on the topographical origins of the quakers

so we’ve seen that the earliest quakers were from the north of england, mostly from the geographical highland zone of england, but there were also quite a few from the intermediate zone. this distribution doesn’t seem to have changed all that much over time — from Albion’s Seed [AS – kindle locations 7308-7310]:

This was the region [the six counties of Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Lancashire, east Cheshire, west Yorkshire and southern Westmorland] where the Quakers first appeared. It long remained their strongest base. The founder, George Fox (1624-91), was a Leicestershire weaver’s son who developed his doctrine of the Inner Light by 1646 and made his early converts mostly in the North Midlands. By the year 1654, 85 percent of Quaker meetings were in the northern counties of England.7

footnote 7 [kindle locations 24244-24247]:

“Pratt, ‘English Quakers and the First Industrial Revolution,’ 53-65; especially helpful is chap. 3, ‘The Geography of Nonconformity,’ which concludes that ‘the Quakers had always been a northern religion.’ By the end of the 17th century, there were Quakers in every English county and city. In the 18th century, many Quakers moved south to London and Birmingham. But the largest number remained north and west of the River Trent.”

andrew mentioned a couple of weeks ago (thanks, andrew!) that hackett-fischer and other researchers have pointed out that this region of england saw a lot of viking settlement. from AS [kindle locations 7285-7290]:

“This region shared a common cultural condition, and also a common history. The North Midlands, more than any other part of England, had been colonized by Viking invaders. Historian Hugh Barbour writes, ‘…in the central region of the North, the Pennine moorland, where Quakerism was strongest, the villages were mainly Norse in origin and name, and Norse had been spoken there in the Middle Ages. From the Norsemen came the custom of moots, or assemblies in the open at a standing-stone or hilltop grave, which may have influenced the Quakers’ love for such meeting places. The Norse custom was individual ownership of houses and fields: the Norman system of feudal manors imposed in the twelfth century was always resented.’3

naturally! (~_^)

the locations of scandinavian place-names in england are certainly awfully suspicious (see also maps on this page):

scandinavian place-names in england

and the genetics backs this up as well (see also oppenheimer).

taking a look again at the map of the distribution of early quakers in england, a viking-quaker connection could explain the absence of quakers in northumberland — doesn’t look like too many vikings settled in that region.

but why no quakers in lincolnshire? or what looks like the southern parts of lancashire? or not really south of the severn-trent line either?

i’m going to go with topography (map adapted from this one):

england topography - quakers

quakerism seems to have developed, and been the most successful … yes … in areas of viking settlement in england, but more specifically in upland areas having had viking settlement. and uplanders (and other populations livining in remote, marginal environments) appear to have a tendency towards close matings.

here’s more from AS on how the quakers were uplanders [kindle locations 7311-7326]:

The Quakers were most numerous in the poorest districts of this impoverished region. In Cheshire, for example, Quaker emigrants to Pennsylvania came not from the rich and fertile plains in the center and southwest of the county, but mostly from the high ridges and deep valleys on the eastern fringe of the county. This was rough country, with settlements that bore names such as Bosely Cloud and Wildboarclough. In the seventeenth century, much of this region was still densely wooded, the ‘last refuge in England of the wolf and the boar.’ The climate was more severe than in the lowlands — with bitter ‘close mists’ that settled in the valleys, and the dreaded ‘wireglass’ that glazed the ridges and killed many an unwary traveler. The sense of desolation was deepened by the forbidding appearance of small isolated farmhouses, constructed of a harsh gray-black millstone. On the steep slopes of eastern Cheshire, they may still be seen to this day.8

In Nottinghamshire, the Quakers came not from the rich alluvial lands of the Trent Valley, but from the craggy uplands. The men of the Monyash monthly meeting once wrote, ‘…we are a poor, unworthy and despised people, scattered amongst the rocky mountains and dern valleys of the high peak country.’9 In Derbyshire, the pattern was also much the same. Here the Quakers lived mostly in the ‘coal measures’ on the east side of the county, and also in the Peak District. Comparatively few came from South Derbyshire.10

In the West Riding of Yorkshire, Quakers tended to be poor dalesmen who lived in places such as Lotherdale, a secluded valley on the border between Yorkshire and Lancashire. In the seventeenth century this area was described as ‘perfectly inaccessible by road.’ Remoteness was indeed one of its attractions. Some Quakers fled there to escape their persecutors.11

what’s the history of the mating patterns in these regions? not sure.

the area would’ve been part of the anglo-saxon kingdoms of northumbria and mercia — and, later, the danelaw obviously. were there any discouragements against cousin marriage in those centuries? no idea.

