the transition to manorialism

luke asked a while back: “I’m a little hazy on the transition to manorialism. Was it imposed by military force? Did it begin amidst the political anarchy at the end of the Roman empire?”

good questions. i’m (more than) a little hazy on the transition, too. and you know what? we’re not alone! so are the historians. (^_^)

i found what seems like a good summary of what is known about the shift from slave or kinship-based agricultural systems to manorialism in the early medieval period in “A Millennium of Family Change: Feudalism to Capitalism in Northwestern Europe.” i’m just gonna cut and paste some relevant sections from the book because it’s complicated … and really interesting. here goes! [pgs. 44-46, 50-53, 58-62]:

“The transition from Antiquity to feudalism remains an obscure chapter in European history, despite considerable advances in historical knowledge secured in the past three decades, primarily by means of the rapid expansion and technical refinement of archaeological fieldwork….

“Developments in the Late Roman Empire

“In its prime, the Roman Empire had been based on a combination of agricultural modes of production, with a slave labour force at its heart working the great estates of central and southern Italy and Sicily. This force had been built up in the Republican era by means of the massive importation of bondmen, acquired by taking prisoners in the course of military conquest and selectively enslaving peoples on the Empire’s expanding periphery. The encouragement of childbearing among the salves of rural Italy was by no means rare, but the population in bondage failed to reproduce itself. High mortality rates were a major cause of this dearth, but Roman slaves also manifested extraordinarily low fertility. Marriage between slaves was illegal, and so long as replacements were plentiful, masters had no strong incentive to foster enduring conjugal relations among common field slaves.

greg cochran was just talking about this over @west hunter.

“Since many more males than females were enslaved, there was a persistent shortage of the latter. The sex ratio of urban slaves has been estimated in one study as three males to every two females, and in another, as two males to every female. While this is a staggering imbalance, it is probable that the rural ratio was more severely skewed. Family formation among agricultural slaves was not unknown, but the sex ratio in itself meant that a majority of bondmen would not have had the opportunity to form enduring unions and create families. Through the widespread manumission of older slaves as their labour-power declined, masters sought to keep the dependency ratio low, evading the costs of keeping the elderly alive. Continuous restocking from abroad was necessary to maintain the labour force at strength. Italian slavery in the Republican era was an import-replacement regime by default, if not as a matter of conscious Senatorial policy. This does not imply that slave-breeding was rare, merely that it was insufficient, given very high death rates, to replace the servile labour force indigenously over time.

“After the territorial expansion of the Empire ceased (with Trajan’s conquest of Dacia in AD 106), the Roman legions were thrown increasingly on to the defensive…. As the supply of enslaved youth from the hinterlands ebbed, slave prices rose. In the face of persistent shortages, with no prospects of obtaining alternative sources, the aristocracy made a belated attempt to convert to a self-sustaining regime of indigenous reproduction. Successive emperors decreed subsidies and tax breaks for the owners of slave progeny: ‘Slave owners and jurists began, in the second century if not earlier, to respect … family relationship[s] and to see slave families as entities which should be left undisturbed insofar as possible.’ Owners were inititially exhorted to avoid breaking up families through sale or inheritance; by the late fourth century, it became illegal to do so. The overall demographic effect of this effort is unclear, but it was probably modest….

“[T]he traditional mode of production on the latifunda — ganged labour under intensive supervision, subsisting on rations and domiciled in barracks — proved increasingly unprofitable. Gradually, it was abandoned and estates were sectored in two. While the home farm continued to be worked by domestic slaves, field slaves were granted small plots from which they were expected to subsist while surrendering a portion of the crop. Accompanying the elevation in status which occurred with the ceding of direct access to the means of subsistence was the dissolution of slave barracks — the notorious ergastula. Servi casati (literally, hutted slaves) were able to form families, put their children to work on their own land and transfer allotments to them upon decease…. Yet the familial autonomy of the servi casati was extremely limited:

“‘Slaves fortunate enough to be given plots of their own were obliged to spend one out of every two or three days inside the dominial court doing whatever they were ordered to do; on those days they took their meals in the refectory and were thus reincorporated into the master’s family. Their women were obliged to perform communal labor with the other women of the estate. The master took children from their huts as needed to replenish the ranks of his full-time servants.’

“While never being recognized in Roman law, the domicile and familial rights of slaves gradually began to be conceded de facto on large estates, under the burgeoning influence of the Christian Church. When this bundle of rights became customary, the servi casati had achieved the status of serfs.

