Archives for posts with tag: medieval europe

if you haven’t been following along (or even if you have), you may not know that one of the little mysteries here on the blog has been why did the franks abandon cousin marriage in the 800s? in the 700s, they’d still been marrying cousins, but [from here]:

“By the ninth century, a marriage in the third *generatio* [i.e. second cousins – h.chick] had become scandalous…. [T]here was no lack of ‘honest and God-fearing people’ willing to report on their neighbours, being quite able to identify illegitimate marriages when it suited them. Apparently the public scandal of incest could shake whole communities — which suggests that abhorrence of this crime was not merely a matter of the clergy and some pious aristocrats.”

well, i think i’ve discovered what happened — the establishment and promotion of parishes and parish churches in every town and village, thanks to pepin the short and charlemagne. from The Development of the Parochial System: From Charlamagne (768-814) to Urban II (1088-1099) [pgs. 3-4]:

“A modern French historian has pointed out that every ecclesiastical institution in the end seems to lead back to Charlemagne. This is particularly true of the parish church in the modern sense of the phrase. The reign of Charlemagne (768-814) saw the beginnings of a movement for the establishment of a church and priest in every village. Such a church…very soon became the church to which the inhabitants of the village looked for all the day to day administrations of the Christian religion. It was their parish church. The movement continued for the next three hundred years. By the reign of Uban II (1088-1099), the pope who first began to apply the reforming principles of Gregory VII (1073-1085) to parish churches, each diocese north of the Alps was well on the way to being organised on the basis of the parochial system in the generally accepted sense of the term, that is a system of pastoral care exercised through numerous small urban and rural units, each with its church, its endowment and its priest. In the northern half of Italy however the country areas of dioceses continued down to comparatively modern times to be organised round the country churches of the older type (such a church being called a *plebs* or *pieve*), each with a number of dependent chapels. The division into smaller units came later in the cities than in the country. Only in the eleventh century did city area begin to be broken into parises, one of the first being Worms, which in 1016 was divided up into four parishes by the great bishop and canonist, Burchard of Worms. Up till then cities were still organised as one unit as in Roman and Merovingian times; the pastoral work being carried on from the cathedral, assisted by other churches, usually collegiate, none of them responsible for a particular area in the city. With the movement for the establishment of the parochial system in the years between Charlemagne and Urban II, first on the continent, then in England, this paper is concerned….

At the time of the Council of Mainz (847) it has been caculated that in what now very roughly corresponds to the Federal Republic of Western Germany there were some three thousand five hundred churches.

This spectacular increase in the number of country churches witnessed to the christianisation of barbarian society. But it was encouraged by those sections of Charlemagne’s legislation, which emphasised the importance of every Christian having frequent opportunities for worship and for instruction in Christian conduct. A church and priest in every village was a necessity if the emperor’s ideal was to be realised….

“The building of churches was assisted by a new form of property which the church acquired in the eighth century, namely tithe. The idea of tithe was not new. Previous to the eighth century the faithful had frequently been exhorted to give a tenth of their income to the Church. But it was a voluntary gift and could be made to any church they chose. In a circular letter to the bishops in 765, Pepin the Short, the father of Charlemagne, made the payment of tithe obligatory throughout his dominions…. Every person had to pay a tenth of the produce of his land or of his profits in trade or commerce, at first it would seem to the bishop of the diocese. But very soon the payment was transferred to the church where the person heard mass and his children were baptised.”

with “frequent opportunities for worship and for instruction in Christian conduct,” the franks (carolingians) of the 800s could’ve been — were probably — very well-informed on the church’s policies on incest. enforcement by the church authorities may also have increased, although a church wedding was still not mandatory at this point in time (not until the 1200s, in fact).

btw, i can’t actually take any credit for discovering this info. it was more that i stumbled upon it. =P here i need to thank the derb for indirectly helping me out — he’s always recommending The Great Courses audio lecture series, and, following his recommendations, the d.h. and i have been listening to some of them. it was in the Early Middle Ages series that i learned about the establishment of parishes by pepin. so, thanks john! (^_^) (they ARE really good series, btw!)

previously: mating patterns of the medieval franks

(note: comments do not require an email. pepin le bref.)

oooooooohhhhhhhh! from Reimagining Europe: Kievan Rus’ in the Medieval World, 988-1146 [pgs. 58-60]:

“The medieval period pre-1215 was an especially interesting time in the history of consanguinity legislation because during this era the church stretched consanguinity to seven degrees, an increase from the four that was common in the late Roman world, and the degrees were calculated in a new manner. Instead of siblings being related in two degrees, as was held previously, the new method of calculation made siblings related in the first degree. This may at first appear to be a small change, but in fact it was enormous. The original method, and the one returned to after the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215, was to count connections between people; thus, for siblings, one degree up to the shared parent, and one degree down to the sibling, for a total of two degrees. For first cousins, a more likely target for marriage than siblngs, it was one degree up to your parent, another degree up to your grandparent, a degree down to your uncle/aunt, and a degree down to your cousins, resulting in a relationship of four degrees.

“The new method of calculating consanguinity was based on degrees to a common ancestor, which resulted in a one-degree relationship for siblings (a common ancestor is one generation back) and two degrees for a cousin (a common ancestor is two generations back). When this concept was applied to seven generations of ancestors, it expanded the pool of consanguineous relations to anyone with whom one shared a great-great-great-great-great-grandparent….