had the vikings — who came from both norway (mostly to the west coast of england) and denmark (mostly to the east coast) — been marrying close cousins? don’t know. they were certainly at least somewhat clannish having feuding and wergeld systems and all that — but did they have strong clans like the irish and the scots? or did they have looser kindreds more like the other germanic populations? dunno, but i intend to find out!

fast-forward a bit to mid-1500s-1600s cumbria — which definitely had quakers in the 1650s — and folks in that part of the world did have a tendency to marry closely, although i don’t know if we’re talking first and/or second cousins here. from AS [kindle location 10809]:

“In many cases the husband and wife both came from the same clan. In the Cumbrian parish of Hawkshead, for example, both the bride and groom bore the same last names in 25 percent of all marriages from 1568 to 1704.”

hmmmm. was the rest of the region where quakers appeared like that? don’t know.

further to the south in myddle in shropshire — a town which supplied some later quakers to the new world and a county which appears to be mostly in the geographic intermediate zone — barry levy says that young people of the 1600s often defied their parents in deciding whom they would marry [Quakers and the American Family: British Settlement in the Delaware Valley – kindle locations 555-557]:

“When Richard Gough’s gossip about courtship in seventeenth-century Myddle is systematized, it suggests that love-matches were common; that the children of poorer tenant farmers were more likely than the children of gentry to both initiate their own marriages and to rebel if necessary against parents or kin; and that they were less likely to be placed into marriages by parents and relatives.”

that, to me, sounds as though perhaps cousin marriage was not common in this region of england, since cousin marriage and arranged marriages often go hand-in-hand. was this pattern typical of the areas that quakers came from? or was the cumbria pattern more typical? cumbria’s a much more upland region, so perhaps the answer is that it varied. again, dunno.

one thing’s for certain, though — in the new world, quakers banned first cousin marriage — and frowned upon second cousin marriage [AS – kindle locations 7904-7907]:

“Quakers also condemned dynastic marriages which were made for material gain. They forbade first-cousin marriages which were commonplace in Virginia. During the eighteenth century, many Quaker meetings even discouraged unions between second cousins — a major restriction in small rural communities, and an exceptionally difficult problem for the Delaware elite.6

was this a continuation of how they had done things back in england? it’s likely, yes, but the important question is: for how long had these northern english populations been avoiding cousin marriage?

previously: geographical origin of the quakers and the myddle people and the radical reformation and random notes: 07/30/13 and the flatlanders vs. the mountain people and consanguinity in england – north vs. south

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low fertility rates ’cause we don’t marry our cousins

i was going to write a lengthy and very informative post about the likelihood that low fertility rates in our modern world might be related to the fact that we don’t marry our cousins very much anymore (and, in the west, haven’t been for quite a long time now), but there was a good write up in the economist a couple of years ago when that research from iceland (about the fecundity of cousins) came out, so i’m just going to quote that:

“Most explanations of the demographic transition are social…..

“Now yet another explanation has been added to the pot. This is that the mixing-up of people caused by the urbanisation which normally accompanies development is, itself, partly responsible. That is because it breaks up optimal mating patterns. The demographic transition is thus, in part, a pure accident….

“This suggestion is the corollary of a paper published in this week’s Science by Agnar Helgason and his colleagues at deCODE Genetics, a firm based in Reykjavik….

The study’s principal finding is that the most fecund marriages are between distant cousins. Using Iceland’s genealogical records, which allow the degree of relatedness between husband and wife to be calculated with great precision, Dr Helgason showed the optimum degree of outbreeding (measured in terms of the number of children and grandchildren produced) lay somewhere between cousins of the third and fourth degrees….

“The strong relationship between kinship and fertility was so unexpected that the researchers have not yet calculated exactly how much it contributes to the demographic transition. But even from the figures they present, it is clearly an important factor, and one that is likely to apply in other parts of the world where the records needed to prove it are not so good. Even in poor countries, birth rates are now falling fast. An important part of the explanation may simply be the additional choice of mates that development and urbanisation bring with them.”

