community vs. communism

it is a truth universally acknowledged, that whenever someone posts a map like this

cpi 2014 - europe

…on twitter, that a chorus of people will respond: oh, just look at the terrible effects communism had on eastern europe! for no good reason really because, as we all know, correlation does not equal causation — although it does “waggle its eyebrows suggestively and gesture furtively while mouthing ‘look over there.'”

just because soviet regimes were present in the past in the same areas of europe where there are high corruption levels today does not mean the one is the cause of the other. (and anyway…look at the regions beyond europe! or southern europe, for that matter.) the relationship is certainly suspicious though, and it wouldn’t be surprising if the two were somehow connected.

one way to try to settle this debate would be to look at pre-soviet corruption rates in eastern europe versus the west to see if the situation was any different beforehand.

i have not done that in this post, in large part because i don’t speak any slavic or other eastern european languages, but primarily because it seemed like way too much work. instead, i’m going to take a look a civicness, a set of behaviors — along with things like intelligence, low amounts of corruption, and low levels of violence — that many researchers reckon are necessary in order to have western-style liberal democracies and economies, if that’s what you want in life. i’ll be focusing on russia, again just to kept this little project manageable. but first, italy.

in Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy, robert putnam (yes, that robert putnam) concluded that democracy in northern italy functions better than in the south because the north has had a longer tradition — stretching back to the middle ages — of civicness or of having a civic community. (see previous post: democracy in italy.) according to putnam [pgs. 88-89, 91]:

“Citizenship in the civic community entails equal rights and obligations for all. Such a community is bound together by horizontal relations of reciprocity and cooperation, not by vertical relations of authority and dependency. Citizens interact as equals, not as patrons and clients nor as governors and petitioners….

“Citizens in a civic community, on most accounts, are more than merely active, public-spirited, and equal. Virtuous citizens are helpful, respectful, and trustful towards one another, even when they differ on matters of substance….

“One key indicator of civic sociability must be the vibrancy of associational life.”

in civic societies and civic societies ii, i looked at (self-reported) participation rates in voluntary associations across the world as found in the 2005-2008 wave of the world values survey. specifically, i tallied up the number of individuals who responded that, yes, they were ACTIVE members of the following voluntary associations (thus giving some indication of how civic-minded each of the populations is):

– Church or religious organization
– Sport or recreation organization
– Art, music or educational organization
– Labour union
– Political party
– Environmental organization
– Professional association
– Charitable organization
– Any other voluntary organization

the response rates for eastern europe were abysmal, often vying for last place with the middle east (see previous post for more):

wvs - membership voluntary organizations - totals

not much has changed in the latest wave (2010-2014). here, for example, are the active membership rates for the russian federation for each of the organization types — the first figure is from the 2005-2008 wave, the second from 2010-2014:

– Church or religious organization = 2.60% – 2.00%
– Sport or recreation organization = 5.90% – 2.40%
– Art, music or educational organization = 4.20% – 1.50%
– Labour union = 3.40% – 2.00%
– Political party = 0.80% – 0.50%
– Environmental organization = 0.40% – 0.40%
– Professional association = 1.60% – 1.40%
– Charitable organization = 1.10% – 0.6%
– Any other voluntary organization = n/a – 1.4%

as joseph bradley says in Voluntary Associations in Tsarist Russia: Science, Patriotism, and Civil Society (2009), russia is “not known as a nation of joiners.” apparently not! (mind you, i am not in a position to cast any stones on this account. *ahem*)

but were the russians more civic-minded before the revolution?

unfortunately, i don’t have any figures which can be directly compared to our modern world values surveys, but, yes, there was some amount of participation in voluntary civic institutions in russia in the two hundred years or so preceding 1917. however, civic participation didn’t begin in russia until the mid-1700s (and that is a key point to which i’ll return), and for most of that period, it occurred mostly among the upper classes. participation rates did grow across the nation and classes over the next century and a half, until just after the revolution of 1905 when there was a rapid rise in one sort of voluntary association — consumer cooperatives — among all classes of russians. however, civil society was still comparatively shallow in early-twentieth century russia — it hadn’t fully penetrated the whole of society by that point yet because the concept was so relatively new to the populace. here is laura engelstein in “The Dream of Civil Society in Tsarist Russia: Law, State, and Religion” (2000) quoting the sardinian antonio gramsci on the matter [pg. 23]:

“On the margins of the European state system, sharing but not fully integrating the Western cultural heritage, Russia, it is said, has always lacked just these civic and political traits. Antonio Gramsci provides the classic statement of this contrast: ‘In Russia,’ he wrote in the 1920s, ‘the state was everything, civil society was primordial and gelatinous; in the West there was a proper relation between state and civil society, and when the state trembled a sturdy structure of civil society was at once revealed.’ When in 1917 the Russian autocracy not only trembled but tumbled to the ground, there was no ‘powerful system of fortresses and earthworks,’ in Gramsci’s phrase, to prevent the Bolsheviks from erecting another absolutist regime in its place.”

civic society in russia first came to life under catherine the great (1729-1796), who did go some way to promote enlightenment ideals in the empire; perhaps more so when it came to the arts rather than politics, but still…it was a start, albeit one restricted in extent. from engelstein again [pg. 26 – my emphasis]:

“Eighteenth-century Russia had a lively public life. Private presses, a market in print, debating societies, literary salons, private theaters, public lectures, Masonic lodges — all linked inhabitants of the capitals and provincial centers in something of an empirewide conversation. Yet this world was limited in scope, audience, and resources and was fatally dependent on the autocrat’s good will. Catherine, when it pleased her, cracked down on independent publishers.”

this public life did continue to grow, however, although in fits and starts. nicholas i (1796-1855) was not too thrilled by it all, and alexander i (1777-1825) actually banned the freemasons, but by the nineteenth century, alexander ii (1818-1881) was, for a tsar, positively a radical when it came to permitting and promoting civic society as was evident in his great reforms. by the late nineteenth century then [pg. 16]:

“…an increasingly active public sphere of debate that included advocacy and representation was no longer in doubt in tsarist Russia. Thus well before the Revolution of 1905, the groundwork was laid for the participation of private associations in the public arena.”

the practice of joining voluntary organizations came later to the russian lower classes. consumer cooperatives began to appear in russia and the empire in the 1860s, but these first cooperatives were organized and run by the upper classes. peasants and workers would’ve been customers only. cooperatives among middle class professionals in towns and cities appear in the early-1890s. the idea spread to villages in 1900 via proselytizing intellectuals (also worth noting), and after 1905, the cooperative movement exploded right across the country. from The Co-operative Movement in Russia: Its History, Signficance, and Character (1917) by j.b. bubnoff — delightfully published in manchester by the co-operative printing society limited (so the work could be a bit biased) [pg. 49]:

“In 1891 consumers’ societies were formed in towns among the lower-grade officials, various classes of employees, teachers, members of liberal professions, and other sections of the population. These societies were of two types. One open only to members of a particular class of officials or to employees of a particular firm or institution; the other was open to all. These latter societies were already marked by the spirit of independence.

