random notes: 08/05/13

a few more random notes from poolside … trying to do a little reading between mimosas at brunch and happy hour. (~_^)

from Incest and Influence: The Private Life of Bourgeois England (2009) [pgs. 97-98]:

“The level of cousin marriage in country districts seemed surprisingly low. George Darwin‘s cousin, Clement Wedgwood, made an inquiry on his behalf among skilled artisans in the Potteries [presumably those @ etruria in staffordshire in the west midlands]. In a sample of 149, he did not find a single case of first-cousin marriage. ‘He was further assured that such marriages never take place amongst them,’ George Darwin noted…. Except in very isolated districts, like those [in ne scotland] investiaged by Arthur Mitchell, rural people were not inclined to marry cousins. This conclusion is supported by the findings of Alan Macfarlane, who studied the marriage records of 800 people in East Colne, Essex [in se england], for the sixteenth to the eighteenth century and found only one first-cousin marriage and two marriages with more distant cousins.”

previously: more on consanguinity in england (and scotland)

from The History of English Law Before the Time of Edward I (2008, orig. pub. 1898) [pg. 387] — i have to admit that i haven’t read of this before:

“The rule to which the church ultimately came was that defined by Innocent III. at the Lateran council of 1215, namely that marriages within the fourth degree of consanguinity are null. Before that decree, the received doctrine was — and it was received in England as well as elsewhere — that marriage within the seventh degree of the canonical computation was forbidden, but that kinship in the sixth or seventh degree was only *impedimentum impediens*, a cause which would render a marriage sinful, not *impedimentum dirimens*, a cause which would render a marriage null. Laxer rules had for a while been accepted; but to this result the canonists had slowly come.”

so even when the church had banned cousin marriage to a ridiculous degree (out to sixth cousins), fourth- through sixth-cousin marriages were never actually null and void. that would presumably affect things like inheritance — illegitimate children often not being allowed to inherit — and might influence people’s decisions to marry a distant cousin or not (if they could work out who they were!). the children of fourth- through sixth-cousin spouses would not have been illegitimate.

from The Oxford History of the Laws of England: The Canon Law and Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction from 597 to the 1640s (2004) [pgs. 46-48]:

“The Prohibited Degrees

“If one had to judge by the quantity of remaining evidence alone, one might say that the leaders of the Anglo-Saxon church cared more about the prohibited degrees of affinity and consanguinity than they did about the principle of marriage as a lifelong union…. The Laws of Wihtred (693 X 731) prohibited ‘living in unlawful intercourse’, and the legatine synods later in the eighth century prohibited all ‘unlawful and incestuous unions’, although the exact definition of the unlawful degrees of kinship was assumed rather than stated explicitly. However, the ‘Northumbrian Priests’ Law’ stated the prohibition in the terms that would later be the norm: spiritual affinity and a relationship closer than the fourth degree. It denied ‘Christian burial and God’s mercy’ to those who violated the prohibition; apparently the concept of nullity of marriage had not been fully assimilated.

the northumbrian priests’ law was written by wulfstan (d.1023), archbishop of york. interesting punishment for those who married close cousins — you wouldn’t get a christian burial. that might’ve been important to a lot of people (especially if they wanted to be buried with their family). who knows how well, or for how long, this was enforced.

continuing on…

“Most historians who have looked at the question have concluded that compliance with this aspect of the law of the church was slow to come. Strong evidence supports that view. In part, the slowness was the fruit of ignorance. St Boniface [d.754] expressed surprise when he learned that ‘spiritual kinship’ was created by lifting a child from the baptismal font and was being treated as an impediment to marriage among the Franks. But it was the law. Slowness also came from attachment to old ways. Letters from the archbiship of Reims to King Alfred (c.890) reproached him for permitting the continuation of pagan habits in contracting marriages between kin. Change in such habits was difficult to effect. The laws of King Aethelred issued in 1014 and drawn up by Archbishop Wulfstan, bemoaned the existence of so many breaches of the marriage law in England. Of course, the church itself had not always been entirely of one mind on the prohibited degree. Some of the rules against marriage between those related by blood or marriage were stated in quite vague terms. Archbishop Oda’s [of canterbury, d.958] ‘Constitutions’, as already mentioned, forbade marrying ‘cognates or other unlawful persons’. Papal letters exhorted their English recipients not to marry ‘within their own kindred’. They said nothing about how near the kinship had to be or how unlawfulness was to be defined.