“The Orthodox Church, like the church in Rome, also maintained a policy against consanguineous marriages. Marriages were also forbidden in the seventh degree, but the Orthodox Church never changed its method of calculating degrees, which created a much smaller pool of consanguineous relations.”

oooooooohhhhhhhh! why didn’t they say so in the first place?! =P

so, what this means is, all those cousin marriage regulations out to the “seventh degree” which we hear about from eastern europe (re. orthodox populations)…they’re just referring to SECOND cousins, not SIXTH the way that western european experienced it for a couple hundred years in the medieval period (from about 1000 to 1215). that’s not to say that most medieval western europeans somehow managed to obey the bans out to sixth cousins, but just that there’s apparently never been the same extreme push against close kin marriage in eastern europe. interesting.
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from “Marriage Causes in Late Medieval Sweden: The Evidence of Bishop Hans Brask’s Register (1522-27)” in Regional Variations in Matrimonial Law and Custom in Europe, 1150-1600 [pg. 240], on consanguineous marriage in sweden in the sixteenth century:

“Considering the number and type of cases, the Swedish may have been somewhere in between the ‘incestuous’ late-medieval Netherlands, discussed by Vleeschouwers-Van Melkebeek, the carefree Poles described by Brozyna and the English and Parisians who, according to the of Helmholz and Donaghue, had internalized the rules of incest better and did avoid matrimony with relatives. Perhaps ordinary Swedish peasants in the see of Linköping had easier access to dispensations. Possibly the control of the impediment of consanguinity before the voluntary ecclesiastical solemnization also managed to unearth the ties of kinship between fiances. Moreover, the children’s later loss of inheritance rights may have been a risk some couples were unwilling to take if they were discovered to have known about the impediement prior to their marriage. Swedish synodal statues stressed that children born to couples whose marriage was later discovered to be incestuous would only be considered legitimate if their parents had solemnized *in facie ecclesiae* and the banns had been read without opposition.”

most of this picture fits what i’ve been saying: that (some of) the french and english were the earliest adopters of outbreeding in europe (i posted about donahue’s studies here), the scandinavians came to the party a bit later, and eastern europeans (the example in the excerpt above, the poles) much later. i don’t know who these “‘incestuous’ late-medieval” netherlanders were — i’ve been under the impression that the dutch (minus the frisians) are some of the long-term outbreeders along with the french and english. the source for this is: “Incestuous Marriages: Formal Rules and Social Practice in the Southern Burgundian Netherlands” by monique vleeschouwers-van melkebeek in Love, Marriage, and Family Ties in the Later Middle Ages, which is not available on google books at the moment. (dr*t!) what’s not clear to me is whether vleeschouwers-van melkebeek looked at netherlanders in general or just the aristocracy (which these studies often do). i shall have to find out!
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from The Jews of Eastern Europe, 1772-1881 [pg. 48]:

The spread of Hasidim stopped only when it reached the invisible border that separated German Jewry from Eastern European Jewry — the boundary between the western central part of the Ashkenazi diaspora and its eastern part. With the exception of one quasi-Hasidic community established in Frankfurt, the Hasidic *tzaddikim* did not succeed in gaining a foothold in Germany as the movement spread.”

previously: historic mating patterns of ashkenazi jews
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from Jews Against Zionism: The American Council for Judaism, 1942-1948 [pg. 23]:

“Antagonism between the established, well-to-do German Jews and the new, working-class East European immigrants was unavoidable. To the East Europeans, the German Jews, whom they called *Yahudim*, were not authentic Jews; their Reform Judaism was a sham. They seemed to lack a feeling of closeness to fellow Jews. The native German Jews, on the other hand, frightened by the ‘Russian invasion,’ tended to regard the new immigrants as primitive, ‘medieval,’ clannish, Asiatic, unrefined, and radical. German Jews even coined the word *kikes* for the Eastern Europeans.”
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from The Jews of Chicago: From Shtetl to Suburb [pgs. 95-96]:

“The German Jews…embarked on an extensive program of financing and running a number of educational, health, and social-service institutions, mostly in the Maxwell Street areas. These proved very helpful to the poorer Eastern European immigrants. Socially, the German Jews kept apart from the newer immigrants, living separately and maintaining their own clubs, synagogues, fraternal organizations, and community centers, at which the Eastern European Jews were not welcomed. Later, as the Eastern European Jews progressed, they built a parallel set of their own institutions, such as a hospital, old peoples’ homes, charities, and orphanages. Although the distinction between the two groups was gradually blurred, for decades the social distance between the groups remained great. The German Jews, for example,

“‘did not wish to have these Jews to close to them. These Russians were all right — of that they were quite certain — but, like the southern Negro, they had to keep their place. All sorts of philanthropic enterprises were undertaken in their behalf, but in the management of these enterprises the beneficiaries were given no voice. Charity balls by the debutantes of the German-Jewish elite in behalf of the wretched West Side Jews were held at the splendid clubs of the German Jews, which by this time had increased to four, and charitably inclined young Jewish men and ladies-bountiful spent their leisure hours in alleviating the hardships of the Jewish slum dwellers.

‘But the Russians did not take altogether willingly to the American ways of dispensing *zdoko* (charity). They were accustomed to assisting one another in the Old Country in much more informal style. The Jewish communities they had known in Russia were self-sufficient large families. These German Jews of the ‘societies’ asked all sorts of embarassing questions before they dispensed their financial and other aid. They made investigations and kept records. Most of all, they did not understand — they did not know — their own people; in fact, they were only halfway Jews; they did not even understand *mama loshon* (the mother-tongue), or Yiddish.'”

(note: comments do not require an email. judische auswanderer.)

i’ve hinted around a few times now that i think — going by some things that i’ve read — that the historic mating patterns of ashkenazi jews (i.e. whether or not they married close cousins and/or practiced uncle-niece marriage) were quite different between western vs. eastern ashkenazis. quoting myself:

“wrt ashkenazi jews: i *strongly* suspect (but Further Research is RequiredTM) that there are two mating pattern histories here — western vs. eastern ashkenazi jews. western ashkenazi jews have, i think, avoided close cousin marriage since the medieval period almost to the same degree as the rest of western europeans. eastern ashkenazi jews — the ones in poland/russia — did not. again, i’m not at all sure about this — this is just what i’ve gleaned from my readings so far. (i will be posting on this one of these days.)

