family types in eastern europe, 1500-1900

speaking of viscous populations, large parts of eastern europe, beyond the hajnal line, have been characterized by extended families for a very long time, in contrast to northwestern “core” europeans.

here from karl kaser a map (probably roughly) showing both the limits of bipartite manorialism in europe (it didn’t extend into eastern europe) as well as the historic presence of nuclear vs. extended families between western and eastern europe. this map adds some of the squiggles to the hajnal line that i’ve been saying must exist — must be a fuzzy border in general:

Karl Kaser's line

so, west of that line (with some exceptions): bipartite manorialism going back to the 500s-800s (earlier the closer to the center of core europe), nuclear families going back to around that same time, and the avoidance of cousin marriage from around the 800s. east of that line: no bipartite manorialism, although some late “other” manorialism in northern eastern europe (i’ll explain that in my next post — there was never any manorialism in the balkans), extended families in many regions lasting right up until the present day (especially the balkans), and apparent late avoidance of cousin marriage compared to western europe — or, at least, not as strictly enforced for large parts of the medieval period.

all things considered, then, eastern european populations have been more viscous than northwestern ones for at least the last one thousand years.

in Power and Inheritance: Male Domination, Property, and Family in Eastern Europe, 1500-1900 [pg. 53+], karl kaser outlines how the differing economic and inheritance systems between eastern, western, and southern europe between 1500 and 1900 influenced family types. (and the foundations of these different systems stretch back into the medieval period.) i’m not going to get into all the details here, but, again, thanks to the socio-economic structures found in these three regions of europe, eastern populations wound up being more viscous than those in the west, and southerners some weird hybrid in between the other two. (but, quite possibly, the southern italians have had a higher cousin marriage rate than eastern europeans.) here from kaser [my emphases]:

“The inheritance geography of Europe can be roughly divided into three large areas: Western, Eastern, and Mediterranean zones, each with its own variations. Omnipresent, of course, is the potential for administrative intervention to change the customary laws of inheritance, whether for purely economic or even military purposes. Two basic variants, the *Grundherrschaft* system and that of a tributary system, can be distinguished. The exclusive goal of the tributary systems was to force the peasant families to pay their taxes and fees and fulfill their labor obligations vis-a-vis the landlords, while the *Grundherrschafts*-system enabled the landlord to intervene in questions of inheritance, family organization, and landed property. Europe had *Grundherrschaft*-systems in Central and Western Europe, while various forms of tributary systems were most characteristic of Eastern and Mediterranean Europe. In addition, we have to consider whether or not agnatic structures played a decisive role. Where the agnatic ideology was crucial, inheritance usually was considered patrilineal property of the group and was controlled by the group. In regions where the role of the agnatic group was weak or nonexistent, inheritance procedure focused on the conjugal couple and the nuclear family. Thus we have additionally to differentiate agnatically (with the focus on the descent group) and conjugally oriented areas (with the focus on the nuclear family). Eastern Europe belonged to the first; Western and Mediterranean Europe, with the exception of the larger islands — Sardinia, Corsica, Sicily, Crete, and Cyprus — belonged to the second. The Mediterranean area, dominated by tributary systems, was conjugally oriented….

“In the Mediterranean, there exists a long tradition of equally partible inheritance, the tributary system, and the relative absence of patrilineal descent concepts with the nuclear family as the primary social unit. In Western Europe, the result was the same, but the reasons and contexts were different….

“The Western and Central European pattern of unigeniture, the right of succession to the impartible inheritance of land and nuclear family on the farmstead, developed in two phases. It originated during the 7th and 8th centuries in the Frankish kingdom, the territory of which covered large parts of Central and Western Europe, before Charlemagne came to power. In the second phase, between the 11th and 14th centuries, this inheritance pattern was extended eastward in the course of a massive colonization of conquered territories by *Grundherrn* and their peasants. They first reached the Elbe and then moved eastward. Thus an important zone of cultural transition was established. This zone not only divided two marriage patterns but also different systems of inheritance and household formation….”

and, crucially, these different systems set up different selection pressures.

