going dutch

daniel hannan (Inventing Freedom: How the English-Speaking Peoples Made the Modern World) is full of admiration for the dutch (so am i!). here from a blogpost of his — I’ve realised why I like the Dutch so much: they invented capitalism — from the other day:

“Only recently, though, was I able to put my finger on what I liked so much. It’s this: for centuries, the Dutch made the honest pursuit of self-betterment a supreme virtue. Other European nations elevated honour and faith and martial glory, but the people Shakespeare called ‘swag-bellied Hollanders’ quietly got on with trade….

“I’ve just written a book about Anglosphere exceptionalism, published in the US next week and in Britain the week after. While writing, I couldn’t help noticing that one place had kept pace with the English-speaking peoples in the development of property rights, representative institutions, limited government and individualism. Indeed, on one critical measure, the Dutch beat us to it: modern capitalism, as defined by the twin concepts of limited liability and joint stock ventures, was invented in the Netherlands….”

meanwhile, in another corner of the internet, t.greer has been asking — and nicely answering! — a neat question: why the rise of the west? specifically, why in the middle ages did europe “diverge” from the rest of the world economically, never to look back? from Another Look at ‘The Rise of the West’ – But With Better Numbers (see also The Rise of the West: Asking the Right Questions):

“A few months ago I suggested that many of these debates that surround the ‘Great Divergence’ are based on a flawed premise — or rather, a flawed question. As I wrote:

“‘Rather than focus on why Europe diverged from the rest in 1800 we should be asking why the North Sea diverged from the rest in 1000.

“By 1200 Western Europe has a GDP per capita higher than most parts of the world, but (with two exceptions) by 1500 this number stops increasing. In both data sets the two exceptions are Netherlands and Great Britain. These North Sea economies experienced sustained GDP per capita growth for six straight centuries. The North Sea begins to diverge from the rest of Europe long before the ‘West’ begins its more famous split from ‘the rest.’

[W]e can pin point the beginning of this ‘little divergence’ with greater detail. In 1348 Holland’s GDP per capita was $876. England’s was $777. In less than 60 years time Holland’s jumps to $1,245 and England’s to 1090. The North Sea’s revolutionary divergence started at this time.

so, by the early 1400s, england and holland had taken off.

i’ve been in awe of the dutch golden age and the dutch during the renaissance/age of enlightenment (fwiw) in general (i love the art!).

why the dutch (and the english)? and why then? (you already know what i’m going to say….)
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the netherlands — the low countries in general — were, once upon a time, a part of the early frankish kingdom of austrasia (i’ve more-or-less outlined the netherlands here — *ahem* — roughly):

austrasia - the netherlands

the franks converted to roman catholicism early — in the late 400s — so they were positioned to adopt the church’s cousin marriage bans right away when they were instituted in the very early 500s (502 a.d.?), nearly one hundred years before the anglo-saxons in england. and there’s evidence that the franks did, indeed, adopt the cousin marriage bans early on — definitely by the late 500s (there’s always a lag time with these things). in fact, they seem to have taken pretty seriously all of the church’s marriage bans, including the ones regarding spiritual kinship (i.e. you couldn’t marry any of your godparents’ relatives because, since you were spiritually related to your godparents, you were also spiritually related to your godparent’s relatives). as i quoted in a previous post:

“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.”

The Outbreeding Project was so successful in franco-belgia and southern england that, by the 1300s, cousin marriage was a complete non-issue in the ecclesiastical courts in those regions.

the exception in the low countries was the group of frisians along the coast who didn’t convert to christianity until the late 700s [pg. 11], so they were at least three hundred years behind the franks as far as The Outbreeding Project went.

in addition, the frisians went untouched by manorialism, which served to reinforce the cousin marriage bans as well as to push for nuclear families. and the frisians (like their coastal neighbors the ditmarsians) remained a bit wild and clannish until rather late in the medieval period. from michael mitterauer’s Why Europe? [pgs. 41-41 & 76]:

“The area settled by the Frisians along the North Seas coast is an interesting case from within the Frankish Empire itself. Manorial estates had not been established there — not by the king, the church, or the nobility — although the imperial heartland lay very close by. The reason for this may well be the ecological conditions that determined the economy. The region was admirably suited for grazing, so that agriculture faded into the background…. Natural conditions were lacking for the cerealization that had been implemented by Frankish neighbors. That a region in the Frankish Empire specializing in animal husbandry did not even begin to come close to establishing the bipartite estate confirms, e contrario, the belief in a connection between increased grain production and the rise of the manorial system. Nor was the agricultural system in Frisian settlements shaped later on by manorial structures. Very strong rural communal groups were established instead, placing the local nobles dispensing high justice in a percarious position….

“Ecological conditions might well have blocked the [hide] system’s progress in Friesland and the North Sea coastal marshes. It is striking that those are precisely the areas where we find features — such as the clan system and most notably blood revenge — that typify societies strongly oriented toward lineage. Blood revenge is rooted in a concept of kinship in which all men of a group are treated almost like a single person. The agnates together are considered to be the bearers of honor — and guilt. That is why the guilt of one relative can be avenged on someone else who had utterly no part in the deed. The idea of blood revenge is completely incompatible with Christian views of guilt and innocence. Nevertheless, the institution of blood revenge was still alive in several European societies even after they were Christianized, those in the North Sea marshes among them.”

the frisians were free!
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the dutch and the anglo-saxons are exceptional in terms of being individualistic (versus clannish) and, yet, oriented toward the commonweal — they’re both groups that developed capitalism and liberal democracy (perhaps the anglos are more fond of liberal democracy) — because these were the two populations in northwest europe that started outbreeding the earliest.

and now i’ve arrived back where i started two-and-a-half years ago (boy, will i ever shut up??) — with avner greif‘s paper Family Structure, Institutions, and Growth: The Origin and Implications of Western Corporatism [opens pdf]:

“There is a vast amount of literature that considers the importance of the family as an institution. Little attention, however, has been given to the impact of family structures on institutions, their dynamics, and the ability to change them…. This paper illustrates this by highlighting the importance of the European family structure in one of the most fundamental institutional changes in history.

This change has been the emergence of economic and political *corporations* in late medieval Europe. ‘Corporations’ are defined here, consistent with their historical meaning, as intentionally created, voluntary, interest-based, and self-governed permanent associations. Guilds, fraternities, universities, communes and city-states are some of the corporations that dominated Europe in the past. Businesses and professional associations, business corporations, universities, consumer groups, republics and democracies are some of the corporations in modern economies.

Providing institutions through corporations is a novelty. Historically, the institutions that secured one’s life and property and mitigated problems of cooperation and conflicts were initially provided by large kinship groups. Subsequently, such institutions that rely on this family structure were complemented or replaced by those provided by self-interested rulers. Corporation-based institutions can substitute for those provided by both kinship groups and self-interested rulers. When they substitute kinship-based institutions, corporations are complementary to a different family structure, namely, the nuclear family structure. For an individual, corporations reduce the benefits from belonging to a kinship group while a nuclear family increases the benefits from being a member of a corporation….

[T]he actions of the Church caused the nuclear family — constituting of husband and wife, children, and sometimes a handful of close relatives — to dominate Europe by the late medieval period.

The medieval church instituted marriage laws and practices that undermined large kinship groups. From as early as the fourth century, it discouraged practices that enlarged the family, such as adoption, polygamy, concubinage, divorce, and remarriage. It severely prohibited marriages among individuals of the same blood (consanguineous marriages), which had constituted a means to create and maintain kinship groups throughout history. The church also curtailed parents’ abilities to retain kinship ties through arranged marriages by prohibiting unions in which the bride didn’t explicitly agree to the union.

“European family structures did not evolve monotonically toward the nuclear family nor was their evolution geographically and socially uniform. However, by the late medieval period the nuclear family was dominate. Even among the Germanic tribes, by the eighth century the term family denoted one’s immediate family, and shortly afterwards tribes were no longer institutionally relevant. Thirteenth-century English court rolls reflect that even cousins were as likely to be in the presence of non-kin as with each other.