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inclusive fitness stuff

i think inclusive fitness is one of the coolest concepts. ever. it doesn’t explain everything in Life, of course, but it explains a lot. it’s certainly helped me to make sense of why people (most organisms) behave in the ways that they do towards other individuals.

here are some neat examples of inclusive fitness affecting human behavior from robin (ian macdonald) dunbar [pgs. 137-39]:

[T]here is plenty of empirical evidence to suggest that, irrespective of the importance of social kinship, biological (i.e. genetic) kinship does play an important background role in the decisions that individuals make on how they should treat each other. In an analysis of Icelandic Viking sagas, for example, my colleagues and I showed that individuals were significantly less likely to murder close relatives (those related to ego as paternal cousins or better) than less closely related individuals (for a similar analysis of the English kings and queens, see Johnson and Johnson 1991). More importantly, their willingness to murder relatives was modified by the value of the action to the murderer: they were willing to murder distant relatives for trivial benefits (e.g. in a drunken brawl), but close relatives were only murdered if the gains were very high (e.g. by doing so, they inherited an earldom or land). Similarly, the Vikings were more willing to form alliances (or to make loans of ships, supplies, or men for expeditions) with close relatives than more distant ones, and when they did so were less likely either to demand explicit reciprocation or to renege on the agreement later.

“Note that it does not matter much how the Vikings themselves construed their patterns of kinship in these cases: these findings are based entirely on pedigrees constructed out of declared paternities. While the Vikings may have occasionally made mistakes about paternity, as we all do, paternity (and maternity) were important to them because they were associated with rights to land. These paternities are, of course, all taken from the Vikings’ written records, the sagas that were composed and/or written down mainly in the thirteenth century to provide records of individual family histories. As with all historical records, we might ask whether we can rely on them: after all, victors in history tend to colour the accounts they give with their particular view. There are, however, three relevant circumstances in this particular case. First, these accounts were written for public consumption by a very small community (medieval Iceland) where most people were intimately familiar with both the events and the characters described (in most cases, their own immediate ancestors): they would not have hesitated to say so if Snorri Sturlson (who was responsible for composing a great many of the Icelandic sagas in the 1220s and 1230s) had made too many egregious errors. Second, the Vikings themselves were very clear on real paternity (as best as they could define it biologically): despite the fact that fostering was a major feature of their world (as it continued to be into quite recent times throughout northern Europe), they made a clear distinction between foster-sons or foster-brothers and real sons or real brothers. Foster-sons could inherit land from a foster-parent if the parent so chose, but they did so by right of adoption and not by birth-right. Finally, even if the stories are complete fiction, we can still ask: did the Vikings compose their stories in such a way that they followed biological prescriptions…?

“Another example of the way biological kinship intrudes into everyday life is provided by Madsen et al. They asked individuals from two different cultures (the UK and South African Zulus) to undertake a painful isometric skiing exercise for the benefit of relatives (who received a monetary or food reward that was directly proportional to the length of time for which the exercise was maintained). In five replicates of the experiment, the duration (and hence reward value) declined with declining relatedness to the subject. In this study, considerable care was taken in drawing up lists of potential beneficiaries to ensure that they were biological relatives of the specified degree. While there was inevitably a great deal of variation across individuals, the bottom line is that, on average, closer relatives did better than more distant relatives (or even children’s charities) across four degrees of relatedness (self vs siblings/parents vs grandparents/uncles/aunts/nieces/nephews vs cousins). When real sacrifice is involved (the exercise becomes excruciatingly painful the longer one does it), altruism is titrated by genetic relatedness.”

what i find really interesting (obviously, if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time!) is how inbreeding (and outbreeding) relates to inclusive fitness. sure, a brother might be really predisposed to help out his brother much more so than a distant cousin — but what if that brother is also a cousin? shouldn’t cousin-brothers, on average, be willing to help each other more than just regular brothers? the answer seems to be yes.

what should be kept in mind about inclusive fitness, though, is that there are other social behaviors that it probably affects in addition to altruistic ones. ever since bill hamilton published his ideas on inclusive fitness, most researchers have been focused on altruistic behaviors. but one of hamilton’s papers was entitled “The Innate Social Aptitudes of Man.” note, not the innate altruistic aptitudes of man — but the social aptitudes of man. hamilton obviously thought his idea applied to other behaviors as well in addition to altruism.

one of those other behaviors, i think, is a drive to exercise some control over who your relatives (i.e. other individuals who share YOUR genes) mate with. i haven’t seen much discussion of this amongst sociobiologists — i referred to one interesting study in my “nepotistic nosiness” post. there’s more of this going on, i’m sure — or i bet, anyway. people (and other organisms) want to control, to different extents, how their relatives pass on the genes which they share in common. and, like in the proven cases of altruistic behaviors, they probably want to exercise greater control over the reproductive practices over closer relatives. AND, where inbreeding occurs, there are probably even stronger drives to control the reproductive practices of relatives, e.g. all the reproductive controls in saudi arabia where the cousin marriage rates are currently 50%+.

just some thoughts.

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