kinship, the state, and violence

earlier this month, the inestimable peter frost wrote:

“Over the past millennium, Western Europeans have created a social environment where the individual is largely free from collective ties of kinship and ethnicity. Because the State has imposed a monopoly on the use of violence, there is less need to rely on kinsmen to safeguard one’s life and property. That’s what the government is for. In many other societies, however, the State is much more recent and often foreign. Collective identity still matters most and, when the chips are down, personal ties of friendship matter little. Your real friends are your ‘blood’.”

in The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined (2011), steven pinker says that, in england, this process of the state taking over and monopolizing violence began during the reign of henry i, which lasted from 1100-1135 a.d. [kindle locations 1830-1839]:

“Feuding among knights and peasants was not just a nuisance but a lost opportunity. During Norman rule in England, some genius recognized the lucrative possibilities in nationalizing justice. For centuries the legal system had treated homicide as a tort: in lieu of vengeance, the victim’s family would demand a payment from the killer’s family, known as blood money or wergild (‘man-payment’; the *wer* is the same prefix as in *werewolf*, ‘man-wolf’). King Henry I redefined homicide as an offense against the state and its metonym, the crown. Murder cases were no longer *John Doe vs. Richard Roe*, but *The Crown vs. John Doe* (or later, in the United States, *The People vs. John Doe* or *The State of Michigan vs. John Doe*). The brilliance of the plan was that the wergild (often the offender’s entire assets, together with additional money rounded up from his family) went to the king instead of to the family of the victim. Justice was administered by roving courts that would periodically visit a locale and hear the accumulated cases. To ensure that all homicides were presented to the courts, each death was investigated by a local agent of the crown: the coroner.”

pinker cites daly and wilson (1988) on this who, in turn, cite hurnard (1969). there is also green (1972). see also The Aristocracy of Norman England (2002), pg. 243.

the only problem with this picture is, as was discussed on this blog in a previous post, there is good evidence that the kindred in anglo-saxon england — the importance of kinship, in other words — was already beginning to disappear (in southern england, anyway) in the early 900s, or maybe even the late 800s, a full two hundred years before henry i and his coroners showed up on the scene.

as i said in that post:

“the *gegildan* appears in some of the anglo-saxon laws in the late-800s as an *alternative* group of people to whom wergeld might be paid if the wronged individual had no kin. by the 900s, though, in southern england, the *gegildan* might be the only group that received wergeld, bypassing kin altogether.”

again, from Wage Labor and Guilds in Medieval Europe (1991) [pgs. 39-42]:

“The laws of King Alfred of Wessex, dated to 892-893 or a few years earlier, are more informative about the *gegildan*. Again, the context is murder and the wergild — the compensation required for the crime. By Alfred’s time, if not during Ine’s, the *gegildan* is clearly a group of associates who were not related by blood. The clearest example of this is in chapter 31 of the laws: ‘If a man in this position is slain — if he has no relatives (maternal or paternal) — half the wergild shall be paid to the king, and half to the *gegildan*.’ No information exists on the purpose of the *gegildan* other than its role as a substitute for kinship ties for those without any relatives. These associates, who presumably were bound together by an oath for mutual protection, if only to identify who was responsible, would benefit anyone, whether the person had relatives or not…. Although the evidence from the laws of Ine may be read either way, the *gegildan* seems to be an old social institution. As seen more clearly in the tenth and eleventh centuries, it acquired additional functions — a policing role and a religious character.

The nobles, clergy, and commoners of London agreed upon a series of regulations for the city, with the encouragement and approval of King Athelstan, who caused the rules to be set down some time in the late 920s or 930s. The primary purpose of these ordinances was to maintain peace and security in the city, and all those supporting these goals had solemnly pledged themselves to this *gegildan*. This type of inclusive guild, sometimes referred to as a peace guild, was an attempt to create one more additional level of social responsibility to support the king and his officials in keeping the peaces. This social group of every responsible person in London is a broad one, and the law does not use the term *gegildan* to describe the association in general….