“Throughout this period the number of consumers’ societies was not large, and their output was small…. In 1900 the position was the same. Beginning from 1900, the Co-operative Movement spread in the villages…. [T]he first consumers’ societies in the villages were initiated by the intellectuals and by the authorities and were not the outcome of free enterprise on the part of the peasants themselves. At the end of the last century, and particularly at the beginning of the present one, an agrarian movement spread among the peasantry and ended in the revolution of 1905.”

by 1917, provided bubnoff wasn’t exaggerating, there were ca. 20,000 consumer cooperatives in russia (bubnoff notes that the other organizations listed in the table below — credit and loan savings associations, agricultural societies, and the artels — were all either government run or arranged by the large landowners, so they weren’t really voluntary associations in the sense of being organized by the members.):

Russia - The co-operative movement in Russia - table

again, though, this is late for finally getting around to launching civic institutions in your country. nineteen hundred and seventeen (1917) is very, very late compared to what happened in northwestern europe. even compared to what happened in northern italy. as valerie bunce says in “The Historical Origins of the East-West Divide: Civil Society, Politcal Society, and Democracy in Europe” [pg. 222]:

“By the end of the nineteenth century, then, it was evident that there were two Europes, long separated by their histories and, thus, by their politics, economics, social structure, and culture.”

not to mention their evolutionary histories.

so how did northwestern “core” europe (including northern italy) differ from russia historically as far as participation in civic institutions goes? the short answer is: civicness in “core” europe began centuries before it did in russia or the rest of eastern europe, at least 500-600, if not 800-900, years earlier.

here is putnam on the formation and functioning of communes in northern italy beginning in the 1000s [pg. 124-126]:

“[I]n the towns of northern and central Italy…an unprecedented form of self-government was emerging….

“Like the autocratic regime of Frederick II, the new republican regime was a response to the violence and anarchy endemic in medieval Europe, for savage vendettas among aristocratic clans had laid waste to the towns and countryside in the North as in the South. The solution invented in the North, however, was quite different, relying less on vertical hierarchy and more on horizontal collaboration. The communes sprang originally from voluntary associations, formed when groups of neighbors swore personal oaths to render one another mutual assistance, to provide for common defense and economic cooperation…. By the twelfth century communes had been established in Florence, Venice, Bologna, Genoa, Milan, and virtually all the other major towns of northern and central Italy, rooted historically in these primordial social contracts.

“The emerging communes were not democratic in our modern sense, for only a minority of the population were full members…. However, the extent of popular participation in government affairs was extraordinary by any standard: Daniel Waley describes the communes as ‘the paradise of the committee-man’ and reports that Siena, a town with roughly 5000 adult males, had 860 part-time city posts, while in larger towns the city council might have several thousand members, many of them active participants in the deliberations….

“As communal life progressed, guilds were formed by craftsmen and tradesmen to provide self-help and mutual assistance, for social as well as for strictly occupational purposes. ‘The oldest guild-statute is that of Verona, dating from 1303, but evidently copied from some much older statute. “Fraternal assistance in necessity of whatever kind,” “hospitality towards strangers, when passing through the town”…and “obligation of offering comfort in the case of debility” are among the obligations of the members.’ ‘Violation of statutes was met by boycott and social ostracism….’

“Beyond the guilds, local organizations, such as *vicinanze* (neighborhood associations), the *populus* (parish organizations that administered the goods of the local church and elected its priest), confraternities (religious societies for mutual assistance), politico-religious parties bound together by solemn oath-takings, and *consorterie* (‘tower societies’) formed to provide mutual security, were dominant in local affairs.”

in general, nothing like this existed in medieval russia (or eastern europe) — not on this scale anyway — the novgorod republic, which lasted for three centuries and came to an end in 1478, probably being the most notable exception. eastern european society was still very much founded upon the extended family for much of the period (although, again, in certain times and locales that was not the case — russia’s a big place). only a handful of merchants’ guilds were given permission to exist in russia between the fourteenth and eighteenth centuries, and the powers that be (including the orthodox church) regularly suppressed craftsmen’s guilds [pg. 13]. by contrast, northern italy was full of civic-mindedness already by the high middle ages.

meanwhile, in england (and other parts of northwestern europe) [pgs. 3-4]:

“As a form of voluntary association, bound by oath and by a (usually modest) material subscription, the fraternity or guild was widespread in late-medieval England and continental Europe. Both the ubiquity and the frequency of the form have been underlined by recent historical case-studies. While the particular purpose and activities of a fraternity might be infinitely various, the organization may be characterized in general as combining pious with social, economic, and political purposes. Its declared aims invariably included important religious functions, expressed in the invocation of a saintly patron and an annual mass with prayers for deceased members. With equal certainty, the annual feast day would bring the members together for a drink or a meal to celebrate their community. The overwhelming majority of English guilds admitted women alongside men: a feature generally characteristic of guilds of medieval northern Europe, although not so prevalent in the Mediterranean world. Sometimes described in modern English accounts as ‘parish fraternities’, these clubs indeed were often founded by groups of parishioners and regularly made use of an altar in a parish church as a devotional focus; yet they as often drew their memberships from a wider field than that of the parish, whose bounds they readily transcended…. An individual might join more than one guild, thereby extending still futher the range of his or her contacts. A significant minority of fraternities crystallized around a particular trade…. The overwhelming majority of guilds, however, were not tied by such association to a single craft, but brought together representatives of various trades and professions.”

extraordinarily, one type of fraternity — of non-kin remember (the whole point of voluntary associations is that they’re made up of non-kin) — appeared in england as early as the late-800s. from a previous post, the importance of the kindred in anglo-saxon society:

“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.'”

the gegildan of early medieval england, then — a voluntary association, a fraternity — appeared on the scene something like two hundred years before the communes of northern italy arose, three hundred plus years before the novgorod republic was formed, and nearly nine hundred years before the russians gave civiness another shot (after novgorod). i’m not aware of any earlier such associations in western medieval europe, although they may have existed. it appears, too, that the gegildan appeared in situ in england, a newly developed social structure to take over some of the earlier functions of the rapidly disappearing kindred (including feuding and protection), although maybe the concept was imported from the carolingians — the heart of the preceding frankish kingdoms, austrasia, was where manorialism had begun, which was then imported across the channel, so perhaps the gegildan concept was as well.

