Archives for posts with tag: we’ve always been at war with austrasia

(update 11/07/15: added a map and some comments to the third section below.)

if you’re a wise person who doesn’t fritter away their time on twitter, then you will have missed the short discussion the week before last about communism and east germany which was prompted by this tweet…

as in the convos regarding russia and eastern europe in general which i mentioned in my last post, many tweeps attributed the very high rates of non-religious people in eastern germany versus western to that region’s years under communism. it was, in fact, this debate about east germany which reminded me that i had intended to post about the case of russia and civicness and corruption, etc. (which i then did!), but i wanted to address the matter of eastern germany in a separate post since there are several interesting nuances related to the question of europe’s east-west divide to be uncovered here which are particular to germany/central europe. (or at least i think they’re interesting!). so, here we go…eastern germany, medieval manorialism, and (yes) the hajnal line…

again, just as in the case of russia, in order to try to settle the debate about whether or not communism left any long-lasting effects on the behavioral patterns (and beliefs, in this case) of east germans, i think we should start by asking if there were any similar such differences between east and west germans before the gdr existed. if yes, then i’d say we could pretty quickly rule out the communist state as having been much of an influencing force. at the very least, that premise would start to look pretty shaky. another approach might be to check the actual history: did the powers that be of the gdr actually suppress religious belief during the forty or so years of its existence? let’s look at the latter question first.

the consensus among historians (as much as such a thing can ever exist) appears to be, no — for most of time that the gdr was in existence, the communist authorities were fairly tolerant of christianity under a system known as “church in socialism” (“kirche im sozialismus”). here from Eastern Germany: the most godless place on Earth by peter thompson:

“Different reasons are adduced for the absence of religion in the east. The first one that is usually brought out is the fact that that area was run by the Communist party from 1945 to 1990 and that its explicit hostility to religion meant that it was largely stamped out. However, this is not entirely the case. In fact, after initial hostilities in the first years of the GDR, the SED came to a relatively comfortable accommodation with what was called the Church in Socialism. The churches in the GDR were given a high degree of autonomy by SED standards and indeed became the organisational focus of the dissident movement of the 1990s, which was to some extent led by Protestant pastors.”

while it’s true that religious education was banned in schools, theology faculties remained open at the major universities — although spies were deployed into those departments (like everywhere else, i suppose). but, also…

“…the Protestant Youth Committees, with their open-minded and different approach, attracted large numbers of young people from outside the church as well as from within it. The ‘Open Youth Work’ carried on by some pastors was an especially powerful draw for disaffected youths.” [pg. 51]


“Throughout its existence, there was a continuity in the basic policy of the GDR *Kirchenbund* towards the GDR authorities, summed up by the phrase ‘church within socialism’, avoiding the extremes of total assimilation or outright resistance to the policies of the SED [socialist unity party of germany]. The policy was only possible, however, because the GDR authorities themselves were prepared to tolerate the existence of a church which was not fully integrated into the SED dominated system of ‘democratic centralism’…. This created a space for the development of a limited ‘civil society’ and the growth of political disaffection….” [pg. 100]


“[I]n the early years of the GDR the state had made moves to diminish the importance of church festivals by turning days such as Christmas Day and Good Friday into ordinary work days. This meant that only Christians who were prepared to declare their faith in public by asking for special permission for leave could take time off to go to church. The Christmas holidays were turned into ‘New Year holidays’, but more fanciful attempts to blot out Christmas by calling Christmas trees ‘end of year trees’ and the Christ Child the ‘Solidarity Child’ seem to have fallen by the wayside.

“At their midnight services on Christmas Eve, churches were always full. Werner Krusche says he will never forget the cathedral in Magdeburg overflowing, with around 5,000 people coming to the different services, despite the icy cold. Many among them were not even members of the church. ‘Why did they come?’, he asks. ‘Perhaps they themselves didn’t exactly know. Enough that they were there and joined the celebration.'” [pg. 74]

so although the state did exercise a lot of control over the churches in east germany, it didn’t impact much on the religiosity of the populace — at least not according to the historians.

here, however, is more from thompson [my emphasis]:

“Another factor is that religion in eastern Germany is also overwhelmingly Protestant, both historically and in contemporary terms. Of the 25% who do identify themselves as religious, 21% of them are Protestants. The other 4% is made up of a small number of Catholics as well as Muslims and adherents of other new evangelical groups, new-age sects or alternative religions. The Protestant church is in steep decline with twice as many people leaving it every year as joining.”

this brings us back to the first of my questions: were there any similar such differences between east and west germans before the gdr existed? and the answer is: yes, indeed. and precisely in the department of religion! jayman’s also previously pointed out that in the 1920s and 30s (north-)eastern germans voted quite differently than (south-)western germans. now we also have a religious divide — one that goes right back to at least the 1600s. here’s a map of the religious divisions in germany in 1610 (taken from here) on which i’ve attempted (*ahem*) to draw the borders of east germany [click on map to see a LARGER view]:

germany_religious_1610 + east germany border 02

as you can see, in 1610 the vast majority of the population in the area that would centuries later become east germany was protestant (either lutheran or calvinist), and in general protestantism was more prevalent in the northern part of what is today germany than in the south. again, this is very much in accordance with what jayman blogged: that there’s a north-south as well as an east-west divide in germany.

edit (11/07):

following a suggestion by margulon who commented

“One problem with your argument is that whether the reformation took long-term roots in a particular territory was not only decided by the local population within any territory of the Holy Roman Empire, but by the principle ‘cuius regio, eius religio.’ In other words, it was mainly the ruling princely family – members of a supra-regional elite – that decided about the religion in their respective territories according to their respective preferences. This also led to population exchanges of holdouts refusing to convert. I would therefore hesitate to draw conclusions from the predominant religion after 1648 or so.”

…here’s a map of the state of the reformation in germany from earlier in the period — 1560 — with the gdr outlined (roughly!) by me [map source — click on map for LARGER view]:

Confessional Divisions 1560 + east germany

even as early as 1560, then, the region that would become east germany was almost entirely populated by protestants — mostly lutherans, but also some anabaptists. there doesn’t appear to be much of a calvinist population at this point, for whatever reason, unlike by 1610 (the map above). and again, on the whole, the northern parts of what would become germany had greater numbers of protestants than southern germany. the website from which i sourced this map, german history documents and images, says much the same:

“The map shows where the Reformation had been introduced by 1560. The most important areas lay in the Empire’s northern and central zones: Lutheranism in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Brandenburg, Braunschweig-Lüneburg, Hesse, Saxony, and (though outside the Empire’s boundary) Prussia. In the south, Lutheranism was established in Württemberg, parts of Franconia, and numerous Imperial cities. After c. 1580, the Catholic Church experienced a massive revival, which halted the advance of Protestantism and even allowed the old faith to recover some episcopal territories and most of the Austrian lands and the kingdom of Bohemia. Catholicism remained predominant in the western and southwestern portions of the Empire, including most of Alsace and all of Lorraine, as well as Bavaria. The third, Reformed confession spread via Geneva to France, the Netherlands, and some of the German lands. The outcome was a religious geography which survived both the demographic shifts caused by both the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) and the Second World War.”

end edit.

the root cause behind these regional differences is not, i don’t think, simply religious or political or some other set of cultural practices, but rather lies in the recent evolutionary histories of these subgroups. as i said in my last post:

“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.

the “core” of “core” europe was the frankish kingdom of austrasia (from whence the pepinids or carolingians hailed), and this is both where the (bipartite) manor system originated in the 500s and where the avoidance of close cousin marriage (outbreeding) became de rigueur in the 800s. here’s a map indicating (as best as i could manage!) the austrasia of the 400s-800s as well as the much later gdr [click on map for LARGER view]:

westerneurope-physical-map + austrasia + east germany

most of east germany (the gdr) lies outside of the region formerly known as austrasia, as does large parts of both today’s northern and southern germany. southeast germany was incorporated into the frankish kingdom quite early (in the early 500s — swabia on the map below), but both northern germany and southwestern germany much later — not until the late 700s (saxony and bavaria on map). eastern germany, as we will see below, even later than that. the later the incorporation into the frankish empire, the later the introduction of both manorialism and outbreeding. and, keeping in mind recent, rapid, and local human evolution, that should mean that these more peripheral populations experienced whatever selective pressures manorialism and outbreeding exerted for shorter periods of time than the “core” core europeans back in austrasia. here’s a map of the expansion of the frankish kingdoms so you can get yourself oriented [source – click on image for LARGER view]:


in Why Europe?, historian michael mitterauer has this to say about the expansion of the frankish state and the spread of the manor system [pgs. 45-46 – my emphasis]:

“The most significant expansion of the model agricultural system in the Frankish heartland between the Seine and the Rhine took place toward the east. Its diffusion embraced almost the whole of central Europe and large parts of eastern Europe…. This great colonizing process, which transmitted Frankish agricultural structures and their accompanying forms of lordship…”

…not to mention people…

“…took off at the latest around the middle of the eighth century. Frankish majordomos or kings from the Carolingian house introduced manorial estates (*Villikation*) and the hide system (*Hufenverfassung*) throughout the royal estates east of the Rhine as well — in Mainfranken (now Middle Franconia), in Hessia, and in Thuringia…. The eastern limit of the Carolingian Empire was for a long time an important dividing line between the expanding Frankish agricultural system and eastern European agricultural structures. When the push toward colonization continued with more force in the High Middle Ages, newer models of *Rentengrundherrschaft* predominated — but they were still founded on the hide system. This pattern was consequently established over a wide area: in the Baltic, in large parts of Poland, in Bohemia, Moravia and parts of Slovakia, in western Hungary, and in Slovenia. Colonization established a line stretching roughly from St. Petersburg to Trieste….”

i think you all know what that line is by now. (~_^)

