medieval manorialism’s selection pressures

“every society selects for something.” — greg cochran

every society selects for something. it does take some time for selection pressures to make a difference when it comes to the frequencies of “genes for” various behavioral traits, of course (unless the culling is extreme): twenty generations, maybe. forty is probably better. a few hundred? yeah, that’ll definitely do it. the point is, it doesn’t necessarily take millions of years for evolution by natural selection to work. not even tens of thousands. we don’t have to cast the net back to the paleolithic or even the mesolithic in our search for the origins of behavioral traits in human populations (although the roots for many of them are probably there…or even farther back to our common origin with other apes and even other social mammals, lizards, fruit flies, tomatoes etc., etc.) — we can and should look for selection pressures in more recent eras, too. and “the environment” that exerts these pressures on human populations is not just the natural world — it’s our social worlds, too.

this will be the first in a series of posts on manorialism in medieval europe, because i think that it’s incumbent upon every blogger to bore their readers to tears medieval society in northern europe (ca. 400-1500 a.d.) produced some quite unique selection pressures which very much shaped the characteristics and personalities of “core” europeans, i.e. the dutch (minus the frisians), the belgians, the french (especially the northeastern french), the english (especially the southeastern english), to some degree the lowland scots, the germans (especially those to the west), the scandinavians (especially those further south), the northern italians (especially those from the north italian plain), the northern spanish (especially catalonians), and to some degree the swiss. one of those selection pressures was, of course, europe’s Outbreeding Project, which i never shut up about. (sorry!) the other big one, i think, was manorialism — a communal agricultural system that was really an almost all-encompassing socio-religious-political system which, although its features and importance did vary at different times and in different locales, pretty much regulated nearly all aspects of medieval europeans’ lives. where it existed — a key point which i’ll come back to later.

the working theory around here is that the Outbreeding Project set up the selection pressures for getting rid of much of what we could call “nepotistic altruism” in core europe, allowing for greater cooperation and trust between unrelated individuals and, therefore, a more open and “corporate” sort of society. a second working theory is that manorialism set up selection pressures for a whole suite of traits including perhaps: slow life histories; future time orientation; delayed gratification; the good ol’ protestant work ethic; a general compliant nature and even rather strong tendencies toward conformity; perhaps even a high degree of gullibility; perhaps a few extra iq points; and even more cooperation and trust between unrelated individuals. or not. please keep in mind that i’m just thinking out loud in these posts. oh — the manor system also probably contributed to the selection for the reduction in impulsive violence. (i’ll be exploring more fully the various aspects of manorialism that i think may have created the selection pressures for these various traits in the coming posts — promise! just giving you a rough outline now.) the Outbreeding Project and manorialism very much went hand-in-hand as well — the medieval european manor system could not have happened without all of the outbreeding, and the Outbreeding Project was reinforced by the manor system (since marriage was often regulated within the manor system).
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manorialism — “classic,” bipartite manorialism (more on that below) — started with the franks in austrasia by at least the 600s or perhaps earlier and spread gradually southwards with the frankish conquest of, well, france and eastwards during the ostsiedlung. we find it just across the channel in southern england very early as well — there are references to what sounds like features of a manor system in the laws of king ine of wessex (688-726) [see mitterauer, pg. 43]. the medieval european manor system originated, then, roughly in the area outlined in green below (yes — this is the very same area where the Outbreeding Project began. which is convenient, really, ’cause i like not having to make multiple maps! in case you’re new here, the other lines on the map indicate the hajnal line.):

hajnal line - core europe

interestingly, the frisians, although quite centrally located on the coast of the netherlands in this core region, never experienced manorialism. mitterauer ties manorialism to cereal agriculture and the new agricultural techniques developed in the early medieval period (with the introduction of the heavy plow, etc.), so areas unsuitable for such farming — like mountainous regions or swampy areas — typically simply did not see the introduction of the classic manor system.

classic manorialism was introduced to southern france (but bypassed some more remote areas like the massif central) as those regions were conquered by the merovingians and carolingians between the fifth and eighth centuries and to northern spain around the eighth and ninth centuries. the bipartite manor system never reached the southern regions of spain that were controlled by the moors. there was a rudimentary form of manorialism in northern italy even before the area was made a part of the carolingian empire, but the region was heavily manorialized (especially by ecclesiastical monasteries) after charlemagne conquered the lombard kingdom in the 770s. classic, bipartite manorialism was never adopted in central or southern italy or sicily — nowhere in the byzantine world, in fact.

