whatever happened to european tribes?

europe used to have tribes, just like arab and african societies today, migrating hither and thither, fighting over territories and regularly going to war with one another.

there were german tribes

gallic tribes

iberian tribes

british tribes

irish tribes

… etc., etc.

but by the high middle ages, most of these were gone. what happened?

i got five words for ya: the holy roman catholic church (and, later, many protestant churches).

the church BANNED cousin marriage — and fiddled with a lot of other mating regulations like divorce and such. no more polygamy, either!

lookie here from avner greif (“Family structure, institutions, and growth – the origin and implications of Western corporatism”):

“The conquest of the Western Roman Empire by Germanic tribes during the medieval period probably strengthen the importance of kinship groups in Europe. Yet, the actions of the Church caused the nuclear family — constituting of husband and wife, children, and sometimes a handful of close relatives — to dominate Europe by the late medieval period.

“The medieval church instituted marriage laws and practices that undermined large kinship groups. From as early as the fourth century, it discouraged practices that enlarged the family, such as adoption, polygamy, concubinage, divorce, and remarriage. It severely prohibited marriages among individuals of the same blood (consanguineous marriages), which had constituted a means to create and maintain kinship groups throughout history. The church also curtailed parents’ abilities to retain kinship ties through arranged marriages by prohibiting unions in which the bride didn’t explicitly agree to the union.

“European family structures did not evolve monotonically toward the nuclear family nor was their evolution geographically and socially uniform. However, by the late medieval period the nuclear family was dominate. Even among the Germanic tribes, by the eighth century the term family denoted one’s immediate family, and shortly afterwards tribes were no longer institutionally relevant. Thirteenth-century English court rolls reflect that even cousins were as likely to be in the presence of non-kin as with each other.

“The practices the church advocated, such as monogamy, are still the norm in Europe. Consanguineous marriages in contemporary Europe account for less than one percent of the total number of marriages. In contrast, the percentage of such marriages in Muslim, Middle Eastern countries, where we also have particularly good data, is much higher – between twenty to fifty percent. Among the anthropologically defined 356 contemporary societies of Euro-Asia and Africa, there is a large and significant negative correlation between Christianization (for at least 500 years) and the absence of clans and lineages; the level of commercialization, class stratification, and state formation are insignificant.”

the leaders of the church probably instituted these reproductive reforms for their own gain — get rid of extended families and you reduce the number of family members likely to demand a share of someone’s legacy. in other words, the church might get the loot before some distant kin that the dead guy never met does. (same with not allowing widows to remarry. if a widow remarries, her new husband would inherit whatever wealth she had. h*ck. she might even have some kids with her new husband! but, leave her a widow and, if she has no children, it’s more likely she’ll leave more of her wealth to the church.)

but, inadvertently, they also seem to have laid the groundwork for the civilized western world. by banning cousin marriage, tribes disappeared. extended familial ties disappeared. all of the genetic bonds in european society were loosened. society became more “corporate” (which is greif’s main point).

from wikipedia:

“[T]he Catholic Church has gone through several phases in kinship prohibitions. At the dawn of Christianity in Roman times, marriages between first cousins were allowed. For example, Emperor Constantine, the first Christian Roman Emperor, married his children to the children of his half-brother. First and second cousin marriages were then banned at the Council of Agde in AD 506, though dispensations sometimes continued to be granted. By the 11th century, with the adoption of the so-called canon-law method of computing consanguinity, these proscriptions had been extended even to sixth cousins, including by marriage. But due to the many resulting difficulties in reckoning who was related who, they were relaxed back to third cousins at the Fourth Lateran Council in AD 1215. Pope Benedict XV reduced this to second cousins in 1917, and finally, the current law was enacted in 1983. In Catholicism, close relatives who have married unwittingly without a dispensation can receive an annulment.”

imagine in the days before the bicycle or motor-car how awkward it would’ve been to have to travel several villages over to find someone beyond your sixth-cousin to marry! imagine how difficult it was to figure out who that might be! no wonder the genetic ties within western european society became so loose! (i dunno about eastern europe.)

and, note the time-frame greif mentioned: out-marrying “for at least 500 years.”

no WAY modern democracy is going to flourish in arab or african societies any time soon!

edit: boilerplate and boilerplate 2.0

previously: cousin marriage conundrum addendum and we’re doomed

update 06/22: see also inbreeding amongst germanic tribes

update 06/29: see also more on inbreeding in germanic tribes

update 10/19: if you’re new to the blog, check out the recap post. for more on the biologically-based changes to european society in the middle ages (and since then), see the “Inbreeding in Europe” series down there (↓) in the left-hand column.

(note: comments do not require an email.)

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79 Comments

  1. Great series on tribes and consanguinity!

    This post has suddenly made me realize why nations and nation-states arose in Europe back in the middle ages. Lack of tribes allowed sense of nationhood to emerge.

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  2. @harmonious jim – “Great series on tribes and consanguinity!”

    aw shucks. (*^_^*) thnx for saying so!

    @harmonious jim – “Lack of tribes allowed sense of nationhood to emerge.”

    exactly! or, at least, it’s a big part of the equation. relatedness matters!

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  3. It is hard to believe that the sheer ideological power of the church could achieve this. Isn’t it likely that economic forces pushed toward the direction of non-tribalism as well?