“It divides the *Grundherrschaft* system from tributary systems, conjugal — from agnatic-centered systems, and systems of impartible inheritance from those with equally partible male inheritance….”

see here for more on this process.

“In territories east of the transition zone, tributary systems were almost never replaced by *Grundherrschaft* systems, and thus inheritance followed traditional patrilineal customary laws until the 19th and early 20th centuries. In the wide plains of Eastern Europe, large feudal estate were established on tributary lines….

“It is interesting that the inheritance systems in Bohemia and Moravia — in what today constitutes the Czech Republic, on the one hand, and in the Slovak Republic, which was part of Hungary until 1918, on the other hand — were completely different. Bohemian customary law had provided for equal male partible inheritance, but this was replaced by the new German law brought with colonization. Slovakia was only colonized in the form of isolated settlements, and the traditional system, which was even adopted by several German settlements, survived.

“The Polish kingdom formally introduced the German legal system and the agrarian system of *Hufenverfassung* (based on the *Hufe* — the *manus* or hide — as the standardized concept for a peasant holding) throughout the country after colonization, despite the fact that colonization itself only reached western Poland. This introduction was successful in western Poland; and in the core area of Lithuania, the *Hufenverfassung* was also introduced and the land systematically redistributed. But in the eastern parts of the Polish-Lithuanian state, including Belarus and the Ukraine, male partible inheritance and strong agnatic communities survived. A considerable portion of the Baltic region was also affected by German colonization. Prussia was colonized by German settlers and landlords, and the agrarian structure of Kurland, Livonia, and Estonia was reorganized by German feudal lords who introduced impartible inheritance….

It has already become clear that the tributary systems allowed the people to practice their traditional inheritance practices. The same was true with household arrangements. The system of equally partible male inheritance offered several variants for property transfer: Transfer might not have been part of every individual life-course, in which case a large and complex household could emerge; it could systematically carried out upon the marriage of sons, which would have a system of nuclear families as its consequence; or it could be carried out after a certain period of marriage, e.g., upon the death of the father, and the individual life-course would experience phases of both nuclear and complex family constellations….

“The household formation patterns in the rest of Eastern Europe [i.e. outside of the balkans] cannot be defined this clearly — but were nonetheless analogous, in that they, too, were based on male partible inheritance and in the fact that the household was the primary working unit. The societies of Eastern Europe had no servants on the farmsteads….”
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so, again, i think there are at least three things to juggle in our heads here when thinking about possible selection pressures for nepotistic (or or not-so-nepostistic) altruism, all having to do with the “viscosity” of populations: 1) inbreeding, 2) family types, and 3) the forces socio-economic systems exert on familial relationships. for more than the last thousand years, northwestern european pops have had low inbreeding, small family types, and societal pressures which have pulled apart related individuals (those pressures increased over the period). eastern european pops have probably had higher inbreeding for some or all of this time period (although nothing on the scale of the arab world), large family types, and not very many social or economic pressures for family member to disperse. the mediterranean world, aside from the large islands mentioned by kaser above, has had higher inbreeding rates than northwestern europe (especially southern italy), small family types (at least, small residential family types), but few pressures for close family to separate much.

that’s all i’ve got for you for now. i WILL be coming back to this! (^_^)

previously: viscous populations and the selection for altruistic behaviors and family types and the selection for nepotistic altruism and “l’explication de l’idéologie” and big summary post on the hajnal line

(note: comments do not require an email. traditional family systems of europe.)

viscous populations and the selection for altruistic behaviors

part of william hamilton‘s theory of inclusive fitness/kin selection, which explains how altruism ever could’ve arisen at all (altruism here having a very specific definition), is that it should be possible for genes for altruism to be selected for if close kin interact regularly. kin don’t need to recognize one another for altruism to be selected for. as long as closely related individuals don’t move far from one another — that is, if a population is viscous — selection for altruism might happen.