the franks also pushed eastwards, introducing the manor system to central europe, beginning in the eighth century. the border of this eastward movement was, for a couple hundred years or so, the eastern boundary of the carolingian empire (look familiar?). a renewed push eastwards began in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, and a slightly revised form of classic manorialism (a system based upon rents rather than work exchange) was introduced to areas/populations further to the east in central-/eastern-europe including the baltics, large parts of poland, bohemia, moravia, parts of slovakia, western hungary, and slovenia. quite obviously, these populations experienced manorialism for a shorter time than those to the west.

the “classic” form of manorialism never reached the farthest parts of eastern europe. eventually, a form of manorialism was adopted in russia and areas of eastern europe bordering russia, but it was quite different than the version western europe had had. this serfdom-heavy manor system in eastern europe also arrived very late compared to manorialism in western europe — in the fifteenth century (iirc) or in some areas even much later. classic manorialism had practically disappeared in western europe by this point.

in scandinavia, denmark was heavily manorialized relatively early i believe (probably around the time of the first wave of the ostsiedlung, although i must check the dates), and manorialism was also very much present southern sweden (scania). the more northerly parts of scandinavia — norway, northern sweden (or sweden north of scania), the swedish-settled areas of finland — didn’t have manors per se, but were covered by a unique version of “manorialism” in which much of the population was under the thumb of the church (and sometimes petty aristocratic landowners). i know my nordic readers are going to object to me saying that, but please wait for the post on manorialism in scandinavia before bombarding me with your counterarguments. thanks! (^_^) this unique form of “manorialism” arrived in northern scandinavia rather late — probably in something like the 1200s (i need to check on that date) — and departed late (the 1800s and even the 1900s in some areas). not sure what happened in the areas of finland not settled by swedes. and i’m pretty sure no form of manorialism ever took hold in iceland, although i reserve the right to be wrong about that. (~_^)

classic manorialism arrived late in ireland — in the late 1200s — and was introduced by the anglo-normans. there was never really much manorialism in wales or the highlands of scotland, although kind david did introduce it to the lowlands of scotland in the 1100s. not sure how well it took hold there, though. i’ll let you know as soon as i do. proper classic manorialism wasn’t really found in cornwall, either, and manors were not very prevalent in east anglia, although there were some.

there was never any manorialism in the balkans.

nor was there ever any classic, bipartite, european-style manorialism in the arabized, islamic world or in china, although there were plenty of large estates in china throughout its history. (don’t know about japan or the korean peninsula.) the difference between medieval european manors and the manors of china has been characterized as a difference between manorialism — which was a sort-of communal agricultural system in which everyone who worked on the manor was a part of a familia — and landlordism, which is what you had in china [pgs. 11-12]:

“In two major works in particular (Hu Rulei 1979; Fu Zhufu 1980), we find sustained analyses of the differences between the socioeconomic structure of imperial China and that of the precapitalist West…. For Hu Rulei, the key lies in the differences between Chinese ‘feudal landlordism’ (*fengjian dizhuzhi*) and European ‘feudal manorialism’ (*fengjian lingzhuzhi*). In the European feudal manor, landownership or economic power was merged with military, administrative, and judicial powers; each manorial lord exercised the entire range of those powers. The state system of manorialism was thus one in which sovereignty was parceled out. In Chinese landlordism, by contrast, political authority came to be separated from economic power through private land-ownership and the frequent buying and selling of land. This made possible the centralized imperial state system. Landlordism and the centralized imperial state thus made up an interdependent politicoeconomic system that must be distinguished from European manorialism. Hu’s is an analytical model that can help explain the differences and hence also their different paths of sociopolitical change in the modern era.

“Fu Zhufu has pointed to another difference between manorialism and landlordism. In the serf-based manorial system, the lord had to look to the subsistence and reproduction of his workers, lest the very basis of the manorial economy be undermined. But the Chinese landlord was under no such constraints. He could seek the highest possible returns that the land-rental market would support (Fu 1980: 9-10, 201-2). Though Fu skirts the issue here, it is obvious that such principles became harshest when the pressures of social stratification were joined by the pressures of population; under those conditions, a tenant who failed to survive could always be replaced by another. Landlordism could become an institutional system in which the poor tenants were pressed below the margins of subsistence.”
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which brings me, now, to some of the various characteristics of classic manorialism and the selection pressures that i think they may have exerted.