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  4. @ihtg – “Isn’t it likely that economic forces pushed toward the direction of non-tribalism as well?”

    economic forces pushed against inbreeding and more toward outbreeding? hmmmmm. possibly! food for thought. thnx! (^_^)

    i’ve also been thinking that some other demographic things happened in europe during the middle ages like the black death, for instance. one might run low on cousins to marry if everyone’s dead.

    the correlation between being christian for 500+ years and low inbreeding is there, tho. and, therefore, interesting.

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  5. After the fall of the Western (but not Eastern) Roman Empire, the Catholic Church was the supreme if not only organizing institution in Western Europe for the better part of 1000 years. So its rules and ideals had much more influence than one might imagine, and economics was likely very secondary, despite the Black Death (which helped).

    Considering also that the Church salvaged much of classical civilization (via Constantinople, not the Arabs), that it nurtured and developed universities, science and mathematics, literature, philosophy, and the rule of law, the Roman Catholic Church was/is one of the greatest powers for good the planet has ever seen.

    The final push to individual liberty had to wait for the Reformation, but the ground work was laid by the Church. Note that none of these happened in Muslim or Eastern Orthodox lands.

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  6. Even among the Germanic tribes, by the eighth century the term family denoted one’s immediate family, and shortly afterwards tribes were no longer institutionally relevant

    The Germanic tribes, in present-day Germany, were not yet Christian in the 700s AD. Any commands from the Bishop of Rome cannot explain changes in these people “by the 700s”.

    The Voelkerwanderung period itself may be a better explanation. There are few such meta-events, that shake a continent to its core and alter its destiny forever, as the explosion forth of the Germanics in all directions in the centuries after the Roman multicultural Empire’s rotting edifice finally caved-in. This was such a social shock that it would be strange indeed if it did not induce serious changes in all sorts of ways. How can a group declare itself the new lords of a region, with its pre-existing population, if they use goofy “clan” patterns? They would never be able to incorporate the new people, and would be faced with neverending domestic insurrection. So any clan patterns of their grandfathers had to go.

    Any supposed mandates from the Bishop of Rome must have been less relevant than the social legacy of the Voelkerwanderung. Medieval Europe (and its Christianity) grew up out of the revitalizing force of the Voelkerwanderung, of course, so to the extent you can “pin the tail” on the Papal “donkey”, you are perhaps looking at an effect, not a cause.

    As for democracy, any history book will tell us that Europeans practiced it (or at least some social system far from eastern autocracy) long before Christianity and thus long before this alleged (resultant) turn from Clan-ism!

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  7. @hail – “The Germanic tribes, in present-day Germany, were not yet Christian in the 700s AD. Any commands from the Bishop of Rome cannot explain changes in these people ‘by the 700s’.”

    it could be that greif was referring not to the german tribes in the territories of present-day germany, but instead to the visigoths and those groups that had conquered rome. i have to go back and have another detailed look at who greif is talking about here.

    in any case, you are, perhaps, on to something here. sometime in the eighth or ninth century, the church adopted the computatio Germanica for calculating consanguinity. i don’t know if that means that the germans had already begun marrying their cousins less before the church promulgations, but it could have been the case. perhaps, then, it was the germans who influenced church thinking, which then banned cousin marriage for all catholics. not sure. possible, though!

    in any case, you also said: “Any supposed mandates from the Bishop of Rome must have been less relevant than the social legacy of the Voelkerwanderung.”

    i wouldn’t dismiss church rulings so lightly. if you were a christian, esp. in the later middle ages, you would’ve gotten married in a church — and in order to do that, you would’ve had to follow church regulations, and one of them was that you couldn’t marry your cousins. of course, dispensations were possible during different eras — and i’m sure the local priest might have been bought off every now and again. (~_^)

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  8. @hail – “How can a group declare itself the new lords of a region, with its pre-existing population, if they use goofy ‘clan’ patterns?”

    but this is EXACTLY what the arabs did when they spread out of the arab peninsula and founded all their caliphates! and it worked very well for them for several hundreds of years! they just didn’t establish modern, democratic societies.

    and they STILL have all those “goofy” clan patterns today!

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  9. @hail – “As for democracy, any history book will tell us that Europeans practiced it (or at least some social system far from eastern autocracy) long before Christianity and thus long before this alleged (resultant) turn from Clanism!”

    well, what i meant was a full, modern, democratic society with all the trimmings (fwiw). (i did say “modern democracy” but i should’ve been more specific.) by modern democracy, i don’t mean just one-man-one-vote. h*ll, even arab tribes had that. for what i’m talking about, see stanley kurtz:

    “Strictly speaking, if a country selects its leaders through elections, it is democratic. Scholars separate this technical definition of democracy, as electoral rule, from the broader notion of ‘liberal democracy,’ meaning a country that not only holds elections but also features multi-party competition, rule of law, freedom of the press, of speech, of religion, and a vital, buzzing ‘civil society’ composed of competing advocacy groups.”

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  10. @bob sykes – “The final push to individual liberty had to wait for the Reformation, but the ground work was laid by the Church.”

    well, my theory on why it took until the reformation for individual liberty to flourish in europe is that that’s how long it took for the genetic bonds within european populations to loosen enough — i.e. it took that long, that many generations, for the outbreeding to take effect.

    if inbreeding leads to tribalism and societies with a lack of individualism, the corrollary must be that outbreeding leads to individualism and open societies. (possibly too open.)

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  11. but this is EXACTLY what the arabs did when they spread out of the arab peninsula and founded all their caliphates! and it worked very well for them for several hundreds of years! they just didn’t establish modern, democratic societies.

    and they STILL have all those “goofy” clan patterns today!

    This gels with reports from Afghanistan of tribes attempting to reassert claims to lands stolen from them by other tribes one or two centuries back.

