Archives for posts with tag: wergeld

earlier this month, the inestimable peter frost wrote:

“Over the past millennium, Western Europeans have created a social environment where the individual is largely free from collective ties of kinship and ethnicity. Because the State has imposed a monopoly on the use of violence, there is less need to rely on kinsmen to safeguard one’s life and property. That’s what the government is for. In many other societies, however, the State is much more recent and often foreign. Collective identity still matters most and, when the chips are down, personal ties of friendship matter little. Your real friends are your ‘blood’.”

in The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined (2011), steven pinker says that, in england, this process of the state taking over and monopolizing violence began during the reign of henry i, which lasted from 1100-1135 a.d. [kindle locations 1830-1839]:

“Feuding among knights and peasants was not just a nuisance but a lost opportunity. During Norman rule in England, some genius recognized the lucrative possibilities in nationalizing justice. For centuries the legal system had treated homicide as a tort: in lieu of vengeance, the victim’s family would demand a payment from the killer’s family, known as blood money or wergild (‘man-payment'; the *wer* is the same prefix as in *werewolf*, ‘man-wolf’). King Henry I redefined homicide as an offense against the state and its metonym, the crown. Murder cases were no longer *John Doe vs. Richard Roe*, but *The Crown vs. John Doe* (or later, in the United States, *The People vs. John Doe* or *The State of Michigan vs. John Doe*). The brilliance of the plan was that the wergild (often the offender’s entire assets, together with additional money rounded up from his family) went to the king instead of to the family of the victim. Justice was administered by roving courts that would periodically visit a locale and hear the accumulated cases. To ensure that all homicides were presented to the courts, each death was investigated by a local agent of the crown: the coroner.”

pinker cites daly and wilson (1988) on this who, in turn, cite hurnard (1969). there is also green (1972). see also The Aristocracy of Norman England (2002), pg. 243.

the only problem with this picture is, as was discussed on this blog in a previous post, there is good evidence that the kindred in anglo-saxon england — the importance of kinship, in other words — was already beginning to disappear (in southern england, anyway) in the early 900s, or maybe even the late 800s, a full two hundred years before henry i and his coroners showed up on the scene.

as i said in that post:

“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.”

again, from Wage Labor and Guilds in Medieval Europe (1991) [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.”

so, in england anyway, the individual didn’t become “largely free from collective ties of kinship and ethnicity” thanks to the state. anglo-saxon individuals were already on their way to becoming free from the collective ties of kinship before the state stepped in.
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pinker has a neat chart in Better Angels — Fig. 3.3 – Homicide rates in five Western European regions, 1300–2000:

pinker - fig. 3.3

as he says about england [kindle locations 1581-1584]:

“Once again we see a decline in annual homicide rates, and it is not small: from between 4 and 100 homicides per 100,000 people in the Middle Ages to around 0.8 (eight-tenths of a homicide) per 100,000 in the 1950s. The timing shows that the high medieval murder rates cannot be blamed on the social upheavals that followed the Black Death around 1350, because many of the estimates predated that epidemic.”

and [kindle locations 1599-1603]:

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

i discussed this difference in the timing of the drop in homicide rates between various european countries in a previous post — outbreeding, self-control and lethal violence — in which i looked at manuel eisner’s paper, Modernization, Self‐Control and Lethal Violence. pinker also drew on eisner’s work for Better Angels. in that paper, eisner said:

“[T]he data suggest that the secular trajectories of low homicide rates differ among large geographic areas. It appears that English homicide rates were already considerably lower in the late sixteenth century than during the late Middle Ages and that they declined continuously along a log-linear trend over several centuries. Extant estimates for the Netherlands and Belgium suggest a very similar structure trend in these areas. In the Scandinavian countries, the transistion to the decreasing trend occurs notably later, namely in the first decades after 1600. Despite huge gaps in the data, the German-speaking areas may also be assumed to have joined the declining trend from the early seventeenth century onwards. For Italy, however, all the available data indicate that acts of individual-level lethal violence remained very frequent until the early nineteenth century. It is not until the mid-nineteenth century that the rate begins to decline, but then very steeply.”

and, as i said in my previous post:

“hmmmm. now where have i heard a pattern like this before? england, the netherlands, germans earliest in *some*thing … scandinavians later … italians last.”

