linkfest – 10/13/14

The Earliest Group Of Modern Humans To Branch Off Survived Until Just 2,300 Years Ago – h/t mr. robert ford!

Archaeologists unearth remains of oldest Norman ever found which ‘fills gap in our knowledge of pre-Neanderthal evolution’“On a bend of the river Seine near Rouen in Normandy, archaeologists have found the remains of the oldest Norman ever discovered. The three bones from the left arm of a pre-Neanderthal should shed fresh light on a little-known period. In particular, they could help scientists to understand the evolution of the squat, muscular hunters who died out 30,000 to 40,000 years ago, just after the first humans arrived in what is now Europe. The discovery of the bones at Tourville-la-Rivière, 14km south of Rouen, is exceptional because ‘this is a period with very few fossils’, according to Bruno Maureille, a palaeontologist at the National Centre for Scientific Research. He said the arm bones, dating from 200,000 years ago, in the Middle Pleistocene era, were ‘the only known example from northern Europe’.”

The first South Americans: Extreme living“After humans arrived in South America, they quickly spread into some of its most remote corners.”

How ancient DNA is rewriting human history“‘Human history is not one of stasis….’ The genetic record shows that for the past tens of thousands of years, mixed human ancestry is the rule and not the exception.” h/t hbd bibliography!

Treasure trove of ancient genomes helps recalibrate the human evolutionary clock

EmTech: Illumina Says 228,000 Human Genomes Will Be Sequenced This Year

Europe the birthplace of art? Cave art shows Indonesia has a claim“Using this method, the researchers determined that one of the hand stencils they sampled was made at least 39,900 years ago and that a painting of an animal known as a pig deer was at least 35,400 years old. In Europe, the oldest known cave painting was of a red disk found in a cave in El Castillo, Spain, that has a minimum age of 40,800 years. The earliest figurative painting, of a rhinoceros, was found in the Chauvet Cave in France; it goes back 38,827 years.”

Ancient Plague’s DNA Revived From A 1,500-Year-Old Tooth – justinian plague. – h/t debbie kennett!

New Genetic ‘Operating System’ Facilitated Evolution of ‘Bilateral’ Animals

Draft of paper about Amish“[T]he difference in mean AQ [‘amishness’] between young Amish men and their non-Amish neighbors is about 2.8 standard deviations. In the IQ world this would correspond to a group different of 42 points. In the stature world this would correspond to a height difference of about 8 inches.” – from henry harpending. see also Amish v. English from steve sailer.

Does evolutionary theory need a rethink? – no. – see also Evolution Ever Evolves from razib.

Widespread signals of convergent adaptation to high altitude in Asia and America

Evolutionary behavioral genetics“We describe the scientific enterprise at the intersection of evolutionary psychology and behavioral genetics — a field that could be termed Evolutionary Behavioral Genetics — and how modern genetic data is revolutionizing our ability to test questions in this field.”

coolest story! a MUST READ!: Finding Clues in Genes of ‘Exceptional Responders’“One study at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center tested a drug called everolimus that is approved for kidney and breast cancer. Researchers asked if it could treat bladder cancer. Forty-five patients received the drug. Two responded. ‘The verdict was, “O.K., I guess everolimus does not work in bladder cancer,” ‘ said Dr. David Solit, the principal investigator. But then there were those two patients — one, in particular. Her cancer had spread to her abdomen. She was expected to live less than a year, and there was no treatment for her. But with everolimus, her tumors disappeared. ‘I was at a clinical meeting, and everyone was saying this drug did not work,’ Dr. Solit said. ‘I said, “It worked for her.” ‘ The investigators found out why. Her cancer had a mutation in a gene that made it dependent on a protein, mTOR, for growth. Everolimus squelches the activity of mTOR. The woman is still taking everolimus, and her cancer has not recurred.”

Are adoption gains on the g factor? A meta-analysis“g loadings and adoption gains yield a correlation of −1.” – from te nijenhuis, jongeneel-grimen, and armstrong. – h/t erwin schmidt!

The high heritability of educational achievement reflects many genetically influenced traits, not just intelligence“Genetic research has shown that intelligence makes a major contribution to the heritability of educational achievement. However, we show that other broad domains of behavior such as personality and psychopathology also account for genetic influence on GCSE scores beyond that predicted by intelligence. Together with intelligence, these domains account for 75% of the heritability of GCSE scores. These results underline the importance of genetics in educational achievement and its correlates.” – (because there’s more to hbd than just iq!)

Psychology in the 21st Century“Highly recommended: slides from a recent talk [‘The Genetic Architectures of Psychological Traits’] by James Lee.”

Replicability and Robustness of Genome-Wide-Association Studies for Behavioral Traits“Our results show that large and therefore well-powered genome-wide-association studies can identify replicable genetic associations with behavioral traits.”

Intelligence Is Critical to the Future of Humankind“A conversation with Douglas Detterman, editor of the journal Intelligence” – h/t holtz!

Crime, income, educational attainment and employment among immigrant groups in Norway and Finland – new paper from emil kirkegaard.

Is there no population genetic ‘support’ for a racial hereditarian hypothesis? – h/t jayman! who tweeted: “Racial admixture studies across the Americas all find relationship between ancestry & educational attain. as expected.”

Heavier babies do better in school“A study of children in Florida found that those who were heavier at birth scored higher on math and reading tests in the third to eighth grades.”

Practice Does Not Make Perfect“We are not all created equal where our genes and abilities are concerned.”

another MUST READ, this one from steve sailer: The Bell Curve 20 years later: A New Caste Society. – see also: ‘The Bell Curve’ Turns 20 from robert verbruggen.

Race, Income, and Test Scores – also from robert verbruggen.

The role of lactase persistence in precolonial development“It is shown through a number of specifications that country-level variation in the frequency of lactase persistence is positively and significantly related to population density in 1,500 CE; specifically, a one standard deviation increase in the frequency of lactase persistent individuals (roughly 24 percentage points) is associated with roughly a 40 % increase in precolonial population density.”

Common variants and the biological and genomic architecture of human height“The latest from the GIANT collaboration. They are also estimating ~ 10k causal variants in total, with 697 now identified at genome-wide significance…. With ~1k variants to work with, we can expect progress on the question of whether the ~1 SD group difference in height between north and south europeans is due to selection. Uniformly higher SNP frequencies in the north for variants that slightly increase height would be strong evidence of selection.” – original research paper: Defining the role of common variation in the genomic and biological architecture of adult human height

Big Chickens“More evidence that common genetic variants can produce many standard deviations of change in average phenotype.”

The Giant Mutations in the Human Genome“It turns out that there is a class of giant DNA mutations that share features of developmental disorders: They are surprisingly common, frustratingly diverse, and hard to categorize. Researchers are now discovering that these mutations play a big role in developmental delay disorders. The baffling symptoms are a consequence of the underlying genetic turmoil…. These large mutations are called ‘copy number variants’ or CNVs, and they add or subtract copies of genes.”

