kindreds, communes, feuds, and mating patterns in medieval france

when it comes to clan-based societies vs. nation-states and all that, the reigning paradigm is that peoples resort to relying on their extended families/clans/tribes for all sorts of things like justice and economic support in the absence of a (strong?) state, but if they somehow miraculously acquire a state, people quickly drop the connections with their extended families. this to me seems completely upside-down-and-backwards.

never mind, for instance, that there have been strong states in the middle east since…*ahem*…the days of hammurabi if not before, and yet for some reason middle easterners are amongst the most clannish peoples on the planet (see: syria) — and i mean clannish as in actually relying on their clans in their daily lives. and never mind that the chinese — especially the southern chinese — still organize themselves along clan lines, too, with their clan clubhouses and everything — even though they’ve had really strong and powerful states for millennia as well.

see? upside-down-and-backwards.

what appears to be the case, rather, is that, for whatever (*cough*genetic*cough*) reasons, people stop relying on their extended families/clans when they stop being very closely related to those family members, i.e. after a long period of outbreeding (avoiding cousin or other forms of close marriage). i’ve already shown in a previous post that the importance of the clan/kindred in anglo-saxon england was waning in the early 900s (in southern england anyway), before england was unified, so before there was a nice, cozy state for people to fall back on. the same appears to be true of the medieval french (at least some of them — there are regional differences, as there are in britain).

but i’m getting ahead of myself. first things first: picking up where we left off at the end of the last post on medieval france — mating patterns of the medieval franks. let’s look at the importance of the kindred and feuding amongst the franks. then i’ll get to how and when the franks/french dropped all the kindred and feuding business.

for those of you who don’t want to wade through all the details, tl;dr summary at the bottom of the post (click here). you’re welcome! (^_^)

as we saw in the previous post, the franks — and really i mean the salian franks who gave rise to the merovingian dynasty in austrasia — like all the other pre-christian germanic groups (and the pre-christian irish and britons and scots, too) married their cousins. who knows how much, but enough that the various christian missionaries to these groups raised loud and very vocal objections to their marriage practices.

the result, imho, is that frankish society — like early medieval anglo-saxon society — was “clan”- or kindred-based. from The Laws of the Salian Franks (1991) [pgs. 39-41]:

“The Frankish family was the small family usually found among the other Germanic barbarians: it consisted of husband, wife, minor sons, unmarried daughters, and other dependents including half-free dependents (*lidi*) and slaves. However, although the basic family group was the same for the Franks as for most other Germanic barbarians who settled within the territory of the Roman Empire, the Franks relied more heavily on the larger kin group than did the Burgundians, Visigoths, or Lombards (it is difficult to know about the Anglo-Saxons, for the early Anglo-Saxon laws are uninformative on this subject)….

that last bit is debatable, but anyway…

“The kin group was important because the individual alone, or even with his immediate family, was in a precarious position in Frankish society. One needed the support of a wider kin to help him bring offenders against his peace before the courts, and one needed kin to help provide the oathhelpers that a man might be required to present in order to make his case or to establish his own innocence before the court. These roles of the kin are familiar to all the Germans. But the Frankish kin group had further responsibilities and privileges. For example, if a man were killed, his own children collected only half of the composition due, the remaining half being equally divided between those members of his kin group who came from his father’s side and those who came from his mother’s side (LXII, i)….

“The right of the kin group to share in the receipt of composition involved also the responsibility for helping members of the group to pay composition. If a man by himself did not have sufficient property to pay the entire composition assessed against him, he could seek help from his closest kin, father and mother first, then brothers and sisters. If sufficient help was still not forthcoming, more distant members of the maternal and paternal kin (up to the sixth degree, i.e., second cousins [XLIV, 11-12]), could be asked to help. This responsibility of the kin to aid their kinsmen is known in Frankish law as *chrenecruda* (LVIII)….

“The importance of the kin group should thus be obvious, and added importance derived from the fact that one shared in the inheritance of one’s kin up to the sixth degree should closer heirs be lacking. Normally the advantages and disadvantages of belonging to a kin groups (legally related in an association known as parentela) evened themselves out, and the security of association plus the opportunity to inherit well justified the potential liability of the kin. However, on occasion the liabilities overshadowed the advantages. The debts of an uncontrollable relative might endanger a man’s property, or movement away from the area in which the kin group lived might have made the operation of parentela awkward if not impossible. So the law provided the means whereby a man could remove himself from his kin’s parentela, thereby avoiding responsibility for his kin — but in return he forfeited his position in the line of inheritance of that kin group (LX).”

and then there was the feuding as well. from Language and History in the Early Germanic World (2000) [pgs. 50-51]:

“The other form of protection provided by the kindred concerns blood-vengeance and the prosecution of a feud, for these act as a disincentive to violence and therefore offer protection in advance. It is not enough to define a feud as a state of hostility between kindreds; we must extend it to the threat of such hostility, but also, if the mere threat fails to prevent the outbreak of actual hostility, to a settlement on terms acceptable to both parties by means of an established procedure. In other words, the feud is a means of settling disputes between kindreds through violence or negotiation or both….

Central to feuding is the idea of vengeance, the willingness of all members of a kindred to defend one of their number and to obtain redress for him…. If a conflict nonetheless broke out it was waged not between individuals, but collectively between kindreds, as is best revealed by the way in which satisfaction could be obtained by vengeance on any member of the culprit’s kindred, not necessarily on the perpetrator himself. An offence to one was therefore an offence to all, as is most pithily expressed by Gregory of Tours in the case of a feud involving a woman with the words: *ad ulciscendam humilitatem generis sui*. In this case the kindred exacts vengeance from one of its members who is felt to have disgraced it; a refusal to act thus would have brought even greater shame up the kindred. An example like this shows, even in the language used, just what difficulties the Church had to face in dealing with such a mentality, for the word *humilitas*, in Germanic eyes the ‘humiliation’ or ‘shame’ done to the kindred, was for the Christian the virtue of humility. This virtue, including even a readiness to forgive an insult, was the undoing of Sigbert of Essex who, so Bede reports, was killed by his kinsmen who complained that he had been too ready to forgive his enemies and had thereby brought dishonour on his kindred. Such forgiveness and willingness to abandon the duty of feuding dealt a shocking blow to the kindred as a central support of Germanic society.”

the gauls also practiced feuding, so their society was probably clan- or kindred-based, too. from Medieval French Literature and Law (1977) [pg. 67]:

“[The vendetta’s] sole justification was a prior injury or offense. Sanctioned in Roman Gaul in cases of murder, rape, adultery, or theft, the blood vengeance implied a solidarity of family lineage….”

today the french are (mostly) not a clannish, feuding, kindred-based society — especially compared to, say, the arabs. what happened? when did they quit being clannish?

the kindred-based blood feud was still common during the carolingian empire (800-888) despite efforts of the authorities (the state!) to put a stop to it. from The Carolingian Empire (1978, orig. pub. 1957) [pg. 138 and 168-169]:

“It was in vain that orders were given for all who refused to abandon private feuds and to settle their quarrels in a court of law to be sent to the king’s palace, where they might expect to be punished by banishment to another part of the kingdom. Not even the general oath of fealty imposed by Charles contained a general prohibition of feuds. Instead the government contented itself with prohibiting the carrying of arms ‘within the fatherland’, and with setting up courts of arbitration with the possibility of appeal to the tribunal of the palace. But as far as the prohibition of carrying arms was concerned, not even the clergy were inclined to obey it. The lesser vassals who were themselves hardly in a position to conduct a feud, could always induce their lords to interfere in their quarrels by invoking their right to protection…. But not even the most primitive form of private warfare, the blood feud, actually died out. On the contrary, it appears to have flourished especially among the lesser nobility and the stewards of large domains….

