emmanuel todd’s absolute nuclear family

steve sailer posted about the curious distribution of todd’s absolute nuclear family (the yellow bits on the map over here) — this family system, according to todd, is found in the eastern parts of england and scotland, denmark and southern norway, what looks like frisia to me, and brittany. steve points out that all of these were anglo-saxon lands back in the day — except for brittany.

todd (in “The Explanation of Ideology”) describes the absolute nuclear family as having these characteristics:

– no precise inheritance rules, frequent use of wills;
– no cohabitation of married children with their parents;
– no marriage between the children of brothers.

here are a couple excerpts from his chapter on nuclear families:

pg. 100:

“Peter Laslett, with the help of household lists, has thus studied household composition as far back as the sixteenth century, and Alan Macfarlane has extended the analysis back to the thirteenth century by reinterpreting medieval documents about inheritance customs. The result of this research is clear: extended families have never existed in England where, at least since the Middle Ages, the nuclear model has been the dominant form…. What the research conducted in England in the 1960s and 1970s shows is that the individual, in the sociological sense of the word, has always existed in certain regions of Europe.”

well, not always but, rather, since at least the medieval period.

i’ve got alan macfarlane’s “The Origins of English Individualism” sitting on the shelf here. i’m hoping he can shed more light on this anglo individualism/nuclear family thing.

more from todd. pg. 101:

“The dislocation of traditional English and (northern) French societies by a complex process of ubanization, industrialization and the spread of literacy, has been comparatively less painful than in cultures dominated by a family ideal that emphasizes the complementary qualities of parents and children. The rural exodus separates the generations and erodes the core of complex families of the exogamous community and authoritarian models. It has no effect on a system dominated by nuclear households, where the early breakdown of domestic groups is socially acceptable and prepared for by an apprenticeship in individual autonomy from childhood. Urbanization in England started early and was soon complete. By comparison with Germany and Russia which developed later, the process in England seems to have been an easy one. It occurred in a peasant society which was already very flexible.”

previously: “l’explication de l’idéologie” and behind the hajnal line and medieval manoralism and the hajnal line

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


  1. OT, but what do you know about tribes in Egypt? Cousin marriage is common there but I see little on the web about the tribal or clan structure of Egyptian society. A bedouin tribe on the border with Libya was mentioned in the news lately with 2,000,000 members (!) and there are other bedouin in the Synai we read about. But what about the rest of the country?


  2. @luke – “Speaking of the origins of English individualism….”

    yeah, thanks! i’ve got that article sitting here on my hard-drive, but i haven’t read it yet. i just started reading last night macfarlane’s “The Origins of English Individualism” — the book (i love the cover!). maybe i should have a look at the article first, tho — it is shorter, after all! (^_^)


  3. @luke – “OT, but what do you know about tribes in Egypt? … But what about the rest of the country?”

    well, the non-bedouin egyptians often get referred to as clannish, but i don’t think there’s much actual difference between the two — it’s just that the bedouins get called tribes ’cause they have that desert lifestyle with the goat/camel herds and that’s what most people think of when they think of arab “tribes.”

    here’s a good article from the wsj from a couple of months ago (with a very funny quote at the end!):

    Key Clans Hold Sway in Egypt Elections

    “‘Tribe, family, and religion—this is how people vote here,’ said Micheil Fayek, a candidate in Fayoum governorate, which includes Tomiya, for the liberal-leaning, but pro-military Wafd Party….

    “‘Egyptian Election is based on individuals with strong tribal and family connections rather than on ideologies or programs of parties, and the only exception to this is the Islamist voters,” said Mr. Mahmoud, the head of the Hurriya Party, which includes ex-Mubarak regime members from around the country and who is also a candidate from a prominent family from southern Egypt. “It doesn’t it matter if I was a part of the ruling regime. Even if I was a member of the Israeli Likud, I would still win.'”

    heh! (^_^)

    of course, the egyptians marry their cousins a lot.

    edit: urban egyptians marry their cousins less than rural egyptians, and — iirc — upstream egyptians marry their cousins much, much more than delta egyptians. also, the cousin marriage rates have gone down since 2000. the average total for the whole country in 2008 was 30%, whereas in 2000 it was closer to 40% (38%).


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