“where western ashkenazi jews differ from the rest of the western european populace is that they were not squeezed through the manorialism meat grinder. in that regard, they must’ve experienced some different selection pressures during the medieval period.”

i first came across this idea — quite a while ago now — in my favorite book, Why Europe?, by medieval and family historian michael mitterauer. he says on pg. 72:

“We find it difficult to comprehend today just how preoccupied the era [the middle ages] was with the fear of incest — and not only in the various Christian churches but in Jewish circles as well.”

he references himself on that — “Christentum und Endogamie” in Historisch-anthropologische Familienforschung — but i haven’t read it yet. one of these days, i just might order it from amazon…and dig out my german-english dictionary.

mitterauer is supported in this by one kenneth r. stow in “The Jewish Family in the Rhineland in the High Middle Ages: Form and Function” [pgs. 1095-96]:

“Unlike Christians, Jews were free to marry cousins and nieces; in the Islamic East, first-cousin marriage among Jews was the norm.[38] In the Rhineland, however, such marriages were somewhat of an exception. This difference may be deduced from the universally accepted Communal Ordinance (*Taqqanah*) proposed by Jacob Tam, the most imposing Jewish authority of his day (d. 1171), on the return of the dowry should the bride die without issue during the first year of marriage. Fathers, the ordinance propounds, should not lose both their daughters and their wealth in one blow.[39] If most marriages had been between first cousins, the respective in-laws, who would also have been siblings, would normally have found ways of resolving issues of money among themselves without the need for legal sanctions. The Responsa (*consilia*) literature, too, legal questions and answers pertaining to actual litigations, supports this conclusion. Responsa may represent exceptions, but they are useful in terms of their specifics or when their decisions reflect precendent or common practices. Thus, in one case, an executor, who was (it should be stressed for its own importance) not a relative of the deceased, married his ward to *his* brother.[40] The brothers of the bride protested, not because she had been married to a non-relative but because they were concerned with the suitability of the match. Had marriage between cousins been the rule, it is doubtful that an executor, especially one who was not a relative, would have dared to violate it.[41]”

so, stow doesn’t have hard-and-fast data on marriage types here — he’s making a deduction — but i think it’s a good one. what i find particularly persuasive is the fact that the family type of these medieval rhineland jews was primarily nuclear (or stem). in other words, according to stow, just like the broader western european population, medieval rhineland jews did *not* have clans. and that seems to be the general pattern: the more outbreeding, the smaller the family size.

fast forward to the nineteenth century (yes, that is an unacceptably large gap), in alsace-lorraine, the consanguinity rate amongst jews was 2.3% (whether that was first and second cousins or just first cousins, i don’t know) [see this post]. that is a very low rate by any standards. in comparison, though, the consanguinity rates for protestants in the region was 0.2% and for catholics it was roughly 1%, so the jewish cousin marriage rate was higher.*

if we move slightly to the east to what i infer must’ve been (at the time) the province of hohenzollern, we have these figures from steven m. lowenstein [“Decline and Survival of Rural Jewish Communities” in In Search of Jewish Community: Jewish Identities in Germany and Austria 1918-1933, footnote 44 on pg. 241]:

“In Hohenzollern, there was an 11 percent rate of marriage to relatives (5 percent to first cousins) among Jewish couples who died before 1922; of those still alive in 1922, the rate had increased to 22 percent (16 percent to first cousins). These rates were several times as high as the rates for Christian marriages. See Wilhelm Reutlinger, ‘Uber die Haufligkeit der Verwandtenehen bei Juden in Hohenzollern und uber Untersuchungen bei Deszendenten aus judischen Verwandtenehene,’ Archiv fur Rassen- un Gesellschaftsbiologie 14 (1922): 301-303, quoted by Marion Kaplan The Making of the Jewish Middle Class: Women, Family, and Identity in Imperial Germany (New York, 1991), p. 273 note 206.”

so, higher cousin marriage rates in this region amongst the cohort closest to the alsace-lorraine group above — 5-11% versus 2.3% (remembering that that latter figure might be just first cousins). and much higher rates post-1922, the author argues because jews were leaving the german countryside during this time period, so potential marriage partners were becoming scarce. still, while a 16% first cousin marriage rate is high for northern europe, it’s not even close to the 30%+ first cousin marriage rates in sicily in the 1960s! and the earlier 5-11% rate may have been more “normal” — hard to tell — Further Research is RequiredTM.

if you thought all that was vague, the info for jews in eastern europe is even less clear. (>.<) it's basically just anecdotal evidence — a lot of people saying that cousin marriage was very common in eastern european ashkenazi communities. i wrote a whole post about it: jewish mating patterns in nineteenth century russia. this quote is from Jewish Marriage and Divorce in Imperial Russia [pgs. 25-27]:

Although data on consanguineous marriages in Russia are lacking, contemporaries claimed that they were ‘very common,’ largely because of the narrow circle of eligible partners for any given class of Jews. This geographic endogamy impelled one Jewish observer to write that ‘the expression “Kol Yisrael ahim” or “all Jews are brothers” is true in this sense, that Jews [who] belong to one strata of society and reside in one area, always find out that they are related when discussing their family backgrounds.’ The strategy of marrying relatives was particularly pronounced in small towns. It was due to concerns about family lineage, as well as to restrictions on geographic mobility (i.e., legal restrictions on residency, poor communications and transportation, and the high costs for travel).

“That observation indeed finds confirmation in the metrical records. These archival materials are unusually complete for Korostyshev, a small town in Kiev province with 2,657 Jewish residents in 1847. Unlike many Ukrainian towns where the metrical records were destroyed during World War II, Korostyshev preserved metrical books from the mid-nineteenth century to 1915, thus representing some of the most complete runs of Jewish metrical books in the entire Ukraine. Significantly, they reveal that most residents married locally — that is, to people from Korostyshev or, at most, from nearby villages and towns (Zhitomir, Berdichev, and Radomysl’). Still more striking were the marital bonds between small family networks — for example, the countless marriages among the Fuksmans, Gershengorens, Trakhtenbergs, and Ratners (all of whom lived in Korostyshev or nearby Zhitomir). Another network included the Vinikurs, Tsiponiuks, and Abrumovichs; this cluster overlapped with a group that included the Kagans, Umerskiis, and Peigers. And so on until, several decades later, many Korostyshev residents were distant or even close relatives. Devorah Baron’s description of small shtetl families was indeed perspicacious: ‘In our little town, families joined together by marriage ties often resembled well-fitted but separate sections of garment; all that was needed was the skillful hand that would join the seams.’”

in the late nineteenth century, russian-jewish leaders tried to do something about all this cousin marriage (these reformers were inspired by all the talk about the dangers of inbreeding generated by the darwins and galton, just as the japanese were) [pgs. 27-29]:

“In the late nineteenth century, Jewish reformers castigated this consanguinity as detrimental to family health. The developments in contemporary medicine (especially eugenics and clinical psychiatry) had a profound impace on public discourse; as physicians joined in, the debate on Jewish marriage became increasingly medicalized. ‘Owing to heredity,’ warned the ‘Evreiskii meditsinskii golos’ (The Jewish medical voice), ‘all physical defects appear in the offspring with particular force, since the definciencies of both parents are aggregated. Invoking Western science, Jewish physicians ascribed the increased rate of ‘nervous disorders,’ such as hysteria, epileptic seizures, imbecility, and insanity, among the Jewish in Russia to their pernicious inbreeding.

