Archives for category: family types

sam schulman points me to an interesting article in the tls (thanks, sam!), Querns and curtains, which is a review of a couple of books about the house and home. one of them is The Making of Home: The 500-year story of how our houses became homes by judith flanders.

here’s the cool bit [my bolding]:

“France and Britain stood on two sides of a divide that Flanders identifies between the ‘home’ countries and ‘house’ countries. In the ‘house’ countries – where Romance or Slavic languages are spoken – there is no linguistic distinction between house and home. ‘When an Italian goes home he *sta andando a casa*, goes to the house’. To speakers of the languages of north-western Europe, home and house are ‘related but distinct things': *Heim* and *Haus* in German or *koti* and *talo* in Finnish. Flanders convincingly suggests that this linguistic separation of house and home went along with a different ideal of ‘homeness’. The focal point was not the wider community but the individual household, which was increasingly founded on privacy. Curtains are a case in point. They make possible the kind of cosiness – the Danish word is *hygge* – that can only be found inside ‘when set against a real or metaphorical cold world outside’. Flanders writes that the implications of the northern European version of ‘home’ went far beyond the cultural. Patterns of late marriage in these countries produced generations of couples who needed ‘to equip new houses’ and had ‘the cash to do so’. It is Flanders’s thesis that a focus on a private ‘home’ equipped with new desirable consumer goods was one of the factors that made industrialization happen earlier in Britain than elsewhere. The ideal home was an insatiable creature, constantly generating new appetites for consumer goods, such as sash windows, carpets, cookstoves; and later for gas light and newfangled raisin-pitters and apple-corers.”

sounds like the dividing line between ‘house’ and ‘home’ societies in europe is more or less the hajnal line! — with france outside the hajnal line in this instance. (is there really no word for ‘home’ in french?)

consulting my (shorter) oed, i find that the words house and home both go back to at least old english, i.e. sometime before 1149 (and both are also related to similar words in other germanic languages obviously), but that the word home really took on the primary meaning that we use today in middle english or sometime between 1150 and 1349 when its other usage (“a collection of dwellings”) was dropped:

house [f. Gmc: ult origin unkn.] A n. Pl. houses. 1 A building for human habitation, a dwelling, a home; spec. a self-contained unit having a ground floor and one or more upper storeys (as opp. to a bungalow, flat, etc.). OE.

A n. †1 A collection of dwellings; a village, a town. OE-ME. 2 The place where one lives permanently, esp. as a member of a family or household; a fixed place of residence. Freq. without article or possessive, esp. as representing the centre of family life. OE.

i’ve been arguing for a while now that the foundation of anglo-saxon society in early medieval england was the extended family or kindred and not the individual and his nuclear family like today. (this is not my idea — i’ve picked it up from various historians.) i’ve also argued that the shift from the kindred to the nuclear family in medieval england and elsewhere in my northwestern “core” europe occurred sometime between ca. 1000 and 1200 — roughly speaking (prolly slightly later in northern scandinavia). for example, it wasn’t until the eleventh century in england that a feud could be carried out by a man’s fellow guild members (i.e. people not necessarily related to him) rather than his kindred (see here) — this, i think, indicates that the importance of the kindred was dying away at that point in time. for more on all this see my previous posts: kinship in anglo-saxon society, kinship in anglo-saxon society ii, and the importance of the kindred in anglo-saxon society.

the shift in the meaning of the word home sometime between 1150 and 1349 to (only) the way we use it today is, i think, another indicator of the rising importance of the nuclear family right around this time (or just a bit before, perhaps, with a slight delay in the language until it caught up with the reality on the ground). from the article again: “The focal point was not the wider community but the individual household….” the “wider community” had, of course, largely been extended family and kindred members in the early medieval period; by the high and late middle ages, the nuclear family in the individual household was what was important — one’s “home” (as we know it), no longer one’s “home” (a “collection of dwellings”…belonging to the extended family?). and, of course, i think that this shift from the extended to the nuclear family in nw europe happened thanks to The Outbreeding Project in medieval europe, yada, yada, yada….

this shift in the language parallel to the one in the family type isn’t the only one that appears to be connected to The Outbreeding Project. the terms that we use to describe various family members — especially cousins and aunts and uncles — also changed in nw europe a couple of hundred years after The Outbreeding Project got going in europe — right around the 1100s in germany, in fact. interesting, huh? (and did i ever mention that there was a similar linguistic shift in ancient greece in the fifth to the third centuries bc?)

something else that i found interesting in the review article, but only because i have a quirky interest in the layout of houses, both inside and in relation to other houses:

“Another common feature of these roundhouses, as the archaeologist Francis Pryor notes in ‘Home: A time traveller’s tales from Britain’s history’, his account of family life in Britain before the Romans, was that the doorway almost always faced south-east – as many as 95 per cent of the ones we know of. The most likely reason was solar orientation: ‘to catch the light of the rising sun’, as Pryor puts it. In his view, this was not primarily a practical move – in the Fens, where there are bitter north-easterly winds, a west-facing door might have offered more protection – though it ‘may have helped’ with getting up in the morning. Rather, these sun-catching doorways were a ‘symbol’ of the importance of the sun in structuring daily life. Home, in Iron Age Britain, was a place that looked outwards towards the sun.

“Fast-forward to the towns of Britain in the nineteenth century and people no longer had strong views about the placement of doorways. A front door faced not the sun but the street, and therefore varied depending on which side of the street you occupied. What mattered more than which way the door faced was that a home should have curtains. By the mid-nineteenth century, as Judith Flanders explains in her magnificent overview ‘The Making of Home’, to live without curtains ‘seemed as odd to the British as living without corridors’ (another thing that homes had once not felt the lack of). Curtains have many functions – insulation, decoration and prestige. But their primary purpose is to protect the home from what is happening outside, ‘even light’, as Flanders writes. Curtains epitomize a view of ‘home’ directly opposed to the south-easterly doorways of prehistoric Britain. Our modern version of home is not a place that looks towards the sun, but inwards towards itself. Curtains enable the occupants of a house to feel that ‘what is happening outside is far away’.”

i’ve brought up the orientation of houses in england (and nw europe) before. what i’ve always thought was significant is that anglo/nw european houses face onto the street or a common area (the “green”), not only for a functional reason (although it’s no doubt useful to have the entrance to your house face the road), but because all the unrelated nuclear families in these homes feel that they are a part of the broader community (except, of course, for that one crazy guy livin’ on his own down the street). this is in contrast, for instance, to courtyard houses that you find in many areas of the world where inbreeding (cousin marriage) still occurs and where it’s the extended family that’s important, not the neighborhood.

flanders’ observations on curtains offering some privacy and a way for the nuclear family to focus in on itself (particularly when the blinds are closed?) are interesting, though. maybe i’ll have to read the book! (^_^)

previously: big summary post on the hajnal line and the importance of the kindred in anglo-saxon society and kinship in anglo-saxon society and kinship in anglo-saxon society ii and there’s no place like home and kandahar vs. levittown.