Genetic and nonshared environmental factors predict handgun ownership in early adulthood“Analyses revealed a stronger concordance for gun ownership among identical twins as compared to fraternal twins and univariate ACE model results indicated genetic (57%) and nonshared environmental (43%) factors explained the variance in handgun ownership.” – h/t amir sarislan!

Different tastes for different individuals – h/t jayman! who tweeted: “Genetic evidence of recent evolutionary differentiation in taste response across the world.”

From Kale To Pale Ale, A Love Of Bitter May Be In Your Genes

Here’s why you’re bouncing off the walls: the genetics of coffee consumption“Coffee consumption has now been linked to eight genetic variants.”

Do Political Attitudes and Religiosity Share a Genetic Path? – h/t avi tuschman!

Unpacking “evil”: Claiming the core of the Dark Triad

The slow and fast life histories of early birds and night owls: Their future- or present-orientation accounts for their sexually monogamous or promiscuous tendencies – uh oh. i’m a night owl!

Later school start time ‘may boost GCSE results’“Thousands of teenagers are to get an extra hour in bed in a trial to see whether later school start times can boost GCSE results. University of Oxford researchers say teenagers start functioning properly two hours later than older adults…. Prof Russell Foster, director of sleep and circadian neuroscience at Oxford University, said that getting a teenager to start their day at 07:00 is like an adult starting theirs at 05:00.”

How Iceland’s Genealogy Obsession Leads to Scientific Breakthroughs

Infidelity and kin selection: Does cheating seem as bad when it’s “all in the family”?“[C]ontrary to predictions generated by kin selection theory, participants tended to report that they would feel worse if their partners had sex with their relatives. We propose several explanations for the current findings and discuss their implications for kin selection theory.” – h/t neuroskeptic!

Anthropologists find that even among egalitarian forager-farmers, social status can impact health and happiness

Africa is on time“Using survey data on African income distributions and national accounts GDP, we estimate income distributions, poverty rates, and inequality indices for African countries for the period 1990–2011. We show that: (1) African poverty is falling rapidly…. All classes of countries, including those with disadvantageous geography and history, experience reductions in poverty. In particular, poverty fell for both landlocked as well as coastal countries; for mineral-rich as well as mineral-poor countries; for countries with favorable or with unfavorable agriculture; for countries regardless of colonial origin; and for countries with below- or above-median slave exports per capita during the African slave trade.” – h/t mugwump!

Ethnic Divisions and Production in Firms“A body of literature suggests that ethnic heterogeneity limits economic growth. This paper provides microeconometric evidence on the direct effect of ethnic divisions on productivity. In team production at a plant in Kenya, an upstream worker supplies and distributes flowers to two downstream workers who assemble them into bunches. The plant uses an essentially random rotation process to assign workers to positions, leading to three types of teams: (a) ethnically homogeneous teams, and teams in which (b) one or (c) both downstream workers belong to a tribe in rivalry with the upstream worker’s tribe. I find strong evidence that upstream workers undersupply non-coethnic downstream workers (vertical discrimination) and shift flowers from non-coethnic to coethnic downstream workers (horizontal discrimination), at the cost of lower own pay and total output.” – spite! it’s so funny. – h/t ben southwood!

Statistics in educational research – on statistical significance and p-values from andrew sabisky.

Social Network Analysis Shows Direct Evidence for Social Transmission of Tool Use in Wild Chimpanzees – h/t razib!

Reparations for Slavery? – from those who can see.

Researchers Have Identified The Origin Of The HIV/AIDS Pandemic

The Human Genome Is In Stalemate in the War Against Itself

Winter is coming: do you really need a flu jab? – from tom chivers who tweeted: “On the flu jab, and the evidence, and lack of evidence, thereof.”

(Re)Becoming Human“As the sun set over Lake Eyasi in Tanzania, nearly thirty minutes had passed since I had inserted a turkey baster into my bum and injected the feces of a Hadza man – a member of one of the last remaining hunter-gatherers tribes in the world – into the nether regions of my distal colon. I struggled to keep my legs in the air with my toes pointing towards what I thought was the faint outline of the Southern Cross rising in the evening sky. With my hands under my hips – and butt perched against a large rock for support – I peddled an imaginary upside down bicycle in the air to pass the time as I struggled to make sure my new gut ecosystem stayed put inside me. With my butt cheeks flexed and my, you know what puckered, I wondered if I had just made a terrible mistake….”

Strange Seeds on Distant Shores – a look at albion’s seed and american nations, etc., etc. – h/t jayman!

Remains of Alexander the Great’s Father Confirmed Found

Diversity: A Nature & Scientific American special issue – *facepalm*

Philosophy is a Bunch of Empty Ideas: Interview with Peter Unger – (^_^)

bonus: New particle is both matter and antimatter – phreaky physics!

bonus bonus: Physicist turns smartphones into pocket cosmic ray detectors – really cool physics!

bonus bonus bonus: A Kindle loaded with e-books is heavier than an empty one – so there!

bonus bonus bonus bonus: The Questioning of John Rykener, A Male Cross-Dressing Prostitute, 1395 (in london) – shocking!

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: Around the world in 400,000 years: Journey of the red fox“[T]his new research shows that the red foxes of North America and Eurasia have been almost entirely reproductively isolated from one another for roughly 400,000 years. During this time, the North American red fox evolved into a new species distinct from its Old World ancestors…. The new genetic research further suggests that the first red foxes originated in the Middle East before beginning their journey of colonization across Eurasia to Siberia, across the Bering Strait and into North America, where they eventually founded the North American population.”

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: Cosmic Karma: Mosquitoes Have Flying, Blood-Sucking Parasite of Their Own

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: Kangaroos have three vaginas!

(note: comments do not require an email. and just to make your head asplode…. (^_^) )


homicide rates in various regions of thirteenth century england

in Better Angels, steven pinker drew rather heavily on the work of manuel eisner, an historian of crime (see here and here for more on eisner’s work). it was from eisner that pinker got much of the data for this chart showing the decline in violence (homicide) rates in europe over the course of the middle ages:

pinker - fig. 3.3

in turn, eisner and other historians of crime today give a lot of credit to a fellow named james buchanan given who seems to be (to have been?) something of a pioneer in the history of crime in medieval europe. i’ve seen his Society and Homicide in Thirteenth-Century England, which was published in 1977, frequently referred to by these crime historians.

anyway, what i’ve never seen anyone mention is that given compared the homicide rates for different regions of thirteenth century england!


yes, you read that right! we’ve got data — albeit kinda rough data — for homicide rates from various regions of england in the 1200s. and it’s not even my birthday!

here from Society and Homicide [pgs. 35 & 37-38 and pgs. 150-152. links added by me. note that i’ve renumbered given’s footnotes here since the same numbers were often repeated on consecutive pages — would be confusing in this quote then]:

“Obviously these rates are, at best, only approximations. As has been pointed out in Chapter 1, the population estimates on which they are based are vague. Despite their crudity, these estimated homicide rates are nevertheless interesting. If the population estimates made by the author are used as the basis of calculation, it is found that the homicide rate varied from a high of 64/100,000 per annum reported at the 1232 eyre of Warwick to a low of 4/100,000 per annum reported at the 1227 and 1248 eyres of Bristol. Of the rural areas, Warwick consistently had the highest homicide rates, with an overall rate of about 47/100,000 per annum for the 25 years covered by the three eyres. Norfolk had the lowest rate, 9/100,000 per annum for the 23 years covered by the eyres. If the estimates based on J. C. Russell’s figures are used as a basis for calculation, some difference appears. Although the highest homicide rate still remains that of the 1232 Warwick eyre, it is much reduced, being only 30/100,000 per annum. And the overall rate for Norfolk is found to have increased to 15/100,000 per annum. If we assume that the counties in question had the same population in the thirteenth century as they did in 1801, the homicide rates found are still high. The highest, however, is that for the 1276 eyre of Bedford, 18.9/100,000, and the lowest is 6.8/100,000 for the 1227 eyre of Kent.

“Because the population estimates upon the basis of which these homicides rates have been figured are very imprecise, homicide rates have been calculated on yet a fourth, and considerably different, basis. Instead of using population as a basis for estimating homicide rates, I have used the number of settlements within the country. Homicide rates have been calculated in terms of the number of homicides per twenty settlements per annum. For example, in the four years covered by the 1202 Bedford eyre there were 22 homicide reported. Since there were about 146 settlements in Bedfordshire, this means that for every twenty settlements in the county the figure was 0.8 for homicides commited every year. Similarly, in the eleven years covered by the 1268-69 Norfolk eyre, 399 homicides were reported. Since there were 698 settlements in Norfolk, this means that for every twenty settlements there were 1.1 killings every year. With calculations on this basis, the 1232 Warwick eyre and the 1276 Bedford eyres show the highest rates, of 1.6 homicides committed every year for every twenty settlements. The 1241 Oxford eyre now shows the lowest homicide rate, with only 0.5 in every twenty settlements each year….

“In this chapter an attempt will be made to sketch the different ways in which violence manifested itself in the various agrarian societies contained within the borders of the five counties whose eyre rolls have been analyzed for this study. These counties have been divided into eight regions: rural Bedfordshire, the plains of northern Oxfordshire,[1] and Felden Warwickshire,[2] all three common-field regions containing large nucleated villages practicing communal agriculture and characterized by the prevalence of impartible inheritance and large numbers of unfree peasants; the Chiltern Hills,[3] where settlements were more scattered and individual freedom more common; rural Kent, where virtually all the peasants were free, settlement scattered, partible inheritance practiced, and agrarian activities unregulated by the village community; rural Norfolk, where partible inheritance also prevailed and the peasants were also rather free of seigneurial control, but where settlement was predominantly in large, tightly knit villages that controlled the agrarian activities of their residents; and the woodland regions of the Weald of Kent[4] and the Forest of Arden,[5] where settlements were relatively recent and very scattered and the peasantry largely free from the control of lords….

Murder appears to have been far more frequent in the counties of Kent and Warwick than anywhere else (see Table 2, pg. 36). Warwick was clearly the most violent. Kent was probably the next most violent.[6] The shire with the lowest homicide rate was Norfolk, which had a rate of only about 9/100,000 per annum. Bedford and Oxford came between these two extremes.

[1] The hundreds of Bampton, Banbury, Bloxham, Bullingdon, Chadlington, Ploughley, and Wootton have been included in the Oxford plains.
[2] The hundred of Kineton has been included in Felden Warwickshire.
[3] The hundreds of Binfield, Dorchester, Ewelme, Langtree, Lewknor, Pirton, and Thame have been included in the Chiltern Hills.
[4] The hundreds of Blackburn, Barkely, Cranbrook, Marden, East Barnfield, Rolvenden, Tenterden, and Selbrittenden have been included in the Weald.
[5] The hundreds of Barlichway, Hemlingford, Knightlow, and the Liberty of Pathlow have been included in the Forest of Arden.
[6] Although Table 2 does not indicate that Kent had homicide rates too noticeably higher than those of Oxford and Bedford, it should be remembered that those homicides committed in the Cinque Ports of Kent were not recorded in the eyre rolls. These additional killings, if their numbers were known, would push the homicide rates for Kent higher than those indicated in the table.”

here is given’s table 2:

given - table 2

to sum up the averages according to his estimates, we’ve got:

(Bristol – 4/100,000)
Norfolk – 9/100,000
(London – 12/100,000)
Oxfordshire – 17/100,000
Bedfordshire – 22/100,000
Kent – 23/100,000
Warwickshire – 47/100,000

to put these figures into perspective, the homicide rate for bristol is approximately what you find in albania or burundi today; the rate for london is like the rate for nigeria or nicaragua today; the rate for bedfordshire like the democratic republic of congo or brazil today; and the rate for warwickshire is something like belize or ivory coast (which i can’t believe are worse than the drc…). as given says [pg. 40]:

“[M]urder was a frequent phenomenon in medieval England. As has been pointed out above, the number of homicides in every twenty settlements oscillated between a high of almost 1.6, reported at the 1276 Bedford eyre and the 1232 Warwickshire eyre, and a low of 0.5, reported at the 1241 Oxfodrd eyre. In other words, there was a good possibility that there would have been a homicide in every settlement in these counties once every twenty to forty years. Therefore, it is possible that every person in England in the thirteenth century, if he did not personally witness a murder, knew or knew of someone who had been killed.

here is a map that i’ve made indicating the distribution of these averages of the homicide rates across england:

given thinks that the rate for kent ought to be higher since he had no data for the cinque ports which were located there (see footnote 6 above). i’m glad that these towns weren’t included, because i don’t think they’d tell us much about the regular population of kent. established in part as military towns, you’d think that they’d have attracted a rather rough crowd, not all of them from kent. in other words, a good portion of them would’ve been a self-sorted group — from who knows where.

oxfordshire (17), bedfordshire (22), and kent (23) all seem to be in a similar range. these counties are all in the lowland zone of england, and oxfordshire and bedfordshire were both heavily manorialized (per given), so — according the theory — we would expect to find a lot of outbreeding in these regions. and while it did not have large numbers of manors but, rather, lots of freeholds, kent had had probably the earliest secular laws prohibiting cousin marriage in england (from the 690s), so we shouldn’t be surprised if inbreeding had been avoided there for a long time as well.

