free cornwall now!

the long-awaited genetic ancestry mapping of the u.k. by the wellcome trust has finally been completed (hurrah!) — it’s very, very cool! — and it confirms what everyone has always known: the cornish are different! (~_^)

from nature news: UK mapped out by genetic ancestry“A map of the United Kingdom shows how individuals cluster based on their genetics, with a striking relationship to the geography of the country”:

u.k. genetic ancestry mapping

as you can see, all the calls for cornish independence have been justified! the good folks of cornwall are their own little genetic subpopulation, even distinct from their neighbors in devon (as they’ve known all along). so there! =P

to sum up the major findings:

– the welsh appear to be genetically quite different from the rest of the subpopulations in britain, and so the authors reckon they are the most like the earliest hunter-gatherers who migrated to britain at the end of the last ice age.

– the analyses suggest that there was a substantial migration across the channel after the original post-ice-age settlers but before roman times. white british people today have thirty percent (30%) of their dna ancestry from germanic populations, and people in southern and central england share 40% of their dna with the french (again, this relatedness is pre-norman). there’s also substantial relatedness to danes and belgians due to these early migrations. these migrations had little impact in wales.

– there wasn’t a single “celtic” genetic group in britain before the later invasions of the anglo-saxons, etc. the scots, northern irish, welsh, and cornish are some of the most different from each other genetically. the cornish (free cornwall!) are more similar genetically to other english groups than they are to the welsh, for instance.

– the english in eastern, central, and southern england (all those red squares) are pretty much one, relatively homogeneous, genetic group having significant genetic contributions — between 10-40% of their total ancestry — from the anglo-saxons. this strongly indicates that the invading anglo-saxons intermarried with the existing populations and did not replace them 100%.

– fantastically, the danish vikings (of the danelaw of the ninth century) do NOT appear to have left much dna behind at all. their numbers must’ve been small and/or most of them left (or were killed) at some point.

– the cornish (free cornwall!) and devonians are distinct genetic subgroups, and the division between the two groups lies pretty much at the boundaries between the two counties.

– the subpopulation of west yorkshire look like they’re the descendants of the people of elmet (the last of the brittonic kingdoms to hold out against the anglo-saxons)!

– the cumbrians and the northumbrians are distinct from each other, the people of west yorkshire, and the rest of the english.

– yes, the english-speaking population of pembrokeshire is genetically distinct from the rest of the welsh.

– the orkney islanders are the most genetically distinct of all the subgroups having 25% norwegian dna. again, though, the viking invaders mated with the locals and didn’t replace them 100%.

dál riata is apparent on the map there, as are the lowland scots and border reievers contributions to the ulster scots population.

from the telegraph:

“Geneticist Professor Sir Walter Bodmer of Oxford University said: ‘What it shows is the extraordinary stability of the British population. Britain hasn’t changed much since 600AD.

“‘When we plotted the genetics on a map we got this fantastic parallel between areas and genetic similarity.

“‘It was an extraordinary result, one which was much more than I expected. We see areas like Devon and Cornwall where the difference lies directly on the boundary.’

“Professor Mark Robinson, of Oxford University’s department of archaeology added: ‘The genetic make-up we see is really one of perhaps 1400 years ago.'”

for the purposes of this blog, one of the most interesting things is that lack of a danish viking genetic legacy in england. one of the things we’ve been puzzling about here is where on earth the puritans came from, and one of the ideas that has been bandied about has been that perhaps they were the descendants of the danes, since the danish vikings controlled east anglia and that’s where the purtians were from. that idea doesn’t seem to hold water anymore.

(there’s something else in the paper that may or may not, kinda-sorta be of interest regarding the general topic of this blog, but i’m going to address that in a separate post.)

speaking of the puritans and albion’s seed (and american nations), jayman’s already tweeted this!:

(^_^) so there you go.

i think that’s everything for now. there’s a LOT to take in from this research. i look forward to what razib and greg cochran will have to say on the paper.

for now, for more info, have a look at these!:

UK mapped out by genetic ancestry: “Finest-scale DNA survey of any country reveals historical migrations.”
– the original research article (behind a stupid paywall): The fine-scale genetic structure of the British population. the supplementary information file [pdf] looks like it’s a good read.
Britons still live in Anglo-Saxon tribal kingdoms, Oxford University finds: “A new genetic map of Britain shows that there has been little movement between areas of Britain which were former tribal kingoms in Anglo-Saxon England.”
Genetic study reveals 30% of white British DNA has German ancestry: “Analysis over 20 years reveals heavy Anglo-Saxon influence, with French and Danish DNA coming from earlier migrations than the Normans or Vikings.”
Study Reveals Genetic Path of Modern Britons: “Researchers found 17 clusters, based on genetic relatedness, in the modern British population.”
Scientists discover genetic “border” between Devon and Cornwall
– from dienekes: British origins (Leslie et al. 2015)