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

from long-term mating patterns. there. i said it! (~_^)

just to remind everybody — emmanuel todd is a french historian/anthropologist/demographer/sociologist/political scientist who, amongst other things, has (more or less correctly, imho) noticed a connection between family types (nuclear, extended, clan, etc.) and ideology (capitalism, communism, christianity, islam, etc.). see his The Explanation of Ideology: Family Structures and Social Systems (and my previous post “l’explication de l’idéologie”).

here is a summary of todd’s family types, where he found them, and some of their fundamental characteristics and related ideologies (again, see previous post for more — see also this chart from craig willy):

absolute nuclear family
– no cohabitation of married children with their parents
– no marriage between the children of brothers
– anglo-saxons, netherlands, denmark
– christianity, capitalism, ‘libertarian’ liberalism, feminism

egalitarian nuclear family
– no cohabitation of married children with their parents
– no marriage between the children of brothers.
– northern france, northern italy, central and southern spain, central portugal, greece, romania, poland, latin america, ethiopia
– christianity (catholicism); the “liberte, egalite, fraternite” form of liberalism

authoritarian family
– cohabitation of the married heir with this parents
– little or no marriage between the children of two brothers
– germany, austria, sweden, norway, belgium, bohemia, scotland, ireland, peripheral regions of france, northern spain, northern portugal, japan, korea, jews, romany gypsies
– socialism/bureaucratic socialism or social democracy, catholicism. fascism sometimes, various separatist and autonomous (anti-universalist) movements (think german federalism)

exogamous community family
– cohabitation of married sons and their parents
– no marriage between the children of two brothers
– russia, yugoslavia, slovakia, bulgaria, hungary, finland, albania, central italy, china, vietnam, cuba, north india (note that many of these countries, the eastern european ones, also have a tradition of marrying young)
– communism

endogamous community family
– cohabitation of married sons with their parents
– frequent marriage between the children of brothers
– arab world, turkey, iran, afghanistan, pakistan, azerbaijan, turkmenistan, uzbekistan, tadzhikistan
– islam

asymmetrical community family
– cohabitation of married sons and their parents
– prohibition on marriages between the children of brothers, but a preference for marriages between the children of brothers and sisters
– southern India
– hinduism; a variety of communism unlike that found elsewhere

anomic family
– cohabitation of married children with their parents rejected in theory but accepted in practice
– consanguine marriage possible and sometimes frequent
– burma, cambodia, laos, thailand, malaysia, indonesia, philippines, madagascar, south-american indian cultures

african systems
– instability of the household
– polygyny

the fundamental pattern here is that the family types run from small (and individualistic) to large (and communal) — from nuclear families through to community families. the underlying fundamental pattern — the causal factor — is that the long-term mating patterns run from outbreeding to greater and greater levels of inbreeding (to inbreeding+polygamy in many african societies).

as i said in a previous post where do clans come from?:

“the presence (or absence) of clans in societies is somehow connected to the mating patterns of societies. in fact, it seems to be that a whole range of kinship-based societal types is somehow connected to a whole range of mating patterns: the ‘closer’ the mating patterns in a society, the more ‘clannish’ it tends to be — the more distant the mating patterns, the less ‘clannish.’

“so we see a spectrum of ‘clannish’ societies ranging from the very individualistic western societies characterized by nuclear families and, crucially, very little inbreeding (cousin marriage, for instance) to very tribal arab or bedouin societies characterized by nested networks of extended families and clans and large tribal organizations and having *very high* levels of inbreeding (specifically a form of very close cousin marriage which increases the degree of inbreeding). falling somewhere in between these two extremes are groups like the chinese whose society is built mostly around the extended familiy but in some regions of china also clans — or the medieval scots (especially the highland scots) whose society for centuries was built around the clan (h*ck, they even coined the term!). these ‘in-betweener’ groups are, or were, characterized by mid-levels of inbreeding (typically avoiding the very close cousin marriage form of the arabs).”

running through todd’s types:

– the absolute nuclear family found in anglo-saxons (the english), the netherlands, and denmark. todd notes that there is no marriage between the children of brothers in societies where this family type is found. in fact, there has been very little cousin marriage of ANY sort in these “core european” societies since the middle ages (see “mating patterns in europe series” below ↓ in left-hand column) — especially in (southern) england and (parts of) the netherlands (i don’t know about denmark). these are the areas of northwest europe — of probably the world — that have been outbreeding the most, since the early part of the medieval period — and they have the smallest families and are the greatest individualists (although i’m not so sure about the danes…).

– the egalitarian nuclear family found in northern france, northern italy, central and southern spain, central portugal, greece, romania, poland, latin america, and ethiopia. again, todd notes there there is no marriage between the children of brothers in these societies, but the key — at least as far as the european societies here go — is that they, too, have mostly been avoiding ALL forms of cousin marriage for a very long time — but NOT QUITE as long, or for as much, as the peoples of the low countries/southern england. The Outbreeding Project of the europeans (as i like to call it) really got going earliest amongst the franks (and the anglo-saxons in kent who had close ties to the franks), and it spread out in all directions across europe from there. so, the populations closest to the early medieval frankish heartland (other parts of northern france, northern italy, spain, portugal) are just one family type step away from the absolute nuclear family — and individualistic, but not as individualistic as the english or dutch. (for more details on these other european countries see “mating patterns in europe series” below ↓ in left-hand column.) i don’t yet know enough about the mating patterns of latin america or ethiopia.

– the authoritarian family, which is a type of stem family (nuclear family+grandparents), found in germany, austria, sweden, norway, belgium, bohemia, scotland, ireland, peripheral regions of france, northern spain, northern portugal, japan, korea, jews, and romany gypsies. todd notes that there is little or no marriage between the children of brothers in these populations, but again, most of the european countries/regions included here have avoided ALL cousin marriage for centuries. HOWEVER, they were mostly part a LATER — sometimes much later (e.g. ireland, highland scotland) — wave in The Outbreeding Project, just like the european egalitarian nuclear families above (for more details see “mating patterns in europe series” below ↓ in left-hand column). the japanese, too, began outbreeding quite latevery late, i believe (but i need to find out more). i don’t know enough about the koreans or jews (i assume todd means ashkenazi jews?) to say. in general, gypsies inbreed (marry their cousins) A LOT. so, as the extent of long-term inbreeding increases, the family size begins to increase.

– the exogamous community family found in russia, yugoslavia, slovakia, bulgaria, hungary, finland, albania, central italy, china, vietnam, cuba, and north india. todd notes that there is no marriage between the children of brothers in these groups, but in most of the eastern europeans populations here (not sure about finland or hungary), The Outbreeding Project arrived much later than in northwestern europe, and marriage between maternal cousins was not unusual in the medieval period (see “mating patterns in europe series” below ↓ in left-hand column). in some of these groups — like the albanians — maternal cousin marriage is probably still common today, or was until very recently. parts of italy, too, especially the farther south you go. maternal cousin marriage was common in china, especially in the south, for millennia (see “mating patterns in asia series” below ↓ in left-hand column). i don’t know enough about the vietnamese or cubans to say. the northern indians (the hindus) tend to avoid cousin marriage, but marry within castes, of course. so we see again that, the longer the history of cousin marriage, the larger the family size. most of these groups have been marrying cousins for several hundreds of years longer than northwestern europeans, and they have large “community” families.

– the endogamous community family found in the arab world, turkey, iran, afghanistan, pakistan, azerbaijan, turkmenistan, uzbekistan, and tajikistan. todd notes that there is frequent marriage between the children of brothers. that is absolutely correct — father’s brother’s daughter (fbd) marriage, which probably originated in the levant, was exported into the arabian peninsula, and spread out from there when the arabs conquered the middle east, north african, and many of the “-stans.” and it just so happens that fbd marriage leads to the greatest degrees of inbreeding possible — and, therefore, these populations have some of the largest family sizes possible (clans and tribes).

– the asymmetrical community family found in southern india. todd notes that maternal cousin marriage is preferred here, and the rates of cousin marriage in southern india — and uncle-niece marriage — are very high. so again, lots of close marriages leads to large, community families.

– the anomic family found in burma, cambodia, laos, thailand, malaysia, indonesia, philippines, madagascar, and south-american indian cultures. todd says that consanguineous marriages are permitted and “sometimes frequent” in these populations — and that adult children often live with their parents (so these families are larger than nuclear families). i don’t know much about the mating patterns in any of these groups, but if consanguineous marriages are frequent in them, it’s not surprising to find large family sizes.

african family systems found in sub-saharan africa. todd describes them as unstable and polygynous. i know that cousin marriage is common in some but not in others, but i don’t know many details. we shall have to wait and see on sub-saharan africa.

but hbd chick — maybe populations with large family sizes simply favor close marriages? perhaps it’s all just a coincidence!

no, it’s definitely NOT a coincidence, and we can know that the causal direction is from long-term mating patterns to family size (and various ideologies), because we have the example of europe to show us that.