“The sixteenth century witnessed the last great attempt to establish the hide system throughout an eastern European region when King Sigismund II of Poland tried it in the Lithuanian part of his empire in what is now modern-day Belarus. The eastward expansion of Frankish agrarian reform therefore spanned at least eight centuries. The basic model of the hide system was of course often modified over such a long period, but there was structural continuity nevertheless.”

here’s a map of the carolingian empire between 843-888 [source] with the gdr (roughly!) indicated. from mitterauer again: “The eastern limit of the Carolingian Empire was for a long time an important dividing line between the expanding Frankish agricultural system and eastern European agricultural structures.” that “eastern limit” is the lilac border on the map, and as you can see something like two-thirds of what would become the gdr lay outside of that border [click on map for LARGER view]:

carolingian empire + east germany

in the earliest days of manorialism — back in austrasia in the 400-500s — manor life was a bit like living on a kibbutz — labor was pooled and everyone ate their meals together in the manor’s great hall. this was a holdover from the roman villa system which was run on the backs of slaves who lived in dormitories and were fed as a group by the owner of the villa. the manor system in core austrasia changed pretty rapidly (already by the 500s) to one in which the lord of the manor (who might’ve been an abbot in a monastery) distributed farms to couples for them to work independently in exchange for a certain amount of labor on the lord’s manor (the demesne). this is what’s known as bipartite manorialism. and from almost the beginning, then, bipartite manorialism pushed the population into nuclear families, which may for some generations have remained what i call residential nuclear families (i.e. residing as a conjugal couple, but still having regular contact and interaction with extended family members). over the centuries, however, these became the true, atomized nuclear families that characterize northwest europe today.

for the first couple (few?) hundred years of this manor system, sons did not necessarily inherit the farms that their fathers worked. when they came of age, and if and when a farm on the manor became available, a young man — and his new wife (one would not marry before getting a farm — not if you wanted to be a part of the manor system) — would be granted the rights to another farm. (peasants could also, and did, own their own private property — some more than others — but this varied in place and time.) over time, this practice changed as well, and eventually peasant farms on manors became virtually hereditary. (i’m not sure when this change happened, though — i still need to find that out.) finally, during the high middle ages (1100s-1300s) the labor obligations of peasants were phased out and it became common practice for farmers simply to pay rent to the manor lords. this is the Rentengrundherrschaft mentioned by mitterauer in the quote above. [see mitterauer for more details on all of this. and see also my previous post medieval manorialism’s selection pressures.]

so here we have some major differences in the selection pressures that western+southwestern versus eastern+northern+southeastern germans would’ve experienced in the early and high middle ages:

– western and southwestern germans of austrasia and swabia (see this map again) would’ve experienced both kibbutz-style and bipartite manorialism from very early on beginning in the 400-500s. contrasted with this, northern (saxony) and southeastern germans (bavaria) wouldn’t have experienced any sort of manorialism until after the late 700s at the earliest — three to four hundred years after the more western germans. so for a dozen or more generations, western germans (some of them would later become the french, of course) were engaged in bipartite manorialism, in which they had to delay marriage (if they wanted to take part in the system), and they were living in nuclear families.

– the region that would one day become east germany (the gdr) didn’t see any manorialism or nuclear families at all until germanic peoples (and some others) migrated to those areas during the ostsiedlung in the high middle ages, at least some six or seven hundred years after the populations in austrasia began experiencing these new selection pressures. and when manors were finally established there, they were based upon the rent system rather than being bipartite.

one important feature of the ostsiedlung — the migration of mostly germanic peoples from the west to central and parts of eastern europe — is that the subgroups of germanics from various regions in the west moved pretty much on straight west-to-east axes:

“As a result, the Southeast was settled by South Germans (Bavarians, Swabians), the Northeast by Saxons (in particular those from Westphalia, Flanders, Holland, and Frisia), while central regions were settled by Franks.”

so, the regions that would eventually become northern and east germany (the gdr) were populated by people not only from saxony (the one on the map above), who were a group late to manorialism and christianity (and, therefore, outbreeding), but also by people from places like frisia (and ditmarsia, iirc). i don’t know if you remember the frisians or not, but they never experienced manorialism. ever. and i suspect that the ditmarsians didn’t, either, but i’ll get back to you on that. (along with the peripheral populations of europe, there are other pockets inside the hajnal line where manorialism was weak or entirely absent, for example in the auvergne.) finally, the slavs (or wends) native to northern and eastern germany would not have been manorialized in the early medieval period, and most likely would’ve still been living in extended family groups, so any incorporation of slavs into communities newly settled by the germans (either by marriage or just direct assimilation of slavic families) would’ve again amounted to introgression from a population unlike that of the austrasian germans.

to conclude, when east germany was eventually settled by germanic peoples in the high middle ages, it was comparatively late (six or seven hundred years after the germans in the west began living under the manor system); the manor system in the region was not of the bipartite form, but rather the more abstract rental form; and the migrants consisted primarily of individuals from a population only recently manorialized or never manorialized. in other words, the medieval ancestors of today’s east germans experienced quite different selection pressures than west germans. so, too, did northern germans on the whole compared to southern germans. these differences could go a long way in explaining the north-south and east-west divides within germany that jayman and others have pointed out.

what does any of this evolutionary history have to do with the fact that eastern germans today are much less likely to be religious than western germans, or that greater numbers of northern germans voted for the nazi party in the inter-war years than southern germans?

in my opinion, the latter question is more easily answered — or speculated about (in an informed and educated sort-of way) — than the first one. since northern germans have a shorter evolutionary history of manorialism and nuclear families and even outbreeding (due to their later conversion to christianity), then they may very well be more clannish, or exhibit more nepotistic altruism, than southern germans who are descended from the austrasian franks. thus, nationalsozialismus — not the most universalistic of political philosophies — might’ve appealed. dunno. Further Research is Required™.

with regard to the religious differences, i’m not sure. but here’s something that i think i’ve noticed which may or may not be relevant. here’s a map of the religious divisions in europe at the time of the reformation (1555 – source) onto which i’ve (sloppily!) drawn austrasia and neighboring neustria which was swallowed up by austrasia early on (486). if you look away from peripheral europe (places like ireland, spain, italy, greece, russia), it looks to me as though the protestant reformation happened in the regions immediately surrounding austrasia/neustria — at least that’s where the protestant movements largely began:

religious divisions of europe map + austrasia

i really don’t know what to make of this, and don’t have much to say about it right now, except to repeat myself: the “core” core europe region of austrasia (+neustria) experienced bipartite manorialism, outbreeding, and small family types for the longest period, beginning as early as the 500s (for the manorialism and small families — 800s for the beginning of serious outbreeding), whereas the regions bordering this “core” core would’ve done so for shorter periods of time (and they saw different forms of manorialism as well). and way out in peripheral europe, these “westernization” selection pressures were present for very, very short periods of time (for instance, manorialism barely arrived in russia in the modern period, and then it was of a very different form from that of western europe). for whatever reasons, the protestant reformation appears to have happened in the middle zone. and the middle zone is where the former east germany lies.

in 1965, john hajnal published his seminal finding that historically the populations of northwest europe were marked by late marriage — many even remained single — with a concomitant low birthrate. populations in eastern europe (and elsewhere) were not. the border between these two zones has become known as the hajnal line. subsequent research has found that other parts of peripheral europe — finland (parts of?), southern italy, the southern part of the iberian peninsula, and ireland — also lie outside the hajnal line:

hajnal line

michael mitterauer, who spent his career studying (among other things) the history of family types and structures from the middle ages and onwards, has connected the hajnal line to both the extent of bipartite manorialism and the western church’s precepts against cousin marriage. according to him, the hajnal line basically indicates where the bipartite manor system was present in medieval europe and where the cousin marriage bans were most stringently enforced — from the earliest point in time.

here on this blog, i’ve been posting about the apparent connection between the hajnal line and a whole slew of behavioral patterns and traits including (but very probably not limited to): family size, iq, human achievement, democratic tendencies, civicness, corruption, individualism (vs. collectivism), and even violence. see this post for more on all that: big summary post on the hajnal line. the primary factor connecting hajnal’s line to all these traits, i think, is the evolutionary histories of the populations found within and outside of the line. the basic outline of those different evolutionary histories is in the post above. “core” europeans and peripheral europeans vary in their average social behaviors thanks to the selective pressures they’ve experienced ever since the early middle ages, and the variances in those social behaviors impact many areas of those societies, from the highest levels of government and industry to everyday interactions between neighbors.

keep in mind that the hajnal line as indicated on the map above is schematic. it is NOT a perfectly straight line. the real border is fuzzy — a gradient, like most distributions of genes are (here’s lactase persistence in europe, for example). Further Research is Required™ to figure out where the border really is. also keep in mind that the hajnal line has no doubt been shifting over time, from west to east mainly, but also to the north and south, with the spread of manorialism from the “core” of core europe. that’s because human evolution can be recent, fairly rapid, localized…and is ongoing!



one issue which i didn’t take into consideration above is the possible effects of the post-wwii migrations on the population structure of east germany. to be honest with you, if it happened after 1066, my knowledge of it is usually kinda vague. (*^_^*) please, feel free to fill me in on the details of the modern migrations in the comments if you think they may have significantly affected the earlier population distributions. a couple of things that i do now know thanks to wikipedia are that: 1) four million germans entered east germany at the end of the war from east of the oder-neisse line; and 2) one quarter of east germans fled to the west between the end of the war and 1961. those are two very substantial migration/self-sorting events. with regard to those coming in from the east, presumably their evolutionary history would’ve been the same or very similar to the one i’ve just outlined for northern and eastern germans — late manorialism, Rentengrundherrschaft, later start of outbreeding, and late appearance of the nuclear family. and with regard to those east germans who fled to the west, given that one quarter migrated over the course of just fifteen or sixteen years, it wouldn’t surprise me if this had some effect on the average characteristics and behavioral traits of the remaining east german population. who left? who was left behind?


