family types in eastern europe, 1500-1900

speaking of viscous populations, large parts of eastern europe, beyond the hajnal line, have been characterized by extended families for a very long time, in contrast to northwestern “core” europeans.

here from karl kaser a map (probably roughly) showing both the limits of bipartite manorialism in europe (it didn’t extend into eastern europe) as well as the historic presence of nuclear vs. extended families between western and eastern europe. this map adds some of the squiggles to the hajnal line that i’ve been saying must exist — must be a fuzzy border in general:

Karl Kaser's line

so, west of that line (with some exceptions): bipartite manorialism going back to the 500s-800s (earlier the closer to the center of core europe), nuclear families going back to around that same time, and the avoidance of cousin marriage from around the 800s. east of that line: no bipartite manorialism, although some late “other” manorialism in northern eastern europe (i’ll explain that in my next post — there was never any manorialism in the balkans), extended families in many regions lasting right up until the present day (especially the balkans), and apparent late avoidance of cousin marriage compared to western europe — or, at least, not as strictly enforced for large parts of the medieval period.

all things considered, then, eastern european populations have been more viscous than northwestern ones for at least the last one thousand years.

in Power and Inheritance: Male Domination, Property, and Family in Eastern Europe, 1500-1900 [pg. 53+], karl kaser outlines how the differing economic and inheritance systems between eastern, western, and southern europe between 1500 and 1900 influenced family types. (and the foundations of these different systems stretch back into the medieval period.) i’m not going to get into all the details here, but, again, thanks to the socio-economic structures found in these three regions of europe, eastern populations wound up being more viscous than those in the west, and southerners some weird hybrid in between the other two. (but, quite possibly, the southern italians have had a higher cousin marriage rate than eastern europeans.) here from kaser [my emphases]:

“The inheritance geography of Europe can be roughly divided into three large areas: Western, Eastern, and Mediterranean zones, each with its own variations. Omnipresent, of course, is the potential for administrative intervention to change the customary laws of inheritance, whether for purely economic or even military purposes. Two basic variants, the *Grundherrschaft* system and that of a tributary system, can be distinguished. The exclusive goal of the tributary systems was to force the peasant families to pay their taxes and fees and fulfill their labor obligations vis-a-vis the landlords, while the *Grundherrschafts*-system enabled the landlord to intervene in questions of inheritance, family organization, and landed property. Europe had *Grundherrschaft*-systems in Central and Western Europe, while various forms of tributary systems were most characteristic of Eastern and Mediterranean Europe. In addition, we have to consider whether or not agnatic structures played a decisive role. Where the agnatic ideology was crucial, inheritance usually was considered patrilineal property of the group and was controlled by the group. In regions where the role of the agnatic group was weak or nonexistent, inheritance procedure focused on the conjugal couple and the nuclear family. Thus we have additionally to differentiate agnatically (with the focus on the descent group) and conjugally oriented areas (with the focus on the nuclear family). Eastern Europe belonged to the first; Western and Mediterranean Europe, with the exception of the larger islands — Sardinia, Corsica, Sicily, Crete, and Cyprus — belonged to the second. The Mediterranean area, dominated by tributary systems, was conjugally oriented….

“In the Mediterranean, there exists a long tradition of equally partible inheritance, the tributary system, and the relative absence of patrilineal descent concepts with the nuclear family as the primary social unit. In Western Europe, the result was the same, but the reasons and contexts were different….

“The Western and Central European pattern of unigeniture, the right of succession to the impartible inheritance of land and nuclear family on the farmstead, developed in two phases. It originated during the 7th and 8th centuries in the Frankish kingdom, the territory of which covered large parts of Central and Western Europe, before Charlemagne came to power. In the second phase, between the 11th and 14th centuries, this inheritance pattern was extended eastward in the course of a massive colonization of conquered territories by *Grundherrn* and their peasants. They first reached the Elbe and then moved eastward. Thus an important zone of cultural transition was established. This zone not only divided two marriage patterns but also different systems of inheritance and household formation….”

and, crucially, these different systems set up different selection pressures.

“It divides the *Grundherrschaft* system from tributary systems, conjugal — from agnatic-centered systems, and systems of impartible inheritance from those with equally partible male inheritance….”

see here for more on this process.