“Samuel Gruzenberg (1854-1909), who held a degree from the Medical-Surgical Academy in St. Petersburg, publicized a series of essays in an influential Jewish journal. Representing the views of the medical establishment, he warned parents that ‘nervous illness’ and hereditary diseases, such as blindness, deafness, and muteness, posed a threat not only to the immediate offspring but also to subsequent generations. Endogamous unions, he declared, also produced a large population with unhealthy ‘national physical features’ — namely, ‘a short [body], weak muscles, and especially … a high level of nervousness.’ Citing a study on army conscripts, he noted that nearly half of the Jewish recruits failed to meet the physical requirements and exhibited ‘extreme forms of the Jewish physical type.’

“It was no accident that Gruzenberg cited the Jewish recruit to demonstrate the evil of consanguineous marriages: the physiognomy of male offspring greatly concerned reformers. In contrast to the modern ideal of man, who displayed ‘virility, proportion, and self control,’ the asthenic Jewish conscript embodied all the traits of the effeminate Jew so despised in European society. Whereas Jewish society had long associated a pale, slender Jewish body with Torah scholarship and edelkayt (nobility), reformers now scorned this model as passive, cowardly, and feminine, a clear indication that the reforemers had embraced the new European construction of masculinity. The inbreeding affected not only the body but the mind: ‘Moral sickness and physical sickness were thought to be identical — the latter leaving an imprint on the body and face….’

however…

“[T]his public debate did not reduce the frequency of consanguineous marriages….”

so, from all of this medical hysteria, i am guessing that the historic cousin marriage rates among jews in eastern europe were much higher than those in the west — at least in the nineteenth century.
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sephardic jews have historically had much higher rates of consanguineous marriages than ashkenazi jews — up to 20% in some places according to joseph spitzer [pg. 160]. see also this post: jewish endogamy on mallorca. same with mizrahi jews — for example, the rate of consanguineous marriages among iranian jews in 1991 (first and second cousin plus uncle-niece marriages) was 25.4%.

it seems to me that jews — wherever they have lived (outside of judea/israel, i mean) — have generally copied the broader population’s mating patterns. in medieval western europe, they avoided close cousin marriage and, according to mitterauer, were very worried about incest in the same way that the rest of western europe was at the time. in eastern europe, though, they appear to have married their cousins with greater frequency, probably down through the centuries not unlike the rest of eastern europeans. in the nineteenth century, however, some eastern european jews began to be influenced by ideas on outbreeding coming from western europe. sephardic jews had high cousin marriage rates, just like southern europeans. and jews in north africa and the middle east have extremely high cousin marriage rates — same as the rest of the populations in those places. (for more on the histories of mating patterns in each of these regions, please see links to posts below ↓ in left-hand column under the “mating patterns in” series.)

long-term outbreeding (since the middle ages) of western ashkenazi jews would fit with the genetic evidence which indicates that ashkenazi jews are not inbred (see razib’s posts here and here). all the apparent historic cousin marriage of eastern ashkenazi jews would not fit with that. i’d like to see the genetic data (runs of homozygosity) for ashkenazis parsed out between eastern and western europe to see if any differences can be detected. my guess is that they should be there (there should be more roh in russian jews than in german jews), but i could be wrong.
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so, the reasons i think that western european jews must’ve avoided close cousin marriage over the long-term, whereas in contrast eastern european jews did not, are:

– the scanty historic data (i will dig around for more of that);
– the somewhat supportive genetic data;
– the circumstantial evidence suggesting that jews have tended to copy the mating practices of their host populations;
– and that, by the high middle ages, western european jews did not have clans but, rather, had nuclear (or stem) families.

as i mentioned in my self-quote at the start of this post, though, european jews did not experience whatever selection pressures were connected to the bipartite manorialism of medieval europe. one of the things that i think was selected for via the manor system was the late marriage practices (i.e. delayed gratification) of northwest “core” europeans. western ashkenazi jews, on the other hand, continued to marry very young right into the early modern period, perhaps because they were never manorialized.
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(yes, this is me gearing up to respond to professor kevin macdonald’s recent post On the HBD Chick Interview. i’ve got a couple of other “prep” posts i’d like to do first, though, before i get to my response. stay tuned! (^_^) )

previously: inbreeding in nineteenth century alsace-lorraine (including jews) and jewish mating patterns in nineteenth century russia
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*i also have some data for jewish cousin marriage rates in nineteenth century england, but shortly after writing that post, i decided that those data need to be disregarded. see this post for my reasons why.

(note: comments do not require an email. medieval german jews. and a duck!)

northern europeans began to think of — or at least write about — themselves as individuals beginning in the eleventh century a.d. [pgs. 158, 160, and 64-67 – bolding and links inserted by me]:

The discovery of the individual was one of the most important cultural [*ahem*] developments in the years between 1050 and 1200. It was not confined to any one group of thinkers. Its central features may be found in different circles: a concern with self-discovery; an interest in the relations between people, and in the role of the individual within society; an assessment of people by their inner intentions rather than by their external acts. These concerns were, moreover, conscious and deliberate. ‘Know yourself’ was one of the most frequently quoted injunctions. The phenomenon which we have been studying was found in some measure in every part of urbane and intelligent society.

“It remains to ask how much this movement contributed to the emergence of the distinctively Western view of the individual…. The continuous history of several art-forms and fields of study, which are particularly concerned with the individual, began at this time: auto-biography, psychology, the personal portrait, and satire were among them….

“The years between 1050 and 1200 must be seen…as a turning-point in the history of Christian devotion. There developed a new pattern of interior piety, with a growing sensitivity, marked by personal love for the crucified Lord and an easy and free-flowing meditation on the life and passion of Christ….

“The word ‘individual’ did not, in the twelfth century, have the same meaning as it does today. The nearest equivalents were *individuum*, *individualis*, and *singularis*, but these terms belonged to logic rather than to human relations….