norfolk (9) had extraordinarily low homicide rates. that county did have some manors, but not loads of them. and i have been guessing that they were, in fact, slight inbreeders given the closeness of their extended families — i’ve been guessing that they were some of my inbetweeners. unfortunately, i have not had any data on their mating patterns! perhaps they were extreme outbreeders. perhaps not. definitely need to find out more about the people in norfolk (east anglia)! they will be a test case.

what excited me about my little map there is that the population of warwickshire — in england’s intermediate zone, almost in the highland zone — had such high homicide rates. highlanders are normally inbreeders (maybe) — and so the population in warwickshire should’ve been more inbred than the lowlanders down in oxfordshire, etc. — and they, therefore, should also be more violent (according to the theory). so i thought that these numbers, maybe, fit the theory pretty well.

now i’m not so sure. i think there might be an even more interesting explanation!

much of the data for warwickshire comes from the forest of arden, that “desert inaccessible under the shade of melancholy boughs.” the arden was heavily colonized during the medieval period starting in the eleventh century, although there are some indications that there had been a few earlier settlements by the anglo-saxons before the conquest (see A Study of Medieval Colonization in the Forest of Arden, Warwickshire). much of the eleventh century settlement of the forest of arden was done by independent individuals and their families establishing their own homesteads — the area was not, at least initially, structured along the lines of manorialism. quite the reverse [pg. 4]:

“The pattern of settlement in the Arden remained that of a forest, slowly cleared and settled by individuals or families rather than by communities. A traditional open-field system had never existed in the Arden: much of the arable land had always been enclosed, and where open fields were present, their pattern was highly irregular. Enclosure continued throughout the seventeenth century, usually undertaken by gentry in co-operation with yeomen and richer husbandmen. Medieval Arden had had more freeholders and lighter labour services than the south of the country….”

the question then is: who were these individuals who settled the forest? where did they come from? if they came from further west than, or even from the north of, the arden, you’d think they’d have emanated from more inbred groups — if they came from the lowlands to the south or east, more outbred groups. i don’t have an answer for you (although it might be in this article which i don’t have access to just now).

what i was thinking, though, was that these were clearly a self-sorted group of people — individualists — who were happy to strike out on their own to seek their fortune in the world. really, they sound a bit like the type of people who settled the american west! perhaps, just like the individuals who settled the west, this was a bit of a rough crowd, and therefore they were more prone to explosive types of violence. don’t know. just speculating. (~_^)

and/ooorrr…maybe many of them came from even further afield than just areas neighboring the arden. in reading through A Study of Medieval Colonization in the Forest of Arden, Warwickshire, i noticed that an awful lot of the names mentioned in the rolls and registers of the time from arden appear to be NORMAN names!: Herbert, son of Dolfin (sounds norman to me); Thomas de Hawkeshawe; Henry de Ladbroke (norman?); William de Bereford; Hugh de Benetford; the Archers (how much more norman could you get?!); Roger Gerin; Philip Duruvassal; William de Barnvile. do these names sound norman to you? because they do to me, although i could be wrong.

if many of the settlers of the arden were norman, maybe this explains the high homicide rate. remember what gregory clark had to say about the normans [The Son Also Rises – pgs. 254-257]:

“Norman surnames are also significantly overrepresented in English armies in the years 1369–1453, more than three hundred years (ten generations) after the Norman Conquest. This was the period of the Hundred Years’ War, the long struggle between the French and English crowns for control of the English-held territories in France. The evidence on the composition of armies comes from surviving muster rolls, which list soldiers engaged in English armies in France, Scotland, Wales, and elsewhere.

“What is surprising, however, is the heavy concentration of Norman-derived surnames at all ranks of the armed forces. Even among the lowest ranks of the army, the archers, Norman surnames still show up at three or four times the frequency predicted by their population share. Archers were skilled workers, with wages comparable to artisans, but did not rank particularly high on the social scale. The preponderance of Norman surnames among them thus does not stem from the relatively high social status of these names: to the contrary, this should have led to Norman surnames’ being underrepresented in these ranks. Instead it seems to suggest that even ten generations after the conquest, the descendants of the Norman conquerors still had a taste and facility for organized violence. This hypothesis is supported by the share of knights and esquires in these armies with Norman surnames. This was 3–11 percent, much greater than the share of Norman surnames found in the more pacific realm of Oxford and Cambridge at the same time.

This particular concentration of Norman surnames in the realm of violence is not contemplated in the general theory of social mobility advanced here and thus represents an unexplained anomaly.

well, that’s all i’ve got for you today — a bunch o’ speculations. hope you don’t mind! (~_^)

i shall endeavor to find out more about the east anglians. i also wish that there were more homicide data for other regions of medieval england — maybe there are! i shall have to keep an eye out for those, too.

previously: outbreeding, self-control and lethal violence and kinship, the state, and violence

(note: comments do not require an email. the forest of arden.)

sneak preview: violence, punishment, outbreeding, and swashbuckling pirates in medieval england

preview screen

this is just a preview of a post that i’m working on — one on which i unfortunately have not made much headway, mostly because there’s an awful lot out there available to read on the topic (which is a good thing!). i promise, though, that — whenever it does materialize — that post will be a rip-roaring tale of medieval action and adventure! a thrilling and suspense-filled bodice ripper dealing with the themes of passion and madness! good versus evil! violence and punishment! swashbuckling pirates and….

no, wait. hang on a second. that’s not right.

no. as i mentioned in the last post, i’ve been reading up on violence (homicide) and the death penalty in medieval england to see if there exists any evidence to support the perfectly sensible theory that the removal of violent individuals — and, most importantly, their “genes for violence” — from the population in medieval europe (in this case england) resulted in the permanent decline in violence in europe as noted by historians of crime, like manuel eisner, and described by pinker in Better Angels.

the decline in homicides across europe that began in the middle ages is summarized in this chart from Better Angels (note the logarithmic scale):

pinker - fig. 3.3

the reader’s digest version of what i’ve found out about the death penalty in medieval england so far is:

– over the course anglo-saxon period (which isn’t actually covered by the above chart), the death penalty did come to be more widely applied to cases of homicide, but for most of the period there weren’t really very many executions of killers. in fact, the nascent state (such as it was during this early period) was more concerned about applying the death penalty in cases of theft rather than murder or manslaughter. for most of this period, murder was still avenged by the deceased person’s kindred, either in the collection of wergild or via the good old blood feud. this did begin to change by the tenth and eleventh centuries as more laws that included the death penalty for killings were issued, but even in these later centuries the archaeological evidence suggests that few executions actually happened.

– more laws demanding the death penalty (or castration) for killings were issued and enforced during the anglo-norman and angevin periods, especially as the centralized state became stronger and began to exercise greater control throughout england. one funny thing, though — jury trials were more or less invented during this period (the jury was more of an investigative body, though, like a grand jury rather than twelve angry men passing judgement), and it turns out that the juries tended to be a bit reticent about applying the laws too harshly, so executions actually remained comparatively low during large parts of the norman period. i think you can see this in the trend line on pinker’s graph — homicides do decrease from about 1300 to 1500, but the decline is not super steep.