BEFORE northwest europeans started outbreeding (avoiding cousin marriage) on a regular basis — in the pre-christian era — they had large families — kindreds and clans and tribes (for more details see “general” section and “mating patterns in europe series” below ↓ in left-hand column). and the groups that have been OUTBREEDING THE LONGEST — the english and the dutch (and the danes?) — have the smallest family sizes — and are the most individualistic. and the groups that started outbreeding later — for example the irish and the highland scots — they had larger families and even clans until well into the medieval period. same for eastern europe. and in the balkans, many of those groups are still marrying cousins today (or up until very recently), and they still have extended families and clans.

it’s not clear exactly what the mechanism is, but it must be biological and is, no doubt, related to the concept of inclusive fitness. the natural analogy (heh – see what i did there?) to draw would be to ants and the other eusocial insects (although i know many myrmecologists/entymologists don’t like to connect eusociality and inclusive fitness) — many of the individuals in these insect populations are very closely related, and, so (probably), they come together in very large family groups. other parallels might be to naked mole rats versus other mole rats or to meerkats, but i don’t know the mating patterns/genetic relatedness in those species.

however it actually works, the general pattern is clear: the closer the long-term mating patterns, the larger the family size (and the more family-oriented the populace) — the more distant the long-term mating patterns, the smaller the family size (and the more individualistic the populace — and, yet, more commonweal oriented — at least in europe…).

see also: craig willy’s Emmanuel Todd’s L’invention de l’Europe: A critical summary

previously: “l’explication de l’idéologie” and where do clans come from? and whatever happened to european tribes?

(note: comments do not require an email. nekked mole rat!)

back to America 3.0 for a sec.

if i understand their argument correctly, bennett and lotus are proposing that the anglo-saxon absolute nuclear family — and the sort-of individual-based society that goes along with it — has distant roots stretching back to the pre-christian germans on the continent. they do say that there were obviously some changes to the anglo-saxon family type after the germanics arrived in (what would become) england — basically that the anglo-saxon nuclear family became even more nuclear over the course of the medieval period. but, by and large, they believe that there is a very long cultural continuity of family types and societal structures going all the way back to the early germans and that these cultural traditions are what made the anglo world pretty d*rn great.

based upon my readings over the last couple of years (feel free to flip through the “english” section in the “mating patterns in europe series” below ↓ in left-hand column), i think that bennett and lotus have got it pretty right. the anglo-saxon world IS exceptional (and, no, no one in my extended family can take ANY credit for that) — this exceptionalism has got to do with the structures of anglo-saxon society, very much so the fundamental family structures — and the development of these structures does go back to the pre-christian continental germans. HOWEVER, i think that bennett and lotus have missed some details — details which throw off the timing of their argument somewhat. for instance, as i pointed out in my last post on the book, they missed out entirely on the importance of the kindred in early germanic society, thus over-estimating the importance of the nuclear family at that point in time. early germanic society wasn’t composed of very tightly knit clans, but neither was it made up of truly independent nuclear families. the early germans were very much tied to their kindreds — including the anglo-saxons in early medieval england up to at least 1000 a.d. (see previous post).

whatever made the anglo-saxons finally give up on their extended families (the kindreds) happened after they got to england (although they may already have been primed for it). the kindred seems to be truly gone in england (at least in the south/southeast) by about 1200 a.d., the evidence suggesting that it was on its way out by at least ca. 1000 a.d. so, sometime between their arrival in the 400s-600s and 1200, something happened which resulted in the disappearance of the anglo-saxon kindred (and germanic kindreds on the continent, too, btw — but not all the germanic kindreds).

in this post, i want to nit-pick about another point that bennett and lotus made about the pre-christian germans on the continent [pg. 75]:

“They owned property individually, not communally, and not as families. Adult children and parents had separate and individual rights, not collective rights as a family.”

nope. as greying wanderer mentioned in the comments on the other post, this is incorrect.

here from “Jural Relations Among the Saxons Before and After Christianization” in The Continental Saxons from the Migration Period to the Tenth Century: An Ethnographic Perspective (2003) is giorgio ausenda on early saxon society on the continent. he’s drawing this information from the earliest written saxon laws. i’m quoting an extended bit here, since the first part includes an interesting description of how the early german kindred structure, including blood feuds, worked [pgs. 113-114]:

“There was no overarching structure with executive power in that society [pre-carolingian continental saxon society], even when stratified as in the case of the Saxons. There were no permanent ‘tribal chiefs’, but only heads of clans with little if any restraining power; the containment of violence was a private matter based on fear of retaliation between like corporate groups, i.e. ‘do not do onto others what you don’t want to be done to you’. The only restraining power the senior ‘elder’ of the group, which is also the etymological meaning of many terms for ‘chief’ all over the world, had was that of acting as an arbiter in an effort to reach consensus on compensations for murder or lesser injuries between contending parties belonging to different corporate groups under his jurisdiction; hence the Latin term *iudex* for such chiefs which were seen as acting mostly in legal palavers.

Property did not concern land, as this belonged to the corporate group as a whole and was the object of raids and counterraids to keep neighbouring groups away, or even wars rather than legal transfers. Tools and weapons were considered individual property and, in many cases … when the owners died, buried with them…. The only transmissible property was livestock and, in general, its apportionment was fixed by custom: women obtained their customary marriage endowment and men started owning livestock after they were wedded. They inherited their part in proportion to the number of sons of their deceased father, as sons were the only manual labor available in simple societies and were engaged in herding and minding their extended family’s herds and flocks.”

the early saxons, then, did NOT have property — not transferrable real estate anyway. (we saw something similar in early medieval ireland, although in that case, it was clearly the patrilineal clan that held common ownership of land.) in the case of the early saxons, land was held in common by — well, i’m not sure by whom (ausenda doesn’t say) — a set of related kindreds possibly? in any case, there is that group membership again — kindreds and wergeld in the case of murder/injury and now some sort of corporate group wrt land ownership. the continental saxons were not entirely independent, nuclear-family based individuals. they were a bit … clannish. clannish-lite.

whatever happened to make the anglo-saxons independent, property owning, absolute nuclear family individualists happened after they arrived on albion’s shores (but, i agree, their germanic background probably made a difference). and judging by what i’ve read (again, see the “mating patterns series” below), whatever happened doesn’t appear to have gained traction until about 1000 a.d. by 1200 it’s well underway, and by 1400 — well, i think you could probably drop a modern day englishman back into 1400s england, and he wouldn’t feel that disoriented. bennett and lotus are missing this timeline, because they are projecting too much anglo-saxonism too far back in time.

otherwise, they are very correct about the origins of anglo-saxon exceptionalism! (^_^)

(except for the fact that they believe it ALL to be about culture. that’s impossible, of course. at least in this universe. maybe in some alternate reality things are different. (~_^) )

edit: interesting. here is a quote from “The Kentish Laws” found in The Anglo-Saxons from the Migration Period to the Eighth Century: An Ethnographic Perspective (1997) regarding the beginnings of a shift from communal to private property (land) in kent in a law from the seventh century [pg. 217]:

“The Kentish laws portray a society where the change from movable to landed wealth was under way so much so that even the oldest laws contemplate fines for the breach of enclosures (Aebt. 27-9). It is clear here that land is no longer handled in tribal terms but as belonging to individuals.”

bonus content!: here are a couple of things i came across tonight re. the anglo-saxons and other early germanics that i found interesting, so i just thought i’d share….