jayman tweeted this the other day — these are the cardiovascular mortality rates in european men from 2000:

cardiovascular mortality rates - euro men - 2000

his comment on this map was: “Great variation in the length of time peoples have had to adapt to agro pathogens.” you know what? i think this is exactly right. agro pathogens or, at least, agro something.

beginning in the early medieval period, northwest europe underwent an agricultural revolution. new grain crops were introduced — rye and oats (then, much later, wheat) — as well as some newfangled technological advancements (heavy plow, water mill). all of these spread through northern/western europe via manorialism. (see chapter 1 in mitterauer for more on all this.) i think you can see this dispersal on the map above. maybe.

italy and spain and parts of gaul would’ve grow wheat when they were a part of the roman empire, so those populations have been consuming wheat for quite a long time. they’re in the green with the lowest rates of cardiovascular mortality. the “founder crops” in europe — those that were introduced during the neolithic revolution from the middle east — were emmer (a two-grained spelt), einkorn (one-seeded wheat), barley, and naked wheat. these have been variously consumed in different parts of europe more or less since the neolithic (roughly speaking). the production of rye and oats (and again at a much later point modern wheat) was the mainstay of the manor system, and i think their arrival in different parts of europe is visible on the map above: france (austrasia) where manorialism started has the lowest rate of cardiovascular mortality (plus the population prolly also benefits from its agri-evolutionary history stretching back to roman days); then you see the spread of manorialism (and rye and oats) to the yellow zones — the advancement of the carolingian empire into central europe and also across the channel to southeast england (and to scandinavia?); east germany remains orange since it was manorialized later than western germany (see above post!) — same with northern and western england and ireland (which wasn’t manorialized until something like the 1400s); finally, eastern europe is in the red zone, “manorialized” (barely) very recently.

that looks like a good fit, but, of course, correlation doesn’t mean causation. (~_^)

previously: community vs. communism and big summary post on the hajnal line and medieval manorialism’s selection pressures and mating patterns of the medieval franks

(note: comments do not require an email. down on the manor.)

“every society selects for something.” — greg cochran

every society selects for something. it does take some time for selection pressures to make a difference when it comes to the frequencies of “genes for” various behavioral traits, of course (unless the culling is extreme): twenty generations, maybe. forty is probably better. a few hundred? yeah, that’ll definitely do it. the point is, it doesn’t necessarily take millions of years for evolution by natural selection to work. not even tens of thousands. we don’t have to cast the net back to the paleolithic or even the mesolithic in our search for the origins of behavioral traits in human populations (although the roots for many of them are probably there…or even farther back to our common origin with other apes and even other social mammals, lizards, fruit flies, tomatoes etc., etc.) — we can and should look for selection pressures in more recent eras, too. and “the environment” that exerts these pressures on human populations is not just the natural world — it’s our social worlds, too.

this will be the first in a series of posts on manorialism in medieval europe, because i think that it’s incumbent upon every blogger to bore their readers to tears medieval society in northern europe (ca. 400-1500 a.d.) produced some quite unique selection pressures which very much shaped the characteristics and personalities of “core” europeans, i.e. the dutch (minus the frisians), the belgians, the french (especially the northeastern french), the english (especially the southeastern english), to some degree the lowland scots, the germans (especially those to the west), the scandinavians (especially those further south), the northern italians (especially those from the north italian plain), the northern spanish (especially catalonians), and to some degree the swiss. one of those selection pressures was, of course, europe’s Outbreeding Project, which i never shut up about. (sorry!) the other big one, i think, was manorialism — a communal agricultural system that was really an almost all-encompassing socio-religious-political system which, although its features and importance did vary at different times and in different locales, pretty much regulated nearly all aspects of medieval europeans’ lives. where it existed — a key point which i’ll come back to later.

the working theory around here is that the Outbreeding Project set up the selection pressures for getting rid of much of what we could call “nepotistic altruism” in core europe, allowing for greater cooperation and trust between unrelated individuals and, therefore, a more open and “corporate” sort of society. a second working theory is that manorialism set up selection pressures for a whole suite of traits including perhaps: slow life histories; future time orientation; delayed gratification; the good ol’ protestant work ethic; a general compliant nature and even rather strong tendencies toward conformity; perhaps even a high degree of gullibility; perhaps a few extra iq points; and even more cooperation and trust between unrelated individuals. or not. please keep in mind that i’m just thinking out loud in these posts. oh — the manor system also probably contributed to the selection for the reduction in impulsive violence. (i’ll be exploring more fully the various aspects of manorialism that i think may have created the selection pressures for these various traits in the coming posts — promise! just giving you a rough outline now.) the Outbreeding Project and manorialism very much went hand-in-hand as well — the medieval european manor system could not have happened without all of the outbreeding, and the Outbreeding Project was reinforced by the manor system (since marriage was often regulated within the manor system).

manorialism — “classic,” bipartite manorialism (more on that below) — started with the franks in austrasia by at least the 600s or perhaps earlier and spread gradually southwards with the frankish conquest of, well, france and eastwards during the ostsiedlung. we find it just across the channel in southern england very early as well — there are references to what sounds like features of a manor system in the laws of king ine of wessex (688-726) [see mitterauer, pg. 43]. the medieval european manor system originated, then, roughly in the area outlined in green below (yes — this is the very same area where the Outbreeding Project began. which is convenient, really, ’cause i like not having to make multiple maps! in case you’re new here, the other lines on the map indicate the hajnal line.):

hajnal line - core europe

interestingly, the frisians, although quite centrally located on the coast of the netherlands in this core region, never experienced manorialism. mitterauer ties manorialism to cereal agriculture and the new agricultural techniques developed in the early medieval period (with the introduction of the heavy plow, etc.), so areas unsuitable for such farming — like mountainous regions or swampy areas — typically simply did not see the introduction of the classic manor system.

classic manorialism was introduced to southern france (but bypassed some more remote areas like the massif central) as those regions were conquered by the merovingians and carolingians between the fifth and eighth centuries and to northern spain around the eighth and ninth centuries. the bipartite manor system never reached the southern regions of spain that were controlled by the moors. there was a rudimentary form of manorialism in northern italy even before the area was made a part of the carolingian empire, but the region was heavily manorialized (especially by ecclesiastical monasteries) after charlemagne conquered the lombard kingdom in the 770s. classic, bipartite manorialism was never adopted in central or southern italy or sicily — nowhere in the byzantine world, in fact.

the franks also pushed eastwards, introducing the manor system to central europe, beginning in the eighth century. the border of this eastward movement was, for a couple hundred years or so, the eastern boundary of the carolingian empire (look familiar?). a renewed push eastwards began in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, and a slightly revised form of classic manorialism (a system based upon rents rather than work exchange) was introduced to areas/populations further to the east in central-/eastern-europe including the baltics, large parts of poland, bohemia, moravia, parts of slovakia, western hungary, and slovenia. quite obviously, these populations experienced manorialism for a shorter time than those to the west.

the “classic” form of manorialism never reached the farthest parts of eastern europe. eventually, a form of manorialism was adopted in russia and areas of eastern europe bordering russia, but it was quite different than the version western europe had had. this serfdom-heavy manor system in eastern europe also arrived very late compared to manorialism in western europe — in the fifteenth century (iirc) or in some areas even much later. classic manorialism had practically disappeared in western europe by this point.

in scandinavia, denmark was heavily manorialized relatively early i believe (probably around the time of the first wave of the ostsiedlung, although i must check the dates), and manorialism was also very much present southern sweden (scania). the more northerly parts of scandinavia — norway, northern sweden (or sweden north of scania), the swedish-settled areas of finland — didn’t have manors per se, but were covered by a unique version of “manorialism” in which much of the population was under the thumb of the church (and sometimes petty aristocratic landowners). i know my nordic readers are going to object to me saying that, but please wait for the post on manorialism in scandinavia before bombarding me with your counterarguments. thanks! (^_^) this unique form of “manorialism” arrived in northern scandinavia rather late — probably in something like the 1200s (i need to check on that date) — and departed late (the 1800s and even the 1900s in some areas). not sure what happened in the areas of finland not settled by swedes. and i’m pretty sure no form of manorialism ever took hold in iceland, although i reserve the right to be wrong about that. (~_^)

classic manorialism arrived late in ireland — in the late 1200s — and was introduced by the anglo-normans. there was never really much manorialism in wales or the highlands of scotland, although kind david did introduce it to the lowlands of scotland in the 1100s. not sure how well it took hold there, though. i’ll let you know as soon as i do. proper classic manorialism wasn’t really found in cornwall, either, and manors were not very prevalent in east anglia, although there were some.

there was never any manorialism in the balkans.

nor was there ever any classic, bipartite, european-style manorialism in the arabized, islamic world or in china, although there were plenty of large estates in china throughout its history. (don’t know about japan or the korean peninsula.) the difference between medieval european manors and the manors of china has been characterized as a difference between manorialism — which was a sort-of communal agricultural system in which everyone who worked on the manor was a part of a familia — and landlordism, which is what you had in china [pgs. 11-12]:

“In two major works in particular (Hu Rulei 1979; Fu Zhufu 1980), we find sustained analyses of the differences between the socioeconomic structure of imperial China and that of the precapitalist West…. For Hu Rulei, the key lies in the differences between Chinese ‘feudal landlordism’ (*fengjian dizhuzhi*) and European ‘feudal manorialism’ (*fengjian lingzhuzhi*). In the European feudal manor, landownership or economic power was merged with military, administrative, and judicial powers; each manorial lord exercised the entire range of those powers. The state system of manorialism was thus one in which sovereignty was parceled out. In Chinese landlordism, by contrast, political authority came to be separated from economic power through private land-ownership and the frequent buying and selling of land. This made possible the centralized imperial state system. Landlordism and the centralized imperial state thus made up an interdependent politicoeconomic system that must be distinguished from European manorialism. Hu’s is an analytical model that can help explain the differences and hence also their different paths of sociopolitical change in the modern era.