i can’t see why this couldn’t also apply to lesser forms of altruism, not just the kind where you sacrifice your life for two brothers or eight cousins. you know what i mean. like: reciprocal altruism or nepotistic altruism. or just pro-social behaviors. whatever you want to call them. seems to me that nepotistic behaviors ought to be selected for more easily in viscous populations (if they increase fitness, of course).

and some populations are more viscous than others:

1) inbreeding populations where close relatives marry frequently over the long-term. mating with relatives must be highly viscous [insert sweaty/sticky incest joke here]. not only do the individual members of the population likely interact fairly regularly (can depend on your mating pattern), they pass many of the genes they share in common on to the next generations — who then also interact and mate. that’s what i call viscous! and, as you all know by now, some human populations inbreed more than others, and some have been doing so for longer than others. and vice versa. (see: entire blog.)

2) populations where extended families are the norm. societies where two or three generations of families all stay together, work together, play together. viscous. plenty of opportunity for nepotistic behaviors to be selected for. on the other hand, societies of nuclear families where more distant relatives are seen only once a year on thanksgiving, and then only to argue, and where your your heir is your pet cat…not very viscous. (see: family types and the selection for nepotistic altruism.)

3) socio-economic systems which push for close relatives to remain together rather than dispersing. if that sounds vague, that’s ’cause it is. sorry. i haven’t thought through it all yet. i do have an example of the opposite for you — a socio-economic system which pushed for close relatives to disperse — and that is the post-manorialism one of northwest europe. already by the 1500s, it was typical for individuals in northwest europe to leave home at a young age (as teenagers) and live and work elsewhere — often quite long distances away (several towns over) — before marrying. then it was not unusual for them to marry someone from their new locale. not viscous. conversely, many societies outside of the hajnal line (northwest europe) have had systems which encouraged the opposite.

food for thought.

(note: comments do not require an email. one of my favorite viscous food for thought!)

leaving the nest

this from pew popped up on twitter a couple of weeks ago (and again earlier this week)…

young europeans living with parents

…and several people, unprompted by me (and who are not even in my pay — i swear!), noted that it all looks very hajnalliney.

well, yes!

just in case you can’t draw mental hajnal lines automatically yet (and you really ought to work on that if you can’t), here it is:

young europeans living with parents + hajnal line

john hajnal didn’t actually have anything to say about average ages of leaving home in european populations, but his line and when young european adults leave the nest do correlate strongly. this has been studied quite extensively (don’t just take my word on it — see david rehr, for instance), and the pattern extends back pretty far in time. from peter laslett’s Characteristics of the Western European Family:

“This self-deception about the history of the family has particularly affected Western Europeans. Frenchmen, Germans or Englishmen, unless they have come across the work of recent historical sociologists, are likely to believe the following. That the co-resident familial group in the past, at least up to the point of industrialisation, was large and complicated, with several generations living together. Furthermore, that this comfortable, kin-enfolding, welfare-providing family group not only nurtured the young, but took in their spouses when they married, and also provided them with shelter and succour when they became old or suffered other misfortunes. That the family in the sense of extended kin was a further source of welfare. It seems to be supposed that before the days of the Welfare State it was the family and kin which rescued social casualties. Now all this has turned out to be untrue.

“Untrue, that is to say, in a literal sense and for the particular part of Western Europe which first became industrialised and which has given what might be called industrial culture to the rest of the world. By this North-West Europe, especially the British Isles, Northern France, the Low Countries and Scandinavia, is meant. In this cultural region family groups had been simple in composition and quite modest in size for many centuries before industrialisation. Married children only seldom lived with their parents, and two couples in one family household were quite unusual. It is true that the family group has become much smaller in the 20th century, servants have disappeared, and solitary living has grown enormously in our own day: but this did not happen during the process of industrialisation as ‘traditional society’ gave way to ‘modern society’ and cannot be called a transition to the ‘nuclear family’. The ‘nuclear family’ was there already.