“Just as a lord could force a serf against his will to become a secular priest, so also he could force him to take the tonsure of a monk….

“It certainly suited the secular authorities to rid themselves in this way of opponents or of those involved in a blood feud. In the case of a man involved in a blood feud, however, there was always the danger that the family of the victim would turn their ancient right of revenge against the whole convent.”

and then the carolingian empire broke apart, and all h*ll broke loose (until the capetians gained control of the area we now know as france, and even then it took some time for the kingdom of france to be fully consolidated). various authorities — the church and different barons, etc. — did try to bring peace to the land, but it really didn’t work for very long, if at all. from the wikipedia page on the peace and truce of god:

The Peace and Truce of God was a medieval European movement of the Catholic Church that applied spiritual sanctions to limit the violence of private war in feudal society. The movement constituted the first organized attempt to control civil society in medieval Europe through non-violent means. It began with very limited provisions in 989 AD and survived in some form until the thirteenth century.”

interestingly, the peace and truce of god movement began in southern france, not in the north where The Outbreeding Project had began earliest. perhaps those populations in southern france experienced more feuding in the late-900s than in the north? i don’t know. don’t have any direct proof (yet). in Medieval French Literature and Law (1977) we learn that everyone — the church, the lords of manors, the kings — tried EVERYthing they could think of over the next three to four hundred years to stop the feuding, with, as we shall see, very limited success [pgs. 108-113 and 116 – long quote here]:

Direct opposition to the blood feud began to make itself felt in southern France toward the end of the century. Combining ideology with expediency, the horror of blood with a desire for clerical immunity from attack, the Council of Charroux (989) ratified a special treaty of protection. Under God’s Peace, or the *paix de Dieu*, acts of violence against church property, laborers, peasants, their livestock, and clerics were forbidden under pain of official sanction. The Peace of Charroux took the form of voluntary submission rather than true prohibition and was sponsored by local prelates with the cooperation of the local nobility. It must have been at least partially successful, for similar accords were adopted by the Council of Narbonne in 990 and that of Anse in 994. An agreement concluded at the Synod of Puy (990) extended the protection of God’s Peace to merchants, mills, vineyards, and men on their way to or home from church. Pacts of ‘justice and peace’ were signed in 997 by the Bishops of Limoges, the Abbot of Saint-Martial, and the Bishop and Duke of Acuitaine. It was decided at the Council of Poitiers in 1000 that all infractions pertaining to *res invasae* would henceforth be settled by trial rather than war.

Monarchy favored the ecclesiastical peace movement. It appears likely, even, that Robert the Pious attempted to promulgate a declared peace at Orleans in 1010, although he remained unable to enforce it. By the third decade of the eleventh century the spirit of the southern pacts had spread to Burgundy and the North. At the Council of Verdun-le-Doubs (1016) the lay aristocracy of the region promised, in the presence of the archbishops of Lyon and Besancon: (1) not to violate the peace of sanctuaries; (2) not to enter forcefully the *atrium* of any church except to apprehend violaters of the peace; (3) not to attack unarmed clerics, monks, or their men; (4) not to appropriate their goods except to compensate for legitimate wrong inflicted. The Council of Soissons adopted an identical formula in 1023, as did the Councils of Anse in 1025, Poitiers in 1026, Charroux in 1028, and Limoges in 1031. Elsewhere, the bishops elicited individual promises of nonviolence from members of a particular diocese. At the request of the Abbot of Cluny and in the presence of the archbishop and the high clergy of the region of Macon, numerous Burgundian nobles swore in 1153 to refrain from attacking church property, to resist those who did, and to besiege the castles to which they withdrew if necessary.

A variation of the *paix de Dieu* was concluded by the bishops of Soissons and Beauvais. The *pactum sive treuga*, or *treve de Dieu*, forbade violence not according to the object of attack, but according to its time, season or day. Wars of vengeance were initially prohibited during the seasons of Easter, Toussaint, and Ascension. In addition to their oath governing sacred property and clerics, the subscribers of the Council of Verdun-le-Doubs swore: (1) not to participate during certain periods of the year in any military expedition other than that of the king, local prelate, or count; (2) to abstain for the duration of authorized wars from pillaging and violating the peace of churches; (3) not to attack unarmed knights during Lent. The Council of Toulouse added certain saints’ feast days to the list of proscribed dates; the bishops of Vienne and Besancon included Christmas and the Lenten season. Caronlingian interdiction of the blood feud on Sundays was revived by the Synod of Roussillon in 1027. From Sunday it was gradually extended to include almost the entire week: first from Friday at vespers to Monday morning and then from Wednesday sundown to Monday….

The seigneurial peace movement in the large northern feudatory states, themselves large enough to be governed as small kingdoms, prefigured any sustained monarchic attempt to control private war. An accord ratified in Flanders at the Council of Therouanne (1042-3) regulated the right of the Flemish aristocracy to bear arms; the count alone could make war during periods of prescribed abstinence. Angevine Normandy, inspired by the Flemish example, was sufficiently advanced administratively and judiciallys to serve as a model for Philippe-Auguste after royal annexation of the duchy in the early thirteenth century. The *treve de Dieu* signed in Caen in 1047 had validated the principle of ducal regulation of private campaigns. According to an inquest conducted in 1091 by Robert Curthose and William Rufus, William I had enacted, as early as 1075, a *paix de Duc* limiting blood feuds and placing numerous restrictions upon the conduct of any but his own expeditions. The *Donsuetudines et Iusticie* of the Conqueror prohibited seeking one’s enemy with hauberk, standard, and sounding horn; it forbade the taking of captive and the expropriation of arms, horses, or property in the course of a feud. Burning, plunder, and wasting of fields were forbidden in disputes involving the right of seisin. Assault and ambush were outlawed in the duke’s forest; and, except for the capture of an offender in *flagrante delicto*, no one was to be condemned to loss of life or limb without due process in a ducal court. William’s law thus reflects a double current in the control of wars of vendetta. On the one hand, it limits the methods of private campaigns without prohibiting them altogether. On the other, it reserves jurisdiction over certain cases of serious infraction for the duke’s own court, thus bypassing the local seigneurial judge who would ordinarily have enjoyed exclusive cognizance over the crimes committed within his fief….