– the bipartite estate. the bipartite estate was a key aspect of classical (north)western european manorialism. basically, the manor was divided into two parts: the lord’s part — his farm or demesne — and the peasants’ or serfs’ parts — all their individual farms. the serfs or villeins or whatever you want to call them (there were multiple categories of these peasant farmers and a range of names for them) each had farms to work which were granted to them by the lords (keep in mind that sometimes those “lords” were bishops or monks who ran the monasteries). in the earlier part of the medieval period, the serfs owed labor to the lord of the manor as payment — they were obliged to help work the lord’s demesne — but they also independently worked the farms which they were granted, both to sustain themselves and perhaps make a little profit by selling any extra produce to the neighbors or in a market. there were other obligations, too, but the above was the fundamental gist of the whole system. later in the medieval period, the duty to provide labor switched over to a more simple and direct rent system.

also early on in the period, serfs were given (or assigned) farms to work by the lord of the manor. as a young man, you might not be given the same farm that you grew up on — that your parents had worked — especially not if your father/parents were still productive workers. the lord of the manor, or his steward, would just grant you another farm on the manor to work…if there was one available…and if he chose to do so (presumably based on your merit or your familiy’s record). this system eventually changed as well into one in which a son (typically the eldest son) would “inherit” the farm that his father/parents had worked. not sure when this happened. must find out.

not everyone who was a member of a manor operation would be granted a farm to run. some individuals were just laborers on the manor (“cottagers” in england, for example), and there were plenty of domestic servants serving in the manor house, too.

i think that there are potentially selection pressures here for several different traits or qualities. if we ask ourselves, what sort of individual would’ve done best living in this bipartite estate system, i.e. which individuals with which sorts of traits would’ve managed to reproduce the most, i think it might’ve been people with qualities including: being hard-working or industrious — those that made the most of the farm grant and produced the most food to support the most number of kids and even to sell extra produce for a profit; perhaps smarter than some of the neighbors (like the cottagers) — for the same reasons as hard-working; future time oriented — you had to be patient and wait for a farm to become available, or later in the period wait for your father to hand over the farm or die, and not start philandering about the manor before you could afford to raise kids (you also might not be granted a farm, or acquire yourself a husband, if your reputation was ruined beforehand); slow life histories — those individuals who could hold off on reproducing too early would’ve been rewarded with farms, those that did not would’ve been shunned and would lose the opportunity to reproduce further; and compliancy — you didn’t rail (too much) against the man in the manor, and anyone that did wouldn’t have gotten a farm and may have, if they caused too much trouble, been shipped off to a monastery for life (more on that in a later post).

– villikation and familia. villikation is the term that german researchers use when referring to the fact that the manor and all its inhabitants/workers were managed by someone, either by the lord of the manor himself or by a steward who the lord had put in charge of running the place. you would think that, as a serf or tenant farmer on a manor, you wouldn’t want to run afoul of whoever was in charge, and very often those that did were shipped off the manor (to monasteries), so it seems to me that there might’ve been further pressures here to select for compliant and cooperative individuals.

familia was the word used for everyone who was a member of a particular manor! it was a term used especially earlier in the medieval period, but i think it was in usage throughout the entire era (need to double-check that). from mitterauer [pg. 57]:

“On the one hand, there was the villa, the lord’s manor, or the stewards’ manor, with its resident labor force, the members of which were not tied to one another by kinship; on the other hand, there were the farms of the *servi casati*, that is, of the unfree laborers and their dwellings, as well as the *coloni* who were bound to the soil and therefore to a house. Together they formed the *familia*, an overarching household embracing several households.”

a classic (north)western european manor, then, almost sounds like a 1960s hippie kibbutz, at least when it came to the relatedness of the individuals on the estate. (unlike a hippie kibbutz, though, The Man was clearly in charge.) the people living and working on a medieval manor in (north)western europe were not all members of one extended family or clan (which you do see elsewhere, like in eastern europe, especially russia, or southern china). this system, along with the Outbreeding Project, might’ve encouraged the selection for individuals who were willing to cooperate with other (comparatively speaking) unrelated persons. it might even have helped, along with the Outbreeding Project which got rid of much nepotistic altruism imho, to select for highly trusting — and quite highly trustworthy — individuals.

– open-field system. another key feature of (north)western european manorialism was the open-field system in which shares of large “fields” were apportioned out to each family on the manor — each household would get a long strip or strips within one of these huge fields in which to grow their crops. open-field systems were used by the pre-christian germans and slavic populations (iirc), but in those contexts, extended family/kindred/clan members typically shared the fields. again, in the classic manor system, we have more unrelated individuals/families sharing these fields. residents of the manor regularly policed one another, bringing each other to the manorial court if they thought someone was cheating in the open-field system (and also in the usage of the commons), so, again, here we might have the selection for cooperative and trustworthy individuals.