“Precision would have been hard to reach. A different method of reckoning degrees of affinity and consanguinity prevailed among Germanic peoples than that which obtained in Rome, and it is not always clear in the Anglo-Saxon sources which of the two was intended. Even Theodore’s [archbishop of canterbury, d.690] Penitential set them out uncertainly. Among the Greeks, it stated, it was lawful to be joined in the third degree, among the Romans in the fifth. The laws of Aethelred [d.1016], by contrast, stated that ‘six degrees of relationship [meant] within the fourth knee’. But the easily used and detailed *Arbores consanguinitatis* and *Arbores affinitiatis* that permitted accurate and easy computation of the prohibited degrees would only appear once the law of the church was stabilized in the thirteenth century.

previously: anglo-saxon mating patterns and more on anglo-saxon mating patterns

(note: comments do not require an email. *hic*)



  1. Yes, I wonder “How did they know?” These were not generally literate people, and I am thinking that people kept track only if a lot of property was at stake. I have discovered as an adult that people I have met are 3rd or 4th cousins – and I keep the family tree. Unless a particular unusual surname – Neat, Lindquist, Pond – shows up, I would likely have no clue about 6th cousins.


  2. “Yes, I wonder “How did they know?”

    I don’t know for sure but one branch of my family has been living up a mountain marrying their sisters for centuries – or not in fact – because all the old women can reel off who is related to who to a (to me) quite remarkable degree. I think you’d need a mechanism like that to make it work.


  3. @joe – “Don’t you think that your obsession with incest might be a little unhealthy?”

    well, no. it seems to be pretty clear that inbreeding can and does affect altruistic behaviors, the mechanism presumably related to inclusive fitness. and i think that this has some pretty big implications for the natures of human societies (i.e. “clannishness” or not).

    the amazing thing is that, apart from steve sailer and his Cousin Marriage Conundrum article, all of this seems to have been completely overlooked, at least since the ’80s (see first link above).

    i’ve gotten the impression from some of your previous comments, joe, that you don’t really like my discussions on clannishness. i don’t know for sure, of course, but i think you might be taking it personally. please don’t. my own ethnic background — a population that i have discussed here on the blog — is a clannish one. my people are one of the piigs of europe. they’re not as dysfunctional or corrupt as, say, many populations in the arab world, but there are problems — problems when it comes to trying to build a modern society based on non-clannish models (which is a mistake, imho).

    so really — if you are taking it personally, please don’t. some peoples are clannish — some more than others — and some peoples are not. it requires explanation, i think — and i think that inbreeding/outbreeding might be the key.


  4. when it comes to trying to build a modern society based on non-clannish models (which is a mistake, imho).

    Would you clarify that parenthesis?


  5. @luke – “Would you clarify that parenthesis?”

    imho, everyone’s putting the cart before the horse when it comes to getting many developing nations to be like the west. you know — if, for instance, the arab world would just adopt liberal democratic systems, those nations will somehow miraculously become just like canada or scandinavia.

    that’s the wrong way ’round, i think — i think we’re giving those people the wrong advice in telling them that they ought, again for instance, to adopt liberal democracy. arab (and many other developing nations’) societies are just not built for it — and i suspect the populations are not actually capable of it.

    not that there’s anything wrong with that! just skip it. do something else. something that will work the best for those populations. for example, what is it that they have (or had?) in place in lebanon (can’t remember what they call it) in which all the different groups are guaranteed representation in the lebanese parliament? that seems to work pretty well there — at least last time i read anything about lebanon (which is quite a while ago, i have to admit).

    or maybe just use — or adapt — native institutions.

    there’s too much trying to fit square pegs into circular holes, imo. clannish societies shouldn’t adopt the institutions of non-clannish societies. modern history, i think, shows us that it just won’t work. causes too much grief for too many people.

    (that’s my attempt at applied human biodiversity. (~_^) )


  6. i’ve gotten the impression from some of your previous comments, joe, that you don’t really like my discussions on clannishness

    It is not that I don’t like them, it just seems to be that you are almost constantly writing about incest, inbreeding and the like. Just my observation.


  7. “it just seems to be that you are almost constantly writing about incest, inbreeding and the like”

    You don’t seem to have understood the basic idea being pursued here i.e. that particular patterns of relatedness lead to particular social forms.


  8. @joe – “…it just seems to be that you are almost constantly writing about incest, inbreeding and the like. Just my observation.”

    yes, your observation is correct (although i do write about outbreeding, too). (^_^)

    meanwhile, some hbd people write endlessly about iq or race presumably because that’s what interests them. what interests me is what greying wanderer said above.

    or do you also think that when an hbd’er focuses on one topic like iq or race that their interest “might be a little unhealthy”?


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