whatever the case, it’s in the core of “core” europe, once again, that we find the earliest evidence for behavioral patterns that are now the hallmarks of western civilization: late marriage and nuclear families, lowest levels of cousin marriage for the longest period of time, low levels of violence, high levels of civic-mindedness (see above), universalism, unparalleled accomplishment — they all appear earliest (in medieval europe), and are still the strongest, in this central area (very roughly the area indicated by the green oval on this map).

so, now we come to it: why? why was it “evident” by the end of the nineteenth century that there were two europes, and what do all these long-standing historical differences have to do with it?

the ultimate cause must lie in our biologies. humans are biological creatures, so there’s no way around it. we know that all behavioral traits are heritable, so we have to look to differences in the populations’ genetics and evolutionary histories.

as i wrote recently: evolution in humans is ongoing, recent, can be pretty rapid (within some constraints), and has been/is localized (as well as global). in fact, human evolution has sped up since the agricultural revolution since the number of individuals, and therefore mutations, on which natural selection might work skyrocketed in post-agricultural societies. remember, too, that “every society selects for something,” and that we’re talking about frequencies of genes in populations and that those frequencies can fluctuate up and down over time.

so there is NO reason NOT to suppose that the differences in behavioral traits that we see between european sub-populations today — including those between western and eastern europe — aren’t genetic and the result of differing evolutionary histories or pathways.

even rapid evolution takes time, though. we’re not talking one or two generations, but more like thirty or forty — fifty’s even better. point is, evolutionary changes don’t only occur on the scale of eons. they can also happen over the course of centuries (again, multiples of centuries, not just one or two). the circa eleven to twelve hundred years since the major restructuring of society that occurred in “core” europe in the early medieval period — i.e. the beginnings of manorialism, the start of consistent and sustained outbreeding (i.e. the avoidance of close cousin marriage), and the appearance of voluntary associations — is ample time for northwestern europeans to have gone down a unique evolutionary pathway and to acquire behavioral traits quite different from those of other europeans — including eastern europeans — who did not go down the same pathway (but who would’ve gone down their own evolutionary pathways, btw).

what i think happened was that the newly created socioeconomic structures and cultural (in this case largely religious) practices of the early medieval period in northwest “core” europe introduced a whole new set of selective pressures on northwest europeans compared to those which had existed previously. rather than a suite of traits connected to familial or nepostic altruism (or clannishness) being selected for, the new society selected for traits more connected to reciprocal altruism.

before the early medieval period, northwest europeans — looking away from the urbanized gallo-romans who may have been something of a special case (more on them another day) — had been kin-based populations of agri-pastoralists whose societies were characterized by inter-clan feuding, honor/shame (vs. integrity/guilt), and particularism (vs. universalism). i think these traits were under constant selection in those populations because: reproductive success in those societies was dependent upon one’s connection to, and one’s standing within, the extended kin-group, so, thanks to being tied to kin rather than non-kin, nepotistic altruism genes would’ve been favored over reciprocal altruism ones; the extended kin-group was the element within which most individuals would’ve interacted with others, those others being related individuals who would’ve been likely to share the same nepotistic altruism genes (alleles) [see here for more]; and cousin marriage was rife, which again would’ve further fuelled the selection for these genes, since members of the same kin-group would’ve had an even greater likelihood of sharing the same versions of their nepotistic altruism genes.

pretty much the opposite happened during the early and high middle ages in “core” europe. manorialism pushed for nuclear families rather than extended family groupings, and so people began to interact more with non-kin rather than kin, enabling the selection for more traits related to reciprocal altruism. the avoidance of close cousin marriage meant that family members would’ve shared fewer altruism genes in common, so any selection for nepotistic altruism would’ve slowed down. and once voluntary associations of non-kin appeared, the selection for reciprocal altruism really would’ve (or, at least, could’ve) taken off. reproductive success was no longer dependent upon connections to the extended family group, but, rather, unrelated individuals living with the community.

the manor system developed in the 500s in “core” europe (austrasia), but did not arrive in russia (and much of eastern europe) until the late medieval/early modern period. (it never got to the balkans.) the extended family was most likely gone on the manors in the west by the 800s (see mitterauer), although it is conceivable that the nuclear families found on the manors in the earliest days were residential nuclear familes rather than the fully atomized ones that we see in the west today. certainly by the 1500s, there are no longer any traces of the extended family among “core” europeans (although there are still some pockets). the avoidance of cousin marriage was underway in earnest by the 800s (possibly earlier, but definitely by the 800s). it was still on shaky ground as late as the 1400s in russia. and, as we’ve seen, voluntary associations appeared very early in “core” western europe, but only very recently in russia (and, presumably, other areas of eastern europe).

most of you will recognize this as the hajnal line story (yet again!) with a few new nuances thrown in. manorialism, outbreeding, and voluntary associations all began in “core” europe — again very roughly the area outlined by the green oval on the map below (the other lines indicate, again roughly the extent of the hajnal line) — and they spread outwards from there over time, eventually reaching russia and other parts of eastern europe, but not until very late. (and the manor system in russia, once it was adopted there, was of a very different form than what had existed in western europe.)

hajnal line - core europe

inside the hajnal line, which (imo) reflects the extent of the strongest selection for behavioral traits related to reciprocal altruism over nepotistic altruism, the populations have stronger democratic traditions, are more civic-minded, are less corrupt, and score higher on individualism (vs. collectivism) on hofstede’s idv dimension than the populations outside the hajnal line. (please, see my big summary post on the hajnal line for more details.) all of these behavioral patterns “fit” better with the idea that these populations are characterized by innate reciprocal altruism tendencies rather than more nepotistic altruism ones. the populations outside the hajnal line seem to be more oppositely inclined.

there is no doubt that soviet communism wreaked havoc on eastern european populations. some untold millions died in the gulags, families and towns and villages were ripped apart, political repression was beyond belief. but smart money says that, along with civicness, many of the “non-western” features of contemporary eastern europe — high corruption rates, etc. — have deeper roots, and are not the consequences of communism, but rather of recent evolution by natural selection.

previously: civic societies and civic societies ii and democracy in italy and big summary post on the hajnal line

(note: comments do not require an email. sorry there’s no tl;dr summary!)

