going dutch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

why the dutch (and the english)? and why then? (you already know what i’m going to say….)

the netherlands — the low countries in general — were, once upon a time, a part of the early frankish kingdom of austrasia (i’ve more-or-less outlined the netherlands here — *ahem* — roughly):

austrasia - the netherlands

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

“St Boniface [d.754] expressed surprise when he learned that ‘spiritual kinship’ was created by lifting a child from the baptismal font and was being treated as an impediment to marriage among the Franks. But it was the law.”

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

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

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

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

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

the frisians were free!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

i could be wrong, but that’s my theory, and i’m sticking to it! (for now.) (^_^)

p.s. – in case you’ve forgotten, the nations that saw the earliest reduction of homicides in the medieval period…yes…england and the netherlands/belgium: kinship, the state, and violence.

previously: what about the franks? and trees and frisians and the radical reformation and whatever happened to european tribes?

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


medieval germanic kindreds … and the ditmarsians

i’m going to figure out the english(/dutch) if it’s the last thing i do…. (~_^)

it’s been asked a few times around here: was there something special about the pre-christian germanics? something special that perhaps made them more open to the roman catholic church’s/kings’ & princes’ demands to outbreed (i.e. quit marrying their cousins — and there is plenty of evidence to suggest that they were marrying their cousins before the arrival of christianity — see here and here and here)?

one possible thing i have come across (and there could of course be others) is that kinship was reckoned bilaterally in pre-christian germanic populations — in other words, down through both the father’s and mother’s side of the family. related to this (i think — ah! and wikipedia backs me up on this) is that the form that “clannishness” took in germanic society was that of kindreds rather than actual clans (like you found in places like scotland or even today in parts of the balkans). as we saw in this previous post, a kindred is a set of relatives based around a core individual — so your kindred might include your parents, your siblings and their kids, your uncles and aunts on both sides and their kids (i.e. your cousins), your second cousins, all of your cousins’ kids, and so on (however far out your particular society happens to reckon kindreds). this is different from a clan which is based upon a specific ancestor in the past. a clan can continue to live on when any individual member dies, while a kindred is more ephemeral — when an individual dies, his kindred sorta … dissipates. as we’ve seen, anglo-saxon society was based around kindreds; so, too, were all of the germanic groups in pre-christian (and post-christian for differing lengths of time as we’ll see below) europe. these kindreds were called sippe.

now, i have been searching and searching … and searching! (even in german) … for more info on germanic kindreds. all i ever find are general statements by historians that the medieval germanic groups were based upon the sippe/kindred, blah, blah, blah, but no specifics on when or how this changed — germanic populations are not centered around the sippe today — or if there were any differences between the different germanic groups when it came to kindreds. pretty much of all the historians i have read generally refer back to just a handful of sources which usually include lorraine lancaster’s work on anglo-saxon kinship from 1958 (which i covered in these two posts here and here) and dame bertha phillpotts’ work on kindreds and clans which was published in 1913. in 2010, cambridge university press republished phillpotts’ classic, Kindred and Clan in the Middle Ages and After: A Study in the Sociology of the Teutonic Races, so — taken along with the fact that this is one of the sources everyone refers back to — i’m going to assume that phillpotts is the definitive work on germanic kindreds (unless someone out there can direct me to another source!).

so, i’ve been reading phillpotts.

dame phillpotts looked at the laws and wills and literature from seven medieval germanic societies — iceland, norway, sweden, denmark, north germany & holland, belgium & northern france, and england — to find out what role the kindreds played in these societies (especially wrt wergild payments/feuds) and when the kindreds faded out. i’ll probably talk about the former in some later post(s), but let’s see now what she had to say about the latter: what was the timing of when the importance of kindreds disappeared in each of these populations [pgs. 245-46]?:

“In Denmark, signs of the partial survival of the kindred are not wanting even at the dawn of the 17th century, in spite of the hostility of powerful kings (from 1200 onwards), and of the Protestant Church. In Schleswig the old customs defy legislation levelled at them by king, duke or *Landtag* for another century still. In Holstein, though it is probably that the participation of the kindreds in wergild disappeared sooner than in Schleswig, they yet left their mark on other institutions, and certain of their functions continue to be exercised until near the end of the 18th, and indeed even into the 19th century. This is especially, but not solely, true of Ditmarschen, within whose territory alone we find the fixed agnatic kindred which can be loosely termed clan. In Friesland the kindreds survive throughout the 15th century. In Hadeln and Bremen, and in the neighbourhood of Hamburg, they seem to have held out against adverse legislation until about the same date.

