaining to *res invasae* would henceforth be settled by trial rather than war.

Monarchy favored the ecclesiastical peace movement. It appears likely, even, that Robert the Pious attempted to promulgate a declared peace at Orleans in 1010, although he remained unable to enforce it. By the third decade of the eleventh century the spirit of the southern pacts had spread to Burgundy and the North. At the Council of Verdun-le-Doubs (1016) the lay aristocracy of the region promised, in the presence of the archbishops of Lyon and Besancon: (1) not to violate the peace of sanctuaries; (2) not to enter forcefully the *atrium* of any church except to apprehend violaters of the peace; (3) not to attack unarmed clerics, monks, or their men; (4) not to appropriate their goods except to compensate for legitimate wrong inflicted. The Council of Soissons adopted an identical formula in 1023, as did the Councils of Anse in 1025, Poitiers in 1026, Charroux in 1028, and Limoges in 1031. Elsewhere, the bishops elicited individual promises of nonviolence from members of a particular diocese. At the request of the Abbot of Cluny and in the presence of the archbishop and the high clergy of the region of Macon, numerous Burgundian nobles swore in 1153 to refrain from attacking church property, to resist those who did, and to besiege the castles to which they withdrew if necessary.

A variation of the *paix de Dieu* was concluded by the bishops of Soissons and Beauvais. The *pactum sive treuga*, or *treve de Dieu*, forbade violence not according to the object of attack, but according to its time, season or day. Wars of vengeance were initially prohibited during the seasons of Easter, Toussaint, and Ascension. In addition to their oath governing sacred property and clerics, the subscribers of the Council of Verdun-le-Doubs swore: (1) not to participate during certain periods of the year in any military expedition other than that of the king, local prelate, or count; (2) to abstain for the duration of authorized wars from pillaging and violating the peace of churches; (3) not to attack unarmed knights during Lent. The Council of Toulouse added certain saints’ feast days to the list of proscribed dates; the bishops of Vienne and Besancon included Christmas and the Lenten season. Caronlingian interdiction of the blood feud on Sundays was revived by the Synod of Roussillon in 1027. From Sunday it was gradually extended to include almost the entire week: first from Friday at vespers to Monday morning and then from Wednesday sundown to Monday….

The seigneurial peace movement in the large northern feudatory states, themselves large enough to be governed as small kingdoms, prefigured any sustained monarchic attempt to control private war. An accord ratified in Flanders at the Council of Therouanne (1042-3) regulated the right of the Flemish aristocracy to bear arms; the count alone could make war during periods of prescribed abstinence. Angevine Normandy, inspired by the Flemish example, was sufficiently advanced administratively and judiciallys to serve as a model for Philippe-Auguste after royal annexation of the duchy in the early thirteenth century. The *treve de Dieu* signed in Caen in 1047 had validated the principle of ducal regulation of private campaigns. According to an inquest conducted in 1091 by Robert Curthose and William Rufus, William I had enacted, as early as 1075, a *paix de Duc* limiting blood feuds and placing numerous restrictions upon the conduct of any but his own expeditions. The *Donsuetudines et Iusticie* of the Conqueror prohibited seeking one’s enemy with hauberk, standard, and sounding horn; it forbade the taking of captive and the expropriation of arms, horses, or property in the course of a feud. Burning, plunder, and wasting of fields were forbidden in disputes involving the right of seisin. Assault and ambush were outlawed in the duke’s forest; and, except for the capture of an offender in *flagrante delicto*, no one was to be condemned to loss of life or limb without due process in a ducal court. William’s law thus reflects a double current in the control of wars of vendetta. On the one hand, it limits the methods of private campaigns without prohibiting them altogether. On the other, it reserves jurisdiction over certain cases of serious infraction for the duke’s own court, thus bypassing the local seigneurial judge who would ordinarily have enjoyed exclusive cognizance over the crimes committed within his fief….

Although unable to control the *faida* [blood feud - h.chick] with any certainty until well into the thirteenth century, the Crown did support a number of measures restricting the right to war. According to Beaumanoir, only noblemen can legally settle a dispute through recourse to arms; a conflict between a nobleman and a bourgeois or a peasant was to be resolved in public court. Brothers and even stepbrothers were prohibited from fighting each other. Furthermore, the Bailiff of Clermont carefully defines the limits of family obligation in pursuit of blood feuds. Duty to one’s kin-group had formerly extended to the seventh degree. Beaunamoir maintains that since the Church had set impediments to marriage only at the fourth degree, kinsmen of more remote paternity were not obliged to come to the aid of distant relatives. Thus, while the collective responsibility of the feudal *comitatus* had not been eliminated entirely, it was curtailed somewhat.

“The rules pertaining to initiation and cessation of hostilities were a crucial factor in the limitation of vendetta. As Beaumanoir specifies, fighting may begin either by face-to-fact challenge or by messenger. In both cases the declaration must be made clearly and openly; war without public defiance is the equivalent of murder without warning, or treason…:

“‘He who wishes to initiate war against another by declaration, must not do so ambiguously or covertly, but so clearly and so openly that he to whom the declaration is spoken or sent may know that he should be on his guard; and he who proceeds otherwise, commits treason.’ (Beaumanoir 2: 1675: 358).

“Once war had been declared, the parties had to wait forty days before actually coming to blows in order to alert those not present at the original declaration. This waiting period or *quarantaine le roi*, which was attributed to Philippe-Auguste and renewed by Saint Louis, again emphasizes the distinction between open and secretive homicide; it broadens the criminal concept to cover the domain of general warfare. Surprise attack upon an enemy clan prior to the end of the forty day injunction constituted an act of treason as opposed to legitimate vengeance….”

The persistence of wars of vengeance following the Saint-King’s death is apparent in the large number of *treves* concluded in the Parlement of Paris during the reign of Philip the Bold [1363-1404]. Despite the attempt to continue his father’s policy of suppression, Philip remained more capable of terminating conflicts already under way than preventing the outbreak of new wars. Philip the Fair experienced even greater difficulty in controlling the resurgence of independent military ventures among his vassals….”

so despite ALL of those efforts from the authorities in medieval france over the course of three or four hundred years, kindred-based blood feuds continued in france until the 1200-1300s. meanwhile, in southern england (but NOT in northern england, wales, or the highlands of scotland), feuding seems to have died a natural death by the 1100s. it would be interesting to know if there were regional differences in the timing of the cessation of feuding in france (like in britain) — my bet is yes, but i don’t have any info on that one way or the other. i will certainly be keeping an eye out for it.
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there are some hints, though, that the kindred was, in fact, becoming less important in medieval france before the 1200-1300s.

the first was the increasing significance of the paternal lineage (la lignée) at the (both literal and figurative) expense of the extended family. the nuclear family became more important, and parents (fathers) began to bequeath their wealth and property to their sons (and daughters) — mainly to the eldest son, of course — rather than also to their own brothers and cousins and second cousins thrice removed (you get the idea). as i wrote about in a previous post, this process of the shrinking and verticalization of the french family began around ca. 1000. most of the historical data we have on this process comes from the northern/austrasia region of the franks — where The Outbreeding Project began — but that doesn’t rule out that it wasn’t also happening elsewhere in france. again, i’ll have to keep my eye out for more info.

another indicator of the decreasing importance of the kindred in medieval french society, imho, is the rise of the communes (liberté! egalité! fraternité! (~_^) ). (yes, i know there were communes in northern italy, too. i’ll come back to those at a later date.) the later communes in medieval france — in the 1100-1200s — tended to be officially established entities given charters by the king or some regional lord, but the earliest ones from the late 1000s were really movements — associations“of the people” — of individuals (and maybe their immediate families), NOT of whole kindreds or clans or tribes. from Medieval France: An Encyclopedia (1995) [pgs. 464-465]:

Communes were sworn associations of rural or urban dwellers designed to provide collective protection from seigneurial authority. The earliest development of self-governing cities occurred in the later 11th century between the Loire and the Rhineland, as well as in northern Italy…. The urban territory became officially a ‘peace zone.’ Responsibility for enforcing order and judging violators fell to the commune, as did collection of taxes and the payment of dues to the king or local lord. These urban franchises were available to all residents, including those who, fleeing servitude in the countryside, remained for a year and a day….

Communes engaged all inhabitants in a communal oath, thus substituting a horizontal and egalitarian form of association for the more traditional ones of the aristocracy. Within the commune, each member was subservient to the other as a brother. On the ideological level, the notion of ‘peace’ played so fundamental a role that in some charters *pax* and *communa* are synonymous terms….