– the tudor period. as far as i can tell, criminals were executed right and left during the tudor period. the use of capital punishment really ramped up during the 1500s. regional (county-wide) figures from the period show that, depending on time and place, anywhere from 27-50% of felons were executed. and, as you can see on pinker’s chart, the decline in homicides begins to decline sharply after around 1600.

that’s all i’ve got so far, but i’m pretty convinced that the idea that violence declined so much and with such rapidity in the medieval period in england (and the rest of europe?) is at least partly related to the fact that violent individuals were simply removed from the population — and it must’ve been done generally early enough in their careers to stop them reproducing — or slow down their reproductive rates enough that the population was pacified.

don’t think this is the whole story, though. the argument of the population being pacified thanks to the application of the death penalty by the state — by “leviathan” — doesn’t really seem to work fully or for all parts of europe. here is eisner on the differences between what happened in northern medieval europe versus medieval italy [pgs. 127-129 – pdf]:

“Strangely one-sided in respect to the role of the state as an internally pacifying institution, Elias almost exclusively emphasizes the state’s coercive potential exercised through the subordination of other power holders and bureaucratic control. Echoing the old Hobbesian theme, the decline in interpersonal violence should thus develop out of increased state control. Although the long-term expansion of the state and the decline of lethal violence appear to correlate nicely on the surface, a closer look reveals several inconsistencies. Muchembled (1996), for example, points out that the decline of homicide rates in early modern Europe does not appear to correspond with the rise of the absolutist state. Rather, he argues, the example of the Low Countries shows that homicide rates declined in polities where centralized power structures never emerged and the political system much more resembled a loose association of largely independent units. Neither does intensified policing nor the harsh regime of public corporal punishment, both probably the most immediate manifestations of state power in any premodern society, seem to aid understanding of the trajectories into lower levels of homicide rates. Police forces in medieval and early modern Italian cities were surprisingly large — Schwerhoff (1991, p. 61) cites per capita figures of between 1:145 and 1:800 — but they did not effectively suppress everyday violence. Furthermore, no historian seems to believe that the popularity of the scaffold and the garrote among sixteenth- and seventeenth-century European rulers decisively reduced crime.

“Rather, the Italian case exemplifies a more general problem. For whatever the deficiencies of early modern Italian states may have been, they were certainly not characterized by a lesser overall level of state bureaucracy and judicial control than, for example, states in England or Sweden during the same period (see, e.g., Brackett 1992). England was not centralized in bureaucratic terms, and the physical means of coercion, in terms of armed forces, were slight (Sharpe 1996, p. 67). The mere rise of more bureaucratic and centralized state structures thus hardly seems to account for the increasingly divergent development of homicide rates in northern and southern Europe. Examining Rome, Blastenbrei (1995, p. 284) argues that the divergence may, rather, be related to the evolution of different models of the relationship between the state and civil society. While northern European societies were increasingly characterized by a gradually increasing legitimacy for the state as an overarching institution, the South was marked by a deep rupture between the population and the state authorities. In respect to state control, Roth emphasizes a similar point when examining the massive drop in homicide rates in New England from 1630 to 1800: ‘The sudden decline in homicide did not correlate with improved economic circumstances, stronger courts, or better policing. It did, however, correlate with the rise of intense feelings of Protestant and racial solidarity among the colonists, as two wars and a revolution united the formerly divided colonists against New England’s native in habitants, against the French, and against their own Catholic Monarch, James II’ (2001, p. 55).

Both Roth and Blastenbrei emphasize, from different angles, a sociological dimension whose importance for understanding the longterm decline in serious violence has not yet been systematically explored, namely, mutual trust and the legitimacy of the state as foundations for the rise of civil society. Both are, of course, clearly to be distinguished from the coercive potential of the state — strong states in terms of coercion can be illegitimate, while seemingly weak states may enjoy high legitimacy. And on the level of macro-transhistorical comparison, the decline of homicide rates appears to correspond more with integration based on trust than with control based on coercion.

yeah. and y’all know what i have to say about all that. (^_^) but i won’t bore you with repeating myself just now — i’ll let you go enjoy the easter holidays. stay tuned for more on this in the near future!

previously: outbreeding, self-control and lethal violence and kinship, the state, and violence and more on genetics and the historical decline of violence and

(note: comments do not require an email. sorry, not really any pirates. (~_^) )

random notes: 04/16/14

busy reading all about crime and punishment (i.e. the death penalty) in medieval england, so you don’t have to! (^_^) in the meantime, until i post about that, here are some random notes:

the law codes of ine king of wessex (688-726) are some of the earliest anglo-saxon law codes still surviving. they were issued ca. 694. ine took his christianity seriously and demanded that [pg. 27]:

“[A]ll children were to be baptised within 30 days of their birth, failing which their guardians had to pay a fine of 30 shillings. If a child died before baptism its guardian lost all he possessed….”

so there are some strong incentives for the populace to convert to christianity or remain christian once they’d done so.

æthelstan, king of the anglo-saxons and then the first king of the north english (924-939), also passed a bunch of laws including [pg. 32]:

“[T]he first social legislation in England, providing for the relief of the poor. If a king’s reeve failed to provide, from the rents of the royal demesne, for the poor in the manner prescribed he had to find 30 shillings to be distributed among the poor under the bishop’s supervision.”

nice of him! (^_^)

some examples of concerns about consanguinity issues in the late anglo-saxon period [pg. 226]:

“General concern about marriage and sexual relations within the kin is expressed throughout our period, for example, in the late ninth century in letters from Pope John VIII to Burgred, king of the Mercians, and to Æthelred, archbishop of Canterbury, and another from Fulk, archbishop of Reims, to King Alfred. In the 950s, according to the ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’, ‘Archbishop Oda separated King Eadwig and Ælfgifu because they were too closely related’. They may have shared a great-great-grandfather, King Æthelwulf of Wessex….”

so there you go.

and in anglo-norman england [pgs. 435-437]:

“As in the Anglo-Saxon period, a central issue was consanguinity. In the second half of the eleventh century and particularly under the influence of the reformer Peter Damian, the method of counting the prohibited degrees was established in its most extensive form. Instead of counting to see if there was a common ancestor within four generations, the counting was taken a further three generations back, to the seventh. This had the effect of extending the range of prohibited marriage partners to sixth cousins.[12] In England, the prohibition ‘to the seventh degree’ was decreed at ecclesiastical councils at London in 1074 x 1075, and at Westminster in 1102 and 1125: ‘between those related by blood or relatives by affinity [i.e. by marriage], up to the seventh generation, we prohibit marriages to be contracted. If indeed anyone shall have been thus joined together, let them be separated’. Reformers also emphasised other non-blood relationships, especially spiritual kinship. The potential for conflict with lay practice must have increased significantly, as it has been suggested that whilst the layity did not commonly contract marriages within four degrees, they did within five or six.[15]

“[12] It has been suggested that blood relationships alone might mean that the bride or groom had over 2,500 cousins of their own generation whom they were prohibited to marry; J.-L. Flandrin, Families in Former Times, trans. R. Southern (Cambridge, 1979), 24.

