the transition to manorialism

luke asked a while back: “I’m a little hazy on the transition to manorialism. Was it imposed by military force? Did it begin amidst the political anarchy at the end of the Roman empire?”

good questions. i’m (more than) a little hazy on the transition, too. and you know what? we’re not alone! so are the historians. (^_^)

i found what seems like a good summary of what is known about the shift from slave or kinship-based agricultural systems to manorialism in the early medieval period in “A Millennium of Family Change: Feudalism to Capitalism in Northwestern Europe.” i’m just gonna cut and paste some relevant sections from the book because it’s complicated … and really interesting. here goes! [pgs. 44-46, 50-53, 58-62]:

“The transition from Antiquity to feudalism remains an obscure chapter in European history, despite considerable advances in historical knowledge secured in the past three decades, primarily by means of the rapid expansion and technical refinement of archaeological fieldwork….

“Developments in the Late Roman Empire

“In its prime, the Roman Empire had been based on a combination of agricultural modes of production, with a slave labour force at its heart working the great estates of central and southern Italy and Sicily. This force had been built up in the Republican era by means of the massive importation of bondmen, acquired by taking prisoners in the course of military conquest and selectively enslaving peoples on the Empire’s expanding periphery. The encouragement of childbearing among the salves of rural Italy was by no means rare, but the population in bondage failed to reproduce itself. High mortality rates were a major cause of this dearth, but Roman slaves also manifested extraordinarily low fertility. Marriage between slaves was illegal, and so long as replacements were plentiful, masters had no strong incentive to foster enduring conjugal relations among common field slaves.

greg cochran was just talking about this over @west hunter.

“Since many more males than females were enslaved, there was a persistent shortage of the latter. The sex ratio of urban slaves has been estimated in one study as three males to every two females, and in another, as two males to every female. While this is a staggering imbalance, it is probable that the rural ratio was more severely skewed. Family formation among agricultural slaves was not unknown, but the sex ratio in itself meant that a majority of bondmen would not have had the opportunity to form enduring unions and create families. Through the widespread manumission of older slaves as their labour-power declined, masters sought to keep the dependency ratio low, evading the costs of keeping the elderly alive. Continuous restocking from abroad was necessary to maintain the labour force at strength. Italian slavery in the Republican era was an import-replacement regime by default, if not as a matter of conscious Senatorial policy. This does not imply that slave-breeding was rare, merely that it was insufficient, given very high death rates, to replace the servile labour force indigenously over time.

“After the territorial expansion of the Empire ceased (with Trajan’s conquest of Dacia in AD 106), the Roman legions were thrown increasingly on to the defensive…. As the supply of enslaved youth from the hinterlands ebbed, slave prices rose. In the face of persistent shortages, with no prospects of obtaining alternative sources, the aristocracy made a belated attempt to convert to a self-sustaining regime of indigenous reproduction. Successive emperors decreed subsidies and tax breaks for the owners of slave progeny: ‘Slave owners and jurists began, in the second century if not earlier, to respect … family relationship[s] and to see slave families as entities which should be left undisturbed insofar as possible.’ Owners were inititially exhorted to avoid breaking up families through sale or inheritance; by the late fourth century, it became illegal to do so. The overall demographic effect of this effort is unclear, but it was probably modest….

“[T]he traditional mode of production on the latifunda — ganged labour under intensive supervision, subsisting on rations and domiciled in barracks — proved increasingly unprofitable. Gradually, it was abandoned and estates were sectored in two. While the home farm continued to be worked by domestic slaves, field slaves were granted small plots from which they were expected to subsist while surrendering a portion of the crop. Accompanying the elevation in status which occurred with the ceding of direct access to the means of subsistence was the dissolution of slave barracks — the notorious ergastula. Servi casati (literally, hutted slaves) were able to form families, put their children to work on their own land and transfer allotments to them upon decease…. Yet the familial autonomy of the servi casati was extremely limited:

“‘Slaves fortunate enough to be given plots of their own were obliged to spend one out of every two or three days inside the dominial court doing whatever they were ordered to do; on those days they took their meals in the refectory and were thus reincorporated into the master’s family. Their women were obliged to perform communal labor with the other women of the estate. The master took children from their huts as needed to replenish the ranks of his full-time servants.’

“While never being recognized in Roman law, the domicile and familial rights of slaves gradually began to be conceded de facto on large estates, under the burgeoning influence of the Christian Church. When this bundle of rights became customary, the servi casati had achieved the status of serfs.

“Outside Italy and Spain, peasant cultivators possessing hereditary land were the mainstays of agriculture throughout the Roman Empire, while slaves were primarily employed as domestics in aristocratic households. Peasant families were engaged in a broad range of class relations, from freehold ownership to servile dependency. Across the full breadth of this spectrum, their position gradually deteriorated from the second century AD on; an increasing proportion of them were enserfed. In the last two centuries of the Western Empire, ex-slaves and tenant farmers gradually converged. ‘What difference can be understood between slave and adscripticii’ (peasants bound to the land), Justinian asked rhetorically in the sixth century, ‘when both are placed in their master’s power and he can manumit a slave and alienate an adscripticius with the land?’ In this blending, ‘the major question was that of domiciling: once genuine independence of the hut had been acquired [by ex-slaves], fusion with free coloni or tenants followed….’

“The Germanic Peoples in Transition

“By Caesar’s time, the Germanic federations had left their nomadic, pastoral roots far behind. Since their social formations were extremely varied, generalization is difficult, but archaeological evidence indicates that most had become lightly settled agriculturalists by the pre-Roman Iron Age (1200-700 BC). They lived in widely scattered farmsteads, hamlet clusters and small villages, ‘islands of light soils … in a green sea of woods and waste’ where they combined the raising of cattle, sheep and goats with the cultivation of barley, oats, corn and wheat. In pre-Roman times, theirs was an extensive agriculture organized around stock-raising; a form of semi-sedentary pastoralism wherein cereal crops appear to have played a secondary but indispensable role. They practised slash-and-burn agriculture using scratch ploughs on impermanent fields, lacking regular layouts, crop rotation and systematic soil restoration. But in the first four centuries AD, there was a major expansion of settlements beyond loess soils, field layouts became more regular, wood ploughs more substantial and sophisticated, capable of cutting deeper furrows on light clays and intermediate loams, and there are even indications at one site of primitive forms of soil restoration…. Soil restoration could not have been widespread, since archaeological evidence indicates shifting cultivation, long fallow, two-course cropping, and repeated rearrangement of huts and field boundaries, the mark of semi-permanent villages….

“What, then, of the kinship forms of the Germanic peoples? By the time the Sippe (the Germanic kindred network) appears in historical texts, it is already a structure in decline. In the barbarian successor states, the political functions of the kindred — providing for territorial defense, domestic security and dispute settlement — were beginning to be replaced by the dependency of peasants upon local landlords and the extension of the latter’s authority….