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the importance of the kindred in anglo-saxon society

update 10/24: see bottom of post.

this will be my last post on the anglo-saxons for a while. i promise! the following comes from some notes on anglo-saxon kindreds and feuds that have been hanging around on my desktop for a while now, and since i recently had a couple of posts related to the anglo-saxons (see here and here), i thought i may as well share these as well.

in America 3.0, bennett and lotus say [pg. 51]:

The English are descended from the Germanic conquerors who brought to England the ‘integrated nuclear family,’ in which nuclear families formed separate households, but stayed close to their relatives for mutual cooperation and defense. These people were illiterate, so we have no written records from those times, and we cannot know precisely how they organized their family life. But what we do know for sure is that over time the original Germanic family type developed into the ‘Absolute Nuclear Family,’ or ‘ANF,’ which we have today. It appears that the family type we have now has existed for about a thousand years.”

i haven’t actually read anything about the family type(s) of either the continental angles and saxons or the early anglo-saxons in england, but i’ll take bennett and lotus’ word for it. however, later in the book they go on to say about the saxons [pg. 75]:

“They traced their lineages through both the male and female line. This prevented clans or extended families from forming and becoming exclusive, as happens when lineage is traced solely through the male line. As a result extended families or clans did not have collective legal rights, or any recognized political role.

while it is correct that the germanics had bilateral kinship and, so, didn’t have strong patrilineal clans (like the irish or the scots), as i’ve discussed in previous posts (see here and here), the germanics did have kindreds which were VERY important socially AND, crucially, legally. this very much includes the anglo-saxons in early medieval england.

in early anglo-saxon england, if you were injured or killed by another person, your kindred — your closest family members on both sides of your family, probably out to second cousins — were obliged to take up a blood feud against the offending party’s kindred if you/they were not compensated by the other kindred for your injury/murder in the form of wergeld payments. this was your kindred’s legal right — their duty, in fact, since this was how order was maintained in that clannish society. (vengeance feuds have been, and still are, a common solution to keeping order in clannish societies all around the world and throughout history. unfortunately, if the feuding gets out of hand, that can, of course, lead to disorder.)

from “The Kentish Laws” in The Anglo-Saxons from the Migration Period to the Eighth Century: An Ethnographic Perspective (1997) [pgs. 214-216]:

Large sections of the Kentish laws [all dating from the 600s] (as, in particular, the largest part of the law-code of Aethelberht) are devoted to the condition of feud which came to exist between the kindred of a man (killed, wounded, wronged, or robbed) and that of the man responsible (for the killing, wounding, wrongdoing, or stealing). Kindreds were to take charge of reparation and they could (with a few exceptions, for example, when the conflict was too close in blood-line) arrange either for vengeance or for the payment of compensation to the kin of the killed. Material compensation requited woundings and offences. The reparation (expressed by the Old English verbs *forgildan*, ‘to pay for’ and *gebetan*, ‘to amend’), is meant to recover the lost equilibrium and to maintain the *frid*, ‘peace’.

“The complex system of wergild, with its different levels, which were fixed in relation to the status of the offended person, is strictly connected with feud. Payment could be made in one or more installments: the *healsfang*, which was the first payment of the wergild (that is, the first twenty shillings of the hundred-shilling wergild of a freeman), must be paid *aet openum graefe*, ‘when the grave is still open’. All the details of the feud were regulated by law, which fixed the amount of composition and the time-schedule for payment.

“Two different opinions have been put forwards as regards Anglo-Saxon legislation concerning feud. According to some scholars the kinship system appears to have been made the subject of such a large amount of legislation because it did not work: the chapters of the laws concerned with feud, in all its aspects and details, testify to an increasing failure of family concern (cf. Bridbury 1992). Other scholars have expressed the opinion that feud maintained its importance and vitality well beyond the seventh century. The bond of kinship was undeniably very important in Anglo-Saxon society and the support of the kindred was needed in all aspects of a man’s life: ‘kinship remained immensely strong in ordinary social life’ (Loyn 1974:199); at the same time, however, a strong state-authority soon developed. Kinship appears to be still powerful in the laws of Aethelberht and in those of Hlothhere. If a homicide departed from the country, his kindred were responsible for paying half the wergild (Aebt. 23)….