“The idea of a guild to keep the peace was not limited to London, and a document from the late tenth century contains the rules and duties of the thegn’s guild in Cambridge. This guild appears to have been a private association, and no king or noble is mentioned as assenting to or encouraging this group. Most of the rules concern the principle purposes of this guild — the security of the members, which receives the most attention, and the spiritual benefits of membership itself. The guild performed the tasks of the old *gegildan*: the members were obliged to defend one another, collect the wergild, and take up vengeance against anyone refusing to pay compensation. The members also swore an oath of loyalty to each other, promising to bring the body of a deceased member to a chosen burial site and supply half the food for the funeral feast. For the first time, another category of help was made explicit — the guild bound itself to common almsgiving for departed members — and the oath of loyalty the members swore included both religious and secular affairs. Although in many respects this guild resembles a confraternity along the lines Hincmar established for the archdiocese of Rheims, the older purpose of the group — mutual protection with its necessary threat of vengeance — makes the Anglo-Saxon guild something more than a prayer meeting. To include almsgiving to members in distress would be a small step, given the scope of activities this guild established. There is no sign that the thegns cooperated in any economic endeavors, but older rules of rural society had already determined methods of sharing responsibility in the villages, and the thegns cooperated on everything that was important in their lives. The thegns of Cambridge had a guild that resembles in some important ways the communal oath, that will be discussed below, of some Italian cities in the next century.”

so, in england anyway, the individual didn’t become “largely free from collective ties of kinship and ethnicity” thanks to the state. anglo-saxon individuals were already on their way to becoming free from the collective ties of kinship before the state stepped in.
_____

pinker has a neat chart in Better Angels — Fig. 3.3 – Homicide rates in five Western European regions, 1300–2000:

pinker - fig. 3.3

as he says about england [kindle locations 1581-1584]:

“Once again we see a decline in annual homicide rates, and it is not small: from between 4 and 100 homicides per 100,000 people in the Middle Ages to around 0.8 (eight-tenths of a homicide) per 100,000 in the 1950s. The timing shows that the high medieval murder rates cannot be blamed on the social upheavals that followed the Black Death around 1350, because many of the estimates predated that epidemic.”

and [kindle locations 1599-1603]:

“Were the English unusual among Europeans in gradually refraining from murder? Eisner looked at other Western European countries for which criminologists had compiled homicide data. Figure 3–3 shows that the results were similar. Scandinavians needed a couple of additional centuries before they thought the better of killing each other, and Italians didn’t get serious about it until the 19th century. But by the 20th century the annual homicide rate of every Western European country had fallen into a narrow band centered on 1 per 100,000.”

i discussed this difference in the timing of the drop in homicide rates between various european countries in a previous post — outbreeding, self-control and lethal violence — in which i looked at manuel eisner’s paper, Modernization, Self‐Control and Lethal Violence. pinker also drew on eisner’s work for Better Angels. in that paper, eisner said:

“[T]he data suggest that the secular trajectories of low homicide rates differ among large geographic areas. It appears that English homicide rates were already considerably lower in the late sixteenth century than during the late Middle Ages and that they declined continuously along a log-linear trend over several centuries. Extant estimates for the Netherlands and Belgium suggest a very similar structure trend in these areas. In the Scandinavian countries, the transistion to the decreasing trend occurs notably later, namely in the first decades after 1600. Despite huge gaps in the data, the German-speaking areas may also be assumed to have joined the declining trend from the early seventeenth century onwards. For Italy, however, all the available data indicate that acts of individual-level lethal violence remained very frequent until the early nineteenth century. It is not until the mid-nineteenth century that the rate begins to decline, but then very steeply.”

and, as i said in my previous post:

“hmmmm. now where have i heard a pattern like this before? england, the netherlands, germans earliest in *some*thing … scandinavians later … italians last.”

that “something” that i was referring to is, of course, the avoidance of close cousin marriage — or The Outbreeding Project, as i like to call it. (i guess i should really call it The European Outbreeding Project or The Norwestern European Outbreeding Project.) the importance of kinship — extended families and kindreds — disappeared in large parts of northwestern europe, because northwest europeans quit marrying their close cousins, and the ties (including genetic) between individual northwest europeans and their extended family members simply loosened. loosened to the extent that, after several hundreds of years, extended families and kindreds just didn’t matter to people anymore. and, so, kindred-driven activities like feuding ceased and homicide rates decreased markedly.