“In those barbarian successor states where manorialization succeeded in establishing the permanence of land in cultivation, family groups held land, not the Sippe….

“Before widespread manorialization and the emergence of a standardized family holding in the ninth and tenth centuries, partible traditions prevailed across most of Northwestern Europe: all sons were entitled to marry in, raise families and subsist from the land of their fathers. In Anglo-Saxon England, where the primogeniture privilege was already emerging, the first son acquired the parental home; continental traditions appear more even-handed. The fissiparous potential of partible customs was held in check by the larger kin group, whose elder leaders enforced a strong tradition of joint management of farmsteads between brothers. Co-parceny inheritance may well have involved the establishment of separate residences (as Thomas Charles-Edwards argues was the norm in Anglo-Saxon England), but it was unlikely to have entailed the division of the parental holding.

“The kindred group, whose membership was in a constant state of flux, probably did not exceed fifty households. Yet whenever they were densely settled in a district, the group had a definite presence there. This took the form of a domain (a villa or fundus), an extensive ensemble of ‘arable, vine and orchard, undivided pasture, forest and waste, of demense and dependent tenancies.’ With the intensifications of plough agriculture, the domain was internally subdivided and conjugal families became more sharply distinguished from the larger kindred; but the group none the less maintained its external boundaries and genealogical identity. Alienation of the kindred’s land to outsiders was generally prohibited, strangers migrating to new lands were expected to declare their kindred, and settlements bore the name of their reputed ancestral owners….

The structure of landholding in the Roman West was deeply shaken by the barbarian takeovers, yet great estates persisted in England, Gaul and Germania. While many were comprised of dispersed small-scale holdings, most were at least partly concentrated and centrally administered….

“As the kindred ceased to be a sufficient basis of collective settlement, agricultural co-ordination and land management [because of, according to the author, ‘the transition from scratch plough agriculture and impermanent settlement to heavier iron plough cultivation and fixed site development’ – hbd chick], the resulting vacuum encouraged the mass commendation of communities of free cultivators into the thrall of the emergent seigneurial class. Within the landholding elite, a parallel shift from a ramified, ancestrally based kin ensemble to a more streamlined estate lineage may also have paved the way for the rise of the military retinue, cutting across ancient kin ties.

“Conventional wisdom tends to foster an exaggerated image of the kindred in terminal decline, of a dying institution overwhelmed by the inexorable and deeply antagonistic forces of lordship. In reality, ‘kinship remained immensely strong in daily life.’ Certainly, kin extension was truncated and realigned within the field of seigneurial jurisdiction; in the event of conflict between the two systems of loyalty, kinship was subordinated. But we should not overestimate their antagonism. Kin solidarity persisted throughout the feudal epoch as a profound and necessary complement to the class of bonds of loyalty and service…. If we envision a complete atrophy of kin bonds extending between domestic groups, ‘the conjugal family’ emerges from the early medieval mists standing on its own. Alan Macfarlane has painted such a picture for medieval England, but his argument has been widely criticized by historians. If the solitary nuclear family thesis is somewhat misleading for England, it is sharply at odds with evidence from the continent, where extended kin bonds were common in long-standing village communities.

“With the expansion and consolidation of manorial authority, a more intensive common-field agriculture was established in larger village settlements, with short strip furlongs in open fields, communally regulated crop rotation, seasonal grazing on the stubble, and deeper plough cultivation extending on to heavier soils. By the tenth century these general features had appeared along the Rhine, in Franconia, Hesse, Dijonnais, Artois and the Paris basin: ‘Seignorial lordship prevailed in all the common-field regions of Europe.’ Ancient settlements were reorganized and newly established ones were laid out in regular forms from their inception….”

previously: medieval manorialism and selection … again and medieval manoralism and the hajnal line and behind the hajnal line and english individualism ii

(note: comments do not require an email. ightham mote manor house.)

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43 Comments

  1. Yes, that’s the current understanding of the transition, but it lacks the economic content that would make it all make sense. Namely: that agricultural productivity was low — the surplus produced by any individual was small — and a lot of people were needed in farming to feed the empire. The empire gave away land as long as they could. Then had to resort to slavery to keep the land under production. Birth rates, the latter period’s plagues, the shortage of coinage due to hard money, the high cost of maintaining a european land empire versus a mediterranean sea empire and later, the disruption of mediterranean trade by the muslim conquest, all created pressures. I know your interest is reproduction but one gets the impression from the excerpts above that this was some sort of lazy conspiratorial plan by fat aristocrats rather than the somewhat serious problem of maintaining food production.

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  2. I’m still hazy. That was complicated! But I guess history is like that.

    One thing I remember from past reading is that walled castles start appearing in areas which under Pax Roma (sp?) were not necessary, indicating a breakdown in law and order and the appearance of marauding bands of hells-angels (and the like). Manorialism as a protection racket in other words. Not sure how that fits in.

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  3. @luke – “I’m still hazy.”

    you and me, both! (^_^)

    @luke – “That was complicated!”

    yup. and as curt pointed out above, it’s even more complicated than that.

    @luke – “One thing I remember from past reading is that walled castles start appearing in areas which under Pax Roma (sp?) were not necessary, indicating a breakdown in law and order and the appearance of marauding bands of hells-angels (and the like). Manorialism as a protection racket in other words. Not sure how that fits in.”

    yes, there you get into the feudalism side of the middle ages (g.w., where are you? – he’s the resident feudalism expert around here. (^_^) ). strictly speaking, manorialism is not feudalism, although the two systems went hand-in-hand in europe. feudalism is the whole fiefdom/swearing allegiance/lords & vassals thing. and then you get the princes building their fortifications because of the lawlessness. manorialism is the structure of the agricultural system. often, the lord with the manor is also the knight with the castle, but you can also have manors attached to monasteries, for instance.

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  4. @curt – “I know your interest is reproduction….”

    yes, i have to admit that my primary interest is in the mating patterns. if someone could just outline those for me, i’d be happy. (^_^)

    i am, however, also interested in how whatever mating patterns were prevelant came to be prevelant, so — secondarily — i am interested in the economics of it all — and the history and what not.

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  5. I had been wondering about this too, thanks for looking this up, it actually makes a lot of sense.

    I remember from past reading is that walled castles start appearing in areas which under Pax Roma (sp?) were not necessary

    I always wonder about this, just how bad the social and economic breakdown was in W. Europe after the collapse of the Roman Empire. I guess record-keeping sort of stopped, so historians don’t really know, but how much death did the Germanic invaders cause? Did entire cities empty out? Commercial supply lines dry up? (no more law and order on the highways?) General lawlessness? I wonder about how that specific, very unusual context is linked to the birth of manorialism too.