“The age had, however, other words to express its interest in personality. We hear a great deal of ‘the self’, not expressed indeed in that abstract way, but in such terms as ‘knowing oneself’, ‘descending into oneself’, or ‘considering oneself’. Another common term was *anima*, which was used, ambiguously in our eyes, for both the spiritual identity (‘soul’) of a man and his directing intelligence (‘mind’). Yet another was ‘the inner man’, a phrase found in Otloh of Saint Emmeram and Guibert of Nogent, who spoke also of the ‘inner mystery’. Their vocabulary, while it was not the same as ours, was therefore rich in terms suited to express the ideas of self-discovery and self-exploration.

“Know Yourself

“Self-knowledge was one of the dominant themes of the age…. These writers all insisted on self-knowledge as fundamental. Thus Bernard wrote to Pope Eugenius, a fellow-Cistercian, about 1150: ‘Begin by considering yourself — no, rather, end by that….For you, you are the first; you are also the last.’ So did Aelred of Rievaulx: ‘How much does a man know, if he does not know himself?’ The Cistercian school was not the only one to attach such a value to self-knowledge. About 1108 Guibert of Nogent began his history of the Crusade with a modern-sounding reflection about the difficulty of determining motive:

“‘It is hardly surprising if we make mistakes in narrating the actions of other people, when we cannot express in words even our own thoughts and deeds; in fact, we can hardly sort them out in our own minds. It is useless to talk about intentions, which, as we know, are often so concealed as scarcely to be discernible to the understanding of the inner man.’

“Self-knowledge, then, was a generally popular ideal.”
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there seem to be two broad sociobiological/genocultural packages when it comes to average nepotistic vs. not-so-nepotistic altruistic behaviors in human populations — these are not binary opposites, but rather the ends of some sort of continuum of behavioral traits [click on table for LARGER view]:

nepotistic vs. not-so-nepotistic

the common thread running through the not-so-nepotistic groups of today (primarily northwest europeans) is a long history of outbreeding (i.e. avoiding close matings, like cousin marriage). (and a long history of manorialism. yes, i WILL start my series on medieval manorialism soon!) while individualism and guilt cultures may have been present in northern europe in paleolithic or even mesolithic populations, these behavioral traits and mindsets were definitely not present in the pre-christian germanic, british, or irish populations of late antiquity. those populations were very much all about clans and kindreds, feuding and honor, shame, and group consensus. guilt/individualistic cultures (i.e. not-so-nepostic societies) can come and go depending at least partly on long-term mating patterns. human evolution can be recent as well as aeons old.

the individualistic guilt-culture of northwest (“core”) europeans today came into existence thanks to their extensive outbreeding during the medieval period (…and the manorialism). the outbreeding started in earnest in the 800s (at least in northern france) and, as we saw above, by 1050-1100 thoughts on individualis began to stir. around the same time, communes appeared in northern italy and parts of france — civic societies. violence rates begin to fall in the 1200s, especially in more outbred populations, i would argue (guess!) because the impulsive violence related to clan feuding was no longer being selected for.

by the 1300-1400s, after an additional couple hundred years of outbreeding, the renaissance was in full swing due to the “wikification” of northern european society — i.e. that nw europeans now possessed a set of behavioral traits that drove them to work cooperatively with non-relatives — to share openly knowledge and ideas and labor in reciprocally altruistic ways. the enlightenment? well, that was just the full flowering of The Outbreeding Project — an explosion of these not-so-nepotistic behavioral traits that had been selected for over the preceding 800 to 900 years. individualism? universalism? liberal democracy? tolerance? reason? skepticism? coffeehouses? the age of enlightenment IS what core europeans are all about! hurray! (^_^) the Project and its effects are ongoing today.

it could be argued that the fact that certain mating patterns seem to go together with certain societal types is just a coincidence — or that it’s the societal type that affects or dictates the mating patterns. for example, i said in my recent post on shame and guilt in ancient greece that:

“shame cultures are all tied up with honor — especially family honor. japan — with its meiwaku and seppuku — is the classic example of a shame culture, but china with its confucian filial piety is not far behind. the arabized populations are definitely shame cultures with their honor killings and all their talk of respect. even european mediterranean societies are arguably more honor-shame cultures than guilt cultures [pdf].

“if you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time, you’ll recognize all of those shame cultures as having had long histories of inbreeding: maternal cousin marriage was traditionally very common in east asia (here’re japan and china); paternal cousin marriage is still going strong in the arabized world; and cousin marriage was prevelant in the mediterranean up until very recently (here’s italy, for example).”

perhaps, you say, the causal direction is that nepotistic, clannish shame-cultures somehow promote close matings (cousin marriage or whatever). well, undoubtedly there are reinforcing feedback loops here, but the upshot is that both ancient greece and medieval-modern europe clearly illustrate that the mating patterns come first. (possibly ancient rome, too, but i’ll come back to that another day.) the pre-christian northern european societies were clannish shame-cultures until after the populations switched to outbreeding (avoiding cousin marriage) in the early medieval period. late archaic-early classical greek society was rather (a bit borderline) universalistic, individualistic [pg. 160+] and guilt-based until after they began to marry their cousins with greater frequency (at least in classical athens). the not-so-nepotistic guilt-culture we see now in northwest european populations is particularly resilient, i think, because the outbreeding has been carried out for a particularly long time (since at least the 800s) and thanks to the complementary selection pressures of the medieval manor system (which ancient greece lacked), but it did not exist before the early medieval period.

so, the direction of causation seems to be: (long-term) mating patterns –> societal type (nepotistic vs. not-so-nepotistic).

i think.

previously: there and back again: shame and guilt in ancient greece and big summary post on the hajnal line and individualism-collectivism

(note: comments do not require an email. earliest formal self-portrait, jean fouquet, 1450.)

william hamilton wondered if renaissances/enlightenments happened in places roughly 800 years after some hardy altruism genes were introduced by barbarians into panmictic (really outbred) populations. i wonder instead if what happens is that renaissances/enlightenments occur after ca. 500 years or so of outbreeding which results in nepotistic altruism (or clannishness) being reduced or even mostly eliminated which, in turn, leads to greater cooperation and reciprocal altruism within the populations — conditions i think you might need to have a renaissance at all (see also here).