– ecclesiastical manors. i think the presence (or absence) of ecclesiastical manors in any given area might be very important. apparently, ecclesiastical manors exercised more control on their residents, and until later in the period, than those headed by lay lords (more on this in a later post). so, i’d expect all of the behavioral traits associated with manorialism to be even more pronounced in areas/populations that had more than their fair share of ecclesiastical manors: south-central england, france, germany, and northern italy (and northern scandinavia?).

again, these are all just some ideas. Further Research is RequiredTM! would be cool if someone looked through some manor records to see if they could find out which, if any, class of peasants/serfs managed to reproduce more successfully. maybe someone already has?

if/when the “genes for” any or all of the behavioral traits i’ve mentioned here in this post are discovered, my prediction is that the frequencies for them in european populations will be highest in those in the core area and, thanks to the historical origins and spread of manorialism (and the Outbreeding Project), that these frequencies will reduce with distance from that core. again, i reserve the right to be completely and utterly wrong about that. (~_^)

that’s it for now. stay tuned for a bunch of posts on medieval manorialism in the coming weeks! but first, some other business….
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previously: big summary post on the hajnal line and medieval manoralism and the hajnal line and behind the hajnal line and medieval manorialism and selection…again und die ostsiedlung

(note: comments do not require an email. a french manor: chateau de montargis)

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39 Comments

  1. Tibet developed a manorial system, around 1500 I think, strikingly similar to the European one (and dissimilar to the Chinese landlordism system). To an even greater extent than in Europe, manors were monastic estates (although some were secular aristocratic holdings). In practice, Buddhist monasteries were quick to kill anyone who was not extremely nice (because aggression is inimical to Buddhism, don’t you know).

    I expect this had consequences.

    I have been wondering for some years about whether there was some shared enabling technology that allowed the development of Tibetan manorialism roughly around the same time it was at its height in Europe; or what.

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  2. @david – “Tibet developed a manorial system, around 1500 I think, strikingly similar to the European one (and dissimilar to the Chinese landlordism system).”

    ah ha! very interesting! thanks! i shall have to read up on the tibetan manorial system.

    i came across a funny little reference a while ago about when the jesuits arrived in tibet how they found that everyone was marrying their cousins (in lhasa, anyway). tibetans certainly don’t anymore. maybe the buddhist monks and their manors did something about the cousin marriage, too, in a similar way to what happened in europe? dunno. Further Research is RequiredTM!

    @david – “I expect this had consequences.”

    well, it certainly would if it happened long enough and/or with enough intensity.

    @david – “I have been wondering for some years about whether there was some shared enabling technology that allowed the development of Tibetan manorialism roughly around the same time it was at its height in Europe; or what.”

    huh. dunno about that, either. will keep an eye out for anything on it though!

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  3. Hmm, about Tibetan cousin marriage, current or historical, I know zilch.

    They do have an interesting system of brother polyandry—quite unusual, I believe. Two (or more) brothers marry a single woman. This has to do with matrilineal land inheritance, if I remember correctly.

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  4. I found your out-breeding theory very convincing, but im not as sure with this one. For example, how _exactly_ would the manorial system select more for traits such as intelligence than the other systems? Wouldnt being hard working, smart, compliant, etc be more desirable from an evolutionary standpoint in places like china where citizens were culled often?

    other issues- why does Finland, which lacks the manorial system, have higher IQ than the other countries you mention? Why does east asia also have higher Iq?

    i think that outbreeding may have helped with IQ and especially with the selfish clan vs unselfish nationalist idea. I also think that populations whose ancestors spent significant time in or passing through very cold areas also were more k selected and have higher IQ. for example east asians which traveled across siberia/ central asia, and also how the more cold you get in europe, iq is greater. perhaps also neaderthal % is important. But i cant accept this just yet.

    I think that things like the industrial revolution and other improvements that occured largely within the Hanjal line were the result of either systemic (is that the right word? I mean within an economic sense) differences such as the west’s greater presence of merchants. Personal incentives for inventiveness or improvement might not have been the same in East Asia.

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  5. *also, the nobles, who are descended from a warrior class, surely were selected for in this environment? Unless you are implying that being a warrior or descendant thereof was relatively less selected for in the manorial system? For instance, I am remembering a study where wealthier English were heavily selected for, and have left an outsized effect on the gene pool. the same effect would theoretically apply to nobles all the way back to the medieval period.

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  6. @alexander – “For example, how _exactly_ would the manorial system select more for traits such as intelligence than the other systems? Wouldnt being hard working, smart, compliant, etc be more desirable from an evolutionary standpoint in places like china where citizens were culled often…? Why does east asia also have higher Iq?”

    oh, absolutely! and the chinese, along with other northeast asians, do have a very high iq and are very compliant. there is more to one way to skin a cat, though.

    note that i suggested re. intelligence and the selection pressures of manorialism that they may have added “perhaps a few extra iq points” — not that manorialism explains all there is to explain about the average iqs of europeans or other populations. the history and extent of manorialism (and the Outbreeding Project) in europe does seem to correlate pretty well with the distribution of iqs across europe. except for the finns. d*mn finns, always causing trouble! (~_^) (perhaps finland also had the “special” form of manorialism that norway and sweden had. don’t know for sure. will have to investigate.)

    and remember, most importantly: there’s more to human biodiversity than just iq. yes, intelligence is extremely important. but other behavioral traits are also very important. northeast asians may have a higher average iq than most european populations (except for ashkenazi jews), but they didn’t go to space first. a cooperative nature and universalistic outlook can sure get you far.