“In territories east of the transition zone, tributary systems were almost never replaced by *Grundherrschaft* systems, and thus inheritance followed traditional patrilineal customary laws until the 19th and early 20th centuries. In the wide plains of Eastern Europe, large feudal estate were established on tributary lines….

“It is interesting that the inheritance systems in Bohemia and Moravia — in what today constitutes the Czech Republic, on the one hand, and in the Slovak Republic, which was part of Hungary until 1918, on the other hand — were completely different. Bohemian customary law had provided for equal male partible inheritance, but this was replaced by the new German law brought with colonization. Slovakia was only colonized in the form of isolated settlements, and the traditional system, which was even adopted by several German settlements, survived.

“The Polish kingdom formally introduced the German legal system and the agrarian system of *Hufenverfassung* (based on the *Hufe* — the *manus* or hide — as the standardized concept for a peasant holding) throughout the country after colonization, despite the fact that colonization itself only reached western Poland. This introduction was successful in western Poland; and in the core area of Lithuania, the *Hufenverfassung* was also introduced and the land systematically redistributed. But in the eastern parts of the Polish-Lithuanian state, including Belarus and the Ukraine, male partible inheritance and strong agnatic communities survived. A considerable portion of the Baltic region was also affected by German colonization. Prussia was colonized by German settlers and landlords, and the agrarian structure of Kurland, Livonia, and Estonia was reorganized by German feudal lords who introduced impartible inheritance….

It has already become clear that the tributary systems allowed the people to practice their traditional inheritance practices. The same was true with household arrangements. The system of equally partible male inheritance offered several variants for property transfer: Transfer might not have been part of every individual life-course, in which case a large and complex household could emerge; it could systematically carried out upon the marriage of sons, which would have a system of nuclear families as its consequence; or it could be carried out after a certain period of marriage, e.g., upon the death of the father, and the individual life-course would experience phases of both nuclear and complex family constellations….

“The household formation patterns in the rest of Eastern Europe [i.e. outside of the balkans] cannot be defined this clearly — but were nonetheless analogous, in that they, too, were based on male partible inheritance and in the fact that the household was the primary working unit. The societies of Eastern Europe had no servants on the farmsteads….”

so, again, i think there are at least three things to juggle in our heads here when thinking about possible selection pressures for nepotistic (or or not-so-nepostistic) altruism, all having to do with the “viscosity” of populations: 1) inbreeding, 2) family types, and 3) the forces socio-economic systems exert on familial relationships. for more than the last thousand years, northwestern european pops have had low inbreeding, small family types, and societal pressures which have pulled apart related individuals (those pressures increased over the period). eastern european pops have probably had higher inbreeding for some or all of this time period (although nothing on the scale of the arab world), large family types, and not very many social or economic pressures for family member to disperse. the mediterranean world, aside from the large islands mentioned by kaser above, has had higher inbreeding rates than northwestern europe (especially southern italy), small family types (at least, small residential family types), but few pressures for close family to separate much.

that’s all i’ve got for you for now. i WILL be coming back to this! (^_^)

previously: viscous populations and the selection for altruistic behaviors and family types and the selection for nepotistic altruism and “l’explication de l’idéologie” and big summary post on the hajnal line

(note: comments do not require an email. traditional family systems of europe.)



  1. Sounds like you’ve unlocked another key piece of the puzzle.

    For readers to keep in mind:

    “Every society selects for something” -Greg Cochran


  2. @jayman – “Sounds like you’ve unlocked another key piece of the puzzle.”

    i think so! and definitely back to the drawing board on southern europe. (i’m so confused! =P )


  3. One difference between Mediterranean and Eastern European corruption is that the former tends to be more overtly nepotistic/family-orientated, while Eastern European corruption schemes tend to be mostly or completely afamilial.

    You can see the extremes of this in the Italian versus Russian mafia: The Italian mafia is highly familial, with entrance into the ranks of soldiers often reserved exclusively for Italians or even just Sicilians (or with Calabrians for the Ndrangheta). The top positions seem to be highly hereditary. In contrast, the Russian mafia is highly “multicultural” and there are in fact fairly severe prohibitions against getting family members involved.