    “‘the conjugal family’ emerges from the early medieval mists standing on its own. Alan Macfarlane has painted such a picture for medieval England, but his argument has been widely criticized by historians.”

    I didn’t know this about Macfarlane (the ‘Origins of English Individualism’ guy), that he’s been widely criticized on the ‘conjugal family’ point. I wonder what the criticism’s based on.

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  6. @m.g. – “I always wonder about this, just how bad the social and economic breakdown was in W. Europe after the collapse of the Roman Empire.”

    sounds like it was pretty bad. awful, in fact. from the same book, A Millennium of Family Change [pgs. 56-57]:

    “Hard hit by plague and suffering decling birthrates, the populations of Italy and Gaul stagnated in the late Imperial era, contracting from the third century on. As rents and taxes skyrocketed, one hectare in five of the established arable of the Western Empire was abandoned. In the meantime, the Germanic peoples grew apace. The widening disparity generated cumulative migratory pressures, as cleared land filled to overflowing across the Northern plain while vast stretches of Mediterranean latifundia went to pasture. In search of land, the Ostrogoths spread eastward beyond the Don, provoking a violent eruption from the Huns of the Volga steppe who counterthrust westward in 372, driving all the way to the Danube, delivering crushing blows to the Goth federations. The latter, in turn, sought sanctuary across the Roman frontier, thus inaugurating a complex chain-reaction of migration and resettlement that has been dubbed ‘the Invasions’. The term may be accurate in reference to the bellicose horsemen of the Huns, Alans and Vandals, but it is misleading when applied to the Germanic itinerants. Their forays were not military blitzkriegs culminating in hostile takeovers. Initially they were rather tentative movements of relatively small forces, lightly armed and looking for land. They encountered little Roman resistance: their demands for land were met so generously that ransacking excursions were exceptional and the takeover was largely pacific.

    “Yet the severity of social dislocation in the wake of the Western Empire’s terminal prostration in the late fifth century should not be minimized. The regression of the ensuing century was staggering. Consider four major reverses:

    “- The breakdown of centralized state authority and administration. In consequence, road maintenance and transport safety suffered; minting and monetary control collapsed, and the fiscal capacity to extract taxes was temporarily lost. With a sharp rise in lawless marauding, the personal security of unarmed commoners deteriorated.

    “- The disorganization of agriculture, with field systems disrupted and regular crop rotations suspended. Rural communities became increasingly unsettled, their inhabitants more transient, and many sites were abandoned. Archaeological evidence reveals the surprising impermanence of village land use and the repeated shuffling of farm buildings.

    “- A shrivelling of urban life (the parasitic fluorescence of Roman civilization) as inhabitants fled to the countryside in response to widespread disorder, rampant pandemics, dwindling trade and the disruption of food provisioning.

    – Perhaps three souls in ten were lost across Western Europe from 542, when plague struck, until the downward spiral bottomed out sometime in the seventh century.

    “The severity of the demographic collapse furnishes a useful index of the overall retrogression. Why was the population loss so grievous? The migrations themselves would appear to be implicated. Before the Western Empire’s dissolution, intensive contact between Roman and Germanic peoples had been confined mainly to elites. When itinerant masses began to commingle, living as close neighbours and intermarrying, disparate ethnic groups were exposed to the ravages of alien diseases for which they lacked effective antibody defence.”

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  7. @m.g. – “I didn’t know this about Macfarlane (the ‘Origins of English Individualism’ guy), that he’s been widely criticized on the ‘conjugal family’ point. I wonder what the criticism’s based on.”

    dunno. i’ll definitely be checking more into it! (^_^)

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  8. Curt
    “that this was some sort of lazy conspiratorial plan by fat aristocrats rather than the somewhat serious problem of maintaining food production.”

    The Romans imported basic foodstuffs from very early on, mainly from Sicily at first and then later Egypt. The giant slave-estates in Italy were mostly for cash-crops so it was never about maintaining food production and the Roman part of the post is pretty much exactly a bunch of rich aristocrats effectively importing vast amounts of cheap labour for their own benefit and not caring about the consequences – except it wasn’t cheaper in the long run because slaves aren’t as productive.

    ///

    hbdchick
    “(g.w., where are you? – he’s the resident feudalism expert around here. (^_^) ). strictly speaking, manorialism is not feudalism, although the two systems went hand-in-hand in europe”

    Well that’s the thing. I was mostly reading the politcal and military history and what i picked up in passing relating feudalism to the underlying economic basis was definitely simplistic and maybe wrong, except after a bit of cogitating maybe it wasn’t 50% right and 50% wrong but 50% 100% right and 50% 100% wrong – a subtle distinction but see below.

    ///

    On the later transition to manorialism. In my swotting on the subject it did seem like the detailed sequence isn’t really understood however the facts (if they are facts as the writers didn’t seem very certain) that struck me as key were:

    1) The pre-existence of the roman latifundia (or coloni) as a model: roman villa plus slave-barracks vs manorhouse and peasant cottages. Maybe?
    2) The invention of the heavy plough which led to a deforestation and a huge expansion in the amount of viable farmland
    – particularly in the flatlands of northern Italy and the north european coast?
    3) The heavy plough was apparently invented by the Slavs in the 500s – (the reason for their massive expansion around the same time?) – and the sequence of the expansion in the use of the heavy plough was apparently Slav lands to northern Italy first and then to the Rhine which makes me think maybe Franks with Charlemagne bringing it back to the Rhine after his conquest of north Italy?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlemagne

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Frankish_Empire_481_to_814-en.svg

    4) Again apparently a lot of the new villages established at this time due to forest clearances – and a lot of settlements started at this time have “new” in their name – were laid out with rows of cottages centred around a manorhouse and church which implies planning and control.

    5) Nothing in medieval europe was consistent. Everything was a jumble of different systems side by side.

    ///

    So my opinion is manorialism wasn’t directly a product of the roman collapse or germanic expansion but a product of the new plough leading to massive forest clearance and lots of new settlements on heavier soils which were organized from the beginning in the new manorial system because they were like mini-colonies except the Franks were colonizing their own forests rather than a different country.

    I’m guessing for the most part the older settlements carried on as before side by side although in some places they may have shifted to a version of the new system themselves. One of the anglo-saxon pieces mentioned that some of the communal villages didn’t seem to be planned out in advance like the standard manors but looked more the result of a lot of pre-existing scattered farms moving together around the local church. There’s a lot of possible explanations for this of course but one possibility is older pre-existing non-manorial settlements seeing the benefits of strip farming and the new plough and deciding themselves to form a communal village. These villages might have been initially like their Slav equivalent. In both cases the village was built around the mechanics of the heavier (and much longer) plough e.g. large plough team, large turning circle etc and the difference between the two forms could simply be in having a resident local lord of the manor or not.