The kin composition of the English family group was much as it is today in the 16th century, and had been so since the 1300s, the 1200s or even earlier…”

probably even earlier. the nuclear family was a feature of bipartite manorialism and is documented in carolingian france as early as the 800s [see mitterauer, pgs. 62+]. bipartite manorialism was invented in austrasia in the 500s, but arrived across the channel not long afterwards. throughout the medieval period, manorialism was strongest in the southern and central parts of england, so chances are the nuclear family has been around the longest in those areas of the country, while the extended family remained of greater importance in other, peripheral regions (not to mention wales and scotland). this was definitely the case for east anglia.

back to laslett and average ages for leaving the nest (he’ll get to it eventually):

“…but with one very imortant structural difference. Servants lived in large numbers of families, and the presence of servants made the family groups of the rich large, and the family groups of the poor correspondingly small. In this area of the West, moreover, welfare never flowed along lines of kinship. The casualties of the system, the widows, the orphans, the poverty-stricken, were supported by the collectivity rather than the family.”

“The family structure I have just described was at its most homogeneous in England and the Low Countries, was less so in Germany and in Central Europe, and much less so in Southern Europe. France, indeed, seems to have been divided. Languedoc had larger and more complex households, especially in the mountains, than the rest of France. In spite of this important fact, the development of the Western European family can no longer be seen in the particular way which has been fashionable for the last generation, not even in areas where complicated family households have been common – areas like the Pyrenees, the Massif Central, or, which is very surprising, Tuscany and other parts of Italy.

“It is a mistake to think that the transition in family matters which is now going on in the developing societies of the contemporary world repeats the earlier history of the Western European family. Nevertheless, if we take Europe as a whole, and not simply our Northern and Western area of it, we are faced with the recent discovery that in Russia things were very different. Among the serfs before they were given their freedom in the 1860s, the family was large and complicated, more so than for any other example of complicated families which has yet been found anywhere in the world, in the past or in the present. The fact is that, within the continent of historic Europe as a whole, family forms varied as widely as it is possible to do. This not withstanding the circumstance that in Britain and in other parts of North-Western Europe they were uniformly small and simple….

“Characteristic 6 is the existence of large numbers of life-cycle servants: younger men and women spending the period between puberty and marriage as resident employees and members of the family of other persons, usually more substantial than their parents….”

life-cycle servants are well-documented from the 1300-1400s and onwards in england (and elsewhere in northwestern europe), but, again, this quirky system has its roots back in bipartite manorialism and can be seen in the records of carolingian period manors in northern france. from mitterauer [pgs. 64-65]:

“Life-cycle servants were people in the household who were different from the domestic slaves found in many cultures, and they were sometimes included among members of the family…. As a matter of fact, these domestics were often found in property registers as early as the Carolingian period. We cannot determine whether or not the servants mentioned in these sources were adolescents because no ages were given, but this was probably the case, since they were all single….


“Working as a servant was correlated with marriage at an advanced age. Until you could marry, you were kept in a dependent position that was essentially a child’s role — if not at your parents’ house then living as a farmhand or maid with a family unrelated to you.””

so kids in northwestern europe have been leaving home at an earlier age on average than those in southern or eastern europe for probably something like one thousand years. and this difference is tied to the historical distribution of bipartite manorialism in medieval europe.
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“But the Western European institution of life-cycle service has its surprises and its puzzles too. An outstanding feature of these very large numbers of young people in service was that they moved from one household to another almost every year. The faithful and trusty retainer is one more of the literary myths about European family structure – myths in the sense of substituting the entirely exceptional circumstance for the wholly normal, as in the case of Juliet’s marriage.”

previously: viscous populations and the selection for altruistic behaviors and big summary post on the hajnal line

(note: comments do not require an email. )