the bamileke of cameroon

been meaning to do a follow up post on the bamileke of cameroon since … well, since last november! always on top of things here at the hbd chick blog. (*^_^*) so, at long last, here we go….

oh. in case you don’t recall or didn’t realize, i’ve been trying to track down other outbreeders around the world — populations which have avoided close relative marriage (closer than second cousins) over the long term (say 30 or 40+ generations) — to see what they’re like: what their family structures are like, what their social structures are like, if they’re corrupt or nepotistic or have a lot of infighting between families/clans, etc. i’m interested in finding out if there are any general behavioral traits common to outbreeders. same for the inbreeders, too, actually.

the bamileke are outbreeders. they avoid all marriage with anybody on their mother’s side of the family (their matrilineage), and also tend to avoid marriage to third cousins or closer on the father’s side [pg. 149]:

“The matrilineage is comprised of all the people descended through women from a common female ancestor. Since all female descendants of the matrilineage are considered his sisters, a man must not marry within this group. No specific taboos exist against marriage within a patrilineage, although most Bamileke who share a common male ancestor four generations back [i.e. a great-great-grandfather-h.chick] will not intermarry. Whereas members of a patrilineage live close to each other and regularly commune with each other, those of a matrilineage are not close and may, in fact, belong to different chiefdoms.”

the bamileke, however, like many african groups, practice polygamy which probably narrows the genetic relatedness in the population. i don’t have any figures on how much polygamy is practiced there.

don’t know for how long the bamileke have been avoiding close cousin marriage, but i suspect that it is at least a few hundred years. the bamileke first came up here on the blog in a previous post, flatlanders vs. mountaineers revisited, in which we saw that they are some of the cameroon highlanders many of them living in very mountainous regions of cameroon, but yet their mating patterns — i.e. avoiding close cousin marriage — don’t seem to fit the broad pattern of highlanders or mountain folk typically inbreeding. apparently, however, the bamileke are fairly recent arrivals in the highlands, having migrated from the (flat) adamawa plateau somewhere around the 1600s [pg. 261 – links added by me]:

“As for the Bamileke, their ancient history is closely linked to that of the two previous groups. All came from the north, from the region today occupied by the Tikar. Their migration probably began in the seventeenth century and took place in successive waves.”

so, it could be that the bamileke are long-term outbreeders (because they originally came from a flatlander region) who transplanted themselves into more mountainous regions beginning ca. four hundred years ago. they don’t seem to have adopted a mountaineer economy — pastoralism for instance — but, rather, stuck to farming. what might have (ironically) saved them from eventually having to adopt pastoralism was the arrival of the germans who introduced coffee growing to the cameroon highlands. the bamileke quickly adopted the cash-crop system of coffee growing and trading with europeans. not sure about this, though — just a guess on my part.

it might be impossible to reconstruct the history of the bamileke people’s mating patterns from historical records (which will have been written almost solely by europeans, of course). if i find any published accounts by christian missionaries in cameroon, they might include some info on the bamileke. otherwise, genetic data (runs of homozygosity) would probably be the best way to discover how in- or outbred the bamileke are. for now, all i can say is that currently (in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries) the bamileke are outbreeders. and judging by their history, there’s a good chance that they’ve been outbreeders for a few hundred years, but that is just speculation on my part.

having said that, what are the bamileke like? what are their family types and social structures like?

traditional bamileke families do not appear to have been nuclear families, primarily because polygamy was (is) practiced, so that is unlike the outbred societies we’ve seen in western europe.

one subgroup of the bamileke, the bangwa (bangoua – in french), are described thusly [pg. 1]:

“Nor is Bangwa a ‘lineage-based’ society. Bangwa social life is not carried on in the all-embracing idiom of kinship, with personal loyalties and resources pooled in discrete unilineal descent groups. Kinship here is an individual business, with a person in the centre of a ramifying network of ties linking him with matrilineal and patrilineal kin, affines, creditor-lords, political superiors and so on. A Bangwa claims no clan or lineage membership, and no corporate group takes responsibility for any of his actions. Kinship is an aid to the business of making a living: tradiing, inheriting, acquiring a title, farming, ruling and marrying. And as the business of living is complex in Bangwa so is the kinship system.”

these features — not having tight clans or even lineages, individuals having to take responsibility for their own actions — are very much like what we see in the long-term outbreeding european populations. don’t know if the rest of the bamileke are like the bangwa in these regards, but i’m guessing yes, since i haven’t read any descriptions anywhere of bamileke peoples engaging in blood feuds or having a wergeld-like system. this absence of tight clans/kindreds seems outbred to me.

however [pg. 351]:

“Customary political structures revolve around kinship, which the Bamileke define by dual descent — patrilineal ties typically determine village residence and rights to land, but matrilineal ties define ritual obligations and the inheritance of movable property.”

so larger kinship groupings are not totally unimportant to the bamileke.

from the previous post (and from this article [pdf]):

“Although the group solidarity of the Bamileke is strong, individual achievement is highly valued. Members of the group are expected to exercise individual initiative in the pursuit of economic goals. Individual acquisition of economic resources including private property, money, and other remuneration is stressed. Other cultural characteristics of the group that have been invaluable to their entrepreneurial skills are discussed below….

“[T]he social status of an individual in this ethnic group is not rigidly fixed; individuals — male or female — can improve their condition in life and are expected to do so. Commercial and business success is one of the most highly valued routes to prestige and status. Bamileke women are also expected to achieve economic and comnercial success and there are few traditional limits placed on their economic participation….

“The traditional values of the Bamileke stress individual competition and overt displays of ‘getting ahead’. Individual Bamileke are expected to compete and to surpass each other’s accomplishments. The emphasis on competition is not limited to economic activities, but is a feature of personal relationships as well: within families, children are expected to compete with their siblings; sons and daughters are encouraged to surpass the achievements of their parents….

[P]oorer relatives are not expected or allowed to lay claim to or live off the riches of wealthier family members….

“A final feature of traditional society which must be noted is the system of succession and inheritance. Of all the elements characteristic of Bamileke social organization, this feature has been fundamental and has had far-reaching implications for the rate and pace of Bamileke participation in economic growth, development, and change. Succession and inheritance rules are determined by the principle of patrilineal descent. According to custom, the eldest son is the probable heir, but a father may choose any one of his sons to succeed him. An heir takes his dead father’s name and inherits any titles held by the latter, including the right to membership in any societies to which he belonged…. The rights in land held by the deceased were conferred upon the heir subject to the approval of the chief, and, in the event of financial inheritance, the heir was not obliged to share this with other family members. The ramifications of this are significant. First, dispossessed family members were not automatically entitled to live off the wealth of the heir. Siblings who did not share in the inheritance were, therefore, strongly encouraged to make it on their own through individual initiative and by assuming responsibility for earning their livelihood….