that “something” that i was referring to is, of course, the avoidance of close cousin marriage — or The Outbreeding Project, as i like to call it. (i guess i should really call it The European Outbreeding Project or The Norwestern European Outbreeding Project.) the importance of kinship — extended families and kindreds — disappeared in large parts of northwestern europe, because northwest europeans quit marrying their close cousins, and the ties (including genetic) between individual northwest europeans and their extended family members simply loosened. loosened to the extent that, after several hundreds of years, extended families and kindreds just didn’t matter to people anymore. and, so, kindred-driven activities like feuding ceased and homicide rates decreased markedly.

the dutch — thanks to having been a part of frankish austrasia — and the southern english (especially the ones in kent) — thanks to being heavily influenced by the franks just across the channel — began avoiding cousin marriage very early in the medieval period, probably already in the 600-700s (see “mating patterns in europe series” below ↓ in left-hand column — also more on medieval england and france). the germans weren’t far behind, especially since the franks had so much influence in what would eventually become germany over the course of the medieval period (see the ostsiedlung). the scandinavians lagged behind since they were comparatively late in adopting christianity (and, therefore, in adopting the cousin marriage bans). and the italians were very late since they mostly did not have manorialism (which reinforced the cousin marriage bans). the italians, in fact — especially southern italians — kept marrying close cousins up until very recently.
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eisner offered several explanations — not necessarily mutually exclusive — for why homicide rates should’ve dropped so much in western europe over the course of the middle ages. one of the ones that steven pinker latched on to was the idea of the leviathan — the replacement of family feuds and compensation for killings with punishment (esp. execution) by the state. certainly there’s probably something to this — removing enough violent individuals from the gene pool could very well reduce the frequencies of “genes for violence” in a population in just one thousand years or so. (see also peter frost on rome – pdf.)

eisner also suggested another explanation, though, one that he drew from emile durkheim [pg. 632]:

Durkheim saw the decline of homicide rates as resulting from the liberation of the individual from collective bonds rather than as the consequence of the coercive potential of the state. High levels of lethal violence thus mirror the intensity of ‘collective emotions’, which bind the individual to ‘groups of things that symbolically represent these groups’. Violence thus declines to the degree that the person becomes liberated from its sacred obligation to the group, and the rise of moral individualism brings about both subjective reflexivity and emotional indifference in conflict situations (Durkheim 1957: 115).”

replace “liberated from its sacred obligation to the group” with “more and more outbred” and you’ve got a nice, little sociobiological theory there!

“This theoretical approach offers valuable insights into the historical patterns of declining homicide rates. First, the Durkheimian argument offers a theoretical framework for understanding the multifarious cultural meanings of violence in medieval society. Much empirical research on the topic emphasizes the crucial role of insults in triggering situational conflicts. This is in accordance with a society in which ‘honour’ constitutes highly important social capital of the male person as a representative of his group. It requires retributive violence as a potential and culturally accepted means for maintaining one’s honour. Such a theoretical framework may help to better understand why the secular decline in homicide rates primarily seems to have been due to a decrease in male-to-male fights. And it may also offer a point of departure for understanding the high violence rates in italy, where a culture of honour persisted despite the early development of administrative and judicial structures in the city states.

in anglo-saxon england, then, the kinship groups and their “culture of honor” (feuds, etc.) declined before the state got involved in safeguarding the lives of individuals. meanwhile, in medieval italy, the culture of honor persisted despite the presence of states that punished violent offenders. the difference, of course, is that italy — especially southern italy — barely ever joined in The Outbreeding Project, whereas england was one of its leading nations.

previously: the importance of the kindred in anglo-saxon society and outbreeding, self-control and lethal violence and what pinker missed and more on genetics and the historical decline of violence and clannishness defined

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

t.greer recommended to me a paper on the mating patterns of the turkana of east africa (thanks, t!): Mating Structure of a Nomadic Pastoral Population (1982).

first, here’s a nice turkana person for ya (^_^):

turkana girl 02

the turkana mating patterns are interesting, i think, for a handful of reasons:

- they appear to uphold the notion that flatlanders tend to be outbreeders (see also here) — while mountaineers/peoples in marginal lands tend to be inbreeders;
– they also appear to uphold the notion that the greater the outbreeding, the looser the family and social structures (see…half of the blog);
– and they appear to contradict the notion that pastoralists tend to inbreed (see explanations from anthropologists the world over). hmmmm.

from the paper, the turkana live here in kenya:

turkana - map

and this region of kenya is fairly flat:

kenya - topography 02

the turkana who practice pastoralism (most of them — a few are agriculturalists) apparently do bring their herds (of camels and goats) uphill for grazing in the summer, but mostly they reside in the valleys, and they consider themselves to be flatlanders rather than mountaineers.

from the paper, we learn that the turkana have clans (28 patrilineal clans) [pg. 472], that they avoid marrying within those clans — in the study, 96% of those surveyed were married to someone from another clan [pg. 474], and that they even try to avoid marrying anyone closer than second cousins [pg. 472].

(one thing that the turkana do have which complicates the picture is polygamy. clearly polygamy, like cousin marriage, also results in closer relatedness [a lot of individuals in the population are half-siblings]. i haven’t thought through polygamy yet — what it means for relatedness. obviously it depends on if only a certain portion of the males get to mate and the remainder are left out or if the whole system is more of a rotating system of polygamy and women are swapped between most or all of the men. polygamy is complicated. i’ll have to think about it one of these days.)

so, what is turkana society like? what are their family types like? what about these clans then?

from Turkana (1996) [pgs. 16, 20-22]:

“The nuclear family is the basic social and political unit among the Turkana.”

uh…kinda.

“The family comprises a man, his wife or wives, his sons and their wives and children, and his unmarried daughters. In the homestead there might also be a grandparent or other relative and a concubine (a woman living in the household to whom he is not married).

“The man is the head of the family. The family is represented economically by its herd of livestock….

“The Extended Family

“Among the Turkana, the extended family (*ngi-tungakothi*) is made up of all males who can claim common descent on the male side. The unit could go back three or four generations. To members of the group, those within it are ‘our people.’ But strictly speaking, the extended family also includes the wives of each of these men if they have raised a child to walking stage. It excludes women who have married elsewhere and are no longer in the family.

“The core of the extended family, however, is essentially the son of a deceased father, his full brothers, his half-brothers, and his paternal male first cousins, along with the nuclear families of all these men…. Members also share fellowship on other such occasions as initiation, weddings, and judicial compensation, when there is mutual assistance in givings and receiving livestock.”

“judicial compensation” there is interesting. is that like wergeld? dunno. will have to find out more.

“The Clan

“Every Turkana belongs to a clan (*ateger*), of which there are about 20. They fall into two major types: the large, widespread clans, each comprising over 1,000 adult males, and the very small ones consisting of only about 30 members.

Clans are of little practical or political importance to the Turkana today, especially since clans no longer own herds or pastures or watering places…. Nor do travelling Turkana any longer expect help or hospitality from fellow clansmen. They would expect that help from bond-friends, people in various parts of the country to whom they have made a ritual commitment.

“bond-friends.” also very interesting.

from The Evolution of Human Societies: From Foraging Group to Agrarian State (2000), we learn that the turkana’s family and social structures are, indeed, really loose, and the whole “clan” structure seems to mostly be a system used to maintain the outbreeding (the exogamy) — a way to keep track of whom you’re not supposed to marry [pgs. 197-99]:

“Dyson-Hudson and McCabe (1985: 79-80) describe the degree to which Turkana groups form out of myriad individual decisions:

“‘Kinship, both agnatic and affinal, is an important basis for cooperative relationships. However since livestock are a readily partible resource, and since the frequent moves of camps and splitting of the major *awi* into satellite camps allow the breaking of old bonds and the establishment of new ones, a man has great latitude to choose to live with people he likes. A woman also has some choice: she can live with her father, her brother, or her grown sons, as well as with her husband. Flux and flexibility characterize [their] social networks.