    The whole tribal system present in much of the world is stable and doesn’t dissolve easily or quickly.

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  12. An aside: @ Bob Sykes “Considering also that the Church salvaged much of classical civilization (via Constantinople, not the Arabs)” –

    True, and well said.

    But some of the salvaging (ie the movement of Eastern artefacts, skills and knowledge to the West) was a consequence of the horrific sacking of Constantinople by the ‘Latins’ (Western Christians) in 1204 – which was perhaps the most concentrated act of cultural destruction in the history of the world (beating even the loss of Constantinople to Islam in terms of immediate destruction – although 1204 was nothing like to damaging in its permanent effects as 1453).

    This tragedy wasn’t the fault of the Western Church, as such – it was absolutely condemned by the Pope. But it was a consequence of the Great Schism, nonetheless.

    Christian civilization never recovered from those three days of looting, certainly New Rome never recovered.

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  13. I can understand how laws against consanguinity would lead to the extinction of small bands – but many of Europe’s tribes were very large and there would have been no difficulty finding a mate, who was not related to you, within your own tribe. Maybe I’m missing something – but it’s a fascinating question nevertheless.

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  14. @jay – “many of Europe’s tribes were very large and there would have been no difficulty finding a mate, who was not related to you, within your own tribe.”

    yes, sure, you’d be related to most everybody in your tribe, but if you weren’t allowed to marry, say, a first- or second-cousin, your spouse would be less related to you than if you had married one of your first- or second-cousins. the closer the relative, the more genes you share with them.

    take modern day saudi arabia — 50%+ marriages are to first cousins (many to DOUBLE first cousins — don’t even ask). that’s a lot of close inbreeding, as opposed to just marrying some more distant cousin in your clan or tribe.

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  15. Yup, see Pinker.

    A great account of how the Catholic Church took on its modern form and Europe shifted from tribalism to corporatism is in Harold Berman’s “Law and Revolution”.

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  16. East Asia seems to have avoided (or abolished) tribalism somehow as well. So how do we explain that? Did Confucianism also ban cousin marriage? I’m with some of the other commenters here, some other explanation is needed. I remember reading a study about how group size (clans, tribes, whatever) increase with higher latitudes. This is thought to be related to diseases, there’s more in the tropics and big groups are just too concentrated and would get wiped out. This could be a cause of europeans and east asians forming nation states easier than arabs and africans. How much tribalism is there in india?

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  17. @joe – “East Asia seems to have avoided (or abolished) tribalism somehow as well. So how do we explain that?”

    well, i think if you look far enough back into east asian history, they were pretty tribal, too. think of all the warring factions in china that had to be forcibly brought together to make “china.” but, it was a struggle, and a lot of the groups that were brought into the emperor’s fold were none too happy about it. and the nation of china regularly fell apart and had to be forcibly reunited again. there’s tribalism there — or, at least, clannishness.

    here’s an important detail: all cousin marriage is not the same. we’re genetically related to our different cousins in different ways (i’ve got an ongoing project here to outline all this, so stay tuned!).

    the point is (i think) since there are different types of cousin marriage to cousins to whom we are differentially related, that this results in different sorts of societal structures (see my comments about emmanuel todd’s research here).

    the type of marriage that happens in the middle east, for instance — father’s brother’s daughter’s marriage — certainly seems to produce strongly tribal societies, i think because of the way the degree of relatedness between the males is made so strong. this is an inbreeding practice that is very narrowing.

    east asians, on the other hand, do not practice father’s brother’s daughter marriage. their marriage practices are matrilineally based, which doesn’t result in this “band of brothers” of the males.

    (i hope this made some sense. it’s kinda late!)

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  18. @joe – “I remember reading a study about how group size (clans, tribes, whatever) increase with higher latitudes. This is thought to be related to diseases, there’s more in the tropics and big groups are just too concentrated and would get wiped out.”

    i remember that, too — kinda, sorta. (~_^) thnx for reminding me about it! will have to go look it up.

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  19. @joe – “How much tribalism is there in india?”

    not sure. but there’s plenty of caste-ism! again, they don’t practice father’s brother’s daughter marriage much.

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  20. “I can understand how laws against consanguinity would lead to the extinction of small bands – but many of Europe’s tribes were very large and there would have been no difficulty finding a mate, who was not related to you, within your own tribe. Maybe I’m missing something – but it’s a fascinating question nevertheless.”

    At one level it’s easier to talk in terms of clans, tribes and nations but at another level it maybe makes more sense to see it as a ten point scale where 1 is clan, 10 is nation and 2-8 are gradually increasing tribal size. For example compare the map of British tribes in Roman times shown above with the later Saxon map http://shissem.com/heptarchy.jpg.

    “and there would have been no difficulty finding a mate, who was not related to you”

    I think it’s more a question of conflicting benefits. There’s a genetic benefit from mating with someone closely related so it’s not neccessarily that they couldn’t find a mate who wasn’t closely related but that like modern Arabs they wanted someone who was. However at the same time there are benefits to larger scale co-operation, especially in war, and larger scale co-operation may be hindered by extreme endogamy.

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  21. Joe
    “East Asia seems to have avoided (or abolished) tribalism somehow as well. So how do we explain that? Did Confucianism also ban cousin marriage? I’m with some of the other commenters here, some other explanation is needed.”