“Communes continued to form through the 12th and early 13th centuries, and in the reign of Louis IX there were over thirty-five of them in the regions directly north of Paris. They gradually became more established, with a hierarchy of guilds structuring relationships between segments of the population, often concentrating authority in the hands of a clique of ruling families. Communes began to decline after the 13th century, with European economic growth generally….”

the citizens of communes tried their hand at stopping blood feuds, too. most of the commune citizens themselves dealt with disputes with others NOT via the feud and with the help of other family members, but as independent individuals via civil means. however, the commune members might wind up suffering collateral damage if feuds raged nearby, so they tried to put a stop to them. from Medieval French Literature and Law (1977) [pg. 110]:

Municipal opposition to private war accompanied the communal movements of the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Though theoretically excluded from participating in the blood feud and protected by local peace pacts, the merchants living in northern and eastern France were nonetheless subject to the ravages of vendetta. An abundance of evidence indicates a willingness on the part of some municipal residents to settle their differences independently of civil procedure. Most, however, sought more regular means of settlement. When it came to handling arms, the merchant, like the cleric, found himself at a distinct disadvantage. The commune was, in essence, a peace league, a specially designated civil space whose inhabitants were guaranteed the right to trial without combat. Among the founding principles of the municipality of LeMans (1070) were the repression of vendettas among the members of the urban ‘friendship’ and mutual protection against external attack. The charter of Laon (1128) was entitled to *institutio pacis*; that of Tornai, *forma pacis et compositionis*. The pact of Verdun-le-Doubs was, in effect, an earlier version of the twelfth-century *convenance de la paix*, a protective agreement organized by artisan and trade guilds. In 1182 a carpenter from Le Puy founded a brotherhood of merchants and manufacturers devoted to the suppression of violence. Not only were feuds prohibited within the group, but when a murder did occur, the family of the victim was expected to seek reconciliation with the guilty party by inviting him to its house. The peace league of Le Puy had spread throughout Languedoc, Auxerre, and Berry before seigneurial uneasiness with institutional restraints upon the right to private war led to its own suppression. In spite of constant and often violent opposition, similar *confreries de paix* appeared in Champagne, Burgundy, and Picardie under Philip the Fair and his sons.”

the communes of the 1000-1100s, then, are free associations of independent individuals, usually minus their extended families/kindreds, but plus lots of civic behavioral patterns like the presence of the right to a trial in a court of law rather than the vendettas and feuds of a clan-based society. that’s a big change. wrt timing, the french communes — as free associations of independent individuals in place of kindreds — appear right around the same time as the gegildan in southern england (900s), the gegildan being another type of association of independent individuals replacing the earlier kindreds. again, i’d love to know if there were any regional differences in where these communes were located (apart from between the loire and rhine) — more in the north? more in the south? i shall endeavor to find out.
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tl;dr:

to sum up, then — the pre-christian franks, like all the other pre-christian germanics, were a cousin-marrying, kindred-based population in which the extended-family was extremely important (on top of the nuclear family) and in which blood feuds between kindreds regularly occurred. a frankish individual’s identity was all bound up with that of his kindred — frankish society was not comprised of independently acting individuals. feuding also took place amongst the romano-gauls, so they were likely clannish, too.

the roman catholic church banned cousin marriage in 506, but it’s likely that the franks didn’t take this seriously until after the mid-700s (although the particularly devout may have), at which point they really did (see previous post).

beginning in the 1000s, there are indications — the rise of lineages and the appearance of communes — that the french kindreds were starting to break apart. however, feuding continued in france into the 1200-1300s, so clannishness did not disappear in france overnight.

all of this can be compared to the southern english whose kindreds began to drift apart in the 900s and where feuding seems to have disappeared by the 1100s. remember that the law of wihtred in kent outlawed cousin marriage sixty years (two generations) before the franks did. also keep in mind that there may be regional differences in france (as in britain) that might be obscuring an earlier disappearance of kindreds/clannishness in “core” france. or maybe not. we shall see.

whew! that is all. (^_^)

previously: whatever happened to european tribes? and kinship, the state, and violence and mating patterns of the medieval franks and la lignée and the auvergnat pashtuns and the importance of the kindred in anglo-saxon society

(note: comments do not require an email. vive la commune!)

update 10/24: see bottom of post.

this will be my last post on the anglo-saxons for a while. i promise! the following comes from some notes on anglo-saxon kindreds and feuds that have been hanging around on my desktop for a while now, and since i recently had a couple of posts related to the anglo-saxons (see here and here), i thought i may as well share these as well.

in America 3.0, bennett and lotus say [pg. 51]:

The English are descended from the Germanic conquerors who brought to England the ‘integrated nuclear family,’ in which nuclear families formed separate households, but stayed close to their relatives for mutual cooperation and defense. These people were illiterate, so we have no written records from those times, and we cannot know precisely how they organized their family life. But what we do know for sure is that over time the original Germanic family type developed into the ‘Absolute Nuclear Family,’ or ‘ANF,’ which we have today. It appears that the family type we have now has existed for about a thousand years.”

i haven’t actually read anything about the family type(s) of either the continental angles and saxons or the early anglo-saxons in england, but i’ll take bennett and lotus’ word for it. however, later in the book they go on to say about the saxons [pg. 75]:

“They traced their lineages through both the male and female line. This prevented clans or extended families from forming and becoming exclusive, as happens when lineage is traced solely through the male line. As a result extended families or clans did not have collective legal rights, or any recognized political role.

while it is correct that the germanics had bilateral kinship and, so, didn’t have strong patrilineal clans (like the irish or the scots), as i’ve discussed in previous posts (see here and here), the germanics did have kindreds which were VERY important socially AND, crucially, legally. this very much includes the anglo-saxons in early medieval england.

in early anglo-saxon england, if you were injured or killed by another person, your kindred — your closest family members on both sides of your family, probably out to second cousins — were obliged to take up a blood feud against the offending party’s kindred if you/they were not compensated by the other kindred for your injury/murder in the form of wergeld payments. this was your kindred’s legal right — their duty, in fact, since this was how order was maintained in that clannish society. (vengeance feuds have been, and still are, a common solution to keeping order in clannish societies all around the world and throughout history. unfortunately, if the feuding gets out of hand, that can, of course, lead to disorder.)

from “The Kentish Laws” in The Anglo-Saxons from the Migration Period to the Eighth Century: An Ethnographic Perspective (1997) [pgs. 214-216]:

Large sections of the Kentish laws [all dating from the 600s] (as, in particular, the largest part of the law-code of Aethelberht) are devoted to the condition of feud which came to exist between the kindred of a man (killed, wounded, wronged, or robbed) and that of the man responsible (for the killing, wounding, wrongdoing, or stealing). Kindreds were to take charge of reparation and they could (with a few exceptions, for example, when the conflict was too close in blood-line) arrange either for vengeance or for the payment of compensation to the kin of the killed. Material compensation requited woundings and offences. The reparation (expressed by the Old English verbs *forgildan*, ‘to pay for’ and *gebetan*, ‘to amend’), is meant to recover the lost equilibrium and to maintain the *frid*, ‘peace’.

“The complex system of wergild, with its different levels, which were fixed in relation to the status of the offended person, is strictly connected with feud. Payment could be made in one or more installments: the *healsfang*, which was the first payment of the wergild (that is, the first twenty shillings of the hundred-shilling wergild of a freeman), must be paid *aet openum graefe*, ‘when the grave is still open’. All the details of the feud were regulated by law, which fixed the amount of composition and the time-schedule for payment.

“Two different opinions have been put forwards as regards Anglo-Saxon legislation concerning feud. According to some scholars the kinship system appears to have been made the subject of such a large amount of legislation because it did not work: the chapters of the laws concerned with feud, in all its aspects and details, testify to an increasing failure of family concern (cf. Bridbury 1992). Other scholars have expressed the opinion that feud maintained its importance and vitality well beyond the seventh century. The bond of kinship was undeniably very important in Anglo-Saxon society and the support of the kindred was needed in all aspects of a man’s life: ‘kinship remained immensely strong in ordinary social life’ (Loyn 1974:199); at the same time, however, a strong state-authority soon developed. Kinship appears to be still powerful in the laws of Aethelberht and in those of Hlothhere. If a homicide departed from the country, his kindred were responsible for paying half the wergild (Aebt. 23)….

In the later legal codes it becomes evident that the law attempted to control feud, as the higher authority of the king attempted to exercise some of the power that the kin used to enjoy. As for the Church, it encouraged settlements by composition rather than ‘vendetta’. Bede tells of the role of Theordore of Canterbury in the settlement of the feud between Mercians and Northumbrians after the killing of King Ecgfrith’s brother, Aelfwine. At the same time, the penitentials stressed the negative side of killing, including that perpetrated by a kinsman carrying out a vendetta. In the Penitential of Theodore we read: ‘Si quis pro ultione propinqui hominem occiderit peniteat sicut homicida VII vel X annos’ (If a man slays another one to avenge a relative, he shall do penance as a murderer for seven or ten years).”

so extended families in early anglo-saxon society most definitely had “collective legal rights” — and duties!

and don’t misunderstand this wergeld payment thing. it wasn’t just a whip round that happened within one kindred with the collected cash being passed over to a representative of the other kindred. no. it’s likely that EACH member of the offender’s kindred went and physically paid his corresponding member in the victim’s kindred — paternal uncle would pay paternal uncle, maternal first cousin would pay maternal first cousin, and so on (that’s how wergeld payments happened in iceland anyway and, so it’s supposed, in the other germanic societies). THAT’s how important an individual’s kindred was. in the event of (serious) bodily injury or a killing, TWO WHOLE kindreds would be involved in the resolution.

in Kindred and clan in the Middle Ages and after: a study in the sociology of the Teutonic races (1913), bertha phillpotts argued that kindreds had more or less disappeared in england by the 600-700s, but most historians since phillpotts’ time (except for bridbury above) — like lorraine lancaster — put the date later at around ca. 1000 or 1100. this is the earliest point in anglo-saxon law tracts in which the law allows for an individual’s guild rather than kindred to be the recipient of wergeld payments — or the executor of a feud. this is a monumental shift in thinking (and feeling) in anglo-saxon society, afaiac — this is THE change from anglo-saxon society being based upon the extended family to english society being based upon friends and associates. this is HUGE.