“Outside Italy and Spain, peasant cultivators possessing hereditary land were the mainstays of agriculture throughout the Roman Empire, while slaves were primarily employed as domestics in aristocratic households. Peasant families were engaged in a broad range of class relations, from freehold ownership to servile dependency. Across the full breadth of this spectrum, their position gradually deteriorated from the second century AD on; an increasing proportion of them were enserfed. In the last two centuries of the Western Empire, ex-slaves and tenant farmers gradually converged. ‘What difference can be understood between slave and adscripticii’ (peasants bound to the land), Justinian asked rhetorically in the sixth century, ‘when both are placed in their master’s power and he can manumit a slave and alienate an adscripticius with the land?’ In this blending, ‘the major question was that of domiciling: once genuine independence of the hut had been acquired [by ex-slaves], fusion with free coloni or tenants followed….’

“The Germanic Peoples in Transition

“By Caesar’s time, the Germanic federations had left their nomadic, pastoral roots far behind. Since their social formations were extremely varied, generalization is difficult, but archaeological evidence indicates that most had become lightly settled agriculturalists by the pre-Roman Iron Age (1200-700 BC). They lived in widely scattered farmsteads, hamlet clusters and small villages, ‘islands of light soils … in a green sea of woods and waste’ where they combined the raising of cattle, sheep and goats with the cultivation of barley, oats, corn and wheat. In pre-Roman times, theirs was an extensive agriculture organized around stock-raising; a form of semi-sedentary pastoralism wherein cereal crops appear to have played a secondary but indispensable role. They practised slash-and-burn agriculture using scratch ploughs on impermanent fields, lacking regular layouts, crop rotation and systematic soil restoration. But in the first four centuries AD, there was a major expansion of settlements beyond loess soils, field layouts became more regular, wood ploughs more substantial and sophisticated, capable of cutting deeper furrows on light clays and intermediate loams, and there are even indications at one site of primitive forms of soil restoration…. Soil restoration could not have been widespread, since archaeological evidence indicates shifting cultivation, long fallow, two-course cropping, and repeated rearrangement of huts and field boundaries, the mark of semi-permanent villages….

“What, then, of the kinship forms of the Germanic peoples? By the time the Sippe (the Germanic kindred network) appears in historical texts, it is already a structure in decline. In the barbarian successor states, the political functions of the kindred — providing for territorial defense, domestic security and dispute settlement — were beginning to be replaced by the dependency of peasants upon local landlords and the extension of the latter’s authority….

“In those barbarian successor states where manorialization succeeded in establishing the permanence of land in cultivation, family groups held land, not the Sippe….

“Before widespread manorialization and the emergence of a standardized family holding in the ninth and tenth centuries, partible traditions prevailed across most of Northwestern Europe: all sons were entitled to marry in, raise families and subsist from the land of their fathers. In Anglo-Saxon England, where the primogeniture privilege was already emerging, the first son acquired the parental home; continental traditions appear more even-handed. The fissiparous potential of partible customs was held in check by the larger kin group, whose elder leaders enforced a strong tradition of joint management of farmsteads between brothers. Co-parceny inheritance may well have involved the establishment of separate residences (as Thomas Charles-Edwards argues was the norm in Anglo-Saxon England), but it was unlikely to have entailed the division of the parental holding.

“The kindred group, whose membership was in a constant state of flux, probably did not exceed fifty households. Yet whenever they were densely settled in a district, the group had a definite presence there. This took the form of a domain (a villa or fundus), an extensive ensemble of ‘arable, vine and orchard, undivided pasture, forest and waste, of demense and dependent tenancies.’ With the intensifications of plough agriculture, the domain was internally subdivided and conjugal families became more sharply distinguished from the larger kindred; but the group none the less maintained its external boundaries and genealogical identity. Alienation of the kindred’s land to outsiders was generally prohibited, strangers migrating to new lands were expected to declare their kindred, and settlements bore the name of their reputed ancestral owners….

The structure of landholding in the Roman West was deeply shaken by the barbarian takeovers, yet great estates persisted in England, Gaul and Germania. While many were comprised of dispersed small-scale holdings, most were at least partly concentrated and centrally administered….

“As the kindred ceased to be a sufficient basis of collective settlement, agricultural co-ordination and land management [because of, according to the author, ‘the transition from scratch plough agriculture and impermanent settlement to heavier iron plough cultivation and fixed site development’ – hbd chick], the resulting vacuum encouraged the mass commendation of communities of free cultivators into the thrall of the emergent seigneurial class. Within the landholding elite, a parallel shift from a ramified, ancestrally based kin ensemble to a more streamlined estate lineage may also have paved the way for the rise of the military retinue, cutting across ancient kin ties.