the dutch — thanks to having been a part of frankish austrasia — and the southern english (especially the ones in kent) — thanks to being heavily influenced by the franks just across the channel — began avoiding cousin marriage very early in the medieval period, probably already in the 600-700s (see “mating patterns in europe series” below ↓ in left-hand column — also more on medieval england and france). the germans weren’t far behind, especially since the franks had so much influence in what would eventually become germany over the course of the medieval period (see the ostsiedlung). the scandinavians lagged behind since they were comparatively late in adopting christianity (and, therefore, in adopting the cousin marriage bans). and the italians were very late since they mostly did not have manorialism (which reinforced the cousin marriage bans). the italians, in fact — especially southern italians — kept marrying close cousins up until very recently.
_____

eisner offered several explanations — not necessarily mutually exclusive — for why homicide rates should’ve dropped so much in western europe over the course of the middle ages. one of the ones that steven pinker latched on to was the idea of the leviathan — the replacement of family feuds and compensation for killings with punishment (esp. execution) by the state. certainly there’s probably something to this — removing enough violent individuals from the gene pool could very well reduce the frequencies of “genes for violence” in a population in just one thousand years or so. (see also peter frost on rome – pdf.)

eisner also suggested another explanation, though, one that he drew from emile durkheim [pg. 632]:

Durkheim saw the decline of homicide rates as resulting from the liberation of the individual from collective bonds rather than as the consequence of the coercive potential of the state. High levels of lethal violence thus mirror the intensity of ‘collective emotions’, which bind the individual to ‘groups of things that symbolically represent these groups’. Violence thus declines to the degree that the person becomes liberated from its sacred obligation to the group, and the rise of moral individualism brings about both subjective reflexivity and emotional indifference in conflict situations (Durkheim 1957: 115).”

replace “liberated from its sacred obligation to the group” with “more and more outbred” and you’ve got a nice, little sociobiological theory there!

“This theoretical approach offers valuable insights into the historical patterns of declining homicide rates. First, the Durkheimian argument offers a theoretical framework for understanding the multifarious cultural meanings of violence in medieval society. Much empirical research on the topic emphasizes the crucial role of insults in triggering situational conflicts. This is in accordance with a society in which ‘honour’ constitutes highly important social capital of the male person as a representative of his group. It requires retributive violence as a potential and culturally accepted means for maintaining one’s honour. Such a theoretical framework may help to better understand why the secular decline in homicide rates primarily seems to have been due to a decrease in male-to-male fights. And it may also offer a point of departure for understanding the high violence rates in italy, where a culture of honour persisted despite the early development of administrative and judicial structures in the city states.

in anglo-saxon england, then, the kinship groups and their “culture of honor” (feuds, etc.) declined before the state got involved in safeguarding the lives of individuals. meanwhile, in medieval italy, the culture of honor persisted despite the presence of states that punished violent offenders. the difference, of course, is that italy — especially southern italy — barely ever joined in The Outbreeding Project, whereas england was one of its leading nations.

previously: the importance of the kindred in anglo-saxon society and outbreeding, self-control and lethal violence and what pinker missed and more on genetics and the historical decline of violence and clannishness defined

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

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29 Comments

  1. “Because the State has imposed a monopoly on the use of violence, there is less need to rely on kinsmen to safeguard one’s life and property. That’s what the government is for.” That is comical. Like Hell that’s “what it’s for.”

    James C. Scott cites to Jared Diamond, citing to Pinker, claiming the state imposed peace on uncivilized, violent savages.

    First, it does not follow that the state, by curtailing ‘private’ violence, reduces the total amount of violence. As Norbert Elias pointed out more than half a century ago in The Civilising Process, what the state does is to centralise and monopolise violence in its own hands, a fact that Diamond, coming as he does from a nation that has initiated several wars in recent decades and a state (California) that has a prison population of roughly 120,000 – most of them non-violent offenders – should appreciate.
     