Although unable to control the *faida* [blood feud – h.chick] with any certainty until well into the thirteenth century, the Crown did support a number of measures restricting the right to war. According to Beaumanoir, only noblemen can legally settle a dispute through recourse to arms; a conflict between a nobleman and a bourgeois or a peasant was to be resolved in public court. Brothers and even stepbrothers were prohibited from fighting each other. Furthermore, the Bailiff of Clermont carefully defines the limits of family obligation in pursuit of blood feuds. Duty to one’s kin-group had formerly extended to the seventh degree. Beaunamoir maintains that since the Church had set impediments to marriage only at the fourth degree, kinsmen of more remote paternity were not obliged to come to the aid of distant relatives. Thus, while the collective responsibility of the feudal *comitatus* had not been eliminated entirely, it was curtailed somewhat.

“The rules pertaining to initiation and cessation of hostilities were a crucial factor in the limitation of vendetta. As Beaumanoir specifies, fighting may begin either by face-to-fact challenge or by messenger. In both cases the declaration must be made clearly and openly; war without public defiance is the equivalent of murder without warning, or treason…:

“‘He who wishes to initiate war against another by declaration, must not do so ambiguously or covertly, but so clearly and so openly that he to whom the declaration is spoken or sent may know that he should be on his guard; and he who proceeds otherwise, commits treason.’ (Beaumanoir 2: 1675: 358).

“Once war had been declared, the parties had to wait forty days before actually coming to blows in order to alert those not present at the original declaration. This waiting period or *quarantaine le roi*, which was attributed to Philippe-Auguste and renewed by Saint Louis, again emphasizes the distinction between open and secretive homicide; it broadens the criminal concept to cover the domain of general warfare. Surprise attack upon an enemy clan prior to the end of the forty day injunction constituted an act of treason as opposed to legitimate vengeance….”

The persistence of wars of vengeance following the Saint-King’s death is apparent in the large number of *treves* concluded in the Parlement of Paris during the reign of Philip the Bold [1363-1404]. Despite the attempt to continue his father’s policy of suppression, Philip remained more capable of terminating conflicts already under way than preventing the outbreak of new wars. Philip the Fair experienced even greater difficulty in controlling the resurgence of independent military ventures among his vassals….”

so despite ALL of those efforts from the authorities in medieval france over the course of three or four hundred years, kindred-based blood feuds continued in france until the 1200-1300s. meanwhile, in southern england (but NOT in northern england, wales, or the highlands of scotland), feuding seems to have died a natural death by the 1100s. it would be interesting to know if there were regional differences in the timing of the cessation of feuding in france (like in britain) — my bet is yes, but i don’t have any info on that one way or the other. i will certainly be keeping an eye out for it.

there are some hints, though, that the kindred was, in fact, becoming less important in medieval france before the 1200-1300s.

the first was the increasing significance of the paternal lineage (la lignée) at the (both literal and figurative) expense of the extended family. the nuclear family became more important, and parents (fathers) began to bequeath their wealth and property to their sons (and daughters) — mainly to the eldest son, of course — rather than also to their own brothers and cousins and second cousins thrice removed (you get the idea). as i wrote about in a previous post, this process of the shrinking and verticalization of the french family began around ca. 1000. most of the historical data we have on this process comes from the northern/austrasia region of the franks — where The Outbreeding Project began — but that doesn’t rule out that it wasn’t also happening elsewhere in france. again, i’ll have to keep my eye out for more info.

another indicator of the decreasing importance of the kindred in medieval french society, imho, is the rise of the communes (liberté! egalité! fraternité! (~_^) ). (yes, i know there were communes in northern italy, too. i’ll come back to those at a later date.) the later communes in medieval france — in the 1100-1200s — tended to be officially established entities given charters by the king or some regional lord, but the earliest ones from the late 1000s were really movements — associations“of the people” — of individuals (and maybe their immediate families), NOT of whole kindreds or clans or tribes. from Medieval France: An Encyclopedia (1995) [pgs. 464-465]:

Communes were sworn associations of rural or urban dwellers designed to provide collective protection from seigneurial authority. The earliest development of self-governing cities occurred in the later 11th century between the Loire and the Rhineland, as well as in northern Italy…. The urban territory became officially a ‘peace zone.’ Responsibility for enforcing order and judging violators fell to the commune, as did collection of taxes and the payment of dues to the king or local lord. These urban franchises were available to all residents, including those who, fleeing servitude in the countryside, remained for a year and a day….

Communes engaged all inhabitants in a communal oath, thus substituting a horizontal and egalitarian form of association for the more traditional ones of the aristocracy. Within the commune, each member was subservient to the other as a brother. On the ideological level, the notion of ‘peace’ played so fundamental a role that in some charters *pax* and *communa* are synonymous terms….

“Communes continued to form through the 12th and early 13th centuries, and in the reign of Louis IX there were over thirty-five of them in the regions directly north of Paris. They gradually became more established, with a hierarchy of guilds structuring relationships between segments of the population, often concentrating authority in the hands of a clique of ruling families. Communes began to decline after the 13th century, with European economic growth generally….”

the citizens of communes tried their hand at stopping blood feuds, too. most of the commune citizens themselves dealt with disputes with others NOT via the feud and with the help of other family members, but as independent individuals via civil means. however, the commune members might wind up suffering collateral damage if feuds raged nearby, so they tried to put a stop to them. from Medieval French Literature and Law (1977) [pg. 110]:

Municipal opposition to private war accompanied the communal movements of the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Though theoretically excluded from participating in the blood feud and protected by local peace pacts, the merchants living in northern and eastern France were nonetheless subject to the ravages of vendetta. An abundance of evidence indicates a willingness on the part of some municipal residents to settle their differences independently of civil procedure. Most, however, sought more regular means of settlement. When it came to handling arms, the merchant, like the cleric, found himself at a distinct disadvantage. The commune was, in essence, a peace league, a specially designated civil space whose inhabitants were guaranteed the right to trial without combat. Among the founding principles of the municipality of LeMans (1070) were the repression of vendettas among the members of the urban ‘friendship’ and mutual protection against external attack. The charter of Laon (1128) was entitled to *institutio pacis*; that of Tornai, *forma pacis et compositionis*. The pact of Verdun-le-Doubs was, in effect, an earlier version of the twelfth-century *convenance de la paix*, a protective agreement organized by artisan and trade guilds. In 1182 a carpenter from Le Puy founded a brotherhood of merchants and manufacturers devoted to the suppression of violence. Not only were feuds prohibited within the group, but when a murder did occur, the family of the victim was expected to seek reconciliation with the guilty party by inviting him to its house. The peace league of Le Puy had spread throughout Languedoc, Auxerre, and Berry before seigneurial uneasiness with institutional restraints upon the right to private war led to its own suppression. In spite of constant and often violent opposition, similar *confreries de paix* appeared in Champagne, Burgundy, and Picardie under Philip the Fair and his sons.”