1) in early medieval kent, arranged marriages were all the rage. from “The Kentish Laws” in The Anglo-Saxons from the Migration Period to the Eighth Century: An Ethnographic Perspective (1997) [pgs. 211, 216 – links added by me]:

“We have four English law-codes which all originated in the seventh century; the first three sets of laws were issued by the kings of Kent Æthelberht I, Hlothhere and Eadric, and Wihtred….

“The three laws contain a series of decrees about matrimony and have been made the object of considerable research into the (legal) position of women and its evolution…. This is one of the fields where the control of the kindred remained stable: the kinsmen arranged marriage and, after the wedding, continued to watch over the woman.

there’s the importance of the kindred again — in early medieval anglo-saxon (and jutish) england even.

interestingly, this is pretty much what happens in some parts the arab world today — arranged marriages, but the woman’s kin keeps an eye on her to make sure she’s ok. i just read recently, in fact, that in the hejaz, it’s very common for hejazi women to be set up with their own bank accounts by their family so that they have a set of financial resources independent from their husbands (but then they share a common household budget). who knew?

2) several readers have wondered out loud here — and so have i — why on EARTH did the northern europeans/the germanics (or any europeans for that matter) adopt christianity at all? why wouldn’t you just do what the frisians did when st. boniface or his ilk showed up and (presumably) tried to chop down the locals’ sacred trees — hang him from the nearest one?!

well, the saxons were forced to convert. by tptb (in this case the invading franks). huh. imagine that — so-called leaders forcing policies down the people’s throats. hard to imagine!

again from “Jural Relations Among the Saxons Before and After Christianization” [pg. 117 – links added by me]:

“The first ones [written saxon laws] were issued directly by or under the supervision of Frankish authorities. The first group, know as *Capitula de partibus Saxoniae*, issued in 777 at the end of centuries-long conflict with the Saxons, is none other than a martial law enforcing both public order and wholesale christianization. Of the total number of 31 articles, the first five list the penalties for crimes against churches and priests; the next four establish stiff penalties for acts of ‘paganism’ including the death penalty for whomever should refuse to be baptized. Among them a lone ray of light: law number 6 which prohibits witchcraft accusations *’secundum more paganorum’*…. Law 14 is for repentants who, having committed a crime, might confess to a priest, hence would be exempt from the death penalty *’testimonio sacerdote’*.

“The next group of laws from 15 to 19 lays down the duties towards the Church, consisting of a certain number of inhabitants in each hamlet donating to the church *’servum et ancillam’*, and that the tenth part *’decimam’* of the value of penalties incurred, or of one’s subsistence labour must be given to the church. The remaining articles list the prohibitions and duties following on religious festivities and ceremonies.

“This brief set of laws ends with … a final prohibition of unauthorized assemblies….”

so there!

previously: the anglo-saxons and america 3.0

(note: comments do not require an email. birds with mustaches!)

been reading America 3.0 written by two of the chicago boyz (hey chicago boyz! *waves*). i got interested in the book after reading daniel hannan’s review of it in the telegraph a couple of weeks ago in which he said:

“Their conclusion? That English, later Anglosphere, exceptionalism, is very real. That the rise of our language and culture to their current unprecedented dominance – what one commentator terms ‘Anglobalisation’ – is based on a series of properties that are either unique to the English-speaking peoples, or shared only with a handful of kindred cultures in northwestern Europe. Among these properties are the common law, representative government, Protestantism, dispersed landownership, civil associations separate from the state and – of particular interest to these authors – the unusual nature of the family.

They show that the Anglosphere dispenses with the extended family structures which, in most places, have legal as well as cultural force. In many societies, the peasant family has traditionally been treated as a kind of collective landowner, within which there are reciprocal responsibilities. Children, even in adulthood, have been expected to work on the family plot, receiving board and lodging. Marriages are typically arranged, and daughters-in-law come under the authority of the head of their new household. Even when the law recognises individual autonomy, custom is often slow to follow.

“The Anglosphere scarcely resembles the Eurasian landmass in its family structures. Our notion of the family is limited and nuclear. Most English-speakers in most centuries wanted to set up home on their own, independently, with just their spouse and children – although economic circumstances did not always allow that aspiration to be fulfilled.

The notion that the limited family underpins Anglosphere exceptionalism – which draws heavily on the work of the French anthropologist and demographer Emmanuel Todd – is intriguing. I see the cultural difference all around me in the European Parliament. In most Continental states, your social life is largely taken up with your extended family: you have an endless stream of weddings and christenings to go to, sometimes of very distant cousins. Britons and Americans, by contrast, expect to leave their parental home in their teens, either to go to university or to work. We make friends away from home, and they become the core of our social life. Indeed, the word ‘friend’ carries more force in English than in many European languages, in which it is bestowed quickly and generously, but often means little more than what we mean by a Facebook friend. When a Spaniard says of someone ‘es muy amigo mío’, he simply means that he gets on with the chap.”

oh, emmanuel todd! i love emmanuel todd!

i disagree with lotus and bennett on two major points.

firstly, that the u.s. is on the verge of an economic/societal upturn that will be even bigger and better than those of the past (thus the title of the book). meh. maybe. i’m not so hopeful as they are, but that’s probably just because i’m a pessimist. i’ll be very happy to be proven wrong!

my other disagreement with the authors is more of an irreconcilable difference [pgs. 25-26, 60-61]:

“What we have found in our research is that our distinctive and exceptional American culture has extremely deep roots, stretching back over a thousand years, long before our own national Founding and our Constitution, long before the the first English settlements in North America….”

yes, definitely. i’d agree with that. but…

“The word ‘culture’ may seem amorphous, something you would know by intuition but cannot necessarily pin down. Even professional anthropologists, whose job it is to study and understand culture, seem to have trouble pinning down exactly what they mean by it. For our purposes, we define culture as the distinctive patterns of behavior within a specified group of people that are transmitted from one generation to the next and are not genetic in origin.

It is very important to understand that culture is not genetic. Adopted children and immigrants may come from entirely different genetic backgrounds, but they adopt artifacts of culture such as language, values, and customs as readily as do biological children of parents within that culture. It is indisputable that the culture we describe in this book can be and has been adopted by people of every possible ethnic background….”

well, no … not exactly.

“[T]he strictly racial explanation for the Germanic roots of English liberty is simply and demonstrably incorrect. We now know more about human biology and genetics than did the writers of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. We know for a fact that there is no genetic basis for the English way of life. There is nothing special in the DNA of any English ‘race’ that especially suits them for liberty….

“The historical record as it now stands, based on documents, archeology, and genetic evidence, shows that *the foundations of English liberty were not genetic or racial, but cultural, institutional, legal, and political*.”

oh, no, no, no, no, no!

i’m actually not interested in debating this in this post, but, in response to these passages, i will just ask my one, favorite, hopefully irritating question: where does culture come from?

i do want to nitpick a small-ish point with lotus and bennett, though. their main argument is that the anglo-saxon absolute nuclear family goes way, waaaay back — pretty much to, or nearly to, the time of the settlement of the anglo-saxons in england — and, thanks to that, both england and america have been characterized by all sorts of neat things like: individualism, a love of liberty, nonegalitarianism, competitiveness, an enterprising spirit, mobility, voluntarism, middle-class values, an instrumental view of government, and suburbia (a spacious home and backyard for each and every nuclear family).

i generally agree with that assessment, although, as you know, i’d throw mating patterns into the mix there — especially that the mating patterns of the angles and saxons and other germanic tribes probably affected their family types, the general pattern being: the closer the mating types, the larger the families (think: the arabs with their father’s brother’s daughter marriage and their huge clans/tribes), while the more distant the mating types, the smaller the families (think: well, think the english with their avoidance of close cousin marriage for ca. 1000-1200 years and their absolute nuclear families). and, of course, i’d toss evolution and genetic differences between populations in there, too.

