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Middle Ages

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Adam and Eve, Jan Brueghel de Oude en Peter Paul Rubens. Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Did the Christian doctrine of original sin create the guilt cultures of Northwest Europe? Or did the arrow of causality run the other way?
By definition, gene-culture co-evolution is reciprocal. Genes and culture are both in the driver's seat. This point is crucial because there is a tendency to overreact to cultural determinism and to forget that culture does matter, even to the point of influencing the makeup of our gene pool. Through culture, humans have directed their own... Read More
St. Adalbert freeing Slavic slaves (source). With the Christianization of Eastern Europe, the trade in fair-skinned women and boys came to an end. The white slave trade played a key role in ending the Dark Ages—this seemingly unending downward spiral that followed the collapse of the Roman Empire. By the 8th century, the elites of... Read More
The Slave Market, painting (c. 1884) by Jean-Léon Gérôme (source) Can Europeans, and European women in particular, become objects of trade? The idea seems laughable, since the term ‘slave trade’ almost always brings Africans to mind. Yet there was a time not so long ago when Europe exported slaves on a large scale. Between 1500... Read More
A new arrival (painting by Giuilo Rosati - source). The privilege of white skin … Earlier this year, fashion model Cameron Russell condemned the unbearable whiteness of her industry: […] I won a genetic lottery, and I am a recipient of a legacy. For the past few centuries, we have defined beauty not just as... Read More
John Locke: “every man, in the state of nature, has a power to kill a murderer […] such men are not under the ties of the common law of reason, have no other rule, but that of force and violence, and so may be treated as beasts of prey (source of picture) The last millennium... Read More
Hanged, drawn, and quartered. (source) Although the Middle Ages were, in the imagination of our contemporaries, “the time of the gallows,” the reality was appreciably different (Carbasse, 2011, pp. 38-39) Like many well-meaning people, I once considered the death penalty a relic of a more barbaric age. Outside the old jailhouse, here in Quebec City,... Read More
Homicide rates in England, 1200-2000 (Eisner, 2001) States seek to pacify their territories by monopolizing the use of violence. With each passing generation, violent individuals are ostracized, imprisoned, or executed, their predispositions being thereby selected out of the gene pool. Has this “genetic pacification” made longtime State societies kinder and gentler places to live in?... Read More
Did the end of the Middle Ages bring a rapid shift to individualism in English society? Or was something already going on beforehand? For most of human history and prehistory, our lives were based on kinship—economically, socially and even spiritually. Kinship determined who provided whom with the basics of life: food, shelter, and clothing. And... Read More
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