the communes of the 1000-1100s, then, are free associations of independent individuals, usually minus their extended families/kindreds, but plus lots of civic behavioral patterns like the presence of the right to a trial in a court of law rather than the vendettas and feuds of a clan-based society. that’s a big change. wrt timing, the french communes — as free associations of independent individuals in place of kindreds — appear right around the same time as the gegildan in southern england (900s), the gegildan being another type of association of independent individuals replacing the earlier kindreds. again, i’d love to know if there were any regional differences in where these communes were located (apart from between the loire and rhine) — more in the north? more in the south? i shall endeavor to find out.


to sum up, then — the pre-christian franks, like all the other pre-christian germanics, were a cousin-marrying, kindred-based population in which the extended-family was extremely important (on top of the nuclear family) and in which blood feuds between kindreds regularly occurred. a frankish individual’s identity was all bound up with that of his kindred — frankish society was not comprised of independently acting individuals. feuding also took place amongst the romano-gauls, so they were likely clannish, too.

the roman catholic church banned cousin marriage in 506, but it’s likely that the franks didn’t take this seriously until after the mid-700s (although the particularly devout may have), at which point they really did (see previous post).

beginning in the 1000s, there are indications — the rise of lineages and the appearance of communes — that the french kindreds were starting to break apart. however, feuding continued in france into the 1200-1300s, so clannishness did not disappear in france overnight.

all of this can be compared to the southern english whose kindreds began to drift apart in the 900s and where feuding seems to have disappeared by the 1100s. remember that the law of wihtred in kent outlawed cousin marriage sixty years (two generations) before the franks did. also keep in mind that there may be regional differences in france (as in britain) that might be obscuring an earlier disappearance of kindreds/clannishness in “core” france. or maybe not. we shall see.

whew! that is all. (^_^)

previously: whatever happened to european tribes? and kinship, the state, and violence and mating patterns of the medieval franks and la lignée and the auvergnat pashtuns and the importance of the kindred in anglo-saxon society

(note: comments do not require an email. vive la commune!)

medieval germanic kindreds … and the ditmarsians

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

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

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

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

so, i’ve been reading phillpotts.

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

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

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

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

kindreds map 02

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

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

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

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

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

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

three cheers for the ditmarsians! (^_^)

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

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

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

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

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

kinship in anglo-saxon society ii

in the previous post on kinship in anglo-saxon society, we saw that, between ca. 600-1000 a.d., the anglo-saxons followed what’s known as the sudanese kinship naming system. in other words, like both the arabs and chinese today, the anglo-saxons had separate, distinct names for collateral kin including uncles, aunts, and cousins. as elsewhere in northwest europe, this naming system disappeared over the course of the medieval period to the point where, today, in english we no longer distinguish between father’s or mother’s brothers and so forth. this is probably related to the fact that the practice of (some degree of) cousin marriage amongst northwest europeans also disappeared over the course of the medieval period.

in this post, i want to look at the kindred in early medieval anglo-saxon society, and the fact that anglo-saxons reckoned their kinship bilaterally. again, i’ll be mostly working from lorraine lancaster’s two articles: Kinship in Anglo-Saxon Society I and Kinship in Anglo-Saxon Society II.

kindreds and bilateral kinship in anglo-saxon society

based on the two facts that 1) in old english (anglo-saxon english) there was, apparently, no way to distinguish the various degrees of cousins — i.e. a first cousin vs. a first cousin twice-removed, for instance, or even a first cousin vs. a sixth cousin — but 2) at the same time extended family relationships were very important in anglo-saxon society — for instance in the matter of wergeld and blood feuds (more about those below) — lancaster concluded that the most important kinship group amongst the anglo-saxons was not, say, the patrilineal clan (as amongst the irish and the scots — think the o’sullivans or the macdonalds) or the tribe (as amongst the arabs — think the sauds), but the kindred [I – pgs. 237-38]:

“The general characteristics of the [kin naming] system suggest three points: firstly, our belief that the *mægd* [“family,” “kinsmen,” or “kindred”] need not have been an extensive group is borne out by the restriction of specific terms to a relatively small set of kin centered on Ego; secondly, the complete lack of specificity in terms for cousins of various degrees, which would be all-important in the operation of a wide-ranging bilateral system, suggests that these kin and the distinctions between them was not regularly of major significance. Lineal ascendants could be traced back to *sixta fæder,* and in fact were traced back further in the historical and mythical genealogies of the ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.’ Nevertheless, the cousins who would share so remote and ancestor are not put in any particular linguistic category….”

and [II – pg. 372]:

“In Modern English society, the fact that surnames are inherited patrilineally is sometimes taken to indicate that the kinship system as a whole is a patrilineal one, although this is not so. In Anglo-Saxon society, there is no sign of what might be called patrinomial groups. Surnames did not regularly exist, although additional names could be given to a person to make his identification easier, a very reasonable thing when one considers the numbers of Ælfwines, Wulfrics, Æthelmaers, and so on that exited. Names of children appear to have been sometimes compounded from parents’ names, but there is no trace of reference to ‘the X’s’, as a named kin group.

More important, kin, named or not, were not organized into effective patrilineal descent groups, but, as we have seen, into Ego-centred bilateral kin groups….

a kin group that is focused on ego — on yourself — is known as a kindred. from my friend robin fox [pgs. 169-170 — see also]:

“[T]he stock of a kindred exists only in relation to a particular ego and it disappears when he dies. If a member of a cognatic lineage [like the macdonalds – h.chick] dies, the lineage still continues; when the focal ego of a kindred dies, then the stock are no more. The lineage then is defined relative to an ancestor who remains a fixed point of reference; the stocks of a kindred are defined relative to an ego….

The kindred can be broadly defined as ‘ego’s relatives up to a certain fixed degree’. What matters is how this ‘degree’ is defined. It need not be defined cognatically (or ‘bilaterally’ as it is usually called in the literature)….

“[T]he real distinction is between the two foci — ego and ancestor: between *descent groups* and *personal groups*.”

so, the family members that might be considered as kindred by wasps in today’s anglo world probably include something like: nuclear family members, both paternal and maternal grandparents, both paternal and maternal uncles and aunts, and all paternal and maternal cousins — and, perhaps, their kids, too (your first cousins once-removed). ymmv. (for those of us from more “clannish” groups, we also keep track of our second cousins and even our second cousins once-removed. (~_^) ) this is not the same as primarily keeping track of, say, just all your paternal relatives out to sixth cousins.

many groups of people keep track of both their kindreds and their clan or tribe members. the two things are not mutually exclusive. but, based on the historical evidence (mainly wills) lancaster and others (including phillpotts) concluded that anglo-saxon society was based upon the kindred and not patrilineal — or even matrilineal — clans or tribes.