A notable feature of the group is the complementarity between individualism and collective unity. Individuals are expected to make their own way in the world while retaining a strong ethnic identity and group association. This interact is one of the factors accounting for their economic success. Each individual, for example, is expected to contribute as much to the group as he receives in return. Thus, cooperation is essential. The group is perceived of as an interdependent system based on the strength of individual links….

A principal Bamileke belief is that individuals are, in the final analysis, responsible for their own fate. One makes one’s way in society on the basis of individual qualities. Status distinctions and rank are not rigidly fixed and there is always the possibility of advancement.”

so here we have: individualism, extended family NOT being able to automatically rely on other members of the extended family, no precise inheritance rules (which is something emmanuel todd identifies as a trait of absolute nuclear family societies), and the collective unity of the larger group (NOT any family group). these are all traits that are found in outbred, “core” europe — although they are expressed somewhat differently in northwest europe vs. cameroon.

the bamileke also have a lot of voluntary associations, another characteristic common in outbred europe and not normally found in inbred populations — at least none of the inbred populations i’ve looked at so far [pg. 42]:

“The original function of these societies was to administer initiation rites, but in societies with a more complex economy and polity, both male and female associations grew in importance by assuming a plurality of administrative and commercial functions as well, such as tax collection, price control in markets, maintenance of public order, and organization of collective work. The *mandjon* societies of Bamileke men and women provide good examples of such traditional associations. The women’s *mandjon* are presided over by the mother of the *fon* or chief — there are over a hundred such chiefdoms in Bamileke territory — and its members help each other in agricultural work. The *mandjon* used to meet on a weekly basis to organize such work. In addition to associations that fit into the political structure of Bamileke society, there are also many autonomous associations based on neighborhood. Aside from ritual functions (such as divination and faith healing) they also act as savings groups and associations for mutual assistance. More recently, Bamileke associations…have been adapted to the needs of urban living and have led to a proliferation of voluntary membership clubs that provide mutual aid, companionship for immigrants, and entertainment. The savings groups are maintained by members paying in fixed amounts at weekly meetings, taking turns in receiving the entire sum. Membership is not restricted to a single saving association and the Bamileke tend to join them as soon as they earn money.”

interestingly, the bamileke are probably the most successful group in cameroon economically speaking — and they are also strongly nationalistic [pg. 65]:

“In the towns and cities, they are known for their skills at running small and large businesses and for their professional abilities…. During the years of the French colonial empire, the Bamileke were leaders in the nationalistic rebellion, especially the 1955 uprising that led to Cameroon’s independence. Today the Bamileke are extremely influential in the Cameroonian commercial economy. They are also one of the major constituencies of the Union de Populations du Cameroun (UPC), the fiercly nationalistic political party.”

i haven’t found out anything yet on corruption in bamileke society — although there seems to be plenty of it in cameroon. can’t imagine that they’re very nepotistic since the members of extended families are not obliged to help one another out — nor is aid to be expected — but you never know. i will endeavor to find out more!


previously: guess the population! and the semai

(note: comments do not require an email. bamileke elephant masks!)

kindreds, communes, feuds, and mating patterns in medieval france

when it comes to clan-based societies vs. nation-states and all that, the reigning paradigm is that peoples resort to relying on their extended families/clans/tribes for all sorts of things like justice and economic support in the absence of a (strong?) state, but if they somehow miraculously acquire a state, people quickly drop the connections with their extended families. this to me seems completely upside-down-and-backwards.

never mind, for instance, that there have been strong states in the middle east since…*ahem*…the days of hammurabi if not before, and yet for some reason middle easterners are amongst the most clannish peoples on the planet (see: syria) — and i mean clannish as in actually relying on their clans in their daily lives. and never mind that the chinese — especially the southern chinese — still organize themselves along clan lines, too, with their clan clubhouses and everything — even though they’ve had really strong and powerful states for millennia as well.

see? upside-down-and-backwards.

what appears to be the case, rather, is that, for whatever (*cough*genetic*cough*) reasons, people stop relying on their extended families/clans when they stop being very closely related to those family members, i.e. after a long period of outbreeding (avoiding cousin or other forms of close marriage). i’ve already shown in a previous post that the importance of the clan/kindred in anglo-saxon england was waning in the early 900s (in southern england anyway), before england was unified, so before there was a nice, cozy state for people to fall back on. the same appears to be true of the medieval french (at least some of them — there are regional differences, as there are in britain).

but i’m getting ahead of myself. first things first: picking up where we left off at the end of the last post on medieval france — mating patterns of the medieval franks. let’s look at the importance of the kindred and feuding amongst the franks. then i’ll get to how and when the franks/french dropped all the kindred and feuding business.

for those of you who don’t want to wade through all the details, tl;dr summary at the bottom of the post (click here). you’re welcome! (^_^)

as we saw in the previous post, the franks — and really i mean the salian franks who gave rise to the merovingian dynasty in austrasia — like all the other pre-christian germanic groups (and the pre-christian irish and britons and scots, too) married their cousins. who knows how much, but enough that the various christian missionaries to these groups raised loud and very vocal objections to their marriage practices.

the result, imho, is that frankish society — like early medieval anglo-saxon society — was “clan”- or kindred-based. from The Laws of the Salian Franks (1991) [pgs. 39-41]:

“The Frankish family was the small family usually found among the other Germanic barbarians: it consisted of husband, wife, minor sons, unmarried daughters, and other dependents including half-free dependents (*lidi*) and slaves. However, although the basic family group was the same for the Franks as for most other Germanic barbarians who settled within the territory of the Roman Empire, the Franks relied more heavily on the larger kin group than did the Burgundians, Visigoths, or Lombards (it is difficult to know about the Anglo-Saxons, for the early Anglo-Saxon laws are uninformative on this subject)….

that last bit is debatable, but anyway…

“The kin group was important because the individual alone, or even with his immediate family, was in a precarious position in Frankish society. One needed the support of a wider kin to help him bring offenders against his peace before the courts, and one needed kin to help provide the oathhelpers that a man might be required to present in order to make his case or to establish his own innocence before the court. These roles of the kin are familiar to all the Germans. But the Frankish kin group had further responsibilities and privileges. For example, if a man were killed, his own children collected only half of the composition due, the remaining half being equally divided between those members of his kin group who came from his father’s side and those who came from his mother’s side (LXII, i)….