“The practices the church advocated, such as monogamy, are still the norm in Europe. Consanguineous marriages in contemporary Europe account for less than one percent of the total number of marriages. In contrast, the percentage of such marriages in Muslim, Middle Eastern countries, where we also have particularly good data, is much higher – between twenty to fifty percent. Among the anthropologically defined 356 contemporary societies of Euro-Asia and Africa, there is a large and significant negative correlation between Christianization (for at least 500 years) and the absence of clans and lineages; the level of commercialization, class stratification, and state formation are insignificant.

in general, the dutch and the english have been outbreeding for the longest of all the europeans (of anybody, really), and they are two of the groups having the longest history of corporations in europe (there’s the northern italians, too), and they also have the strongest tendencies towards cooperative, voluntary, corporate groups today.

however, some of the dutch — and some of the english — actually did inbreed longer than some of the others: the frisians vs. the franks, the east anglians vs. the southeastern english. these groups were some of my in-betweeners — more outbred than your average arab, but less outbred than the longest of the long-term outbreeders. and the puritans (largely from east anglia) were big into business if Albion’s Seed is to be believed. and the frisians, too, were some of the earliest businessmen/traders in the low countries. from A Brief History of the Netherlands [pg. 15 – see also The Evolution of the Money Standard in Medieval Frisia: A Treatise on the History of the Systems of Money of Account in the Former Frisia (c.600-c.1500)]:

“Frisia (Friesland), however, remained a land apart. The Frisians were traders, stockbreeders, and fishermen, and feudalism took little hold in the swampy soil here.”

the combination of two not wholly dissimilar groups (franks+frisians, for instance), with one of the groups being very outbred (the franks) and the other being an in-betweener group (the frisians), seems perhaps to be a winning one. the outbred group might provide enough open, trusting, trustworthy, cooperative, commonweal-oriented members to the union, while the in-betweener group might provide a good dose of hamilton’s “self-sacrificial daring” that he reckoned might contribute to renaissances.

(and, yes, i am talking about the natural selection of innate behaviors.)

i could be wrong, but that’s my theory, and i’m sticking to it! (for now.) (^_^)
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p.s. – in case you’ve forgotten, the nations that saw the earliest reduction of homicides in the medieval period…yes…england and the netherlands/belgium: kinship, the state, and violence.
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previously: what about the franks? and trees and frisians and the radical reformation and whatever happened to european tribes?

(note: comments do not require an email. sunbathing giant sloth!)

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30 Comments

  1. Why is it called low country. The Dutch were making a killing selling peat to a deforested Europe. The were the Saudi Arabia of their time.

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  2. This post on the relationship of family structure to the development of capitalism is evocative of an post on a French anthropologist’s (Emmanuel Todd) books on the relationship of family structure to ideology of nations. That post is available at “Samizdata.” These are fascinating ideas.
    I am especially interested in your posited relationship between the decline of clans (after cousin marriage was banned) and the growth of personal freedom and individualism.
    Ideas about how the micro structure of a society affects the macro structure (how the family structure affects the structure of the entire polity) are extremely interesting. To go further and discuss the reasons families evolved differently in different places requires a very detailed knowledge of social history.
    Thank you for the very interesting post.

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  3. Boy, will you ever shut up? I hope not. Consider this:

    “‘Corporations’ are defined here, consistent with their historical meaning, as intentionally created, voluntary, interest-based, and self-governed permanent associations. Guilds, fraternities, universities, communes and city-states are some of the corporations that dominated Europe in the past.”

    From what I know China will never have anything like this — at least anytime soon. It’s hard to imagine how well they will function as a modern industrial society without this kind of institutions.

    Incidentally, the type of towns I see developing around the new type of factories in the countryside which I describe in the third chapter of my little book will most definitely be corporations in the sense above: “intentionally created, voluntary, interest-based, and self-governed permanent associations.”