“Fu Zhufu has pointed to another difference between manorialism and landlordism. In the serf-based manorial system, the lord had to look to the subsistence and reproduction of his workers, lest the very basis of the manorial economy be undermined. But the Chinese landlord was under no such constraints. He could seek the highest possible returns that the land-rental market would support (Fu 1980: 9-10, 201-2). Though Fu skirts the issue here, it is obvious that such principles became harshest when the pressures of social stratification were joined by the pressures of population; under those conditions, a tenant who failed to survive could always be replaced by another. Landlordism could become an institutional system in which the poor tenants were pressed below the margins of subsistence.”

which brings me, now, to some of the various characteristics of classic manorialism and the selection pressures that i think they may have exerted.

– the bipartite estate. the bipartite estate was a key aspect of classical (north)western european manorialism. basically, the manor was divided into two parts: the lord’s part — his farm or demesne — and the peasants’ or serfs’ parts — all their individual farms. the serfs or villeins or whatever you want to call them (there were multiple categories of these peasant farmers and a range of names for them) each had farms to work which were granted to them by the lords (keep in mind that sometimes those “lords” were bishops or monks who ran the monasteries). in the earlier part of the medieval period, the serfs owed labor to the lord of the manor as payment — they were obliged to help work the lord’s demesne — but they also independently worked the farms which they were granted, both to sustain themselves and perhaps make a little profit by selling any extra produce to the neighbors or in a market. there were other obligations, too, but the above was the fundamental gist of the whole system. later in the medieval period, the duty to provide labor switched over to a more simple and direct rent system.

also early on in the period, serfs were given (or assigned) farms to work by the lord of the manor. as a young man, you might not be given the same farm that you grew up on — that your parents had worked — especially not if your father/parents were still productive workers. the lord of the manor, or his steward, would just grant you another farm on the manor to work…if there was one available…and if he chose to do so (presumably based on your merit or your familiy’s record). this system eventually changed as well into one in which a son (typically the eldest son) would “inherit” the farm that his father/parents had worked. not sure when this happened. must find out.

not everyone who was a member of a manor operation would be granted a farm to run. some individuals were just laborers on the manor (“cottagers” in england, for example), and there were plenty of domestic servants serving in the manor house, too.

i think that there are potentially selection pressures here for several different traits or qualities. if we ask ourselves, what sort of individual would’ve done best living in this bipartite estate system, i.e. which individuals with which sorts of traits would’ve managed to reproduce the most, i think it might’ve been people with qualities including: being hard-working or industrious — those that made the most of the farm grant and produced the most food to support the most number of kids and even to sell extra produce for a profit; perhaps smarter than some of the neighbors (like the cottagers) — for the same reasons as hard-working; future time oriented — you had to be patient and wait for a farm to become available, or later in the period wait for your father to hand over the farm or die, and not start philandering about the manor before you could afford to raise kids (you also might not be granted a farm, or acquire yourself a husband, if your reputation was ruined beforehand); slow life histories — those individuals who could hold off on reproducing too early would’ve been rewarded with farms, those that did not would’ve been shunned and would lose the opportunity to reproduce further; and compliancy — you didn’t rail (too much) against the man in the manor, and anyone that did wouldn’t have gotten a farm and may have, if they caused too much trouble, been shipped off to a monastery for life (more on that in a later post).

– villikation and familia. villikation is the term that german researchers use when referring to the fact that the manor and all its inhabitants/workers were managed by someone, either by the lord of the manor himself or by a steward who the lord had put in charge of running the place. you would think that, as a serf or tenant farmer on a manor, you wouldn’t want to run afoul of whoever was in charge, and very often those that did were shipped off the manor (to monasteries), so it seems to me that there might’ve been further pressures here to select for compliant and cooperative individuals.

familia was the word used for everyone who was a member of a particular manor! it was a term used especially earlier in the medieval period, but i think it was in usage throughout the entire era (need to double-check that). from mitterauer [pg. 57]:

“On the one hand, there was the villa, the lord’s manor, or the stewards’ manor, with its resident labor force, the members of which were not tied to one another by kinship; on the other hand, there were the farms of the *servi casati*, that is, of the unfree laborers and their dwellings, as well as the *coloni* who were bound to the soil and therefore to a house. Together they formed the *familia*, an overarching household embracing several households.”

a classic (north)western european manor, then, almost sounds like a 1960s hippie kibbutz, at least when it came to the relatedness of the individuals on the estate. (unlike a hippie kibbutz, though, The Man was clearly in charge.) the people living and working on a medieval manor in (north)western europe were not all members of one extended family or clan (which you do see elsewhere, like in eastern europe, especially russia, or southern china). this system, along with the Outbreeding Project, might’ve encouraged the selection for individuals who were willing to cooperate with other (comparatively speaking) unrelated persons. it might even have helped, along with the Outbreeding Project which got rid of much nepotistic altruism imho, to select for highly trusting — and quite highly trustworthy — individuals.

– open-field system. another key feature of (north)western european manorialism was the open-field system in which shares of large “fields” were apportioned out to each family on the manor — each household would get a long strip or strips within one of these huge fields in which to grow their crops. open-field systems were used by the pre-christian germans and slavic populations (iirc), but in those contexts, extended family/kindred/clan members typically shared the fields. again, in the classic manor system, we have more unrelated individuals/families sharing these fields. residents of the manor regularly policed one another, bringing each other to the manorial court if they thought someone was cheating in the open-field system (and also in the usage of the commons), so, again, here we might have the selection for cooperative and trustworthy individuals.

– ecclesiastical manors. i think the presence (or absence) of ecclesiastical manors in any given area might be very important. apparently, ecclesiastical manors exercised more control on their residents, and until later in the period, than those headed by lay lords (more on this in a later post). so, i’d expect all of the behavioral traits associated with manorialism to be even more pronounced in areas/populations that had more than their fair share of ecclesiastical manors: south-central england, france, germany, and northern italy (and northern scandinavia?).

again, these are all just some ideas. Further Research is RequiredTM! would be cool if someone looked through some manor records to see if they could find out which, if any, class of peasants/serfs managed to reproduce more successfully. maybe someone already has?

if/when the “genes for” any or all of the behavioral traits i’ve mentioned here in this post are discovered, my prediction is that the frequencies for them in european populations will be highest in those in the core area and, thanks to the historical origins and spread of manorialism (and the Outbreeding Project), that these frequencies will reduce with distance from that core. again, i reserve the right to be completely and utterly wrong about that. (~_^)

that’s it for now. stay tuned for a bunch of posts on medieval manorialism in the coming weeks! but first, some other business….

previously: big summary post on the hajnal line and medieval manoralism and the hajnal line and behind the hajnal line and medieval manorialism and selection…again und die ostsiedlung

(note: comments do not require an email. a french manor: chateau de montargis)

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!)

back in the saddle again! (it chafes a little….)

this post will be about the mating patterns of the medieval franks meaning the merovingian franks (no, not THAT guy!) and the carolingian franks, but mostly the merovingians. so we’re talking from between ca. 450 a.d. to ca. 800 a.d. (charlemagne died in 814), but i’ve got a little info from later in the period, too.

tl;dr at the end of the post. (^_^)

to refresh everybody’s memory, the heartland of the franks was austrasia which today is roughly part of ne france, belgium, part of the netherlands, luxembourg, and part of nw germany [map source]:


the franks conquered most of the rest of france and large parts of western germany and even northern italy over the course of the early medieval period, but austrasia and neustria (immediately to the west) remained the franks’ stronghold and the region over which they exercised the greatest influence and control.

so…what were their mating patterns like?

first and second cousin marriages were banned by the roman catholic church at the council of agde in 506 a.d. frankish church leaders appear to have adopted and pushed for the bans almost immediately, but the secular laws issued by the frankish kings in the 500s — the pactus legis salicae — did not ban cousin marriage. from The Laws of the Salian Franks (1991) [pgs. 41-42]:

“The Frankish laws contain little direct information about the institution of marriage. A legal marriage could be contracted between an adult freeman and an adult free woman (the laws do not set a minimum age), subject to the consent of their relatives and provided the two parties were not related within the prohibited bonds of relationship. The Frankish laws specifically prohibit marriage between an uncle and niece or grandniece (and so by implication between an aunt and nephew and grandnephew), or marriage with the former wife of a brother or of a mother’s brother (and by implication marriage with the former husband of a sister or with the former husband of a mother’s sister) (XIII, ii). Note here that the mother’s brothers and sisters were evidently held to be more closely related than the father’s brothers and sisters since it is marriage with the former spouse of mother’s brother or sister that is prohibited, not that of father’s brother or sister. Admittedly the church councils of Merovingian Gaul interpreted consangunity more broadly than here defined, but these added restrictions were not enforced in the civil courts, just as among the Franks neither Christian non-dissolubility of marriage nor monogamy was enforced in the courts. A late law issued by King Childebert in 594 provided death for the man who married his father’s wife (one of the very few instances for the death penalty in the code). In the case of marriages that had already taken place and now were designated incestuous (e.g., marriage with the wife of brother, or sister of wife, or wife of uncle), they were to be corrected by proclamation of the bishop. If this was ignored, the parties were to be excommunicated and their property passed to their relatives (Cap. VI, I, 2).