“The right of the kin group to share in the receipt of composition involved also the responsibility for helping members of the group to pay composition. If a man by himself did not have sufficient property to pay the entire composition assessed against him, he could seek help from his closest kin, father and mother first, then brothers and sisters. If sufficient help was still not forthcoming, more distant members of the maternal and paternal kin (up to the sixth degree, i.e., second cousins [XLIV, 11-12]), could be asked to help. This responsibility of the kin to aid their kinsmen is known in Frankish law as *chrenecruda* (LVIII)….

“The importance of the kin group should thus be obvious, and added importance derived from the fact that one shared in the inheritance of one’s kin up to the sixth degree should closer heirs be lacking. Normally the advantages and disadvantages of belonging to a kin groups (legally related in an association known as parentela) evened themselves out, and the security of association plus the opportunity to inherit well justified the potential liability of the kin. However, on occasion the liabilities overshadowed the advantages. The debts of an uncontrollable relative might endanger a man’s property, or movement away from the area in which the kin group lived might have made the operation of parentela awkward if not impossible. So the law provided the means whereby a man could remove himself from his kin’s parentela, thereby avoiding responsibility for his kin — but in return he forfeited his position in the line of inheritance of that kin group (LX).”

and then there was the feuding as well. from Language and History in the Early Germanic World (2000) [pgs. 50-51]:

“The other form of protection provided by the kindred concerns blood-vengeance and the prosecution of a feud, for these act as a disincentive to violence and therefore offer protection in advance. It is not enough to define a feud as a state of hostility between kindreds; we must extend it to the threat of such hostility, but also, if the mere threat fails to prevent the outbreak of actual hostility, to a settlement on terms acceptable to both parties by means of an established procedure. In other words, the feud is a means of settling disputes between kindreds through violence or negotiation or both….

Central to feuding is the idea of vengeance, the willingness of all members of a kindred to defend one of their number and to obtain redress for him…. If a conflict nonetheless broke out it was waged not between individuals, but collectively between kindreds, as is best revealed by the way in which satisfaction could be obtained by vengeance on any member of the culprit’s kindred, not necessarily on the perpetrator himself. An offence to one was therefore an offence to all, as is most pithily expressed by Gregory of Tours in the case of a feud involving a woman with the words: *ad ulciscendam humilitatem generis sui*. In this case the kindred exacts vengeance from one of its members who is felt to have disgraced it; a refusal to act thus would have brought even greater shame up the kindred. An example like this shows, even in the language used, just what difficulties the Church had to face in dealing with such a mentality, for the word *humilitas*, in Germanic eyes the ‘humiliation’ or ‘shame’ done to the kindred, was for the Christian the virtue of humility. This virtue, including even a readiness to forgive an insult, was the undoing of Sigbert of Essex who, so Bede reports, was killed by his kinsmen who complained that he had been too ready to forgive his enemies and had thereby brought dishonour on his kindred. Such forgiveness and willingness to abandon the duty of feuding dealt a shocking blow to the kindred as a central support of Germanic society.”

the gauls also practiced feuding, so their society was probably clan- or kindred-based, too. from Medieval French Literature and Law (1977) [pg. 67]:

“[The vendetta’s] sole justification was a prior injury or offense. Sanctioned in Roman Gaul in cases of murder, rape, adultery, or theft, the blood vengeance implied a solidarity of family lineage….”

today the french are (mostly) not a clannish, feuding, kindred-based society — especially compared to, say, the arabs. what happened? when did they quit being clannish?

the kindred-based blood feud was still common during the carolingian empire (800-888) despite efforts of the authorities (the state!) to put a stop to it. from The Carolingian Empire (1978, orig. pub. 1957) [pg. 138 and 168-169]:

“It was in vain that orders were given for all who refused to abandon private feuds and to settle their quarrels in a court of law to be sent to the king’s palace, where they might expect to be punished by banishment to another part of the kingdom. Not even the general oath of fealty imposed by Charles contained a general prohibition of feuds. Instead the government contented itself with prohibiting the carrying of arms ‘within the fatherland’, and with setting up courts of arbitration with the possibility of appeal to the tribunal of the palace. But as far as the prohibition of carrying arms was concerned, not even the clergy were inclined to obey it. The lesser vassals who were themselves hardly in a position to conduct a feud, could always induce their lords to interfere in their quarrels by invoking their right to protection…. But not even the most primitive form of private warfare, the blood feud, actually died out. On the contrary, it appears to have flourished especially among the lesser nobility and the stewards of large domains….

“Just as a lord could force a serf against his will to become a secular priest, so also he could force him to take the tonsure of a monk….

“It certainly suited the secular authorities to rid themselves in this way of opponents or of those involved in a blood feud. In the case of a man involved in a blood feud, however, there was always the danger that the family of the victim would turn their ancient right of revenge against the whole convent.”

and then the carolingian empire broke apart, and all h*ll broke loose (until the capetians gained control of the area we now know as france, and even then it took some time for the kingdom of france to be fully consolidated). various authorities — the church and different barons, etc. — did try to bring peace to the land, but it really didn’t work for very long, if at all. from the wikipedia page on the peace and truce of god:

The Peace and Truce of God was a medieval European movement of the Catholic Church that applied spiritual sanctions to limit the violence of private war in feudal society. The movement constituted the first organized attempt to control civil society in medieval Europe through non-violent means. It began with very limited provisions in 989 AD and survived in some form until the thirteenth century.”

interestingly, the peace and truce of god movement began in southern france, not in the north where The Outbreeding Project had began earliest. perhaps those populations in southern france experienced more feuding in the late-900s than in the north? i don’t know. don’t have any direct proof (yet). in Medieval French Literature and Law (1977) we learn that everyone — the church, the lords of manors, the kings — tried EVERYthing they could think of over the next three to four hundred years to stop the feuding, with, as we shall see, very limited success [pgs. 108-113 and 116 – long quote here]:

Direct opposition to the blood feud began to make itself felt in southern France toward the end of the century. Combining ideology with expediency, the horror of blood with a desire for clerical immunity from attack, the Council of Charroux (989) ratified a special treaty of protection. Under God’s Peace, or the *paix de Dieu*, acts of violence against church property, laborers, peasants, their livestock, and clerics were forbidden under pain of official sanction. The Peace of Charroux took the form of voluntary submission rather than true prohibition and was sponsored by local prelates with the cooperation of the local nobility. It must have been at least partially successful, for similar accords were adopted by the Council of Narbonne in 990 and that of Anse in 994. An agreement concluded at the Synod of Puy (990) extended the protection of God’s Peace to merchants, mills, vineyards, and men on their way to or home from church. Pacts of ‘justice and peace’ were signed in 997 by the Bishops of Limoges, the Abbot of Saint-Martial, and the Bishop and Duke of Acuitaine. It was decided at the Council of Poitiers in 1000 that all infractions pertaining to *res invasae* would henceforth be settled by trial rather than war.

