random notes: 07/30/13

from A Brief History of Great Britain (2010) [pages xiv-xvi]:

“Britain is marked by pronounced regional differences. The most basic division is that between highland areas and lowland areas. The ‘highland zone’ is defined by being over 200 meters (656 feet) above sea level. Highland zones are found in Wales, much of Scotland, northern England, and parts of southwestern England, although lowland pockets exist in highland territories. The British highland zone is not really mountainous, as the highest mountains reach the mode height of roughly 4000 feet (1,129 meters). There is a much higher proportion of highland land in Scotland than in England, and the difference between the highlands and the lowlands and their inhabitants plays a central role in Scottish history and culture.

The highlands are marked by a greater emphasis on pastoralism, as they have mostly chalky soil and are too wet and cold for successful agriculture. The highlands are also much less densely populated than the lowlands, as it requires much more land to support a human being through pastoralism than through agriculture. Lowland areas are usually more fertile. The most fertile lowlands are in the south and southeast of Britain, where there is rich, heavy soil more suited to agriculture. Lowlanders can engage in raising either grains or livestock, depending on circumstances. In the Middle Ages much of the lowlands was truned over to the highly profitable production of wool. Lowlanders tended to live in villages, highlanders in small hamlets or isolated farmsteads, or to be nomadic.

“Invasions of Britain had much less effect on the highlands than on the lowlands, which constituted the really valuable prize due to their greater agricultural productivity. Those regimes exercising power throughout Britain or the British Isles were usually based in lowland England, the only place capable of supporting tehm. The extension of power from the lowlands to the highlands was a difficult challenge due to the difficulty of the terrain. Mountainous Wales preserved its independence for centuries despite its poverty and its inability to unite politically. The only invaders to subdue Wales before the 13th century were the well-organized and disciplined Roman legions, and it took them years after the conquest of England. The less-organized Anglo-Saxons, Vikings, and Normans had a much harder time, and Wales was only permanently annexed to England in 1284.

“The greater poverty of the highlands meant that highlanders often raided lowlanders, creating hostility between the two. The highlands were also more culturally and linguistically conservative. Cultural innovations usually originated in the lowlands and spread to the highlands. The highlands were where the Celtic languages lasted the longest, as English and its offshoots, originally the language of Anglo-Saxon invaders, became the dominant tongue of the lowlands in the early Middle Ages. This cultural division further added to the hostility between highland and lowland peoples.”
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from The Environment of Early Man in the British Isles (1975) [pgs. 147-149]:

“The Highland Zone/Lowland Zone division

“It is from this time [late bronze/early iron age] onwards that the division of the British Isles into Highland and Lowland Zones becomes relevant. The division has been used by geographers to explain differences in settlement patterns, farming practices and the quality of material culture between the two zones, and Cyril Fox exploited it to a considerable extent in ‘The Personality of Britain’.

“In brief, the Highland Zone (Fig. 62) is that part of the British Isles which is made up of the most ancient group of rocks, those formed in the Paleozoic Era. They lie in the north and west and the division with the later Mesozoic and Tertiary rocks of the Lowland Zone falls roughly on a line from the mouth of the Tees to the mouth of the Exe. The Palaeozoic rocks are generally hard, forming mountainous regions, with continuous streches over 300 metres above sea level. Plains and vales are not extensive. There are steep slopes and crags making cultivation difficult or impossible, and soils are often thin, stony and impoverished. Rainfall is high and there is a strong correspondence between the chief moorland areas and mean annual rainfall.

“Lowland Britain, on the other hand, is made up of geologically younger rocks which are softer, and which have given rise to a series of low-lying, rolling hills and intervening extensive vales and plains. Slopes are gentle, crags few and almost all the land is available for tillage, pasture or settlement. Soils are generally fertile and there is little evidence of erosion. Rainfall is light and there is little waste ground.

“But there are many topographical exceptions, in particular various lowland areas within the Highland Zone. Some of these are relatively small — the Vale of Glamorgan, the Hebridean machair and certain fertile river valleys such as Strath Tay. Others are of much greater extent, including the Central Scottish Lowlands, East Banff and Aberdeen, and the Orkney Islands. Ireland can be divided topographically into its own Highland and Lowland Zoens, and presents an anomaly in that approximately half the country is essentially lowland but situated in a high rainfall area….

“Indeed, the key distinction between the Highland and Lowland Zones is not so much elevation and topography as rainfall which is greatest in the west (Fig. 62) since this is the direction from which the main rain-bearing winds blow….

britain - lowland-highland zones

“[F]or a variety of economic and environmental reasons, the first millennium bc represents a period of significant change in the Highland Zone. Fields were abandoned and either reverted to pasture or waste ground, or became covered by peat. In low-lying areas communications became difficult because of mire formation or flooding. The importance of stone and Highland Zone metal deposits dwindled. And there was no great exploitation of timber for iron smelting as occurred in the Lowland Zone. Indeed, it is from the beginning of the Iron Age that the Highland Zone as a whole assumes the pastoral character which it has retained ever since.

“‘It is generally understood that…the remains of the monuments and material costructed or used throughout Britain reveal no noticeable differences in quality between the lowland and highland areas until well into the first millennium bc, but that thereafter a contrast developed between the two areas, comprising a falling-off of the material culture of the highland in comparison with that of the lowland — a contrast which has lasted to the present day.'”
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look! another line – the tees-exe line (the red one):

tees-exe line
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from The British Isles: A History of Four Nations (1989, 2006) [pgs. 18-19]:

“To draw attention to this fact [i.e. that much of the pre-roman british isles was a part of a broader european celtic culture] is not to say that there was political and social uniformity throughout the area. The existence of tribal groupings in both Britain and Ireland is an indication of political differences at the local level. The Romans, to whom we are indebted for Latin versions of tribal names in the absence of their original Celtic forms, distinguished over twenty tribes in Britain south of the Forth. In Ireland, where politcal aggregation had not gone as far as it had elsewhere, the number of tribes seems to have been much larger.

“One powerful cause of variety was geography, in particular the contrast between Highland and Lowland Zones. It was Sir Cyril Fox who argued in his book ‘The Personality of Britain’ (1932) that the Lowlands would usually be exposed to forces of change before the Highlands. The Highland/Lowland contrast certainly makes good sense when applied to Britain, where north and west form a distinctive geographical area, including a good deal of land over 400 metres above sea-level. Poorer soil and climatic conditions made agriculture more of a challenge in the Highland Zone than it was in the south and east. In a British Isles context, however, the Highland/Lowland contrast is not quite so clear. Ireland, which has been compared to a saucer in which the rim represents the hills and the flat base the central plain, is not, geologically speaking, a Highland Zone. There is no doubt, however, that the narrow seas between north-west Ireland and south-west Scotland linked rather than divided them. At this particular period, however, it may be seen as forming part of a ‘cultural Highland Zone’, cut off, for better or worse, from the influence of the rising military power of Rome.

“Geographical determinism should not be pressed too far, however. It can also be argued that, under certain conditions, the Irish Sea provided a channel of communication…. It also seems to have been the case during the fifth and sixth centuries AD when Christian communities on both sides of the Irish Sea retained their links with Christian Europe at a time when the eastern half of Britain was being overrun by Germanic settlers. The Irish presence in Scotland in the sixth century AD and in parts of Wales illustrates the same point….

Another contrast between the Highland and Lowland Zones was almost certainly demographic. No firm statistical evidence exists but several strong indicators suggest that there was a considerable increase of population in the Lowlands from the fifth century onwards, well before the Belgic invasions. A good deal of internal colonisation seems to have taken place during this period….”
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from The Culture of the English People: Iron Age to the Industrial Revolution (1994) [pgs. 5-7]:

“Some fifty years ago Sir Cyril Fox published one of the most seminal books in the history of British archaeology and culture, ‘The Personality of Britain’. In it he distinguished two parts of these islands, a ‘highland’ zone and a ‘lowland’ zone, with a boundary between them which ran from County Durham to Lyme Bay on the south coast (Fig. 1.1). This line separated a predominantly hilly region of Paleozoic rocks from a gentler region of Secondary and later rocks. These two regions, he argued, corresponded with two differing modes of cultural evolution. Simply expressed, his argument was that the bearers of outside cultural influences reached the Highland Zone often by sea and almost always in small numbers. Their impact was never sufficient to blanket or submerge the indigenous cultures. Instead they became assimilated. Elements of older cultures are today not only present, but conspicuously so in Highland Britain. Lowland Britain, by contrast, lay at the receiving end of a long series of invasions, from those who walked across the landbridge which once existed with Europe to the more recent invasions of Anglo-Saxons, Vikings and Normans. Each wave was powerful enough to impress its own culture, and thus to mask or to destroy pre-existing cultures. Fox commented on the relative ease with which new civilizations are established in the Lowland Zone, repressing without necessarily obliterating those which had prevailed before. ‘There is [thus] greater unity of culture in the Lowland Zone, but greater continuity in the Highland Zone.’