“As in the case of the other Germans, the offspring of a Frankish illegal marriage was illegitimate and could not inherit (XIII, ii). There are no provisions for the offspring of unions not recognized as marriage.”

so it was not illegal for people in francia to marry their cousins for most of the 500s. at this point in time, it’s not clear if the church could’ve enforced its cousin marriage ban. however, there is evidence to suggest that by the merovingian period, at least some marriages took place in a church and were consecrated by a priest. if so, church officials (priests, bishops) would definitely have had the opportunity to check for any relatedness between the bride and groom. from Culture and Religion in Merovingian Gaul: A.D. 481-751 (1995) [pg. 133]:

The picture which emerges from the sources is, then, of an episcopal benediction in the church, at the altar, as part of the marriage rite. Furthermore, there is enough evidence to support the assumption that this benediction was given during and as part of a special nuptial mass.”

and pgs. 136-137:

Matrimonial mass was, then, known and practised in Merovingian Gaul, although one cannot tell how often and under what circumstances. It could, after all, be a question of social status or relations with the bishop and his entourage. Since there is no evidence for a secular matrimonial ceremony, it seems more than probably that a religious one was held, about which we hear from the sources. Whether it was just an episcopal benediction or a full matrimonial mass is unknown. In light of the evidence I have already discussed, it seems to me more likely that a full mass was celebrated. More evidence, however, is needed to establish this with greater certainty….

Scholars are all agreed upon the fact that Christian marriage with a full celebration of a mass was practised during the Carolingian period. Nevertheless, the evidence from Merovingian Gaul suggests that Carolingian practices and reforms were deeply rooted in Merovingian developments. It is true that during the Carolingian age the christianisation of marriage reached a certain degree of completion. Yet, the Carolingians did not invent their rite *ex nihilo*, nor did they import it from Rome. They simply continued an already existing Merovingian practice, which they further developed and adapted to suit their needs and reforms.”

so, by the 600-800s, frankish marriages were most likely held in a church and, therefore, the clerics would’ve had a chance to enforce the church’s cousin marriage bans. this may also have been the case earlier in the 500s as well, but the situation is not as clear. in 755 at the council of verneuil, pepin the short declared that “all laymen should marry with public nuptials” [pg. 407].

however, st. boniface (boo!) was freaked out by the franks’ marriage habits — in particular what he viewed as their incestuous practices as well as their habit of committing adultery — and he lived between ca. 675 and 754, so it sounds as though the franks may still have, in actuality, been regularly marrying close cousins into the early 700s. from Women in Frankish Society: Marriage and the Cloister, 500 to 900 (1981) [pgs. 75-76]:

“The marital customs he [st. boniface] observed among the Germanic tribes in general and among the Franks in particular troubled Boniface deeply. He sought advice from popes on the definition of adultery and incest. Gregory II answered him with a series of prescriptions on incest, and Pope Zachary sent Pepin excerpts from the *Dionysiana* on impediements to marriage. The church’s concept of incest was so broad, extending the prohibitions to the seventh degree of consanguinity, as well as to relationships by affinity and spiritual kinship, that it considerably restricted the capacity of aristocratic families to form extended alliances through marriage. Introduced into the Frankish councils by Boniface, the prescrptions were included by Pepin the Younger in the capitularies. As a further measure for exercising control over marriages, the national synod of Verneuil, over which Pepin presided, declared that ‘all men of the laity, whether noble or not, must marry publicly.’

“In an effort to eradicate all forms of incest, Boniface also concerned himself with extramarital fornication between relatives. Sexual intercourse before or after marriage with a relative of the spouse was held to constitute a bond of affinity similar to that arising from betrothal, marriage, baptism, or confirmation. Disregard for these bonds of affinity or for consanguinity, even in the case of casual intercourse, was considered a serious offense and disqualified the transgressors from marriage for the rest of their lives. Their punishment was lifelong penance, to which Charlegmange added confiscation of their property.”

not sure which capitulary this was in which pepin the younger (aka pepin the short) banned cousin marriage for the franks. if it was a capitula ecclesiastica, then all christians in the kingdom would’ve been obliged to follow the church’s cousin marriage bans. this would’ve been issued sometime between a.d. 752 and 768.

from “An Unsolved Riddle: Early Medieval Incest Legislation” in Franks and Alamanni in the Merovingian Period: An Ethnographic Perspective (1998), a collection of papers from an “historical archaeoethnological” conference [pgs. 109-110]:

In the course of the eighth century the Frankish campaign against incest gained momentum, aided by papal decrees and letters which began to circulate in the North (De Jong 1989:38-41). When it came to blood relations papal guidelines were more radical than Frankish episcopal and royal decrees, but in other respects — such as spiritual kinship — Rome and the Frankish leadership saw eye to eye right from the beginning. Letters sent from Rome to Boniface reveal an increasingly rigid papal position. Gregory II forbade all unions between blood relations and affinal kin (‘*quamdiu se agnoscunt affinitate propinquos*’), but permitted the recently converted a marriage ‘*post quartam generationem*’; his successor Gregory III withdrew any such privilege, assuring Boniface that marriage within the seventh *generatio* was out of the question….

“In practice…it did not make any difference whether one forbade marriage ‘until the seventh *generatio*’ (Gregory III), or proclaimed an unspecified ban on all kinswomen and affines (Gregory II). Both meant the same: marriage and kindred did not go together. Pope Zachary expressed this clearly in 743, stating that no Christians were permitted to marry if they were in any way related to each other (Werminghoff 1904:19-21). Avoidance of kin-marriage had become one of the defining criteria of Christianity….

by the 800s [pg. 120]:

By the ninth century, a marriage in the third *generatio* [i.e. second cousins – h.chick] had become scandalous, but the fourth generation remained a viable option, along with a whole range of more distant kin (Le Jan 1995:316-17). This pattern persisted well into the tenth and eleventh centuries.

and by the late 800s-900s [pg. 113]:

Occasionally, one catches a glimpse of clerics acting like something of a vice-squad, tracking down incestuous unions while traversing their diocese (De Jong 1989:52-3).

Bishops seem to have taken the campaign against incest seriously. Salomo III of Konstanz [d.919 – h.chick] wrote an enraged letter to his colleague Liutbert of Mainz, complaining that ‘people of good standing’ had told him that marriages in the fourth and fifth *generatio* were publicly celebrated in his (Salomo’s) diocese; some judicial probing had proved the accusation to be true. Salomo, insisting that fourth-generation unions should be broken up, viewed such practices as a direct onslaught on episcopal authority (Zeumer 1886:416). The significance of this letter is twofold. First, a bishop who kept a ‘clean’ diocese took good care to identify incestuous partners, especially when such unions had been publicaly celebrated. Second, there was no lack of ‘honest and God-fearing people’ willing to report on their neighbours, being quite able to identify illegitimate marriages when it suited them. Apparently the public scandal of incest could shake whole communities — which suggests that abhorrence of this crime was not merely a matter of the clergy and some pious aristocrats.

at the end of this article, there is a transcript of the round table discussion which took place after this paper was presented at the conference. i enjoyed this part [pg. 128 – link added by me]:

“DE JONG: The West seems to be the great exception, as appears from ‘Epouser au plus proche’ edited by Pierre Bonte, in which Guerreau-Jalabert’s article discusses preferred marriage with very distant kin (1984)….

“AUSENDA: The conclusion is that the West…

“DE JONG: …is an exception, the medieval West.”

there is also evidence from the ecclesiastical records that, by the 800s, questions surrounding consangunity issues in specific cases were related to more distant relatives than in earlier periods, so the cousin marriage bans were actually working. from Morality and Masculinity in the Carolingian Empire (2012) [pg. 267]:

In contrast to these cases [in the merovingian period], which concern relatively close relationships…most ninth-century cases we know of involve more distant relationships. Count Stephen enquired whether he could legitimately marry his fiancee, since he had a fourth-degree connection with her from a previous affair with her relative. Hincmar, excommunicating Fulcherus and Hardoisa, quoted prohibitions from Gregory II on marriage to one’s first cousin (*consobrina*) or to any relative or wife of a relative. Solomon II of Constance separated a couple related in the fourth and fifth degree, while in the early 860s Nicholas I confirmed the condemnation by an east Frankish synod of the noble Abbo for marrying a wife related to him in the fourth degree. There are also several references to cases involving spiritual kinship. The Council of Mainz in 888 anathematised Altmann for marrying his ‘spiritual co-mother’, while a letter of Pope John VIII discusses how Bishop Anselm of Limoges had demanded that a man separate from his wife, because he had performed the emergency baptism of his own son.

Combining this positive evidence of new incest restrictions being applied with the negative evidence for noble marriages to close kin, at least in the Frankish heartlands, suggests that while Carolingian incest provisions may not have removed endogamous marriage entirely, they did discourage its more blatant forms.

and wrt the 900s-100s, from Those of My Blood: Creating Noble Families in Medieval Francia (2011) [pgs. 43-44]:

“There is indeed evidence that many nobles were acutely sensitive to the question of incest when arranging a marriage. Faced with a choice between defying the church’s position and finding spouses to whom they were not related, the nobles of the tenth and eleventh centuries generally took the latter course. Blatantly consanguineous marriages rarely took place between about 900 and 1100, even when there were apparently strong inducements to arrange such matches. Rather than practicing endogamy, the nobles of this period almost never married anyone related more closely than a fourth or fifth cousin — that is, someone related within five or six degrees — and here it may be argued that they were simply unaware of their relationship. First-cousin marriages were unknown, and the few second- and third-cousin marriages usually ended in divorce when the couples involved could no longer tolerate the general opprobrium….”

and there are indications that this was also true of the lower classes, already by charlemagne’s day (ca. early 800s) — from Daily Life in the Age of Charlemagne (2002) [pg. 58]:

[T]here is evidence that the Carolingian family in peasant settings married not only outside the kinship group, but outside the immediately marriageable estate group. There was some movement of males from one estate to another, and the evidence suggests that frequently the newcomers had better luck marrying, while some of the marriageable males in their own estate remained unmarried.”


the church banned first and second cousin marriage in europe in 506 a.d., and frankish clerics seem to have wanted to enforce those bans right away, but they may not have been able to. in probably the 750s, the frankish king banned cousin marriage in the kingdom and demanded that marriage ceremonies be carried out in public, most likely in a church. by the 800s, second cousin marriages amongst the franks were considered “scandalous.” bishops actively enforced the bans in their dioceses and neighbors willingly squealed on their cousin-marrying neighbors to the bishops. by the 800s-1000s, there is good evidence that both the frankish aristocracy and the lower classes avoided close cousin marriage. (the frankish aristocracy began to ignore the cousin marriage bans in later centuries.)