    Despite their corruption, the Eastern Slavs don’t really have governance problems in the sense of the state being unable to extend its writ to the various regions (the Caucasus in the 1990s with its more Mediterranean structure is the exception that proves the rule) or to mobilize their populations in times of war. That seems to be a fairly big contrast with Mediterranean polities.


  4. English people are very fond of saying their law has incorporated primogeniture for many centuries until recent times but as far as I can see they are wrong. For the last four or five hundred years people could leave their wealth and land to whomever they liked: primogeniture was therefore a custom, not a law. The exception was people who made no will: there primogeniture was law, apparently. Titles of nobility passed (almost always) by male primogeniture but that’s different from wealth and land, unless some sort of Trust has tied them together, as fans of Downton Abbey will know.


  5. hdb chick,

    There was a popular Dutch saying, I forget how it goes exactly (I was stationed in Europe), but the gist is “Love in one roof, how disgusting… but oh how convenient”. Was this simply a joke, or was incest practiced commonly among the Dutch (Belgium/Holland) at one time? Thanks.


  6. “The societies of Eastern Europe had no servants on the farmsteads….” Whereas in England & Wales virtually every teenager was despatched to another household to work as a maidservant, apprentice or labourer


  7. You may explain for us the case of Poland during XVII and XVIII, seems they were very tolerant with ethnic minorities like Jews.

    People or elite that create this particular social atmosphere??


  8. Probably I’m late with this comment, but just in case: at some point you’ll have to dive more (more specifically ) into the topic of cousin marriage, since it is a big and varied phenomenon, a favorite in evolutionary anthropology.

    You know the lot: there are many different social systems governing them, sometimes quite complex and sophisticated, many different types and, on top of that, they range from the endogamic decay of first-grade cousins to the “evolutionary sweet spot” of third and fourth-grade cousins.



    what caught my attention this text was a part that says ‘holistic thinkers’ ‘tend to begin their analysis of the ”periphery” to the ”center” (things or cosmos: inter-relations of similar things, aka, collectivity > 1, ;) ), while the opposite is likely to be for the’ ‘specific thinker’ ‘. Interestingly, this seems to relate to the way ” Western ” and ” Eastern ” perceive the world, that is, the ” Western ” if begins by himself and according to his intellectual capacity will addressing the surrounding world and reducing their cognitive bias. In contrast, the ” Eastern ” from the beginning of his thought avoid cognitive bias or ‘personal opinions” and finish your thought with itself, especially the intellectually gifted. The average Westerner is self-centered while the average Oriental is collective-oriented (which is around and not yourself).

    this was What I understand.


  10. Maybe will be interesting to test the candidate genes of human behavior in newborn babies AND in the future, in the same adults which were analyzed.

    We inherited or whatever that, several genes for a certain behavior. Do some candidate genes can be hierarchically superior, ie, trigger other related candidate-genes *

    just speculating, as ever………


  11. Another possibility is that the same behavior may have different causes. For example, I am introverted, but one of the main reasons for being introverted is because I am a stutterer. If I were not stutter, I would be less introverted * Very likely.

    Different paths giving the same result or similar results.


  12. We remain hunter-gatherers, mentally speaking. Men are more likely to have a hunter mentality, which is better instinctively to sniff out danger, consider your steps, know the environment (territoriality), preys, competitors and predators.

    The typical woman is still one gatherer, a psychology that is more socially detailed and modern, the woman expressed on average, all human modern behavior while man is more archaic in this sense.

    The typical liberal tends to have a more female mindset in this direction while the right-characteristic tends to have a more male mentality. In a world with so many dangers all the time sorround us, and with a prevalence of male psychology in human populations, the value of the ” male ‘ mindset to sniff out danger and weigh the risks is more than essential.


  13. Gene-envinroment interaction = the quasi-metaphor/whatever anallogous with diabetes type 1 (inborn) and type 2 (environmentally induced or organic-somatic)

    Some people born like that, literally

    other people born with certain and very real susceptibility that will be mediated by environment- gene (being) interaction or life-path.


  14. People like to say

    ” ‘whites’ are the most individualistic of all”

    Now i don’t think so

    Based on Rushton et al whites are in the middle of the spectrum of macro-human races in behavioral tendencies.

