8/24/13: Post updated. See below!
This started as an e-mail I wrote to a friend to sum up the important events of the Middle Ages for Europe and the Near East. Then I decided that this was blog post worthy, so here it is: a nice, fairly concise summary of the events of the Middle Ages that set the stage for the rise of modern civilization, according to HBD Chick’s hypothesis—massive thanks to her. This post will be here to hopefully serve as a handy reference to the topic.
So it seems that many interesting things happened during the Middle Ages. It is this period that shaped the people of today. Two of the biggest instrumental forces were religions, particularly Christianity and Islam. Both of these religions set their adherents on special evolutionary paths, paths that continue to influence events to this day.
In Europe, after the fall of Rome and with the Germanic barbarians overrunning the former Western Empire, the Church took on extra importance. Unlike the Romans they conquered, the German barbarians were tribal, with strong clan loyalties (Edit also see medieval germanic kindreds … and the ditmarsians | hbd* chick). Needless to say, this wasn’t helpful to Church’s attempts to maintain order or any semblance of civil authority that had existed under the Romans. Of course, the Church made an effort to convert the barbarians to Christianity, and in so doing, the Church instituted several restrictions on marriage and family systems that discouraged the large kinship networks that typify tribal societies. Most important among them was banning cousin marriage. Western Europeans are fairly unique in the world in that they prefer to marry those who are unrelated. Most of the world prefers marriage between cousins, particularly cross-cousins. Without marriage between cousins, extended kinship networks broke down, for many reasons; including the fact that wealth was no longer so concentrated within the family (and often went to the Church). As well, this creates a different sort of evolutionary selective pressures. Members of an inbred family are much more related to each other than to outsiders, so kin altruism (doing things that benefit the family, even at great cost to the self) pays off much more evolutionarily. As Western Europeans married their cousins less, kinship began to spread around the whole society. Over time, this meant that everyone in a country became related everyone else to some degree, and the degree of relation of the individual to his immediate and extended family with respect to his society as a whole was a lot lower. This then encouraged the selection of genes for “reciprocal altruism” as opposed to kin altruism—helping others with the expectation that they may one day help you, as well as a general concern for the well-being of society as a whole as opposed to just one’s kin (since to an outbred individual, the entire nation is essentially one’s extended family). You can see that in the high rate of participation in civic organizations for Northwestern Europeans and their descendants, as opposed to everyone else in the world. Natural selection leads to more genes for one type of altruism over other types of altruism depending on the conditions, in this case the mating patterns, and the NW Europeans created something pretty new.
The strong outbreeding of NW Europeans allowed the growth of “corporate” entities, something that is much more difficult to impossible in an inbred society (since it’s hard to get unrelated people to cooperate). This allowed the development of large institutions, something that was largely absent in the rest of world. The preference for highly exogamous marriage was aided by the spread of the manor system in Western Europe. In fact, one can see this on a map:
The manor became popular with the northern Franks and spread in all directions. Manors selected for a particular type of worker, one that would be docile (in face of authority, as opposed to raucous and uncontrollable as those in tribal societies tend to be), hardworking, industrious (often savvy enough to spot opportunities to exploit one’s skills; this encouraged the growth of trade guilds), and somewhat clever. It is these individuals that left the most descendants, and over time, their genes became dominant in the population.
It is this reason that Europe was plunged into a Dark Age after the arrival of the German barbarians. It’s not just that the barbarians were uneducated and uncivilized; they were in essence uncivilizable, at least not for several generations. It was not until enough of the people had evolved new traits did society again begin to advance towards the end of the Middle Ages.
One characteristic of this new system was that marriage began to be postponed in the West. This is demarcated by the Hajnal line:
Western Europeans, exempting the periphery in Celtic Britain, southern Iberia and southern Italy, married late, and both spouses tended to be closer in age. This phenomenon clearly continues in the West today, and demonstrates the importance of Westerners needing to establish themselves economically before settling down with marriage and children.
The important historical oddities of Northwestern Europe gave them a unique history, one that gave rise to all the important institutions of modern civilization, including the modern concept of democracy, which first arose in England, and was finally firmly established by the nascent United States.
In fact, these very important ideological differences among the different European groups can be traced to the different familial/economic/marriage systems they had adopted in the Middle Ages and onward, as one can see here:
This is explained here. The country that gave us modern democracy, modern capitalism, and the Industrial Revolution, England, had embraced the modern nuclear family early on. In such a system, where all were related through extensive outbreeding, and each person needed to make it on their own abilities, and where the voice of every man was important, did the attitudes and beliefs that were the founding principles our modern society emerge (including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness) (see these from HBD Chick: but what about the english?, english individualism, english individualism ii, and so my next question naturally is…).
A general and important phenomenon that occurred in Europe, and also in East Asia, was what I call the “Upper Class Advantage.” In these societies, the poor and lowest classes of society faced abysmal survival prospects (considering the harshness of medieval life, where it was challenging to obtain food and ward off illness), such that the ones who succeeded in raising the most offspring were those in the upper classes. Repeated for several generations, everyone came to be descended primarily from the nobility. The temperament and disposition of the middle class then came to be the dominant ones in the population, something with which most of the world outside Europe and East Asia haven’t been as successful.