    I’m going to guess the north european coastal strip and the Po valley had proportionally much higher numbers of these new settlements simply because because they were flatter. Elsewhere you might have a few new manors among a majority of pre-existing settlements whereas in the northern strip the new settlements might be a much more significant proportion – possibly a majority? – if so, and if the base thesis of this blog is correct then ultimately the cause of the 30 years war was:
    – north germany = mostly flat and forested
    – south germany = mostly hilly and forested

    (being a tad facetious there but only a tad)

    I’d also say that if the new settlements were effectively colonies – where younger son of a minor aristo had been given the rights to some forest to clear and build a fiefdom (in exchange for military service) – i’m thinking the villagers would have to be tempted to come rather than forced.

    (Potentially then the link to manorialism and feudalism might have been 100% exact for the new settlements but not for the older pre-existing settlements except maybe in places where it was directly imposed (with a few oversights here and there) by conquest e.g. Norman England).

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  9. @g.w. – “The heavy plough was apparently invented by the Slavs in the 500s – (the reason for their massive expansion around the same time?) – and the sequence of the expansion in the use of the heavy plough was apparently Slav lands to northern Italy first and then to the Rhine which makes me think maybe Franks with Charlemagne bringing it back to the Rhine after his conquest of north Italy?”

    i like your whole outline here, except for the bit about charlemagne (i forgot that it was the slavs who invented the heavy plow!). manor estates were present as early as the mid-600s under pepin the middle in austrasia (we’ve always been at war with austrasia!), so there must’ve been a more direct line of transfer of the heavy plow technology from the slavs to the franks. straight across the northern plain maybe?

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  10. @g.w. – “i’m thinking the villagers would have to be tempted to come rather than forced.”

    yeah, but that’s an easy one — they were guaranteed a tenancy! which maybe they wouldn’t have gotten otherwise back home, esp. if they were also the second sons. the whole ostsiedlung, in fact, may have been something achieved by second sons — both princes and commoners!

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  11. @g.w. – “…a bunch of rich aristocrats effectively importing vast amounts of cheap labour for their own benefit and not caring about the consequences….”

    why does that sound familiar? =/

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  12. “i like your whole outline here, except for the bit about charlemagne (i forgot that it was the slavs who invented the heavy plow!). manor estates were present as early as the mid-600s under pepin the middle in austrasia (we’ve always been at war with austrasia!), so there must’ve been a more direct line of transfer of the heavy plow technology from the slavs to the franks. straight across the northern plain maybe?”

    yes, when i read the sequence was supposedly via Italy it did seem pretty strange even if the context was Slav expansion on the German borders so probably not the best of pals. direct transfer across the border would make more sense but then you wonder why it didn’t take off at that point?

    after reminding myself of some of my previous swotting i missed a step
    – new plough / plow
    – adoption of three field rotation
    – switch from oxen to horses with invention of the horse-collar

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crop_rotation

    “In Europe, since the times of Charlemagne, there was a transition from a two-field crop rotation to a three-field crop rotation.”

    Maybe that was the Italian connection – i recall reading it but can’t remember where.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horse_collar

    “The horse collar eventually spread to Europe circa 920 AD, and became universal by the 12th century…. However it was sometimes difficult to cultivate the land; based upon soil condition, it may have taken up to sixteen oxen to effectively use a single heavy plow”

    so maybe less of an event and more a process starting with the plouw then the crop rotation then the switch to horses and between all three leading to more and more forested land becoming viable for new settlements and once cleared those new settlements being created in this new manor-coloni form?

    The scale of the population impact was huge.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ostsiedlung

    “According to estimates by Henryk Łowmiański, as cited by Jan Maria Piskorski, this reduced the area of cultivated land needed to feed a family from 35 to 100 hectares (86 to 250 acres) (lay farming) to 4 to 8 hectares (9.9 to 20 acres) (three-field system)”

    To the increase in crops per unit of area added an absolute increase of the total of cultivated land, especially through the clearance of forests.[17] The extend of this increase differed by region: while for example in Poland, the area of arable land had doubled (16% of the total area by the beginning of the 11th century and 30% in the 16th century, with the highest increase rates in the 14th century), the area of arable land increased 7- to 20-fold in many Silesian regions during the Ostsiedlung.[17]”

    “This led to new types of larger villages, replacing the previously dominant type of small villages consisting of four to eight farms.[16] According to Piskorski (1999), this led to “a complete transformation of the previous settlement structure”

    “Ostsiedlung also led to a rapid population growth throughout East Central Europe.[17] During the 12th and 13th century, the population density in persons per square kilometer increased e.g. from two to 20–25 in the area of present-day Saxony, from six to fourteen in Bohemia, and from five to 8.5 in Poland (30 in the Cracow region)”

    This would explain one of the problems i originally had with the manorialism idea which was i could see how it could make sense in terms of conquest and colonization of northern France or the east but i couldn’t see how it could happen in the existing Frankish home terriotory without massive rebellions and social disruption. If you add in that most of northern europe was still forested and the manorialism process was an ongoing internal colonization into virgin forest then it works fine.

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  13. hbdchick
    “yeah, but that’s an easy one — they were guaranteed a tenancy!”

    yep, selection for wanting a tenancy.

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  14. Some pics of shire pluw horses just cos they prove intelligent design (just kidding) but they are awesome – and GIGANTIC

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  15. Could you explain again the distinction between feudalism and manorialism? You mentioned that a manor could be attached to a monastery as well as to a lord. But what was the difference from the peasant’s point of view? They still owed services. What do you mean by “a system of agriculture?” I know this is what the discussion is about, but could you go over it again?

    For instance, this quote which you highlighted: “In the barbarian successor states, the political functions of the kindred — providing for territorial defense, domestic security and dispute settlement — were beginning to be replaced by the dependency of peasants upon local landlords and the extension of the latter’s authority….”

    Well, to me that just seems to be the difference between a free people and one that has been conquered, one responsible for its own defense (via kin) the other dependent on lords for their protection.

    The English word “lord” incidentally is derived from a medieval word “hlafward” (or something like that, I’m going from memory) which literally meant “loaf-keeper” ie, the man who controlled the bread (grain).

    Anyway I can imagine clans are less important after conquest — conquerors have an interest in breaking up clans if they are a source of political resistance — and so in that way could have been a factor encouraging to move toward more nuclear families.

    What else is important as far as mating and the forms of the family are concerned?

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  16. Quote from above: “Before widespread manorialization and the emergence of a standardized family holding in the ninth and tenth centuries, partible traditions prevailed across most of Northwestern Europe: all sons were entitled to marry in, raise families and subsist from the land of their fathers”

    We are not talking about the enserfed majority here, surely, but a free people, either because they are on top politically or they are a small prosperous minority who have somehow risen to yeoman status. I have a hard time imagining serfs having partible anything.