anglo-saxon and other early medieval kings (like the frankish kings in bavaria) tried throughout the early medieval period to dampen the power of the kindreds, especially the feuding, since all that fighting seriously gets in the way of building a productive society. in the 900s, edmund i, for instance, attempted to restrict vengeance feuding to just the individual rather than whole kindreds — he issued a law exempting the kindred members from feuds if they abandoned their troublemaking kinsman [pgs. 39-40]. it was worth a shot, but probably didn’t much diminish the kindreds’ desires for revenge:

“[T]hese very efforts or aspirations reveal counter-pressures, the continuing use of violent self-help motivated by vengenance, the continuing involvement of kin and others. There must have been resistance, unconscious and conscious, to the extension of royal authority.”

indeed, feuds continued in england throughout at least the 1000s. what changed, though, was who took up the feuds — the gegildan, or the unrelated friends/associates of an individual who were his fellow oath takers. the gegildan appears in some of the anglo-saxon laws in the late-800s as an alternative group of people to whom wergeld might be paid if the wronged individual had no kin. by the 900s, though, in southern england, the gegildan might be the only group that received wergeld, bypassing kin altogether. from Wage Labor and Guilds in Medieval Europe [pgs. 39-42]:

“The laws of King Alfred of Wessex, dated to 892-893 or a few years earlier, are more informative about the *gegildan*. Again, the context is murder and the wergild — the compensation required for the crime. By Alfred’s time, if not during Ine’s, the *gegildan* is clearly a group of associates who were not related by blood. The clearest example of this is in chapter 31 of the laws: ‘If a man in this position is slain — if he has no relatives (maternal or paternal) — half the wergild shall be paid to the king, and half to the *gegildan*.’ No information exists on the purpose of the *gegildan* other than its role as a substitute for kinship ties for those without any relatives. These associates, who presumably were bound together by an oath for mutual protection, if only to identify who was responsible, would benefit anyone, whether the person had relatives or not…. Although the evidence from the laws of Ine may be read either way, the *gegildan* seems to be an old social institution. As seen more clearly in the tenth and eleventh centuries, it acquired additional functions — a policing role and a religious character.

“The nobles, clergy, and commoners of London agreed upon a series of regulations for the city, with the encouragement and approval of King Athelstan, who caused the rules to be set down some time in the late 920s or 930s. The primary purpose of these ordinances was to maintain peace and security in the city, and all those supporting these goals had solemnly pledged themselves to this *gegildan*. This type of inclusive guild, sometimes referred to as a peace guild, was an attempt to create one more additional level of social responsibility to support the king and his officials in keeping the peaces. This social group of every responsible person in London is a broad one, and the law does not use the term *gegildan* to describe the association in general….

“The idea of a guild to keep the peace was not limited to London, and a document from the late tenth century contains the rules and duties of the thegn‘s guild in Cambridge. This guild appears to have been a private association, and no king or noble is mentioned as assenting to or encouraging this group. Most of the rules concern the principle purposes of this guild — the security of the members, which receives the most attention, and the spiritual benefits of membership itself. The guild performed the tasks of the old *gegildan*: the members were obliged to defend one another, collect the wergild, and take up vengeance against anyone refusing to pay compensation. The members also swore an oath of loyalty to each other, promising to bring the body of a deceased member to a chosen burial site and supply half the food for the funeral feast. For the first time, another category of help was made explicit — the guild bound itself to common almsgiving for departed members — and the oath of loyalty the members swore included both religious and secular affairs. Although in many respects this guild resembles a confraternity along the lines Hincmar established for the archdiocese of Rheims, the older purpose of the group — mutual protection with its necessary threat of vengeance — makes the Anglo-Saxon guild something more than a prayer meeting. To include almsgiving to members in distress would be a small step, given the scope of activities this guild established. There is no sign that the thegns cooperated in any economic endeavors, but older rules of rural society had already determined methods of sharing responsibility in the villages, and the thegns cooperated on everything that was important in their lives. The thegns of Cambridge had a guild that resembles in some important ways the communal oath, that will be discussed below, of some Italian cities in the next century.”

fantastically, by the twelfth century it appears that many of the terms related to the feud were not understood and no longer really used by legal scholars and scribes [pg. 43]. in the space of about three hundred years, then — from the 900s to the 1100s — feuding in southern england seems to have gone from a regular activity engaged in by relatives, to something that a group of friends might do for one another, to eventually pretty much dying out altogether [pgs. 49-52]. but not in wales. or northern england:

What is also clear, however, is that by the twelfth century, and perhaps before, England was perceived as an area of particular peace. Authors contrasted such peace with the disorder of other areas. Writing at the end of the twelfth century, Gerald of Wales commented on the Welsh greed for land, stating that ‘law-cases in court and quarrels result, killings and arson, and frequent fratricides’, a situation he thought was made worse by the custom of partible inheritance.

“Can we tell if perception corresponded with reality? There is certainly a strong case to be made that the core of the English king’s lands differed in their practices from the periphery, most notably Northumbria. The violent dispute narrated by the ‘De obsessione’ may be the product of particular circumstances rather than a rare survival of a more general English pheonomenon. At the highest level of Northumbrian society, killing certainly was more frequent than elsewhere in England. It has been pointed out that ‘of the fourteen men to rule part or all of Northumbria between 993 and 1076, nine were killed, four had an unknown fate, and only one, Earl Siward, is thought to have died from natural causes.’ As John of Worcester’s account of the killing of Bishop Walcher of Durham in 1080 makes clear, the death of even post-Conquest rulers of Northumbria took place in a context of insult, killing, negotiation, and vengeance. If Northumberland was different, various explanations can be offered, from its geography and economy to the lack of royal presence and the conflicts between the earls and those responsible for Yorkshire.

“Difference from practices in Celtic lands may have existed well before the time of Gerald of Wales. ‘Domesday’ records the following custom under Archenfield of Herefordshire:

“‘If anyone kills one of the king’s men and commits housebreaking [*heinfaram*], he give the king 20s concerning payment for the man and 100s concering the wrong. If anyone kills a thegn’s man, he gives 10s to the dead man’s lord. But [*quod*] if a Welshmand kills a Welshman, the relatives of the slain man gather and despoil [*predantur*] the killer and his associates [*propinquos*] and burn their houses until the body of the dead man is buried the next day about noon. The king has the third part of this plunder, but they have all the rest free.’

Feud in Wales would continue beyond the twelfth century.

and in highland scotland until the 1500s. and in ireland in the form of “faction fighting” until the 1700- and early-1800s.
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so, even though they may have been living in nuclear family units, early anglo-saxons were very much tied to their extended families (kindreds) legally — and, presumably, socially — and those ties didn’t dissipate until around ca. 1000-1200, some six to eight hundred years after they settled in england. i have my own ideas as to why that was — and most of you know what they are, so i won’t repeat them now (you’re welcome! (~_^) ). a couple of important things to keep in mind, though:

- family types must be looked at in context — for instance, just because a group lives in nuclear family units does not necessarily mean that its members don’t have strong ties with their extended family;

- kinship ties are not broken quickly and certainly not via laws that only address the superficial symptoms of those ties (like feuds) — the fundamentals must be changed (and those fundamentals are mating patterns, i think … sorry! couldn’t resist saying it. (^_^) )
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*update 10/24: i meant to say in the post, and i forgot (typical), that bennett and lotus acquired a lot of their info about — and have based much of their thinking on — anglo-saxon family types and the importance of the nuclear familiy in anglo-saxon society from f.w. maitland‘s historical work on english law.

i haven’t read maitland, so i can’t comment on any of it, but i will do one of these days and will no doubt post about it. if you want to get a head start on me, check out these sources (h/t michael lotus – thanks, michael!):

- F.W. Maitland And The Making Of The Modern World [pdf] from alan macfarlane.
The History of English Law before the Time of Edward I, 2 vols. [1898] by pollack and maitland. see vol II, ch VI, first 10 pgs re the kindred per michael lotus.
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previously: the anglo-saxons and america 3.0 and the saxons, the anglo-saxons, and america 3.0 and medieval germanic kindreds…and the ditmarsians and more on medieval germanic kindreds and kinship in anglo-saxon society and kinship in anglo-saxon society ii

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back to America 3.0 for a sec.

if i understand their argument correctly, bennett and lotus are proposing that the anglo-saxon absolute nuclear family — and the sort-of individual-based society that goes along with it — has distant roots stretching back to the pre-christian germans on the continent. they do say that there were obviously some changes to the anglo-saxon family type after the germanics arrived in (what would become) england — basically that the anglo-saxon nuclear family became even more nuclear over the course of the medieval period. but, by and large, they believe that there is a very long cultural continuity of family types and societal structures going all the way back to the early germans and that these cultural traditions are what made the anglo world pretty d*rn great.

based upon my readings over the last couple of years (feel free to flip through the “english” section in the “mating patterns in europe series” below ↓ in left-hand column), i think that bennett and lotus have got it pretty right. the anglo-saxon world IS exceptional (and, no, no one in my extended family can take ANY credit for that) — this exceptionalism has got to do with the structures of anglo-saxon society, very much so the fundamental family structures — and the development of these structures does go back to the pre-christian continental germans. HOWEVER, i think that bennett and lotus have missed some details — details which throw off the timing of their argument somewhat. for instance, as i pointed out in my last post on the book, they missed out entirely on the importance of the kindred in early germanic society, thus over-estimating the importance of the nuclear family at that point in time. early germanic society wasn’t composed of very tightly knit clans, but neither was it made up of truly independent nuclear families. the early germans were very much tied to their kindreds — including the anglo-saxons in early medieval england up to at least 1000 a.d. (see previous post).