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  7. Thanks for the response. So if I understand correctly, you are saying that almost everywhere there was outbreeding, there was also manorialism. But if the distribution of IQ’s matches the hanjal line, this doesnt necessarily mean that both effected IQ. Manorialism could easily have been just a cultural after effect of frankish origin that didnt greatly influence selective pressure.

    You say we diverged and industrialized first, which was caused at least in part by a “cooperative nature and universalistic outlook.” But then, if you dont mind, my question would be how EXACTLY does a manorial system select for cooperative nature and especially universalistic outlook more than imperial chinese farming system? People in China working together on a rice farm have a better chance of surviving by cooperating same as on a manor. And I fail to see how a manor selects for universalistic outlook in anyway.

    As well as cooperation and universalistic outlook, there are plenty of other equally probable theorized cultural traits that may have caused the divergence. For instance, individualism seems to be an important trait that europeans had to a degree that east asia lacked. And outbreeding it seems to me, CLEARLY selects for individualism.

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  8. For me, coming from Poland, there is another interesting thing. In Poland, there was HUGE fraction of population which was of “noble” descent, probably largest in Europe (25% or something like that in some regions! thought it is disputed by some). Moreover, nobles eventually all became polonised, while peasants quite often were from ethnic minorities (so the fraction of nobles in Polish ethnicity will be somewhat higher than suggested by the fraction of nobility in PLC).

    So you have a situation in which one part of population is selected for one thing, second part is selected for something else, and because of absence of no strong state, there barrier between those two classes are porous (pourous?… eee leaky). Would those two selection pressures just cancels themselves out?

    I am of course descendant of noble families, and my ancestors were spending their times oppressing poor Belarussian peasants.

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  9. “…or even farther back to our common origin with other apes and even other social mammals, lizards, fruit flies, tomatoes etc., etc”: I used to know a chap whose descent from a limp lettuce leaf was pretty obvious.

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  10. By the time of the Parliamentary Enclosures (18th & 19th centuries) the strips were often owned by the peasantry, so they were keen on the re-organising of holdings to give them compact farms. At the same time the Common Land would often be divided up among the commoners; some land would typically also be given to the local Church “living” as compensation for tithes forgone. Naturally people would be keen to receive their compensation for loss of common rights as a parcel of land that abutted on their newly compact farms.

    It’s my impression (no expert I) that the Commons that were enclosed were typically pastures and rough grazing; woodland was often retained in common, since it needs a whale of a lot of effort to clear woodland for the plough. Eventually woodland would become less valuable (cheap coal) and more easily cleared (steam power), so then I suppose more would be divided up.

    I presume the evolution of a land-owning peasantry took quite a while. Of course, there were large chunks of England where there were no Parliamentary Enclosures – presumably they already had compact farms, either by earlier enclosure, or by never having the “big field” system in the first place.

    Rackham is very interesting on this sort of thing.

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  11. “every society selects for something. it does take some time for selection pressures to make a difference when it comes to the frequencies of “genes for” various behavioral traits, of course (unless the culling is extreme): twenty generations, maybe. forty is probably better. a few hundred?”

    One of the simplest models of directional selection, truncation selection, where the bottom (or top) x% for a trait fail to reproduce is easy to model and produces something that closely fits observed situations.

    Say those 1 standard deviation below average for a trait fail to reproduce – roughly the bottom 16%. (In terms of numbers, this isn’t far off from the fraction of people that fail to reproduce in modern America.)

    The breeder’s equation gives us the selective effect:

    R = h2 S

    R = response to selection (mean of trait in following generation. S = selection differential (mean of trait of parental population). h2 = additive heritability of trait.

    If we assume those 1 s.d. below average fail to reproduce, then the mean of the parental population (assuming trait in question is normally distributed) is the mean of truncated bell curve cut at -1 s.d. which you can find (with some witcheryfancy math) to be +0.29 sd.

    Since the additive heritability of most traits is 0.5, the response to selection in that case is 0.29 * 0.5 = 0.145 sd/generation. If this were IQ, that would correspond to a ~2.2 point gain per generation. Assuming sustained selection, the population mean would move one whole standard deviation in just 7 generations (or about 200 years)! I mentioned IQ, but this will work just as well for any quantitative trait with a similar additive heritability, including the personality traits associated with a fine manorial serf – which you model collectively as a “manorial quotient” (MQ), as Henry Harpending and Mike Weight did in their paper on Amish evolution here:

    Draft of paper about Amish | West Hunter

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  12. “classic manorialism was introduced to southern france (but bypassed some more remote areas like the massif central) as those regions were conquered by the merovingians and carolingians between the fifth and eighth centuries”

    Many European countries appear to have distinct regional variation within them. Almost all of it corresponds to some historical circumstance, and the spread of manorialism is a big one.