    Second, Hobbes’s fable at least has nominally equal contractants agreeing to establish a sovereign for their mutual safety. That is hard to reconcile with the fact that all ancient states without exception were slave states. The proportion of slaves seldom dropped below 30 per cent of the population in early states, reaching 50 per cent in early South-East Asia (and in Athens and Sparta as much as 70 and 86 per cent). War captives, conquered peoples, slaves purchased from slave raiders and traders, debt bondsmen, criminals and captive artisans – all these people were held under duress, as the frequency of state collapse, revolt and flight attests. As either a theory or a historical account of state-formation, Diamond’s story makes no sense.

    This business about the importance of outbreeding is most interesting.

    Reply

  2. I was waiting for your follow-up to Frost’s post. :)

    I think we really do need genetic analysis to determine the levels of “genetic fracturing” across these populations. I think ROH would work well. Another option is to do IBD comparison on European populations on pairs of individuals who are of equal level of pedigree. For example, you could compare 1st, 2nd, or 3rd cousins in England and see if they are less related to each other, on average, than 1st, 2nd, or 3rd cousins in Southern Italy, as your hypothesis would predict.

    On at least one population, I meant bring up this paper of IBD in the French Canadians that Razib Khan tweeted a while ago:

    Genome-wide patterns of identity-by-descent sharing in the French Canadian founder population

    Looks like something for you to mine, despite the fact it only had a smallish sample of <150.

    Reply

  3. I will add for the IBD, you would want to compare within and between family to see in individuals within the populations that should be more inbred are more related to their family members with respect to the overall level of genetic relatedness of the population as a whole than individuals from populations which should be outbred.

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  4. @jayman – ” I think ROH would work well. Another option is to do IBD comparison on European populations on pairs of individuals who are of equal level of pedigree. For example, you could compare 1st, 2nd, or 3rd cousins in England and see if they are less related to each other, on average, than 1st, 2nd, or 3rd cousins in Southern Italy, as your hypothesis would predict.”

    yes! excellent. thank you! (^_^) i’ve been thinking along the same lines myself as, yes, cousins in inbred societies ought to share more roh (or ibd segments) than in outbred ones — i’ve seen one example where this has been shown to be the case (for roh). maybe there are more examples out there…i should look around!

    @jayman – “I will add for the IBD, you would want to compare within and between family to see in individuals within the populations that should be more inbred are more related to their family members with respect to the overall level of genetic relatedness of the population as a whole than individuals from populations which should be outbred.”

    yes! good thinking. thanks again! (^_^)

    i’ve been thinking, too, that it’s next to impossible, maybe, to compare, say, the roh in europeans or africans with native americans, etc., etc. got bottleneck and other problems between the populations that…well, i don’t know if there’s any way around them (any way to calibrate for them, for instance?).

    (what i want are full genome sequences from skeletal remains from all sorts of populations for the last one or two thousand years. LOTS of them. of family groups, like you suggest. is that too much to ask? (~_^) )

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  5. bonus from durkheim (from the eisner paper, pg. 631):

    “Durkheim (1973) showed that in the late nineteenth century an arc of high murder rates ranging from Ireland over Spain, Italy, Austria, and Hungary encircled a zone of low homicide rates.”

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  6. Fascinating, however it doesn’t necessarily follow that out-breeding will result in the exact same behavior set for any given population once they are thoroughly out-bred.

    It also still makes me wonder what happened that started it all. Who first got the idea that marrying cousins was bad? I have this crazy vision of some sheep herder/breeder in 600BCE Greece having a torch light up over his head. Heck, this knowledge could have cropped up a few times in history only to be lost, like for instance ancient Sumeria, persia, china. it makes me wonder if it comes up in waves… Out-breeding brings brains which allows innovation that grows population (among other things) until something (maybe the competition inherent in higher population? cross migration of less fortunate in breeders?) causes people to lose social trust and keep it in the family more, leading to regression/collapse until some other marginal society starts out breeding and everything starts over again.

    ~S

    Reply

  7. Sisyphean:
    Ancient Greeks (including the Athenians) regularly married their cousins, and uncles their nieces. Even marriage between half-siblings was not uncommon. We also have evidence for a high rate of full brother and sister marriage amongst the Greek population of Egypt during the Roman period.

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  8. You may be interested to know that a Cambridge guild, the Guild of Corpus Christi, established one of the Cambridge colleges. I’ll let you guess which.