“The Fox model has not been without its critics. Some, including the present writer, would interpose a third zone covering the basically claylands of the English Midlands, between the Highland and the Lowland, with its own distinctive cultural history. But, however modified, the Fox model has been of incalculable imortance to a cultural history of these islands. It gives a rational explanation for a phenomenon which will recur in the pages of this book, namely the persistence of early cultural traits in the Celtic west and north, and the greater degree of cultural traits in the Celtic west and north, and the greater degree of cultural homogeneity in the lowlands of the south and east.”

england - lowland-midland-highland zones
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previously: this one’s for g.w. and the flatlanders vs. the mountain people

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runs of homozygosity in the irish population

so, after all my rambling about the historic mating patterns amongst the native irish, how inbred are the irish really?

from Population structure and genome-wide patterns of variation in Ireland and Britain:

[O]ur results suggest that the Irish population has the largest proportion of the genome in ROH (as measured by FROH1), relative to the British and HapMap CEU populations examined here (Figure 3).”

the members of the ceu population are mormons in utah. here is figure 3 — click on images for LARGER view:

ireland - roh01 - o'dushlaine et al

Figure 3 – FROH1 patterning in Irish, British and Swedish populations. Box plots represent (a) the number and (b) the summed size of segments of the autosomal genome that exists in ROH of 1 Mb or greater in length (ie, FROH1). The bars represent mean and confidence intervals, as per a standard box plot (box indicating the 25th–75th percentile of the FROH1 distribution, line within box representing the median and ends of the whiskers representing the 5th–95th percentiles). Outliers are represented by diamonds.”

so the irish: more AND longer roh or runs of homozygosity (1 Mb in length or greater) than the english, the utah mormons, scots in aberdeen, or the swedes — in that order (if i’m not mistaken). so the english here are the most outbred (what have i been saying?), while the irish are the most inbred.

more from the paper:

“Overall, the Irish and Swedish populations seem slightly different from the others in the context of ROH. Both the Irish and Swedish populations showed, on an average, a greater number of ROH, an increased maximum ROH length, as well as an increased proportion of the genome in homozygous runs, compared with that of the Scottish, southern English and Utah populations. Similarly, the mean level of individual autozygosity per population as measured by FROH22 was highest for the Irish group (Figure 4). Together, these results suggest slightly increased autozygosity in the Irish cohort compared with the British and Swedish cohorts.”

here’s figure 4:

ireland - roh02 - o'dushlaine et al

Figure 4 – Mean FROH1 and FROH5 patterning in Irish, British and Swedish populations. See Figure 1 legend for population identifiers. Y-axis indicates the average proportion of the autosomal genome covered by FROH1 or FROH5 (see Materials and Methods for definition of FROH).

“Autozygosity is generated by increased levels of kinship, which in turn reflects the population history of Ireland. Although relatively undisturbed by secondary migrations, the population of Ireland has undergone expansions and contractions at numerous points in recent history (eg, two major famines since 1600, disease epidemics, expansion in the first half of the 19th century). Aside from these features, the increased autozygosity may also reflect legacies of Gaelic family structures and comparatively low levels of migration that are in part due to a lack of industrial revolution in Ireland.

“To test a hypothesis of increased autozygosity due to features of relatively recent population history, we examined the patterning of homozygosity looking for signals of parental relatedness over the last four or five generations. Previous work has illustrated that parental relatedness arising within four to six generations predominantly affects ROH over 5 Mb in length.22 We therefore compared this statistic across populations. Results show that the Irish and Swedish populations have around 10 times as much of their genomes in ROH over 5 Mb in length than the southern English, and 1.5–3 times as much as Scotland and Utah (Figure 4)….

“Analysis of ROH is a powerful method to gauge the extent of ancient kinship and recent parental relationship within a population. This is because ROH arise from shared parental ancestry in an individual’s pedigree. The offspring of cousins have very long ROH, commonly over 10 Mb, whereas at the other end of the spectrum, almost all Europeans have ROH of ∼2 Mb in length, reflecting shared ancestry from hundreds to thousands of years ago. By focussing on ROH of different lengths, it is therefore possible to infer aspects of demographic history at different time depths in the past.22 We used FROH measures to compare and contrast patterning across populations. These measures are genomic equivalents of the pedigree inbreeding coefficient, but do not suffer from problems of pedigree reconstruction. By varying the lengths of ROH that are counted, they may be tuned to assess parental kinship at different points in the past. We used two different measures, FROH1, which includes all ROH over 1 Mb and hence includes information on recent and background parental relatedness, and FROH5, which sums ROH over 5 Mb in length, more typical of a parental relationship in the last four to six generations.22 Our FROH1 results indicate slightly elevated levels in the Irish and Swedish populations (compared with southern England, Scotland and HapMap CEU) of both the overall number of ROH and the proportion of genome in ROH (see Figure 3). This pattern was exaggerated when we restricted analysis to ROH greater than 5 Mb in length (ie, FROH5, see Figure 4), indicating increased levels of parental relatedness in the last six generations in the Irish and Swedish populations compared with other populations tested in this study. When we remove individuals with ROH over 5 Mb from the FROH1 analysis (Supplementary Figure S5), Ireland remains as the population with the most homozygous runs and the longest sum length of homozygosity. This provides further evidence that the elevated proportion of shorter ROH, and hence the number of ancient pedigree loops in Ireland, is indeed real and not driven by a limited number of offspring of cousins.

recent cousin matings, they mean.

so, if you look at figure 4, both the irish and the swedes have way more roh of over 5 Mb in lenth than the english (who have a really miniscule amount), the scots in aberdeen, or the mormons in utah (ceu) — in that order. in this instance, the swedes appear to have the most roh over 5 Mb, but as the authors say, when they removed the over 5 Mb individuals from the samples (i.e. the individuals most likely to be the offspring of recent cousin marriages), the irish wind up having the most and the longest roh over 1 Mb in length, so they win the overall inbreeding prize for these groups.

what the authors overlook, i think, is the longer term mating patterns of these populations. i think that the english in this study (and, it should be noted, that these are described as individuals from the south and southeast of england) have miniscule amounts of roh in their genomes because, out of all these groups, they have been outbreeding the longest (see “mating patterns in europe series” ↓ below in left-hand column) — since the early part of the middle ages, in fact. the irish and the swedes, on the other hand, have more roh because they started outbreeding much later (and, probably, too, because, like other northern populations, they’re somewhat remote and small in size) — the swedes sometime after they converted to christianity in — when was it? — ca. 1000 a.d.? and the irish, as i’ve shown in the last few posts on irish mating patterns, not until sometime towards the late medieval period — as late as the 1500s possibly.

the implication of all this is, because the irish and the swedes (and other groups in europe) inbred for longer than the english (and some of the french and dutch and germans), their societies would’ve remained clan- or extended-family based for longer than those of the english et al., and so would’ve been under different sorts of selection pressures from their social environment.
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update: Supplementary Figure S5 – when the researchers removed the individuals with roh over 5Mb, i.e. those individuals who were most likely to be the offspring of cousins (see comments):

ireland - roh03 - o'dushlaine et al

previously: runs of homozygosity and inbreeding (and outbreeding) and western europeans, runs of homozygosity (roh), and outbreeding and russians, eastern europeans, runs of homozygosity (roh), and inbreeding and early and late medieval irish mating practices and clannish medieval ireland and inbreeding in europe’s periphery and early modern and modern clannish ireland and meanwhile, in ireland… and drinkin’ and fightin’ songs and mating patterns, family types, and clannishness in twentieth century ireland and inbreeding in ireland in modern times

