some very random thoughts on the reformation

the following are some very random thoughts/notions/questions/half-baked ideas about the reformation(s). just some things that i’ve noticed which may or may not mean something. thought i’d share. (^_^)

∎ i’ve mentioned this before, and i’m sure i’ll mention it again: to me, it looks like the reformation(s) occurred on the fringe of “core europe” (“core europe” being frankish austrasia/neustria where bipartite manorialism was first established and from whence it spread to other areas of western europe). why was there no (or comparatively little) reformation activity in the core of “core europe”? [the red line on the map below indicates the hajnal line which, if you don’t know what that is that by now…GET OFF MY BLOG! (~_^) the areas sloppily outlined in black are austrasia and, to its west, neustria.]

religious divisions of europe map + austrasia + hajnal line

the pre-reformation era rebel christian groups that popped up were on the fringes: the waldensian movement began in southern france in the twelfth century, but really took root in the alpine border region between france and italy; the cathars of the same period were also from northern italy/southern france. john wycliffe came from a long line of yorkshiremen, and lollardism, having arisen in england in the mid-1300s, was also a movement located on the fringes of austrasia. even within england, lollardism seems to have had more of a following in areas that encircled “core england” — “core england” being where the manor system was first established (kent) and where the institution was most successfully implemented (the home counties).

the first proper set of of reformers — the hussites et al. that were a part of the bohemian reformation which began in the late-1300s — were from the kingdom of bohemia, nowadays the czech republic, so fringe (again, in relation to austrasia). luther was from eisleben in saxony, which later would be a part of east germany (the gdr), very much “fringe germany” — and lutheranism was, and is, very much a german/scandinavian thing, once again not occurring in the heart of “core europe.” calvinism is even more fringe than lutheranism, finding followers in scotland(!), among the frisians and dutch, the swiss, southwest france (the hugenots), and off in some parts of eastern europe — although calvin, himself, was from northern france. the radical reformation groups were even fringier.

why this pattern? (is it a pattern?!) why did the reformation (the reformations) arise around the edges of “core europe”?

∎ one of the main bugs of the reformers was, of course, what they viewed as the corrupt behaviors of the established church and clergy — the selling of indulgences, nepotism, usury — all that sort of thing. this was particularly the case for luther and his followers. it’s very clear that, today, northwestern “core” europeans are less corrupt than any of the peripheral europeans — southern europeans, eastern europeans, even (*gasp!) the irish:

europe - cpi 2015

was the reformation in germany the moment when an anti-corruption tipping point was reached in these northern populations? were corrupt, nepotistic behaviors simply largely bred out of these populations — via heavy outbreeding, heavy bipartite manorialization, and strong nuclear-family orientation for eight or nine hundred years — by this time? again though, if so, why wasn’t there a similar movement(s) in northeast france/belgium (austrasia) where these three factors (what i think were selection pressures) originated?

∎ the push for the publication of bibles in vernacular languages, and the widespread idea that there ought to be a personal/direct relationship between an individual and god, both strike me as expressions of individualism. again, individualism today is much stronger in northwest european populations than pretty much every other group on the planet, including in comparison to peripheral europeans. was an individualism tipping point reached in northwest european populations — thanks to selection for those traits — right around the time of the reformation? attitudes connected to individualism had already appeared in northern europe by the eleventh century, but perhaps the tipping point — the point of no return — was reached a couple of hundred years later.

∎ as i’ve said before, it seems to me that the calvinist ideas of predestination and double predestination are less universalistic than teachings in other versions of western christianity, including roman catholicism. roman catholicism is rather universalistic in the sense that everybody can be saved, but one does have to join the church (or at least you had to in the past) and repent, so the system is not fully universalistic. something like unitarian universalism is much more universalistic — almost anything and anyone goes. predestination/double predestination, wherein one is damned by god no matter what you do, sounds like some sort of closed, exclusive club. i don’t think it’s surprising that calvinism is found in peripheral groups pretty far away from “core” europe.

∎ the general animosity toward the centralized, hierarchical authority of the roman catholic church by those in the magisterial reformation, and their preference for working with more local, approachable authorities (eg. city councils), might possibly be seen as a rejection of authoritarianism on some level. that the members of the radical reformation rejected any secular or outside authority over their churches makes me think they’re rather clannish like scottish highlanders or balkans populations — generally not wanting to cooperate with outsiders at all.