    Reply

  9. Sisyphean
    “Heck, this knowledge could have cropped up a few times in history only to be lost”

    I’d bet on it.

    anon
    “Ancient Greeks (including the Athenians) regularly married their cousins, and uncles their nieces. Even marriage between half-siblings was not uncommon. We also have evidence for a high rate of full brother and sister marriage amongst the Greek population of Egypt during the Roman period.”

    Cleisthenes

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

    “After this victory Cleisthenes began to reform the government of Athens. In order to forestall strife between the traditional clans, which had led to the tyranny in the first place, he changed the political organization from the four traditional tribes, which were based on family relations, into ten tribes according to their area of residence (their deme).

    *If* that created a situation where people started to marry within their deme – to cement alliances – then you’d get a process where over multiple generations the old clans were broken down and new deme-based clans formed instead but in the *middle* of that transition what would you get? By a strange coincidence you’d get the golden age of Athens.

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  10. GW, this is the same anon as before. I’m well aware of what Cleisthenes did to the clans but marriage between close relations continued steadily into the golden age of Athens, so there doesn’t seem to have been too great of an effect if any. Just to give some examples: Pericles’ first wife (by whom his sons were born) was his cousin, Plato’s mother married her uncle and had two children by him (after the death of Plato’s father), Alcibiades parents were first cousins and his daughter married her first cousin. Thucydides’ parents were also first cousins.

    The golden age of Athens is so soon after the creation of the demes that we can hardly attribute the former to the latter in terms of clannishness, especially when the practice of cousin marriage (as well as nephew-niece and half-sibling marriage) continued throughout that period. The Greeks were always very concerned about the in-group vs. the out-group, on multiple levels. Their civilization was also arguably the highest point in the west.

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  11. On a slightly different note, that chart is misleading in that (as far as I know) it isn’t adjusted for age. Life expectancy doubled from 1800 to 2000 and senior citizens don’t kill very often. So it doesn’t really show how human behavior changed during that period. There was also better medicine and emergency health care that turned murders into assaults. It’s also interesting that even with these factors concealing the brutality, the rates still increase around the time when large scale multiculturalism was introduced, around 1980.

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  12. Jayman, please define and explain ROH and IBD whenever you discuss them for us poor souls who can’t remember what the initials stand for, but who otherwise might be able to appreciate the argument. thanks,

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  13. @luke – “…please define and explain ROH and IBD whenever you discuss them for us poor souls who can’t remember what the initials stand for, but who otherwise might be able to appreciate the argument.”

    i should really work up a handy-dandy glossary that we could all refer to! another project to add to The List. (^_^)

    roh = runs of homozygosity
    ibd = identity by descent (often referred to in the literature as ibd segments)

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  14. @staffan – “On a slightly different note, that chart is misleading in that (as far as I know) it isn’t adjusted for age. Life expectancy doubled from 1800 to 2000 and senior citizens don’t kill very often. So it doesn’t really show how human behavior changed during that period. There was also better medicine and emergency health care that turned murders into assaults.”

    yes. eisner does address these in the paper.

    wrt the life expectancy issue, he says [my emphasis]:

    “Some systematic distortion occurs, however, as a result of the changing age-structure of the population. Since young men have always committed most homicides and because their share of the total population has considerably declined throughout the twentieth century, the recent rise in lethal violence tends to be underestimated (Monkkonen 1999).”

    and wrt emergency health care:

    “In my view, the potentially most serious systematic distorting factor is the advance *in medical technology*. Undoubtedly, a significant proportion of people who died some time after having been wounded in pre-modern societies would be rescued by means of modern medical technology. Spierenburg (1996) and Monkkonen (2000) have attempted to estimate the proportion of pre twentieth-century homicide victims who did not immediately die and who might therefore be rescued nowadays. Spierenburg estimates that about a quarter of victims in Amsterdam around 1700 might have been saved by contemporary medical technology. Monkkonen (2000) finds that about half of the violent deaths in nineteenth-century New York could have been prevented by modern technology. Thus again, the increase of homicides since the 1960s may well underestimate the actual rise of violence levels when compared to earlier historical periods. However, most scholars agree that medical technology is not a candidate for explaining the massive decline of homicide rates, which occurred mostly before the twentieth century.”

    keep in mind that the scale of the chart is a logarithmic one (maybe i should’ve pointed that out! (*^_^*) ), so the decrease we’re seeing there isn’t just a nice, steady linear one. it’s a dramatic drop off the edge of a cliff! (of a good kind!)