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mating patterns, family types, and clannishness in twentieth century ireland

and you thought i was finished posting about the irish. nope! that’s why darth is still up there ↑ sipping his guinness! (~_^)

however, this will be the second-to-the-last — or penultimate for those of you who like to use fancy, foreign loan words (my oed says it came from the french in the 1600s) — post on the irish. i promise. in this current series anyway. (again, if you don’t know what this is all about, you might want to start by reading what’s this all about?)

what do we have so far on the history of native irish mating patterns and family types and societal structures?:

– the medieval irish were clannish, from early in the period (and probably going back into the iron age, too) right through to at least the late-1500s. they actually lived in clans which were called fines. these fines did start to dissipate toward the end of the period, but compared to elsewhere in europe at the time (like england), the medieval irish were very, very clannish.
– the medieval irish regularly married very closely, from early in the period right through, again, to at least the late-1500s. they married cousins (possibly paternal cousins, although i don’t know that for certain), aunts, uncles … they married close. to the great annoyance of the church in rome.
something undoubtedly happened in ireland between the late-1500s and the 1800s, but i don’t know what, because i haven’t gone to the library yet.
– by the 1800s, the irish were no longer living in clans (fines), but extended families were important, and clannishness was evident in the “faction fighting” that happened during the 1700 and 1800s in ireland. faction fights were ongoing feuds between various sets of extended families and their allies.
– lots of irish folk songs from the 1700 and 1800s were related to drinking and fighting.

so, the irish did become less clannish over time from the middle ages until the modern period — actual clans disappeared to be replaced by connections between extended family members, and the people lived more in stem family households rather than extended family households (although this was probably an imposition from the outside as the english authorities altered most of the landholding and inheritance laws in late medieval/early modern ireland — and even after ireland became an independent state, it retained much of the anglo legal system). it’s likely that the mating patterns also shifted, and that the roman catholic church’s cousin marriage bans came to be more strictly enforced, but i still need to check that.

now, mating patterns, family types, and clannishness in twentieth century ireland.

by the early twentieth century, the irish in ireland generally avoided first cousin marriage, although second cousin marriage did happen not infrequently. in some more remote places, however, first cousin marriages were quite common, but these were odd pockets of populations and were not typical of the general population. people lived in stem family housesholds (that’s a nuclear family with grandparents), but the extended family — out to second cousins — was important. the faction fighting of previous centuries was gone, but (and i’m getting ahead of myself here) nepotism and patronage [pg. 18+] were common, even into the twenty-first century (recall that ireland is one of the piiggs).

a couple of anthropologists, conrad m. arensberg and solon t. kimball, headed to ireland in the 1930s (i think it was) and studied family and community life in county clare. here are some lengthy excerpts from their book, Family and Community in Ireland [pgs. 77-78, 83-86 – links added by me]:

“The second [the word ‘friend’] in ordinary rural usage refers not to a comrade, as in English, but to one’s relatives. Even in the towns, one’s father, mother, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, are referred to as ‘immediate friends.’ In the countryside one speaks of one’s kinsmen as one’s ‘friends,’ particularly if they occupy one’s own generation; one’s father’s relatives, even his brothers, become ‘my father’s friends.’ A ‘distant friend’ refers not to distance in space but to that in cousinship….

[T]he Irish family is patrilocal and patronymic, to use the technical terms. Farm, house, and most of the household goods descend from father to son with the patronym; we shall follow their general movement in a later section.

“This patrilineal descent gives a certain accent upon the kinship system; it chooses one line of descent out of the many possible and gives those who make it up a common name. There is a reflection of this fact in the groupings of Irish rural life. To outsiders a person may be known as ‘a boy of the Shannons’ or a ‘man of the Flaherties,’ but in a sense these groupings are merely linguistic conveniences. For in many cases two families of Shannons may live side by side, yet not be considered ‘friends.’ None of the obligations of kinship bind them. For in the phrase of the countryman: ‘They are not the same Shannons or, if they are, they are too far out….’

[T]he kindred are the group within which marriage is prohibited….

In country regions, such as Luogh, nearly all of the families are united by complicated, reduplicated bonds of marriage and descent….

[T]he descent is carried a step further back to a common great-grandparent. Marriage taboos and extended family obligations go backward and upward with the reckoning. Thus second cousins are recognized as being within the kindred and within the prohibited degrees. In fact, in the authors’ experience the obligations of cooring and ‘friendliness’ were equally strong with them….

[B]oth the Church and Irish rural society reckon descent bilaterally; all possible roots, male and female, are counted. In that case, the count gives thirty-two kinship personalities in ego’s own generation who come within this group of first and second cousins. These can all be counted as cousins or ‘friends.’ They are within the range of *col* or marriage taboo. They make up the extended family whose behavior we have examined above….

“Consanguinity is carried one step further by the Church. As a barrier to marriage, or diriment impediment, it extends to the ‘fourth degree.’ This includes the group taken from a common descent yet a generation higher. It brings in those relatives known in English as third cousins….”

note that this is no longer the case in the roman catholic church. today only first cousin marriages are prohibited.

“The bounds of the consanguine group are naturally not rigid in this type of extensional structure. There is a gradation of intensity in the taboo as it extends toward the peripheral relatives. First and second cousins, to use the more convenient English terms, are tabooed, the first more strongly than the second. Third cousins, felt to be ‘very far out’ and sometimes ‘not counted’ by the Irish, are nevertheless formally tabooed by the Church. Yet dispensations can be obtained with relative ease for kindred of this degree. They are granted for all alliances within the system for ’cause’ inward even as far as first cousins and uncles and nieces, but never within the restricted family. When the dispensation of the Church is obtained, there is no feeling of horror at such marriages. They are, however, always felt to be anomalous and are a matter of comment. In the country areas where there is a necessity among the farmers of keeping farms and dowries within the extended family group, or where the introduction of an outsider is difficult because of class and regional antagonisms, marriages between first or second cousins are not uncommon. Nevertheless the general feeling of the community condemns this type of union. Too close intermarriage of this type is a common charge used by townsmen in condemning the country folk….”

pgs. 90-91:

“If the individual attempts to rise above his fellows or to forget them in his way upward, the cry immediately rises that he is ‘forgetting his friends.’ In fact, disloyalty to one’s kinship group is felt to be a deadly crime against the group.

The Irish extended family, combining in different degrees of intensity of solidarity all descendants of a common ancestor through five contemporaneous generations, is not a rigidly defined structure set off from the other groups of society. On the contrary, the extended families present a picture of a series of interlocking pyramids in which each individual is assigned a definite place, but in which no two individuals (unless siblings) occupy quite the same place. It is a group of kindred reckoning common bilateral descent, and linking as equals all individuals occupying the same step within that descent to the number of five such steps…. It is in no sense a clan or gens, as its bounds are not constant, but descend and ascend through the total group of possible kindred….

this sounds very much like the pre-christian germanic kindreds (see here and here) — only ca. 1000+ years later.

Through the workings in and out of the interlocking series of pyramids mentioned above, an isolated area of small population can soon become inextricably intertangled. Hence in the poorest and most isolated regions we find the greatest amount of intermarriage. Evidence is not definite on this score, but the indications point in that direction….

“Through such intermingling, it very often happens that a comparatively large area will be peopled entirely by individuals standing within near degrees of kinship one to another. In such a case the local group attains the added solidarities of common kinship. To an outsider, such a group, closely integrated through kinship bonds, occupying the same general level of social stratification and the same general place in the economic system, and dominating a large or small area (sometimes as large as a parish), presents a united front. It exhibits a very effective solidarity against outsiders. It is this solidarity which gives rise to the assumption among outside observers that the clan still exists in rural Ireland. It is this solidarity, too, which expresses itself in the political cohesion of large sections of the countryside.”
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here is an example of the mating patterns one of “the poorest and most isolated regions” in which was found “the greatest amount of intermarriage.” from some research done by nancy scheper-hughes (meh) in the 1970s on the dingle peninsula in ireland — some excerpts from Saints, Scholars, and Schizophrenics: Mental Illness in Rural Ireland [pgs. 81, 179-181]:

“An intense rivalry separates Ballybran from its larger, sister parish of ‘Castlederry’ (i.e Castlegregory)…. Where Castlederry is neatly divided into class, religious, and ethnic boundaries, sporting a few token Protestant residents, the people of Ballybran like to make the ‘proud boast’ that there was never a ‘Black Protestant’ to dig his heels permanently into their native turf. Finally, where men from Castlederry frequently contract matches with women outside their parish, the men of Ballybran feel that a match with a second cousin or no match at all is preferable to marriage with a stranger….