    If you look at consanquinity as a force that hinders large-group co-operation and if large-group co-operation is more of a benefit in some enviroments than the benefit given by consanquinity then there’s two ways to overcome it. One way is to reduce the consanqunity. The other way is to increase a force that works in the opposite direction. If you have a society with an elite then that elite can create laws that encourage large group co-operation. If obedience to those laws has benefits then over time those laws would create a selection mechanism for conformity to social rules – conscientousness. The longer the selection mechanism is in place the greater the effect. In this case the clannish-ness would still be there under the surface but outweighed by conscientousness.

    Also, both could happen at once.

    .
    “How much tribalism is there in india?”

    Interestingly, according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consanguinity the Ayurveda specifically banned marriages along the male line of descent. Apparently this would date back either to the Aryan conquest or to the early days of Buddhism. The same rule may have applied in East Asia?

    Also i think polygamy must play a part in how endogamous a society is as well. Two societies both with the same cousin marrying rules but one polygamous and the other not would have different rates of consanquinity i woul dhave thought?

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  22. I’m pretty sure that martilineal societies are typical of hill tribes and some SE asian groups, but certainly not the patriarchal East Asians.

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  23. J-A-Y, perhaps the church used extremely severe punishments to get rid of clans in Europe. You can imagine, someone as nasty as Saddam Hussein – not that Iraq was improved by getting rid of him – could probably de-tribalize any country today. Excepting maybe the wildest and bravest of all, noble & cruel A-stan.

    Back then he wouldn’t have had lethal gas to spray on people, but that need not have stopped him or others from being terrible. For example there’s the church’s mass-violent attack on the (apparently gnostic-inspired) antinatalist Cathar heresy in France. I don’t think it was solely done by the church but as I recall they largely instigated the attack.

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  24. Joe

    “I’m pretty sure that martilineal societies are typical of hill tribes and some SE asian groups, but certainly not the patriarchal East Asians.”

    If i understand it right it’s not matrilineal it’s the allowability of cousin marriages down the male line of descent.

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  25. @g.w. – “At one level it’s easier to talk in terms of clans, tribes and nations but at another level it maybe makes more sense to see it as a ten point scale where 1 is clan, 10 is nation and 2-8 are gradually increasing tribal size.”

    thnx for that! i wanted to say something along those lines, too — i.e. that maybe we shouldn’t even be thinking in terms of “tribes” and “clans” and so forth — but i was gettin’ too tired last night to make any more sense. (~_^) and, anyway, you put it better than i ever could. (^_^)

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  26. @joe – “I’m pretty sure that martilineal societies are typical of hill tribes and some SE asian groups, but certainly not the patriarchal East Asians.”

    that’s right. east asian societies are not matrilineal like the hill tribes, but are patrilineal societies. however, they do tend to marry in the mother’s line (mother’s brother’s daughter or mother’s sister’s daughter) when they marry their cousins. that’s what i meant by their marriage system being matrilineally based.

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  27. I’m skeptical about cousin marriage being that common in East Asia, or about it being more common matrilinealy. I live in Vietnam now, I’ll ask some people.

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  28. I’ve been asking some people. The consensus is that this doesn’t happen today, it’s taboo and illegal. It used to happen more, a very long time ago. No idea on which side they married on. HBD chick, you seem awfully certain about East Asians marrying cousins on their mom’s side. What makes you so certain?

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  29. Ok, I’ve been looking it up. You’re right that East Asians are MBD inclined. I’m still skeptical how much that affects tribalism in a society. What I brought up before about temperature and clan size might be more important. I also found in wikipedia that (hindu) Indians have low rates of cousin marriage, and when it happens, MBD marriage is preferred. But India is a pretty backwards, tribal place.

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  30. @joe – “I’m skeptical about cousin marriage being that common in East Asia, or about it being more common matrilinealy…. HBD chick, you seem awfully certain about East Asians marrying cousins on their mom’s side. What makes you so certain?”

    hey, joe. i don’t think that cousin marriage is very common in east or southeast asia nowadays (maybe still quite a bit down in indonesia, tho), but it was definitely fairly common in japan up through the ’60s (avg. rate 7%+ — nowhere near middle eastern rates today, of course!). i think cousin marriage was more prevalent in the past in east asia. you can see some of the recent cousin marriage rates here (vietnam’s not included, unfortunately).

    i’m not soooo certain that east asians married maternal cousins. i’m more familiar with the whole middle east scene ’cause that’s how i first got interested in this issue. but…

    i got the idea that east asians generally marry their maternal cousins from a couple of sources. one indirect: i.e. that it’s quite well known in anthropology, apparently, that most peoples in the world think that marrying your father’s brother’s daughter is incestuous (e.g. the term for that cousin in many societies is equivalent to ‘sibling’) except for in the middle east and parts of south asia. so, i concluded that cousin marriage in east asia would more likely be to maternal cousins.

    i also know a little about some of the matrilineal hill tribes around east asia and that they marry maternal cousins, so i thought it might be a more general, asian practice.

    finally, from this source on japan: “In a study of the randomness of the four types of first-cousin marriages in Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Kure in 1948-1952, Morton observed the following in 689 first cousin marriages: 149 involved the offspring of brothers, 229 involved the offspring of sisters, and 311 involved the offspring of a brother and a sister (in 127 cases marriage involved brother’s son with sister’s daughter).” while there is mostly father’s sister’s daughter marriage in this sample, there still is quite a lot of mother’s sister’s daughter marriage, much more than you see in the middle east.