In the later legal codes it becomes evident that the law attempted to control feud, as the higher authority of the king attempted to exercise some of the power that the kin used to enjoy. As for the Church, it encouraged settlements by composition rather than ‘vendetta’. Bede tells of the role of Theordore of Canterbury in the settlement of the feud between Mercians and Northumbrians after the killing of King Ecgfrith’s brother, Aelfwine. At the same time, the penitentials stressed the negative side of killing, including that perpetrated by a kinsman carrying out a vendetta. In the Penitential of Theodore we read: ‘Si quis pro ultione propinqui hominem occiderit peniteat sicut homicida VII vel X annos’ (If a man slays another one to avenge a relative, he shall do penance as a murderer for seven or ten years).”

so extended families in early anglo-saxon society most definitely had “collective legal rights” — and duties!

and don’t misunderstand this wergeld payment thing. it wasn’t just a whip round that happened within one kindred with the collected cash being passed over to a representative of the other kindred. no. it’s likely that EACH member of the offender’s kindred went and physically paid his corresponding member in the victim’s kindred — paternal uncle would pay paternal uncle, maternal first cousin would pay maternal first cousin, and so on (that’s how wergeld payments happened in iceland anyway and, so it’s supposed, in the other germanic societies). THAT’s how important an individual’s kindred was. in the event of (serious) bodily injury or a killing, TWO WHOLE kindreds would be involved in the resolution.

in Kindred and clan in the Middle Ages and after: a study in the sociology of the Teutonic races (1913), bertha phillpotts argued that kindreds had more or less disappeared in england by the 600-700s, but most historians since phillpotts’ time (except for bridbury above) — like lorraine lancaster — put the date later at around ca. 1000 or 1100. this is the earliest point in anglo-saxon law tracts in which the law allows for an individual’s guild rather than kindred to be the recipient of wergeld payments — or the executor of a feud. this is a monumental shift in thinking (and feeling) in anglo-saxon society, afaiac — this is THE change from anglo-saxon society being based upon the extended family to english society being based upon friends and associates. this is HUGE.

anglo-saxon and other early medieval kings (like the frankish kings in bavaria) tried throughout the early medieval period to dampen the power of the kindreds, especially the feuding, since all that fighting seriously gets in the way of building a productive society. in the 900s, edmund i, for instance, attempted to restrict vengeance feuding to just the individual rather than whole kindreds — he issued a law exempting the kindred members from feuds if they abandoned their troublemaking kinsman [pgs. 39-40]. it was worth a shot, but probably didn’t much diminish the kindreds’ desires for revenge:

“[T]hese very efforts or aspirations reveal counter-pressures, the continuing use of violent self-help motivated by vengenance, the continuing involvement of kin and others. There must have been resistance, unconscious and conscious, to the extension of royal authority.”

indeed, feuds continued in england throughout at least the 1000s. what changed, though, was who took up the feuds — the gegildan, or the unrelated friends/associates of an individual who were his fellow oath takers. the gegildan appears in some of the anglo-saxon laws in the late-800s as an alternative group of people to whom wergeld might be paid if the wronged individual had no kin. by the 900s, though, in southern england, the gegildan might be the only group that received wergeld, bypassing kin altogether. from Wage Labor and Guilds in Medieval Europe [pgs. 39-42]:

“The laws of King Alfred of Wessex, dated to 892-893 or a few years earlier, are more informative about the *gegildan*. Again, the context is murder and the wergild — the compensation required for the crime. By Alfred’s time, if not during Ine’s, the *gegildan* is clearly a group of associates who were not related by blood. The clearest example of this is in chapter 31 of the laws: ‘If a man in this position is slain — if he has no relatives (maternal or paternal) — half the wergild shall be paid to the king, and half to the *gegildan*.’ No information exists on the purpose of the *gegildan* other than its role as a substitute for kinship ties for those without any relatives. These associates, who presumably were bound together by an oath for mutual protection, if only to identify who was responsible, would benefit anyone, whether the person had relatives or not…. Although the evidence from the laws of Ine may be read either way, the *gegildan* seems to be an old social institution. As seen more clearly in the tenth and eleventh centuries, it acquired additional functions — a policing role and a religious character.

“The nobles, clergy, and commoners of London agreed upon a series of regulations for the city, with the encouragement and approval of King Athelstan, who caused the rules to be set down some time in the late 920s or 930s. The primary purpose of these ordinances was to maintain peace and security in the city, and all those supporting these goals had solemnly pledged themselves to this *gegildan*. This type of inclusive guild, sometimes referred to as a peace guild, was an attempt to create one more additional level of social responsibility to support the king and his officials in keeping the peaces. This social group of every responsible person in London is a broad one, and the law does not use the term *gegildan* to describe the association in general….