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  15. @anonymous – “We also have evidence for a high rate of full brother and sister marriage amongst the Greek population of Egypt during the Roman period.”

    yes, although that was a sort-of special, odd case — a small minority spread out throughout that country trying to hold on to its property/wealth. i think that was a practice that arose there in egypt (perhaps influenced by the knowledge of how the pharaohs married?) which doesn’t reflect back much on the greeks in greece.

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  16. @sisyphean – “it doesn’t necessarily follow that out-breeding will result in the exact same behavior set for any given population once they are thoroughly out-bred.”

    no! absolutely not. i agree. (^_^) there will inevitably be a whole host of other — and varying — selective pressures on different populations, so you’re gonna get different end results.

    i suspect, though, that long-term outbreeding might result in some common behavioral patterns — really broad ones, mind you, but a couple of common ones. (i could be wrong.) for instance, i theorize that long-term outbreeding will result in:

    – an increasing importance of/emphasis upon the individual
    – a tendency towards smaller family sizes
    – an increase in uncoerced cooperation across the larger group size (like an ethnic group or even a nation)
    – less restrictions on women (restrictions which usually related somehow to their reproductive capacity)

    there might be others, too. and, again, some or all of these might be wrong!

    @sisyphean – Heck, this knowledge could have cropped up a few times in history only to be lost, like for instance ancient Sumeria, persia, china. it makes me wonder if it comes up in waves… Out-breeding brings brains which allows innovation that grows population (among other things) until something (maybe the competition inherent in higher population? cross migration of less fortunate in breeders?) causes people to lose social trust and keep it in the family more, leading to regression/collapse until some other marginal society starts out breeding and everything starts over again.”

    yes! i think that’s absolutely right. the chinese have been on to this (i.e. putting a stop to cousin marriage) at least a couple of times in their long history — definitely during the ming dynasty, possibly (probably) during the tang dynasty, and now, someone pointed out to me on twitter, maybe even as far back as the qin dynasty. it could very well be and wouldn’t surprise me at all. my impression is that all sorts of leaders have understood that inmarriage leads to troublesome clans (although they may not have thought about the biology of it, just the “forming alliances” part). (i suspect that the sumerians outbred, too, but the evidence is so tenuous — hard to prove.)

    the problems have always been 1) enforcement (you’ve gotta be consistent about it!), and 2) falling back into the cousin marriage pattern. what you said about competition in larger populations could very well be right. see my next comment below about the greeks. (^_^)

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  17. @grey – “*If* that created a situation where people started to marry within their deme – to cement alliances – then you’d get a process where over multiple generations the old clans were broken down and new deme-based clans formed instead but in the *middle* of that transition what would you get? By a strange coincidence you’d get the golden age of Athens.”

    i think the genetic unravelling (thnx to outbreeding) and the selection for — whatever — greater individualism, greater collectivism across the larger society, etc. (higher iq? see: the naturalist philosophers) — take a little longer. but not forever!

    my theory (and i could be wrong!) is that the golden age of athens is connected to the apparent long-term outbreeding a few hundred years earlier in the archaic age. the inbreeding, apparently, ramped up at the start of the golden age when the poleis (is that really the plural?) started becoming more important. (<<there's the competition in larger populations, sisyphean, and, so, the fallback into inbreeding.)

    cleisthenes and his reforms were, i think, an attempt to address the problems that the renewed increase in inbreeding were bringing to athens — corruption, favoritism by “the families” towards their family members, etc. i doubt his reshuffling of the demes helped much. not if everyone carried on (or even, perhaps, increased) the inbreeding.

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  18. @chris – “Is Austria behind the Hajnal line?”

    austria’s one of the border countries wrt the hajnal line, so presumably the further east you go in austria, the less hajnaly it becomes.

    (the line, of course, shouldn’t be drawn perfectly straight like that. it should squiggle back and forth down through eastern europe. presumably nobody quite knows exactly where the squiggles should go, though.)