Although the Turkana lack highly structured kin groups, territories, and a formal political system, they do establish and maintain large networks that amount to a kind of effective community for each homestead. First, hamletlike groups of close relatives and friends live and move together for part of the year. Second, such groups cluster within convenient walking distance of one another, and men in such a cluster meet often to take turns distributing freshly slaughtered meat and to share information on herds and pastures. These two levels of social organization (Gulliver calls them primary and secondary neighborhoods) provide the individual househead with a network of friends through which food and information flow, friends from whom he may beg insistently as a good Turkana should (Gulliver 1951; Patton 1982) and who will cooperate with him in defense against raiding. Although a family is free to move at will, in practice families tend to move with their neighbors and settle near them at new locations….

“The main cement of Turkana social organization, however, is the exchange of livestock. A nuclear family’s herds are all owned and managed by the father; and although their daily care falls to women and boys, spread over the countryside, there is a strong sense of the essential unity of the family and its herd. Some hamlet groups are the remnants of old extended families whose senior male has died: in such cases the brothers and in-laws continue to live near each other, and, because their herd once had a common owner, the men continue to feel part of one family. Often, as we have seen, the hamlet-size group also includes friends….

“How extensive is Turkana social structure? On the one hand, there are indicators of ‘tribal’ integration. The Turkana say, ‘We are all brothers,’ and respect this tribal identity by rarely raiding or using spears against one another (bandits, *igorokos*, are exceptions). They know and acknowledge the ‘territorial’ names of their regions. They also belong to clans, some of them small and localized, others widespread throughout Turkana land. In past times, apparently, whole regions of Turkana mustered thousands of warriors against non-Turkana enemies.

Yet in their daily life the Turkana are not conscious of themselves as a tribe. They have no tribal, territorial, or clan leaders, no corporate groups, and no genealogical reckoning beyond the grandparent level. They are highly individualistic and tend to migrate within circumscribed areas; even close-knit extended families usually separate at times in response to their individual needs….

also, from here:

There would appear to be no clan leadership or organisation. Gulliver states that ‘if one asks a Turkana who is head of his clan he usually replies *there is no head, we have no heads. They were all long ago.* However a few will give the name of a man of a clan recently alive, or an old man, who achieved fame and importance for some reason and say that he is the head. But enquiry shows that he has no authority over any of them outside his own extended family should he still be alive…’ (1951: 69).”

so, the turkana outbreed, and they have loose family and social structures. friends seem to be important (as important as family?). the turkana are individualistic, yet share readily with their friends.

they do go to battle, though. mostly with non-turkana peoples. sometimes the non-turkana steal the turkana’s animals, oftentimes it’s the other way around [from here]:

“Warfare is traditionally an essential part of Turkana life and the principal occupation of young men. Weapons are considered a man’s proud possessions and the practical tool for increasing herds by raiding and for expanding their territory. Ever since they entered Kenya, the Turkana have been in a perpetual process of expansion. Previously settled tribes such as the Samburu, Pokot, Donyiro, Toposa and Karamojong were forced out of their territory by belligerent Turkana warriors (Gulliver, 1951: 143). No administration has ever able completely to contain the Turkana and put an end to these conflicts. These common age-old pursuits still trouble independent Kenya.

Turkana believe that all livestock on earth, including that owned by other people, is theirs by right, and that there is nothing wrong in going after it and taking it by force. A young man, they say, must be prepared to die in pursuit of stock (Soper, 1985: 106).”

i love how people justify their own actions to themselves. (~_^) don’t mess with the turkana, though! they have wrist knives. yikes!:

turkana wrist knife 02

(note: comments do not require an email. fighting with wrist knives! (O_O) )

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

(note: comments do not require an email. hold on!)

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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cousin marriage rates for german jews living in the prussian province of hohenzollern between ca. 1875-1920 (117 marriages):

- first cousin marriages = 16.2% ± 3.4%
– consanguineous marriage up to and including second cousins = 19.6% ± 3.7%

source [pdf]. original source: Reutlinger, W. 1922. Über die Häufigkeit der Verwandtenehen bei den Juden in Hohenzollern, und über Untersuchungen bei Deszendenten aus jüdischen Verwandtenehen. Arch. Rassenb. 14: 301-305.

a little more on these rates from In Search of Jewish Community: Jewish Identities in Germany and Austria 1918-1933 [pgs. 234 and 241]:

“On the other hand, there is considerable evidence to back up the impression that village Jews were marrying cousins and other close relatives in increasingly large numbers.[44] …