Monarchy favored the ecclesiastical peace movement. It appears likely, even, that Robert the Pious attempted to promulgate a declared peace at Orleans in 1010, although he remained unable to enforce it. By the third decade of the eleventh century the spirit of the southern pacts had spread to Burgundy and the North. At the Council of Verdun-le-Doubs (1016) the lay aristocracy of the region promised, in the presence of the archbishops of Lyon and Besancon: (1) not to violate the peace of sanctuaries; (2) not to enter forcefully the *atrium* of any church except to apprehend violaters of the peace; (3) not to attack unarmed clerics, monks, or their men; (4) not to appropriate their goods except to compensate for legitimate wrong inflicted. The Council of Soissons adopted an identical formula in 1023, as did the Councils of Anse in 1025, Poitiers in 1026, Charroux in 1028, and Limoges in 1031. Elsewhere, the bishops elicited individual promises of nonviolence from members of a particular diocese. At the request of the Abbot of Cluny and in the presence of the archbishop and the high clergy of the region of Macon, numerous Burgundian nobles swore in 1153 to refrain from attacking church property, to resist those who did, and to besiege the castles to which they withdrew if necessary.

A variation of the *paix de Dieu* was concluded by the bishops of Soissons and Beauvais. The *pactum sive treuga*, or *treve de Dieu*, forbade violence not according to the object of attack, but according to its time, season or day. Wars of vengeance were initially prohibited during the seasons of Easter, Toussaint, and Ascension. In addition to their oath governing sacred property and clerics, the subscribers of the Council of Verdun-le-Doubs swore: (1) not to participate during certain periods of the year in any military expedition other than that of the king, local prelate, or count; (2) to abstain for the duration of authorized wars from pillaging and violating the peace of churches; (3) not to attack unarmed knights during Lent. The Council of Toulouse added certain saints’ feast days to the list of proscribed dates; the bishops of Vienne and Besancon included Christmas and the Lenten season. Caronlingian interdiction of the blood feud on Sundays was revived by the Synod of Roussillon in 1027. From Sunday it was gradually extended to include almost the entire week: first from Friday at vespers to Monday morning and then from Wednesday sundown to Monday….

The seigneurial peace movement in the large northern feudatory states, themselves large enough to be governed as small kingdoms, prefigured any sustained monarchic attempt to control private war. An accord ratified in Flanders at the Council of Therouanne (1042-3) regulated the right of the Flemish aristocracy to bear arms; the count alone could make war during periods of prescribed abstinence. Angevine Normandy, inspired by the Flemish example, was sufficiently advanced administratively and judiciallys to serve as a model for Philippe-Auguste after royal annexation of the duchy in the early thirteenth century. The *treve de Dieu* signed in Caen in 1047 had validated the principle of ducal regulation of private campaigns. According to an inquest conducted in 1091 by Robert Curthose and William Rufus, William I had enacted, as early as 1075, a *paix de Duc* limiting blood feuds and placing numerous restrictions upon the conduct of any but his own expeditions. The *Donsuetudines et Iusticie* of the Conqueror prohibited seeking one’s enemy with hauberk, standard, and sounding horn; it forbade the taking of captive and the expropriation of arms, horses, or property in the course of a feud. Burning, plunder, and wasting of fields were forbidden in disputes involving the right of seisin. Assault and ambush were outlawed in the duke’s forest; and, except for the capture of an offender in *flagrante delicto*, no one was to be condemned to loss of life or limb without due process in a ducal court. William’s law thus reflects a double current in the control of wars of vendetta. On the one hand, it limits the methods of private campaigns without prohibiting them altogether. On the other, it reserves jurisdiction over certain cases of serious infraction for the duke’s own court, thus bypassing the local seigneurial judge who would ordinarily have enjoyed exclusive cognizance over the crimes committed within his fief….

Although unable to control the *faida* [blood feud – h.chick] with any certainty until well into the thirteenth century, the Crown did support a number of measures restricting the right to war. According to Beaumanoir, only noblemen can legally settle a dispute through recourse to arms; a conflict between a nobleman and a bourgeois or a peasant was to be resolved in public court. Brothers and even stepbrothers were prohibited from fighting each other. Furthermore, the Bailiff of Clermont carefully defines the limits of family obligation in pursuit of blood feuds. Duty to one’s kin-group had formerly extended to the seventh degree. Beaunamoir maintains that since the Church had set impediments to marriage only at the fourth degree, kinsmen of more remote paternity were not obliged to come to the aid of distant relatives. Thus, while the collective responsibility of the feudal *comitatus* had not been eliminated entirely, it was curtailed somewhat.

“The rules pertaining to initiation and cessation of hostilities were a crucial factor in the limitation of vendetta. As Beaumanoir specifies, fighting may begin either by face-to-fact challenge or by messenger. In both cases the declaration must be made clearly and openly; war without public defiance is the equivalent of murder without warning, or treason…:

“‘He who wishes to initiate war against another by declaration, must not do so ambiguously or covertly, but so clearly and so openly that he to whom the declaration is spoken or sent may know that he should be on his guard; and he who proceeds otherwise, commits treason.’ (Beaumanoir 2: 1675: 358).

“Once war had been declared, the parties had to wait forty days before actually coming to blows in order to alert those not present at the original declaration. This waiting period or *quarantaine le roi*, which was attributed to Philippe-Auguste and renewed by Saint Louis, again emphasizes the distinction between open and secretive homicide; it broadens the criminal concept to cover the domain of general warfare. Surprise attack upon an enemy clan prior to the end of the forty day injunction constituted an act of treason as opposed to legitimate vengeance….”