whatever made the anglo-saxons finally give up on their extended families (the kindreds) happened after they got to england (although they may already have been primed for it). the kindred seems to be truly gone in england (at least in the south/southeast) by about 1200 a.d., the evidence suggesting that it was on its way out by at least ca. 1000 a.d. so, sometime between their arrival in the 400s-600s and 1200, something happened which resulted in the disappearance of the anglo-saxon kindred (and germanic kindreds on the continent, too, btw — but not all the germanic kindreds).
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in this post, i want to nit-pick about another point that bennett and lotus made about the pre-christian germans on the continent [pg. 75]:

“They owned property individually, not communally, and not as families. Adult children and parents had separate and individual rights, not collective rights as a family.”

nope. as greying wanderer mentioned in the comments on the other post, this is incorrect.

here from “Jural Relations Among the Saxons Before and After Christianization” in The Continental Saxons from the Migration Period to the Tenth Century: An Ethnographic Perspective (2003) is giorgio ausenda on early saxon society on the continent. he’s drawing this information from the earliest written saxon laws. i’m quoting an extended bit here, since the first part includes an interesting description of how the early german kindred structure, including blood feuds, worked [pgs. 113-114]:

“There was no overarching structure with executive power in that society [pre-carolingian continental saxon society], even when stratified as in the case of the Saxons. There were no permanent ‘tribal chiefs’, but only heads of clans with little if any restraining power; the containment of violence was a private matter based on fear of retaliation between like corporate groups, i.e. ‘do not do onto others what you don’t want to be done to you’. The only restraining power the senior ‘elder’ of the group, which is also the etymological meaning of many terms for ‘chief’ all over the world, had was that of acting as an arbiter in an effort to reach consensus on compensations for murder or lesser injuries between contending parties belonging to different corporate groups under his jurisdiction; hence the Latin term *iudex* for such chiefs which were seen as acting mostly in legal palavers.

Property did not concern land, as this belonged to the corporate group as a whole and was the object of raids and counterraids to keep neighbouring groups away, or even wars rather than legal transfers. Tools and weapons were considered individual property and, in many cases … when the owners died, buried with them…. The only transmissible property was livestock and, in general, its apportionment was fixed by custom: women obtained their customary marriage endowment and men started owning livestock after they were wedded. They inherited their part in proportion to the number of sons of their deceased father, as sons were the only manual labor available in simple societies and were engaged in herding and minding their extended family’s herds and flocks.”

the early saxons, then, did NOT have property — not transferrable real estate anyway. (we saw something similar in early medieval ireland, although in that case, it was clearly the patrilineal clan that held common ownership of land.) in the case of the early saxons, land was held in common by — well, i’m not sure by whom (ausenda doesn’t say) — a set of related kindreds possibly? in any case, there is that group membership again — kindreds and wergeld in the case of murder/injury and now some sort of corporate group wrt land ownership. the continental saxons were not entirely independent, nuclear-family based individuals. they were a bit … clannish. clannish-lite.

whatever happened to make the anglo-saxons independent, property owning, absolute nuclear family individualists happened after they arrived on albion’s shores (but, i agree, their germanic background probably made a difference). and judging by what i’ve read (again, see the “mating patterns series” below), whatever happened doesn’t appear to have gained traction until about 1000 a.d. by 1200 it’s well underway, and by 1400 — well, i think you could probably drop a modern day englishman back into 1400s england, and he wouldn’t feel that disoriented. bennett and lotus are missing this timeline, because they are projecting too much anglo-saxonism too far back in time.

otherwise, they are very correct about the origins of anglo-saxon exceptionalism! (^_^)

(except for the fact that they believe it ALL to be about culture. that’s impossible, of course. at least in this universe. maybe in some alternate reality things are different. (~_^) )

edit: interesting. here is a quote from “The Kentish Laws” found in The Anglo-Saxons from the Migration Period to the Eighth Century: An Ethnographic Perspective (1997) regarding the beginnings of a shift from communal to private property (land) in kent in a law from the seventh century [pg. 217]:

“The Kentish laws portray a society where the change from movable to landed wealth was under way so much so that even the oldest laws contemplate fines for the breach of enclosures (Aebt. 27-9). It is clear here that land is no longer handled in tribal terms but as belonging to individuals.”
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bonus content!: here are a couple of things i came across tonight re. the anglo-saxons and other early germanics that i found interesting, so i just thought i’d share….

1) in early medieval kent, arranged marriages were all the rage. from “The Kentish Laws” in The Anglo-Saxons from the Migration Period to the Eighth Century: An Ethnographic Perspective (1997) [pgs. 211, 216 - links added by me]:

“We have four English law-codes which all originated in the seventh century; the first three sets of laws were issued by the kings of Kent Æthelberht I, Hlothhere and Eadric, and Wihtred….

“The three laws contain a series of decrees about matrimony and have been made the object of considerable research into the (legal) position of women and its evolution…. This is one of the fields where the control of the kindred remained stable: the kinsmen arranged marriage and, after the wedding, continued to watch over the woman.

there’s the importance of the kindred again — in early medieval anglo-saxon (and jutish) england even.

interestingly, this is pretty much what happens in some parts the arab world today — arranged marriages, but the woman’s kin keeps an eye on her to make sure she’s ok. i just read recently, in fact, that in the hejaz, it’s very common for hejazi women to be set up with their own bank accounts by their family so that they have a set of financial resources independent from their husbands (but then they share a common household budget). who knew?

2) several readers have wondered out loud here — and so have i — why on EARTH did the northern europeans/the germanics (or any europeans for that matter) adopt christianity at all? why wouldn’t you just do what the frisians did when st. boniface or his ilk showed up and (presumably) tried to chop down the locals’ sacred trees — hang him from the nearest one?!

well, the saxons were forced to convert. by tptb (in this case the invading franks). huh. imagine that — so-called leaders forcing policies down the people’s throats. hard to imagine!

again from “Jural Relations Among the Saxons Before and After Christianization” [pg. 117 - links added by me]:

“The first ones [written saxon laws] were issued directly by or under the supervision of Frankish authorities. The first group, know as *Capitula de partibus Saxoniae*, issued in 777 at the end of centuries-long conflict with the Saxons, is none other than a martial law enforcing both public order and wholesale christianization. Of the total number of 31 articles, the first five list the penalties for crimes against churches and priests; the next four establish stiff penalties for acts of ‘paganism’ including the death penalty for whomever should refuse to be baptized. Among them a lone ray of light: law number 6 which prohibits witchcraft accusations *’secundum more paganorum’*…. Law 14 is for repentants who, having committed a crime, might confess to a priest, hence would be exempt from the death penalty *’testimonio sacerdote’*.

“The next group of laws from 15 to 19 lays down the duties towards the Church, consisting of a certain number of inhabitants in each hamlet donating to the church *’servum et ancillam’*, and that the tenth part *’decimam’* of the value of penalties incurred, or of one’s subsistence labour must be given to the church. The remaining articles list the prohibitions and duties following on religious festivities and ceremonies.

“This brief set of laws ends with … a final prohibition of unauthorized assemblies….”

so there!

previously: the anglo-saxons and america 3.0

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been reading America 3.0 written by two of the chicago boyz (hey chicago boyz! *waves*). i got interested in the book after reading daniel hannan’s review of it in the telegraph a couple of weeks ago in which he said:

“Their conclusion? That English, later Anglosphere, exceptionalism, is very real. That the rise of our language and culture to their current unprecedented dominance – what one commentator terms ‘Anglobalisation’ – is based on a series of properties that are either unique to the English-speaking peoples, or shared only with a handful of kindred cultures in northwestern Europe. Among these properties are the common law, representative government, Protestantism, dispersed landownership, civil associations separate from the state and – of particular interest to these authors – the unusual nature of the family.

They show that the Anglosphere dispenses with the extended family structures which, in most places, have legal as well as cultural force. In many societies, the peasant family has traditionally been treated as a kind of collective landowner, within which there are reciprocal responsibilities. Children, even in adulthood, have been expected to work on the family plot, receiving board and lodging. Marriages are typically arranged, and daughters-in-law come under the authority of the head of their new household. Even when the law recognises individual autonomy, custom is often slow to follow.

“The Anglosphere scarcely resembles the Eurasian landmass in its family structures. Our notion of the family is limited and nuclear. Most English-speakers in most centuries wanted to set up home on their own, independently, with just their spouse and children – although economic circumstances did not always allow that aspiration to be fulfilled.