    I speculated above that conquering lords might have an interest in breaking up clans to break their resistance, but of course over time extended families were bound to re-appear by virtue of the smallness of the average village settlement.

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  17. @g.w. – i said: “manor estates were present as early as the mid-600s under pepin the middle in austrasia (we’ve always been at war with austrasia!), so there must’ve been a more direct line of transfer of the heavy plow technology from the slavs to the franks.”

    it occurred to me last night that i suppose they didn’t have to have the heavy plow right at the start of manorialism in austasia. perhaps there was some other trigger to start the whole system going and then when this great, new invention — the heavy plow — turns up (maybe via northern italy), then you get the expansion of the manor system in all directions. i don’t know if this scenario is right or not — just a thought i had.

    here is my pal, mitterauer (“Why Europe?”) on the heavy plow. he seems to suggest that it was a frankish/germanic invention. later in the book, he discusses how the slavs in the east didn’t really use the heavy plow until it was introduced by western europeans much later in the middle ages. so, if some slavs invented the heavy plow, they didn’t really seem to adopt it. [pg. 6]:

    “The innovations in the technology of agriculture that emerged in the course of the early medieval agrarian revolution were obviously connected to a combination of newly introduced plants [rye & oats], new systems of land use [three-field system, manorialism], and new ways of integrating agriculture with the keeping of livestock. The key innovation was the heavy plow, which made it possible to till more deeply by turning the soil over…. This novel plowing technology helped open up the moist, heavy soils of the North that could be put to oats and rye along with other domesticated plants bloth old and new. The growing of new plants preceded the introduction of the heavy plow, but when and where it came from cannot be determined with certainty. Archaeological evidence points to several transitional forms between the older scratch plow (Hakenpflug) and the more recent moldboard plow (Wendepflug). On the other hand, evidence from historical linguistics regarding the various words for plow reveals that the moldboard plow was regarded as a special and novel agricultural implement. The derivation of the word ‘plow’ shows it originated among the Germanic-speaking peoples in Belgica or Germania Inferior, that is, probably among a Frankish people. The word and the thing itself must have reached the Slavic-speaking areas even before the Slave split into three large linguistic groups in the later sixth century.”

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  18. @g.w. – “If you add in that most of northern europe was still forested and the manorialism process was an ongoing internal colonization into virgin forest then it works fine.”

    yes. and also, if you can squeeze more people onto the same amount of land, because you increase the productivity of the land so ENORMOUSLY, who’s going to complain?

    @g.w. – “‘According to estimates by Henryk Łowmiański, as cited by Jan Maria Piskorski, this reduced the area of cultivated land needed to feed a family from 35 to 100 hectares (86 to 250 acres) (lay farming) to 4 to 8 hectares (9.9 to 20 acres) (three-field system)'”

    i’ve read this before — or something like it — and it’s just stunning, isn’t it?! i do a little scratching in the soil myself (got a big vegetable garden) and to think of people having to farm 86-250 acres just to sustain one family is just mind boggling! wow.

    Reply

  19. @g.w. – “Some pics of shire pluw horses just cos they prove intelligent design (just kidding) but they are awesome – and GIGANTIC”

    intelligent artificial selection, you mean. (~_^) they are awesome though! and beautiful! (^_^)

    Reply

  20. @luke – “Could you explain again the distinction between feudalism and manorialism? You mentioned that a manor could be attached to a monastery as well as to a lord. But what was the difference from the peasant’s point of view? They still owed services.

    yeah, absolutely. probably not much difference from the peasant’s point of view being attached to a manor with a lord or a bunch of monks. you’d still owe the manor services. (as an aside, i can imagine there would be some different benefits being attached to different types of manors, though. i mean, if you set up this system with knights in shining armor ’cause you need protection from the marauding hordes — well, then, who protects you when you’re attached to a monastery? do you all run behind the monastery walls when someone attacks and wait for the knights to arrive? wouldn’t it be better to be attached to a manor where knights were already stationed? otoh, the monks were pretty clever with their medicines and inventions, so maybe it would be smart to be attached to that sort of manor.)

    anyway, feudalism refers to the whole vassalage system — the king and the princes and the barons and the knights all swearing alliegance to one another in their very own pyramid scheme. the lords do get granted a fief in return for their knighting services (some land or whatever) on which they set up their manor. manorialism refers specificially to the system in which the peasants owed services to the lord or monks of the manor, and vice versa. it also refers to how the whole agricultural system [my own terminology] was organized: that there was land attached to the manor (the demense) and other lands granted to the tenant farmers, and how it was all operated under a single sort of central planning system. the tenant farmers’ were granted strips of land in humongous field systems, so everybody had to coordinate what was going to be planted when and where, etc., etc. manorialism was a pretty complex system.

    Reply

  21. @luke – “For instance, this quote which you highlighted: ‘In the barbarian successor states, the political functions of the kindred — providing for territorial defense, domestic security and dispute settlement — were beginning to be replaced by the dependency of peasants upon local landlords and the extension of the latter’s authority….’

    “Well, to me that just seems to be the difference between a free people and one that has been conquered, one responsible for its own defense (via kin) the other dependent on lords for their protection.”

    not exactly because what he’s talking about here is not only the shift from a kindred-based system to a landlord-based system amongst the conquered populations, but also amongst the germanic settlers in gaul and northern spain and northern italy. almost everybody (except for a few pockets here and there) in the barbarian successor states experienced this shift.

    maybe the thing is — and i’m just thinking aloud here — in these new states, some individuals saw the opportunity to take power — a lot of power — much more than they had before, i.e. beyond being chief of your clan or head of your tribe. maybe they thought — ah, now i want to be ruler of all these people, not just my clan, but also these people over here that we’ve conquered.

    but if that scenario is at all right, why they decided to do this by breaking down all clans, including their own, is unusual. all sorts of peoples have held power over large and diverse populations — the arabs, the ottomans — while maintaining clan systems. it’s weird.

    @luke – “conquerors have an interest in breaking up clans if they are a source of political resistance — and so in that way could have been a factor encouraging to move toward more nuclear families.”

    yes, but like i said above, all sorts of conquerors in all sorts of places in all sorts of times have conquered AND maintained clan systems. that is the norm, really. why the europeans decided to be so quirky about this is still a mystery to me.

    the attack on the clans was very much a two-pronged affair, though — coming from the church AND the lords, who as you say had an interest in breaking down these pain-in-the-*ss clans [see here, esp. last paragraph].

    Reply

  22. @luke – “The English word ‘lord’ incidentally is derived from a medieval word ‘hlafward’ (or something like that, I’m going from memory) which literally meant ‘loaf-keeper’ ie, the man who controlled the bread (grain).”

    cool! i didn’t know. maybe the man who controlled the grain AND the loaves, because on manors there were typically huge, communal ovens in which your daily bread would be baked.