“Because of the general mistrust of outsiders and the reluctance of village women to marry into the kitchen of a completely unknown mother-in-law, marriages have tended (until recently) to be parish endogamous. Within some isolated hamlet of Ballybran marriage options for generations have been limited to exchanges of women between the six or ten households that the townland comprises. ‘Marry on the dunghill and choose a sponsor from the mountain’ is a local proverb meaning that it is wisest to ‘marry in.’

“A preferred form of marriage in past generations was the ‘double match’ whereby a brother and sister married a brother and sister from a neighboring household. This arrangement was considered eminently fair, since neither household was deprived, even temporarily, of the labor of a woman and in such cases the dowry could be dispensed with. Unpopular marriages, which raise eyebrows and give scandal fall into several categories: a very old man taking a young bride; a widower with small children marrying any woman; a thrice-married widow or widower (‘a first marriage is honorable, a second marriage is excusable, a third marriage is disgraceful’); a ‘mixed marriage’ between a Protestant and a Catholic. All of these marriages are believed to produce bad *dutcas* (blood) in children born of the union.

Because of generations of endogamy most parishioners are related to one another through blood or marriage or both. There is a certain amount of guilt associated with the inbreeding of the community, and some villagers will go so far as to deny a relationship to distant kin where parish records indicate that such is the case. In one hillside hamlet where six of nine households share the same surname, the O’Carrolls disclaimed one another, saying, ‘We’re all O’Carrolls all right, but not the same O’Carrolls.’

“The desire to keep relationships fuzzy is, in part, the result of an effort to conceal the number of cousin marriages in the parish. Despite the Roman Catholic Church’s incest prohibitions, second-degree-cousin marriages are not uncommon and are a favorite topic of malicious gossip. Although the parish priest or curate is responsible for searching the genealogies of prospective couples, and the publication of the banns of marriage is intended to uncover any impediments to a lawful Church marriage, the rural priest and his flock tend to be sympathetic to such dilemmas, and the details of kinship are often left hazy or ignored. In the rarer cases of first-cousin marriage, where the fear of God’s wrath and His punishment in the form of insanity to the offspring is strong, couples customarily delay the marriage until they are well past the childbearing age.

As a consequence of parish endogamy, over 96 percent of all adult males are natives of the community, and 70 percent of the married women were born locally.

compare this to, for example, the village of ely in cambridgeshire, england, in the 1300s where a full 50% of the marriages were to people outside the village. or that there are no dispensations for first cousin marriages in the available records from 1500s england.

“Of the nonnative women the majority have been brought in from neighboring parishes in southwest Kerry and from the towns of Dingle and Tralee. The remaining few women are natives of distant counties to the north, or they are from the midlands and married into the parish following a period of emigration to England. In these cases the marriage was the result of a determined and aggressive move on the part of those bachelor farmers who make a practice of spending their winters as laborers in English cities where they seek out disillusioned and homesick Irish nurses, waitresses, and clerks, anxious to return to Ireland at any cost. Such courtships and marriages are hastily contracted — often during one three-month winter season — in order to allow the couple to return to Ireland in early spring for the start of the new agricultural cycle. Frequently, these marriages turn out unhappily for the bride, who is not well received in the parish and who finds village life monotonous and boring. Such failure reinforce village beliefs about the benefits of marrying one’s own kind.”
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and to close with an excerpt from arensberg and kimball — how did the early twentieth century irish extended families interact within themselves and towards outsiders? [pgs. 69-73]:

The commonest form of cooperation is that which involves lending a boy to a ‘friend’ whenever he is needed….

remember that “friend” means family member (see above).

“About half the families had horse-drawn mowing machines. Those who had them mowed their own meadows as quickly as possible, working from earliest morning as long as light held. They worked with the aid of their sons and with that of boys from the families who had no machines of their own. At each subsequent stage of the harvesting, a boy or young man not a member of the family whose meadow was being worked could be seen giving his labor in aid; he took his place at meals during the day.

“The mowing done, the farmer then took his machine to the farmer whose son had helped him and mowed the meadows belonging to his friend. In one instance a youngish farmer mowed the meadows of three others; in another, of two….

“Here then was an example of an important agricultural operation undertaken by the local community in which provision was made (except in five or six cases) for effective cooperation over and above the usual family economy….

Driven to social rather than economic explanation, the authors were able to ascertain that in each case of this cooperation there was an extended family relationship involved. Thus Carey, who had mowed the meadows of Dennis and Seamus Molony and Brian McMahon, was second cousin to them. Peter Barrett was first cousin and uncle respectively of the two farmers whose meadows he had mowed. The young men or boys who had worked Carey’s and Barrett’s meadows with the latter’s wives and children were also relatives; they were sons of the relative for whom Carey and Barrett had mowed.

“So it went over the townland. In no instance, of course, had a man mowed for all his relatives; it was not necessary to do so. In one instance a man had mowed for a neighbor who, while not a relative, was a great boon companion…. And the two strangers who had moved into the townland, in one case fifty years before, in the other thirty, had no relatives ‘on this side.’ One of these was man who had never got along with his neighbors, accused the whole townland of plotting against him, and was cordially disliked in return. The other had the help of a boy sent by a cousin in a near-by townland.

“The generic term ‘cooring’ is given to all non-monetary cooperation of this sort in many parts of Clare. The word is a direct borrowing from the Irish *comhair*, which is similarly used, originally meaning cotillage, now having the added meanings of alliance or partnership. But more interesting was the fact that the small farmers explained their cooring in terms of the ‘friendliness’ of the place. So, we shall see, the term ‘friendly’ is applied to the extended (and also immediate) relatives or ‘friends.’

“When asked especially why they were cooperating, the farmers’ answer was that they ‘had right to help.’ In general terms they would phrase it that ‘you have right to help friend,’ or again that ‘country people do be very friendly; they always help one another.’

“Now the phrase ‘have right’ is an expression in the brogue or English dialect spoken in Ireland (and in Clare) which, like ‘friendly,’ is a translation of a Gaelic idiom. It expresses an obligation, duty, or the traditional fitness of an act. The Gaelic word for which it is a substitute is *cóir*, and a bilingual countryman translates the Gaelic phrase is *cóir dom* (the obligation is on me) into ‘I have right to.’ The countrymen of Clare, at least, do not ordinarily use or understand the phrase ‘I am right’ to mean ‘what I have said is true.’ The countryman is explaining his economic acts in their traditional family setting as part of the reciprocities of act, sentiment, and obligation which make up family relationships….

“This aid is felt to be in the same category. Thus one farmer speaking of another, his second cousin, could say:

“‘He is the best friend we ever had; we can make bold on him. When the children were little and our cow died on us, Johnny sent down a cow and calf worth twelve pounds to us and didn’t want anything for it.'”

there’s that potential clannish dysgenics again. and notice how non-extended-family members are largely excluded from receiving aid.

by the 1960s, the first cousin marriage rates in ireland were down to below 1% of all marriages. still, extended families remained important to the irish in ireland even into the 1980s [pgs. 108-111]:

“Kinship obligations, on the other hand, do not fall only upon those living in the same house. The family unit has a paramount responsibility as regards the care of elders; there are other forms of assistance, however, that ciculate within the kinship network too but well beyond the boundaries of both nuclear and stem families. This is the case of baby-sitting services, which leads us back once again to the female domain. Relative, both kin and affines, take care of each other’s children quite frequently, and the closer they are the better….