lotus and bennett, amongst other points, say of the saxons that settled in england that [pg. 75]:

“- They were free people. They were independent minded, individually and in their tribal organization….
– They owned property individually, not communally, and not as families. Adult children and parents had separate and individual rights, not collective rights as a family.
– They traced their lineages through both the male and female line. This prevented clans or extended families from forming and becoming exclusive, as happens when lineage is traced solely through the male line. As a result extended families or clans did not have collective legal rights, or any recognized political role.”

yes. but this is a slight oversimplification of the situation. no, the pre-christian germanics didn’t have strong clans, but they did have kindreds which were, in fact, very important in many cases when legal issues arose, in particular in the instance of wergeld payment and collection, i.e. compensation for when a member of a kindred was injured or killed. the members of a person’s kindred in germanic society — and this includes anglo-saxon society in early medieval england — were obliged to undertake a feud if wergeld payments were not met — by the guilty party’s kindred. in other words, two whole kindreds were involved whenever someone was injured or killed by another person.

this was a sort of clannishness-lite, then — actual clans did not exist in pre-christian germanic society, but kindreds did. and these extended families were very important in early anglo-saxon society, even though people may have regularly resided in nuclear family units. according to lorraine lancaster, this didn’t change until after ca. 1000 a.d., four- to six-hundred years after the anglo-saxons arrived in england, when wergeld began to be paid/collected by a person’s friends or fellow guild members rather than extended family members [pgs. 373, 375 – see also this post]:

“Phillpotts has effectively demonstrated the weakness of Anglo-Saxon kin groups compared with certain related systems on the continent….

“During the period they [‘friends’] gained continued importance as oath-helpers. After the end of the tenth century, it was even permissible for a feud to be prosecuted or wergild claimed by a man’s associates or guild-brothers. If murder was done *within* the guild, kinsmen again played a part….”

so, yes, the importance of the nuclear family does have its roots in germanic and anglo-saxon society, but the extended family in the form of the bilateral kindred was also a very significant element of germanic societies — until quite late in some regions of europe. the importance of the germanic kindred waned over the course of the early medieval period, very much so in england, i think thanks to The Outbreeding Project undertaken by northwest europeans beginning in the early medieval period. (see mating patterns in europe series below ↓ in left-hand column.)

previously: kinship in anglo-saxon society and kinship in anglo-saxon society ii and medieval germanic kindreds … and the ditmarsians and emmanuel todd’s absolute nuclear family and “l’explication de l’idéologie”

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sam worby refers to charles donahue jr.‘s Law, Marriage, and Society in the Later Middle Ages as “magisterial” and there’s no hyperbole in that i can assure you. at a mere 696 pages(!), it’s a very thorough examination of marriage litigation in fourteenth and fifteenth century england and, what donahue calls, franco-belgia. donahue himself describes the book as “obscenely long.” (^_^) it’s not at all! it’s just very, very complete. and very, very awesome!

donahue studied the records of five medieval episcopal courts: york, ely, paris, cambrai and brussels. and, afaict, he looked at the data from every which way possible. i haven’t read the whole thing … yet … but i’ve gleaned a couple of interesting points so far:

– apparently, there weren’t a whole lot of cases (requesting annulment or whatever) brought before the courts on the basis of consanguinity — it really seems to have been a (relatively speaking) non-issue at this point in time in england and franco-belgia;

– the types of cases brought before the courts in england indicate that there were more marriages entered into independently by the parties involved in that country, whereas in franco-belgia it seems that parents were much more involved in arranging their children’s marriages;

– property was held independently by husbands and wives in england (what property a woman brought to her marriage remained hers, although husbands usually managed those properties), while in franco-belgia the property was shared, communally, between husband and wife;

– primogeniture was the rule of the day in england, while all the kids (or all the sons anyway) inherited in franco-belgia.

the last three points are really interesting because those are the same ones made by emmanuel todd in The Explanation of Ideology, only he was referring to more modern times in england and france (1500-1900). it seems, however, that todd’s family types, and their characteristics, for these two nations — absolute nuclear family in england and egalitarian nuclear family in france — go right back to at least the 1300-1400s.

another, possibly minor, point to note — maybe it’s not important at all, or maybe it will turn out to be later — is that donahue’s “franco-belgia” seems to be more or less where early medieval austrasia was — and austrasia is significant because, according to mitterauer, that’s where manorialism got started in europe.

here are some bits from donahue:

pg. 604: “It is a characteristic, then, of English marital property patterns that husband and wife hold their property separately and of English inheritance patterns at all levels of society that one child takes his parents’ property to the exclusion of his siblings. In the Franco-Belgian regions, on the other hand, the tendency is to community property between the spouses and to partible inheritance among children….

“The Franco-Belgians, we might argue, were more concerned with their children’s marriages than were the English because under most Franco-Belgian inheritance customs, all of their children stood to inherit their property. In England, only the marriage of the heir needed to be arranged, whereas in the Franco-Belgian region the marriages of all children needed to be arranged because almost all children were heirs. Hence, we see more litigation in the Franco-Belgian region about marriage contracts because they were more common. We also see more concern with informal marriages — punishing them with automatic excommunication — but fewer informal marriages, in fact because more marriages were arranged….”

what a selection pressure!: “English inheritance patterns at all levels of society that one child takes his parents’ property to the exclusion of his siblings.” and going right back to at least the 1300s in england.

pgs. 609-610: “What we need, then, is some overarching explanation on which both the marriage practices and the property rules can be seen as dependent. The overarching explanation that I offer is both complicated and fuzzy, but it seems right now to be the most plausible: The difference we are trying to explain is a small one heightened by the litigation pattern. Many Franco-Belgian marriages were probably indistinguishable from many English ones. But the difference that produced the difference in results, I would like to suggest, is fundamental, in the sense that it goes to the very core of how people understood themselves. The legal difference are dependent on it. However strong the sense of family and of community was in England, it was weaker than it was in the Franco-Belgian region. The English, with their separate ownership system of marital property, with their winner-take-all inheritance system, with their abundant evidence of do-it-yourself marriages, with their strict attitude toward judicial separation, but with their apparent do-it-yourself system of separation, are, for the Middle Ages, an unusually individualistic people. The Franco-Belgians, with their community property, with their shared inheritance system, with their carefully planned marriages, their reluctance to hold that a marriage, particularly an informal marriage, existed, with their system of judicial separation that brought more cases before the courts but judged them by broader standards, are more communitarian. We are dealing here, we might suggest, with a cultural phenomenon that developed independently over the course of centuries and of which both the property system and the marriage cases are an expression.

i would, of course, say we are dealing here with a biological phenomenon. (~_^) i might be willing to go so far as to say a bio-cultural one, though.

“Like the property argument offered previously, this argument needs to be spelled out and qualified. The individualism of the separate ownership system of English marital property has to be qualified by the great power of the husband to manage his wife’s property while the marriage lasted and by the expectancy that each spouse had in the other’s land. The individualism of the English impartible inheritance system has to be qualified by the fact that the present holder of landed wealth had responsibilities to past and future generations in the management of that wealth, responsibilities that could, in some circumstance, be legally enforced. The evidence of English do-it-yourself marriage comes largely from court cases, and it may be that a disproportionate number of do-it-yourself marriages ended up in court. Despite these qualifications, however, and despite the fact that great variations could be achieved in the property system by private action, the core systems, the default systems, of succession and marital property in England seem to focus much more on the individual property holder than do the core or default systems reflected in the *coutumiers*. The fact that the default system of succession in England concentrated wealth in the hands of one person meant that in many families, the children who did not inherit were left to seek their fortunes, to a greater or lesser extent, on their own. Similarly, however aberrant the do-it-yourself marriages that we see in the English church court records may be, the records of all those *de presenti* informal marriages are there, and there are few, if any, like them in the Franco-Belgian regime. Similarly, there are many more records of judicial separation in the Franco-Belgian region than there are in England.