The persistence of wars of vengeance following the Saint-King’s death is apparent in the large number of *treves* concluded in the Parlement of Paris during the reign of Philip the Bold [1363-1404]. Despite the attempt to continue his father’s policy of suppression, Philip remained more capable of terminating conflicts already under way than preventing the outbreak of new wars. Philip the Fair experienced even greater difficulty in controlling the resurgence of independent military ventures among his vassals….”

so despite ALL of those efforts from the authorities in medieval france over the course of three or four hundred years, kindred-based blood feuds continued in france until the 1200-1300s. meanwhile, in southern england (but NOT in northern england, wales, or the highlands of scotland), feuding seems to have died a natural death by the 1100s. it would be interesting to know if there were regional differences in the timing of the cessation of feuding in france (like in britain) — my bet is yes, but i don’t have any info on that one way or the other. i will certainly be keeping an eye out for it.

there are some hints, though, that the kindred was, in fact, becoming less important in medieval france before the 1200-1300s.

the first was the increasing significance of the paternal lineage (la lignée) at the (both literal and figurative) expense of the extended family. the nuclear family became more important, and parents (fathers) began to bequeath their wealth and property to their sons (and daughters) — mainly to the eldest son, of course — rather than also to their own brothers and cousins and second cousins thrice removed (you get the idea). as i wrote about in a previous post, this process of the shrinking and verticalization of the french family began around ca. 1000. most of the historical data we have on this process comes from the northern/austrasia region of the franks — where The Outbreeding Project began — but that doesn’t rule out that it wasn’t also happening elsewhere in france. again, i’ll have to keep my eye out for more info.

another indicator of the decreasing importance of the kindred in medieval french society, imho, is the rise of the communes (liberté! egalité! fraternité! (~_^) ). (yes, i know there were communes in northern italy, too. i’ll come back to those at a later date.) the later communes in medieval france — in the 1100-1200s — tended to be officially established entities given charters by the king or some regional lord, but the earliest ones from the late 1000s were really movements — associations“of the people” — of individuals (and maybe their immediate families), NOT of whole kindreds or clans or tribes. from Medieval France: An Encyclopedia (1995) [pgs. 464-465]:

Communes were sworn associations of rural or urban dwellers designed to provide collective protection from seigneurial authority. The earliest development of self-governing cities occurred in the later 11th century between the Loire and the Rhineland, as well as in northern Italy…. The urban territory became officially a ‘peace zone.’ Responsibility for enforcing order and judging violators fell to the commune, as did collection of taxes and the payment of dues to the king or local lord. These urban franchises were available to all residents, including those who, fleeing servitude in the countryside, remained for a year and a day….

Communes engaged all inhabitants in a communal oath, thus substituting a horizontal and egalitarian form of association for the more traditional ones of the aristocracy. Within the commune, each member was subservient to the other as a brother. On the ideological level, the notion of ‘peace’ played so fundamental a role that in some charters *pax* and *communa* are synonymous terms….

“Communes continued to form through the 12th and early 13th centuries, and in the reign of Louis IX there were over thirty-five of them in the regions directly north of Paris. They gradually became more established, with a hierarchy of guilds structuring relationships between segments of the population, often concentrating authority in the hands of a clique of ruling families. Communes began to decline after the 13th century, with European economic growth generally….”

the citizens of communes tried their hand at stopping blood feuds, too. most of the commune citizens themselves dealt with disputes with others NOT via the feud and with the help of other family members, but as independent individuals via civil means. however, the commune members might wind up suffering collateral damage if feuds raged nearby, so they tried to put a stop to them. from Medieval French Literature and Law (1977) [pg. 110]:

Municipal opposition to private war accompanied the communal movements of the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Though theoretically excluded from participating in the blood feud and protected by local peace pacts, the merchants living in northern and eastern France were nonetheless subject to the ravages of vendetta. An abundance of evidence indicates a willingness on the part of some municipal residents to settle their differences independently of civil procedure. Most, however, sought more regular means of settlement. When it came to handling arms, the merchant, like the cleric, found himself at a distinct disadvantage. The commune was, in essence, a peace league, a specially designated civil space whose inhabitants were guaranteed the right to trial without combat. Among the founding principles of the municipality of LeMans (1070) were the repression of vendettas among the members of the urban ‘friendship’ and mutual protection against external attack. The charter of Laon (1128) was entitled to *institutio pacis*; that of Tornai, *forma pacis et compositionis*. The pact of Verdun-le-Doubs was, in effect, an earlier version of the twelfth-century *convenance de la paix*, a protective agreement organized by artisan and trade guilds. In 1182 a carpenter from Le Puy founded a brotherhood of merchants and manufacturers devoted to the suppression of violence. Not only were feuds prohibited within the group, but when a murder did occur, the family of the victim was expected to seek reconciliation with the guilty party by inviting him to its house. The peace league of Le Puy had spread throughout Languedoc, Auxerre, and Berry before seigneurial uneasiness with institutional restraints upon the right to private war led to its own suppression. In spite of constant and often violent opposition, similar *confreries de paix* appeared in Champagne, Burgundy, and Picardie under Philip the Fair and his sons.”

the communes of the 1000-1100s, then, are free associations of independent individuals, usually minus their extended families/kindreds, but plus lots of civic behavioral patterns like the presence of the right to a trial in a court of law rather than the vendettas and feuds of a clan-based society. that’s a big change. wrt timing, the french communes — as free associations of independent individuals in place of kindreds — appear right around the same time as the gegildan in southern england (900s), the gegildan being another type of association of independent individuals replacing the earlier kindreds. again, i’d love to know if there were any regional differences in where these communes were located (apart from between the loire and rhine) — more in the north? more in the south? i shall endeavor to find out.


to sum up, then — the pre-christian franks, like all the other pre-christian germanics, were a cousin-marrying, kindred-based population in which the extended-family was extremely important (on top of the nuclear family) and in which blood feuds between kindreds regularly occurred. a frankish individual’s identity was all bound up with that of his kindred — frankish society was not comprised of independently acting individuals. feuding also took place amongst the romano-gauls, so they were likely clannish, too.

the roman catholic church banned cousin marriage in 506, but it’s likely that the franks didn’t take this seriously until after the mid-700s (although the particularly devout may have), at which point they really did (see previous post).

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.

all of this can be compared to the southern english whose kindreds began to drift apart in the 900s and where feuding seems to have disappeared by the 1100s. remember that the law of wihtred in kent outlawed cousin marriage sixty years (two generations) before the franks did. also keep in mind that there may be regional differences in france (as in britain) that might be obscuring an earlier disappearance of kindreds/clannishness in “core” france. or maybe not. we shall see.

whew! that is all. (^_^)

previously: whatever happened to european tribes? and kinship, the state, and violence and mating patterns of the medieval franks and la lignée and the auvergnat pashtuns and the importance of the kindred in anglo-saxon society

(note: comments do not require an email. vive la commune!)