    @joe – “I live in Vietnam now, I’ll ask some people…. I’ve been asking some people. The consensus is that this doesn’t happen today, it’s taboo and illegal. It used to happen more, a very long time ago. No idea on which side they married on.”

    cool! primary research. (^_^) i wouldn’t think that cousin marriage happened a very long time ago there judging by other east asian countries (like japan), but you could be right. thnx for the effort! (^_^)

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  31. @joe – “I’m still skeptical how much that affects tribalism in a society.”

    well, it’s related to inclusive fitness, i.e. that you’re more likely to help out close relatives than more distant ones or strangers. so, if you’re inbred (for instance, marry your cousins), your feelings of helping out your relatives versus not helping out strangers should become stronger, since you are now more related to your family (you share more genes). in this way people develop tribal feelings.

    p.s. – it’s good to be skeptical. (~_^)

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  32. I’m really surprised by that pdf. I’m shocked how high the numbers are for china just a little while ago. Cousin marriage is really a huge part of the world that most educated westerns don’t know about, but it affects so much. Steve Sailer is right here. I was surprised how high china’s numbers were compared to se asia. Also notable was that west south asia had lower numbers than east south asia. Also surprising. And Iran! I really saw them as an island of modernity in a sea of tribalism (arabs, pakis, afghans), but their numbers, even recent ones, were very high.

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  33. Joe,
    “I’m shocked how high the numbers are for china just a little while ago. Cousin marriage is really a huge part of the world that most educated westerns don’t know about”

    I think if you look at this in terms of genetic altruism then it makes perfect sense at a primal level for people to marry at the closest point of relation past the biological incest block. Or rather it makes sense if you’re a small clan of hunter gatherers or pastoral nomads or any other situation where humans are living as a small self-sufficient group. However when a human group gets to the point where the benefits of larger scale co-operation outweigh the benefits of maximum clannish-ness then there starts to be selection pressure in the opposite direction as well – a bit like escaping a gravity well.

    Iran may have been different before the Arab conquest. I do wonder if the people underneath the Arab conquest may have had a different marriage system in place which was then over-written by the nomadic pastoralist one with certain atmospheric re-entry type consequences.

    A related thought would be did western colonialism spread cousin bans?

    .
    hbdchick
    “you put it better than i ever could”

    Welcome :)

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  34. @g.w. – “I do wonder if the people underneath the Arab conquest may have had a different marriage system in place which was then over-written by the nomadic pastoralist one with certain atmospheric re-entry type consequences.”

    russian anthropologist, korotayev — and another guy called rodionov whom i haven’t read — thinks exactly that. korotayev (i quoted him here) views the spread of father’s brother’s daughter marriage to places like pakistan and afghanistan as part of the process of arabization that happened during the caliphate(s) centuries. conquered peoples wanted to emulate the reigning powers of the day, of course.

    @g.w. – “A related thought would be did western colonialism spread cousin bans?”

    i’d place money on it. (~_^) particularly the spread of christianity along with western colonialism. christianity certainly did (or tried to) get rid of polygamy, for instance, another “gene pool narrowing” mating practice.

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  35. @joe – “Cousin marriage is really a huge part of the world that most educated westerns don’t know about, but it affects so much.”

    yeah, it’s really an eye-opener, isn’t it? certainly was for me! another thing to keep in mind, in addition to what greying wanderer said above @1:59pm, is that there’s a often a lot of economic incentive for people to marry cousins (or other relatives). you know, keep the wealth (the goats or the land or the dowry) in the family.

    islam, for instance, is apparently pretty serious that a woman is due a share of her father’s inheritance (i forget what it is — it’s less than her brothers get, but she is due a share and shouldn’t be cheated out of it). if she goes and marries a stranger, well there’s an n-th part of pappa’s hard earned wealth that goes out the door in a way that it really wouldn’t if she just married his (pappa’s) brother’s son.

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  36. “i’d place money on it”

    Yes, me too now – plus the polygamy thing as well.

    The other thing about those Chinese figures is the huge differences between city and rural areas. It makes you wonder if the average iQ is really what it’s supposed to be. It may be in the cities but in the countryside? Maybe not.

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  37. @g.w. – “It makes you wonder if the average iQ is really what it’s supposed to be. It may be in the cities but in the countryside? Maybe not.”

    yeah. i’ve been wondering that for a long time, too. even just based on the iq data that is out there — a lot of it comes from urban areas — and smart people tend to wind up in cities.

    the thing about cousin marriage in rural areas in china — i don’t know enough about china (yet) — or the whole of east asia, for that matter! — but i think in some regions where the cousin marriage rate is rather high, like sichuan, we might be looking at “mountain tribes” there and not actual han chinese. dunno. to be investigated!

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  38. I think the idea of loosened clan bonds and stronger regional bonds in (Northwest) Europe because of discouraged/forbidden cousin marriage an intriguing one. I don’t think we need rely on it as a sole cause in order to keep it as a major one. Hall’s invoking of the Voelkerwanderung as a better explanation doesn’t impress me. The idea of democratic northern Europeans bringing their rough egalitarianism to frontier Catholic/Roman civilisation in a fortuitous mix has been dragged out as an explanation of all goodness since German Romanticism gained sway. The collapsing of Rome may have been as much attractive cause of the wandering peoples as a result of it. Also, invasions by Huns may have had something to do with it. They may have, however, discouraged cousin marriage to a greater degree than other regions. The Germanic tribes and the Mediterranean Church can both claim to have discouraged the practice before they had much to do with each other, so perhaps it was an area of cultural agreement which needed no brokering as they grew closer.