furthermore (yes, there’s more!), anglo-saxon kinship and their kindreds were reckoned bilaterally. if you were an anglo-saxon, you would’ve traced your ancestors back along both your father’s and your mother’s line. (if wikipedia is to be believed, bilateral kinship groups arise in harsh environments and are beneficial since individuals have two sets of family upon which they can rely. that does seem as though it would fit northern europe.) the members of your kindred, too, came from both the paternal and maternal sides of your family (like in the anglo world today).

for example, from lancaster [II – pg. 370]:

“Kinsmen also had a duty to stand surety for Ego, or to support him with an oath. In II Athelstan I.3, we read that the kinsmen of a thief redeemed from prison by a fine were to stand surety that he would desist from thieving for ever. When an alleged thief had been slain, according to the same laws, the man who was demanding his wergild could come forward with three others, two from the paternal and one from the maternal kin and swear that their kinsman was innocent….”

so an anglo-saxon’s kinsmen — his kindred — came from both his paternal side of the family and his maternal side. but there was a bias towards the paternal side. we saw this, too, in the last post that there was a special term for a father’s brother but not a mother’s brother [I – pg. 237]:

“It is most significant that a term existed (*suhter-(ge)fæderan*) to refer to the relationship between a man and his father’s brother. There was no special term to refer to the corresponding relationship on Ego’s mother’s side.”

giorgio ausenda has also found this to have been the case in other pre-christian germanic groups (like the visigoths) — a bias in favor of the paternal side. based upon this, and the fact that the germanics were herders (lactase persistence!), ausenda concludes that the pre-christian germanics probably favored father’s brother’s daughter (fbd) marriage like other herders (such as the arabs).

i doubt it and think, rather, that, if they favored any particular form of cousin marriage at all, and it’s not certain that they did, the germanics probably favored maternal cousin marriage. the fact that their kinship naming system was the sudanese system is not a good indicator of fbd marriage since the chinese also use the sudanese system, and they do not approve of fbd marriage at all. quite the reverse, in fact. also, it makes no sense to have a bilateral kinship system to reckon the paternal and maternal sides of the family in an fbd marriage society since, in such a society, one’s maternal side of the family IS (often) one’s paternal side of the family! they are one and the same.

so, no, i don’t think that the anglo-saxons and other germanics favored fbd marriage. if anything, it was probably mbd or mzd marriage.

so anglo-saxon society was based upon kindreds and not clans. i would still call them “clannish” though — but, perhaps, not quite as clannish as, say, their neighbors the medieval irish — or even today’s albanians. i would still call the anglo-saxons “clannish” — perhaps “mildly clannish” — since their society and its functioning was primarly based around one version of the extended family — the kindred. you as an individual would’ve had next to no identity in anglo-saxon society. your identity — including your legal identity (as seen above wrt sureties) — was based upon your kindred.

additionally, the whole wergeld system was alive and well throughout most of the anglo-saxon period — as were blood feuds (and if that’s not “clannish,” I don’t know what is!) [II – pgs. 367, 368, 370, 371]:

“A person’s position in a network of kinship relationship entails the performance of certain rights and duties as well as the carrying-out of less formal but likewise important expectations of behaviour. The rights and duties of Anglo-Saxon kinship represent that part of the system that has been most studied in the past, particularly the rights and duties connected with feud and wergild, because these are the most clearly described in the laws….

“What duties did a kin group owe to Ego? First and foremost, they owed him the duty of avenging his death, either by prosecuting a feud, or by exacting wergild payments. On the other hand, if Ego had killed or injured a man, he could expect some support from his kinsmen in helping him bear a feud or pay a wergild….

“[T]he kinsmen of a man injured or killed were entitled to compensation or wergild from the slayer and his kin or representatives….

“If compensation for deliberate harm done was not settled, a feud could be prosecuted. In feuding the legal solidarity of the kin group is demonstrated by the fact that one member of the slayer’s kin group is as good a victim for vengeance as the slayer himself. One could imagine a feud spreading among overlapping kin groups in a bilateral system. Edmund wished that a slayer should alone bear the feud (and thus stop it spreading from kin group to kin group [here you can see one reason why kings would want to get rid of clans – h.chick]) or, with the help of others, pay the wergild….”

anglo-saxons, then? still rather clannish even though they didn’t count themselves as members of (patrilineal) clans.

if i were to work up my own “hbd chick’s scale of clannishness” from one to ten, with today’s individualistic, nuclear-family-living (are they still?) english at “1” and the very fbd-marrying, paternal tribal arabs (and afghanis and pakistanis) at “10” — and let’s say the (historically) mbd-marrying, filial piety-focused chinese hovering somewhere around “5” or “6” — and the albanians at, maybe, “7” or “8” — i would put the anglo-saxons at maybe a “3” or a “4” — since only the kindreds seem to have been important and they had no clan lineages. that’s just a guesstimate on my part, though. i might decide to change the rankings depending upon what i learn about these different groups going forward. (^_^)

interestingly, lancaster notes that, although they hadn’t disappeared completely, the importance of kindreds did wane towards the end of the period she looked at (up to 1066). she also notes that phillpotts noted that kindreds were less significant in england than on the continent (ah ha!) [II – pgs. 373, 375]:

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

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

THAT is definitely a change!

so, as i asked at the beginning of the previous post: “were they [the anglo-saxons] individualistic, civic-minded, living in nuclear family groups, not clannish or tribal, nonviolent, and liberally democratic? or, perhaps, predisposed to these things in some way?”

my answers are: no, i don’t know, no, no, no, and no. and, possibly.

i say “possibly” since, because the anglo-saxons most likely did not (i think) practice fbd marriage, they probably were not extremely inbred. that, and the facts that their society was based on bilateral kinship and kindreds, in other words not sooo strongly clannish, might’ve meant that a relatively slight amount of outbreeding would’ve pushed them out of the levels of clannishness that they did display.

that, perhaps … and the fact that the normans came along and shook everything up [see here for example]. (more on THAT anon!)

previously: kinship in anglo-saxon society and english individualism and english individualism ii and english individualism iii and anglo-saxon mating patterns and more on anglo-saxon mating patterns

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kinship in anglo-saxon society

why are the english so special? why do they have such a strong sense of individualism (see here and here and here and here)? or are so civic-minded? why do they live in (absolute) nuclear families? why are they not clannish or tribal? why are they so nonviolent — and why did their levels of violence start to decrease so long ago? how come it was the english who pretty much invented liberal democracy?

i think a lot of these things have to do with england’s outbreeding project which began sometime in the early medieval period (see here and here), but could there have been something special about the pre-christian anglo-saxons (or danes — think the danelaw — see this comment and subsequent discussion)? were they individualistic, civic-minded, living in nuclear family groups, not clannish or tribal, nonviolent, and liberally democratic? or, perhaps, predisposed to these things in some way?

well, i can hardly answer all of those in just a blog post (and, to be honest, i don’t know the answer to most of them), but i’ll try to address a couple of them by taking a look at anglo-saxon kinship (the anglo-saxons after they got to england). i’ll be mostly working from lorraine lancaster’s two articles: Kinship in Anglo-Saxon Society I and Kinship in Anglo-Saxon Society II. from what i can make out, lancaster’s work on anglo-saxon kinship between ca. the 600s-1000s, which was published in 1958, is still considered to be the definitive one — anything i read about anglo-saxon society and/or kinship always refers back to her. so, let’s see what she had to say.