    If there is to be a re-segregation of America along whatever lines people might choose (religious, ethnic,) then I think it will be at this local level, not the larger state or regional level some neo-reactionaries (among whom I do not count myself) are talking about. Town air is free air, to quote an old Medieval proverb.

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  4. Two things to remember:

    1) the Frisians probably had a much lower population density (otherwise they would have extended their range, rather than shrunk) so they probably a minor (but possibly still essential) component in Dutch DNA.

    2) The Dutch language is descended from the Frankish language. Modern French is based on Romance dialects with Frankish influence, Modern German is based on non-Frankish German dialects with Frankish influence. The point that I am trying to make is that the Franks in France were the elite, not the commoners. In the Netherlands both the elite and commoners were Franks, at least that’s how I interpret it.

    Luke, I independedly came up with an idea very similar to yours (I have not read your book but I did read your website). Have you thought much about how to keep the system stable? What is to prevent people from going back to the old ways (what we have now)?

    A historic example: Parts of New England have rivers that are great for powerering textile factories. Industrialists built factories and hired Yankee workers. After a short time most of the Yankees went back to their farms, because they didn’t like the factory lifestyle (particularly the concept of a regular work week). So the industrialists imported French Candians and other groups. How are you going to prevent that?

    A current example: A town of a few hundred people near where I am is going to change dramatically when 1500 new houses are built. The locals tried to fight it, but ultimately when a farmer sells his land it turns into the habitat for thousands of wage slaves.

    My solution is the stem family. Land is never sold or divided, merely passed on. Ideally, you would have a bilateral stem family which means that the second oldest would inherit as well. In unilateral stem system society is most harmonious if people have exactly one son and one daughter. In a bilateral system society is most harmonious if people have two children of any sex. In a stem society you want an heir and a spare, which means that 50% of men aren’t going to inherit. In a bilateral system couples could have two heirs and a spare which means that 33% of people aren’t going to inherit. Having female succession be more common gives talented men a change to get back into the gene pool by marrying an heiress.

    Have you thought about breeding? My idea is that the second-cousin once-removed (2C1R) would be the ideal mate, with 2nd and 3rd cousins being desirable, and 1C1R being allowed but discouraged. 1C would be banned, too much inbreeding depression. Marrying outsiders would also be allowed but they need to have great genes and/or property. These rules provide people with a few dozen potential spouses (age/sex) who are related at about the second cousin level (from repeated matings between 2C1R and 3C).

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  5. yo why do the English get all the ‘anglo-saxon’ title love? Frisians are anglo-saxons as well lol

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  6. Do we know why the English and Dutch were so enthusiastic about following the Church’s marriage laws? Also, are there any other examples of an organized religion succeeding in stamping out cousin marriage, perhaps in Asia?

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  7. The North Sea areas we are describing are also those which have a reputation for being emotionally reserved. Admittedly the Finns have that stereotype nailed down, but Scandinavia isn’t so far off when one is trading in the region. Individual exceptions abound, but the Puritan and Dutch Calvinists, the Episcopalians, and the Scandinavian Lutherans have reputations in America of being emotionally restricted. (The Scots Calvinists, not so much. And the Germans used to have the reputation of being sentimental, over-romantic fools. Who else does one start mass cults with, after all?)

    I am not even guessing at an arrow of causation at present. Staffan may have some fun with that.

    @T – the Yankees went back to the farms for economic reasons as well. The place was depopulating as farmers discovered that Ohio didn’t have rocks, For those who remained, there was cleared land and some buildings. When the War of 1812 created the Merino craze, wool for the cloth mills became a much more profitable venture than trying to grow exportable crops. Immigrant French-Canadians didn’t own land and couldn’t go that route – though they did eventually.