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  23. @luke – ““Before widespread manorialization and the emergence of a standardized family holding in the ninth and tenth centuries, partible traditions prevailed across most of Northwestern Europe: all sons were entitled to marry in, raise families and subsist from the land of their fathers”

    We are not talking about the enserfed majority here, surely, but a free people, either because they are on top politically or they are a small prosperous minority who have somehow risen to yeoman status. I have a hard time imagining serfs having partible anything.”

    no, absolutely. that’s not the enserfed majority he’s talking about. that was the situation before the manor system was introduced, i.e. when the kindreds still ruled the day. pre-800s.

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  24. “Those are enormous horses!”

    Yeah, shire horses (the old plough horses) are gigantic – and generally awesome. They always remind me of Boxer in “Animal Farm”.

    Reply

  25. Thanks. That helps. Something I would like to point out though: agriculture by its very nature ties the cultivator to a place. Unlike pastoral or hunter/gatherer people they cannot run away when a stronger force approaches to subdue them. For one thing they have to stay and tend their crops. Then after the harvest the whole next year’s food supply and seed corn is concentrated in places where it can be seized by a stronger force.

    Not only does this make foreign conquest feasible — a real institutional innovation, conquest — but it also leads to defensive reactions by the unconquered, a kind of national security state that is hard to distinguish from the conquered state. Thus ruling nobility appear everywhere that agricultural conditions permit, and it goes all the way back to the very beginning of civilization. I discuss that historical process here. You can also read about the logic of it here.

    Thus when we read about Germanic or other folk “expanding” into virgin areas, if they had authoritarian political institutions at home (political “states”) you can be almost sure they took carried those institutions with them, including a portion of the ruling class from whence they came. (It wasn’t like our colonizing the Western U.S.) I would be surprised if you can find a single exception to this rule.

    OTH, unconquered folk, to the extent their “chiefs” did not rule by force (big if), would remain in the same relatively condition as they migrated (like the Goths apparently?) though it was only a matter of time before they were subdued. There is scarcely a square foot on the surface of the earth that has not been conquered at one time or another (most places many times over) except for a few hunter/gather bands in remote places.

    This is because history is little more than a story of warring states in a relentless competition for power. That’s what causes empires to rise and fall, it is what has driven most technological development (including writing, metallurgy) and probably the plow itself. The bigger the agricultural surplus the bigger the army you can keep in the field.

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  26. I guess I should qualify by saying there may be some pastoral areas that have never been conquered.

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  27. hbdchick
    “it occurred to me last night that i suppose they didn’t have to have the heavy plow right at the start of manorialism in austasia. perhaps there was some other trigger to start the whole system going”

    yes. if manorialism was driven by the creation of new settlements on land owned by somebody else who could give permission in return for vassal status then it didn’t need to happen through the clearance of new farmland out of the forest – a manor might be created out of an abandoned roman villa for example i.e. previously farmed land that had fallen into disuse during the conquests and then gradually came back into use as the population crept up from its low point. The difference between manorialism in the 600s and later times might simply be the number of new settlements – slow and steady at first, maybe returning abandoned light soil to production, then much faster in the later centuries after it became increasingly viable to farm the heavy soil under the forests.

    .
    here is my pal, mitterauer (“Why Europe?”) on the heavy plow. he seems to suggest that it was a frankish/germanic invention

    yeah could be. i read it was a Slav thing on teh interwebs but like a lot of the non-warry stuff from around the time of the roman collapse the details on the heavy plough’s invention is (un)surprisingly vague. the timing would fit the major Slav expansion – as i think major population expansions are likely to be driven by a military advantage which when all else is equal comes down to raw numbers and a relative advantage in raw numbers comes from population density i.e. a relative advantage in calorie production. This would then also explain the later German counter-expansion (as the Ostseidlung started later i think?) after they’d adopted the heavy plough – which would have simply equalized and neutralized the advantage – but also after they’d improved the overall package with the three field rotation and plough horses giving them the calorie advantage. However that’s all speculation.

    .
    “i’ve read this before — or something like it — and it’s just stunning, isn’t it?! i do a little scratching in the soil myself (got a big vegetable garden) and to think of people having to farm 86-250 acres just to sustain one family is just mind boggling! wow.”

    yes to both. the amount of veg you can get out of a small plot is huge so it is surprising, i guess the big distinction is the amount of space you need for crops if half of it is fallow every year and also maybe the amount of land you need if your diet is heavy on milk and meat? i’m guessing the population density achieved in northern europe at this time was similar to what they’d had in Egypt / India / China for a very long time.

    also i just realised how important the potato is/was as a staple. you can get a ton of potatos out of almost nothing but they hadn’t arrived yet.

    .
    “i mean, if you set up this system with knights in shining armor ’cause you need protection from the marauding hordes — well, then, who protects you when you’re attached to a monastery? do you all run behind the monastery walls when someone attacks and wait for the knights to arrive?”

    i’ve been wondering this. i’m starting to think the feudalism for protection line is a crock. Protection is what people had kindreds for. I beginning to think it was for major lords and kings to have a more guaranteed supply of knights. In the pre-existing tribal version of feudalism each sub-tribe had to provide a certain number of fighters and the weapons they were required to show up with was dependent on their individual status e.g. an anglo-saxon fyrdman had to bring a spear, shield and helmet while on top of that a thane had to bring a mail coat and sword as well. Once the mounted knight – as a military form rather than a political entity – became militarily dominant kings would want to specifically maximize their number of knights so swapping a tribal-feudal village’s traditional military levy of four thanes and eight fyrdmen to a manor system supplying one knight and their supporting “spear” of squires and sergeants would make sense.

    Now doing that in the context of overturning those traditional tribal relationships would lead to trouble, it could be imposed but at a steep cost in internal dissent. In the context of a conquest it could be done more easily because the population are already hostile and manorialism was a better way of controlling them – among all the other reasons, in a way Norman manorialism would have served the same control purposes as collective farms did among the Sovs – but it could be done much more easily if it was done voluntarily and willingly, which is always vastly more efficient imo, which was achievable in the context of creating *new* settlements.

    Reply

  28. hbdchick
    “why they decided to do this by breaking down all clans, including their own, is unusual. all sorts of peoples have held power over large and diverse populations — the arabs, the ottomans — while maintaining clan systems. it’s weird.”

    yes it is. as you say the historical norm is to leave the conquered as unruffled as possible because of the risk of rebellion. there are some partial historical parallels. the Greek successor states in the near east created a partial form of feudalism to support their military requirements. Greeks trained in phalanx warfare were given plots of land to support themselves but in their case the individual plots were clumped together to support them as a group in maintaining the phalanx tradition – which must have taken lot of training to work properly.

    the thing about the successor states which now makes me wonder about medieval europe is in wartime the soldiers drawn from the planted colonies of Greek phalangites were mixed in with the traditional levies of the region in question – Egyptian traditional levies in Egypt, Syrian traditional levies in Syria, Anatolian traditional levies in Anatolia etc.