“As we will see in the next chapter, the spheres of kinship and neighbourhood overlap on many occasions, but they are far from coincident. There is something distinctively unique in a blood relationship that no other form of arrangement can sustitute for. Take, for instance, the case of fosterage and adoption. No matter how popular these practices are in this region, the sort of fictive kinship that they create is never confused with the real blood relationship. This was so emphatically asserted to me that I cannot fail to note it here.

previously: early and late medieval irish mating practices and clannish medieval ireland and inbreeding in europe’s periphery and early modern and modern clannish ireland and meanwhile, in ireland… and drinkin’ and fightin’ songs and inbreeding in ireland in modern times

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drinkin’ and fightin’ songs

from “Representations of Drinking in English Songs” in Alcohol and Temperance in Modern History: An International Encyclopedia [pg. 224]:

In English songs of the nineteenth century, fighting assumes less prominence than in contemporary Irish drinking songs (Ingle 2000). Only 16 English songs of this period contain fight-related themes, and 7 songs from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries have been identified. In contrast, over 70 of 200 Irish drink-related songs of the same era concerned fighting. Of those, half were concerned with a peculiar Irish institution, ‘faction fighting,’ which is foreign to British tradition (Conley 2000). Only 2 English songs have been found with comparable themes. ‘Pleasures of the fair’ (in which a mob at a rural carnival ‘drinks and fights uproariously’) depicts a brawl that apparently arises from high spirits. And ‘Pace egging song’ also depicts a spontaneous group fight among a reveling throng at an Easter festival.

“Other English group fight-theme songs include ‘Dramatic morality,’ in which drinking at a theater leads to disorder wherein men cuff and spar with each other, with no mention of anger as a motive. In a playful scene at ‘The Manchester races,’ a throng eats and drinks with abandon, while others fight. Three songs depict group fights, growing out of arguments at sporting events. ‘Wednesbury cocking’ describes a bloody affair, to be long remembered (and thus atypical), while in ‘Wedgfield wake’ (a seasonal fair) another cockfight debate triggers a fight. Finally, in ‘Humor of Eccles wake,’ an unspecified sporting dispute also leads to a brawl. In reviewing ‘recreational fighting,’ it appears these English songs are neither as organized nor as damaging as Irish faction fights….

The contrasts between song themes from Scotland, Ireland, and England are also intriguing and suggest topics for social historians to pursue. The balance between perceived benefits and dangers of drinking is significantly different between Irish and British songs, for one thing — and the Irish reference for fighting as a recreation in their street ballads (Ingle 2000) could not be discovered in English street ballads or in rural folk songs. Are the British really so different in their attitudes toward drink-enhanced fighting, or are they simply disinclined to sing about them?


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previously: early modern and modern clannish ireland and english victorian working class pugilists

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english victorian working class pugilists

lest you think it was only the nineteenth century irish boxing each other’s ears, check out the pugilistic tendencies of english victorian miners (these are some of john derbyshire’s folks, don’t ya know! (~_^) ).

from Leisure And Recreation In A Victorian Mining Community: The Social Economy of Leisure in North-East England, 1820-1914 [pgs. 111-112]:

“Fighting and boxing

“It is critically important to emphasize how important fighting was in mining society. It was fundamental to life itself — miners always fought, down the mine, in the street and, in particular, on Friday and Saturday nights. It was deeply engrained in the very fabric of mining life. It was one of the most visible elements of the whole concept of masculinity. Life down the mine was dangerous and brutal — only the fittest survived. A ‘man’ was one who could stand up for himself and was always willing to test himself against anyone else. It is important to emphasize the pervasiveness and importance of fighting in the mining villages. More than anything else fighting spoke to questions of manhood. Physical prowess defined who a man was and fighting was a manifestation of manhood.

“Evidence as to the popularity of fighting flowed through the nineteenth century. The Commission on Mining Districts in 1842 reported on the prevalence on fighting. In the first half of the century some colliery owners place a prohibition of fighting within the bond. Several court cases were brought against miners for fighting in the mine. Comments were made as to the frequency of ‘pitman fights’ in the 1860s. Without exception these took place on pay Fridays or pay Saturdays. The pay weekends became the times when grudges were worked out and money was bet. This remained the same throughout the century. Jimmy Tabarar, a miner from New Hartley, commenting on the second decade of the twentieth century, stated that there ‘always was a battle on Saturday afternoon. Bare fist. Strip to waist.’ Talking about the same time, James Wilson, from Ashington, commented that there were ‘rough nights on pay weekends…Fights were frequent. Used to lay into one another, stripped to the buff, bare knuckled — until the police intervened.’ That these were, in some sense, organized affairs is implicit in a comment made about the 1850s. ‘I once heard of a pitman who always gave himself an extra clean wash on pay Friday, because he wanted to look “decent” when he put his shirt off to fight.’ It was this semi-organized fighting that provided the foundations of the organized boxing that developed in the 1890s.”

notice, though, the key difference between the faction fighting in 1800s ireland and the fist fights in 1800s england: in ireland you had literally hundreds of men involved in these fights, and the “factions” typically revolved around families or sets of families (the connors, the delahantys, the maddens) — in england, it was one man vs. one other man. two individuals duking it out for their individual honor, not great hordes fighting for their families’ honors.

and the women waiting at home for the pay packet (which was spent in the pub!) in order to buy milk for the kids. men! (~_^)

(p.s. – if anyone can give me any example of “faction fighting” in england, please lemme know!)

previously: english individualism and english individualism ii and english individualism iii

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early modern and modern clannish ireland

the medieval irish, then, mated closely and were clannish right up to at least the late-1500s.

even if the theory that close matings lead to clannishness (because they set up positive selection pressures for clannish behavioral traits) is wrong, i think it still would be important to consider, given their family types and structure of society, what sorts of selection pressures for what sorts of behavioral traits might’ve existed for the irish over the course of those ca. 1000 years — at least.

the mating patterns of the irish should’ve come into line with the rest of northwestern roman catholic europe in the 1100s when the invading normans tried to get the irish (celtic) church to follow rome’s teachings. unfortunately, the normans “went native,” and the promises made at the synod of cashel (1172) do not seem to have been enforced.

from jack goody [pgs. 44-45 — see also previous post]:

“But as far as the family and marriage were concerned, the wishes of the Church did not always prevail and resistance was often prolonged. The difference between ‘local custom’ and ecclesiastical law is nowhere stronger than in Ireland, even as late as the Norman period. It was then, during the late eleventh and early twelfth centuries, that English (or Norman) influence came to play a dominant role in reshaping the Irish Church. The archbishops of Canterbury, Lanfranc and Anselm, both protested against the Irish customs of marriage and divorce. From the seventh century Irish Church legislators had recognised only four degrees of kinship within which marriage was prohibited (and the law tracts fewer), whereas the papacy acknowledged seven…. ‘Native law’, comments Hughes (1966: 260), ‘triumphed over the stricter provisions of the church, to the disgust of the Anglo-Norman prelates, who were used to very different customs.’

“In theory, this state of affairs was altered by the first of the reforming synods, held at Cashel in 1101. However this conclave did not introduce the full requirements of the Roman Church, and, although it did forbid a man to marry his step-mother (or step-grandmother), or his sister or daughter, his brother’s wife, or any woman of similarly near kinship, it said nothing of the ‘Irish practices of concubinage and divorce.’ Even so, the legislation seems to have had little effect on social life, for some time later Pope Alexander III [pope from 1159 to 1181] was told that the Irish ‘marry their step-mothers and are not ashamed to have children by them; that a man may live with his brother’s wife while the brother is still alive; and that one many may live in concubinage with two sisters; and that many of them, putting away the mother, will marry the daughters’ (Sheehy 1962: I,21; Hughes 1966: 265).”

and, as we saw two posts ago, rome’s marriage regulations seem to have been largely ignored by the irish right up until the late 1500s.

unfortunately, i don’t know what happened next. (argh!) i know that by the 1800s the roman catholic irish did, generally, obey the church’s teachings on cousin marriage, etc., but i’m not sure what happened in the intervening centuries from the late 1500s until the 1800s. i think (i hope!) the answers lie in this book…

Marriage in Ireland (1985)

…but it’s not available anywhere online (dr*t!), and i don’t have a copy of it. one of these days, i just might have to (*gulp*) turn off my computer, temporarily sever my connection to the innnerwebs (ouch!), and move myself physically to the library. theoretically that is a possibility (so i’m given to understand), but it probably won’t happen in the next couple of weeks. so, until then, these centuries will remain a mystery!