“Conventional wisdom tends to foster an exaggerated image of the kindred in terminal decline, of a dying institution overwhelmed by the inexorable and deeply antagonistic forces of lordship. In reality, ‘kinship remained immensely strong in daily life.’ Certainly, kin extension was truncated and realigned within the field of seigneurial jurisdiction; in the event of conflict between the two systems of loyalty, kinship was subordinated. But we should not overestimate their antagonism. Kin solidarity persisted throughout the feudal epoch as a profound and necessary complement to the class of bonds of loyalty and service…. If we envision a complete atrophy of kin bonds extending between domestic groups, ‘the conjugal family’ emerges from the early medieval mists standing on its own. Alan Macfarlane has painted such a picture for medieval England, but his argument has been widely criticized by historians. If the solitary nuclear family thesis is somewhat misleading for England, it is sharply at odds with evidence from the continent, where extended kin bonds were common in long-standing village communities.

“With the expansion and consolidation of manorial authority, a more intensive common-field agriculture was established in larger village settlements, with short strip furlongs in open fields, communally regulated crop rotation, seasonal grazing on the stubble, and deeper plough cultivation extending on to heavier soils. By the tenth century these general features had appeared along the Rhine, in Franconia, Hesse, Dijonnais, Artois and the Paris basin: ‘Seignorial lordship prevailed in all the common-field regions of Europe.’ Ancient settlements were reorganized and newly established ones were laid out in regular forms from their inception….”

previously: medieval manorialism and selection … again and medieval manoralism and the hajnal line and behind the hajnal line and english individualism ii

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pre-christian germanic eugenics

from Children and Material Culture [pg. 184]:

“Citing documentary evidence, Molleson notes that Germanic tribes in continental Europe subjected newborn infants to rigorous ‘fitness’ tests by immersion in running water. If the infant survived it was kept, if not the body was simply left in the river. Because of the lack of infant burials on British Anglo-Saxon sites, Molleson suggests that Germanic tribes may have brought this custom with them to England.”

that’s pretty harsh. =/ wonder whose job it was to take the baby to the river?

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fbd marriage in germanic tribes?

eh — i don’t think so.

giorgio ausenda in “Kinship and marriage among the Visigoths” and “The segmentary lineage in contemporary anthropology and among the Langobards” thinks yes, although he admits that there’s not much evidence either way. i already posted about the first article here; now here’s my summary of the second one:

ausenda examines the types of marriage, lineage and kinship systems in pastoralist societies that have been studied in modern times in order to infer what these structures may have been like in germanic tribes, since the germanics were also pastoralists. he discusses the father’s brother’s daughter (fbd) marriage system that’s found in the arab world, but he also points out that some pastoralists practice mother’s brother’s daughter (mbd) marriage [pg. 23-4]:

“Endogamous pastoralist populations are those belonging to the ‘Arab sphere’. These populations are considered endogamous because of their preference for patrilateral first cousin marriage, i.e. FBD marriage which, in fact, occurs with a very high frequency.

“Anthropologists explain such alliances in terms of the necessity of maintaining a close cooperation between an individual and his father and brothers for the benefit of the joint property, their livestock, and to further lineage stability.

“Many authors stress the considerable importance that sons have for the furtherance of the household’s pastoral economy. The endogamous practice stems from the fact that ‘the lineage group aims, primarily, at keeping a young woman to betroth her to one of its own young men’. The priority of a close kinsman’s claim to a girl is so stringent that among most populations marriage requests must be approved by close kin to make sure that no closer relative with a claim to the girl may come forward later….

Outside and bordering with the above areas some populations are exogamous, e.g. Central Asian nomads, the Toubou of Chad, Somali nomadic populations. While the features of Middle Eastern and North African endogamy have been carefully studied, the exogamy of other populations has not received a satisfactory explanation. In these cases the prevelant type of marriage is with MBD, i.e. with women belonging to the Mother’s clan, different from the agnatic one. Spencer pointed to this lack of explanation and ventured that the search for a mate outside one’s own group may be due not only to demographic reasons, i.e. lace of a suitable bride in one’s own clan, but also:

“‘…for more positive considerations, such as the need to maintain reliable relationships with other groups in ecologically strategic places, both nomadic and settled.'”

again, ausenda concludes that the pre-christian germanic tribes practiced fbd marriage, but i can’t see that he offered any good reason for his conclusion.

there are a few points that weigh in favor of mbd marriage, in my opinion:

1) that, according to tacitus, there was a strong, almost sacred, bond in early germanic society “between a mother’s son and a mother’s brother” [pg. 10]. mother’s brother? mother’s brother’s daughter marriage? it doesn’t seem like such a stretch to imagine that mbd marriage was pretty common when there was such a strong relationship between a man and his maternal uncle.