    Most bands of 150 interrelated folk worldwide are largely “democratic” in a loose sense. Larger intergroup cooperation and alliances are not the sole treasure of the Goths. The northern tribes may indeed have been among the more egalitarian – and the status of at least some women was high among them as well – but they were hardly unique.

    If we are seeking economic causes, there was certainly improvement in transportation of goods through Roman times. I could make up a theory how this might encourage shallower but broader kinship patterns, but I shan’t, because it might sound plausible yet have no sense or evidence behind it. As to uncovering the reasons why the Roman Catholic Church might discourage cousin marriage, it remains rather speculative. There have been accusations made that it was for this evil reason or that, but evidence has been lacking.

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  39. “Hall’s invoking of the Voelkerwanderung as a better explanation doesn’t impress me.”

    If the loosening of clan bonds in exchange for tightening tribal ones had happened (or started) in the north in earlier times then the mega tribes of the Voelkerwanderung might have been the result of that rather than a cause. The Church may then have adopted and spread tribal custom rather than the other way round. However what we know for sure is the church ban.

    I do think something happened up there but not neccessarily this.

    .
    “I don’t think we need rely on it as a sole cause in order to keep it as a major one.”

    true

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  40. I’m uncomfortable with the suggestion that greed on the part of the Church aristocracy lay behind restrictions on cousin marriage. The Church didn’t start getting seriously materialistic until the High Middle Ages. If I recall correctly, the big monasteries of the Dark Ages were founded in remote areas and were meant to be self-sufficient retreats from the world. Their initial growth was all due to the sweat of the monks. Only in the High Middle Ages did bequests from the laity become significant to the growth and economic power of the monasteries. Therefore, I would expect that Church constraints on kin marriage prior to, say, 1100 CE, were motivated by something other than greed.

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  41. @sinchiroca – If I recall correctly, the big monasteries of the Dark Ages were founded in remote areas and were meant to be self-sufficient retreats from the world. Their initial growth was all due to the sweat of the monks.”

    ehhhhhhh, i’m not 100% sure about that. i’m no expert on the history of monasticism in europe, but mitterauer in his “Why Europe? The Medieval Origins of Its Special Path” (i referred to him in this post) references the census records of an early medieval frankish (iirc) monastic manor and they had a lot of lay persons living and working on the manor. that was in the 800s, if i’m recalling the reference correctly.

    that the church’s motivation for banning cousin marriage was for its own material gain is jack goody’s theory (i linked to his works in this post, and in other posts — can’t remember now!). it’s a pretty good theory — he points out that the church not only banned cousin marriage, but banned all sorts of practices that would limit the number of heirs a person might have: no adoption, no divorce, restrictions on remarriage. put them all together and his argument is pretty persuasive.

    the early church fathers, of course, outlined other reasons for why they wanted to ban cousin marriage — one of them being that banning cousin marriage would broaden the social connections between the members of society, thus making everyone more christian. they were actually right. (^_^) and i’m sure many of the early church fathers were actually motivated by this. but i’m sure some (if not many) were motivated by more earthly reasons.

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  42. Thanks for pointing that out. I’ll go off and check some of this in more detail and report back. I especially want to find Mr. Goody’s argument. I know that I have at least one of his books somewhere…

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  43. @sinchiroca – “I especially want to find Mr. Goody’s argument.”

    i just double-checked — he makes the argument in “The Development of the Family and Marriage in Europe” — chapter 6 — “Church, land and family in the West.”

    i think he discusses his theory elsewhere, too, but it’s definitely in this book.

    i haven’t been sooo interested in what the church’s motivations for banning cousin-marriage were — i’m kinda interested, but not obsessively so. i’m more interested in just the fact that it happened at all.

    Reply

  44. HBD Chick, I just skimmed through Chapter 6 and the most pertinent section I found has this to say:

    “A more extreme view of its role as an ecclesiastical money-spinner, one which was associated with Luther and Henry VIII who saw it as instituted ‘for lucre’s sake’, was expressed by Huth in the following words: ‘What more natural than when a set of greedy priests found that people were ready to pay a price to be allowed to marry, they should have made marriages yet more difficult, that they should increase the number of meshes in their net, and with it the amount of their revenues?’

    Certainly the new rules did not emerge from below…

    That such rules forced individuals to seek dispensation and hence increased Church revenues is true. But the reasons for the elaboration of the rules, particularly the eleventh-century version, were more complicated. Apart from those arising from the reform of the Church’s organization, others related more generally to long-standing attitudes towards kinship and marriage, which had important effects on the structure of kin groups and family lines that in turn influenced the process of accumulating property for religious ends.”

    Another observation: he makes it clear that the rules on kinship were only seriously enforced starting in the 11th century.

    I think that the best first approximation of the truth here is that the Church started getting greedy at the onset of the High Middle Ages.

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  45. @sinchiroca – “I think that the best first approximation of the truth here is that the Church started getting greedy at the onset of the High Middle Ages.”

    could be, could be.

    @sinchiroca – “Another observation: he makes it clear that the rules on kinship were only seriously enforced starting in the 11th century.”

    now that’s of interest to me. (^_^) i shall have to go back and take a look at that. thnx!

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  46. The purpose of the church was to create alliances so that it could keep the east at bay.

    The Roman empire remained polytheistic, and declined due partly to plague, and depopulation, but also because of a shortage of hard currency.

    When the Mohammedans started their expansionary conquest, they disrupted trade in the mediterranean, which brought about the economic disintegration of the empire, since the east had always been wealthier than the west.

    Money all but disappeared from europe.

    The church was an inexpensive means of protecting the west using the tribal armies under the feudal Christian Kings.