“[44] In Hohenzollern, there was an 11 percent rate of marriage to relatives (5 percent to first cousins) among Jewish couples who died before 1922; of those still alive in 1922, the rate had increased to 22 percent (16 percent to first cousins. These rates were several times as high as the rates for Christian marriages. See Wilhelm Reutlinger, ‘Uber die Haufligkeit der Verwandtenehen bei Juden in Hohenzollern und uber Untersuchungen bei Deszendenten aus judischen Verwandtenehene,’ Archiv fur Rassen- un Gesellschaftsbiologie 14 (1922): 301-303, quoted by Marion Kaplan The Making of the Jewish Middle Class: Women, Family, and Identity in Imperial Germany (New York, 1991), p. 273 note 206. See also Cahnman, ‘Village and Small-Town Jews,’ pp. 122-23, for an impressionistic discussion of the same phenomenon.”

so, the rates of consanguineous marriages increased for jews in hohenzollern over the period from 1875-1920. that pretty much mirrors the general trend of increasing cousin marriage rates right across europe at the time, only the actual rates for the hohenzollern jews were much higher than for most europeans — well, at least most germans.

this 11% consanguineous rate (5% to first cousins) for jewish couples who died before 1922 is a lot higher than the only other definite rate i have for european jews which is from alsace-lorraine in 1872-76 (so i’m thinking these might be kinda contemporaneous rates) — and that rate was 2.3% (consanguineous marriages).

see also: jewish mating patterns in nineteenth century russia.
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a bizarre story on a case of cousin marriage and inbreeding depression from china that … well, i’ll just let you read it for yourselves. from A Family That Climbed Out of Inbreeding Depression [pg. 1064]:

“In 2008, a family was fortuitously found in Northeast China. Before the 1948 Revolution, this family was wealthy and owned vast amount of land. After nationalization, the family was given a tiny house with a small plot of land. Subsequently, during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), all landowning families in the country were severely prosecuted and socially ostracized. The social stigma on the members of former land owning families was so persuasive that any form of association with them was deemed as dangerous. At that time, there were two children of marriageable age. As their parents were unable to find unrelated mates from the society, they arranged an intra-family marriage between available first cousins. The union produced five offspring: three mentally retarded girls, one deaf-mute girl, and one mentally retarded boy who did not survive (Figure 1). The consanguineous (first cousin) parents supported their four disabled daughters throughout their childhood. By the time these daughters were of marriageable age, the Cultural Revolution in China was over and the social stigma of land-owning families was lifted. Thus, the consanguineous parents were able to arrange marriages of their four unfit daughters with four biologically unrelated men. The deaf and mute girl was married to a deaf and mute man from the same village. The three mentally retarded daughters were married to healthy men, of low socioeconomic status, and they resided in their husbands’ homes in the same village. The most severely retarded daughter was married to a poor man who came to their family looking for food; he was offered this daughter and accommodation within the family household. After marriages of their daughters, the consanguineous parents continued to support all four families, and each of the four daughters produced one healthy child (maximally allowed number of children in China at the time). The most severely retarded daughter accidentally lost one child at birth. Today, the consanguineous couple has four grandchildren who are attending regular school and are expected to marry to biologically unrelated mates….”

could the cultural revolution have encouraged cousin marriages during the time period in china? at least in some sectors? weird.
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weregilds. did you know that weregild payments were made directly from one clan/kindred member to his corresponding clan/kindred member in the other clan/kindred (whichever was the aggrieved clan)? i didn’t.

i always imagined that all the weregild payments were sorta pooled together and passed from one clan to the other, but no … the father in one clan paid directly the father in the other clan, the father’s brother in one clan paid directly the father’s brother in the other clan, and so on and so forth. at least that’s how it was done in iceland … at least according to phillpotts [pg. 13]:

“Each class pays to the corresponding class of the opposite side, thus the father, son and brother of the slayer pay to the corresponding kinsmen of the slain. It is to be observed that the slayer pays nothing, the assumption being that he was exiled and his goods forfeited.”

huh.
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i mentioned over here that edmund i (922–946) seems to have been one of the first anglo-saxon/english kings to have really tried to put an end to the traditional blood feuds in england (which were tied to the weregild payments — see above — if the weregild wasn’t paid when someone was slain, the aggrieved clan/kindred had the right to exact revenge on the slayer’s clan/kindred). re. one of his law codes (from phillpotts – pgs. 218-19):

Eadmund’s secular laws mark a notable advance in one respect: private warfare between families, as a result of a slaying, is to be stamped out, and the slayer alone is to bear the feud, if feud there is to be.