where intensive outbreeding (and manorialism) happened in medieval europe — and there is a lot of good, strong evidence for it — certainly seems to match well with where the european renaissance occurred. after some fits and starts in the 500s to 700s, the practice of avoiding close cousin marriages really took hold in exactly the areas where the renaissance/reformation/scientific revolution/enlightenment later happened — i.e. core europe — in short: england, france, the netherlands, germany, and northern italy. scandinavia a bit, too. oh…and the lowlands of scotland.

the evidence for outbreeding in ancient greece is much more tenuous. it appears fairly certain that the upper classes outbred during the archaic period in greece (800-480 b.c.). whether they outbred during the entire time period or began the practice sometime before or after 800 b.c., i don’t know. it may also be, judging by something hesiod said, that the lower classes followed suit, but it’s impossible to know for certain going by just one comment from one ancient writer.

some circumstantial evidence that might offer further support to the outbreeding-in-archaic-greece theory is that, in the 400s to 200s b.c., there was a shift in kinship terminology in ancient greece. the distinctions in the greek language between the paternal and maternal sides of the family began to disappear — for example, uncles on both sides came to be called just “uncle,” rather than there being specific words for paternal vs. maternal uncle, and so on and so forth. the same sort of linguistic shift happened in medieval europe. in germany, for instance, that shift happened between the 1100s and 1400s. at the end of the day, all cousins came to be called simply “cousin” rather than “father’s brother’s cousin” or “mother’s brother’s cousin.” the lesson seems to be: change the kinship structures and the long-term mating patterns in a society, and it shouldn’t be surprising that the kinship terminology will also change. no need to specify different sorts of cousins if all of them are off-limits as marriage partners.

michael mitterauer points out that there was a time lag in the linguistic shifts in medieval europe — the terminology changed ca. 300 to 600 years after the mating patterns began to change. perhaps something similar happened in archaic greece — the linguistic shift happened in ca. the 400s to 200s b.c. so perhaps we can infer that the mating patterns had changed to a more outbred form a few hundred years earlier. maybe right around the end of the greek dark ages and the beginning of the archaic period. dunno. complete speculation.

now i’ve come across another piece of circumstantial evidence that outbreeding may have been happening in archaic greece and that is that there was a(n incomplete) shift in the society during the time period from being a shame culture to being a guilt culture. i’m getting this from The Greeks and the Irrational, a book originally published in 1951 and written by classical scholar e.r. dodds (who was kicked out of oxford for supporting the easter rising — troublemaker! (~_^) ). presumably there have been works criticizing dodd’s thesis written since the 1950s, but i’m afraid i haven’t read any of them yet. i’m just going to run with dodd’s idea for now, but, please, consider this a sort-of thought experiment. more speculation.

first of all, in shame cultures, bad behavior is checked by the fear of being caught — of being shamed and embarassed. in guilt cultures, bad behavior is checked by one’s inner voice — feelings of guilt occurring before any action is taken. these are behavioral traits that must have been variously selected for in different human populations. secondly, shame cultures are all tied up with honor — especially family honor. japan — with its meiwaku and seppuku — is the classic example of a shame culture, but china with its confucian filial piety is not far behind. the arabized populations are definitely shame cultures with their honor killings and all their talk of respect. even european mediterranean societies are arguably more honor-shame cultures than guilt cultures [pdf].

if you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time, you’ll recognize all of those shame cultures as having had long histories of inbreeding: maternal cousin marriage was traditionally very common in east asia (here’re japan and china); paternal cousin marriage is still going strong in the arabized world; and cousin marriage was prevelant in the mediterranean up until very recently (here’s italy, for example). it’s really, once again, the outbred northwest “core” europeans who are unique here with their guilt culture (although perhaps there are other guilt cultures out there as well). my guess is that long-term inbreeding tends to result in shame-honor cultures, while long-term outbreeding leads to guilt cultures. i’ve said so before.

back to dodd, his thesis is that ancient greece went through something of a transition from a shame to a guilt culture, but that shift was incomplete. the trend may even have reversed in classical athens. dodd points to several thematic shifts in greek literature from the iliad to the writings of plato including: a move away from blaming human failings on atē or the direct, external influences of the gods to more personal “demons,” often seen only by the individual person; the gradual adoption of the idea that individual humans have “souls” or independent “personalities”; a move away from the idea that people’s failings are due to a lack of knowledge (again coming from outside the person) as opposed to, perhaps, their own culpability; that zeus over time becomes more and more a dispenser of justice rather than just a being who capriciously interferes in human affairs (justice being important in guilt cultures as opposed to revenge in shame-honor cultures); and that philosophers and thinkers increasingly complained that the inheritance of guilt down through a family line was unjust. here from dodd on that last point [kindle locations 669-671]:

“Solon speaks of the hereditary victims of nemesis as άυαίτιοι, ‘not responsible'; Theognis complains of the unfairness of a system by which ‘the criminal gets away with it, while someone else takes the punishment later'; Aeschylus, if I understand him rightly, would mitigate the unfairness by recognising that an inherited curse may be broken.”

the idea that only the transgressor should be punished (as in guilt cultures) as opposed to additional or all of his family members (as in shame-honor cultures) doesn’t actually occur to these writers, so they haven’t quite arrived fully into a guilt culture, but they do seem to have been on the way there. much more so than earlier writers anyway. again, dodd emphasizes that [kindle locations 587-588]:

“[M]any modes of behaviour characteristic of shame-cultures persisted throughout the archaic and classical periods. There is a transition, but it is gradual and incomplete.”

the transition may have been incomplete — in fact, may have even gone into reverse — because inbreeding (cousin marriage) became increasingly common in classical athens (see here). from “Agnatio, Cognation, Consanguinitas: Kinship and Blood in Ancient Rome” in Blood and Kinship: Matter for Metaphor from Ancient Rome to the Present [pgs. 24-26], we saw in a previous post that while “aristocrats in early [archaic] Greece…married beyond the limits of their *patris*”, in classical athens “members of the *anchisteia*, the legally defined kinship group including first cousins once removed, were the preferred marriage partners.” the ancient greeks might’ve gone from being a (presumably) inbred/shame culture in the dark ages, to an outbred/quasi-guilt culture in the archaic period, and back to an inbred/shame culture over the course of the classical period. maybe. Further Research is RequiredTM.