    Also in individualistic levels. Why black societies tend to be chaotic**

    One of the potential factors is because there are a excess of individualistic men (specially alpha ones), people who live for themselves, higher in openess and lower in consciousness, specially among their elites.

    Remember that there are different dimensions for all human behavior

    openess for what**

    sexual (people who are prone to engage in different sexual intercourse, read= fuckercourses)

    social (people who are prone to engage in different social interactions, in different social environments that generally tend to correlates with..

    cultural openess

    political (people who are prone to change their political views or ”improve” them OR in other aspects like to be pro-open borders, different conceptions of the word openess and different meanings, of course)

    People who have potential to change their opinions AND to be more fluid in their behavior are more prone to score higher in general openess to experience(s).

    And the meta-consciousness factor, meta-thinking, also is important to determine genuinely good or at least personally rational changes in opinions and/or behaviors.

    Average east asians, seems, are higher in consciousness and lower in openess because many-to-most east asians are ”beta” and seems also have higher % of omegas, and the last group, specially men, are also higher in openess but in a different way.

    alpha = euphoric impulsivity
    beta = boring middle class (generally) worker
    omega = melancholic impulsivity

    Collectivistic societies tend to produce organized societies while very individualistic societies tend to produce chaotic ones if more people will not cooperate. More rebellions and urban or highly populated area-criminality tend to mean ”micro-rebellions”.

    ”paradoxically’ a lot of collectivistic societies as gypsies are also individualistic specially in their interactions with other populations but in a different-individualistic way with themselves, they use the hard-patriarchal culture to create a social atmosphere where the man is relatively free to act badly or coldly with their patners and relatives.

    individual-ism = self-ish

    ‘Dumb’ populations have the desire for collectivistic stability, is the part of cultural transition, when you have a non-stable or ”inappropriate’ population with collectivistic/ stable intra-interactions desires.

    they have consciouness that stability is better than instability but they can’t stop their ”primitive” impulsivities, specially to be colder or act badly one each other, because they even have consciousness that they are acting bad.

    One of the product of individualiSM are the anti social triad behaviors, not just explicity criminality.

    Many strong personalities in the same place is worst for cooperation (specially if this personalities aren’t wise) than less.

    When you have a lot of people who act badly or stupidly in their familial environment, this is just a reverberation of something wrong with overall society.

    Consciousness tend to correlates with sensibility with social details, of course, the average east asian maybe, can be not so concerned with social details, the lower sexual/competitive impulsivity among them and very lower profile of dominance can explain why they appears to be more conscious about your attitudes than other macro-populations, vague general comparison.

    East asians are less prone to commit car accidents because they are more conscious about their attitudes or ALSO because they have lower overall impulsivity and they interpret it as ”higher consciousness”.


  15. Just got back online after a break and I am very sorry to see that you don’t seem to be feeling well. Sincere wishes for a speedy recovery and many happy hours of blogging to come! –M.G.


  16. Can exogamy increase brain amygdala ( part of reptilian brain) and reduce ”cognitive flexibility”**


  17. HBDChick,
    I keep thinking in your ‘family types’ there should be a measure of the acceptability of polygamy or not. Most cultures have allowed multi wife,* even the Romans, but that began to end in the Christian west – you guessed it right about the time of fall of Rome. I don’t have any data on the Germanic tribes, but if they followed the standard human practice, it would seem most of Europe (and the world) was parallel** multi wife.

    Multi or Single wives changes the skill set needed by both sexes. Consider that in the Multi scenario, the women are ignoring many men as unsuitable, and looking to have the best possible, and they all can. this makes the male population do what ever is needed for access to sex, and is probably much more violent, and less cooperative. In the one wife setup, the women will have to be more ruthlessly cunning to grab the best suitable mate, but the men less so. – Maybe. I keep thinking there is something here, but never work out exactly how it would primarily play out.

    And historically it seems that multi wife has been very common – if the 80% of women have passed on their genes, but only 40% of men statistic is correct.

    *multi wife in this case to be specific on polygamy. And I include any form of accepted concubinage, not just 1st/2nd/Nth wife structure. The men kept slave wives but didn’t “marry” them as they would a woman of equal standing.