    I’m wondering how you are going to enforce that breeding and marriage thing…

    @ckp – I have wondered the same thing. There was Christian discouragement of cousin marriage everywhere, but very few places did people embrace it. It does seem to have some effect most places the church has held great influence. But people looking for loopholes usually find them. So there must be another factor or two which provided the cultural support for this to actually happen. Voluntary corporate associations do provide an alternative – but you have to join them and commit something of yourself to them first. I don’t see much in the way of previous cultural trend which would make the North Sea a place where the folks would so easily welcome those new marriage rules. It was indeed a high-trade district, perhaps making it easier to encounter non-cousins who might be mates, but such districts existed elsewhere as well.

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  8. The cities. That’s the explanation: stadluft macht frei. When Frederick II lost his struggle with the Pope, all the lands of the Holy Roman Empire were fated not to have one, strong, centralized power controlling them. The cities of the Rhine weren’t Dutch or English, but they were also highly developed. Recall the Gutenberg was born in Strassburg and made the press in Mainz (or vice versa.), using the extant wine press technology.

    English/Dutch co-development reaches its peak in New York, where Dutch concepts of openness and commerce meet rising England’s system of law and international reach. The best book on this is The Island at the Center of the World, by Russell Shorto. Well worth a read.

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  9. “the honest pursuit of self-betterment a supreme virtue”

    The ancient Greeks called this “eudamonia” (well-being), which is achieved by “arete” (excellence). Eudamonia made it into the Declaration of Independence as “pursuit of happiness.” The concept is not new.

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  10. @gary – “This post on the relationship of family structure to the development of capitalism is evocative of an post on a French anthropologist’s (Emmanuel Todd) books on the relationship of family structure to ideology of nations. That post is available at ‘Samizdata.’

    oh, thanks! i’ll take a look for it.

    yes, i’ve talked a little about emmanuel todd’s ideas here on the blog. very interesting stuff.

    i think (think) that there’s a connection between inbreeding (for instance cousin marriage) and family size: the more inbreeding, the larger the family size (you get clans, extended families, zadrugas, things like that) — the less inbreeding, the smaller the family size (nuclear families, stem families). it’s not a perfect relationship — southern italians live, for example, in small family units (nuclear/stem families) even though their cousin marriages rates were very high until very recently, although it should be remembered that extended family is still very important to southern italians — but i think the relationship is there.

    @gary – “I am especially interested in your posited relationship between the decline of clans (after cousin marriage was banned) and the growth of personal freedom and individualism. Ideas about how the micro structure of a society affects the macro structure (how the family structure affects the structure of the entire polity) are extremely interesting.”

    yes. i find it extremely interesting, too! (^_^) i think it goes even further than micro structures affecting macro structures in societies — i think that different mating patterns set up different conditions which then create different selection pressures for various behavioral traits. in other words, different mating patterns — over the long-term — lead to different behavioral complexes (inbreeding=greater clannishness, outbreeding=greater individualism). see this post for more.

    @gary – “Thank you for the very interesting post.

    thanks for saying so! (^_^)

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  11. @luke – “From what I know China will never have anything like this — at least anytime soon. It’s hard to imagine how well they will function as a modern industrial society without this kind of institutions.”

    i agree. i can’t see the chinese getting to this point (of being a civic society) anytime soon. maybe they will manage to function as a modern industrial society, but it won’t look anything like a western one (not that there’s anything wrong with that!).

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  12. @theory – “yo why do the English get all the ‘anglo-saxon’ title love? Frisians are anglo-saxons as well lol”

    true! true. but, you know — it’s common practice to refer to the anglo-saxons in england as “the anglo-saxons” — but, yeah, the frisians were their cousins across the channel. (^_^)

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  13. @ckp – “Do we know why the English and Dutch were so enthusiastic about following the Church’s marriage laws?”

    it’s not so much that the english and dutch were particularly enthusiastic about following the church’s marriage laws — not more so, anyway, than the other northern germanic peoples of europe — it’s just that they, through an accident of history, were so early at adopting the practices.

    the franks just so happened to have converted to roman catholicism early — and the anglo-saxons in kent (right across the channel) had close ties to the franks (there were some royal marriages between the two groups) and, so, they picked up on the cousin marriage bans early, too. it just took time, then, for other populations in northern europe to also adopt the bans — because they had to go through the process of converting to christianity (the continental saxons, for instance, adopted christianity after the franks — as did the scandinavians). other peripheral groups in northern europe — like the irish and the highland scots — were special cases with their “celtic church” (see posts about the irish below ↓ in left-hand column).

    a huge factor was wherever the manor system wasn’t. southern europe, eastern europe — they mostly all missed out on the manor system, so they also missed out on the extra push against cousin marriage.