    I think the Turks had a similar thing where their version of a knight or phalangite was to maintain the horse archer tradition now they were no longer on the steppe.

    Reply

  29. Luke Lea
    “Thus when we read about Germanic or other folk “expanding” into virgin areas, if they had authoritarian political institutions at home (political “states”) you can be almost sure they took carried those institutions with them, including a portion of the ruling class from whence they came.”

    Sure but what if the military form of the traditional political elite was out of date? What if a knight and his spear of 5-6 professional fighters was better militarily than thirty to forty tribal farmer-warriors?

    Reply

  30. Luke Lea
    “Could you explain again the distinction between feudalism and manorialism? You mentioned that a manor could be attached to a monastery as well as to a lord. But what was the difference from the peasant’s point of view? They still owed services. What do you mean by “a system of agriculture?””

    I think there are three things which have traditionally been wrongly treated as a whole and are now (i’m beginning to think also wrongly) are treated as entirely separate:
    – movement to large communal villages
    – the creation of manors as the base political unit
    – the economic support of knights as a military form

    The move to large communal villages seems to me to be simply a product of agricultural changes that took place between the 600s and the 1000s as those kind of villages exist independently of western style feudalism among the Slavs and also among the pre-conquest anglo-saxons (and therefore probably elsewhere). This seems to be simply a practical response to changing technology. I would say these are villages not manors as they can exist within the traditional tribal military and politcal forms also.

    The manor element seems to me to come in where each village is placed as part of the base of a political pyramid with some external authority placed over it that takes over or partially takes over the form of independent village authority that carried on in Russian Mirs.

    The feudal element (to me) comes into play because of the importance of the knight as a military form and how manorialism would be a good way to maintain a maximum number of knights.

    So agricultural (economic), political and military components.

    You can have the agricultural element independently. You can have the agricultural and political forms combined e.g. monastery manors. And you can have all three combined in the popular image of feudalism.

    .
    “Well, to me that just seems to be the difference between a free people and one that has been conquered, one responsible for its own defense (via kin) the other dependent on lords for their protection.”

    This is just my opinion but i think what’s been missing from the historical treatment of feudalism is human nature following the path of least resistance and almost everything being a process rather than an event.

    If we look back to roman forms what do we have?
    – small tenant farmers: these were originally the backbone of the roman republic and legions but were squashed out in Italy by the giant slave-estates however bands of coloni of ex-legionary small tenant farmers were planted in bands around whatever the limits of empire were at the time like a kind of imperial version of tree rings.
    – villas and latifundia, particularly in Italy but outside also, similar to the later manors but with slaves instead of peasants and generally part of a cash rather than subsistence economy
    – conquered tribal peoples carrying on their traditional kindred based farming mostly outside Italy

    Then we get the roman collapse and the forms then?
    – non-displaced tenant farmers carrying on
    – villas and latifundia mostly dying alongside the death of money supply and abandoned
    – non-displaced tribal peoples carrying on
    – new germannic tribal kindreds settling down en masse in particular areas, displacing the previous population and continuing their own traditional version
    – option A: the takeover of the previous elite’s villas and estates re-populated with serfs as an ad hoc form of manorialism?
    – option B:some enforced manorialism of conquered peoples in those areas where the invaders only had the numbers to displace the previous elite – like in Norman England?

    The roman villas and estates no longer existed in England by the time of the Norman conquest (and i guess a lot of the equivalent manors that had grown up since the saxon invasion would belong to the church?) so following the path of least resistance rule i’m guessing option A wasn’t enough for the Normans to give every knight some land so they went for option B. However in the Frankish conquests the villas and estates were still there and could be taken over and parcelled out so i’m guessing the Franks mostly went for option A.

    You can immediately see some political side-effects of this with a patchwork of
    – small clumps of very independent tenant farmers
    – areas of semi-free tribal kindreds (similar to the system that carried on among the Slavs)
    – areas of enforced manorialism with very downtrodden serfs
    – new manors carved out of the forest which required volunteers therefore led to a freer class of tenant peasantry

    Each of the above forms would have their own associated military form but as the knight became dominant it would make sense for kings and dukes to try and ensure that any new settlement was manorial-feudal.

    ///

    So you can see how regions with the most scope for new settlements i.e. the most land that was previously unused due to being heavy soil covered with forest i.e. northern europe, would be the place with the most new manors – and given the population increase that followed people from the new manors could eventually become the majority of the population in the most suitable regions whereas in southern europe although there would be some new settlements created in the manorial form if you wanted more knights the bulk would have to be enforced on pre-existing forms. With France as always being 50/50 in the middle.

    Reply

  31. Luke Lea
    “Thus ruling nobility appear everywhere that agricultural conditions permit”

    A quibble but i’d say it goes back to whenever there was a large enough surplus to support a ruling nobility and a sufficient number of nastyroughboys to protect them and possibly also a priesthood to justify it. When there isn’t a large enough surplus for both or maybe all three you won’t get a nobility e.g.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cucuteni-Trypillian_culture

    “and it goes all the way back to the very beginning of civilization. I discuss that historical process here. You can also read about the logic of it here.”

    however apart from quibbles i broadly agree with your general thesis. When there’s enough resource competition the primary engine of human social evolution is war and the invention of agriculture created the ability to conquer rather than just displace – however in the case of manorialism that general theory actually fits the new settlement idea because of the connection with providing knights.

    (n.b. When i read your Adam and Eve thing i’d just read about gobekli tepes and the thought i had was the myth better suited the change from foraging to agriculture as the garden of eden is written like a forager’s paradise and it seems that region was a forager’s paradise given the population numbers and organisation likely needed to build it – also gobekli made me wonder if these were the original angels

    – apart from real ones obviously.)

    Reply

  32. “if these were the original angels”

    meant to be

    “if these were the original protecting angels”

    Reply

  33. “The English word ‘lord’…”

    And “Lady” from “hlafdige” (the “g” is pronounced like a “y” iirc) or “loaf-kneader” i.e. breadmaker.

    Reply

  34. This post and all the quotes from Seccombe’s book have really piqued my interest; I broke down and ordered it. I’ve been really curious about the differences between western manorialism and the old Russian “mir” system, so I hope to learn more about that.

    So I just wanted to say thank you for introducing me to this book! Not the first and surely won’t be the last I’ve been introduced to by HBD chick…

    Reply

  35. @m.g. – “So I just wanted to say thank you for introducing me to this book!”

    you’re welcome! (^_^)

    i can’t remember exactly how i came across this book — i searched on google books for something related to marriage and/or families and/or medieval europe — something along those lines probably. (~_^) as far as i can tell, seccombe is a sociologist teaching in ontario and doesn’t seem to have done much/any primary research on families in medieval europe (although maybe i’m wrong about that) — and he also seems to be very much a leftist.