(yes, i know. it’s all very tenuous. i told you it was speculative!)

in any case, evolution is not progressive. (heh! i’ve just been dying to say that. (~_^) ) there’s nothing to say that evolution cannot go in reverse, although perhaps it wouldn’t go back down the exact same pathway it came up. there’s no reason why we — or, rather, our descendants — couldn’t wind up, as greg cochran says, back in the trees*.

i think the way to think of the evolution of behavioral traits like nepotistic and reciprocal altruism in humans — especially perhaps in recent human evolution — is like a big simmering cauldron of stew where bubbles of certain behaviors rise up in some places only to sometimes pop and deflate and almost disppear again. outbreeding appears to have occurred many places, although whether or not over the long-term is not always clear: archaic greece (maybe), ancient rome, the bamileke of cameroon, the igbo of west africa, the turkana of east africa, the semai of malaysia, the bushmen of southern africa (aka The Harmless People), and europeans since the early medieval period — especially northwest europeans. the ancient greek experiment seems to have run out of momentum and collapsed on its own; the roman example probably popped thanks to the barbarian invasions; and the northwest european one is…currently ongoing. for now.

previously: renaissances and the transition from shame to guilt in anglo-saxon england (and “core” europe) and archaic greek mating patterns and kinship terms and ελλάδα
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*“Many were increasingly of the opinion that they’d all made a big mistake in coming down from the trees in the first place. And some said that even the trees had been a bad move, and that no one should ever have left the oceans.”

(note: comments do not require an email. archaic greek dude.)

just sayin’. (^_^)

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map via max roser.

france-coefficients-of-inbreeding-1926-1945

previously: mating patterns in france and topography (and history)

here’s a top ten-ish selection of my posts from this year, selected by me (this blog is not a democracy! (~_^) ). they weren’t necessarily the most read or most commented upon posts, but just the ones that i like the best and that i’d like people to read. ymmv!

a BIG thanks to all of you who do read the ol’ blog! and many, many thanks for all the informative and insightful comments. (^_^) …and for some of the crazy comments, too. (~_^)

big summary post on the hajnal line“so, apart from indicating patterns of nuptuality in late medieval and modern europe, hajnal’s line also represents the extent of both manorialism and The Outbreeding Project on the continent. both of these together set up a very new and different sort of social environment for western europeans — a new, and quite unique, social environment which exerted some very different sorts of selection pressures on the populations, particularly on social behaviors, but perhaps on other traits as well.”

medieval manorialism’s selection pressures“medieval society in northern europe (ca. 400-1500 a.d.) produced some quite unique selection pressures which very much shaped the characteristics and personalities of ‘core’ europeans….”

die ostsiedlung“from a sociobiological point-of-view, probably the most underappreciated event in recent western european history. that and the reconquest of spain.”

mating patterns of the medieval franks“by the 800s, second cousin marriages amongst the franks were considered ‘scandalous.’ bishops actively enforced the bans in their dioceses and neighbors willingly squealed on their cousin-marrying neighbors to the bishops. by the 800s-1000s, there is good evidence that both the frankish aristocracy and the lower classes avoided close cousin marriage.” — see also: kindreds, communes, feuds, and mating patterns in medieval france“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.”

the transition from shame to guilt in anglo-saxon england (and “core” europe)“feelings of guilt were probably selected for over the course of the middle ages in northwestern europe starting in the early part of the period.” — see also: more on the origins of guilt in northwestern european populations“the center of the guilt culture in northwestern europe — the core region which (historically anyway) has been characterized by the least corruption, the highest levels of trust, liberal democracy, free societies, low levels of internal violence, high levels of human accomplishment, the invention of capitalism, the advancement of science, the development of the ideas and ideals of the enlightenment, and pretty much everything else we call western civilization today — is the core where The Outbreeding Project began the earliest in europe.”

sneak preview: violence, punishment, outbreeding, and swashbuckling pirates in medieval england“over the course anglo-saxon period…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…. more laws demanding the death penalty (or castration) for killings were issued and enforced during the anglo-norman and angevin periods… [but] executions actually remained comparatively low during large parts of the norman 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.” — see also: homicide rates in various regions of thirteenth century england“[I]t 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.”

a study in swiss“my guess is that the swiss are some of western europe’s ‘inbetweeners’ as far as outbreeding goes. i guessed that they probably got involved in The Outbreeding Project later than some other western europeans — the ones in and closer to the center of my ‘core’ europe. and they didn’t experience manorialism either (unless some of them on the swiss plateau did?).”

reverse renaissance?“perhaps the arabized world underwent a *reverse* renaissance process thanks to the introduction by the arabs of the most inbred form of cousin marriage — father’s brother’s daughter (fbd) marriage — to the populations of the middle east/maghreb….” — see also asabiyyah and asabiyyah ii – clannishness and the abbasid caliphate.

fbd cousin marriage and clans and tribes in iraq“i think a long term inbreeding society selects — or *can* select — for what i call clannishness. and iraqis have got that in spades. they’ve got clans and tribes, nepotism, and an obvious inability to handle liberal democracy. not that that’s some sort of goal in and of itself. i’m just sayin’.”

cousin marriage in sub-saharan africa“there is also a wide variety of mating patterns in ss africa. some populations avoid cousin marriage altogether. we’ve already seen this with the bamileke of cameroon and the igbo of nigeria. also the turkana of kenya and quite possibly the amhara of ethiopia (not 100% sure about them — need to double-check). a notable group which apparently avoids cousin marriage is the zulu. but plenty of other ss africa groups do practice cousin marriage like, as you’ll see in the table below, the kongo and luba in the democratic republic of congo, the ashanti in ghana, the sotho-tswana in south africa, and the kpelle of liberia.” — see also: the bamileke of cameroon and fulani, hausa, igbo, and yoruba mating patterns.

the american revolutions“that there were four american revolutions is a result of the fact that four (five?) somewhat different english populations settled in different regions of north america. the cultural and attitudinal differences between these regions persist to this day because, undoubtedly, there are genetic variations between the populations — probably average genetic differences in the frequencies of genes related to behaviors, personality, and even intelligence. these regional differences also persist because, since the very founding of the united states, like-minded people have been self-sorting themselves within the country so that they group together — and that sorting process has *not* been slowing down.”

it’s not nature and nurture…“…it’s nature and…*we dunno*…miscellaneous/unknown/noise?” — this post's actually very important. READ THIS POST! think about it for a while and let it sink in. and make sure to follow the links!