“In the more northerly parts of Central Germany we find occasional traces of their existence throughout the earlier Middle Ages. In southern Teutonic lands the last trace of a real solidarity so far discovered dates from the 13th century. In Holland and Belgium the kindreds remain active throughout the 15th century, and indeed into the 16th, and hardly less long in Picardy. In Neustria, too, there are traces of organized feuds and treaties between kindreds until far into the 14th century, and so also in Champagne. Normandy, on the other hand, yields no evidence. In England the activity of the kindreds seems reduced to a minimum already in the 7th and 8th centuries, when we first catch a glimpse of Anglo-Saxon institutions…. In Iceland we have seen good reason to believe that the solidarity of the kindred was a thing of the past by the time the emigrants landed on the shores of the new country. In Norway we have caught a glimpse of a gradual disintegration of the kindred, beginning perhaps as early as the 9th, and consummated by the end of the 13th century. In Sweden, on the other hand, everything points to the survival of kinship-solidarity throughout the 14th century [footnote: except in Gotland], and possibly for very much longer.”

i’ve mapped phillpotts’ outline indicating which century saw the end of kindreds in any given area. the purple square in northern germany is dithmarschen, which looks to be the medieval epicenter of the germanic kindred — it’s the place where, according to phillpotts, the kindred was the strongest — was really a patrilineal clan, in fact (kinda like in scotland — click on map for LARGER version):

kindreds map 02

phillpotts’ theory for why the kindred was so weak so early on in england, and not really present at all in iceland or normandy, was that this was due to the fact that these populations had migrated by sea to new lands. this could make sense. in migrating by sea in the early medieval period, you might not load up scores of boats and move with all of your extended kindred. you might just load up a couple of boats with you and your immediate family and maybe your brother and his immediate family. then, when you arrive in your new world, you don’t have a very extended kindred, so the kindred is not very important in your society (england, iceland, normandy).

so what about those ditmarsians, eh? they’re kinda cool! they are right around the corner from the frisians who were also pretty clan-like, especially with lots of feuding. what they had in common, of course, was that the two groups resided in marshy areas which could not be manorialized (er, well, there was no point to manorialize those regions since you couldn’t really conduct agriculture there — not with medieval technology anyway). about the ditmarsians [pgs. 199-200]:

“The marshes of Friesland (in the Netherlands), as well as the northeastern corner of Germany and southern Denmark, formed another region of peasant liberty against seigneurial power. As already noted, in 1240 Bartholomaeus Anglicus remarked on the exceptional freedom of the inhabitants of Frisia, who appeared to live without lords. Just east of Frisia and slightly north along the North Sea coast, at Stedingen, peasants revolted against the archibishop of Bremen and the count of Oldenburg beginning in 1200. They refused to pay oppressive dues (tributa) and, according to the ‘Rasted Chronicle,’ sought to defend their ‘liberty’ against all claims of lordship. They were eventually subjugated but only with great difficulty. It required the proclamation of a crusade against these ‘heretics’ by Gregory IX to bring an end to their decades of successful resistance. The Stedingen peasants were decisively defeated at the Battle of Altenesch in 1234.

“Among the indirect beneficiaries of this war was a federation of independent peasant communities in another small marshy territory, Dithmarschen in Holstein. Lying slightly north of Stedingen, Dithmarschen was protected by the Danes against the ambitions of the counts of Holstein and others who had expanded in the wake of the Wendish Crusade of 1147. The Dithmarschen peasants abandoned the alliance with the Danes and so profited from the military setback suffered by Denmark’s King Waldemar in 1227 at the hands of the city of Lubeck, the counts of Holstein and Schwerin, and the archbishop of Bremen. Their autonomy under the lordship of the archbishop of Bremen was acknowledged in the aftermath of the Danish War. Dithmarschen supported the crusade against the Stedinger and found its nominal subordination to the archbisops convenient during the thirteenth century. The power of family clans grew at the expense of the lesser nobility, and the Dithmarschen peasants formed capable military forces that could defeat mounted knights on the swampy terrain of their homeland.

The extended families of Dithmarschen established a confederation that would be defended against the claims of the counts of Schleswig and Holstein beginning in the early fourteenth century and the kings of Denmark in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. In 1559 the Danes at last successfully invaded Dithmarschen, defeating the peasants and massacring the inhabitants of the capital, Meldorp, whereupon Dithmarschen was annexed to Denmark.

“Dithmarschen was, therefore, a free peasant community from the late thirteenth century until 1559, aware of itself as an anomaly and with a strong political cohesion born of military necessity. Dithmarschen litigated, signed treaties, and concluded agreements with Denmark, Holstein, and other neighboring powers. It also successfully defended itself in battle.”

three cheers for the ditmarsians! (^_^)

so it seems as though the germanics had a comparatively “weak” kinship system before they ever encountered christianity. one historian, giorgio ausenda, has suggested that the pre-christian germanics practiced father’s brother’s daughter (fbd) marriage like the arabs today. i think this must be completely wrong. with fbd marriage you get strong, patrilineal (unilineal) clans/tribes, not kindreds based on bilateral descent. the germanics probably married maternal cousins of some sort, and maybe even relatively infrequently compared to a population like, say, the chinese. dunno. impossible to say at this point in time (who knows in the future, though … with thousands of samples of skeletal remains from the medieval and earlier periods in europe and elsewhere genetically analyzed for relatedness … an hbd chick can dream, can’t she?).

it may not have taken that much, then, either to persuade the germanics to adopt the cousin marriage bans and/or for the practice to really loosen the genetic ties in those societies. they might have been comparatively loose already. except in places like dithmarschen and that whole area of northern germany/southern denmark. what i, of course, want to know then is did those populations continue to marry cousins for longer than those where kindreds disappeared sooner? i shall endeavor to find out!

(p.s. – i totally have to get this book!)

previously: kinship in anglo-saxon society and kinship in anglo-saxon society ii

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