2) tacitus also noted [pg. 10]: “‘The larger a man’s kin and the greater number of his relations by marriage, the stronger is his influence when he is old.'” well that sounds like what spencer, quoted by ausenda above, said about mbd marriage and building alliances with outside clans. i talked about this in another post, too — marriages with maternal cousins offer greater alliance building opportunities than marriage with paternal cousins. paternal cousin marriages (fbd and fzd) keep everything and everybody in the same patrilineage. if you want lots o’ alliances and lots o’ extended family members, maternal cousin marriage is the way to go.

the next two points have to do with the status of women in fbd versus other societies. in fbd marriage societies, women have quite a low status — not just your usual secondary status to men (like in most traditional societies) — but really kinda freakishly low. think burqas and honor killings and not being allowed to drive in saudi arabia (altho maybe that’s a good thing!). so:

3) from wiki-p: “The weregild or recompense due for the killing or injuring of a woman is notably set at twice that of a man of the same rank in Alemannic law.” this is exactly the opposite of fbd marriage societies today — in saudia arabia and iran, for instance, the diyya (weregild) for a muslim woman is half that of a muslim man.

4) in all (i think) contemporary fbd socieites, women are required to follow purdah to some extent or another. head covering for women in northern europe, on the other hand, seems to have been introduced by the church. it does not appear to have been a pre-christian practice.

women obviously had a secondary status to men in pre-christian germanic society, but i don’t think they were shut away and were treated so much like “possessions” as women in most fbd societies are.

i’m goin’ with mbd marriage for pre-christian germanic tribes.

why on earth do i care? i dunno. i just got kinda stuck on the topic (in an aspergian sort-of way). i promise i’ll move on to some other groups/topics now! (^_^)

edit: boilerplate and boilerplate 2.0

previously: inbreeding amongst germanic tribes and whatever happened to european tribes?

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early medieval germans … again!

meanwhile, back with our friends the late-antiquity/early medieval germans…

i just got through reading mayke de jong’s “An Unsolved Riddle: Early Medieval Incest Legislation”, which is in “Franks and Alamanni in the Merovingian period: an ethnographic perspective”, with my never-ending quest to answer these questions in mind: how inbred (or not) were the pre-christian germanic tribes, and what brought about the incest-avoidance obsession of the germans in the medieval period.

on the first question, de jong thinks that the pre-christian germanic tribes were probably not that inbred. they likely married distant cousins, but not so much closer relatives. i don’t really buy her argument. de jong describes how she thinks (from looking at some of the germanic laws) that the germanic tribes viewed kinship out to the fourth- and fifth-cousin as sort-of the limits of kinship (see quotes below). that’s interesting. that maybe would give an indication of the extent of germanic tribes as the germans, themselves, saw it. fifth-cousins — part of the tribe; beyond that — not part of the tribe. but this kinship limitation doesn’t, to my mind, give any indication as to which cousins the germans had been marrying before they converted to christianity.

i think ausenda and goody both make very sound arguments that the earliest of the early medieval laws specifically banned close-cousin marriage precisely because the germanic tribes had been, to some extent or another, marrying their close cousins. so, i still think close-cousin marriage amongst the pre-christian germanic tribes was quite likely.

with regard to the second question, de jong doesn’t put much stock in goody’s argument that the church tried to limit cousin-marriage (and other things related to mating) because it wanted to limit the number of heirs people could produce so that the church would benefit by receiving more legacies. she thinks that the church had more ideological notions in mind regarding the ‘pollution’ of the body and the soul — and even the community (see her chapter for details). (although st. thomas aquinas offered some more practical reasons to ban close-relative marriage.)

in addition, she thinks a lot of the push for control of cousin marriage came from the germanics, themselves — or at least that it was influenced by germanic society. she points out that most of the early medieval laws on cousin marriage — especially the earliest ones again — came from germanic regions, not from back in rome. de jong feels that the germans were really enthusiastic about following and implementing — and getting right — the new church’s rules because they were new converts and, therefore, really eager. sounds possible. whatever the germans’ reason(s), i think she is right that it was not only the church, but also tptb in germanic society that pushed for these bans.

but, only so far. de jong points out something interesting and that is that after a few centuries of bickering back-and-forth, the limit on cousin-marriage was finally set in the 1200s at fourth cousins — in other words, right at the pre-christian germanic limit on kinship.