“The communitarianism of the Franco-Belgian marital property system also has to be qualified by the great power of the husband to manage the community while the marriage lasted. The communitarianism of the Franco-Belgian inheritance system needs to be qualified by the power of the current property holder in many of the customs to prefer one child over another by endowment or testament or both. The evidence of arranged marriages in the church court records needs to be qualified by the fact that many of the *de futuro* marriages in the Franco-Belgian records seem to be informal and made without much concern for family consent (consider, for example, Tanneur et Doulsot). Despite these qualifications, however, the core or default system of property in the Franco-Belgian region remains more communitarian than the English. One simply does not find many, if any, English wives seeking separation from their husbands for incurring obligations *ipsa inscia et absque eius [uxoris] proficuo*. The basic principle of inheritance remains *egalite entre heritiers*. The canonic system of marriage is modified, at every turn it would seem, so that concerns other than those of the marriage partners are considered.

“The distinction between individualism and communitarianism that we are seeking to make does not correspond exactly to the traditional distinctions in family types — joint versus stem, horizontal versus vertical, kin group versus lineage, extended versus nuclear — nor does it necessarily tell us much about authority within the family. Obviously, concern for the individual is more likely in situations where family ties are less extended and where authority within the family is weak. Too much depends, however, on the strength of the kinship ties and how the authority is exercised for there to be an exact correspondence between our dichotomy and any of the broader types of family or of authority….

“Can we go any further? Can we offer an explanation for why the English might be more individualistic than the Franco-Belgians, the Franco-Belgians more communitarian than the English? In a previous essay, in attempting to explain why the Franco-Belgians developed community property and the English did not, I suggested that after one took into account the technical legal explanations for the differences between the two regions and explanations based on the differences in the relative power and interests of lords and families, there remained an unexplained residue of variance that could only be accounted for by what I called the ‘anthropological’ explanation, a difference in attitudes toward the family, reflecting, perhaps, an historical difference in family type or structure. This difference in attitude was independent of any economic differences, for the two regions were remarkably similar economically, particularly in the thirteenth century when the difference in marital property systems seems to have emerged.”

hmmmm. what might the underlying reason for this “anthropological” difference between the individualistic english and the more communitarian franco-belgians be? my guess, of course, would be some sort of difference in mating patterns, but i haven’t come up with a whole lot of data for the medieval french yet (i’ll have to get to work on that!), so … can’t say much of anything about that possibility just now.

one social or economic difference between medieval england and the continent that mitterauer pointed out is that banal lordship did not develop in england whereas it did everywhere else in nw europe. this, i think, might have had a signficant impact on the genetic structure of both societies (england vs. everyone else in nw europe on the continent) because the banal lords controlled their subjects so much more directly — including, possibly, their mating opportunities. from mitterauer [pgs. 41, 45, & 56]:

“Most important among these transformational processes was the growth of the ‘immunities’ of ‘banal lordship’ (Bannherrschaft, seigneurie banale) that began in the tenth century. This primiarlity involved the manorial estates of the nobility…. Banal lordships of the nobility could practice jurisdictional and other rights of authority related to dues and services — including rights over subject on ecclesiastical estates….

“On one point, however, the English manorial system diverged from the continental one: banal lordship did not take hold in England….

“With the rise of banal lordship in the tenth century, these buildings [housing knights and their horses and equipment] were frequently converted to fortresses, so that they took on the particularly striking appearance of a seat of lordship. The numerous seats of noble and ecclesiastical lords demonstrated how decentralized the organization of lordship was — a pattern without counterpart in the formation of empires outside Europe. The decentralized organization of lordship contributed in turn to a certain autonomous heft shared by the peripheral regions over against the center. This would promote federalist tendencies in the later history of Europe.”

i have to admit that i don’t fully understand this banal lordship business. from what i gather, they seem to have been a middle order of lords (sort-of feudal middle managers) having power/control over a rather local population. if that’s correct, then it’s very interesting that there weren’t really banal lords in england, because that might mean that the english were that much freer to move about or to marry whomever they wanted, which seems to have been the case. if you have a system with local lords controlling what goes on in relatively small areas, then they might very well want to keep the local laborers on the land and not let them marry out very far — we actually have an example of this from the manors of eighteenth century poland.

if this is at all correct, perhaps this can (partly) account for the differences between england and franco-belgia that donahue picked up on. if franco-belgia had banal lords that restricted the population’s mating patterns and england did not — well maybe that’s part of the “anthropological” explanation donahue is looking for for why the medieval english were so individualistic while the franco-belgians were more communal and “clannish” (or “extended family-ish”).

dunno. just thinking aloud.

previously: “l’explication de l’idéologie” and traditional family systems in medieval britain and ireland and medieval manoralism and the hajnal line

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there are two broad groups of albanians, the gheg speakers in the north of the country (the blues on the map) and the tosk speakers in the south (the greens):


today, the ghegs are more clannish/tribal than the tosks. there are historical (stemming from topographical) reasons for this (emphases and links added by me):

“The social structure of the country was, until the 1930s, basically tribal in the north and semifeudal in the central and southern regions. The highlanders of the north retained their medieval pattern of life until well into the twentieth century and were considered the last people in Europe to preserve tribal autonomy. In the central and southern regions, increasing contact with the outside world and invasions and occupations by foreign armies had gradually weakened tribal society.

“Traditionally there have been two major subcultures in the Albanian nation: the Gegs in the north and the Tosks in the south. The Gegs, partly Roman Catholic but mostly Muslim, lived until after World War II in a mountain society characterized by blood feuds and fierce clan and tribal loyalties. The Tosks, whose number included many Muslims as well as Orthodox Christians, were less culturally isolated mainly because of centuries of foreign influence. Because they had came under the rule of the Muslim landed aristocracy, the Tosks had apparently largely lost the spirit of individuality and independence that for centuries characterized the Gegs, especially in the highlands.

“Until the end of World War II, society in the north and, to a much lesser extent, in the south, was organized in terms of kinship and descent. The basic unit of society was the extended family, usually composed of a couple, their married sons, the wives and children of the sons, and any unmarried daughters. The extended family formed a single residential and economic entity held together by common ownership of means of production and common interest in the defense of the group. Such families often included scores of persons, and, as late as 1944, some encompassed as many as sixty to seventy persons living in a cluster of huts surrounding the father’s house.

Extended families were grouped into clans whose chiefs preserved patriarchal powers over the entire group. The clan chief arranged marriages, assigned tasks, settled disputes, and set the course to be followed concerning essential matters such as blood feuds and politics. Descent was traced from a common ancestor through the male line, and brides usually were chosen from outside the clan. Clans in turn were grouped into tribes.

“In the Tosk regions of the south, the extended family was also the most important social unit, although patriarchal authority had been diluted by the feudal conditions usually imposed by the Muslim bey….”

here’s a really (REALLY) long excerpt from Poverty in Albania: A Qualitative Assessment with some notes of my own thrown in here and there. the excerpted bits are italicized while my comments are not. the quote from the book comes from pages 83-90. the book itself was published in 2002 and comprises the results of a series of surveys undertaken across albania by world bank researchers in the late 1990s and early 2000s (again, emphases and links added by me):

“Civil Society

“People in all the study sites generally want a capable government that solves problems and creates opportunities. A combination of factors — inadequate government presence, poor management of government functions, corruption, and lack of confidence that elections will change conditions — has created a vacuum of authority in parts of Albania. In certain rural locations, particularly in the north and east, there is no functioning government. In these areas, institutions such as extended families/clans are filling the gaps of authority…. Further, Albanians’ wariness of other groups in general — other families, ethnic groups, and religious groups — fragments civil society and confines non-governmental solutions to local areas….