The notion that the limited family underpins Anglosphere exceptionalism – which draws heavily on the work of the French anthropologist and demographer Emmanuel Todd – is intriguing. I see the cultural difference all around me in the European Parliament. In most Continental states, your social life is largely taken up with your extended family: you have an endless stream of weddings and christenings to go to, sometimes of very distant cousins. Britons and Americans, by contrast, expect to leave their parental home in their teens, either to go to university or to work. We make friends away from home, and they become the core of our social life. Indeed, the word ‘friend’ carries more force in English than in many European languages, in which it is bestowed quickly and generously, but often means little more than what we mean by a Facebook friend. When a Spaniard says of someone ‘es muy amigo mío’, he simply means that he gets on with the chap.”

oh, emmanuel todd! i love emmanuel todd!

i disagree with lotus and bennett on two major points.

firstly, that the u.s. is on the verge of an economic/societal upturn that will be even bigger and better than those of the past (thus the title of the book). meh. maybe. i’m not so hopeful as they are, but that’s probably just because i’m a pessimist. i’ll be very happy to be proven wrong!

my other disagreement with the authors is more of an irreconcilable difference [pgs. 25-26, 60-61]:

“What we have found in our research is that our distinctive and exceptional American culture has extremely deep roots, stretching back over a thousand years, long before our own national Founding and our Constitution, long before the the first English settlements in North America….”

yes, definitely. i’d agree with that. but…

“The word ‘culture’ may seem amorphous, something you would know by intuition but cannot necessarily pin down. Even professional anthropologists, whose job it is to study and understand culture, seem to have trouble pinning down exactly what they mean by it. For our purposes, we define culture as the distinctive patterns of behavior within a specified group of people that are transmitted from one generation to the next and are not genetic in origin.

It is very important to understand that culture is not genetic. Adopted children and immigrants may come from entirely different genetic backgrounds, but they adopt artifacts of culture such as language, values, and customs as readily as do biological children of parents within that culture. It is indisputable that the culture we describe in this book can be and has been adopted by people of every possible ethnic background….”

well, no … not exactly.

“[T]he strictly racial explanation for the Germanic roots of English liberty is simply and demonstrably incorrect. We now know more about human biology and genetics than did the writers of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. We know for a fact that there is no genetic basis for the English way of life. There is nothing special in the DNA of any English ‘race’ that especially suits them for liberty….

“The historical record as it now stands, based on documents, archeology, and genetic evidence, shows that *the foundations of English liberty were not genetic or racial, but cultural, institutional, legal, and political*.”

oh, no, no, no, no, no!

i’m actually not interested in debating this in this post, but, in response to these passages, i will just ask my one, favorite, hopefully irritating question: where does culture come from?
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i do want to nitpick a small-ish point with lotus and bennett, though. their main argument is that the anglo-saxon absolute nuclear family goes way, waaaay back — pretty much to, or nearly to, the time of the settlement of the anglo-saxons in england — and, thanks to that, both england and america have been characterized by all sorts of neat things like: individualism, a love of liberty, nonegalitarianism, competitiveness, an enterprising spirit, mobility, voluntarism, middle-class values, an instrumental view of government, and suburbia (a spacious home and backyard for each and every nuclear family).

i generally agree with that assessment, although, as you know, i’d throw mating patterns into the mix there — especially that the mating patterns of the angles and saxons and other germanic tribes probably affected their family types, the general pattern being: the closer the mating types, the larger the families (think: the arabs with their father’s brother’s daughter marriage and their huge clans/tribes), while the more distant the mating types, the smaller the families (think: well, think the english with their avoidance of close cousin marriage for ca. 1000-1200 years and their absolute nuclear families). and, of course, i’d toss evolution and genetic differences between populations in there, too.

lotus and bennett, amongst other points, say of the saxons that settled in england that [pg. 75]:

“- They were free people. They were independent minded, individually and in their tribal organization….
– They owned property individually, not communally, and not as families. Adult children and parents had separate and individual rights, not collective rights as a family.
– They traced their lineages through both the male and female line. This prevented clans or extended families from forming and becoming exclusive, as happens when lineage is traced solely through the male line. As a result extended families or clans did not have collective legal rights, or any recognized political role.”

yes. but this is a slight oversimplification of the situation. no, the pre-christian germanics didn’t have strong clans, but they did have kindreds which were, in fact, very important in many cases when legal issues arose, in particular in the instance of wergeld payment and collection, i.e. compensation for when a member of a kindred was injured or killed. the members of a person’s kindred in germanic society — and this includes anglo-saxon society in early medieval england — were obliged to undertake a feud if wergeld payments were not met — by the guilty party’s kindred. in other words, two whole kindreds were involved whenever someone was injured or killed by another person.

this was a sort of clannishness-lite, then — actual clans did not exist in pre-christian germanic society, but kindreds did. and these extended families were very important in early anglo-saxon society, even though people may have regularly resided in nuclear family units. according to lorraine lancaster, this didn’t change until after ca. 1000 a.d., four- to six-hundred years after the anglo-saxons arrived in england, when wergeld began to be paid/collected by a person’s friends or fellow guild members rather than extended family members [pgs. 373, 375 - see also this post]:

“Phillpotts has effectively demonstrated the weakness of Anglo-Saxon kin groups compared with certain related systems on the continent….

“During the period they ['friends'] gained continued importance as oath-helpers. After the end of the tenth century, it was even permissible for a feud to be prosecuted or wergild claimed by a man’s associates or guild-brothers. If murder was done *within* the guild, kinsmen again played a part….”

so, yes, the importance of the nuclear family does have its roots in germanic and anglo-saxon society, but the extended family in the form of the bilateral kindred was also a very significant element of germanic societies — until quite late in some regions of europe. the importance of the germanic kindred waned over the course of the early medieval period, very much so in england, i think thanks to The Outbreeding Project undertaken by northwest europeans beginning in the early medieval period. (see mating patterns in europe series below ↓ in left-hand column.)

previously: kinship in anglo-saxon society and kinship in anglo-saxon society ii and medieval germanic kindreds … and the ditmarsians and emmanuel todd’s absolute nuclear family and “l’explication de l’idéologie”

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one of the preeminent historians of medieval france was georges duby whose work was primarily focused on feudalism, but he also wrote quite a bit on medieval french family structures as well. his main research area was the mâconnais district of burgundy in central france, but he also dealt with other regions of france including the northeast which at one time was part of what was known as austrasia (see also here).

duby’s major finding related to the medieval french family was that, around ca. 1000, there was a titantic shift in family structures in northeastern and central france (and possibly other areas — i’m not sure) from kindreds to lineages, at least amongst the aristocracy, although obviously at some point the commoners followed suit — there are no kindreds in france today. here’s what he had to say about it in The Chivalrous Society [pgs. 146-147]:

“I want to conclude by drawing attention to a point which seems to me essential and by formulating in this connection a hypothesis for research. In this part of western Europe the genealogical recollections of men living at the end of the twelfth century seem, indeed, to reach back according to the rank which they held. At the level of the smaller knights, it goes back towards the mid-eleventh century, in castellan families to the region of the year 1000, in the families of counts as far as the beginning of the tenth century. These thresholds, beyond which the ancestral remembrance was lost, were the more remote the higher placed was the lineage in the political and social hierarchy. This need not surprise us. But it is interesting to observe that the three chronological points appear to be exactly those reached by the researches of present-day scholar trying to recontruct the real blood relationships of families. Moreover, researches cannot reach any point earlier than these. Thus in the society of the Mâconnais, I have been able to uncover kinships in the lineages of knights up to the first half of the eleventh century, the lineages of castellans to the end of the tenth century, and the lineages of counts down to about 920. Beyond these dates I have found it impossible to discover who was the father of the earliest known ancestor. The obstacle is not in the documentation which changes neither in nature nor quantity. We might therefore think this obstacle … resulted from the transformation of the very structure of kinship. Indications of patrilineal blood relationshps disappear from written sources at the very point at which research, going back in time, steps across these chronological thresholds. This reflects a lessening in the importance of these blood relationship in the family consciousness at these dates. In the documents at our disposal it appears as if, at different levels in the aristocracy, the kinship structure was gradually transformed between the beginning of the tenth century and the mid-eleventh century. Before those dates there was no lineage, nor awareness of genealogy properly speaking, and no coherent remembrance of ancestors. A member of the aristocracy considered his family, if I may use the phrase, a horizontal group, spread out in the present, with no precise or fixed limits…. At a later date an individual felt himself, on the contrary, to be part of a family group with a much more rigid structure, centred on agnatic consanguinity and its vertical links.

duby put this shift down to the effects of feudalism (and the related rise of primogeniture which, duby says, was connected to the changing agricultural production methods [see mitterauer]), and i’m sure he’s correct, but i also (of course) think that this shift was connected to changing mating patterns. feudalism can’t be the entire answer since, for example, the early medieval irish had a sort of feudalism — they had a fief system anyway (see Cattle Lords & Clansmen: The Social Structure of Early Ireland) — but unlike the burgundians, the irish hung on to their extended families/clans until very late (into the modern period). where the early irish differed from the burgundians and other germanic populations was that they 1) didn’t have manorialism (until much later when the normans partially introduced it) and 2) they kept on marrying close cousins right through the medieval period.

historians are in agreement that the earlier germanic populations — the franks and the visigoths, etc. — married close cousins to some degree or another in late antiquity/the early medieval period — enough that, for whatever reasons, the roman catholic church and tptb bothered to ban the practice/pass laws against it specifically beginning in the early medieval period. i don’t know whether or not the early medieval lex burgundionum had any regulations regarding cousin marriage, but the burgundians do seem to have converted to roman catholicism (from arianism) by about the year 500, so, like the franks, they may have been some of the earliest of the north europeans to start enjoying the church’s cousin marriage bans (not that the bans were necessarily well-enforced at this early point in time, but the push against cousin marriage had begun by then).

and don’t forget that along with this shift from kindreds to lineages, there was also a shift towards nuclear families.

i think that the broadening of the mating patterns in medieval france and other areas of nw europe (i.e. from close relatives to more distant ones, or even to unrelated individuals) resulted in the shrinking of the family structures (i.e. from broad kindreds to narrower lineages and nuclear families).

here is a little more on duby’s findings from frances and joseph gies’ Marriage and the Family in the Middle Ages [pgs. 124-26, 129 - kindle edition]:

“Around the millennium, by a mechanism that is not well understood, a profound change took place in family dynamics….