kinship terms for collateral kin

in this previous post, we saw how kinship terms amongst germans on the continent became less precise over the course of the middle ages. the different terms for “father’s brother” and “mother’s brother” were collapsed into a single term for “uncle.” similarly, previously existing differentiating terms for the various cousins — “father’s brother’s daughter” or “mother’s brother’s daughter” — got collapsed into just “cousin.”

there are probably a lot of good reasons for having separate, distinct terms for all your family members, but one of the most important ones (i think) is to distinguish for yourself and everybody around you who can marry whom (see also julian pitt-rivers’ “The Kith and the Kin”). so, in societies where a certain form of cousin marriage is preferred — like father’s brother’s daughter (fbd) marriage amongst the arabs (see here) or mother’s brother’s daughter (mbd) marriage traditionally amongst the chinese (see here and here) — all of the cousins get specific names (this is known as the sudanese kinship form). (check out all the names for paternal and maternal relatives in the chinese kinship system!)

another way of naming kin is the system most common in the west, and the system we have in the english speaking world, and that is where we do not distinguish between different uncles or aunts or cousins. one’s cousin is one’s cousin, end of discussion. this is probably a result of the fact that, throughout the medieval period in europe, cousin marriage was prohibited by the church and frequently by secular authorities as well. since it became no longer necessary to distinguish one cousin from another — since ALL of them were off-limits to marry — they all eventually became known as simply “cousins” (or whatever term you happen use in your western european language). (this is known as the eskimo kinship form, btw — although why lewis h. morgan dubbed it that i don’t know since most of the eskimo groups i’ve read about don’t use this form!)

so what about the anglo-saxons in early medieval england? well, wikipedia tells us that they used the sudanese kinship system. and from lorraine lancaster [I – pg. 237]:

“There was a distinction drawn between ‘father’s brother’ and ‘mother’s brother’ which is not preserved in the modern English ‘uncle’ (<Latin *avunculus*). A father's brother was *fædera* and a mother's brother, *eam*…. The terms *nefa* and *genefa* seem to have been general ones, applicable to both a brother's and a sister's son, but *suhterga* and *geswiria* served to specify a brother's son and the term *swustorsunu* was, as its form suggests, only applicable to a sister's son.

“It is most significant that a term existed (*suhter-(ge)fæderan*) to refer to the relationship between a man and his father's brother. There was no special term to refer to the corresponding relationship on Ego's mother's side.

“The words *nift* and *nefena* appear to have applied to either a brother's or a sister's daughter, in the same manner as we use 'niece'. But the more specific terms *brodor-dohtor* (‘brother’s daughter’) and *sweostor-dohtor* (‘sister’s daughter’) were also used….

*Sugterga*, which we have already noted in the context of brother’s son, could also express the relationship of those whose fathers were brothers, that is, parallel cousins on the father’s side. Another term for this relationship was *fæderan sunu* (i.e. ‘father’s brother’s son’). The corresponding relationship of parallel cousins on the mother’s side could also be specifically denoted: The word *sweor* (also used for ‘father-in-law’) represented a cousin german, probably on the mother’s side, while such a cousin could be more accurately described as *gesweostrenu bearn* (‘child of sisters’) or *moddrian sunu* (‘mother’s sister’s son’).

this is very similar to the sort of cousin naming system that arabs today have — there aren’t unique words for “father’s brother’s son,” but the relationship is simply spelled out quite literally:

– father’s brother’s son = fæderan sunu = ibn ʿamm.

it’s likely, therefore, given the cousin naming system of the anglo-saxons — and the fact that the church offered dispensations to newly converted anglo-saxons who were married to their cousins, as well as the fact that many secular laws were passed in several of the anglo-saxon kingdoms banning cousin marriage (see here and here) — that cousin marriage was not uncommon amongst the pre-christian — and post-christian for a while! — anglo-saxons.

interestingly, lancaster points out that there weren’t any (many?) terms for more distant cousins in old english. there didn’t seem to be a way to say, for instance, “first cousin once-removed” amongst the anglo-saxons.

this leads into the idea of the anglo-saxon kindred (and their bilateral kinship reckoning) … which i’ll get into in my next post. stay tuned!

update 12/11: see also kinship in anglo-saxon society ii

previously: english individualism and english individualism ii and english individualism iii and anglo-saxon mating patterns and more on anglo-saxon mating patterns

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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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loosening of genetic ties in europe started before christianity?

several of my previous posts discuss how, during the medieval period, the christian church in europe — along with tptb of the dayaltered the mating patterns of europeans by (at least trying to) put a stop to cousin marriage amongst the natives, a practice that would lead to a loosening of the genetic ties between the members of the population(s).

jack goody suggests that this was a new and strange policy without precedent invented by the church fathers, i.e. there was no foundation for banning cousin marriage in the bible or in roman society from whence a lot of the church fathers came.

that seems to be pretty right from what i’ve read, but michael mitterauer says that this move toward greater outbreeding might’ve started earlier in ancient greece (was it related to this?) and that the holy roman catholic church’s policies may have simply been part of a wider trend.

mitterauer, who i’m going to quote at length below because i just found what he had to say so doggone interesting, sums up all the linguistic changes related to kinship that happened across europe after the mating laws changed. i mentioned before that i thought that kinship terms indicate who you can and cannot marry — now it seems, from what mitterauer has to say, that they mostly indicate who you cannot marry. (so, back to hawaii for a sec, since everyone of your age [in your village, presumably] were called either “brother” or “sister,” this must have meant that you couldn’t marry any of them. and this makes sense, because any of them could’ve been your real brother or sister!)

ok. big quote from mitterauer [pgs. 68-74]:

“Fundamental trends in the changing kinship systems in Europe can best be deduced from the modified kinship terms in various European languages…. Three major transformational processes illustrate this statement with regard to European kinship systems.