“Filling the Vacuum

“Two forces are rising to fill the vacuum of government authority — the traditional fis structure, and the small, ad-hoc aid programs of foreign governments and private organizations in some eastern parts of the country….

“The fis is even more important for filling the power vacuum. An elder in Mirdita describes authority there: ‘I am elected elder of this village. The water resources are distributed according to the old traditions, based on the fis. Here things are settled based on the fis, not the state. My fis is composed of my uncle, first cousins, and also fourth cousins. When there is discord that involves injuries … it is not the state that gets involved to resolve the problem, but the wisest of the elderly men in the fis. We discuss how to resolve the problem and develop a consensus. Then we make the decision and the problem is resolved.’

“Re-emergence of the Fis and Canun

A fis is a group of people descended from the same great grandfather. This extended family is bound together tightly by tradition, culture, and a set of rules called the Canun, which were formalized by Lek Dukagjini in the 1400s. The Canun withered under Communism but has resumed governing importance in some areas. As Remzi, a fis elder in Kukes, explains, ‘The Canun is now starting to function because the government is weak … and the government’s laws are not being properly implemented by the state.’ Fis in some areas are now using the traditional Canun, or a modern variation of it, to govern themselves. As noted in the chapter on agriculture, issues of land reform, land use, irrigation water distribution, and other matters are being determined by the fis structure using the Canun as the basis for decisions….

Fis are found primarily in northern rural Albania (Kukes, Mirdita, and Shkordra), but they also exist in the highlands of Korca and among the Roma populations….

“Fis Governance

In each village, there may be as few as 3 or as many as 10 fis. As noted earlier, a fis is defined as a group of those people who descend directly from a common great grandfather. In practical terms, each fis comprises three to four generations. The number of people in each fis can range from fewer than 10 to more than 500 people. The selection of leaders within a fis varies, but there are some common practices. Each fis is led by a male who is elected by other males in the fis. Often the elected leader is the oldest active male, who is responsible for setting and enforcing standards of behavior. He usually does not make important decisions alone, but in consultation with other respected males in the fis, including brothers and sons, and extending to cousins….

“Relations Within and Among the Fis

‘When someone in our fis makes a mistake, even if he is 40 years old, the entire fis gets together and orders him not to commit further mistakes and put shame on us all. This is our way to preserve tradition. There are seven or eight fis in the village, and we are in competition with each other to be the best one. When one of us makes a mistake or commits a crime, the entire fis is humiliated and its reputation is hurt…. When I have disputes within the fis, I try to resolve them within the fis. But if I cannot do so, I sometimes will invite and elder from another fis to listen to our problems and provide mature judgement. And if we do not get a satisfying result from this, we address the problem to the committee of elders in the village.’ – Hamit, an elder in Shkodra
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“Where the government is totally absent, the committee of elders governs without a government institution by managing common work and the relationships among the various fis. In these situations, the committee of elders uses some version of the Canun to set rules and govern. According to Preng, and elder in Mirdita, ‘I am the elected leader of the fis…. Here, things are settled by the fis and we do not rely on the government. My fis is composed of my uncle, first cousins, and also fourth cousins. When there is a dispute that results in injury, it is not the government that gets involved but the elders who get together and decide the fee. A committee of elders, the wisest men from all the fis, discusses the problem and resolves it based on consensus. When the fee is paid, then the problem is considered resolved…. If the criminal has no money to pay the fee, then he is killed. The fee depends on the issue and how events happened….

“Applying the Canun

“The application of Canun varies by fis. A few apply the traditional Canun, even though they recognize its shortcomings. They feel that, despite the traditional Canun’s weaknesses, it is the best solution in the absence of government. In one area of Kukes, an elder describes the Canun as ‘unprincipled and not fair as the laws. It is very tough and incites disputes and revenge. For instance, according to the Canun, if someone hits you, then you have the right to kill him…. It has some very precise rules, though in today’s society it is hard to implement the rules…. For instance, the Canun does not allow my daughter to bring bread or coffee in the room when guests visit. Women must wear a scarf on their head. A stranger who is visiting your house must not shake hands with your wife or daughter.’ The Canun has returned to an extent that blood feuds have re-emerged. In some areas, such as Shkodra and northern Kukes, families reportedly are confined to their own homes to protect themselves during a feud. In these cases, friends and neighbors bring them food because the family cannot grow their own food or otherwise work while feuding.

“Despite the use of traditional Canun rules in some areas, most fis have adapted the Canun to better fit, in their view, the values of the modern era….

“Dispute Resolution and Other Functions

“… The need for such dispute resolution increased after 1990, due to new freedoms and disputes over property rights, just as the government’s ability to resolves such disputes began to decline…. According to an elder in Shkodra, ‘After 1990, conflict increased compared to the time of my father. The Communist regime caused many fights because it took land from its owners and distributed it equally to everybody, and encouraged people to construct houses on other people’s land….

albania’s committee of nationwide reconciliation estimates that there were ca. “10,000 murders for honour, blood feud and revenge between 1990 and 2009″ in the country, although it’s difficult to know for sure what the real numbers are. i think it’s safe to say A LOT, though. the albanian tradition of gjakmarrja is basically an eye-for-an-eye moral system in which honor is all-important — the honor of the extended family. albanians (and other groups in the balkans) have for centuries had purpose built boltholes to hide in when they and their families were the objects of a blood feud (check out the border reivers’ bastle houses, too):

i think the long history and current prevalence of blood feuds in albania and throughout the region illustrates that greying wanderer’s characterization of the balkans as “full of people who hate the people in the adjacent enclosed ancient valley” is not far off the mark.


“Source of Power

The principle source of power for a fis is its moral standing among the other fis. An elder in Shkodra says, ‘Our moral force and authority derive from good behavior.’ This moral standing is built over generations. Fis that historically have been strong are more likely to enjoy power now. An elder in Shkodra says, ‘Blood is never forgotten. Mother and father have one name. Blood has one name. After 20 or 100 years, the blood of mothers and fathers is not forgotten.’

Moral standing is judged according to the behavior of the members of a fis. Living according to the laws set by the fis, working hard, being kind and gracious to both neighbors and strangers, showing generosity to others, and having a family that is free of conflict are some of the criteria by which fis judge each other. An elder in Shkodra explains, ‘A good man, according to the Canun, is one who works, is wise, is loved by everybody, who does not humiliate anyone, and who pulls his family together. A bad man is one who does the opposite. The good fis are polite, have culture, and use common sense. A bad fis is not able to run its own affairs properly, let alone enjoy proper relations with other fis.’ An elder in Kukes, who asserts that his family is the ‘best’ fis in the community, describes similar criteria for judging a fis there: ‘My grandfather was known as the representative of the best fis in the village. Now we have 20 families in the village and maybe someone from our fis has committed some wrongs, but we still enjoy the reputation of our generosity and hospitality. For instance, if I see a stranger passing by on the road, I invite him to visit my home and have coffee with us. I preserve the reputation of the fis. When I visit my neighbor, I make a contribution. When he visits me, he makes a contribution. When someone asks to marry my daughter who does not come from a well-respected fis, I do not permit my daughter to marry that person.’

so, unlike in western europe where a man is judged by his character and behavior alone, amongst albanians (and i’m guessing other balkan populations) one’s moral character is all wrapped up with that of one’s extended family. this is something we hear throughout muslim societies in the arab world and middle east as well (e.g. all the honor killings) — not surprising when they are very inbred, too.