    France is one such country. France appears to present a distinct north-south gradient. Check out Occitania, a country within a country (pretty much all of southern France):

    (Of course, here there might be a racial/ethnic element: more Mediterranean in the south, more Germanic/Celtic in the north).

    I always wonder about poor Portugal in all these discussions. I see much data on north-south variation there as well, but what parts of that country was under the manor?

    Good spot for Germany (and all the regional variation there), as well our returning champion, Italy.

    “the ‘classic’ form of manorialism never reached the farthest parts of eastern europe. eventually, a form of manorialism was adopted in russia and areas of eastern europe bordering russia, but it was quite different than the version western europe had had. this serfdom-heavy manor system in eastern europe also arrived very late compared to manorialism in western europe”

    Here’s something worth looking at that brings up another important factor:

    https://twitter.com/MWStory/status/515495654907740160

    (Though for perspective, see here: Guns & Violence, Again… | JayMan’s Blog)

    Something seems to happen, not as we cross not the Hajnal line or the eastern extent of manorialism, but from the West Slavs to the South, and especially the East Slavs. What could this be? This highlights the importance of state pacification. Governments, or other forces, culling the most violent individuals, would, as Henry Harpending discribes, have had enough of selective effect to reduce average propensity to violence in a population. Some of that seems to have missed the East & South Slavs, leaving us with things like this today:

    Man calmly sips drink as brawl erupts around him (in Russia)

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  13. Great to see you posting again! I especially appreciate your enumeration of the defining features of manorialism, which were a little hazy to me. Makes it much easier to understand why the various personality features you enumerate might have been selected by them.

    A couple of (perhaps) related questions:

    1. The English word “lord” derives from a Medieval English word “hlafword” (sp?) which literally translates at “loaf keeper.” To me this suggests that lords originally controlled the grain — i.e., that their little domains were far more centralized originally than the later manors, much as the early city states with their central temples were in ancient Mesopotamia for instance. In other words manors gradually emerged though a process of devolution. Is there any evidence for this?

    2. My second question as to do with the so-called arenda system in early modern Poland and Ukraine, under which Jews were hired by absentee Polish nobility to manage (or sometimes lease outright) their estates, which were worked by peasants. How did these estates compare to manors? I’m thinking not closely since there were fierce uprisings in which Jews and Polish nobility were slaughtered indiscriminately, which we don’t see much in NW Europe (the peasants rebellion in England, for instance, was small potatoes by comparison). I also find it interesting that serfdom came very late to these areas — peasants actually lost rights rather than gained them — right on up into the 18th and 19th centuries. That seems counter to developments in western Europe.

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  14. @Alexander Severns:

    “also, the nobles, who are descended from a warrior class, surely were selected for in this environment? Unless you are implying that being a warrior or descendant thereof was relatively less selected for in the manorial system?”

    There’s a fourth selective factor that acted here, in addition to manorialism, outbreeding itself, and the above mentioned state pacification: Gregory Clark/Ron Unz selection. Europeans and to some extent East Asians aren’t primarily descended from the warrior noble class: they are descended from yeoman farmers. The warrior nobles used to kill each other on a fairly regular basis. Over time, descendents of the best-performing farmers would come to place both the noble classes and the lower classes (there was a recent paper on this, I’ll have to dig it out).

    “People in China working together on a rice farm have a better chance of surviving by cooperating same as on a manor. And I fail to see how a manor selects for universalistic outlook in anyway.”

    Working with whom? In China, you worked with your family: other members of your clan. In NW Europe, you had to work with non-relatives. The former allows kin-selection to operate. The latter would seem to select for reciprocal altruism (not based on kin-selection).

    Universalism could be a natural outgrowth of reciprocal altruism. It may arise from generosity: the willingness to extend the first favor in hopes of having it returned later (since it often was). When everyone is a potential helper, it pays to be generous, so long as your generosity is rewarded with reciprocation.

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  15. “It’s my impression (no expert I) that the Commons that were enclosed were typically pastures and rough grazing”: silly me. They presumably split up Common meadows too.

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  16. I like this idea that manorialism selected for non-kin cooperativeness.

    Though, maybe someone could object that fairly high non-kin cooperativeness must have already existed otherwise manorialism would have never got going, spread, and endured.

    As for other sources of medieval selection, as well as outbreeding, the death penalty, and survival of the wealthy, l want to suggest that the Little Ice Age (1310-1850) probably had an impact.