– my "what is hbd" series: what is human biodiversity (hbd)?“human biodiversity (hbd) is very simply the diversity found among and between human populations that has a biological basis.” — see also: what human biodiversity (hbd) is not; examples of human biodiversity (hbd); why human biodiversity (hbd) is true; hbd and racism; and hbd and politics.

– and finally: you and me and hbd“if you accept that humans exhibit biologically based diversity, then you’d better be prepared to accept ALL of it.”

previously: top ten list 2013

at the beginning of this year i said that, since there are so many scandinavian readers of the blog (skål!), i would post about the historic mating patterns of scandinavians/nordic folks … aaaaaaand now it’s december and it never happened. (*^_^*) (did i mention that i come from a population that doesn’t have terrific future time orientation? as han solo said: “it’s not my fault!” (~_^) ) sorry!

i did have good intentions! i swear! back in april i picked up this article: “Norwegians and Europe: The Theme of Marriage and Consanguinity in Early Norwegian Law” from Scandinavia and Europe 800-1350: Contact, Conflict, and Coexistence. so now, in order to assuage my guilt, and so that i might sleep well at night once again, i am finally going to take a look at that article! (^_^)

there were four legal areas in medieval norway (indicated on map below) — the borgartingslag (B), the eidsivatingslag (E), the frostatingslag (F), and the gulatingslag (G):

norwayregions

each of these regions had its own set of secular laws up until the 1270s when magnus the law-mender issued a common law for all of norway. they also each had their own set of ecclesiastical laws which, of course, included regulations on marriage. although there are a couple of differences between these law codes wrt marriage, the upshot is that marriage between sixth cousins or closer was banned in all four regions as well as marriage between affinal family members (i.e. in-laws) related to one another within five degrees (e.g. fourth cousins-in-law or closer). the regulations on blood relations are in line with canon law issued from rome at the time (the ones on in-laws are not) and appear to have been included in norwegian canonical legislation sometime after 1152 (when nicholas breakespear, papal legate in scandinavia and later pope adrian iv, introduced the sixth cousin bans to norway/scandinavia). the penalties in these four norwegian law codes ranged from fines and having to do penance to the splitting up of the couple and even to banishment (“outlawry”).

in the 1270s, when magnus was “mending” all the laws in the country, the cousin marriage bans in norway were scaled back to the fourth degree (i.e. third cousins). this was a bit later than the rest of western europe where the cousin marriage bans were changed in 1215. for this reason, the author of the article suggests that the ban out to sixth cousins probably wasn’t ever strongly enforced in norway, since the authorities didn’t bother to update this regulation right away — like it was a sleeping law or something. that certainly might’ve been the case, and i tend to favor this idea actually. the sixth cousin ban was difficult to enforce right across europe — who knew who their sixth cousins were?! — which is why it was dropped after only a couple of hundred years or so (although thomas aquinas offered other theoretical reasons for scaling back the bans as well) — and i can’t imagine why the situation should’ve been any different in rather remote norway/scandinavia. on the other hand, perhaps the norwegian authorities just decided to hang on to these stringent bans for longer for whatever reasons. that certainly happened in neighboring sweden at the time of the reformation — unlike many of the other newly minted protestant/lutheran churches (as in the german lands, for instance) which did away with cousin marriage bans altogether, the swedish authorities made it difficult for most people to marry cousins right up until 1844.

whatever the case, marriages to closer than third cousins were banned in norway after the 1270s. how well these bans were enforced is, of course, another question. in all likelihood, like elsewhere in europe, enforcement probably became more rigorous and consistent over the course of the medieval period as christianity and the church and its norms permeated norwegian society. remember the example of the franks in the early medieval period: cousin marriage was banned by the frankish kings in the mid-700s, but it wasn’t until sometime in the 800s that the people began thinking that marrying a cousin was unseemly — and that someone ought to tell the bishop if the neighbor had! presumably there was a similar delay with cousin marriage bans gaining traction in norway (and everywhere else, for that matter).

all of this is assuming that the pre-christian norwegians married their cousins to some degree or another in the first place. i don’t know for sure or not if that was the case — Further Research is RequiredTM — but it seems likely that the scandis would’ve behaved similarly to other germanic peoples who certainly did marry their cousins before conversion (see “mating patterns in europe series” below, esp. the posts on the germans and the anglo-saxons) — and they all shared similar kindred structures and feuding practices which seem to go along with cousin marriage, so….

there’s some evidence for a few norwegian christians here and there in the 900s, but the real push for conversion came with olaf ii who was king of norway in the early 1000s, so it’s more than likely that cousin marriage was present in norway right up until this point, although who knows what the frequency was.

one of the earliest — if not the earliest — introductions to norway of the crazy idea to ban cousin marriage at all probably happened in 1022 when the moster assembly (which looks to me to be in the gulatingslag) passed some ecclesiastical cousin marriage bans suggested by bishop grimketel (grimkell), english bishop of selsey. these were based on king æthelred‘s laws from the early eleventh century in which marriage to fourth cousins or closer was banned (this is news to me, btw!).

the arrival of christianity and cousin marriage bans, then, obviously occurred quite a bit later in norway than in the populations closer to the center of “core europe” — i.e. the franks (belgians and dutch) and the southeastern english — whose outbreeding projects were well underway by sometime in the 800s. the norwegians probably lagged behind in outbreeing by three or four hundred years, but, again, no idea exactly how much they’d been marrying their cousins beforehand. (similar case with the swedes.)
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a couple of other notes from the article not directly related to norway:

– sometime between 1161 and 1172, pope alexander iii gave dispensation to a certain group of people who were a part of the archbishopric of niðarós and who were having difficulties obeying the canon law banning sixth or closer cousin marriage. these people lived on an island “twelve days’ journey from Norway” and are believed by historians today to have been the residents of greenland! they were granted permission to marry their fourth, fifth, and sixth cousins. whew!

– the author of the article notes that the cousin marriage bans in iceland were probably never higher than the fourth degree (i.e. third cousins). in other words, icelanders never experienced the crazy bans out to the sixth cousins.

previously: inbreeding in sweden and inbreeding in 18th and 19th century sweden

(note: comments do not require an email. erroneous norwegian claim re. the paper clip!)

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