across the channel, the law of wihtred from 690 — a secular law — also banned close cousin marriages for the people of the kentish kingdom. (there were close ties between the frankish and kentish kingdoms, btw — marriages happened between the two royal houses, etc.) this is slightly earlier — by about 60 years — than the frankish secular decree against cousin marriage, but they are nearly contemporary, imho.

these areas — austrasia and southeastern england — represent the center of “The Outbreeding Project” in europe which began in the early medieval period. these are the populations — along with possibly the danes and the northern italians? (i’ll let you know as soon as i know!) — that began avoiding close cousin marriage the earliest and have continued the practice for the longest — ca. 1200-1300 years or ca. 48-52 generations (counting generations conservatively as 25 years in length). these are my “core europeans” who, i promise you, i will talk about some more here on the blog.


previously: what about the franks? and more on medieval england and france

(note: comments do not require an email. coronation of pepin the short.)

continuing on in the quest to find out the connection, if any, between inbreeding/outbreeding and topography (flatlanders vs. mountaineers), here is a map of the coefficients of inbreeding in france between 1926-1945 (based upon roman catholic cousin marriage rates) — the darker the shading, the greater the inbreeding…

france - coefficients of inbreeding (1926-1945)

…and here is a topographical map of france via wikipedia

france - map - topography

to me, it looks like the higher the elevation/more rugged the area, the greater the amount of inbreeding.

there’s also the history of the franks to take into consideration. as i’ve said previously, the franks in austrasia seem to have been the earliest population in europe to join in The Outbreeding Project of the church/tptb. and the regions of france with the lowest rates of inbreeding appear to be those that were once a part of austrasia — the earliest frankish kingdom — and those in neustria to the southwest, an area conquered by the franks in 486. swabia, too. also from wikipedia:


that is all! (^_^)

previously: this one’s for g.w. and flatlanders vs. mountaineers revisited and meanwhile, in france… and going dutch and the auvergnat pashtuns

(note: comments do not require an email. boing!)

daniel hannan (Inventing Freedom: How the English-Speaking Peoples Made the Modern World) is full of admiration for the dutch (so am i!). here from a blogpost of his — I’ve realised why I like the Dutch so much: they invented capitalism — from the other day:

“Only recently, though, was I able to put my finger on what I liked so much. It’s this: for centuries, the Dutch made the honest pursuit of self-betterment a supreme virtue. Other European nations elevated honour and faith and martial glory, but the people Shakespeare called ‘swag-bellied Hollanders’ quietly got on with trade….

“I’ve just written a book about Anglosphere exceptionalism, published in the US next week and in Britain the week after. While writing, I couldn’t help noticing that one place had kept pace with the English-speaking peoples in the development of property rights, representative institutions, limited government and individualism. Indeed, on one critical measure, the Dutch beat us to it: modern capitalism, as defined by the twin concepts of limited liability and joint stock ventures, was invented in the Netherlands….”

meanwhile, in another corner of the internet, t.greer has been asking — and nicely answering! — a neat question: why the rise of the west? specifically, why in the middle ages did europe “diverge” from the rest of the world economically, never to look back? from Another Look at ‘The Rise of the West’ – But With Better Numbers (see also The Rise of the West: Asking the Right Questions):

“A few months ago I suggested that many of these debates that surround the ‘Great Divergence’ are based on a flawed premise — or rather, a flawed question. As I wrote:

“‘Rather than focus on why Europe diverged from the rest in 1800 we should be asking why the North Sea diverged from the rest in 1000.

“By 1200 Western Europe has a GDP per capita higher than most parts of the world, but (with two exceptions) by 1500 this number stops increasing. In both data sets the two exceptions are Netherlands and Great Britain. These North Sea economies experienced sustained GDP per capita growth for six straight centuries. The North Sea begins to diverge from the rest of Europe long before the ‘West’ begins its more famous split from ‘the rest.’

[W]e can pin point the beginning of this ‘little divergence’ with greater detail. In 1348 Holland’s GDP per capita was $876. England’s was $777. In less than 60 years time Holland’s jumps to $1,245 and England’s to 1090. The North Sea’s revolutionary divergence started at this time.

so, by the early 1400s, england and holland had taken off.

i’ve been in awe of the dutch golden age and the dutch during the renaissance/age of enlightenment (fwiw) in general (i love the art!).

why the dutch (and the english)? and why then? (you already know what i’m going to say….)

the netherlands — the low countries in general — were, once upon a time, a part of the early frankish kingdom of austrasia (i’ve more-or-less outlined the netherlands here — *ahem* — roughly):

austrasia - the netherlands

the franks converted to roman catholicism early — in the late 400s — so they were positioned to adopt the church’s cousin marriage bans right away when they were instituted in the very early 500s (502 a.d.?), nearly one hundred years before the anglo-saxons in england. and there’s evidence that the franks did, indeed, adopt the cousin marriage bans early on — definitely by the late 500s (there’s always a lag time with these things). in fact, they seem to have taken pretty seriously all of the church’s marriage bans, including the ones regarding spiritual kinship (i.e. you couldn’t marry any of your godparents’ relatives because, since you were spiritually related to your godparents, you were also spiritually related to your godparent’s relatives). as i quoted in a previous post:

“St Boniface [d.754] expressed surprise when he learned that ‘spiritual kinship’ was created by lifting a child from the baptismal font and was being treated as an impediment to marriage among the Franks. But it was the law.”

The Outbreeding Project was so successful in franco-belgia and southern england that, by the 1300s, cousin marriage was a complete non-issue in the ecclesiastical courts in those regions.

the exception in the low countries was the group of frisians along the coast who didn’t convert to christianity until the late 700s [pg. 11], so they were at least three hundred years behind the franks as far as The Outbreeding Project went.

in addition, the frisians went untouched by manorialism, which served to reinforce the cousin marriage bans as well as to push for nuclear families. and the frisians (like their coastal neighbors the ditmarsians) remained a bit wild and clannish until rather late in the medieval period. from michael mitterauer’s Why Europe? [pgs. 41-41 & 76]:

“The area settled by the Frisians along the North Seas coast is an interesting case from within the Frankish Empire itself. Manorial estates had not been established there — not by the king, the church, or the nobility — although the imperial heartland lay very close by. The reason for this may well be the ecological conditions that determined the economy. The region was admirably suited for grazing, so that agriculture faded into the background…. Natural conditions were lacking for the cerealization that had been implemented by Frankish neighbors. That a region in the Frankish Empire specializing in animal husbandry did not even begin to come close to establishing the bipartite estate confirms, e contrario, the belief in a connection between increased grain production and the rise of the manorial system. Nor was the agricultural system in Frisian settlements shaped later on by manorial structures. Very strong rural communal groups were established instead, placing the local nobles dispensing high justice in a percarious position….

“Ecological conditions might well have blocked the [hide] system’s progress in Friesland and the North Sea coastal marshes. It is striking that those are precisely the areas where we find features — such as the clan system and most notably blood revenge — that typify societies strongly oriented toward lineage. Blood revenge is rooted in a concept of kinship in which all men of a group are treated almost like a single person. The agnates together are considered to be the bearers of honor — and guilt. That is why the guilt of one relative can be avenged on someone else who had utterly no part in the deed. The idea of blood revenge is completely incompatible with Christian views of guilt and innocence. Nevertheless, the institution of blood revenge was still alive in several European societies even after they were Christianized, those in the North Sea marshes among them.”

the frisians were free!

the dutch and the anglo-saxons are exceptional in terms of being individualistic (versus clannish) and, yet, oriented toward the commonweal — they’re both groups that developed capitalism and liberal democracy (perhaps the anglos are more fond of liberal democracy) — because these were the two populations in northwest europe that started outbreeding the earliest.

and now i’ve arrived back where i started two-and-a-half years ago (boy, will i ever shut up??) — with avner greif‘s paper Family Structure, Institutions, and Growth: The Origin and Implications of Western Corporatism [opens pdf]:

“There is a vast amount of literature that considers the importance of the family as an institution. Little attention, however, has been given to the impact of family structures on institutions, their dynamics, and the ability to change them…. This paper illustrates this by highlighting the importance of the European family structure in one of the most fundamental institutional changes in history.

This change has been the emergence of economic and political *corporations* in late medieval Europe. ‘Corporations’ are defined here, consistent with their historical meaning, as intentionally created, voluntary, interest-based, and self-governed permanent associations. Guilds, fraternities, universities, communes and city-states are some of the corporations that dominated Europe in the past. Businesses and professional associations, business corporations, universities, consumer groups, republics and democracies are some of the corporations in modern economies.

Providing institutions through corporations is a novelty. Historically, the institutions that secured one’s life and property and mitigated problems of cooperation and conflicts were initially provided by large kinship groups. Subsequently, such institutions that rely on this family structure were complemented or replaced by those provided by self-interested rulers. Corporation-based institutions can substitute for those provided by both kinship groups and self-interested rulers. When they substitute kinship-based institutions, corporations are complementary to a different family structure, namely, the nuclear family structure. For an individual, corporations reduce the benefits from belonging to a kinship group while a nuclear family increases the benefits from being a member of a corporation….

[T]he actions of the Church caused the nuclear family — constituting of husband and wife, children, and sometimes a handful of close relatives — to dominate Europe by the late medieval period.

The medieval church instituted marriage laws and practices that undermined large kinship groups. From as early as the fourth century, it discouraged practices that enlarged the family, such as adoption, polygamy, concubinage, divorce, and remarriage. It severely prohibited marriages among individuals of the same blood (consanguineous marriages), which had constituted a means to create and maintain kinship groups throughout history. The church also curtailed parents’ abilities to retain kinship ties through arranged marriages by prohibiting unions in which the bride didn’t explicitly agree to the union.