“The idea of a guild to keep the peace was not limited to London, and a document from the late tenth century contains the rules and duties of the thegn‘s guild in Cambridge. This guild appears to have been a private association, and no king or noble is mentioned as assenting to or encouraging this group. Most of the rules concern the principle purposes of this guild — the security of the members, which receives the most attention, and the spiritual benefits of membership itself. The guild performed the tasks of the old *gegildan*: the members were obliged to defend one another, collect the wergild, and take up vengeance against anyone refusing to pay compensation. The members also swore an oath of loyalty to each other, promising to bring the body of a deceased member to a chosen burial site and supply half the food for the funeral feast. For the first time, another category of help was made explicit — the guild bound itself to common almsgiving for departed members — and the oath of loyalty the members swore included both religious and secular affairs. Although in many respects this guild resembles a confraternity along the lines Hincmar established for the archdiocese of Rheims, the older purpose of the group — mutual protection with its necessary threat of vengeance — makes the Anglo-Saxon guild something more than a prayer meeting. To include almsgiving to members in distress would be a small step, given the scope of activities this guild established. There is no sign that the thegns cooperated in any economic endeavors, but older rules of rural society had already determined methods of sharing responsibility in the villages, and the thegns cooperated on everything that was important in their lives. The thegns of Cambridge had a guild that resembles in some important ways the communal oath, that will be discussed below, of some Italian cities in the next century.”

fantastically, by the twelfth century it appears that many of the terms related to the feud were not understood and no longer really used by legal scholars and scribes [pg. 43]. in the space of about three hundred years, then — from the 900s to the 1100s — feuding in southern england seems to have gone from a regular activity engaged in by relatives, to something that a group of friends might do for one another, to eventually pretty much dying out altogether [pgs. 49-52]. but not in wales. or northern england:

What is also clear, however, is that by the twelfth century, and perhaps before, England was perceived as an area of particular peace. Authors contrasted such peace with the disorder of other areas. Writing at the end of the twelfth century, Gerald of Wales commented on the Welsh greed for land, stating that ‘law-cases in court and quarrels result, killings and arson, and frequent fratricides’, a situation he thought was made worse by the custom of partible inheritance.

“Can we tell if perception corresponded with reality? There is certainly a strong case to be made that the core of the English king’s lands differed in their practices from the periphery, most notably Northumbria. The violent dispute narrated by the ‘De obsessione’ may be the product of particular circumstances rather than a rare survival of a more general English pheonomenon. At the highest level of Northumbrian society, killing certainly was more frequent than elsewhere in England. It has been pointed out that ‘of the fourteen men to rule part or all of Northumbria between 993 and 1076, nine were killed, four had an unknown fate, and only one, Earl Siward, is thought to have died from natural causes.’ As John of Worcester’s account of the killing of Bishop Walcher of Durham in 1080 makes clear, the death of even post-Conquest rulers of Northumbria took place in a context of insult, killing, negotiation, and vengeance. If Northumberland was different, various explanations can be offered, from its geography and economy to the lack of royal presence and the conflicts between the earls and those responsible for Yorkshire.

“Difference from practices in Celtic lands may have existed well before the time of Gerald of Wales. ‘Domesday’ records the following custom under Archenfield of Herefordshire:

“‘If anyone kills one of the king’s men and commits housebreaking [*heinfaram*], he give the king 20s concerning payment for the man and 100s concering the wrong. If anyone kills a thegn’s man, he gives 10s to the dead man’s lord. But [*quod*] if a Welshmand kills a Welshman, the relatives of the slain man gather and despoil [*predantur*] the killer and his associates [*propinquos*] and burn their houses until the body of the dead man is buried the next day about noon. The king has the third part of this plunder, but they have all the rest free.’

Feud in Wales would continue beyond the twelfth century.

and in highland scotland until the 1500s. and in ireland in the form of “faction fighting” until the 1700- and early-1800s.

so, even though they may have been living in nuclear family units, early anglo-saxons were very much tied to their extended families (kindreds) legally — and, presumably, socially — and those ties didn’t dissipate until around ca. 1000-1200, some six to eight hundred years after they settled in england. i have my own ideas as to why that was — and most of you know what they are, so i won’t repeat them now (you’re welcome! (~_^) ). a couple of important things to keep in mind, though:

– family types must be looked at in context — for instance, just because a group lives in nuclear family units does not necessarily mean that its members don’t have strong ties with their extended family;

– kinship ties are not broken quickly and certainly not via laws that only address the superficial symptoms of those ties (like feuds) — the fundamentals must be changed (and those fundamentals are mating patterns, i think … sorry! couldn’t resist saying it. (^_^) )

*update 10/24: i meant to say in the post, and i forgot (typical), that bennett and lotus acquired a lot of their info about — and have based much of their thinking on — anglo-saxon family types and the importance of the nuclear familiy in anglo-saxon society from f.w. maitland‘s historical work on english law.

i haven’t read maitland, so i can’t comment on any of it, but i will do one of these days and will no doubt post about it. if you want to get a head start on me, check out these sources (h/t michael lotus – thanks, michael!):

F.W. Maitland And The Making Of The Modern World [pdf] from alan macfarlane.
The History of English Law before the Time of Edward I, 2 vols. [1898] by pollack and maitland. see vol II, ch VI, first 10 pgs re the kindred per michael lotus.