“We can describe the first fundamental trend in the shifting of European kinship terms as the gradual appearance of the same, or parallel, terms for paternal and maternal relatives, which is best shown in the expressions for a parent’s siblings. All the Indo-European languages of Europe originally distinguished between the father’s brother or sister and the mother’s brother or sister. Take Latin as an example: the father’s siblings were called patruus and amita, and on the mother’s side, avunculus and matertera. In Middle High German the terms were Vetter and Base, Oheim and Muhme. As the history of almost every European language evolved, distinctions between paternal and maternal relatives became neutral. And so French used oncle for both parents’ brother (derived from the Latin word for a maternal uncle, avunculus) and tante for either parent’s sister (following from the Latin word amita, a paternal sister). These bilaterally applied terms spilled over into other languages, for instance, English and German. Similar parallel nomenclatures developed that were based on kinship terms in one’s own language, in Polish, for example. Greek was the first European language to eliminate the terminological distinction between the father’s and the mother’s side, a transition that began as early as between the fifth and third century BC. Vulgar Latin in late antiquity was next. All the Romance languages derived from Vulgar Latin have the same terms for both sides of the family: Italian, Sardic, Rhaeto-Romance, Provencal, French, Catalan, Spanish, Portugese, Sephardic Spanish, Aromunian, and Rumanian. This process was therefore complete by the early Middle Ages throughout the territory of the old Roman Empire. The first Germanic language to undergo this change was English, beginning with the Norman Conquest. Basically the same change occurred in German in early modern times. There were two different developments in the Scandinavian languages. One tended to completely equate the father’s and mother’s siblings by using the same terms; the other did too, but formed compound words to differentiate the sides of the family. This was the case, for example, with farbror and morbror in Swedish, and with analogous forms in Icelandic and Scottish English. These descriptive compounds were fundamentally different from the completely independent terms for each parent’s siblings in the early phases of Indo-European languages. It was not a matter of eliminating the opposition between the paternal and the maternal sides but of essentially equating them, as is apparent from the structure of the terms themselves. And in the majority of the Slavic languages, too, the process of parallelizing outlined above took place, first in Czech and Polish, relatively late in Russian. The Slavic languages in the Balkans, on the other hand, have retained a differentiating terminology for kinship to this day: Bulgarian, Macedonian, Serbian, and Bosnian still have concepts distinguishing between a paternal and a maternal brother. The same holds for Albanian, where even parents’ sisters are differentiated. In this region the great process of transforming European kinship terminology, which emanated from southeastern Europe 2,500 year ago, has not yet reached its end.

A second fundamental trend in the transformation of European kinship terminology is the use of identical terms for blood relatives and in-laws. This paralleling process was also at work in Vulgar Latin during late antiquity. The term cognati at first referred to blood relatives who were not under the authority of the pater familias. Sometime around the fourth century, this concept underwent a substantial expansion: it came to include ‘affined’ relationships (the Latin affinis refers to persons related by marriage). The word affinis therefore fell into disuse in late antiquity and was replaced by cognati. In-law now became, through marriage, like blood relatives. This sense of cognati survives in kinship terms in the Romance languages. The trend of using the same terms is even more pronounced in another terminological complex. French, Dutch, English, and German have a suite of concepts for relatives by marriage that is formed from compounds made from the designations for nuclear family members. Beau-pere corresponds to schoonvader, ‘father-in-law’ to Schwiegervater, belle-mere to ‘mother-in-law.’ The same goes for beau-frer, belle-soeur, beau-fils, and belle-fille. All these related people had no names in Latin or Old High German that were in any way similar to the names for their closest blood relatives. Originally, the terms in all Indo-European languages for relatives by marriage were unmistakably different from those for blood relatives….

“The third basic trend in the transformation of the European kinship terminology is unique by its very nature and therefore especially instructive for understanding the whole process of change: the increasing number of parallels in the nomenclature of blood relatives and so-called spiritual relatives. A spiritual kinship was originally established by sponsorship at baptism. Then, in the wake of this model, other relationships came into existence that were created around other sacraments — relationships that eventually were regarded as kinship. In general, ties that were instituted on a religious basis were conceived of as kinship ties…. Inside Europe, it is found during the Middle Ages only in societies converted to Christianity….

The decisive factor in this great transformation of kinship terminology in Europe was the influence of Christianity. This is more obvious in the parallel terms for blood and spiritual kinship than it is in the two basic trends discussed earlier. From an analytical perspective, we can distinguish three levels of influence: first, direct and intentional influence on kinship systems via canon law; second, indirect structural changes to fundamental elements of Christianity; and finally, the ramifications of traditions from classical antiquity that cannot be considered specifically Christian but that Christianity passed on to medieval societies.

The first type of influence incorporates first and foremost the church bans on marriage between relatives. These began in the fourth century and reached their zenith in the eleventh. The influence of the canonical norms is perfectly evident in the English terms for relatives through marriage such as ‘father-in-law,’ ‘daughter-in-law,’ and so forth. What is meant in these terms by the word ‘law’ is canon law. Even though a ‘law’ is not mentioned by name in similar, parallel terms, canon law is the motivating force behind them. The basic principles guiding the changes in terminology, or the assimilation of terms, were exactly the same as those in Christian churches that prohibited marriage between relatives. The development of unions categorized as incestuous was a highly complicated affair in the various Christian churches and was in no way uniform at all times and in all places. But these unions share some basic tendencies: the equating of the paternal and the maternal lines, of blood kin and kin by marriage, and the inclusion of spiritual kin in the family. It was easily recognized from the relevant bans on marriage who was seen in the early Middle Ages as being related to whom from a Christian standpoint, and the bans were added to, step by step, right up into the High Middle Ages. We find it difficult to comprehend today just how preoccupied the era was with the fear of incest — and not only in the various Christian churches but in Jewish circles as well….

That the great transformational process of European kinship terminology must also have had pre-Christian roots is clear from a sequence of events over a long period of time. The rudimentary beginnings are found in the Greek language from the fifth to the third century BC, and it is very likely that broader considerations further influenced these processes. Traditional ancient Greek kinship terminology was probably transmitted just the way ancient Greek traditions were, by and large within a Christian context. The term ‘brother’ can serve as a concrete example. The expansion of the concept of ‘brother’ beyond blood kinship in several Romance languages led to the emergence of a new term for the biological brother. This can surely be traced back to a Christian influence, but the phenomenon itself is not genuinely Christian. In various Eastern religious communities, strangers became ‘brothers’ by means of initiation ceremonies. The teachings of the Stoics spread the term even further. The use of ‘brother’ in urban contexts for a brother in office or a fraternity brother goes back a long way. Hellenistic urban cultures may be regarded as the social foil for this phenomenon, which, thanks to Christianity, continued to live and have an effect on medieval European societies….”

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what is a tribe?

now that tribes are all popular and trendy again, i feel it would be good to clarify exactly what a tribe is. everybody’s throwing the word around a lot (including yours truly), and i’m not sure that we’re all using the word in the same way. in fact, i’m not sure that everybody’s using the word in the same way consistently (i have a bad feeling i’ve been guilty of this).

so, what is a tribe?

well, first of all, as a very wise commenter once said:

“At one level it’s easier to talk in terms of clans, tribes and nations but at another level it maybe makes more sense to see it as a ten point scale where 1 is clan, 10 is nation and 2-8 are gradually increasing tribal size.”

exactly! what we’re looking at here is the range of sizes of the extended family, starting from — i’d say — the nuclear family on up to a race (a very extended family) — and really all the way up to the species level (the human race).

i’d say the scale looks something like this:

individual >> nuclear family >> extended family >> band or sub-clan >> clan or lineage >> tribe or chiefdom >> nation or ethny >> race >> human race ( >> primates >> mammals >> eukarya >> life on earth)

what did i miss? prolly something a LOT.