here are some quotes from de jong:

pg. 108

“The first far-reaching decrees against incest stem from early sixth-century Gaul and Spain, and were as much a matter of kings as of clerics. In other words, the chronology and geography of incest legislation puts us firmly within the domain of the Germanic sucessor-kingdoms….”

pgs. 118-20

“Anti-incest legislation undoubtedly was an ecclesiastical priority. To a large extent, Christianization in the Frankish kingdoms can be measured by the expansion of marital impediments. But this is not the same as saying that extreme exogamy was exclusively the concern of churchmen, be they self-interested, confused or otherwise. After all, legislation against incest developed within Germanic kingdoms; unlike their Roman predecessors, Frankish rulers were in the vanguard of the battle. Moreover, the pollution-ridden type of Christianity receptive to extreme incest prohibitions was very different from its Roman counterpart. However much Augustine wrote about the inherent dangers of sexuality, the conviction that kin-marriage had to be destroyed root and branch was alien to late antiquity Christianity. It belonged to the more literal-minded religion of the post-Roman world, in which rulers increasingly presented themselves as the guardians of the New Israel….

“This much is certain: ‘the Church’ cannot be credited with the sole responsibility for change. Extensive incest prohibitions can only originate and exist in societies in which kinship networks were both extensive and vitally important. This was not the case in Roman society; by the time Christianity entered Roman society, the traditional Roman familia — which had not been determined by biological criteria anyway — had dwindled into non-existence. The basic unit of society was the married couple and their children, so often depicted together on funerary monuments. The role of the family within the successor-kingdoms was of a different nature, however. Without necessarily returning to antiquated notions of the extended family operating at all times as a unified group, one cannot deny that large groups of cognate kin surface in Germanic legislation. This happened only in specific contexts: to wash their hands of responsibility for their kinsman’s crimes, as in the chrenechruda of the Pactus legis Salicae (58.3), or to claim allodial succession, as in the equally famous de allodibus of Ripuarian law (Lex Ribvaria 57.3) [sixth century laws – hbdchick]. In such cases, the limits of kinship hovered between the third and the fifth generatio/geniculum. This coincides with the limits of forbidden kindred as defined by eighth-century capitularies; it was also the border zone in which battles over incest were fought…. There seems no reason, therfore, to credit early medieval ‘Germanic’ societies with endogamous leanings, as Goody and others have done. Noisy quarrels over the limits of kin-marriage have obscured the fact that they stretched quite far to all concerned, in spite of differences of opinion….”

just a note — when de jong uses the word “endogamy” here, she’s referring to really close-cousin marriage, like first- or second-cousin marriage — and when she uses “exogamy,” she’s referring to more distant cousin-marriages. confused me for a while.

“As we have seen, Goody postulated a connection between Germanic endogamy and the wish to keep property ‘within the family’; such strategies supposedly clashed head-on with ecclesiastical designs on lay property. But what if in fact a great number of paternal and maternal kinsmen had a right to inherit, as was the case in Frankish inheritance law? This would seem to render endogamy superfluous, certainly as a strategy to preserve familial property. Inheritance rules allowing allodia to be handed on to the fifth ‘geniculum’ provided plenty of opportunity to inherit ‘within the family’, without any need to resort to close kin-marriage. On the contrary, the inheritance strategies of the Germanic leges reveal a broad conception of kindred, encompassing close and distant kin. From some one could inherit, from others not; if they were too close, one could not marry them, but if they were sufficiently distant, marriage might be both possible and profitable (although not necessarily from an economic point of view)….

Recent research concerning aristocratic marriages in tenth and eleventh-century France reveals an interesting pattern: while prohibitions up to the third or fourth generation tended to be obeyed, alliances between families were nonetheless cemented by kin-marriages, albeit distant ones, repeating themselves in long-term cycles. Regine Le Jan has observed similar strategies of ‘exogamous’ kin-marriages within the Frankish aristocracy. Early medieval kinship was bilateral and based on ‘generalized exchange’, which implied an exogamy which allows for a rapid integration of different elites…. The ecclesiastical offensive against ‘incest’ was not so much directed against close-kin marriages, as against tendencies to strengthen fluid cognate kin groups by marrying affines or distant kin. Hence, Merovingian councils concentrated on affinal and spiritual kinship, while Carolingian churchmen cast their net even wider…. By the ninth century, a marriage in the third generation had become scandalous, but the fourth generation remained a viable option, along with a whole range of more distant kin. This pattern persisted well into the tenth and eleventh centuries.