    @ckp – “Also, are there any other examples of an organized religion succeeding in stamping out cousin marriage, perhaps in Asia?”

    not that i’m aware of. certainly not in china (confucianism places strong emphasis on the importance of the family/extended family, so not there). there is cousin marriage avoidance amongst the hindus in northern india, but i don’t know if there are some proscriptions against cousin marriage in hinduism, or if they avoid it for some other cultural reasons. hindus in southern india certainly don’t. the sikhs also avoid cousin marriage, but, again, i don’t know if there’s anything in their religious beliefs that dictates this (i don’t think so, but i could be wrong).

    neither judaism nor islam bans cousin marriage. islam rather encourages it, since mohammed married a cousin and, since he’s the perfect man to be emulated, muslims emulate him.

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  14. @assistant village idiot – “I don’t see much in the way of previous cultural trend which would make the North Sea a place where the folks would so easily welcome those new marriage rules.”

    nevertheless, they did. cousin marriage was gone in these regions by the 1300s (unlike, say, southern italy as late as the 1960s!). see this bit from the post:

    “The Outbreeding Project was so successful in franco-belgia and southern england that, by the 1300s, cousin marriage was a complete non-issue in the ecclesiastical courts in those regions.”

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  15. @electric angel – “The cities. That’s the explanation….”

    if the existence of cities was the explanation, then why didn’t northern italy — with venice, etc. — “take off” the way that the north sea region did? or the middle east/fertile crescent for that matter? or china?

    nope. “the cities” is not enough.

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  16. Geography also cannot be discounted. And a bit of luck. I mean, geography and luck does not account for the success, but without them, Dutch and English would be just another boring european warring states, which were continously ravaged every decade or so, no matter the success with the outbreeding project or not.

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  17. And, another idea after reading Cochran and Harpending. In inbreeding community, if a successful mutatoin would appear, it would spread slower than in outbreeding community – so any successful mutations would have easier life in England and Netherlands compared to Italy.

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  18. @ckp – “Do we know why the English and Dutch were so enthusiastic about following the Church’s marriage laws?”

    I think you need to include survival in this. As hbdchick has shown (at least imo) I think it started as a Northern European process centered on Austrasia (with offshoots in the bigger river valleys further south) but because religious rebellion was one of the early side-effects of the process it either didn’t survive everywhere it first appeared or took a massive beating during the religious wars e.g Western Poland, Germany, Northern France, so the process was slowed down.

    So I think it’s partly a question of the physical geography deciding where the process survived (or wasn’t slowed down as much).

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  19. HBD Chick. You also manage to mention Northern Italy briefly. If you isolate individual communities, the cities of Northern Italy especially Milan compared with Flanders in wealth. The first surge of the Black Death had a much lower impact, allegedly none, in Milan and in Flanders. (Also Prague and Cracow). This is usually attributed to either greater health due to greater prosperity or adoption of quaratine measures. However, Lonodn and othe rBritish cities adopted quarantine measures yet England had one of the highest death rates. Other places with low or no mortality (North West Wales) were extremely isolated.

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  20. I have lived in modern day Frisia (not Frisian myself). They still maintain their own language and individuals in particular villages can be quite rude/ill mannered to outsiders. Some villages have a history of fistfights. Sometimes a group of young men will go to a bar in another village just for a fight with people of that village. Later on there will be retaliation by the attacked. There are even some villages were you are not entirely safe walking there if you are not white (this all is not the majority though, I don’t want to badmouth the whole population).

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  21. Luke Lea, your comment on China is well taken. It seems that their version of capitalism will be very top-down, just like their traditional emperor centred rule. Pretty cool.

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