anyway, so a tribal society is: “organized largely on the basis of kinship, especially corporate descent groups (see clan and kinship).”

gaddafi defines a tribe as such, btw — and you think he oughta know! [pg. 299]: “A tribe is a family which has grown as a result of procreation. It follows that a tribe is a big family….”

so, there you go!

the thing that i think is confusing is that tribes are different in character because they are based on different kinship or mating systems. tribes are, by definition, endogamous in their mating patterns, but they have different ways of going about arranging marriage/other mating.

for example, on the one hand you’ve got the slightly crazed, patrilineal tribes of the arabs that are dominated by the men-folk and that seem to be at war with one another. all. the. time. they are the way they are (i think) because of their mating patterns (father’s brother’s daughter marriage). their behaviors and institutions and ideologies are quite different from matrilineal tribes like, say, the iroquois. these differences are, i think, due in part to the mating patterns and that is how tribes need to be evaluated.

btw, roman tribes? not real tribes. athenian (attican) tribes? not real tribes. (the founding latin and greek tribes of rome and athens were actual tribes; these later ones were not.)

previously: whatever happened to european tribes?

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i’ve been trying to get my head around the different types of kinship terminologies that people around the world use. i remember from anthro 101 that anthropologists seem to be particularly obsessed with kinship terminologies, but at the time i couldn’t figure out why. i still can’t figure out why, actually, ’cause from what i can tell, most anthropologists don’t seem to be bothered by actual genetic relationships or how related different individuals within a society are to one another and how marriage patterns can affect that. maybe i’m doing anthropologists a disservice — do let me know if i’m wrong about this — but i don’t think i am.

anyway, for instance — let’s take the hawaiian kinship system first. it’s one of the easiest to remember: everyone of your own generation is called ‘brother’ or ‘sister’ (in hawaiian, of course), and everyone of your parents’ generation is called ‘father’ or ‘mother.’ cool, huh?

but i can’t find anyone anywhere explaining why the hawaiians (and some other malayo-polynesians) should use this system. oh, sure, there’s lots of talk about communal living and how, traditionally, kids were raised by groups of adults … but really … that’s the best you got?

how about this: traditionally, a certain portion (dunno how much) of hawaiian marriages were group marriages. (kinky, huh?) groups of brothers would share their wives in common; or groups of sisters would share their husbands. it might even be that it was a group of brothers PLUS a group of sisters.

soooo … if we envision this group as everyone in a small village or hamlet, then you may as well call all the adults mom and dad ’cause you can’t be sure which ones really are your mom and dad!

well, actually, it’s usually pretty obvious who your mom is … but it might be very hard to tell who your dad is if your mom has been sleeping around (not YOUR mom, of course. she would never do that!). and if she’s been sleeping around with a bunch of brothers, it might be hard to pick out which one you look like (and, therefore, which one is prolly your dad) ’cause the brothers prolly all look kinda alike.

and as for everyone in your generation — well, any number of them might actually be your half- or full- brothers and sisters, so you may as well just call them all “brother” or “sister.”

(in reality, a lot of the adult “brothers” and “sisters” — i.e. the dads and the moms — might be cousins not siblings, or not just siblings, so then all the kids are half brothers and sisters and|or cousins. or something like that. i dunno. it’s very complicated.)

here, from westermarck (yes, the incest guy) [pgs. 239-40]:

“We now come to another type of group-unions, where a group of brothers are represented as married or having access to a group of sisters; and since these groups are said to consist of brothers and sisters in the classificatory sense, they would be of considerable size.

“The classical instance of this sort of group-unions is the punalua system of the Sandwich Islanders [Hawaiians]. Judge Lorin Andrews wrote in 1860 to Morgan:— “The relationship of punalua is rather amphibious. It arose from the fact that two or more brothers with their wives, or two or more sisters with their husbands, were inclined to possess each other in common; but the modern use of the word is that of dear friend or intimate companion.” The Rev. A. Bishop, who sent Morgan a schedule of the Hawaian system of relationship terms, observed that the “confusion of relationships” was “the result of the ancient custom among relatives of the living together of husbands and wives in common.” Dr. Bartlett wrote, “Husbands had many wives and wives many husbands, and exchanged with each other at pleasure.” Dr. Rivers remarks that side by side with the presence of individual marriage as a social institution there existed among the Sandwich Islanders much laxity, and also “a definite system of cicisbeism in which the paramours had a recognised status. Of these paramours those who would seem to have had the most definite status were certain relatives, viz. the brothers of the husband and the sisters of the wife. These formed a group within which all the males had marital rights over all the females”; and Dr. Rivers was told that even now, nearly a century after the general acceptance of Christianity, the rights of punalua “are still sometimes recognised, and give rise to cases which come before the law courts where they are treated as cases of adultery. In addition to these punalua who had a recognised status owing to their relationship to the married couple, there were often other paramours apparently chosen freely at the will of the husband and wife.”

westermarck expresses some doubts about the accuracy of the reports on the hawaiians, but he was also doubtful about reports on australian aboriginal systems of kinship and marriage and they turned out to be correct (i.e. that you couldn’t marry within your own moiety). it could very well be that the punalua system in hawaii was real, but westermarck had a hard time believing it to be true.

engels (yes, that engels!) wrote about another group of people who seem to have had the same kinship naming system as the hawaiians and a similar marriage practice:

“At the session of October 10 (Old Style; October 22, New Style) of the Anthropological Section of the Society of the Friends of Natural Science, N. A. Yanchuk read an interesting communication from Mr. Sternberg on the Gilyaks, a little-studied tribe on the island of Sakhalin, who are at the cultural level of savagery. The Gilyaks are acquainted neither with agriculture nor with pottery; they procure their food chiefly by hunting and fishing; they warm water in wooden vessels by throwing in heated stones, etc. Of particular interest are their institutions relating to the family and to the gens. The Gilyak addresses as father, not only his own natural father, but also all the brothers of his father; all the wives of these brothers, as well as all the sisters of his mother, he addresses as his mothers; the children of all these ‘fathers’ and ‘mothers’ he addresses as his brothers and sisters. This system of address also exists, as is well known, among the Iroquois and other Indian tribes of North America, as also among some tribes of India. But whereas in these cases it has long since ceased to correspond to the actual conditions, among the Gilyaks it serves to designate a state still valid today. To this day every Gilyak has the rights of a husband in regard to the wives of his brothers and to the sisters of his wife; at any rate, the exercise of these rights is not regarded as impermissible. These survivals of group marriage on the basis of the gens are reminiscent of the well-known punaluan marriage, which still existed in the Sandwich Islands in the first half of this century.

if these ethnographic accounts are correct, then i can’t see why anyone wouldn’t conclude that the reason for the hawaiian kinship naming system is due to the genetic relatedness between the members of the group. any of the male adults in the generation before you might be your father (so you might as well call them all “dad”), and any or all of the guys and gals in your own generation might be your half-, or even full-, brothers or sisters — not to mention that many of them are also your cousins (so you might as well call them all “brother” or “sister”.)

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