    Populations had risen 3x in the Medieval Warm Period (800-1250). This is when NW Europe including Scandinavia starts to rise in importance.

    But then in the Little Ice Age there are cold winters, grain yields fall. Cold winters select for intelligence, foresight, cooperation. People bred new grain varieties that began improving yields. We probably also bred new human varieties.

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  17. I’m a newby to this blog, and playing catchup, but the ideas and theories espoused by HBDchick are well-reasoned and persuasive. The evolutionary path bias caused by manorialism is likely to be both genetically based (gene encoded behavior) and also memetically based (meme encoded behavior). In particular, the overlay of religious doctrine and selection pressure also acts to reinforce these traits and provide continuity over time via indoctrination of youth. Systematic brain wiring via memetic coercion is an evolutionary speed enhancer.

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  18. @TomA:

    “and also memetically based (meme encoded behavior).”

    Careful with that. “Meme” encoded is mostly (though not entirely) BS.

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  19. @ Jayman: “Careful with that. “Meme” encoded is mostly (though not entirely) BS.”

    Meme encoding is not the equivalent of DNA strand encoding. It primarily refers to developmental neural pathway modification as a result of environmental factors, including language based indoctrination. Persistence across generations is also frequently achieved via long term environmental factors, including dominant social institutions (particularly religious practices). DNA encapsulation of these traits is a lagging phenomenon.

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  20. @ Whyvert – “I like this idea that manorialism selected for non-kin cooperativeness.
    Though, maybe someone could object that fairly high non-kin cooperativeness must have already existed otherwise manorialism would have never got going, spread, and endured[…]”

    I agree with all of this.

    “[..]As for other sources of medieval selection, as well as outbreeding, the death penalty, and survival of the wealthy, l want to suggest that the Little Ice Age (1310-1850) probably had an impact[…]”

    Could well be true.

    Also I wonder about selection for lactase persistence alleles among populations in European regions with good pasture land which practiced dairy farming from very early on. Perhaps this led to more frequent outbreeding as a result of higher population density due to better nutrition/better immunity/lower mortality. Greater outbreeding coupled with lower rates of iodine deficiency led to higher average iq?

    Pure speculation on my part though.

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  21. I do not posses extensive knowledge of medieval times but I can tell that in some parts of (slavic) eastern Europe ecclesiastical manors we common.
    I live in a village founded in 11th century (if I remember correctly) by a diocese, and owned by it, of course. Beginning of the eccesiastical manor system in my country can be traced to 9th/10th century.

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  22. good to see you posting again. speculative and hard to test, still glad to see you working on your ideas.

    having lots of unrelated individuals together could exactly select for trust and abilities at fictive kinship.

    on the other hand, I also suspect if unrelated people are more likely to exploit one another, it might instead select for suspicion, lower levels of honesty-humility / higher levels of individualism.

    people who are surrounded by their trustworthy relatives and friends, who won’t exploit them, might instead evolve a tendency towards trust.

    being around unrelated people who are coerced into being around you might select for tolerance though – if they’re not going to do much for you (they’re not freely associating with you, nor are they your relatives), then you might evolve towards having realistic expectations of them, rather than towards being vengeful when they let you down.

    northwestern europeans seem to have rather low expectations of what people who are not their family or part of a group of people freely associating with them should act. people should pay their taxes, support the state, and are not sociable with one another outside formal clubs and “civic organisations”. perhaps because their evolutionary experience includes more unrelated people coerced together than is today the rule, leading to a certain interpersonal sangfroid and tolerance and low levels of shaming.

    a strong psychological bias towards interactions where others are peaceful, but because they aren’t relatives or friends, they don’t really give a sh*t about one another. people don’t socialise easily so form a lot of subsocieties which bind them together under a phony shared purpose (thus high levels of civic “engagement”, while having the largest zones of personal space in the world and perhaps the lowest willingness to actually talk to a stranger you meet on the street).

    compare some other agricultural societies – if you’re surrounded by your relatives and if not them, by friends, maybe it was worthwhile for you to be warm to them, and worthwhile to give them a good tongue lashing to exploit their sense of honor and shame when they failed to honor you. the complex of interpersonal warmth, revenge, honor and shame.

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  23. I mean, a priori, corral a bunch of unrelated people onto an authoritarian version of a kibbutz, threaten them with the chop if they step out of line or try to leave, set up a situation where the one who pleases the big man the best gets an advantage (its not your bottom line rent payments that matter, its your perceived productivity), don’t police too hard how they act to one another except as it effects your bottom line.

    What kind of personalities are going to do thrive in that situation? I doubt it is all, or even mostly, bad, but I could see dark side selection there for sure.