“European family structures did not evolve monotonically toward the nuclear family nor was their evolution geographically and socially uniform. However, by the late medieval period the nuclear family was dominate. Even among the Germanic tribes, by the eighth century the term family denoted one’s immediate family, and shortly afterwards tribes were no longer institutionally relevant. Thirteenth-century English court rolls reflect that even cousins were as likely to be in the presence of non-kin as with each other.

“The practices the church advocated, such as monogamy, are still the norm in Europe. Consanguineous marriages in contemporary Europe account for less than one percent of the total number of marriages. In contrast, the percentage of such marriages in Muslim, Middle Eastern countries, where we also have particularly good data, is much higher – between twenty to fifty percent. Among the anthropologically defined 356 contemporary societies of Euro-Asia and Africa, there is a large and significant negative correlation between Christianization (for at least 500 years) and the absence of clans and lineages; the level of commercialization, class stratification, and state formation are insignificant.

in general, the dutch and the english have been outbreeding for the longest of all the europeans (of anybody, really), and they are two of the groups having the longest history of corporations in europe (there’s the northern italians, too), and they also have the strongest tendencies towards cooperative, voluntary, corporate groups today.

however, some of the dutch — and some of the english — actually did inbreed longer than some of the others: the frisians vs. the franks, the east anglians vs. the southeastern english. these groups were some of my in-betweeners — more outbred than your average arab, but less outbred than the longest of the long-term outbreeders. and the puritans (largely from east anglia) were big into business if Albion’s Seed is to be believed. and the frisians, too, were some of the earliest businessmen/traders in the low countries. from A Brief History of the Netherlands [pg. 15 – see also The Evolution of the Money Standard in Medieval Frisia: A Treatise on the History of the Systems of Money of Account in the Former Frisia (c.600-c.1500)]:

“Frisia (Friesland), however, remained a land apart. The Frisians were traders, stockbreeders, and fishermen, and feudalism took little hold in the swampy soil here.”

the combination of two not wholly dissimilar groups (franks+frisians, for instance), with one of the groups being very outbred (the franks) and the other being an in-betweener group (the frisians), seems perhaps to be a winning one. the outbred group might provide enough open, trusting, trustworthy, cooperative, commonweal-oriented members to the union, while the in-betweener group might provide a good dose of hamilton’s “self-sacrificial daring” that he reckoned might contribute to renaissances.

(and, yes, i am talking about the natural selection of innate behaviors.)

i could be wrong, but that’s my theory, and i’m sticking to it! (for now.) (^_^)

p.s. – in case you’ve forgotten, the nations that saw the earliest reduction of homicides in the medieval period…yes…england and the netherlands/belgium: kinship, the state, and violence.

previously: what about the franks? and trees and frisians and the radical reformation and whatever happened to european tribes?

(note: comments do not require an email. sunbathing giant sloth!)

earlier this month, the inestimable peter frost wrote:

“Over the past millennium, Western Europeans have created a social environment where the individual is largely free from collective ties of kinship and ethnicity. Because the State has imposed a monopoly on the use of violence, there is less need to rely on kinsmen to safeguard one’s life and property. That’s what the government is for. In many other societies, however, the State is much more recent and often foreign. Collective identity still matters most and, when the chips are down, personal ties of friendship matter little. Your real friends are your ‘blood’.”

in The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined (2011), steven pinker says that, in england, this process of the state taking over and monopolizing violence began during the reign of henry i, which lasted from 1100-1135 a.d. [kindle locations 1830-1839]:

“Feuding among knights and peasants was not just a nuisance but a lost opportunity. During Norman rule in England, some genius recognized the lucrative possibilities in nationalizing justice. For centuries the legal system had treated homicide as a tort: in lieu of vengeance, the victim’s family would demand a payment from the killer’s family, known as blood money or wergild (‘man-payment’; the *wer* is the same prefix as in *werewolf*, ‘man-wolf’). King Henry I redefined homicide as an offense against the state and its metonym, the crown. Murder cases were no longer *John Doe vs. Richard Roe*, but *The Crown vs. John Doe* (or later, in the United States, *The People vs. John Doe* or *The State of Michigan vs. John Doe*). The brilliance of the plan was that the wergild (often the offender’s entire assets, together with additional money rounded up from his family) went to the king instead of to the family of the victim. Justice was administered by roving courts that would periodically visit a locale and hear the accumulated cases. To ensure that all homicides were presented to the courts, each death was investigated by a local agent of the crown: the coroner.”

pinker cites daly and wilson (1988) on this who, in turn, cite hurnard (1969). there is also green (1972). see also The Aristocracy of Norman England (2002), pg. 243.

the only problem with this picture is, as was discussed on this blog in a previous post, there is good evidence that the kindred in anglo-saxon england — the importance of kinship, in other words — was already beginning to disappear (in southern england, anyway) in the early 900s, or maybe even the late 800s, a full two hundred years before henry i and his coroners showed up on the scene.

as i said in that post:

“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.”

again, from Wage Labor and Guilds in Medieval Europe (1991) [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.”

so, in england anyway, the individual didn’t become “largely free from collective ties of kinship and ethnicity” thanks to the state. anglo-saxon individuals were already on their way to becoming free from the collective ties of kinship before the state stepped in.

pinker has a neat chart in Better Angels — Fig. 3.3 – Homicide rates in five Western European regions, 1300–2000:

pinker - fig. 3.3

as he says about england [kindle locations 1581-1584]:

“Once again we see a decline in annual homicide rates, and it is not small: from between 4 and 100 homicides per 100,000 people in the Middle Ages to around 0.8 (eight-tenths of a homicide) per 100,000 in the 1950s. The timing shows that the high medieval murder rates cannot be blamed on the social upheavals that followed the Black Death around 1350, because many of the estimates predated that epidemic.”

and [kindle locations 1599-1603]:

“Were the English unusual among Europeans in gradually refraining from murder? Eisner looked at other Western European countries for which criminologists had compiled homicide data. Figure 3–3 shows that the results were similar. Scandinavians needed a couple of additional centuries before they thought the better of killing each other, and Italians didn’t get serious about it until the 19th century. But by the 20th century the annual homicide rate of every Western European country had fallen into a narrow band centered on 1 per 100,000.”

i discussed this difference in the timing of the drop in homicide rates between various european countries in a previous post — outbreeding, self-control and lethal violence — in which i looked at manuel eisner’s paper, Modernization, Self‐Control and Lethal Violence. pinker also drew on eisner’s work for Better Angels. in that paper, eisner said:

“[T]he data suggest that the secular trajectories of low homicide rates differ among large geographic areas. It appears that English homicide rates were already considerably lower in the late sixteenth century than during the late Middle Ages and that they declined continuously along a log-linear trend over several centuries. Extant estimates for the Netherlands and Belgium suggest a very similar structure trend in these areas. In the Scandinavian countries, the transistion to the decreasing trend occurs notably later, namely in the first decades after 1600. Despite huge gaps in the data, the German-speaking areas may also be assumed to have joined the declining trend from the early seventeenth century onwards. For Italy, however, all the available data indicate that acts of individual-level lethal violence remained very frequent until the early nineteenth century. It is not until the mid-nineteenth century that the rate begins to decline, but then very steeply.”

and, as i said in my previous post:

“hmmmm. now where have i heard a pattern like this before? england, the netherlands, germans earliest in *some*thing … scandinavians later … italians last.”

that “something” that i was referring to is, of course, the avoidance of close cousin marriage — or The Outbreeding Project, as i like to call it. (i guess i should really call it The European Outbreeding Project or The Norwestern European Outbreeding Project.) the importance of kinship — extended families and kindreds — disappeared in large parts of northwestern europe, because northwest europeans quit marrying their close cousins, and the ties (including genetic) between individual northwest europeans and their extended family members simply loosened. loosened to the extent that, after several hundreds of years, extended families and kindreds just didn’t matter to people anymore. and, so, kindred-driven activities like feuding ceased and homicide rates decreased markedly.

the dutch — thanks to having been a part of frankish austrasia — and the southern english (especially the ones in kent) — thanks to being heavily influenced by the franks just across the channel — began avoiding cousin marriage very early in the medieval period, probably already in the 600-700s (see “mating patterns in europe series” below ↓ in left-hand column — also more on medieval england and france). the germans weren’t far behind, especially since the franks had so much influence in what would eventually become germany over the course of the medieval period (see the ostsiedlung). the scandinavians lagged behind since they were comparatively late in adopting christianity (and, therefore, in adopting the cousin marriage bans). and the italians were very late since they mostly did not have manorialism (which reinforced the cousin marriage bans). the italians, in fact — especially southern italians — kept marrying close cousins up until very recently.

eisner offered several explanations — not necessarily mutually exclusive — for why homicide rates should’ve dropped so much in western europe over the course of the middle ages. one of the ones that steven pinker latched on to was the idea of the leviathan — the replacement of family feuds and compensation for killings with punishment (esp. execution) by the state. certainly there’s probably something to this — removing enough violent individuals from the gene pool could very well reduce the frequencies of “genes for violence” in a population in just one thousand years or so. (see also peter frost on rome – pdf.)

eisner also suggested another explanation, though, one that he drew from emile durkheim [pg. 632]:

Durkheim saw the decline of homicide rates as resulting from the liberation of the individual from collective bonds rather than as the consequence of the coercive potential of the state. High levels of lethal violence thus mirror the intensity of ‘collective emotions’, which bind the individual to ‘groups of things that symbolically represent these groups’. Violence thus declines to the degree that the person becomes liberated from its sacred obligation to the group, and the rise of moral individualism brings about both subjective reflexivity and emotional indifference in conflict situations (Durkheim 1957: 115).”

replace “liberated from its sacred obligation to the group” with “more and more outbred” and you’ve got a nice, little sociobiological theory there!