“The most significant discernible element in the change was a shift from partible to impartible inheritance. Among the minor nobility in the Mâcon region, the *frérèche*, the association of brothers in joint ownership, previously limited to a few families, became the rule. One son, not necessarily the eldest, was designated to succeed the father in managing the family estates and representing the family in the outside world. Marriage was restricted to this son and at most one other. Households were large. The typical household of the minor aristocracy of the time, as described by Duby, contained perhaps a dozen family members: parents, one brother with his wife and children, and brothers and sisters who remained unmarried, with some of the unmarried brothers often groomed to follow in the footsteps of an uncle who was a church official. The young men lived under the control of their parents, or, when the parents died, of the brother who became head of the family. The share of each in the enterprise was modest, but together they could afford to equip and maintain one or two of the brothers as knights.

“At the top of the hierarchy, and moving steadily down the social ladder in the eleventh century, a different form of impartible inheritance made its appearance, the succession of a single son, usually the eldest: primogeniture….

“The change in the shape of the family was signaled by an element that made its historic first appearance in the documents of the time: the surname or patronymic, passed down in the paternal line. This development was entirely original, bearing little resemblance either to the complex Roman system of nomenclature or to the naming system of the early Middle Ages, in which the individual was designated only by a first name chosen from a short family list….

“Deeds recorded in the Mâcon region before the year 1000 list no family surnames. In the next thirty-five years a few surnames appear, the number increasing throughout the eleventh century….

The progress of the family revolution varied from region to region with the political and economic situation. Local studies by different scholars disagree as to when it principally occurred, from the late ninth to the eleventh century. But an overwhelming consensus exists that sometime within this period a radical change took place in the structure and self-perception of noble families. Previously the fluid horizontal kindred was grouped around a member who held royal office. It practiced partible inheritance and gave equal weight to maternal and paternal forebears. It identified itself merely by distinctive family first names. Now the family assumed a vertical dimension, firmly seated on an estate, a patrimony which descended from father to one son and which gave the family its new, unique surname.”
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i think this shift from kindreds to lineages (and nuclear families) in burgundy — and further to the northeast in france, too, if i understand it correctly — is connected to the shifting mating patterns in this part of europe over the course of the medieval period.

kindreds and clans also disappeared from other parts of northwest europe to be replaced by nuclear families, but on a different timeline than central/northeastern france and on different trajectories, the latter thanks to differing economic/agricultural systems:

- independent nuclear families were well in place by the early 1300s in the east midlands in england. the anglo-saxons in england converted to christianity slightly later than the franks/burgundians, so they would’ve headed down the outbreeding road later than those groups. (the franks were even enforcing spiritual kinship marriage bans, i.e. kinship that came about via baptismal relationships between an individual and his godparents, by the 750s, so i’m sure they were concerned about actual relatedness, too, at that point — again, probably mainly amongst the aristocracy.)

- east anglia and (eastern?) kent had joint families (not, i imagine, unlike the *frérèche* of pre-1000 burgundy) in the 1300s, but nuclear families by sometime in the 1500-1800s. mating patterns may have remained close for longer in east anglia since it was a remote, swampy area — like frisia and dithmarsian, both areas which displayed strong “clannishness” until comparatively late — but i don’t know that for certain. i need to check on that.

- anglo-saxon/briton populations further away from southeastern/central england seem to have had strong extended familiy/”clannish” connections (even though they may have lived in nuclear family units) until much later, for instance into the 1600s. it may be that, because they were both 1) farther removed from southern areas of anglo-saxon-dominated england where cousin marriage bans were in place from comparatively early on (compared to, say, highland scotland or ireland anyway), and 2) living in upland areas (mountaineers tend to marry closely), these border populations practiced close cousin marriage for longer than other areas of england (they certainly seem to have done so up in cumbria). again, i need to find this out for sure.

- the irish barely gave up their extended families/clans even into the 1700-1800s. they seem to have continued to mate very closely up to at least the 1500s.

furthermore, i think that much of what we see in the reformation and the radical reformation is a set of reactions by northern europeans who were becoming more and more outbred over time and, so, more individualistic and more universalistic behaviors and sentiments were being selected for in these populations. but northern european populations were all over the place in terms of the timing and extent of that outbreeding and the trajectories that their family structures were on. these changes to family and social structures were probably all over and done with in northeastern/central france — and likely parts of the low countries — by the time of the reformation in europe, because, as we saw above, these processes had already begun in these areas by the eleventh century — because they had converted to christianity earlier than other north european groups AND because this is the area of europe where manorialism began.
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footnote: interestingly, in modern times burgundy is one of the regions of france with some of the lowest cousin marriage rates.
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previously: medieval germanic kindreds…and the ditmarsians and what about the franks?

(note: comments do not require an email. burgundy.)

chris pointed out a very interesting looking book (thanks, chris!), The Feud in Early Modern Germany by hillay zmora. i poked around the book a bit on google books and found that zmora is not afraid of sociobiology. chapter four of the book is titled The wages of success: Reproduction and the proliferation of conflicts. cool!

from a review of the book (thanks again, chris!):

Feuds did not begin as disputes over honor; they were more often than not material disputes over resources, rights, and entitlements. However, once the dispute was under way, honor was then invoked and sustained the conflict. Feuding was shaped by the expectations of the moral community and so feuders explained and defended their actions to a public and were concerned to show that they were acting in the right.”

so it seems as though there may have been something of a shift in the motivations of feuders from the early medieval period in germany (bavaria) to later in the period (in franconia, the region zmora deals with). earlier in the period, feuds might be started solely over honor, although battling for resources was undoubtedly a — probably the — main cause of feuds. later in the period, feuds aren’t started over honor at all, although honor is often used as an excuse/rationalization afterwards. it’d be interesting to know whether or not this apparent shift was a real and general pattern across germany/europe over the course of the medieval period. further research is required. (~_^)

a second big shift in the nature of medieval feuding — and this one is a certainity — i found in another book by zmora, State and Nobility in Early Modern Germany: The Knightly Feud in Franconia, 1440-1567, in which we learn that, by this later point in the medieval period in germany (or franconia anyway), feuds were no longer being fought by kindreds like in the early part of the medieval period. they were now being fought by one nobleman and his followers (possibly some kin in there) versus another nobleman and his followers. that’s a big change [pg. 34]:

“On a descriptive level the feud was, fundamentally, a series of sporadic yet organised, usually small-scale raids invovling burning, looting, abductions, and causing all sorts of material damage. It was carried out not by kin groups, but by two principal feuders and their band of followers. The main victims were normally the rivals’ subjects. These violent attacks, however, were by and large restrained. They were regulated by accepted rules of conduct and by a more or less fixed repertoire of sanctioned methods, which in theory, and often in practice, precluded flagrant brutality. This was especially the case of feuds between noblemen. The fact that the Franconian noble families were closely interrelated militated against to-the-bitter-end feuds…. In most cases, feuds displayed a surprising degree of moderation. Unlike vendettas, killings were rare.”

and there’s a third change from earlier in the period! in the earlier feuds, people were often seriously wounded or killed — even though those feuding were also frequently related. here we see pinker’s (or eisner’s) decline in violence, i think.

more from the review:

“The mutual dependence on each other explains why they acted with relative restraint and violence was directed against property and tenants rather than noble neighbors, relatives, and acquaintances. For these reasons feuds involved careful deliberation, reason, and calculation; they were strategic enterprises in which one’s reputation was at stake. Zmora goes on to argue that feuding was also related to wealth and status. A reputation required defending and enhancing. For these reasons, feuders tended to come from wealthier lineages. Far from being ‘robber barons,’ they were more likely to be men seeking to indicate their wealth, personality, and fitness to rule — qualities that were more likely to attract a good marriage….