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  19. @dearieme – “You may be interested to know that a Cambridge guild, the Guild of Corpus Christi, established one of the Cambridge colleges. I’ll let you guess which.”

    hmmmm? tricky one, that! (^_^)

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  20. Michael Lotus, I can’t tell how much you support Scott’s view, but let me weigh in on its weaknesses. However much we wail about state violence, the homicide rate, however defined, is still far less over the last couple of centuries. Started wars in the 20th C…oh well, horrors. Nothing like that ever happened before, did it? I recommend Lawrence Keeley’s War Before Civilization: The Myth of the Peaceful Savage. The graph is, as our hostess points out, logarithmic, and the decrease in violence is profound. We live in a gentle age. So too with Californian incarceration. You might convince me that the rate is too high. You can’t convince me that it bears remote resemblance of the violence of any societies before 1900. And before 1500 it’s just laughable. Rich societies imprison because they value life. Poor societies just behead them.

    Staffan, there’s something in what you say, but the doubling in life expectancy comes largely from improved infant mortality. Preschoolers also commit few murders, even in Malmo.

    Sisyphean – the early Christian Church expanded the Hebraic circle of who one could marry who. Whether one thinks they had figured out a dimly understood secret or were simply trying to undermine competing societal authorities, the practical effect was the same.

    As to the original post, a virtuous cycle is certainly possible. If one trusts the state a bit more, one feels less compelled to marry for protections and conserving clan assets, and freer to travel a few towns over and marry for money, or at least opportunity and solid virtues like intelligence, loyalty, thrift, or hard work..(Beauty and charm would have to wait until the next phase.) This in turn would reduce the opposition folks would have to government takeovers of justice.

    Or even just an increase for random reasons. Under System A, there were 17 possible brides for you. Under System B, you lose half of those as being too close, but gain another 30 possibles. Even throwing darts, there’s going to be less cousin marriage.

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  21. My intuition is that diminishing strength of kinship ties in S England is overstated in the popular mind due to cultural ‘object-field’ focus. There’s nothing funny, quirky or interesting about regular folks doing regular stuff (in the blurry ‘field’ as it were). Hence in, say, Wodehousian, Wilde-ian, or Coward(ly?) comedy the subjects (objects) ALWAYS loathe, despise or dread their nearest and dearest, while assuming an air of benign indifference towards strangers not actively plotting against them. Something about exceptions proving rules… now where have I seen that?

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  22. @anon

    “I’m well aware of what Cleisthenes did to the clans but marriage between close relations continued steadily into the golden age of Athens”

    Sure but which close relatives? If there was even a partial switch to marriage alliances within the deme rather than within the original clans then even if they went from cousin marriage to cousin marriage with just one break in the chain that might be a very dramatic (if temporary) phase of outbreeding.

    For example two brothers whose kids would normally marry their cousins within the clan are instead married off to people within the deme and then the children from that go back to marrying their cousins in their new deme-based clan. Assuming this process happened but not overnight then that might be 4-8 generations? 3-6? 6-12?

    (One key point here is if this process did occur is because the Athenians would have been quite closely related to start with then Athens would have gone from the clannish, everyone is either a 2nd cousin or 8th cousin pattern, to a *temporary* optimal (?) outbred everyone is a 4th cousin pattern and then back to the clannish 2nd/8th pattern again.)

    .

    “The golden age of Athens is so soon after the creation of the demes that we can hardly attribute the former to the latter in terms of clannishness”

    I’m inclined to agree on balance but i wonder. If there were parallel coincidences in India and China before periods of innovation then that might sway it.

    Reply

  23. “Assuming this process happened but not overnight then that might be 4-8 generations? 3-6? 6-12?”

    By this i mean if not every family switched from their old marriage clan to a new deme based marriage clan in one go but over multiple generations.

    .

    “cleisthenes and his reforms were, i think, an attempt to address the problems that the renewed increase in inbreeding were bringing to athens”

    It does seem a bit fast otherwise.

    Reply

  24. >> … especially southern italians — kept marrying close cousins up until very recently.<<

    Perhaps because, in their isolation, there were none, or few, to marry who weren't their cousins.

    Reply

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