“[15] E.g. Green, Aristocracy, 348-9.”

2,500 cousins that you couldn’t marry. awkward that.

interestingly (at least to me!), from late anglo-saxon england [pg. 242 – link added by me]:

“A further important tie was that of spiritual kinship, created particularly at baptism, but also at the catechumenate and confirmation. It seems that in England, unlike the Continent, there was only one sponsor, of the same sex as the person undergoing the ceremony. This is one reason for the relatively limited emphasis in England on the need for the group of godparents and their godchild to avoid sexual relations or marriage within the group.[114]

“[114] J.H. Lynch, Christianizing Kinship: Ritual Sponsorship in Anglo-Saxon England. 1998.”

huh! who knew?

and, finally, just to remind everyone how barbaric the barbarians were [pg. 186]:

“The laws of Æthelstan mention drowning or throwing from a cliff for free women, stoning for male slaves, burning for female slaves:

“‘In the case of a male slave, sixty and twenty slaves shall go and stone him. And if any of them fails three times to hit him, he shall himself be scourged three times. When a slave guilty of theft has been put to death, each of those slaves shall give three pennies to his lord. In the case of a female slave who commits an act of theft anywhere except against her master or mistress, sixty and twenty female slaves shall go and bring three logs each and burn that one slave; and they shall pay as many pennies as males slaves would have to pay, or suffer scourging as has been stated above with references to male slaves.’

“However, the literary and archaeology evidence just cited suggests that hanging and beheading were the most common methods.”


(note: comments do not require an email. æthelstan – earliest surviving portrait of an english king.)

“are the dothraki ready for democracy?”

heh! (^_^) from ed west @breitbart london:

“The moral structures we have today, based around the idea of the freedom of the individual and the universal rights of all men, were developing in the Christian West throughout the later medieval period but would not truly flourish until the 18th century. Today in much of the world western ideas about the individual are still alien because people think in terms of the clan, which is why it is so hard to export liberal democracy to countries like Somalia or Afghanistan. Foreign policy experts could do worse than watch Thrones and ask themselves: are the Dothraki ready for democracy? What do you reckon…?

“The Left’s version of history is not just wrong, it’s boring, because it assumes that people are all good and all history is simply a path towards a glorious future utopia; it isn’t, and in reality lots of people are brutal and selfish – something George RR Martin captures much better than many historians or academics.”

read the whole thing!: Why One Episode Of Game Of Thrones Is Worth A Thousand History Lessons

see also: steve sailer’s Cousin Marriage Conundrum

previously: whatever happened to european tribes?

(note: comments do not require an email. where are my dragons?!)

warriors to courtiers?

in The Realm: The True history behind Game of Thrones ed west reminds us that medieval europeans were batsh*t crazy violent and that if you met one of them coming down the street, you would almost certainly want to cross over to the other side! [kindle locations: 563-615 – links added by me]:

“Drunkenness had always been a common feature of life in the Realm. As far back as the eighth century St Boniface, the Devonian who converted the Germans, complained that it was ‘a vice peculiar to the heathens and to our race, and that neither Franks, Gauls, Lombards, Romans nor Greeks indulge in’. Twelfth-century writer William of Malmesbury said of the English that ‘Drinking in parties was an universal practice, in which occupation they passed entire nights as well as days.’ In the early 13th century England went through one of its periodic booze epidemics, so that ‘the whole land was filled with drink and drinkers ’, and leading the way was the drunken King John, whose fondness for booze and lechery inadvertently gave the world its most important legal document – Magna Carta.

“By the end of the 13th century there were 354 drinking establishments in London…”

the population of london in 1340 was somewhere between 40,000-50,000 people, so that’s ca. one bar for every 140 persons!

“…and everyone drank heavily, although they did so among their own class – the wealthy drank in inns, the middle ranks in taverns, while at the bottom of the social ladder there were the alehouses, where violence was almost guaranteed. During this period court rolls, which began in the reign of the Lionheart (before 1189 in English law is literally ‘time immemorial’) are filled with accounts of drink-fuelled incidents, often involving ill-judged horseplay with axes, swords and farmyard animals….

“The worst drink-related incident occurred in 1212 when London Bridge burned down, with up to 3,000 charred or drowned bodies turning up on the banks of the river the following morning. The fire started in Southwark at a bring your own bottle party, or ‘Scot-Ale’ as they were called.

“John certainly led the way in the drinking stakes. He kept 180,000 gallons of wine at his personal disposal, a slight hint at alcoholism, and drank anything he could find. His drunken antics were famed, and no woman was safe.

“John also displayed signs of a violent temperament from an early age. As a boy he once lost his temper while playing chess, and smashed his opponent over the head with a heavy piece….

“John violated all the rules of war; after his victory over the King of France in 1202, he kept his prisoners ‘so vilely and in such evil distress that it seemed shameful and ugly to all those who witnessed this cruelty’. He massacred a garrison of his own men in Normandy, because he’d switched sides without telling them. Perhaps worst of all was the sexual depredations he committed against females of all ages, including several noblemen’s daughters; and he almost certainly murdered his 16-year-old nephew Arthur in a drunken rage….

“There was also inheritance tax. Some noblemen were charged up to £7,000 to take over their father’s or brother’s land, and the king often kept barons in a state of permanent debt, and threatened arrest or worse. The king kidnapped the wife and son of one such baron, his loyal follower William de Briouze, who had failed to cough up £3,500. When Matilda de Briouze blurted out to one of John’s men that they knew about his nephew’s murder, she and her son were taken prisoner and starved to death; their corpses were found huddled together, with the boy bearing tooth-marks on his body from where his mother had tried to eat him.”

aaaaand THAT gave me a nightmare! (or maybe it was the leftover pasta i ate just before going to bed. (~_^) ) somebody please tell me that matilda (maud) tried to eat her son after he was already dead. =/

that was all in the 1200s. what about later in the 1400 and 1500s? [kindle locations: 1171-1242]:

Elizabeth of York had already endured an unsettled upbringing. When she was three, her father was forced into exile, and his cousin killed her grandfather. Later one uncle murdered another and probably her brothers too. In 1475 she was betrothed to the dauphin of France and her training as a princess would have began; however that match was broken, and she was now free, or as it could be interpreted, vulnerable….