previously: the anglo-saxons and america 3.0 and the saxons, the anglo-saxons, and america 3.0 and medieval germanic kindreds…and the ditmarsians and more on medieval germanic kindreds and kinship in anglo-saxon society and kinship in anglo-saxon society ii

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there’s always one…

vortigern, king of the britons. or maybe of some of the britons. rumor has it that HE was the one who invited the saxon mercenaries, hengist and horsa, over to england (or i guess britain) to help him deal with the picts and the scots … but once they got their feet in the door (according to gildas [more on gildas here])…

“Then all the councillors, together with that proud tyrant Gurthrigern [Vortigern], the British king, were so blinded, that, as a protection to their country, they sealed its doom by inviting in among them (like wolves into the sheep-fold), the fierce and impious Saxons, a race hateful both to God and men, to repel the invasions of the northern nations. Nothing was ever so pernicious to our country, nothing was ever so unlucky. What palpable darkness must have enveloped their minds — darkness desperate and cruel! Those very people whom, when absent, they dreaded more than death itself, were invited to reside, as one may say, under the selfsame roof…. They first landed on the eastern side of the island, by the invitation of the unlucky king, and there fixed their sharp talons, apparently to fight in favour of the island, but alas! more truly against it. Their mother-land, finding her first brood thus successful, sends forth a larger company of her wolfish offspring, which sailing over, join themselves to their bastard-born comrades….”

don’t hold back, gildas — tell us what you really think of the saxons! (~_^)

“…From that time the germ of iniquity and the root of contention planted their poison amongst us, as we deserved, and shot forth into leaves and branches. The barbarians being thus introduced as soldiers into the island, to encounter, as they falsely said, any dangers in defence of their hospitable entertainers, obtain an allowance of provisions, which, for some time being plentifully bestowed, stopped their doggish mouths. Yet they complain that their monthly supplies are not furnished in sufficient abundance, and they industriously aggravate each occasion of quarrel, saying that unless more liberality is shown them, they will break the treaty and plunder the whole island. In a short time, they follow up their threats with deeds.”De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae

did vortigern set the anglo-saxon invasion — sorry, settlement — of britain ball rolling? maybe. maybe not. if he did, he wouldn’t be the only guy in history to do something as stupid….

king david. the scottish one (david i). he invited lots o’ normans and other continental types up to scotland to take part in his “davidian revolution.” i suppose he had a bit of an excuse since his mother was an anglo-saxon, so david wasn’t 100% a scot, but still…

“King David I, who also had large estates in central England, consciously remodelled Scotland’s administration along Anglo-Norman lines. He encouraged Normans to come north by giving them senior office, thus strengthening his new feudal structure. Charters soon mention knight service, mounted serjeants, mounted and infantry archers…. In the south and centre fortified royal towns, *burghs*, sprang up to the inhabited by Englishmen, Flemings, Normans, Anglo-Danes and of course Scots. Older forms of loyalty and kindred groupings, later seen as clans survived in the western Highlands, while in the north-east the Celtic leadership survived but transformed itself into a feudal aristocracy…. [I]t is worth noting that 12-century Scottish rulers, addressing their subjects in order of importance, referred to their ‘French, English, Scots, Welsh and Galwegians’. Although the Normanization of Scotland was basically peaceful there was plenty of native resistance, both cultural and physical. Many risings were directed against the ruler and his ‘foreign friends’, particularly from the north and west. All were defeated as the building of castles spread across the land.” [pg. 43]

wait. flemings?! [pg. 19]:

“After a devastating storm ravaged Flanders in 1106, Flemings emigrated in droves from their homeland in Flanders, now part of Belgium, at the invitation of Henry I…”

i guess i should add henry to my list. (bloody norman!)

“…who offered them financial inducements and land grants to resettle in Britain. Skilled weavers and craftsmen [the original h-1b visa holders? – h.chick], the Flemings moved into southwest Wales and parts of the Scottish Borders, erected castles, farmed the land, and established villages in the shadow of their castles.

“As early as 1107, Henry I deliberately encouraged the Flemings, and English settlers from Devon and Somerset, to move into the Welsh lands in Pembrokeshire. By the beginning of the thirteenth century, the fully anglicized Flemings provided a buffer zone between the regions administrative center, the castle at Pembroke, and the local Welsh population.”

yes. yes, they most certainly did (links added by me):

“Flanders suffered greatly after a series of storms, in 1106. Samuel Lewis wrote, ‘During a tremendous storm on the coast of Flanders, the sand hills and embankments were in many places carried away, and the sea inundated a large tract of country.’

“This led a large number of Flemings to seek asylum in England, where they were welcomed by Henry I. They settled in various colonies across England, but soon, Samuel Lewis wrote, they ‘became odious to the native population’, and Henry I moved the Flemings to the remote farming settlement in the cantref, a district of Rhôs, in south Pembrokeshire.