Marriages among members of the same fis are not permitted, even when the two people are seven or eight generations removed. Because one must marry someone from another fis, all marriages involve fis politics. Marriage is very important to determining the stature of a fis in the community. Much time is spent determining the suitability of various suitors, based on the reputation of the fis and the perceived behavior of the prospective bride and groom. Because the reputation of the fis is important to power relations in the community, a woman has little influence in selecting her husband. According to an elder in Kukes, ‘Couples are engaged not through love, but through a mediator….”

since the ban on marrying relations within the fis only applies to paternal relations, it could very well be that albanians frequently marry maternal relatives — close or distant maternal cousins. i haven’t seen any info on this either way for albanians, but another balkan group — bosnian muslims — actually have a preference for marrying in-laws which includes maternal relatives. some albanians are christians (orthodox and roman catholic), so presumably they more-or-less follow the christian ban on marrying close cousins — as a general rule, that is — although all sorts of europeans regularly work around this. there should be no such cousin-marriage ban amongst albanian muslisms.

in any case, albanians are marrying (especially traditionally) very endogamously since they normally marry someone from a fis in the village or, perhaps, a neighboring village.


“Wariness of Other Groups

“The re-emergence of the fis highlights the importance of family structures in addressing problems formerly handled by government. But the importance of family is not limited to northern districts and Korca. People throughout the country feel that family affiliations is an important factor in choosing their friends and neighbors. Ethnic and religious affiliation also affect relationships within and between communities. As a result, these groups tend to be wary of each other. Table 12 details people’s attitudes toward their neighbors. [click on table for LARGER view]:

About 77 percent of people prefer that their neighbors are members of the same fis or family, with 59 percent strongly preferring it. About 52 percent prefer that their neighbors share the same religion, while about 44 percent prefer that neighbors are of the same ethnicity. It appears that family affiliation is more important than religion or ethnicity in determining feels [sic] about neighbors.

The civil society that either shares space with government or fills a vacuum left by government comprises a series of groups that are wary of each other and sometimes conflict. Consequently, there are few informal institutions, organizations, and networks that cross large geographic areas. Those that do exist, such as the emigration networks into Greece and Italy, are based on single extended families or single local communities. So while informal institutions and organizations are significant assets, they may be limited in their capacity to address problems across different families, religions, and ethnicities.”

like other clannish/tribal societies, albania doesn’t manage to have a civil society. not in the sense that nw europeans have. clannishness and tribalism seem to go along with inbreeding — either consanguineous and/or endogamous mating patterns — and i think the causation goes from inbreeding -> clannishness/tribalism (although certainly being clannish probably encourages further inbreeding). and the underlying mechanism is, as steve sailer pointed out ages ago, somehow related to kin selection and inclusive fitness.

albanians seem to be some of the most inbred peoples in europe — looking at their genomes, they have the highest frequencies of within-country “blocks of ibd” (identity by descent) as compared to other europeans which suggests to me that they’ve been inbreeding for a long time, too. that, i think, is part of the reason for the high ibd rates amongst albanians. given their history, then, it shouldn’t be surprising that they still are very clannish/tribal and don’t manage to build a civil society.

see also:
Albania: Blood Feuds — ‘Blood For Blood’ (Part 1)
Blood feuds still boiling in Albania – feuding taken to a new level when a 17 year old girl is killed.
Ancient blood feuds cast long shadow over hopes for a modern Albania
Peacemaker breaks the ancient grip of Albania’s blood feuds
No way out
The Forgiveness of Blood – movie.

previously: balkan endogamy

(note: comments do not require an email. albanians.)

in the interests of k.i.s.s. k.i.s.s., i decided to look again at mating patterns and family types in the murdock ethnographic atlas, but this time looking just at exogamous, agamous and endogamous mating practices without all the cousin-marriage business.

so, what i looked at this time were just what sorts of “domestic organizations” (nuclear/stem, polyandrous/polygynous, extended families) go with different “community marriage organizations” (exogamous, agamous, endogamous). (see previous post for explanations of all those categories.)

i got results for 184 societies. as in the previous post, i collapsed nuclear & stem families, small & large extended families, and the various exogamous & endogamous categories together. this time i left in the polygynous/polygamous family types and the agamous mating patterns. here’s what i found (click on chart for LARGER view):

again, nuclear and stem families just do not go together with endogamous mating patterns. you need exogamous or agamous (not caring one way or the other) mating patterns to get nuclear or stem families. there is clearly a relationship between endogamy and extended families.

also, there seems to be more endogamy in the world than exogamy. and quite a lot of peoples who don’t seem to be able to make up their minds on the issue.

for the record, the two murdock atlas societies that are endogamous AND have nuclear or stem families (there’s one of each) are:

– the ahaggaren tuareg tribe (endogamous marriage patterns with nuclear families)
– the konso people of ethiopia (endogamous marriage patterns with stem families, occasionally polygyny).

previously: mating patterns and family types

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

i keep saying that consanguineous/endogamous mating patterns lead to clannishness/tribalism, but do they really? i think the evidence strongly suggests yes (see the mating patterns series in the left-hand column below ↓), but it would be nice to quantify it. but how?‘s data on modern cousin marriage rates would be easy and convenient to use, but where are the data on whether those societies are individualistic, clannish or tribal or whatever? i’m not aware of anything like that (if anyone is, please let me know!). i could, perhaps, sit down and, based on what i know, rate all these nations as clannish, etc., but 1) i might be wrong in some or a lot of the cases, and 2) i’d be worried about introducing my own biases. so that’s no good.

so, i thought i’d try george murdock‘s ethnographic atlas to see if i could find any useful info there. i did! (i think.)

what i looked for: which types and what frequencies of different basic family types (domestic organization) are found in societies with various mating patterns (number of cousin marriage [preferential] and community marriage organization). i got results for 186 different societies.

“domestic organization” equals:

– independent nuclear monogamous
– independent nuclear occasional polygyny
– independent polyandrous families
– polygynous unusual cowives pattern
– polygynous usual cowives pattern
– stem families
– small extended families
– large extended families

i collapsed these categories into: nuclear/stem families, polygynous/polyandrous families and extended families. i figured stem families are practically nuclear families, just with grandma and/or grandpa included. i left the polygynous/polyandrous societies (there were 30 of them) out of the final analysis ’cause i just don’t know what they are. nuclear families? extended families? i dunno.

“number of cousin marriage [preferential]” equals:

– two of four cousins (e.g. paternal)
– one of four cousins (e.g. fbd)
– no first cousins
– first and some second cousins excluded
– no preferential or prescriptive unions

the first four categories are all versions cousin marriage, so i collapsed those together.

for each of the societies that came back as “no preferential or prescriptive unions” (a total of 123), i drilled down into the “community marriage organization” category to see if i could work out if their marriage patterns were generally endogamous or exogamous.

“community marriage organization” equals [for more on what these categories mean, see pg. 7 here – opens pdf]:

– demes (not segmented into clan barrios) [exogamous]
– segmented communities without local exogamy [endogamous]
– agamous communities [no rules about endogamy/exogamy]
– exogamous communities (not clans) [exogamous]
– segmented communities (containing localized clans) with local exogamy [endogamous]
– clan communities (or clan barrios) [endogamous]

i collapsed these categories into either endogamous or exogamous, and then i combined the endogamous societies with the cousin marrying societies from above. i left the agamous communities (there were 66 of them) out of the final analysis ’cause who knows if they’re marrying in or out.

here’s what i found (click on chart for LARGER view):

of the exogamous societies, just about half have nuclear/stem families and the other half have some sort of extended families. of the consanguineous/endogamous societies, those having extended families number nearly double those with nuclear or stem families.

and the ratios of consanguineous/endogamous marriage patterns to exogamous marriage patterns are very different in each of the family-type divisions: endogamous to exogamous in nuclear family societies is about 2:1 while the ratio is more like 3.5:1 in extended family societies.

this isn’t a perfect analysis. a lot of the data in the murdock atlas is quite old, but it is still used frequently. and likely i screwed up along the way somewhere. but i think this is another indicator that, at the very least, there is a connection between in-marrying and clannishness.

update 07/18: see also mating patterns and family types ii

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