“Henry Tudor died in 1509, and within days his heir Henry VIII had two of his father’s moneylenders tried and executed in a show trial. It was a sign of things to come. As well as thousands of common people, the king had numerous aristocrats executed, most of them close relations with outside claims to the throne. Edmund, Earl of Suffolk, the White Rose, had been handed over to Henry VII in 1506, who had made a solemn pledge not to execute him. He kept that pledge, and instructed his son to kill him when he became king; this the youngster did. Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, who was descended from Edward III on both sides of his family, was tried for treason and executed by Henry VIII merely for ordering a new coat of arms with the royal insignia inserted. His father the Duke of Norfolk was already in the Tower of London awaiting execution, and would be saved only by the king’s death….

“Henry famously went on to have six wives in total, having executed Anne for adultery, and divorced Anne of Cleves, the sister of the Duke of Cleves, a powerful German state on the Rhineland. Apart from political reasons, Henry had fallen in love with her portrait, drawn by renowned German artist Hans Holbein. Unfortunately Holbein, the finest artist in the land, was not in the habit of upsetting his clients, and Anne was in reality rather plain, so much so that Henry called her the ‘Flanders Mare’. She also had bad breath and body odour, and the king confessed to a friend: ‘I had neither the will nor courage to proceed further.’ The marriage was never consummated, and Anne agreed to a divorce; strangely, they stayed good friends….

“The king remarried within a month, to 20-year-old Katherine Howard, who really did commit adultery; she was executed alongside her lover Thomas Culpeper, and just to make sure that his honour remained intact, Henry executed two previous lovers of Katherine, despite there being no suggestion of anything occurring since: one was her old music teacher and the other her cousin. And for good measure he had Howard’s lady-in-waiting executed just for knowing about the affair.

“Of his six wives, he is said to have only truly loved number three, Jane Seymour, who had given him a son, Edward, who succeeded his father in 1547. The boy king, just nine, was a fanatical Protestant and at 12 he had called the Pope the Antichrist in a tract. He once ripped apart a live falcon in a rage, and when he was 11 he had his own uncle, Thomas Seymour, executed.”

et cetera, et cetera. you get the idea. still pretty violent later in the medieval period. and these were the upper classes!

which got me to wondering, if the nonviolent english today really are descended, a la greg clark’s theory, from the upper classes of the past — well, how on earth, then, were all these violent traits knocked out of the population when the upper classes were the batsh*t crazy way that they were?

one really good theory for why violence declined markedly in europe beginning in the middle ages (and it has) is that the state simply removed from the population via execution the most violent members of society. took them right out of the gene pool and largely stopped them from reproducing. henry harpending has shown that, theoretically, this should’ve been possible in the time given (the ca. 800 years from the 1200s to the 2000s) if enough violent individuals were executed early enough in their criminal careers so that they wouldn’t have reproduced much or at all.

but were violent members of the aristocracy regularly executed? they were “the state,” weren’t they? were death penalty laws applied equally to that class? maybe. i really don’t know. but if not, wouldn’t their descendents just continually replenish the lower classes with individuals with violent traits? how did the upper classes become less violent?

in Better Angels, steven pinker references norbert eliasThe Civilizing Process on this [kindle locations: 1839-1847]:

“Once Leviathan was in charge, the rules of the game changed. A man’s ticket to fortune was no longer being the baddest knight in the area but making a pilgrimage to the king’s court and currying favor with him and his entourage. The court, basically a government bureaucracy, had no use for hotheads and loose cannons, but sought responsible custodians to run its provinces. The nobles had to change their marketing. They had to cultivate their manners, so as not to offend the king’s minions, and their empathy, to understand what they wanted. The manners appropriate for the court came to be called ‘courtly’ manners or ‘courtesy.’ The etiquette guides, with their advice on where to place one’s nasal mucus, originated as manuals for how to behave in the king’s court. Elias traces the centuries-long sequence in which courtesy percolated down from aristocrats dealing with the court to the elite bourgeoisie dealing with the aristocrats, and from them to the rest of the middle class. He summed up his theory, which linked the centralization of state power to a psychological change in the populace, with a slogan: Warriors to courtiers.

so, the idea, maybe, is that over time going forward through the middle ages it was the less violent aristocrats who became more successful at court and, therefore, more successful reproductively (and some of their kids filtered down into the lower classes)? dunno. haven’t read The Civilizing Process (now on The List). would be nice to have some numbers. there’s a ph.d. thesis here for some brave student. (~_^)

what would need to be worked out, too, imho, is whether or not the english artistocracy in, say, the 1400-1500s was less violent than the aristocracy of the 1200-1300s (and so on and so forth), because violence had already declined from 1300 to 1500. and, of course, it kept on declining. from pinker’s Better Angels:

pinker - fig. 3.3

that’s all i’ve got for ya today! i definitely recommend reading west’s The Realm! it’s a kindle single, so it won’t take you ages. just don’t read it before going to bed! (~_^)

oh, and wrap up…winter is coming!

previously: “violence around the world” and kinship, the state, and violence

(note: comments do not require an email. where are my dragons?!)

some examples of hajnal mating patterns outside the hajnal line

in jack goody’s The Development of the Family and Marriage in Europe, i came across two examples of hajnal mating patterns (i.e. comparatively high rates of late- and/or never-marriage) which occurred historically outside the hajnal line [pgs. 8-9]:

“The notion of the uniqueness of a late marriage for women and of frequent celibacy for both sexes may require some modification in view of the evidence from twentieth-century Tibet and from Roman Egypt, even if this is less substantial than one would like. In Egypt Hopkins writes of a ten-year post-pubertal delay for women (1980: 333) while in a survey this century among the Khams of eastern Tibet, there were numerous unmarried women and nearly 40 per cent of households had no married couple (Carrasco 1959: 69).”

goody suggests that these examples might (might) refute some researchers’ suggestions that the late-/no-marriage pattern of western europe somehow explains western europe and capitalism and all that, although goody acknowledges that further evidence would, of course, be needed [pg. 9]:

“[I]t [these examples from tibet and roman egypt] would tend to reduce the claims that this demographic regime is linked by a causal nexus with the rise of the West, that is, of Western Europe.