“He derives his inspiration not from anthropology or from the recent historical writing it inspired, but from sociobiology and evolutionary psychology. According to this interpretation, feuding was the consequence of male reproductive urges.

that makes a lot of sense to me, although i would also guess that acquiring resources via these feuds motivated the feuders as much as showing off for the ladies (or the ladies’ families). having plenty of resources, of course, also ties into reproductive success — the more resources you have/control, the more wives/women/kids you can afford. some of the descriptions of the raids that were a part of these feuds involved cattle rustling — that’s just relieving your competitors of their resources while acquiring more for yourself. good deal (if you can get away with it).

in chapter four (i didn’t look through the rest of the book), zmora deals with the period from 1440 to 1570 in franconia and describes how 1) the wealthiest most successful families had the most kids and were more likely to survive as families over the course of the period (i.e. they didn’t disappear from the historical records like less successful families), and 2) the wealthiest, “Top Stratum” families were the ones who engaged in feuding the most. oh, and that tournaments became fashionable right around the height of the feuding (in the 1470s), he thinks because the franconians wanted to redirect the rambunctious behaviors of the young men from the rather destructive feuding to an activity that was (somewhat) less harmful to everyone involved — but in a way that they could still show off for the ladies. (~_^)

here are some excerpts from The Feud in Early Modern Germany [pgs. 78, 84-85, 91-94, 96, 98-100]:

“Between 1440 and 1570 Franconian nobles conducted 278 feuds. Plotting the incidence of feuding in Franconia over these years shows that violence was rising steeply from 1440 onwards until it peaked in the years 1460-79. The level of violence declined in the next two decades (1480-99), but then rose again to a second though lower peak in 1500-9. After this date feuding began to dwindle until it died out after 1570….

noble's feuds in franconia, 1440-1570 [zmora]

“The correlation between status and reproductive success has been confirmed for other regional or local nobilities in Germany of the same period. As Joachim Schneider has shown, the proportion of the elite families in Electoral Saxony rose from 16 per cent in 1445 to 27 per cent in 1527, whereas the proportion of individuals nobles from these families rose from 23 per cent to 36 per cent. Furthermore, examining the top six families, Schneider has found that the average number of persons in such families rose from 5.33 in 1454 to 9.83 in 1527/30 – a figure nearly four times higher than that of the other families in the elite of Electoral Saxony. Still, even this impressive figure was just about one half of the average of 17.5 persons in the six top families of the Wurzburg Lehenhof in 1495-1506 [i.e. in franconia]….

“It is now finally possible to draw some conclusions as to the families of those who feuded in the 1470s. Of the 37 Franconian families from which the feuders originated, 22 (59.5 per cent) were of high status, whether defined by princely service or by the possession of high-quality feudal property, or both. Given the close correlation between status and reproductive success, it can be assumed with a high degree of confidence that most of these 22 families had enjoyed — or rather suffered from — the demographic growth that was such a notable characteristic of this group in the second half of the fifteenth century…. Nobles from leading families were also the majority of those who feuded against princes in that decade (11 out of 16). In other words, the feuding scene in the 1470s was dominated by the large, wealthy, pre-eminent families.

“These families were victims of their own success, reproductive and otherwise. Their predicament was compounded by the fact that lordship-conferring fiefs, at the same time as they were becoming scarce relative to the number of progeny, were increasingly becoming the principal form of landholding. For between 1300 and 1500, and especially in the fifteenth century, Franconia underwent a process of feudalisation: fiefs proliferated because noblemen tended more and more to transform allodial property into fiefs to be then received from the princes…. As a result, the economic and social importance of fiefs, and in particular of lordship-conferring fiefs, cannot but have grown. Indeed, it has been demonstrated that feudal property was a factor of selection in the struggle of noble families for survival: families which had endured into the sixteenth century are conspicuously overrepresented in the Top Stratum of the Wurzburg Lehenhof; in fact, these families made up no less than 92 per cent of the Top Stratum in 1455-66 and 98 per cent in 1495-1519. The conclusion seems inevitable that the increase in the weight of fiefs in the property portfolio of elite families, coupled with the increase in the average number of males in such families, must have put a substantial strain on their resources. It seems hardly surprising that these families became entagled in numerous conflicts and that the spate of feuds in the 1470s was largely their doing….

It may not be implausible to conjecture that the build-up of demographic pressure in elite families exacerbated competition not just over property but also over access to women. In one sense this is a tautology. These two types of competition are not as far apart as one might be tempted to believe. Aristotle Onassis is credited with the dictum that ‘if women didn’t exist, all the money in the world would have no meaning’….

“This is where feuds could come in. As a previous chapter has suggested, in a social environment shaped by relationships of inimical intimacy, feuds functioned, among other things, as cues designed not only to deter rivals but also to attract potential allies, including prospective marriage partners. As signals, feuds had the important advantage of being hard to fake: because they were costly — in the short run often conspicuously wasteful — undertakings, they provided clues as to the feuder’s economic situation; because they could not be carried out without the support of family, friends and followers, they advertised the extent and quality of the feuders’ social network; and because they involved real risks and at times demanded sheer physical courage, they conveyed information on the character of the man. In short, they exhibited traits that indicated wealth, personality and fitness all at once. Now it may be assumed that such signals grew all the more valuable as this social environment became crowded and as the precise landed resources that were critical for preserving ‘name and bloodline’ became ever scarcer. In these circumstances of heightened competition, feuds could be used to provide evidence of one’s ability to set up and maintain a household, or to provide one’s offspring with the means to do so.

“Contests over women as a major cause of violence between men is a universal human theme. It is a matter of nature, not of nuture. No society has managed to do without it, and for a good reason. The reward of success is huge: reproductive success. One of the most violent societies studied by anthroplogists provides a remarkable example: Yanomamo men who killed other men have more wives than their peaceful brethren. While such valorisation of aggression may be extreme, and indeed translates into an exceptionally high rate of fatalities, the basic attitude which underlies it is by no means confined to the Amazon rainforest. Sexual rivalries between men are also a major motive for homicide in monogamous Western societies. How far a link of this kind between violence and mating is true of feuding nobles in late medieval society is difficult to ascertain. A helpful intimation, however, is offered, yet again, by Wilwolt von Schaumberg. His biography touches on this issue in a crucial passage whose subject matter, tellingly, is feuds in Franconia:

“‘Since this war came to an end and Wilwolt von Schaumberg had nothing to do either for himself or for his relations, the time was one of minor raids. As such clashes seldom cease in the land of Franconia, some barons and nobles who were at loggerheads captured fortified places, burned down villages, and seized cattle … Wilwolt determinedly served his good companions who asked for [his help] in these affairs … and he made a big name (gross geschrai) for himself and earned recognition from the princes and the nobles….’

The association here between violence and sex is explicit: feuding is not just about legal claims, nor just about earning the esteem of princes and fellow noblemen. It is also about impressing women, or rather impressing women’s fathers. In fact, Wilwolt’s biographer, the otherwise eminently sober Ludwig von Eyb, went further: the story of Wilwolt’s adventurous military life culminates in his wedding ceremony, described at the very end of the book. The hero has arrived. He has gained enough prestige and wealth to attract the daughter of one of the richest and most respected nobles in Franconia. The event is modelled on princely weddings, lavish and glamorous, with allegedly one thousand guests, some very prominent, and the indispensable paraphernalia of tourneying and dancing, where one could see ‘eighty-six elegant women and maidens’.

“Some supportive evidence for a possible link between feuding and mating indeed comes from tournaments, especially those of the Four Lands — Franconia, Bavaria, Swabia and the Rhineland. Initiated and organised by the nobles themselves, the tournaments of the Four Lands began in 1479, that is precisely at the end of that decade in which feuds between nobles reaches an unprecedented level. There are indeed some hints that these tournaments originated as a response to the rampant violence.”

previously: early medieval bavarians and feuds & honor killings

(note: comments do not require an email. tournament.)

if you haven’t been following along, i’ve been trying to find out as much as possible about medieval germanic kinship and kindreds with the idea that there might be something there to help explain why the germanic populations seem to have went along with the church’s/kings’/princes’ medieval outbreeding project with the most enthusiasm.

most of the populations of peripheral europe — the scots & the irish, the iberians & maybe even the southern french, the southern italians, eastern europeans to differing degrees, and especially the balkan populations (see Why Europe? and the mating patterns in europe series in left-hand column below ↓ for more details) — took up the outbreeding project much later than nw europeans, with the result (i think) that most of them remained “clannish” to some degree or another, or even tribal like the albanians and montenegrins, up until comparatively recently. was there something different about the germanic societies that predisposed them to adopting the cousin marriage bans of the various medieval religious and secular authorities? were they already kinda outbred, perhaps, pre-the arrival of christianity…?

i said in my previous post on medieval germanic kindreds that i wasn’t having much luck finding any recently published info about them, so i was reading a book on germanic kindreds published in 1913(!) (reprinted in 2010, mind you). well, now i’ve come across a whole gaggle of more recent sources (yay!) — in william jervis jones’ German Kinship Terms, 750-1500: Documentation and Analysis (mentioned previously in this post, btw).

jones thoughtfully summarized the current (as of 1990 when his book was published) thinking on medieval germanic kindreds. here’s what he had to say [pgs. 80-82]:

“Social and legal historians have long debated the size, nature and function of early Germanic and medieval German kin groups. The traditional, though by no means unquestioned, assumption has been that early Germanic society was dominated by the clan or lineage, and by unilinealism, a fabric which was then alleged to have dissolved in the age of the barbarian kingdoms.[5] Fleckenstein (1978: 2ff.) distinguishes here the agnatic and the cognatic clan, and argues in favour of assuming the early existence of the clan as a ‘rather flexible institution’, which was later circumscribed by royal power, overshadowed by more powerful social groupings, and transformed into the lineage and the family. Murray (1983), on the other hand, finds no compelling reason to think that the (for him) mainly cognatic medieval systems were born of a unilineal system in transition: ‘Probably Germanic society always displayed a variety of kinship forms, and various peoples developed systems to meet specific needs.’ For Germanic times, Murray emphasises ‘the notion of the bilateral kindred as the basic kin group of society’, and alongside this ‘the antiquity and vitality of cognation’ (223). He further observes that, in earliest times, kin groupings had effectively no legal limit ‘since the form and dimension of the kin groupings often varied in particular circumstances’ (21).