“This systematic planting of Flemish settlers by Henry I, and later Henry II, had significant consequences for the people of south Pembrokeshire. Geography Professor, Harold Carter looks at the effects, ‘If you look at the “Brut y Tywysogyon” – the Chronicle of the Welsh Princes – it records “a certain folk of strange origins and customs occupy the whole cantref of Rhôs the estuary of the river Cleddau, and drove away all the inhabitants of the land”. In a way you could almost call it a process of ethnic cleansing.'”


diarmait mac murchada or “diarmait of the foreigners.” not a very bright guy:

“Diarmait Mac Murchada, anglicized as Dermot MacMurrough or Dermod MacMurrough (c. 1110 – 1 May 1171), was a King of Leinster in Ireland. In 1167, he was deprived of his kingdom by the High King of Ireland – Ruaidri Ua Conchobair. The grounds for the dispossession were that MacMurrough had, in 1152, abducted Derbforgaill, the wife of the King of Breifne, Tiernan O’Rourke. To recover his kingdom, MacMurrough solicited help from King Henry II of England. In return, MacMurrough pledged an oath of allegiance to Henry, who sent troops in support…. Henry II then mounted a larger second invasion in 1171 to ensure his control over Strongbow, resulting in the Lordship of Ireland. MacMurrough was later known as Diarmait na nGall (Irish for ‘Diarmait of the Foreigners’).”

apparently, mac murchada promised that, if they helped him get his kingdom back [pg. 103]:

“‘Whoever shall wish for soil or sod, richly shall i enfeoff them.'”

too clannish and too busy in-fighting to notice the bigger picture.


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mating patterns in medieval/early modern scotland

this is just a preliminary look at the mating patterns of the medieval and early modern scots. ok, here we go…

first of all, there are three regions of scotland that need to be taken into account (i’m ignoring the northern isles for now): the gàidhealtachd or scottish gaelic-speaking area of the country — i.e. the “highlands and the islands“; the lowlands; and the scottish borders (where america’s scots irish mostly came from). here’s a map of the highlands and lowlands — the borders are tucked down here. keep in mind that in the medieval period, the gaelic-speaking regions extended further south to somewhere around where i’ve drawn a nifty red line (total approximation):

the broad, general pattern wrt historic mating patterns in scotland appears to be: greater amounts of cousin/endogamous marriage for a longer period of time (i.e. into the early modern period) the farther north you go in scotland; lesser amounts of cousin/endogamous marriage for a longer period of time (i.e. extending back into the medieval period) the farther south you go in scotland — with the notable exception of the border areas (see also here).

let’s start with the clans up north ’cause they’re a lot of fun! here from Finding the Family in Medieval and Early Modern Scotland [pgs. 131, 134 – link added by me]:

“[A]s early as 1336 John MacDonald of Islay applied for papal dispensation to marry his cousin Amy Macruari. According to canon law this marriage was within the forbidden degrees of consanguinity and any children born of the union would not have been regarded as legitimate. The existence of close ties of consanguinity or affinity between married persons was common in the Highlands but MacDonald was aware of the wider context and the need for his son to be regarded as legitimate by the Scottish crown.

“Clan marriages were directed towards various ends, whether political, military or economic. Prioritisation of these considerations depended on the size, standing and policy of a particular clan. A study of the marriage patterns of the chiefly family of the Mackintoshes reveals both an internal and external agenda. During the fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries it was common for the children of successive chiefs to be married into local families while at least one child was married into a satellite clan of the Clan Chattan, thereby reinforcing clan solidarity. By the sixteenth century, however, a clear shift in policy is evident. Internal marriage still took place regularly although in instances where a chief had fewer children it was unusual for endogamous marriage to take place. Instead it was more important to use marriage as a means of establishing and reinforcing external alliances. However, if during a period of political instability a particular chief felt the need to reinforce clan cohesion a greater number of marriages were contracted internally.”

so, cousin marriage was common in the scottish highlands in the medieval period, but there was a shift from endogamous to more exogamous marriages sometime around the 1500s. the late medieval period, or possibly a bit earlier, was also the time when the importance of clans in scotland began to wane [pgs. 127-128].

how much cousin/endogamous marriage was there amongst the medieval highland clans? difficult to know. the partial geneaology of one clan, the macpherson clan [opens pdf], which has been well-researched, offers some clues. there are three branches of the macpherson clan — the sliochd choinnich, the sliochd iain and the sliochd ghill-iosa — and the genealogy runs from the middle of the fourteenth through the seventeenth centuries [pgs. 10-11]:

“The genealogy contains almost a thousand Macphersons, men and women, besides some two hundred non-Macpherson marriage partners…. Of the total number of Macphersons about 750 are males, just over 200 are females; and over 300 marriages are recorded. These figures reflect two peculiar features of the document: daughters were ignored or forgotten unless they made a politically useful marriage; and younger sons and their male descendants do not have their marriages recorded if they were not established on separate farms of their own. This shows the relationship between patrilineal descent, marriage, and property as seen by the genealogist. Thus the genealogy contains sections liberally sprinkled with daughters and wives, while other sections consist solely of men. This partiality in the amount of information offered by the genealogy must be borne in mind in examining the marriages within the clan. The figures are given in the following table:

the total marriages for the entire clan are the the last column, highlighted in red. more from the article [pgs. 11-12]:

Rather more than one-third of the recorded marriages were endogamous, that is, they took place within the clan, both parties being Macphersons. More surprising perhaps, the geneaology reveals that marriage within the sliochd [i.e. one patriline] was permissible. Of the 119 endogamous marriages recorded in the clan, no fewer than 40 took place within one or other of the three major sliochdan. Geographical propinquity was doubtless a factor in the occurrence of some of these marriages, but a more potent force was probably the desire to prevent rights in moveable property, especially stock, and right in land from passing out of the sliochd. The same argument is probably true for inter-sliochd marriages in the clan. One curious consequence of this, perhaps, was the existence of a custom of concubinage where the rules of the Church forbade marriage. The genealogy provides one possible example of this in the case of John Macpherson of Knappach who took the widow of his deceased uncle Thomas as ‘his concubine’. The woman involved was Connie Macpherson, daughter of Donald Dow Macpherson of Pitchirn and Connie Macpherson of Essich. She was, perhaps, following the example of her father, who, after the death of her mother, ‘took as his concubine’ Eneir Cameron of Glennevis from whom the Macphersons of Clune descended. At any rate it is quite clear that the Highland clans and their major patrilineal divisions entertained no rules enforcing exogamy….

One curious result of repeated marriage within the clan was that cousin-ship was not a simple matter of two lines of patrilineal descent from a common forebear, but was exceedingly intricate. So complex, indeed, were the relationships established within the clan that many clansmen of the tenth and subsequent generations were able to trace their descent back to, not one, but all three of the original brothers, and often to one of them more than once….

“The exogamous marriages were formed with influential families, almost exclusively of the Highlands….”

so, one-third of the macpherson clan marriages were within the clan (compare this to 25% in cumbria, one of the border counties in northern england, in the early modern period), many times within one of the patrilines. the macphersons, like john macdonald we heard about above, got around the church’s bans on marriage to certain individuals (cousins, for one) simply by shacking up instead of marrying (john macdonald paid the dispensation fee ’cause he wanted his heir to be legitimate). one of the results of all this inbreeding was that macpherson cousins were more related to one another than cousins in a more outbreeding society would be.

that’s all i’ve got so far for the highland scots. now for the lowland scots — slightly later in time in the early modern period. here are some excerpts from Scottish Society, 1500-1800 related to the mobility and marriage ages of the lowland scots. both sound pretty standard for societies found behind the hajnal line [pgs. 52-53]:

Lowland Scotland was similar to England in that a high proportion of young, single men and women in rural areas left home in their teens to work as farm and domestic servants in other households. Until more detailed local studies are undertaken it is unclear whether Scottish servants left home at similar ages to their English counterparts or were younger. The origins of this system in England go back to late medieval times at least. In Scotland farm servants were too numerous in the sixteenth century for this group not to have existed at an earlier date…. Farm servants were common in Orkney, Shetland and the Hebrides in the seventeenth century and presumably must have existed in other parts of the Highlands but it is not clear whether systems of hiring and mobility in these areas were comparable with the Lowlands. They were more frequent in lowland arable areas than in the pastoral uplands of southern Scotland. In Lowland Scotland, farm servants normally hired themselves out for a year, as in England and, as Houston has shown, they commonly moved from one master to another, though usually over limited distances….”

and pg. 127:

During the eighteenth century just over 20 per cent of women in a sample of Lowland parishes had never been married by the time they reached the end of their childbearing span. Those who married did so on average in their mid-20s, like most women in north-western Europe before the nineteenth century. There is some impressionistic evidence that in the Highlands and the Islands a marriage pattern closer to eastern or Mediterranean Europe prevailed with women marrying for the first time in their late teens. These estimates, based on literary sources, are not entirely reliable, though they are lent credence by the high birth rate in the region during the eighteenth century.”

finally, one note from “In all gudly haste”: The Formation of Marriage in Scotland, c. 1350-­‐1600 — when the reformation came to scotland, the marriage laws were changed so that cousin marriage was permitted (similar changes were made in other protestant nations like germany). i don’t know if this led to an actual increase of cousin marriage in scotland or not. it may have, but then again it may not have. nowadays, it is rather ironic that protestant nations in europe, which generally do not forbid cousin marriage, have very low rates of consanguineous marriage, while roman catholic countries, where cousin marriage is banned at least by the church, generally have comparatively high rates (sometimes very high). here from “In all gudly haste” [pg. 112]:

[R]eformers altered the rules about incest and consanguinity to better reflect the values of their countrymen. The Marriage Act and the Incest Act were passed in 1567. The acts provided increased leniency to distant consanguinity by legalising first-cousin marriage in Scotland. However, they made close incest punishable by death for ‘the abhominabill, vile and fylthie lust of incest’ in relationships within the first degree. Although these were major changes in law, they did not represent significant changes in the attitudes and actions of the lairdly and noble classes, who had demonstrated similar feelings for a long time.”

previously: more on consanguinity in england (and scotland) and “culture” of honor and hatfields and mccoys

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more on consanguinity in england (and scotland)

below is a chart summarizing the findings from various consanguinity studies for england (and a couple for scotland). i’ve adapted catherine linley day’s chart which appears in her thesis [opens pdf] on pg. 245 (basically, i’ve added her findings, fleshed out darwin’s findings, and added a couple of others — i also divided the findings between north and south). most of these studies have drawbacks and lynley day goes through them all in detail on pages 245-250. click on image for LARGER view:

as you can see, and as i mentioned yesterday, the overall pattern seems to be that people in southern great britain have largely avoided cousin marriage since the 1500s (possibly as far back as the 1300s), while the people further north, not so much. if anything, cousin marriage increased in the succeeding centuries, particularly in the nineteenth (a general pattern for much of europe).

the sorts of cousin marriage rates we see for the english from the medieval period to the modern — ranging from 0.00 to 5.30 — are just not even in the same ballpark cricket pitch as other parts of the world like the arab peninsula or even southern europe. and they haven’t been. for centuries. the english, especially members of the southern subspecies, have apparently avoided cousin marriage like the plague.

there are gaps, i know. big gaps. more numbers would be nice, of course. further research is required. (~_^)

let me go through the list.

the first entry for fourteenth century ely. i posted about that here. fifty percent (50%) of all marriages in ely, cambridgeshire, in the 1300s were to people living outside of ely. hard to know if this means people were avoiding cousin marriage or not — people from ely could’ve been marrying their cousins living in other villages — but it’s likely, i think, that this means they were avoiding marrying close family members. at this point in time, the roman catholic church had banned cousin marriage up to and including third cousins, and as lynley day points out with regard to the second entry on the list (1500s england), for whatever reasons, medieval english people seemed to take these restrictions seriously [pg. 246]:

“Marriage dispensations from the reign of Henry VIII were used to estimate consanguinity (Smith et al. 1993). The results produced from these documents were surprisingly low (Table 6-4), with a total absence of 1st cousin marriages and a very low level of 2nd cousin marriages, even compared to modern studies. One possible explanation, as noted by Smith and his colleagues, is that the marriage dispensations may not reflect actual practice, although anecdotal evidence suggests that there was a real aversion to close consanguineous marriage in the mediaeval period (Smith et al. 1993). Another explanation proffered is that marriage dispensations were almost exclusively the preserve of the rich, and that the poor and labourers did not avail themselves of the system (Smith et al. 1993).”

the third item on the list is lynley day’s study which i posted about yesterday. the next is bramwell’s study for shropshire. bramwell used george darwin’s techniques to calculate cousin marriage rates in that county by looking at surnames. his results are not far off lynley day’s and so, i’d guess, are probably fairly accurate. the same can be said for darwin’s results (which i posted about here).

pearson’s hospital study involved checking for consanguinity between the parents of sick children. while consanguineous couples might have more sickly children on average compared to the rest of the population, pearson’s finding of 1.3% first cousin marriages for londoners of the time also seems to fit well with the other findings. he attempted to double-check his results by surveying the readers of the british medical journal (bmj), but he may have gotten a skewed response (only persons married to cousins responding) and/or many of the readers at the time may have been from the upper classes. one or both of those may account for the high (for england) 4.69% first-cousin marriage rate that he found.

the next study, bell’s study of hospital patients across england, had the same methodology as pearson’s, but found a slightly lower consanguinity rate. but the late nineteenth century/early twentieth century (when the study was conducted) is just the point when consanguinity rates started to drop across europe after peaking between 1875-1915, so that may account for the lower rates.

smith’s study of the records of the society of genealogy members probably has a slight bias towards middle-/upper-class folks who, as g. darwin showed, tend to have slightly higher consanguinity rates in england (and elsewhere, too, i think). finally, the study of consanguinity rates in twentieth century reading by coleman can be found here.

previously: consanguinity in england – north vs. south and but what about the english? and cousin marriage rates amongst nineteenth century english and english jews and exogamous marriage in medieval england and invention of the modern world

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