    The church was good and bad.

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  47. @curt – “The church was an inexpensive means of protecting the west using the tribal armies under the feudal Christian Kings.”

    the church did away with tribes via its marriage rules.

    @curt – “The church was good and bad.”

    agreed!

    Reply

  48. […] the Catholic Church in Europe forced western families to allow women to elope with whom they fancy (Ask hbdchick for details on the various consequences of this and other measures). So whores can go around […]

    Reply

  49. sinchiroca
    “If I recall correctly, the big monasteries of the Dark Ages were founded in remote areas and were meant to be self-sufficient retreats from the world.”

    There’s a distinction here between the Irish tradition of monasticism and the Roman one. After the Anglo-Saxon invasion of England, Ireland was partly cut off from Rome and developed its own very ascetic version of monasticism.

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  50. bob sykes
    04/05/2011 at 5:51 AM
    >The final push to individual liberty had to wait for the Reformation, but the ground work
    >was laid by the Church.

    lol, that’s like saying that the groundwork for German democracy from 1949 onwards was laid by you-know-who.
    It’s not “because” but “despite” the “holy” roman catholic church that the west became great.
    the stuff people credit RCC with are post-hoc rationalizations, they couldn’t have known all these things.

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  51. I think the real reason for the rise of the west is that there was a competition between the secular and the ecclesial spheres, whereas in Eastern Europe the church tended to align closely with the worldly powers. from that, everything follows and the issue the author raises is, at best, marginal.

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  52. it’d be interesting if someone analyzed why people in europe became increasingly more liberal starting in the 1500’s (it certanly wasn’t due to the church for it had to be dragged kicking and screaming into modernity) whereas Islam got more and more uptight and bigoted.

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  53. @anon – “it’d be interesting if someone analyzed why people in europe became increasingly more liberal starting in the 1500′s (it certanly wasn’t due to the church for it had to be dragged kicking and screaming into modernity) whereas Islam got more and more uptight and bigoted.”

    see my comment above re. europe. as for the arab world — just the opposite of what i had to say about europe — i.e. continual inbreeding from the days of mohammed and probably longer.

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  54. I just happened across this, as I was curious about early european tribes after reading “the History of White People” by Nell Irving Painter. It’s interesting to note that there was also slavery and human trafficking throughout europe prior to the catholic church – this would cause a lot of mixing of new genes into the gene pool, interbreeding with people from other tribes and even other regions. This practice waned in areas where the church grew to have the most influence, persisting only at the edges, until it re-surged with the need for workers to cultivate sugar….
    Anyhow, I wonder whether reduction in inbreeding combined with a lack of this broader practice of inter-mating with other peoples doesn’t somehow cancel out in net effect on the genetic distribution of european peoples, particularly with increasing population density. It seems they might have already been fairly homogenized.

    Reply

  55. @anonymous – “It’s interesting to note that there was also slavery and human trafficking throughout europe prior to the catholic church – this would cause a lot of mixing of new genes into the gene pool, interbreeding with people from other tribes and even other regions.”

    yes, that might have been true in many areas (although i think i recall reading that it’s believed that the vast majority of slaves in rome — the ones working on the farming estates in central italy — didn’t have much of an opportunity to reproduce), but then you have to ask yourself, wrt to altruistic behaviors (which is what i mostly talk about around here), is from what sorts of populations were all these slaves drawn from? were the slaves from inbreeding populations as well? because, if so, they might’ve been just as clannish/tribal in their natures as the pre-christian european slave-holding populations were — so any new altruism-related genes introduced by the slaves into the slave-holding populations might’ve been just as clannish/tribal as the slave-holding populations’ genes.

    i mentioned this before in an example of native mexicans and the influx of spanish genes after colonization. spaniards — especially southern spaniards — have a long history of inbreeding, and so (i think) it’s likely that they’ve got a lot of “familial altruism” genes. same goes for (at least some of) the mexicans. so the mixing of those two groups probably didn’t change much.

    @anonymous – “Anyhow, I wonder whether reduction in inbreeding combined with a lack of this broader practice of inter-mating with other peoples doesn’t somehow cancel out in net effect on the genetic distribution of european peoples, particularly with increasing population density. It seems they might have already been fairly homogenized.”

    i’m sorry. i didn’t really follow what you’re saying/asking here. probably my fault! (either too little or too much coffee — sometimes i find it’s hard to tell! (~_^) )

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  56. And to further fracture the discussion, I wonder about the effect of invasions by various groups into established communities, particularily the Vikings – who would pillage and rape (where would those women and their offspring fit into existing societies?) and then colonize and eventually intermarry? Wouldn’t invaders like the Vikings, Huns and Normans contribute to the erosion of European tribes as well?

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  57. @highlands6000 – “Wouldn’t invaders like the Vikings, Huns and Normans contribute to the erosion of European tribes as well?”

    well, again, you have to ask yourself, what sorts of populations were the vikings and the huns? (i think the normans are a bit late for this discussion — nw europeans were already pretty non-tribal by the time they came along — at least the english anyway).

    the vikings and the huns were also, i think, clannish/tribal in nature, so all they would’ve done by spreading their genes into other populations would be to spread their clannish/tribal genes as well (see above comment).

    no. to break down clannish/tribal genotypes, you need to stop the inbreeding** (i think). just introducing other clannish/tribal genes into your population is not going to do it.