    **I use the word parallel here to distinguish from death and remarriages that everywhere in Europe used.


  18. Acceptance of polygyny is not the only thing to consider. We also have to consider its prevalence. If polygyny is allowed, but only 5% of women are in polygynous marriages, the selective impact of that by itself will be minimal.


  19. JayMan ,
    I admit that while I’ve not thought all of the polygyny through, historically if the 80% of women have passed on their genetics and only 40% of men have, then while only 5% of men may have been polygynist, 1/2 of women who’ve passed on their genes have. I agree that the prevalence could be down from 50% if we assume remarriage after the death of a first wife, but I somehow think it is greater than 5%. There were latin names for all the multiple first, second, third wives and first second, etc concubines. That only happens if it occurs often enough.

    So there is some change in selection from polygynist to monogonist. What? I’m not positive, which is why I kicked it here. And as it is a change that takes place at the same time as out marrying, it is worth considering that these are 2 factors that can support one another.


  20. Dearime –
    “How would Sequential Polygamy (the modern American model) affect these considerations?”

    that is an interesting question – how does it affect us today and going forward.

    And one I’ve been trying to unravel. Part of the problem is while we can qualify it as some form of polygamy, it shows up in many flavors – like serial cohabitating, divorce and remarriage, ‘playing the field’ etc. Each has its own selection pressure based on gaining and keeping mates.

    (Had much longer post, but deleted it. I really need to start drafting these things to get my reasoning in order and my data points supported)

    BTW, source the statistic cited, which comes from
    Dr. Baumeister’s book Is There Anything Good About Men?
    which states “Today’s human population is descended from twice as many women as men. I think this difference is the single most under-appreciated fact about gender. To get that kind of difference, you had to have something like, throughout the entire history of the human race, maybe 80% of women but only 40% of men reproduced.” Of course this is based on mDNA and studies of y-chromosome transposes, and subject to updating. As this book is from about 2006, and based on data from 2004


  21. The most puzzeling things in those maps is France. Particularly in the purchasing parity map which shows relative purchasing parity across Europe. France, except for the Paris area is lower than all of the Rhine valley, and many other areas that were latter adds to ‘core europe’.
    I suspect that it is one of two things. 1. HBDChick has noted that the ‘other alutrism’ as an advantage may have its limits. 2. Imigrants may be diluting the French. I don’t have enough data to confirm either.
    Ok, it could be a third thing. Something seen in data but not yet identified.


  22. Seems important to separate clearly poverty to endogamy factor.

    muslims are more prone to have sons with mental and or biological problems BECAUSE higher poverty


    because they are more endogamic**

    seems important separate the proportion of muslims who born with biological issues caused by poverty from those who born with biological issues which was primarily/fundamentally caused by extreme endogamy.


  23. Dear hbd chick,

    I would like to download your site into a private archive of Very Important Stuff.

    If there is an easy way, please create a page with just links to all of your articles (and nothing else!). If this would require more than a few clicks, then a page with just the monthly archive links (and nothing else!) would be a second choice.

    The way your pages are set up now is ideal for finding stuff, but a nightmare for archiving. To download all of your articles and any linked PDFs would lead to an exponential growth of links to links, not to mention WordPress housekeeping files, which could easily take my desired download of a few thousand files to at least many, many tens of thousands.

    I enjoy reading your material! Please write more and faster. :-)


  24. As far as I know, first an second cousin marriages were and still are forbidden in Eastern Europe by the Orthodox Church. The interdiction for first cousins begins in late IV century (from the emperor Theodosius the Great), the interdiction for second cousins begins in IX-X century in Eastern Roman Empire. First cousin marriages are forbidden by law in my country (Romania) and I never heard about any case of second cousin marriage here, even if the law allows them (but not the church). Most people here think of cousin marriage as incest (almost like between brother and sister). I was quite surprised to read in some English novels (Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, Mansfield Park by Jane Austen) about marriages between first cousins, or to read that Darwin married a first cousin. Instead, in Tolstoy’s novel “War and Peace”, in Russia, during Napoleonic Wars, Nikolai loves his first cousin Sonia, but they never marry, they both know that it’s forbidden (somewhere they talk about trying to obtain a dispense from the church).


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