“While Hajnal suggested that these patterns emerged in the late sixteenth century and were possibly to be linked with the development of capitalism and Protestantism, other writers have seen these same features as present in a yet earlier period, but characterising the north-west rather than the whole of Western Europe.1 Some take the view that England was unique in these and other important respects, and Macfarlane has recently seen this singularity as including the presence of a strongly ‘individualistic’ streak, which he tentatively derives from its roots in the German woods (1978: 206) [i partly disagree w/the german woods part-h.chick]. Those who find these features present before the sixteenth century see them as predisposing factors in the rise of capitalism.”

and footnote 1:

“Hajnal himself thought that medieval villagers did not follow a ‘European marriage pattern’; Razi has given support to this idea, finding that in the pre-plague period in the village of Halesowen in the West Midlands of England, marriages took place between the ages of 18 and 22 (1980: 63; also Dyer 1980: 234); however the basis of the calculations has been criticised by Smith (1979: 112), who, like Macfarlane, leans towards the view that the late marriage of women is early and English. See also Smith’s valuable comments (1981) on Herlihy and Klapisch-Zuber (1978).”

i don’t want to get into a discussion about the marriage patterns in medieval halesowen or the ones that dyer discusses in worcester right now, but i do want to point out that both of these places are located in the west midlands and, so, are quite possibly on the edge of the core area of outbreeding/manorialism in europe/england and perhaps, therefore, hajnal’s late marriage arrived in these areas much later. dunno. i’ll come back to this some other time.

back to the tibetan and roman egyptian examples of hajnal mating patterns…

there are two reasons — well, one set of unanswered questions and one known reason — that neither of these examples is comparable to what happened in northwest europe:

1) we don’t have any idea for how long late-/never-marriage was present in either tibet or roman egypt. for tibet we have only a twentieth century survey revealing late-/never-marriage (close to 40% of kham households in eastern tibet had no married couple at all in 1949 – pg. 145) — for roman egypt we have some info about late-marriage (ten year post-pubertal for women – pg. 8), but i don’t know for how long (don’t have access to the paper). but since we’re talking about evolutionary processes, we do need some amount of time for anything to happen. in northwest europe, late-/never-marriage is at least a four hundred year old practice (altho, imho, it’s the coterminous outbreeding that’s really the key here, not the late-marriage — not if you want to explain the rise of capitalism and such things). if, for instance, late-/never-marriage was new to tibet in the twentieth century, well — that’s not going to make a whole lot of difference yet. also, wrt the roman egyptian example, the late-marriage probably only applied to a small subgroup of that society — see point 2 for more on this.

2) both of these societies — tibet and roman egypt — had, or had up until fairly recently, practiced close marriage. the roman egyptians — who, btw, were actually greeks in roman egypt — married, as everyone has heard, their siblings. (but contrary to what you might have heard, brother-sister marriage was not ever common in pharaonic or roman egypt. yes, the pharaohs practiced sibling marriage but probably not the general populace, and the historic records we have for sibling marriage in roman egypt are accounts of greeks who had settled in the kingdom who, for various reasons, mostly to do with maintaining their class status, did not want to marry in with the locals. i keep meaning to do a post on this, and i just haven’t gotten around to it yet.) wrt the kham people in tibet, i don’t know about them specifically, but in general it’s my understanding that tibetan peoples today generally avoid marriage between paternal relatives out to the seventh generation and also avoid marriage between maternal relatives out to the third generation. however, per ippolito desideri, first cousin maternal cousin marriage was common in tibet as recently as the early 1700s [pg. 192], which would fit with the general pattern of marriage in east asia (i.e. with maternal cousins, usually mother’s brother’s daughter marriage). the question is, when did the tibetans abandon this first cousin marriage? it’s sometime within the last three hundred years anyway. (btw, tibetan groups in india still regularly practice maternal first cousin marriage.)

[edit 03/26: but see slng.uls’ comment below and my response to it. thanks, slng.uls!]

so, while these are two interesting examples of hajnal mating patterns occurring outside the hajnal line, they’re really not comparable to what happened in northwest europe. the case in roman egypt really isn’t comparable since there we’re talking about a small subgroup of the population — their mating patterns would hardly have affected the larger society. and in the case of tibet, we have pretty recent cousin marriage — as recent as what probably happened in peripheral places in europe like ireland — which is to be found outside the hajnal line.

previously: big summary post on the hajnal line

(note: comments do not require an email. ippolito desideri.)

dealing with cuckoldry in thirteenth century england

if you discovered your friend’s wife in bed with another man in thirteenth century england, you’d tell your friend, right? [edit: and/or conclude that one or more of you must be a time lord(s)!] how to tell him though? hmmmm. email? text? nooooo. send him a letter! yeah, send him a letter.

it would’ve been an awkward sorta letter to write, though, but you know what? there was a form letter for the occasion! i know! who knew that they even had form letters in the 1200s?! but they did! and they were kept in collections called formularies, some of which are still hanging around in archives like at the british museum.

here from Lost Letters of Medieval Life: English Society, 1200-1250 [pg. 222 – link added by me]:

“A Man Warns His Friend that He Has Seen the Latter’s Wife Naked in Bed with Another Man, and Sends Her Girdle [no, not one of these, one of these – h.chick] as Evidence

“F. tells G. that he has seen another man in bed with G.’s wife

“To his beloved friend A., B. sends greetings. Except that I believed it would offend you, I would reveal something that I lately saw. But because it is wicked to conceal wickedness, I prefer to disclose [it] rather than to have the odium of the heavenly realm. For I saw your wife in R.’s bed, the two of them alone and naked together. And so that she cannot deny it, I took her girdle [i.e., belt] as a token, which I send to you, and the sight of it should serve you as evidence of this misdeed. You should see to it that she is punished, together with him. Farewell.”

so there you go.

the editors of Lost Letters reckon that this form letter was composed a bit tongue-in-cheek, but still with a serious lesson in mind [links added by me]:

“At first sight, this would seem to be an odd candidate for inclusion in a collection of model letters, since the compiler is unlikely to have assumed that there was a need for a form letter in which one friend notified another of the adultery of the latter’s wife. It seems likely that this letter was included in the collection for somewhat different reasons. First, it may have been intended, at least in part, for the amusement of the business students and other male readers for whom the formulary was primarily designed. In a similar fashion John of Garlande included some smutty material in his ‘Dictionarius’, a contemporary treatise designed to teach Latin vocabulary but written primarily in the form of a walking tour of Paris. Second, and more seriously, this letter may have been included to remind readers that, if they ever made a serious accusation against another person in writing, they had better have solid evidence — such as the wife’s girdle, in this case — to support their allegation.”

in anglo-saxon england/the early medieval period, you could just kill a guy if you caught him sleeping with your wife, and everyone would be very understanding. by the 1200s, however, this course of action was no longer permitted [pg. 226 – link added by me]:

“Around 1215, Thomas of Chobham, a canon laywer and subdean of Salisbury, summarized the legal recourse available to an outraged husband, as he understood it: ‘It is worth noting that secular law once allowed a man to kill an adulterer found with his wife. This is no longer permitted, but only for him to cut off the man’s genitals so that he will never spawn another who will follow him in his vileness.‘”

so there was that possibility!

you had to keep your wife under control, though. if you didn’t, you couldn’t accuse her of adultery in the ecclesiastical courts or castrate anybody:

“[S]ince women were considered to be sexually voracious, and certain occupations, such as that of barmaid, exposed them to dangerous temptations, a husband who allowed his wife to work in a drinking-house was not permitted to press charges of adultery against her if she succumbed.



“Canon lawyers also ruled that a wife who had been raped could not be charged with adultery….”

fair enough.

(note: comments do not require an email. master john of garlande!)