    BUT, from what i’ve read so far in the book, he has a really good grasp of the history of the european family from the middle ages onward. i need to order the book, too, ’cause so far i’ve only been peeking into it on google books! (^_^)

    Reply

  36. @g.w. – The move to large communal villages seems to me to be simply a product of agricultural changes that took place between the 600s and the 1000s as those kind of villages exist independently of western style feudalism among the Slavs and also among the pre-conquest anglo-saxons (and therefore probably elsewhere).”

    i think that’s exactly right. the shift to the heavy plow and the necessary looong fields (’cause it was just so darned hard to turn the plowing team!) — and the communal nature of the new farming — meant that you just couldn’t have small hamlets or single-family houses scattered all over the landscape ’cause they would just get in the way of the most efficient usage of the farmland.

    something i didn’t post about but which i came across in the article “Why Is There No Clientelism in Scandinavia? A Comparison of the Swedish and Greek Sequences of Development” (featured in this post) is that the reverse happened toward the start of the modern period in sweden (and many other northern european countries i presume). from the wikipedia entry on land reform:

    “Sweden: In 1757, the general reparcelling out of land began. In this process, the medieval principle of dividing all the fields in a village into strips, each belonging to a farm, was changed into a principle of each farm consisting of a few relatively large areas of land. The land was redistributed in proportion to earlier possession of land, while uninhabited forests far from villages were socialized.”

    in this process in sweden, people were physically moved to new locations — to small farms scattered across the landscape — because that was now a more efficient way of operating things with whatever new farming technologies they had then. this must’ve happened elsewhere, too, but i don’t know anything about the topic. i want to know more, though, ’cause you’d think there’d be some obvious impacts on mating patterns (like maybe people don’t marry sooo much in their own villages anymore but might marry someone who, once upon a time, would’ve live a long way away in a distant village?).

    Reply

  37. @g.w. – “also i just realised how important the potato is/was as a staple. you can get a ton of potatos out of almost nothing but they hadn’t arrived yet.”

    yeah, no potatoes in the early medieval period! i was also thinking about rutabagas/swedes ’cause you get more calories from them per acre than potatoes, and they’re really easy to grow in northern climes, but (and i didn’t know this) they don’t seem to have been cultivated much before the 1600-1700s.

    Reply

  38. @g.w. – “Now doing that in the context of overturning those traditional tribal relationships would lead to trouble, it could be imposed but at a steep cost in internal dissent.”

    yeah, this is the point i keep sticking at, too: why would the tribes or the kindreds give up being tribes/kindreds? you wouldn’t think they’d go willingly — and maybe they didn’t.

    this is where the two-pronged approach that giorgio ausenda talks about in “Kinship and marriage among the Visigoths“ comes into play. there was an “attack” on kindreds both from the kings/princes (the “politicians”) who found the kindreds to be a nuisance and who wrote up civil laws against inbreeding AND an attack on kindreds from the church. from ausenda:

    “This shows that both Church and State were interested in forbidding close kin marriages. Their common concern becomes clear when one bears in mind the recognized difficulty the Church had, from the fourth century onwards, in expanding into the countryside….

    “In conclusion, the strenuous effort [by the Church] to penetrate the countryside entailed a long-drawn battle against traditional religion, whose vehicle was the kin group, and substituting the authority of the elders of the kin group with that of a religious elder, the presbyteros. At the same time the king’s rule was undermined by revolts on the part of the most powerful kin groups, clans or sections, whose conspiracies and murders menaced the power of the state. Thus Church and State became allies in trying to do aways with the political power of extended kin groups utilizing all manners of impositions. One of the most effective among them was to destroy their cohesiveness by prohibition of close kin marriage.“

    it’s hard for me to imagine how the kings/princes would’ve managed without this new religion that everyone started following. it can be real hard to get people to do what you want — but once they believe in something (think: political correctness), then they can be awfully stupid!

    Reply

  39. hbdchick
    “in this process in sweden, people were physically moved to new locations — to small farms scattered across the landscape — because that was now a more efficient way of operating things with whatever new farming technologies they had then. this must’ve happened elsewhere, too”

    yes

    .
    “yeah, no potatoes in the early medieval period! i was also thinking about rutabagas/swedes ’cause you get more calories from them per acre than potatoes, and they’re really easy to grow in northern climes, but (and i didn’t know this) they don’t seem to have been cultivated much before the 1600-1700s.”

    yes i forgot about potato equivalents. i was about to suggest turnips, “neeps” in Scotland, as a possibility but i see “neep” actually refers to rutabagas also.

    .
    “when one bears in mind the recognized difficulty the Church had, from the fourth century onwards, in expanding into the countryside”

    I didn’t know about that – very interesting.

    Reply

  40. @g.w. – “‘when one bears in mind the recognized difficulty the Church had, from the fourth century onwards, in expanding into the countryside’

    I didn’t know about that – very interesting.”

    yes, i’d like to know more about this. i mean, there must’ve been some germanic and slavic kin-groups/clans who just said f*ck off! to proselytizers.

    were all the pre-christian tribes in northern europe as big of push-overs as the frisians who let st. boniface cut down their sacred tree? i understand that the frisians might have held their tongues because boniface was backed by charles martel, but didn’t any germans or slavs cut off the head of some “saint” who was interfering in their business? there must’ve been some sort of pushback somewhere.

    Reply

  41. ” i mean, there must’ve been some germanic and slavic kin-groups/clans who just said f*ck off! to proselytizers.”

    actually i did know about a lot of places where they had to *bend* to the local paganism i.e. churchs with carvings of all the celtic gods along the roof – which in some places may have been turned into gargoyles later – and one half of my family originally come from a remote swamp and the church there is full of carvings of the green man but now i think of it maybe there were a lot of “Wickerman” type incidents when the local Duke took his soldiers home – which would tie into the ability or otherwise of the local priest to enforce the cousin ban after he was left alone with the incestuous locals.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sheela_na_gig

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_Man

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wicker_man

    Reply

  42. @g.w. – “actually i did know about a lot of places where they had to *bend* to the local paganism….”

    that’s true. good point! the d.h. has been to central america and some of the locals there still leave offerings of slaughtered roosters and corn (maize) at the church, so yeah … some things obviously didn’t go away with the arrival of christianity. (people really will believe anything!)

    i still wanna hear about a couple of early christian preachers in pre-christian europe who got their heads lopped off for their troubles, tho. (~_^) some proper pushback! i mean, the romans threw a bunch of them christians to the lions. what did the germans or the slavs do?

    Reply

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