what did obviously happen in ireland in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were the plantations. the new arrivals were, unlike the natives, protestants, who, except for the scots-irish, likely came from a long line of outbreeders (it would be interesting to know from where in england the anglo-irish in southern ireland came!), and while the authorities tried to introduce protestantism to the native irish, they were having none of it. there was something of a counter-revolution in ireland which was supported from outside — even from rome (they sent in the jesuits!) — so perhaps as part and parcel of all that, the irish church got more in line with rome wrt marriage, etc., etc. not sure. just guessing. i’m hoping Marriage in Ireland will tell me!

what i do know is that the early modern and modern irish were still clannish in their behaviors. actual clans (*fines*) were no longer the organizing principle of irish society — the protestant ascendancy ran the show politically and economically for a couple of centuries — but the native irish still behaved in clannish ways.

one of the easiest ways to spot clannishness is to look for feuding, a la the hatfields and the mccoys. that’s not the only way for clannish peoples to express their clannishness (look also for nepotism and certain other types of corruption), but it is one of the most obivous ways.

from a previous post:

“they sound like they were rather clannish as recently as the mid-1800s — right around and after the time of the potato famine there (1847) [pgs. 57-58]:

‘Clark affirms that “neighbourhood and kinship ties formed the basis of ‘primary’ groups in pre-famine Ireland” (such as “factions”) but concentrates upon “social interaction…beyond the primary group.” After the Famine, though communal and kinship ties continued to influence the composition of “collectivities”, “associational organizations was clearly predominant…during the entire second half of the nineteenth century”….'”

so perhaps towards the end of the 1800s, clannishness amongst the irish — in the sense of actually being tied to fellow extended kin members in daily life — did start to wane somewhat. but…

‘Arensberg and Kimball, by contrast, stress the strength and flexibility of kinship bonds among Claremen of the 1930s. Family links took precedence over bonds of class or occupation, while family members were remarkable for their co-operation and mutual supportiveness rather than competitiveness. The cohesion of kinship groups had been strong enough to survive profound changes in economic and social structure since the Famine….”

here come the feuds:

‘The outrage reports for pre-famine Cloone confirm the importance of “neighbourhood and kinship ties” in aligning the factions involved in “party fights”. Thus at Drimna, in 1838, “a faction fight took place between two hostile parties, named Deignan’s and Mullin’s, respecting the right to the possession of a small portion of land”. Other such confrontations were of a ritual rather than material character, providing an occasion for “long-tailed” families to assert their corporate identity and importance through trials of strength. Indeed market-day brawls could be provoked merely by the affirmation of family affiliation, as when a certain Cooke of Carrigallen “retreated towards a Public House where a party of his friends were drinking and when near it he called out ‘Who dared say anything against a Cooke…?'” It is clear that the ceremonial grappling of factions became unusual after the Famine, despite occasional reports throughout the century…. Familial networks, though, in less overt fashion, never ceased to lend cohesion to rural associations ranging from the Society of Ribbonmen to the United Irish League or Sinn Fein.'”

again, then, towards the end of the 1800s, the clannishness — the feuding — starts to die down. but the irish were still feuding as late as the mid-1800s. to find evidence for such feuding amongst the english, you need to go back to around ca. 1000-1100, i.e. 700-800 years earlier.

btw, the name “outrage reports” just cracks me up! i can imagine the very civilized, non-feuding english just thinking that the irish were “outrageous” with all their feuding! (~_^)

here’s some more from Melancholy Accidents: The Meaning of Violence in Post-Famine Ireland from the chapter entitled “Recreational Violence” (heh) … the entire chapter is quite an entertaining (if sad) read — i’ll just reproduce a couple of bits for you here [pgs. 17-21, 24 — links added by me]:

“The most remarkable thing about violence in late nineteenth century Ireland was not its political manifestation, but its recreational aspects. Rather than brutal assassins, the characters who emerge from the criminal records are more often people who enjoyed fighting as a sometimes lethal, but rarely malicious form of entertainment. Recreational violence includes incidents in which a challenge was issued and a fight agreed upon but no serious grounds for malice existed. The confrontation occurred most often at fairs, markets and other social gatherings and usually involved alcohol [thnx to the person who sent me that!]. Over 42 percent of all homicides were recreational in origin. In the four counties for which full records exist, at least 58 percent of violent crime fell into the recreational category.

Recreational violence was a long-established cultural tradition in rural Ireland. The overwhelming concern with physcial bravery, the relative indifference to homicide, the willingness to do battle with and even kill loved ones, and the comic buffoonery sometimes demonstrated by Cuchulainn and his cohorts in ancient legends are all echoed in nineteenth century court records. These patterns had continued as fundamental parts of Irish life over the centuries….

“The defense attorney in a case in which more than a hundred men had been involved in a fight ‘alluded to the very few recreations which the country people had to amuse themselves with….’

“In many cultures violence is associated with the lower classes. However, in late nineteenth century Ireland rowdy recreation was not limited to the lower orders. Twenty-eight percent of homicides in brawls involved farmers or their families…. Though it might be argued that such rowdiness was a holdover from earlier times in which political and economic success were effectively denied to Irish tenant farmers, it is difficult to explain why it was in the most prosperous areas of the countryside that the violent traditions were longest-lived. As the ‘Munster News’ pointed out when discussing the violence in the eastern section of Limerick: ‘There should be less cause of atrocity here than in other places. The country around is fertile; the farmers are in comfortable circumstances and a barefooted boy or girl is seldom observed.’

“For all classes brawling could be entertainment and violence viewed as comic. English journalist Bernard Becker observed during a tour of Ireland in 1880 that, ‘Nothing is more amazing to serious people than the light and easy manner in which everybody takes everything on this side of the Irish Sea.’ At least thirteen homicides were the result of practical jokes gone wrong. As usual the courts gave more weight to the intent than the consequences. The longest sentence for a homicide caused by a joke was nine months given a drunk whose ‘joke’ was stabbing a child in the rear end with a hot poker.

“Faction Fights

The most obvious examples of recreational violence were faction fights…. A formal faction fight, which might involve hundreds of men on each side, usually began with the ritual of wheeling which included chants, stylized gestures and insults. In the traditional wheel, the chant included the name of the faction issuing the challenge as well as the intended opponent. For example, a faction fight might begin when one side chanted ‘Here is Connors and Delahanty. Is there any Madden will come before us…?’

“Faction fighting enjoyed its heyday in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. By the 1860s the incidence had declined considerably though factions seem to have been under-reported in official returns. The outrage returns report only forty faction fights between 1866 and 1892, but there are sixty faction fights mentioned in the surviving court records. At least thirty of the homicides reported as outrages between 1866 and 1892 were faction related though not all of these deaths were the result of formal, ritualized, large-scale fights….

“Factions were particularly strong in the New Pallas and Cappamore districts of Limerick where the Three Year Olds and Four Year Olds had battled for generations. The names stemmed from a fight held decades earlier over the age of either a colt or a cow. The feud had lasted so long nobody remembered which. These factions were contributing factors in over a quarter of all indictments for assault and 8 percent of homicides in Limerick between 1866 and 1892. The ‘Limerick Reporter’ lamented, ‘There was not a fair or market, petty sessions or quarter sessions in which these horrible feuds and party disagreements were not found to prevail.’ In May 1871 the Limerick chief inspector of police reported that over half the indictable offenses in Pallas could be attriubted to factions. Even though arrests had been made, he feared ‘in every case of faction fight retaliation may be expected….’