    **stop the inbreeding at a minimum. you also need to add selection for “non-clannishness.” tricky stuff!

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  58. Chinese society was quite non-clannish around 200BC, probably due to the war and massacres and relocation. You need to read Chinese to examine the evidence, but Qin Hui showed that a Chinese village around 200BC has no dominant family name, unlike a Chinese village around 1900AD, where a village is either single-family-name or has a few dominant family names. Once a few years they dig out a big archive of administrative or legal documents around 300BC–200AD, and that rocks ^ ^

    Reply

  59. @bidus727 – “Chinese society was quite non-clannish around 200BC…. Qin Hui showed that a Chinese village around 200BC has no dominant family name, unlike a Chinese village around 1900AD, where a village is either single-family-name or has a few dominant family names.”

    ah! thank you very much! very interesting. (^_^)

    Reply

  60. What about combining outbreeding and retribalization, by marrying immigrant wives creating patrlinear polygynous clans again?

    What about creating other kinds of networks to make up for the loss of tribes, like the Radical Left does? Think of their militants wearing masks and staying anonymous.

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  61. If I’m not mistaken, there are still several states where first cousin marriage is legal.

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  62. Very interesting. I don’t believe I ever heard that the Church did not allow widows to remarry. I would like to see a reference on that. Because of early death of both men and women there were almost as many second marriages in medieval times as there are today. Margaret Beaufort was a very religious woman, she married 3 times. Her first marriage produced Henry 7, she had no need to remarry to produce the Lancaster heir. If widows were not allowed to remarry, the almost fanatic religious Margaret Beaufort would not have remarried after her first husband died.
    Medieval history, guild records and marriage records are replete with second marriages of widows. Since women are generally dependent on husbands, why would the Church take on the burden of supporting widows and their children through charity when plenty of men were willing to marry widows and support them. A widow with 3 healthy boys would be a real catch for a small farmer or tradesman.

    As for cousin marriage, it was neither a Jewish or a Roman thing and the early RC Church kept many customs of those peoples. Or perhaps maybe the early Church Fathers noticed that when cousin marriage was common and continued for generations
    more and more mentally and physically disabled people resulted and prevention of cousin marriage was a way to prevent this. I know that about 70 percent of the disabled children born in the UK are the product of centuries of pakistani first cousin marriage.

    I really do not believe that he RC or any Christian Church ever forbad or tried to discourage the remarriage of widows. I would like to see a reference and not something by John Calvin or the American Atheist Society.

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  63. @margaret – on the church banning the remarriage of widows, see jack goody’s The Development of the Family and Marriage in Europe. it’s likely that those regulations varied in time and place over the course of the medieval period. (^_^)

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  64. Economic forces may not have favored exogamy, but genetic ones do. In an inbred tribe, there is a lot more genetic uniformity. A lot more homozygosity, the same exact gene (allele) in the slot inherited from each parent.

    In agriculture and husbandry this is known to be a disadvantage. Hybrids, different genes in each slot, are more robust. This is called hybrid vigor, and once individual competition (instead of needing a loyal group for warfare) became relevant hybrids and thus exogamy were greatly favored.

    This same hybrid vigor also works for disease resistance, which was a major factor in Europe until recent times.

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  65. Europe absolutely still does have tribes. Germany is a good example. State names are named after the subethnicities or former “countries” that are located in any given place. Bayern (Bavaria) is named after the Bavarian tribe. Westfalen is named after a Saxon division. Thuringen is named after the Thuringian tribe.

    Even among the diaspora, which I am a part of, these difference are recognized. The Germans in my background belong to the Suebi (Swabians) and the Sachsen (Saxons). We all have seperate language dialects in both Hochdeutsch (High German) and Plattdeutsch (Low German). This isn’t even mentioning the many culinary, cultural, and even further language differences.

    You know what, though? Unlike in some places, Germans don’t actually fight about this stuff. We recognize that each tribe is different and we respect those differences. There are some hardliners that make it all a big deal, sure, but to the rest any “conflict” is like pointless jokes between siblings.

    So, my answer is “yes”, tribalism has always been a factor in Europe, even with the EU’s attempts to unite everyone. Tribalism in Europe is more of a benefit to the people than anything else, really.

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  66. The Eastern Orthodox Church in Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul) never made this effort to change marriage and inheritance laws. Hence, the Byzantine Eastern Europe still has extended family and kinship ties as a powerful source of social organization. I was born in Albania and the traditional family clans still exist. You can say the same thing for the other Balkan countries. The modern family based on the nuclear family is not common there, as we still have strong family culture and even social obligations to our kin. So there’s an another perspective. Idk if this is applicable to Russia and Ukraine, but certainly the Balkan countries under the Byzantine Empire. I think this is why the Balkans have a difficult time developing modern political institutions to the standards of the west.

    It is not a coincidence that the northern European countries who had experienced centuries of feudalism ended up developing the most effective political institutions. Feudalism was the response to societies that could not fall back on complex kinship structures after the collapse of larger political structures. Because the Catholic church’s policies wiped out tribes in Western Europe, social organization had to be based on something other than kinship, hence the emergence of the feudal society. The core essence of the feudal society was a contract, a voluntary submission of one individual to another unrelated, but more powerful individual. The contract was an exchange of protection for service. Kinship was too weak and too damaged by the Catholic church’s policies to be an effective organizing principle; it was often not strong enough to provide adequate protection from innumerable warlords that were invading Europe from the east. So there you have it, the seeds of a contractual-based modern society with limited family emerging throughout Western Europe under feudalism. This never happened in Byzantine Europe, hence kinship remained a more powerful source of social organization, and you still see traces of this in the present. Interesting stuff indeed!

    Reply

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