“Early medieval legistlation was therefore not a matter of the Church pitting its outrageous demands against ‘Germanic’ endogamy. The clergy was part of a society in which the elite practiced exogamy, while alliances within fluid kinship groups were cemented by marriages to distant kin. Ecclesiastical legislation went ‘to the limits of kinship’ precisely because it originated in this context of exogamy…. Marriage in the fourth generation and onwards remained a bone of contention, however, with the clergy holding on to the demand that the seventh generation be observed, and the aristocracy clinging to their exogamous kin-marriages. The struggle continued until the Fourth Lateran Council (1215), when a stalemate was finally reached: from then on, forbidden kindred only included the fourth generation.”

previously: whatever happened to european tribes? and inbreeding amongst germanic tribes and more on inbreeding in germanic tribes

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and so my next question naturally is…

…what sort of selection pressures for, say, behavioral traits and iq existed under the manoralism system in medieval europe versus the earlier tribal system? (obviously these are pretty broad categories that changed in nature quite a bit over time and between places, but still….) i’m thinking along the lines of “The 10,000 Year Explosion” in which (duh!) human evolution is ongoing and, like in the case of ashkenazi jews in europe, what happened during the medieval period was obviously important.

so, what happened to the germanic peoples during the middle ages evolutionarily speaking? anything? nothing? a lot?

in a tribal system, you’d think that within any given clan or tribe, most or all of the members would be kinda-sorta taken care of since everyone is family. you’d think that a lot of the members, therefore, would be able to leave at least some descendants behind. obviously, the chief of a clan might be able to leave behind the mostest descendants of all, but might it be that in a tribal system, more of the members might be reproductively successful than maybe…

…in the manoralism system, where the extended family system is gone and we’re left with pretty much just nuclear families operating in a corporate sort of world. in the manor system, there were different classes of peasants/laborers from free tenants to slaves (again, depending on when and where you’re talking about). but, clearly, those more able to succeed under the manor system prolly left behind more descendants than some others (’cause they were more fit to that environment, no?). so, those able to work their way up to and maintain the status of peasant or free tenant presumably were the most successful reproductively (after the lords, of course).

given that these peasants had to work their own land as well as do a lot of work on the manor — and given that many of them settled and opened up new territories in eastern europe (in which to farm the new grains with the new techniques) — what traits might have served the successful ones well?

obviously, you couldn’t be too dumb. maybe even practical, 3-d rotation intelligence would be good to have for engineering drainage systems and the like. i’d say that personality traits like hard-working and industriousness would also be selected for. i guess that might sorta be conscientiousness in a way, but not exactly. law abiding? conformity? i.e. not rocking the manoralism boat too much?

i also think in this new, non-tribal corporate world, whatever “genes for reciprocal altruism” might exist would prolly be selected for at greater rates than in a tribal society ’cause in the latter, kin selection altruism should be enough to keep things ticking along amicably. but not in a society where people are not so closely related.

anything else? any of this sound completely far out?

previously: medieval manoralism and genetic relatedness and more on inbreeding in germanic tribes and loosening of genetic ties in europe started before christianity?

(note: comments do not require an email. the peasants are revolting!)

medieval manoralism and genetic relatedness

been reading michael mitterauer’s “Why Europe?: The Medieval Origins of Its Special Path” — really interesting stuff! i quoted mitterauer at length here on the shifts in kinship terms across medieval europe and how they mirrored the loosening of genetic ties brought about by the church and tptb’s new regulations on marriage.

anyway, so i’ve been learning all about manoralism, at least carolingian style. mitterauer explains (nice and clearly for those of us who don’t know nothin’ about the medieval period) all about the medieval agricultural revolution — how rye and oats were the latest, trendy crops (in northern europe); the importance of the new three-field system; how crucial the heavy moldboard plow was; and how nobody could do without the new-fangled grist mills — which were mostly owned by rich people or monks.

in case you don’t already know, manoralism was your basic economic unit in feudalistic europe (prolly inherited kinda-sorta from the romans) wherein dependant people (like peasants or even serfs) were tied to, you guessed it, a manor (owned by a lord or attached to a monastery) and owed a certain amount of labor to the manor in return for protection and some farmland of their own and the use of those mills, amongst other things.

from how mitterauer describes it, the system sounded fairly flexible — at least in different places at different points in time. i mean, it sounds like peasants weren’t 100% stuck on whatever farm they grew up on. in fact, rather the opposite — in looking at some manorial censuses, mitterauer works out that most households did not consist of large, extended families but, rather, parents and children — and while the eldest son might “inherit” his father’s farm (or the right to work it), other children would move on elsewhere.

mitterauer makes the argument that the development of the manor system started with the franks. here he quotes another researcher in the field:

“This type of agricultural reform [manorial village, field, and technical agrarian structures associated with this concept] was first put in motion in Austrasia around the middle of the seventh century, or somewhat earlier, under the Pippins, the majordomos of the Merovingians.”

from austrasia (<< sounds like a name orwell made up), the manor system and feudalism first spread throughout the northern germanic populations and later, starting in the 12th century, the germanic peoples brought the system with them as they migrated eastwards.

the key to making the manor system possible at all, though, according to mitterauer, was the breaking down of extended families and clans and tribes. his third chapter is entitled: “The Conjugal Family and Bilateral Kinship: Social Flexibility through Looser Ties of Descent.” looser ties of descent. exactly!

it simply would not have been possible to run a medieval manorial system over a large area (like the carolingian empire) with a bunch of quarreling, inbred tribes. along with all the revolutionary agrarian structures, a new social structure was needed — and that was put into place, i think, kind-of accidentally at first by the church (i.e. not with a planned manorial system in mind), but then it was expanded upon further when it proved to work in ways that benefitted tptb (including the church).

a ban on second-cousin marriage was instituted by the church in the sixth century. by the end of that century, the regulations were firmly enforced amongst the franks. the franks got going with manoralism in the mid-seventh cenutry. if we take the start of the cousin-marriage ban as, say, 550 a.d. to the start of manoralism as, say, 650 a.d. that gives us 100 years. counting a generation as being 16 years in length — that gives us 6.25 generations of mating patterns designed to loosen the ties between extended family members. i’m not sure if this is enough generations or not, but it sounds like a pretty good start to me.

as the system proved successful for the lords and the church (and, prolly, a lot of the peasants, too), the bans on cousin marriage were extended to third cousins and, eventually, in the eleventh century to sixth cousins. by the twelfth century, the franks were hittin’ the road for central europe.

and they would’ve kept going all the way to siberia except they bumped up against a wall. it wasn’t just that they ran up against some slavs, because they managed to push some of them aside. according to mitterauer, what they ran up against were slavs living in vast, forested areas who were still using the old slash-and-burn farming methods (i.e. the russians and the finns had yet to adopt the new agricultural techniques) and still living in the old social systems [pgs. 46-7]:

“The more ancient agrarian economic structures of the East and the newer structures of the West stood in especially strong contrast to each other in the areas annexed by the colonization of the East. To take one example, in the early thirteenth century Duke Henry the Bearded of Silesia made a change in his schedule of dues and services. Grain was to be rendered after a certain point instead of the squirrel skins demanded until then. This changeover was symptomatic of the structural transformations wrought by the colonization of the East; the age-old tribute of pelts that had been widespread in eastern Europe was replaced by rents in grain….

“The squirrel skins [originally] demanded by Duke Henry the Bearded point toward a particularly ancient model. Tributes in pelts were originally demanded collectively from tribal societies as a whole or in part. The inner structure of the societies ruled in this manner were completely unaffected by this system of duties. The expeditions Finnish lords made across Lapland, first on their own, then later, on a commission from the king of Sweden, represented an extreme and long-lived example of this type of tribute. Tributes in furs were so important in northern and eastern Europe that a specific ‘fur geld’ (Pelzgeld) based on them was created between the eleventh and the thirteenth centuries. Tributary systems based on tribes were a long way from the arrangements established by the manorial system.

the manorial system required, amongst other things, a breaking of the tribal system. that hadn’t fully happened, yet, in eastern europe in the middle ages.

previously: more on inbreeding in germanic tribes and loosening of genetic ties in europe started before christianity? and what about the franks?

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the hajnal line

from wikip:

“The Hajnal line links Saint Petersburg, Russia and Trieste, Italy. In 1965, John Hajnal discovered it divides Europe into two areas characterized by a different levels of nuptiality.

West of this line, the average age of women at first marriage was 24 or more, men 26, spouses were relatively close in age, and 10% or more of adults never married. East of the line, the mean age of both sexes at marriage was earlier, spousal age disparity was greater and marriage more nearly universal. Subsequent research has amply confirmed Hajnal’s continental divide, and what has come to be known as the ‘Western European marriage pattern’, although historical demographers have also noted that there are significant variations within the region….”

here it is. the caption on wikipedia reads: “The line in red is Hajnal’s. The dark blue lines show areas of high nuptiality West of the Hajnal line.”

so, basically, we’re talking about germanic peoples (west of the line).

michael mitterauer offers several explanations for the characteristics of marriage east of the line including:

“e) Influences of the church

As a rule, Christianity helped to weaken bonds of lineage and descent and strengthen the relations between spouses everywhere. Not everywhere, however, did these principles succeed to the same extent. The penetration of principles of church marriage laws was generally stronger in the area of the Western than in that of the eastern church. Also corporative and communal social forms supported by the church were stronger in the West. Consequently, patrilinear kinship structures were less affected in the area of the orthodox church than in the West. In the long run, however, also in the East Christian principles worked against structures of lineage and descent. Patrilinear patterns totally in contradiction to church marriage law, such as levirate marriages or second marriage in case of a childless first marriage, were maintained in areas of weak church influence in eastern and southeastern Europe.”

from “Whatever Happened to Hajnal’s Line”:

“Interestingly enough, Hajnal’s line followed quite closely the Iron Curtain, then dividing Europe into capitalist and socialist societies.”

this is one of emmanuel todd’s major points in “The Explanation of Ideology” — i.e. that almost all of the nations that became communist in the 20th century had a particular family structure based, amongst other things, on strong, patrilineal lineages. (i’m gonna write up a post on his book — soon. i promise!) i pointed out what looked like a connection between slavs and ex-communist countries here.

also from wikip:

The region’s late marriage pattern has received considerable scholarly attention in part because it appears to be unique; it has not been found in any other part of the world prior to the Twentieth Century. The origins of the late marriage system are a matter of conjecture prior to the 16th Century when the demographic evidence from family reconstitution studies makes the prevalence of the pattern clear….

interestingly, tacitus wrote about late marriage practices amongst the german tribes. it’s hard to tell, tho, if he was working from accurate information, or just reproaching his fellow romans for their morally loose marriage practices. here, from jack goody [pg. 39]:

“Marriages are not made early, for ‘the young men are slow to mate, and their powers, therefore, are never exhausted. The girls, too, are not hurried into marriage’. Was the ‘European pattern’ of late marriage (Hajnal 1965) already in evidence or was this too a figment of Tacitus’ moralising?”

in any case, delayed marriage for westerners (esp. western westerners) is not a new-fangled thing.

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what about the franks?

the franks — like the other germanic tribes — had been inbreeding before the arrival of christianity. here’s from “Women in Frankish Society: Marriage and the Cloister, 500 to 900” [pgs. 36-37]:

“Marriages between close blood relations and in-laws were also [along with marriages between freed persons and slaves] dissolved. Children issuing from these unions were marked with infamy and excluded from inheritance. In the beginning of the sixth century, kings were able to disregard incest laws with impunity, but by the end of the century they could no longer do so: the church took a firm stand on the issue. Theudebert of Austrasia, for example, had to perform penance for having married his brother’s widow.”

while st. augustine had struggled with the anglo-saxons in britain, it was st. boniface who struggled with the (practically heathen) franks [pg. 76]:

“The marital customs he observed among the Germanic tribes in general and among the Franks in particular troubled Boniface [ca. 672–754] deeply. He sought advice from popes on the definition of adultery and incest. Gregory II [early 700s] answered him with a series of prescriptions on incest, and Pope Zachary [mid-700s] sent Pepin excerpts from the ‘Dionysiana’ on impediements to marriage. The church’s concept of incest was so broad, extending the prohibitions to the seventh degree of consanguinity [i.e. sixth cousins — that was in the 11th century], as well as to relationships by affinity and spiritual kinship, that it considerably restricted the capacity of aristocratic families to form extended alliances through marriage. Introduced into the Frankish councils by Boniface, the prescriptions were included by Pepin the Younger in the capitularies….

“In an effort to eradicate all forms of incest, Boniface also concerned himself with extramarital fornication between relatives. Sexual intercourse before or after marriage with a relative of the spouse was held to constitute a bond of affinity similar to that arising from bethrothal, marriage, baptism, or confirmation. Disregard for these bonds of affinity or for consanguinity, even in the case of casual intercourse, was considered a serious offense and disqualified the transgressors from marriage for the rest of their lives. Their punishment was lifelong penance, to which Charlemagne added confiscation of their property.

meanwhile, with the bretons (in brittany) [pg. 116]:

“The marital legislation of Charlemagne and Louis the Pious had little effect in Brittany, if we are to believe one of the court poets in Louis the Pious’s entourage. The poet accused the Bretons of being Christians in name only, of practicing incest — brothers sleep with sisters and rape their sisters-in-law. These were ancient customs that Carolingian legislation may have been less successful in eradicating in Brittany than in other parts of Gaul. Frankish influence, however, was not completely absent in Brittany; even after 841 it was exercised in areas where families of Frankish descent had settled, that is, in the dioceses of Rennes and Nantes.”

previously: more on inbreeding in germanic tribes

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