∎ one of the biggest targets of the reformation in germany — one that, unlike the indulgences, etc., you don’t normally hear much about — is that the reformers wanted to take back control of marriage and marriage regulations from the central church. apart from the cousin marriage bans, another huge change that the roman catholic church had made to marriage in the middle ages was to make marriage valid only if the man and woman involved freely agreed to be married to one another. the church, in other words, had taken marriage out of the hands of parents who were no longer supposed to engage in arranging marriages for their children. the choice was to be freely made by the couple, no approval was necessary from the family, and, up until the 1500s, you didn’t even have to get married by a priest — two adults (a man and a woman) could just promise themselves in marriage to one another, even without witnesses, and that was enough. (one might always be disowned and disinherited, of course, if your parents didn’t approve, but they could not legally stop you from marrying.)

the germans reversed this after the reformation, and put marriage back in the hands of parents — at least they had to give their approval from then on. the reformers also reversed the cousin marriage bans, although curiously the rates of cousin marriage do not appear to have increased substantially afterwards.

i’m not sure how to characterize any of this. seems to be a bit anti-authoritarian and possibly individualistic. not sure. Further Research is RequiredTM. (^_^)

that’s all i’ve got for you today. the short of it is: i wonder if the reformations were a product of several tippining points in the selection for certain behavioral traits in northwestern europeans, among them individualism, universalism, and anti-corruption sentiments. and i don’t think the selection for any of these stopped at the reformation — northwest “core” europeans continued down that evolutionary pathway until we see at least one other big watershed moment in their biohistory: the enlightenment.

previously: the radical reformation and renaissances

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the dutch, the absence of manorialism in medieval netherlands, and new york values

the dutch have been exceptional for quite a long time (see here, here, and here), and new york city (new amsterdam) inherited their exceptionalism. here’s colin woodard on “new york values” [kindle locations 144-150]:

“While short-lived, the seventeenth-century Dutch colony of New Netherland had a lasting impact on the continent’s development by laying down the cultural DNA for what is now Greater New York City. Modeled on its Dutch namesake, New Amsterdam was from the start a global commercial trading society: multi-ethnic, multi-religious, speculative, materialistic, mercantile, and free trading, a raucous, not entirely democratic city-state where no one ethnic or religious group has ever truly been in charge. New Netherland also nurtured two Dutch innovations considered subversive by most other European states at the time: a profound tolerance of diversity and an unflinching commitment to the freedom of inquiry. Forced on the other nations at the Constitutional Convention, these ideals have been passed down to us as the Bill of Rights.”

the dutch are located nearby, even half in, the heart of “core europe” — known as austrasia back in the day — the region in northwest europe where outbreeding (i.e. the avoidance of close cousin marriage), nuclear (not just residential nuclear) families, and manorialism all appeared earliest in the early medieval period (and maybe southeast england, too). here’s a map of the frankish kingdoms, including austrasia, with the location today’s netherlands (very sloppily) indicated (by me):

austrasia - the netherlands

as you can see, the frisians are a bit of an exception — they were not a part of austrasia or the frankish kingdom until the 700s. i discussed the frisians in a previous post. apart from them, however, the dutch have been members of core europe since day one. why though do they seem to be not just core europeans but exemplary core europeans, what with their individualism and tolerance for diversity and their own northern renaissance and golden age? they’re really over the top core europeans. more core european in many ways than even the northern french who should, according to my outbreeding/manorialism theory, be super core europeans.

i really started to wonder about this when i read the other night that the netherlands was “very sparsely populated before 1500, and manorialism was of little importance.” huh?! i knew the frisians (like the ditmarsians) were never manorialized — that’s why they’re all a bit “wild” (i think) — but that wouldn’t make sense for the rest of the dutch. well, i think i’ve got it. and it turns out that the (evolutionary) history of the dutch is very interesting indeed!

to refresh everyone’s memory: manorialism — in particular bipartite manorialism — originated with the franks in austrasia probably in the 600s. here from michael mitterauer’s Why Europe? (which, if you haven’t read it by now, i might just have to ban you…) [pgs. 38-39 – this is mitterauer quoting another researcher]:

“‘I have introduced the concept of an early medieval ‘Frankish agrarian revolution’ that is implictly linked with the thesis that the…manorial village, field, and technical agrarian structures associated with this concept did not develop in Thuringia but were introduced as innovations — in a kind of ‘innovation package’ — from the western heartland of the Austrasian part of the empire…. I should like to reformulate my hypothesis thus: this type of agricultural reform was first put in motion in Austrasia around the middle of the seventh century, or somewhat earlier, under the Pippins, the majordomos of the Merovingians…. This innovation then caught on with nobles close to the king who in turn applied it to their own manorial estates. It would be most compelling to assume that the new model of the hide system — with its *Hufengewannfluren* and its large blocks of land (*territoria*) that were farmed in long strips (*rega*) — was also put into practice in the new settlements that were laid out by and for the kingdom (at the discretion of the majordomos) along the lines of a ‘Frankish state colonization.'”

mitterauer concurs and goes on to present much historic evidence showing how the frankish manor system was spread by the franks right across central europe over the course of a few hundred years (see also here). since “every society selects for something” — and since bipartite manorialism was a HUGE part of medieval northwest european society for something like six hundred years (depending on the region) — i’ve been trying to think through what selection pressures this manor system might have exerted on northwest “core” european populations (along with the outbreeding and the small family sizes — yes, there were undoubtedly other selection pressures, too). my working hypothesis right now: that, among other things, the manor system resulted in the domestication (self-domestication) of core europeans. more on that another day.

i’ve also been trying to work out which populations were manorialized when and for how long (along with how long they were outbreeding/focused their attentions on their nuclear families). for example, if you missed it, see here for what i found out about eastern (and other) germans.