“More than any other form of recreational violence, factions resemble organized sports. Not only do factions resemble other forms of leisure found in medieval and early modern societies, such as the battles of the bridges in Venice, they also have parallels to modern team sports. Such organized violence provides entertainment, a path to status and an outlet for communal loyalties.

so this (see steve sailer)…

fightin' irish

…is really just another confirmational stereotype. (~_^)

previously: what’s this all about? and clannish medieval ireland and early and late medieval irish mating practices and inbreeding in europe’s periphery and meanwhile, in ireland… and inbreeding in ireland in modern times

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clannish medieval ireland

as we saw in the previous post, the mating practices in ireland right through the medieval period were close — cousin marriage was preferred, definitely in the early part of the period and probably also in the later part — and even uncle-niece and aunt-nephew marriages happened regularly enough that the (foreign) church authorities objected. the preferred form of marriage was within the paternal clan (fbd marriage?) — and in the early part of the period polygamy was not uncommon. the close marriages (cousin marriage) seem to have continued right up until the late-1500s.

and what sort of society was medieval ireland? clannish. literally.

from from A History of Everyday Life in Medieval Scotland: 1000 to 1600 (2011) (scotland, ireland — practically the same thing!) [pg. 92]:

“The word ‘clan,’ borrowed into English from Gaelic *clann*, has several levels of meaning. The primary meaning of *clann* is ‘children’ although it can also be used of descendants of a common ancestor, for example, a great-grandfather. But the term came to be used to describe an agnatic lineage which might be many generations deep. At a further level, *clann* could describe a powerful and well-established kin group which wielded considerable political power: a polity as much as, or more than, a social group. By way of definition, it has been suggested that, ‘in medieval Highland society the term *clann* was used to describe a patrilineal kindred the members of which descended in known steps from a named ancestor’. This definition underlines two points believed to be true of the clan in Scotland and in Ireland: namely, that the members of the true clan were related to one another through the male line, and that the eponym or name father of the clan was a historical, and not a mythical, character. The term ‘clan’ has, of course, passed into wider anthropological usage and has been used by anthropologists to describe kin groups that may not conform to the above definition as regards either patrilineal descent or the historicity of the eponym.”

and now some extensive quotes from Chapter 9 – The Forms of Irish Kinship from nerys patterson’s Cattle-Lords and Clansmen: The Social Structure of Early Ireland (1994). i’ll try to keep it brief [pgs. 239-258]:

“The most inclusive kinship group was the clan, but though ‘clan’ is actually a Gaelic word, the most common term in the Irish law tracts for this group was *cenél*. More precisely defined as a group was the *fine*; it was a branch of a *cenél*, but its relationship to the latter is not clarified by the sources. Within both clan and *fine*, there existed a gradation of power and autonomy, extending ‘up’, in terms of level of group aggregation and the status of the person with authority over the group, from the domestic patriarch of the farming community to the *cenn fine*, or the chief of the *cenél*.”

i supposed a *fine* could be viewed as a sub-clan within the larger clan (*cenél*).

maybe i should throw in some definitions here from patterson’s glossary:

– cenél: a descending kindred, in-marrying, and so ‘bilateral’ in many aspects of kinship, though patrilineal in descent; usually had a chiefly agnatic group at the core. Parallel to Welsh *cenedl*, a bilateral descending group.
– fine: a classification of kin, usually of agnatic kin.
– gelfine: in an agnatic personal kindred, ego’s first cousins and their fathers.
– derbfhine: in an agnatic personal kindred, ego’s second-cousins and their ascendents.
– íarfine: in an agnatic personal kindred, ego’s third cousins and their ascendents.
– indfhine: in an agnatic personal kindred, ego’s fourth cousins and their ascendents.
– tuath: the basic polity; a people; a petty kingdom or lordship.

got all that? no, me, neither. suffice it to say, extended family mattered a LOT to the medieval irish.

back to patterson:

“The Irish law-tracts recognized the following types of kinship organization:

“(i) Cognatic or bilateral kinship in which individual ties through both both mother’s and father’s kin were important; this concerned payment/receipt of *díre* (honor-price), inheritance…of chattels and lands not tied up in agnatic corporate groups….

“(ii) Agnatic ties between individuals, in which only connections through male ancestors were counted. This was important for payment/receipt of *cró* (wergeld), and inheritance of *fine* lands. Both (i) and (ii) were ‘personal kindreds’ [patterson’s emphasis], in that no one person’s circle exactly overlapped with another’s (other than with a sibling’s before parenthood)….

“(iii) The corporate agnatic kin-group, ‘the’ *fine*: the important *fine* of the area, that of the local chief of the landowning clan. Such a structure is often referred to as a descending kindred [patterson’s emphasis], to distinguish it from the personal circles of kin.”

so the first two sets of relationships there — (i) and (ii) — the “personal kindreds” — sound very like the kindreds of the pre-christian/early christian germanics that we’ve seen before (see here and here), but the “corporate agnatic kin-group” (iii) is very different from what the germanics (apparently) had. this was a patrilineal clan, perhaps not unlike what you’d find in the arab world today. perhaps. it’s certainly in that direction anyway. in other words, the medieval irish were more clannish than the early medieval germanics.

interestingly, patterson compares the agnatic kindred (ii) of the early medieval irish to the personal kindred of the kalmuk/kalmyk people of central asia [see fox, pg. 170], another pastoral group.

more from patterson:

(ii) “Agnatic personal kindreds.

“There is no doubt, however, that by the sixth or seventh century, *fine* groups existed that were structured around agnatic unilineal descent….”

hmmmm. when did they first appear?

“…That is, no one could claim membership in a *fine* by right of descent traced only through a woman of the group. This is made clear both by the rules of descent and inheritance, and by the genealogies….

“The general rule, then, was that women did not transmit membership of their own father’s *fine* to their sons, even though they conveyed dowry property to them….”

patterson then outlines the groups that i gave definitions for above: *gelfine*, *derbfhine*, *íarfine*, and *indfhine*. those are all the different types of agnatic personal kindreds depending upon degree of relationship of the members. the point of all those different groups is just that, amongst other sets of duties/obligations, the amount of wergeld owed, or how quickly one ought to come to the fighting aid of one’s cousin, depended upon the closeness of the relationship, i.e. whether you were first-cousins (in the same gelfine) or second-cousins (same derbfhine) and so on.

(iii) “The corporate *fine*; ’17 men’

“This organization preserved *fine* lands, *fintiu*, answered to society on behalf of its members, and controlled weaker members with suffocating thoroughness. A corporate *fine* could conceivably have developed after initial colonization of land by a group of people, but in the inhabited landscape of the Ireland of the law-tracts it was far more likely that such a group arose from lineage fission, initiated by individuals of quite high social standing….

“The sole point of fission in the Irish context was to establish a new corporate identity; what is more, there is no sign that after fission new lineages ever ‘merged’ on the basis of kinship closeness with those kin from whom they had severed. Far from being each other’s nearest allies they were inclined to be each other’s most lethal competitors.

within the territory of a *fine*, however, “kin were generally neighbors, and most neighbors were often kin.”

this sort of fissioning of what are known as segmentary lineages sounds all arab-y again. hmmmm.

finally, back to the maternal kindred (i) again for a sec:

“The *maithre*, the mother’s kin, had legal rights in their sister/daughter’s children….

“The bond between individuals and their *maithre* was strengthened by polygyny; plural sexual relationships were tolerated, and were probably typical amongst the secular elite. Residences, however were separate — it was such an insult to the wife to bring a concubine into the marital home that the wife was legally entitled to assault the concubine, and to divorce the husband with full economic penalties. Permanent cohabitation between husbands and wives was not, then, an overriding norm. Women often retained close ties to their kin which strengthened the children’s ties to them; this was especially true of concubines, whose kin retained a two-thirds share of their honor-price, but it was also true of chief-wives (whose kin retained only a third of their honor-price), since divorce or intermittent separation of the spouses was so likely to occur. Moreover, as many agnatic siblings were half-siblings, their basic allies in competition for dominance in the agnatic corporation were their non-agnatic connections, principally the mother’s kin. Often this bond was reinforced by fosterage, for the mother’s brother seems commonly to have been the foster-father; the foster-father was the person the child called ‘dad’.

heh. this really makes my head spin, though, because if husband and wife were often cousins, then the wife’s family was also the husband’s family. they’re all from the same sub-clan (*fine*) after all! still, i can see, the mother’s side of the family would’ve been slightly more distant agnatic relatives than the father’s side.
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medieval irish society, then, was clannish. and it was very often *fine* vs. *fine*, *cenél* vs. *cenél*, *tuatha* vs. *tuatha*. they had a wergeld system like most populations in pre-christian northern europe (and many societies around the world!), and there was the same sort of obligation to engage in vendetta/blood feud in an instance of insult to a member of the *fine*.