“II. 1. ‘If henceforth anyone kills any man, let him himself bear the feud, unless with the help of friends he pays full wergild within 12 months, whatever the birth (of the slain man,’ i.e. however high the wergild be).

“It must be remembered that a slayer is not involved in a feud unless he cannot or will not pay wergild; and if he can pay wergild there is no feud. So here we must assume that the slayer has not been able to produce the sum out of his own pocket, and that his kinsmen have been unable or unwilling to help him. That even this secondary liability of the kinsmen is purely voluntary is seen from the next clause:

“1. ‘If the *mægð* [kindred/extended family] forsakes him, and will not pay for him, then I will, that all the *mægð* be without feud, save the actual delinquent, if they give him thereafter neither food nor protection.

“2. ‘If however thereafter any one of his kinsmen shelter him, then let him be liable to the king for all that he possesses, and bear the feud with the *mægð* (of the slain), for they (the kinsmen) had before forsaken the slayer.

“3. ‘If however one of the other *mægð* takes vengeance on any other man than the actual delinquent, let him be outlaw to the king and to all his (the king’s) friends, and lose all that he possesses.'”

so edmund is the earliest example i know of in england of the state trying to position itself in between all of the homicidal lunatics in order to put an end to the violence. he (or the crown, i suppose) would pay the weregild if a clan/kindred wouldn’t in order to stop a blood feud from erupting.

edmund didn’t live very long though — he died (heh) in a fight when he was just 26 — so i don’t know how well-enforced his edict ever was.

(note: comments do not require an email. lotr weregild.)

in the previous post on kinship in anglo-saxon society, we saw that, between ca. 600-1000 a.d., the anglo-saxons followed what’s known as the sudanese kinship naming system. in other words, like both the arabs and chinese today, the anglo-saxons had separate, distinct names for collateral kin including uncles, aunts, and cousins. as elsewhere in northwest europe, this naming system disappeared over the course of the medieval period to the point where, today, in english we no longer distinguish between father’s or mother’s brothers and so forth. this is probably related to the fact that the practice of (some degree of) cousin marriage amongst northwest europeans also disappeared over the course of the medieval period.

in this post, i want to look at the kindred in early medieval anglo-saxon society, and the fact that anglo-saxons reckoned their kinship bilaterally. again, i’ll be mostly working from lorraine lancaster’s two articles: Kinship in Anglo-Saxon Society I and Kinship in Anglo-Saxon Society II.
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kindreds and bilateral kinship in anglo-saxon society

based on the two facts that 1) in old english (anglo-saxon english) there was, apparently, no way to distinguish the various degrees of cousins — i.e. a first cousin vs. a first cousin twice-removed, for instance, or even a first cousin vs. a sixth cousin — but 2) at the same time extended family relationships were very important in anglo-saxon society — for instance in the matter of wergeld and blood feuds (more about those below) — lancaster concluded that the most important kinship group amongst the anglo-saxons was not, say, the patrilineal clan (as amongst the irish and the scots — think the o’sullivans or the macdonalds) or the tribe (as amongst the arabs — think the sauds), but the kindred [I - pgs. 237-38]:

“The general characteristics of the [kin naming] system suggest three points: firstly, our belief that the *mægd* ["family," "kinsmen," or "kindred"] need not have been an extensive group is borne out by the restriction of specific terms to a relatively small set of kin centered on Ego; secondly, the complete lack of specificity in terms for cousins of various degrees, which would be all-important in the operation of a wide-ranging bilateral system, suggests that these kin and the distinctions between them was not regularly of major significance. Lineal ascendants could be traced back to *sixta fæder,* and in fact were traced back further in the historical and mythical genealogies of the ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.’ Nevertheless, the cousins who would share so remote and ancestor are not put in any particular linguistic category….”

and [II - pg. 372]:

“In Modern English society, the fact that surnames are inherited patrilineally is sometimes taken to indicate that the kinship system as a whole is a patrilineal one, although this is not so. In Anglo-Saxon society, there is no sign of what might be called patrinomial groups. Surnames did not regularly exist, although additional names could be given to a person to make his identification easier, a very reasonable thing when one considers the numbers of Ælfwines, Wulfrics, Æthelmaers, and so on that exited. Names of children appear to have been sometimes compounded from parents’ names, but there is no trace of reference to ‘the X’s’, as a named kin group.