The size and function of kin groups, as reflected in Germanic laws from the 5th to the 9th century A.D., have been examined by Katherine Fischer Drew (1988). Though traces of a prehistoric Germanic extended family can still be detected (for example in the blood feud, compurgation, and inheritance practices), the basic unit by the time of the barbarian kingdoms is seen by Drew as the small family, supplemented where necessary by recourse to a larger kindred. This was not a fixed association, but was defined by reference to Ego, and thus differed for every group of individuals who had parents in common. On the evidence of Visigothic, Lombard and Frankish laws, the limit of kinship seems to have lain for certain purposes at the sixth or seventh remove, the distance being counted upwards to (and downwards from) the common ancestor….

so, my first cousin would be removed from me to the fourth degree (e.g. me -> my father -> my grandfather -> down again to my uncle -> my cousin. count the arrows — there are four). my second cousin would be removed from me to the sixth degree — so drew concluded that early medieval germanic kindreds were reckoned out to second cousins. this is pretty standard for most clannish groups, actually — understandable ’cause it can get hard to keep track of relatives farther out — and one is not very related to them beyond that point anyway.

more from jones:

“For the early medieval period, the traditional view (reported, for example, by Leyser 1968: 32ff.) was that the aristocracies of Carolingian Europe consisted of very large family-groups, in which maternal kin mattered at least as much as paternal. The shifting, cognatic *Großfamilien* were seen as giving way in the 11th and 12th centuries to smaller and more closely-knit agnatic dynasties with a continuous history.[6] Questioning the sharpness of this discontinuity, Leyser warns against excessive reliance on the early testimony of the ‘Libri memoriales’, and adds: ‘The circumstance that nobles entered their kindred and affinity, living and dead, does not prove that they failed to distinguish between nearer and more distant ties of kinship or rule out close agnatic feeling and thinking’ (36).[7] Bullough, equally, argues for a differentiated view: ‘The likelihood is that the circle of kinsmen [...] was differently conceived not only among different Germanic peoples but locally according to custom and differently when the issue was one of inheritance of land or a monastery, vendetta and composition or who should be present at a wedding feast. The only consistent feature [...] is the bilateral nature of the kin-set and the fact, therefore, that such a set can have no structural persistence through several generations’ (1969: 15).

“For the High Middle Ages, the verdicts again differ. Genicot states with some firmness the view that after the end of the first millennium the looser cognatic kin-groupings fell into decline, as society proceeded to organise itself into individual and well-structured agnatic families (Reuter ed. 1970: 27).[8] According to Duby (1973: 283), the years between 900 and 1050 saw the gradual transformation of European kinship structure, from an imprecisely limited, horizontal perception to a more strongly vertical, agnatic view. Against or alongside this agnatic consolidation, it may be salutary to recall Marc Bloch’s opinion (1939: 201) that the victory of the agnatic principle did not eclipse the cognatic one. Due weight must be given, also, to Leyser’s more differentiated observations, that ‘the development of a more restricted, “dynastic” kind of family in the *Reich* was not as whole-hearted as in the West’ (1970: 133), and that the degree of agnatic perception depended on the importance of the lineages (1968: 31).[9] In Reuter’s view, also, consciousness of distant kinship must have varied with context, both before and after the 11th century: ‘it might be useful or it might not’ (1979: 7).

“Whatever its nature and scope, the recognition and reckoning of kinship pervaded many aspects of medieval life, and assumed particular importance in the pursuit of feuds and vendettas,[10] in impediments to marriage,[11] and in the laws of inheritance.[12]“
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so, it’s hard to say what the structure of early (pre-5th century) germanic societies was — clans? kindreds? who knows? there does seem to be something of a consensus, though, that from ca. the 5th century onwards (until…?), germanic societies were featured by bilateral kinship and kindreds. lorraine lancaster concluded this about the anglo-saxons, phillpotts about the germanics across europe, and now nancy drew and others referred to in the above quote from jones.

the fact that germanic populations were probably kindred- and not clan- or tribal-based at the time that they converted to christianity leads me to think that, while they probably did practice cousin marriage (as suggested by the fact that the church/authorities DID have to ban it starting in the early medieval period), it probably wasn’t practiced extremely frequently, and probably a very close cousin form of cousin marriage (like father’s brother’s daughter [fbd] marriage) wasn’t preferred.

what do i mean by “wasn’t practiced *extemely* frequently”? i’m not sure. just that cousin marriage couldn’t have been as regularly occuring as it was in, say, medieval scotland (or ireland) or else (i think) that germanic society would’ve been structured in clear-cut extended families or clans rather than these more floating kindreds. similarly, i don’t think early medieval germanic couin marriage could’ve been very close (e.g. fbd marriage) or else, again, they would’ve had more tightly structured clans/tribes. the pattern seems to be — and i could be wrong about this — the closer the long-term marriage practices, the tighter and more structured the extended family structures within a society. kindreds are neither very tight nor structured — they vary with every individual (or every set of siblings, rather). they’re floating. kindreds are clannishness-lite.

there was close — including probably cousin — marriage in pre-christian germanic societies, otherwise the church/secular authorities wouldn’t have had to go through all the trouble of banning it. but i think that most early medieval germanic populations (looking away from funny little groups like the frisians and ditmarsians) must’ve been already comparatively loosely structured, and, therefore, were predisposed to accepting — or at any rate being more receptive to — the medieval cousin marriage bans. they were already not that clannish compared to most other european populations at the time, so it didn’t take much, i think, to push them out of clannishness altogether.
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need to get my hands on drew’s Law and society in early Medieval Europe: studies in legal history. unfortunately there isn’t a preview available on google books. dr*t!

i also need to check to see if other populations based on kindreds (especially bilateral kindreds) have relatively low levels of close marriage. somebody remind me if i forget! (^_^)

previously: medieval germanic kindreds … and the ditmarsians and kinship in anglo-saxon society and kinship in anglo-saxon society ii

(note: comments do not require an email. nancy drew.)

i’ve inserted phillpotts’ “end of the germanic kindreds” dates on top of ralph and coop’s “mean within-country ibd rates” map — just ’cause i could. here’s what it looks like:

coop et al - mean within-country ibd rates + phillpotts' kindreds 03

the idea is that greater inbreeding ought to lead to greater “clannishness” — i.e. a greater prevalence of kindreds in the case of the germanics, and kindreds for longer the longer the inbreeding happened — while outbreeding ought to lead to less “clannishness.”

this map maybe kinda/sorta shows that (i think).

if you look at, for instance, the region from france through belgium and up through the netherlands towards dithmarschen (the black square on the map and “ground zero” for clannishness amongst the medieval germanic populations), the pattern does seem to hold: where there are lower ibd rates (i.e. suggesting lower inbreeding), as in northern france, the kindreds disappeared earlier (1300s) than where there are higher ibd rates, namely friesland (1400s). and the ibd rates increase the closer you get towards dithmarschen.

germany, too, has low ibd rates (relatively small green circle centered on berlin there — smaller than friesland’s circle), and, according to phillpotts, kindreds were pretty much gone in central/southern germany by the 1200s.

and norway has lower ibd rates than sweden, and the kindreds disappeared there sooner (1200s) than in sweden (1300s).

i would’ve predicted lower ibd rates for england, especially now given what phillpotts said about the kindreds in anglo-saxon england being gone by the 600-700s — although perhaps that had to do with their migration over water like she suggested and wasn’t related to whether or not they were inbreeding or outbreeding at the time. on the other hand, lorraine lancaster argued that kindreds were actually still around in england into the 1000s, so perhaps that explains the ibd rates a bit better — or vice versa, rather (but see below).
_____

btw, i looked a little further into the sources of the genetic data that ralph and coop used for their ibd study [pdf]. the data came from popres (The Population Reference Sample), and afaict (correct me if i’m wrong) the european data in the popres collection came from two sources: the london-based Lolipop Study and the swiss-based CoLaus study.

the lolipop study surveyed both indian asian and white european individuals living in london [pdf] — i’m sure ralph and coop used only the white european individuals for their study of europe, of course. only europeans having four grandparents born in the u.k. were included, so i guess that must make them all british (english, welsh, scottish, northern irish) — but they could also be irish. the inclusion of welsh, scottish, and/or irish individuals could’ve skewed the ibd results. ralph and coop seem to have isolated some number of scottish and irish individuals (see their map above), but it’s not clear to me if those individuals were from the lolipop study or the colaus one.

the colaus study looked at caucasians living in lausanne, switzerland, who were either swiss or from another european(?) country. both the subjects’ parents and grandparents had to have been born in whatever country they were described as coming from. the researchers tried to further narrow down their ethnicity during a clinical visit. i presume it was from this study that ralph and coop drew the rest of their samples, including the data from: germany, france, belgium, the netherlands, norway, and sweden — possibly england, too. it’s difficult to know because they don’t spell it all out specifically. these data could be skewed, too, for my purposes — for example, hypothetically speaking, due to the presence of a lot of non-french, but still european, individuals in the set of samples of france. again, difficult to know.

finally, here are the numbers of individuals from each country sampled by ralph and coop. some of them are kinda low — like n=2 for norway:

coop et al - mean within-country ibd rates - popres data samples

previously: ibd and historic mating patterns in europe and medieval germanic kindreds … and the ditmarsians

(note: comments do not require an email. bOObies.)

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