in fact, they were so busy being clannish that they didn’t even notice when one of them — in typical clannish fashion, i might add — invited in a bunch of foreigners to help him win back his throne. heh!
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(note that none of the above applies to you scots-irish out there! not strictly speaking anyway. your ancestors hadn’t yet arrived in ireland. i’ll get to the scots-irish later. all of this does, however, apply to the vikings who settled in ireland [who were probably clannish at that point in time anyway], as well as to the normans or old english who “went native” [and who probably weren’t as clannish as the native irish at the time they arrived, but there weren’t that many of them, and a lot of them interbred with the locals]. it definitely doesn’t apply to any of the more recently arrived anglo-irish.)

previously: what’s this all about? and early and late medieval irish mating practices and inbreeding in europe’s periphery

(note: comments do not require an email. dermot mac murrough.)

early and late medieval irish mating practices

first, make sure to read what’s this all about? if you haven’t already.

ok. early medieval — and even later medieval (here and here) — irish society was clannish. very clannish. this state of affairs most likely stretched back into the irish iron age judging by some of the tales that came out of that era, like those about cú chulainn, which are basically all about the cattle raiding activities of various kings and queens and their clans. who knows how far back clannishness goes in native irish society, but it was definitely present throughout the medieval period right up until at least the early 1600s, possibly later. i’ll come back to the nature of medieval irish society in my next post.

to start with, medieval irish mating practices.

they were close. very close. marriages happened within the paternal clans, very often to cousins. it’s not clear whether or not these were father’s brother’s daughter’s (fbd) marriages, but given that the marriages were happening within the paternal clans, and that ireland at the time was a pastoral society (with some agriculture, too), it’s very possible that they were. earlier in the period polygamy (and concubinage) was also possible and not uncommon, although it was less common — but still present — toward the end of the period. like forms of close marriage such as cousin marriage, polygamy also, of course, narrows the relatedness within a group.

from A History of Everyday Life in Medieval Scotland: 1000 to 1600 (2011) (yes, scotland — don’t panic!) [pgs. 89-90]:

“[T]he French historian Georges Duby … emphasised the tension which existed for many centuries between the ideal of Christian marriage expounded by the Church and a much older secular model of marriage. Goody compared ‘western’ or ‘occidental’ family structures with those which he termed ‘eastern’ or ‘oriental’. He describes the system of descent in the oriental model as ‘strictly patrilineal’, and contrasts this with a western ‘bilineal’ model which places greater emphasis on paternal and maternal kin and on marriage alliances. He suggests that the oriental kin group typically derives from ‘a segmentary tribal system’ based on ‘the agnatic lineages [that is, a lineage related through males] clearly defined in time and space’, in contrast to the western model which emphasises bilateral descent and ‘does not exist in itself but only in relation to each individuals, having therefore no continuity in time, nor cohesion in space’. As to marriage, Goody suggests that the oriental kin group has ‘strongly endogamous tendencies’, that is, a tendency to marry within the patrilineal kin — while the western bilineal model exhibits a ‘tendency towards exogamy’….

“In Ireland, as elsewhere in Europe, much work has been done on the history of the institution of marriage. This, too, has emphasised the contrast between marriage according to the canon law and an older secular model. The early Irish law tracts disclose an approach to marriage completely at odds with the later canonical ideal. They allow for polygamy and concubinage, and for divorce available to both sexes on a number of grounds. At first, there appears to have been genuine polygamy, including provision for a ‘chief wife’ who was accorded special privileges. In later centuries, polygamy was serial, with spouses being divorced and replaced in rapid succession. As in Western Europe generally older customs of secular marriage were tenacious and long survived the coming of Christianity. Although Ireland was Christianised early, traces of older marriage customs survived until very late. The historian Donncha Ó Corráin has written that, Irish dynasties, as the laws and other sources conclusively prove, were polygamous from the earliest period until the collapse of the Gaelic System; while Kenneth Nicholls has commented with pardonable exaggeration that,

“‘In no field of life was Ireland’s apartness from the mainstream of Christian European society so marked as in that of marriage. Throughout the medieval period, and down to the end of the old order in 1603, what could be called Celtic secular marriage remained the norm in Ireland and Christian matrimony was no more than a graft onto this system.‘”

now, from Cattle-Lords and Clansmen: The Social Structure of Early Ireland (1994) (sorry, some of this is a repeat of what was in my previous post on early ireland) [pgs. 26, 57, 289, 291 — links added by me]:

“Irish and other early European descent structures were not egalitarian but *normatively* ranked, intensely competitive within the fraternal circle, and were structured not only on the principles of genealogical closeness but also on the basis of patron-client relations between kinsmen of unequal wealth and influence. Such structures are often described as ‘conical clans’ (Kirchoff 1959: 375; Goody 1983: 237). There were no rules of clan-exogamy, and thus no regular exchange of brides, but rather a tendency to in-marriage in order to curtail the outflow of property through bridal dowry. Thus … Irish, Welsh, Scottish and Dietmarschen clans recruited heirs patrilineally, like African segmentary lineages….

re. sixteenth-century Ireland: “Social practices that are referred to in the canonical texts of the law-tracts are attested in English descriptions as flourishing at the end of Gaelic society — a fact underscored by the continuation of work on Irish legal MSS, even as war raged around the scribes in the 1560s and 1570s. These long-lasting native institutions included: distraint, competitive succession, polygynous marriage and temporary marriage, affiliation of children of concubines, collective kin-liability, payment of wergeld instead of capital punishment, clientship contracts, including a type of free clientship, and payments of renders in kind and in services (Nicholls 1972: 3-87)….”

and, i would guess, close marriages.

“*Marriage Preferences.* Although in Ireland, as in the rest of early Europe (Goody 1983: 31-3), there were no hard and fast rules governing the choice of marriage partner (other than a taboo on primary incest), there was a preference for marriage between close kin (in-marriage), and for matches between children of fathers of equal rank (isogamy). Absent from the picture is evidence for child-bethrothal, even amongst the upper classes, or evidence that women were customarily married in early adolescence….

“Connected to the practice of dowering women was the preference for marriage with close kin; this tended to conserve property within the *fine* [agnatic kin] branches that repeatedly intermarried. Clerical complaints offer indirect testimony to the Irish preference for canonically ‘incestuous’ marriage. The seventh-century source, the ‘Second Synod of St. Patrick’, records that the *Romani* — a faction of the Irish clergy advocating greater conformity to Roman Catholic practices — attempted to insist upon ‘what is observed amongs us, that they be separated by four degrees’, i.e. that men should not marry their first cousins (the fourth degree kinswoman). The nativists protested that they had ‘never seen nor read’ such a rule (Bieler 1975: 197 xxix; Hughes 1966: 131).

Again, in the eleventh century, churchmen singled out tolerance of ‘incest’ (marriage of kin) as a major fault of the Irish church. Such laxity was still a scandal to Canterbury in the later middle ages, not only in cases involving famous families, but apparently amongst the general population. So weak were the sanctions against in-marriage, that incidents are recorded in which men were sexually involved with aunts and nieces — not in covert relationships, but marriage for which the parties tried to gain sanction and blessing (Nicholls 1972: 75). Even in the law tracts there survives a hint that Roman Catholic complaints were not without foundation, for ‘Corus Bescna’ asks:

“‘What is the *corus fheini*? (laws of the farmer) Joint-plowing, marriage, giving in charge, lending … (Commentary) marriage — the daughter of each to the other, i.e., to such a one as is not cursed by the patron saint of the land.’

“A curse from the local saint could be incurred on a large number of grounds, such as associating with the various categories of society tainted with paganism, not paying one’s tithes, or simply belonging to a hostile group. The point is that a neighbor, even a close kinsman, was preferred as a husband because his exact social position was well-known — a sentiment share by the Welsh and expressed in the proverb, ‘marry in the kin and fight the feud afar.'”

so, according to patterson, close marriages in ireland were pretty much definitely still happening in the 1000s, and according to both patterson and sellar likely happening as late as the 1500s.

this is a very different state of affairs than what was happening in neighboring england and northeastern france on the continent, both places in which cousin marriage was a complete non-issue by the 1300s at least, and society was based around the nuclear family, not the clan. (some of the earliest secular laws against cousin marriage in england came in the 800s in kent.)

previously: inbreeding in europe’s periphery

(note: comments do not require an email. the hound of ulster!)