More important, kin, named or not, were not organized into effective patrilineal descent groups, but, as we have seen, into Ego-centred bilateral kin groups….

a kin group that is focused on ego — on yourself — is known as a kindred. from my friend robin fox [pgs. 169-170 -- see also]:

“[T]he stock of a kindred exists only in relation to a particular ego and it disappears when he dies. If a member of a cognatic lineage [like the macdonalds - h.chick] dies, the lineage still continues; when the focal ego of a kindred dies, then the stock are no more. The lineage then is defined relative to an ancestor who remains a fixed point of reference; the stocks of a kindred are defined relative to an ego….

The kindred can be broadly defined as ‘ego’s relatives up to a certain fixed degree’. What matters is how this ‘degree’ is defined. It need not be defined cognatically (or ‘bilaterally’ as it is usually called in the literature)….

“[T]he real distinction is between the two foci — ego and ancestor: between *descent groups* and *personal groups*.”

so, the family members that might be considered as kindred by wasps in today’s anglo world probably include something like: nuclear family members, both paternal and maternal grandparents, both paternal and maternal uncles and aunts, and all paternal and maternal cousins — and, perhaps, their kids, too (your first cousins once-removed). ymmv. (for those of us from more “clannish” groups, we also keep track of our second cousins and even our second cousins once-removed. (~_^) ) this is not the same as primarily keeping track of, say, just all your paternal relatives out to sixth cousins.

many groups of people keep track of both their kindreds and their clan or tribe members. the two things are not mutually exclusive. but, based on the historical evidence (mainly wills) lancaster and others (including phillpotts) concluded that anglo-saxon society was based upon the kindred and not patrilineal — or even matrilineal — clans or tribes.
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furthermore (yes, there’s more!), anglo-saxon kinship and their kindreds were reckoned bilaterally. if you were an anglo-saxon, you would’ve traced your ancestors back along both your father’s and your mother’s line. (if wikipedia is to be believed, bilateral kinship groups arise in harsh environments and are beneficial since individuals have two sets of family upon which they can rely. that does seem as though it would fit northern europe.) the members of your kindred, too, came from both the paternal and maternal sides of your family (like in the anglo world today).

for example, from lancaster [II - pg. 370]:

“Kinsmen also had a duty to stand surety for Ego, or to support him with an oath. In II Athelstan I.3, we read that the kinsmen of a thief redeemed from prison by a fine were to stand surety that he would desist from thieving for ever. When an alleged thief had been slain, according to the same laws, the man who was demanding his wergild could come forward with three others, two from the paternal and one from the maternal kin and swear that their kinsman was innocent….”

so an anglo-saxon’s kinsmen — his kindred — came from both his paternal side of the family and his maternal side. but there was a bias towards the paternal side. we saw this, too, in the last post that there was a special term for a father’s brother but not a mother’s brother [I - pg. 237]:

“It is most significant that a term existed (*suhter-(ge)fæderan*) to refer to the relationship between a man and his father’s brother. There was no special term to refer to the corresponding relationship on Ego’s mother’s side.”

giorgio ausenda has also found this to have been the case in other pre-christian germanic groups (like the visigoths) — a bias in favor of the paternal side. based upon this, and the fact that the germanics were herders (lactase persistence!), ausenda concludes that the pre-christian germanics probably favored father’s brother’s daughter (fbd) marriage like other herders (such as the arabs).

i doubt it and think, rather, that, if they favored any particular form of cousin marriage at all, and it’s not certain that they did, the germanics probably favored maternal cousin marriage. the fact that their kinship naming system was the sudanese system is not a good indicator of fbd marriage since the chinese also use the sudanese system, and they do not approve of fbd marriage at all. quite the reverse, in fact. also, it makes no sense to have a bilateral kinship system to reckon the paternal and maternal sides of the family in an fbd marriage society since, in such a society, one’s maternal side of the family IS (often) one’s paternal side of the family! they are one and the same.