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  24. “Europeans … aren’t primarily descended from the warrior noble class: they are descended from yeoman farmers”. I wonder who the yeomen farmers are descended from? Why is it the case that English serfs in the early Middle Ages didn’t own land, and yet by the 18th and 19th century many of the strips were owned by yeomen? Are the yeomen descended, many of them, from the Lords of the Manor rather than from his serfs? Surely the squire would try to provide for his surplus children, his nephews and nieces, and so on. Even if the Lord of the Manor was no mere squire, but a nobleman or Abbott, the same might be true. Or if not descended from a nobleman or churchman, descended from his steward who ran his estates for him.

    Or is it just the case that the shortage of labour after the Black Death made Lords of the Manor try to attract or retain labour by granting ownership of strips? Are there any records that throw light on this? Surely there must be. I’ll bet if that’s what happened they’d try to be selective about the peasants to whom they granted ownership of strips.They’d opt for steady, healthy and sensible blokes, people who’d impressed them at the Manor Court. Wouldn’t they?

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  25. @JayMan
    The homicide rate map is interesting. Significant west-east gradient. And Russia stands out.
    What I am missing are sub-divisions in countries like Ukraine. As I recall names of ukrainian mafias (named by area of their origin) operating in our country in 90s, they were almost exclusively from current separatist regions in eastern Ukraine. Maybe there is something russian there…

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  26. It is also interesting to think about, as were the social conditions of the barbarian tribes that invaded the Roman Empire and considerably changed the ethnogeographic landscape of regions that were part of the Roman Empire, like Galia.

    I saw a documentary about the Celts. Unlike the myth propagated by the ” civilized people ” of the Mediterranean, the Celts lived in peaceful societies with less social verticalization of the Roman Empire and with greater equality between genres (specially if compared with romans).

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  27. @Whyvert

    “Though, maybe someone could object that fairly high non-kin cooperativeness must have already existed otherwise manorialism would have never got going, spread, and endured.”

    Assuming for the sake of argument this was true or partly true then a couple of thoughts spring to mind.

    1) If the people who moved to the new manors weren’t already partially pre-adapted for manorial life then then they might have still existed if there was a technical reason for them to exist e.g. sharing the number of oxen needed to pull a heavy plow but the form might have been very different i.e. more of a gulag farm (as suggested above).

    2) My understanding is part of the technical foundation for manorialism was the heavy plow and the need to share the cost of the larger number of oxen needed to pull it hence its concentration in areas with the kind of heavy soils that couldn’t be farmed efficiently for crops before then (so they relied on cows and pigs more instead). Areas that didn’t need the heavy plow didn’t need to manorialise.

    This implies that a lot of the best farmland (once the heavy plow came along) was not farmed before and a lot of it was forested hence a lot of manor settlements being *new* settlements carved out of the forest – which is apparently what happened.

    So you might have standard clannish villages scattered around with new manorial settlements springing up on heavier soils in between existing settlements in some regions and also along a frontier from the epicenter.

    My understanding from previous posts is that the owners of the new manors offered inducements to entice volunteer settlers from the pre-existing clannish villages which might act as self-selection for higher than average non-kin cooperativeness among the new settlers.

    3) The Finns are an interesting counter example but what if they’re not? What if they had something in their method of food-getting which led to wider non-kin cooperation? As a lot of the populations on the north European plain may have come relatively recently from regions that used the same method until they moved south this might be another possible route for some level of pre-adaptation for manorialism.

    .

    I think the core idea should be the core but I think some or all of the above are plausible as rejoinders to objections i.e. if the *specific* form manorialism took (as opposed to an on the surface equally plausible gulag version) required pre-adaptation then there are at least two possible sources of that pre-adaptation:

    1) volunteer self-selection
    2) northern forest / baltic pre-adaptation due to “kindred” form of food-getting

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  28. i said: “thanks for all the really cool comments, guys! i’ll get back to you tomorrow.”

    sorry, guys. more of this nonsense (mostly family illnesses – again) is eating up my time this week. *sigh* i’ll sit down and respond to comments/blog more once things settle down. hopefully that’s soon! *sigh*

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  29. Medieval Europe was already modern. Manorial lords in France and Spain but at the same time in the Low countries , northern Germany (Hanseatic League) and northern Italy there were all the characteristic of modernity in those areas, which were all in the Holy Roman Empire.

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  30. […] start here | hbd* chick clannishness defined | hbd* chick big summary post on the hajnal line | hbd* chick the middle ages « hbd* chick (2011) year-end summary, 2011 | hbd* chick  outbreeding, self-control and lethal violence | hbd* chick 2012 top ten | hbd* chick historic european homicide rates … and the hajnal line | hbd* chick medieval manorialism’s selection pressures | hbd chick […]

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