exogamous marriage in northern medieval italy

in looking for an explanation for why democracy today works better in northern as opposed to southern italy, putnam, et. al., point to the long history of civic behavior in northern italy, stretching back to the middle ages, in contrast to the feudal system of southern italy which lasted really into the 1800s [pg. 130]:

“In the North the crucial social, political, and even religious allegiances and alignments were horizontal, while those in the South were vertical. Collaboration, mutual assistance, civic obligation, and even trust — not universal, of course, but extending further beyond the limits of kinship than anywhere else in Europe in this era — were the distinguishing features in the North. The chief virtue in the South, by contrast, was the imposition of hierarchy and order on latent anarchy.”

in other words, northern italy was full of republican communes, while the south was run from the top down by the monarch.

medieval communes were a type of corporate society, but you can’t have a corporate society if you have clans or tribes or any sort of extended families produced by extensive inbreeding. you need a good deal of outbreeding to get the republican communes that putnam talks about. you need to have a society full of individuals looking out for their own best interests, and those of their immediate family (wife, children), as opposed to a society of extended families or clans or tribes looking out for the interests of their whole group. then, because of the effects of inbreeding on the evolution of social behaviors, you get clan vs. clan, not individuals coming together in guilds to promote their profession or mutal aid societies.

so, what were the mating patterns of northern and southern italians during the medieval period?

i don’t have any info (yet) for southern italy, but samuel kline cohn, jr., in Marriage in the Mountains, 1348-1500 (pg. 174+), finds that the marriage system of the people in the areas surrounding florence was very exogamous in the late-fourteenth and fifteenth centuries — a full three-quarters of the people married outside their parish, and just about half married beyond the pieve, a secular district larger than, and encompassing, the parishes. to me, that sounds potentially more exogamous than nineteenth and twentieth century rural greece in which the people had a preference for marrying within their village or to someone in a neighboring village. it was certainly much more exogamous than marriage patterns in twentieth century sicily and other parts of southern italy.

kline cohn doesn’t examine cousin marriages, but i think it’s safe to say that marriages over greater geographic distances (his “cross-boundary marriages,” for instance) are prolly unlikely to represent any close inbreeding. his data, btw, relates mostly to peasants:

pg. 192:

“The marriage records for the mountains of the early Renaissance in the territory of Florence do not highlight isolated communities, hollows of cultural and biological endogamy. Rather, it was in the plains near the city that one-third of those sampled married within their own parish….

“When the second geographical rung is considered — that of the pieve or the newer secular districts — little difference appears between these three regions. But a glance at a map shows that such intermarriages in the mountains could cover considerably more distance than in the smaller pievi of the plains surrounding the city of Florence….”

so, that’s one example of quite exogamous marriage patterns in northern medieval italy.

previously: democracy in italy

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

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8 Comments

  1. This is not medieval, but I did update the 20th-century consanguinity map for Italy with all the regions. I averaged Cafalli-Sforza’s 1930-34 and 1960-64 (earliest and latest I could find for every region) percentages; the resulting map is here (also updated the post here).

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  2. @M.G., I noticed that your map correlates very well with my map of IQs in Italy here, right down to the large difference between Friuli and Sicily.

    I wonder what would happen if we made a map of historical consanguinity for Europe as a whole.

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  3. Firenze is in Toscana, and Toscana isn’t northern Italy. It’s in the center.
    More important, I don’t know if the numbers are correct, but if there is a region, now and in the past, where the “clannism” (in italian sense) was crucial, this is Tuscany.
    All the cities were divided in two side, Guelfi and Ghibellini, and the two side in two side again, Black and White. Siena, is famous because Palio, and Palio is essenctially a “race” between “clans”.
    And this is true also for the north, another example is Ivrea and her “Battaglia delle Arance” ( I saw you have a picture in your interesting blog). Romeo and Juliet is a novel, but with roots in the history.

    I don’t buy your consecutio of this: “putnam, et. al., point to the long history of civic behavior in northern italy, stretching back to the middle ages, in contrast to the feudal system of southern italy which lasted really into the 1800”.
    Putnam is correct, but the explanation is more trivial than your: the north were under the loose rule of a far german emperor, and in the end, a quasi-official self-rule. The logical consequence has been an identification with the institution.
    The south was ruled by the bureaucratic power of foreign kings in loco or Pope, and the logical output has been the identification of the institutions with foreign and unrelated power.

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  4. @gio – “Firenze is in Toscana, and Toscana isn’t northern Italy. It’s in the center.”

    yes, i know italians generally think of north, south and central italy. my point simply was that tuscany is more to the north than it is to the south. if you divide the boot in half, tuscany is clearly in the northern half. and, in recent history anyway, there has been a continuum of inbreeding vs. outbreeding in italy that moves from the south to the north. (i don’t know, yet, what the patterns were in earlier times. i’m working on that. (~_^) )

    @gio – “if there is a region, now and in the past, where the “clannism” (in italian sense) was crucial, this is Tuscany. All the cities were divided in two side, Guelfi and Ghibellini, and the two side in two side again, Black and White. Siena, is famous because Palio, and Palio is essenctially a “race” between “clans”. And this is true also for the north, another example is Ivrea and her “Battaglia delle Arance” ( I saw you have a picture in your interesting blog).”

    yes, you are absolutely right. i haven’t gotten into this yet on the blog, but it is a post that is floating around in the back of my head — i.e. that the populations in medieval italian cities were, perhaps, more inbred than the rural populations — at least in northern italy (northern + part of the center). the article i quoted in this post hints that that might have been the case — at least it was for this area around florence in the 1300-1400s: “…the marriage system of the people in the areas surrounding florence was very exogamous in the late-fourteenth and fifteenth centuries….” in the original article, cohn points out that the rural areas were more outbred than florence and other towns in the region. i didn’t emphasize it in this post ’cause i wanted to find out of this was true of other medieval italian cities.

    @gio – “Putnam is correct, but the explanation is more trivial than your: the north were under the loose rule of a far german emperor, and in the end, a quasi-official self-rule. The logical consequence has been an identification with the institution. The south was ruled by the bureaucratic power of foreign kings in loco or Pope, and the logical output has been the identification of the institutions with foreign and unrelated power.”

    “clannish” or tribal peoples everywhere behave in one, fundamentally similar manner — they are distrustful of outsiders (including “the institution”) and prefer to work with their own rather than people unrelated to them. i believe this has to do with the evolution of altruistic behaviors in different populations. inbreeding can make that evolution happen more quickly than in outbred populations, and enhances the effects of altruism sentiments in general.

    the different regions of italy have had different inbreeding/outbreeding rates for a very long time now, and there is circumstantial evidence to suggest that these patterns go way back. thus, i believe that southern italians are, on the whole, more “clannish” than northern italians.

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