now i’ve found out the story for the dutch. as i said above, the frisians were never manorialized. never, ever. which might account for why they’re, even to this day, a bit on the rambunctious, rebellious side. and up until the other evening, i thought the rest of the netherlands had been manorialized early on because it had been part of austrasia. but then i read that the netherlands was “very sparsely populated before 1500, and manorialism was of little importance.” *gulp!*

yes. well, what happened was: the netherlands was very sparsely populated before 1500, and there was, indeed, very little manorialism, but beginning in the 1000s, vast areas of peatlands in the netherlands (especially south hollad) were drained as part of large reclamation projects financed by various lords, etc. the labor was carried out by men who were then rewarded with farms in the reclaimed areas. much of this workforce was drawn from existing manors elsewhere in austrasia (in areas nearer to frisia, it would’ve been frisians doing the work/settling on the new farms). so inland netherlands, which was sparsely populated and where manorialism was not really present, was in large part settled by people from an already manorialized population. parts of austrasia had had manors since the 600s, and the reclamation projects began in the 1000s — and continued for a few hundred years — so that’s potentially 400+ years or so of manorialism that the settlers’ source population had experienced. thirteen generations or more, if we calculate a generation at a very conservative thirty years. some selection could’ve happened by then.

here from jessica dijkman’s Shaping Medieval Markets: The Organisation of Commodity Markets in Holland, C. 1200 – C. 1450 [pg. 12]:

“…the 11th to 13th centuries, when the reclamation of the extensive central peat district took place. The idea that the reclamations must have had a profound impact on the structure of society is based not only on the magnitude of the undertaking, but also on the way it was organised. Each reclamation project began with an agreement between a group of colonists and the count of Holland, or one of the noblemen who had purchased tracts of wilderness from the count for the purposed of selling it on. This agreement defined the rights and duties of both parties. The colonists each received a holding, large enough to maintain a family. In addition to personal freedom, they acquired full property rights to their land: they could use it and dispose of it as they saw fit. At the same time, the new settler community was incorporated into the fabric of the emerging state: the settlers accepted the count’s supreme authority, paid taxes, and performed military services if called upon….

“Jan de Vries and Ad van der Woude have suggested that in the absence of both obligations to a manorial lord and restrictions imposed by collective farming practices, a society developed characterised by ‘freedom, individualism and market orientation’. In their view this is part of the explanation for the rise of the Dutch Republic (with Holland as its leading province) to an economic world power in the early modern period. The argument seems intuitively correct, but the exact nature of the link between the ‘absence of a truly feudal past’ and marked economic performance at this much later stage is implied rather than explained.”

i’ll tell ya the nature of the link (prolly): biological — the natural selection for certain behavioral traits in the dutch population in this new social environment.

according to curtis and campopiano (2012), the reclamations and settlements in south holland were made almost entirely on a ‘blank canvas’.” they also say that the reclamation projects [pg. 6]:

“…led to the emergence of a highly free and relatively equitable society…. In fact, the reclamation context led Holland to become one of the most egalitarian societies within medieval Western Europe…. In the Low Countries, territorial lords such as the Bishop of Utrecht or the Count of Flanders managed to usurp complete regalian rights over vast expanses of wasteland after the collapse of the Carolingian Empire in the tenth century. Rather than reclaiming these waste lands to economically exploit them directly, territorial lords looked to colonise these new lands in order to broaden their territorial area, thereby expanding their tax base.

“The consequences of this process were significant for large parts of Holland from the tenth century onwards. Both the Bishop of Utrecht and the Count of Holland lured colonists to the scarcely-inhabited marshes by offering concessions such as personal freedoms from serfdom and full peasant property rights to the land. The rural people that reclaimed the Holland peat lands between the tenth and fourteenth centuris never knew of the manor or signorial dues. In fact, many of the colonists in the Holland peat-lands originated from heavily manorialised societies and were looking to escape the constrictions of serfdom, further inland….”

i need to double-check, but i’m pretty certain that this is a quite different picture from what happened during the ostseidlung. while colonists to the east received their own farms, they still had signorial obligations (owed either labor or rents to the lord of the manor) — i.e. they were tied to manors for as long as the manor system lasted. that’s a different sort of society with different sorts of selection pressures for behavioral traits.

so the dutch — at least the dutch in holland (they *are* the dutch, aren’t they?!) — are descended from a population that spent 400+ years or so in a manor system, some of whom (self-sorting!) then jumped right in to a system where they were free and independent peasants working on their own and trading their wares in markets (another crucial part of the story…for another day). and they’ve been doing the latter for nearly one thousand years. well no wonder they invented capitalism (according to daniel hannan anyway)!

i still think that the combination of frisians+dutch/franks might’ve been the winning one leading to the enormous success of the tiny netherlands as i said in my previous post on the dutch. now, though, i would add manorialized/non-manorialized to that paragraph as well:

“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.”

previously: going dutch and trees and frisians and eastern germany, medieval manorialism, and (yes) the hajnal line and big summary post on the hajnal line and medieval manorialism’s selection pressures

(note: comments do not require an email. some hollanders.)