so, no, i don’t think that the anglo-saxons and other germanics favored fbd marriage. if anything, it was probably mbd or mzd marriage.
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so anglo-saxon society was based upon kindreds and not clans. i would still call them “clannish” though — but, perhaps, not quite as clannish as, say, their neighbors the medieval irish — or even today’s albanians. i would still call the anglo-saxons “clannish” — perhaps “mildly clannish” — since their society and its functioning was primarly based around one version of the extended family — the kindred. you as an individual would’ve had next to no identity in anglo-saxon society. your identity — including your legal identity (as seen above wrt sureties) — was based upon your kindred.

additionally, the whole wergeld system was alive and well throughout most of the anglo-saxon period — as were blood feuds (and if that’s not “clannish,” I don’t know what is!) [II - pgs. 367, 368, 370, 371]:

“A person’s position in a network of kinship relationship entails the performance of certain rights and duties as well as the carrying-out of less formal but likewise important expectations of behaviour. The rights and duties of Anglo-Saxon kinship represent that part of the system that has been most studied in the past, particularly the rights and duties connected with feud and wergild, because these are the most clearly described in the laws….

“What duties did a kin group owe to Ego? First and foremost, they owed him the duty of avenging his death, either by prosecuting a feud, or by exacting wergild payments. On the other hand, if Ego had killed or injured a man, he could expect some support from his kinsmen in helping him bear a feud or pay a wergild….

“[T]he kinsmen of a man injured or killed were entitled to compensation or wergild from the slayer and his kin or representatives….

“If compensation for deliberate harm done was not settled, a feud could be prosecuted. In feuding the legal solidarity of the kin group is demonstrated by the fact that one member of the slayer’s kin group is as good a victim for vengeance as the slayer himself. One could imagine a feud spreading among overlapping kin groups in a bilateral system. Edmund wished that a slayer should alone bear the feud (and thus stop it spreading from kin group to kin group [here you can see one reason why kings would want to get rid of clans - h.chick]) or, with the help of others, pay the wergild….”

anglo-saxons, then? still rather clannish even though they didn’t count themselves as members of (patrilineal) clans.

if i were to work up my own “hbd chick’s scale of clannishness” from one to ten, with today’s individualistic, nuclear-family-living (are they still?) english at “1” and the very fbd-marrying, paternal tribal arabs (and afghanis and pakistanis) at “10” — and let’s say the (historically) mbd-marrying, filial piety-focused chinese hovering somewhere around “5” or “6” — and the albanians at, maybe, “7” or “8” — i would put the anglo-saxons at maybe a “3” or a “4” — since only the kindreds seem to have been important and they had no clan lineages. that’s just a guesstimate on my part, though. i might decide to change the rankings depending upon what i learn about these different groups going forward. (^_^)
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interestingly, lancaster notes that, although they hadn’t disappeared completely, the importance of kindreds did wane towards the end of the period she looked at (up to 1066). she also notes that phillpotts noted that kindreds were less significant in england than on the continent (ah ha!) [II - pgs. 373, 375]:

“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….”

THAT is definitely a change!

so, as i asked at the beginning of the previous post: “were they [the anglo-saxons] individualistic, civic-minded, living in nuclear family groups, not clannish or tribal, nonviolent, and liberally democratic? or, perhaps, predisposed to these things in some way?”

my answers are: no, i don’t know, no, no, no, and no. and, possibly.

i say “possibly” since, because the anglo-saxons most likely did not (i think) practice fbd marriage, they probably were not extremely inbred. that, and the facts that their society was based on bilateral kinship and kindreds, in other words not sooo strongly clannish, might’ve meant that a relatively slight amount of outbreeding would’ve pushed them out of the levels of clannishness that they did display.

that, perhaps … and the fact that the normans came along and shook everything up [see here for example]. (more on THAT anon!)
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previously: kinship in anglo-saxon society and english individualism and english individualism ii and english individualism iii and anglo-saxon mating patterns and more on anglo-saxon mating patterns

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