“This theoretical approach offers valuable insights into the historical patterns of declining homicide rates. First, the Durkheimian argument offers a theoretical framework for understanding the multifarious cultural meanings of violence in medieval society. Much empirical research on the topic emphasizes the crucial role of insults in triggering situational conflicts. This is in accordance with a society in which ‘honour’ constitutes highly important social capital of the male person as a representative of his group. It requires retributive violence as a potential and culturally accepted means for maintaining one’s honour. Such a theoretical framework may help to better understand why the secular decline in homicide rates primarily seems to have been due to a decrease in male-to-male fights. And it may also offer a point of departure for understanding the high violence rates in italy, where a culture of honour persisted despite the early development of administrative and judicial structures in the city states.

in anglo-saxon england, then, the kinship groups and their “culture of honor” (feuds, etc.) declined before the state got involved in safeguarding the lives of individuals. meanwhile, in medieval italy, the culture of honor persisted despite the presence of states that punished violent offenders. the difference, of course, is that italy — especially southern italy — barely ever joined in The Outbreeding Project, whereas england was one of its leading nations.

previously: the importance of the kindred in anglo-saxon society and outbreeding, self-control and lethal violence and what pinker missed and more on genetics and the historical decline of violence and clannishness defined

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back to America 3.0 for a sec.

if i understand their argument correctly, bennett and lotus are proposing that the anglo-saxon absolute nuclear family — and the sort-of individual-based society that goes along with it — has distant roots stretching back to the pre-christian germans on the continent. they do say that there were obviously some changes to the anglo-saxon family type after the germanics arrived in (what would become) england — basically that the anglo-saxon nuclear family became even more nuclear over the course of the medieval period. but, by and large, they believe that there is a very long cultural continuity of family types and societal structures going all the way back to the early germans and that these cultural traditions are what made the anglo world pretty d*rn great.

based upon my readings over the last couple of years (feel free to flip through the “english” section in the “mating patterns in europe series” below ↓ in left-hand column), i think that bennett and lotus have got it pretty right. the anglo-saxon world IS exceptional (and, no, no one in my extended family can take ANY credit for that) — this exceptionalism has got to do with the structures of anglo-saxon society, very much so the fundamental family structures — and the development of these structures does go back to the pre-christian continental germans. HOWEVER, i think that bennett and lotus have missed some details — details which throw off the timing of their argument somewhat. for instance, as i pointed out in my last post on the book, they missed out entirely on the importance of the kindred in early germanic society, thus over-estimating the importance of the nuclear family at that point in time. early germanic society wasn’t composed of very tightly knit clans, but neither was it made up of truly independent nuclear families. the early germans were very much tied to their kindreds — including the anglo-saxons in early medieval england up to at least 1000 a.d. (see previous post).

whatever made the anglo-saxons finally give up on their extended families (the kindreds) happened after they got to england (although they may already have been primed for it). the kindred seems to be truly gone in england (at least in the south/southeast) by about 1200 a.d., the evidence suggesting that it was on its way out by at least ca. 1000 a.d. so, sometime between their arrival in the 400s-600s and 1200, something happened which resulted in the disappearance of the anglo-saxon kindred (and germanic kindreds on the continent, too, btw — but not all the germanic kindreds).

in this post, i want to nit-pick about another point that bennett and lotus made about the pre-christian germans on the continent [pg. 75]:

“They owned property individually, not communally, and not as families. Adult children and parents had separate and individual rights, not collective rights as a family.”

nope. as greying wanderer mentioned in the comments on the other post, this is incorrect.

here from “Jural Relations Among the Saxons Before and After Christianization” in The Continental Saxons from the Migration Period to the Tenth Century: An Ethnographic Perspective (2003) is giorgio ausenda on early saxon society on the continent. he’s drawing this information from the earliest written saxon laws. i’m quoting an extended bit here, since the first part includes an interesting description of how the early german kindred structure, including blood feuds, worked [pgs. 113-114]:

“There was no overarching structure with executive power in that society [pre-carolingian continental saxon society], even when stratified as in the case of the Saxons. There were no permanent ‘tribal chiefs’, but only heads of clans with little if any restraining power; the containment of violence was a private matter based on fear of retaliation between like corporate groups, i.e. ‘do not do onto others what you don’t want to be done to you’. The only restraining power the senior ‘elder’ of the group, which is also the etymological meaning of many terms for ‘chief’ all over the world, had was that of acting as an arbiter in an effort to reach consensus on compensations for murder or lesser injuries between contending parties belonging to different corporate groups under his jurisdiction; hence the Latin term *iudex* for such chiefs which were seen as acting mostly in legal palavers.

Property did not concern land, as this belonged to the corporate group as a whole and was the object of raids and counterraids to keep neighbouring groups away, or even wars rather than legal transfers. Tools and weapons were considered individual property and, in many cases … when the owners died, buried with them…. The only transmissible property was livestock and, in general, its apportionment was fixed by custom: women obtained their customary marriage endowment and men started owning livestock after they were wedded. They inherited their part in proportion to the number of sons of their deceased father, as sons were the only manual labor available in simple societies and were engaged in herding and minding their extended family’s herds and flocks.”

the early saxons, then, did NOT have property — not transferrable real estate anyway. (we saw something similar in early medieval ireland, although in that case, it was clearly the patrilineal clan that held common ownership of land.) in the case of the early saxons, land was held in common by — well, i’m not sure by whom (ausenda doesn’t say) — a set of related kindreds possibly? in any case, there is that group membership again — kindreds and wergeld in the case of murder/injury and now some sort of corporate group wrt land ownership. the continental saxons were not entirely independent, nuclear-family based individuals. they were a bit … clannish. clannish-lite.

whatever happened to make the anglo-saxons independent, property owning, absolute nuclear family individualists happened after they arrived on albion’s shores (but, i agree, their germanic background probably made a difference). and judging by what i’ve read (again, see the “mating patterns series” below), whatever happened doesn’t appear to have gained traction until about 1000 a.d. by 1200 it’s well underway, and by 1400 — well, i think you could probably drop a modern day englishman back into 1400s england, and he wouldn’t feel that disoriented. bennett and lotus are missing this timeline, because they are projecting too much anglo-saxonism too far back in time.

otherwise, they are very correct about the origins of anglo-saxon exceptionalism! (^_^)

(except for the fact that they believe it ALL to be about culture. that’s impossible, of course. at least in this universe. maybe in some alternate reality things are different. (~_^) )

edit: interesting. here is a quote from “The Kentish Laws” found in The Anglo-Saxons from the Migration Period to the Eighth Century: An Ethnographic Perspective (1997) regarding the beginnings of a shift from communal to private property (land) in kent in a law from the seventh century [pg. 217]:

“The Kentish laws portray a society where the change from movable to landed wealth was under way so much so that even the oldest laws contemplate fines for the breach of enclosures (Aebt. 27-9). It is clear here that land is no longer handled in tribal terms but as belonging to individuals.”

bonus content!: here are a couple of things i came across tonight re. the anglo-saxons and other early germanics that i found interesting, so i just thought i’d share….

1) in early medieval kent, arranged marriages were all the rage. from “The Kentish Laws” in The Anglo-Saxons from the Migration Period to the Eighth Century: An Ethnographic Perspective (1997) [pgs. 211, 216 – links added by me]:

“We have four English law-codes which all originated in the seventh century; the first three sets of laws were issued by the kings of Kent Æthelberht I, Hlothhere and Eadric, and Wihtred….

“The three laws contain a series of decrees about matrimony and have been made the object of considerable research into the (legal) position of women and its evolution…. This is one of the fields where the control of the kindred remained stable: the kinsmen arranged marriage and, after the wedding, continued to watch over the woman.

there’s the importance of the kindred again — in early medieval anglo-saxon (and jutish) england even.

interestingly, this is pretty much what happens in some parts the arab world today — arranged marriages, but the woman’s kin keeps an eye on her to make sure she’s ok. i just read recently, in fact, that in the hejaz, it’s very common for hejazi women to be set up with their own bank accounts by their family so that they have a set of financial resources independent from their husbands (but then they share a common household budget). who knew?

2) several readers have wondered out loud here — and so have i — why on EARTH did the northern europeans/the germanics (or any europeans for that matter) adopt christianity at all? why wouldn’t you just do what the frisians did when st. boniface or his ilk showed up and (presumably) tried to chop down the locals’ sacred trees — hang him from the nearest one?!

well, the saxons were forced to convert. by tptb (in this case the invading franks). huh. imagine that — so-called leaders forcing policies down the people’s throats. hard to imagine!

again from “Jural Relations Among the Saxons Before and After Christianization” [pg. 117 – links added by me]:

“The first ones [written saxon laws] were issued directly by or under the supervision of Frankish authorities. The first group, know as *Capitula de partibus Saxoniae*, issued in 777 at the end of centuries-long conflict with the Saxons, is none other than a martial law enforcing both public order and wholesale christianization. Of the total number of 31 articles, the first five list the penalties for crimes against churches and priests; the next four establish stiff penalties for acts of ‘paganism’ including the death penalty for whomever should refuse to be baptized. Among them a lone ray of light: law number 6 which prohibits witchcraft accusations *’secundum more paganorum’*…. Law 14 is for repentants who, having committed a crime, might confess to a priest, hence would be exempt from the death penalty *’testimonio sacerdote’*.

“The next group of laws from 15 to 19 lays down the duties towards the Church, consisting of a certain number of inhabitants in each hamlet donating to the church *’servum et ancillam’*, and that the tenth part *’decimam’* of the value of penalties incurred, or of one’s subsistence labour must be given to the church. The remaining articles list the prohibitions and duties following on religious festivities and ceremonies.

“This brief set of laws ends with … a final prohibition of unauthorized assemblies….”

so there!

previously: the anglo-saxons and america 3.0

(note: comments do not require an email. birds with mustaches!)


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