The way the family was organized, and, more importantly, the way this caused other aspects of society to be organized had very important implications for ideology, as explained here. The differences between the English on one hand and the French or the Spanish on the other, in terms of attitudes towards work and success for example, can be traced to their system of inheritance. Pulling-oneself-up-by-one’s-bootstraps was somewhat less important in the latter countries, and today they embrace a much more socialist way of thinking with respect to the Anglophone world.
The edges of Western Europe, for different reasons, avoided this way of life. The Scots and the Irish, being herders, living in rough terrain in the case of the former, never adopted the manor system, and continued right on inbreeding (edit: also here, mating patterns in medieval/early modern scotland | hbd* chick), remaining clannish, which is evident in the great clan feuds in both these peoples’ histories. Southern Spain, under the domination of the Moors, continued a system of inbreeding common to Muslim societies. And southern Italy is a lost cause and has been for some time, as any Mafia movie shows (also my own blog post here). In these places the extended family remains the most important social unit, and violent completion between families (think Mafia family wars) in the spirit in the Scottish and Irish clan feuds continue (the latter of which having their own history of clan-based mafias). Edit: also see More on Farming and Inheritance Systems – Part I: IQ.
The Middle Ages also saw the evolution of the Ashkenazi Jews, whose restriction to cognitively demanding tasks selected for greatly increased IQ, as evident by the success of Ashkenazi Jews in every corner of the world today.
On the other side of the Hajnal line—which in later times became known as the Iron Curtain—a different way of life emerged entirely. The manor system never caught on with the Slavs. Christianity also didn’t make into Eastern Europe until much later than it did in the West, and Slavs were inbreeding for much longer than were Germanics on the other side of Europe. Instead of the manor, the basic unit in Slavic Europe was the zadruga, or the obshchina in Russia (Edit: also see: historic european homicide rates … and the hajnal line | hbd* chick). These were communal dwellings where farm land was evenly divided among all residents, and land and crops were redistributed from the more successful families to the less successful ones. Yep, sounds a lot like communism; indeed the Russians had essentially invented communism in the middle ages, not during the Bolshevik Revolution! The adverse conditions in Russia may have favored this type of system, since crop failure was a frequent problem in the harsh Russian winter. See HBD Chick’s ongoing discussion about mating patterns in Eastern Europe (also here). Edit: also see: Those Who Can See: The Tsar is Far
To the south, while Europe was in disarray recovering from the fall of Rome, a new force emerged in the Arabian Desert. This was Islam, formulated by Muhammad. The Arabs have been—and often remain to this day—nomadic herders. A herding lifestyle favors an aggressive personality, since it is so easy to strip a herder of what is important for survival (their herds). The Arabs also practice a form of cousin marriage where parallel cousin marriage, particularly one’s father’s-brother’s-daughter (FBD), is preferred as a wife for a young man. This is important for keeping the herd within the family, as splitting-up the herd through inheritance would be catastrophic for many. FBD marriage allows wealth to remain in the family. By the time of Muhammad, the Arabs were using this system, and it was spread around the Middle East and North Africa by the Islamic conquest. Prior to Muhammad, the Arabs had existed in atomized tribes, each doing their own thing and highly distrustful of other tribes. Various tribes occasionally united into temporary coalitions to defeat rival groups, and afterwards often went their own way. The key to Muhammad’s success was that he was able to unite the Arab tribes under their new faith, and in so doing they became a force to be reckoned with, easily swallowing the nomads of the Maghreb and posing a significant threat to Christian Europe. In so doing, they spread not just their faith but their family/mating system to the conquered groups (as far east as Pakistan):
This is, I suspect, the explanation for the rise and fall of the Islamic Golden Age. In Mesopotamia and Persia, after things settled down from the Muslim conquest, the people there, already fairly sophisticated, were able to benefit from the new technologies and ideas that were able to flow through the Caliphate. For a time, this led to the intellectual and scientific revolution that they experienced. However as the generations passed, having adopted the Arab method of inbreeding, social order became less corporate and more tribal. Women began to lose their status, and quite likely the average IQ of the population declined thanks to inbreeding depression, and perhaps to poorer reproductive success of the intelligentsia in favor of tribal tough guys (edit, also see: mating patterns, family types, social structures, and selection pressures | hbd* chick). Perhaps then the Seljuk Turk and later the Mongol invasions finished the job.
This highly incestuous form of marriage and breeding favored by Muslim societies explains many of the peculiarities of their culture. Breeding must be strictly controlled, since unrelated men and women can’t be allowed to associate (and possibly mate), which why you get the burqa, honor killings, and the like. As well, individuals in such a society are not just related to their family members, but are in a way “super”-related to kin (see this family tree diagram of FBD marriage),being twice as related to their cousins as they otherwise would be (if there was no inbreeding). As such, extreme kin-altruistic behaviors, like self-sacrifice in war, or killing one’s own offspring to protect the family’s “honor” (and reproductive prospects), in the case of honor killing, pay off much more greatly evolutionary; hence, we have suicide terrorism coming almost exclusively from Muslim societies.
The results of the family and mating structures become evident when one looks at a worldwide distribution of values, seen here:
Involvement in charitable or civic organizations is highest in the outbred West, and lowest in the inbred Muslim world and in ex-communist Eastern Europe. As well, individualism is greatly suppressed in those areas, emphasizing the importance of family ties over one’s direct connection to society at large, as in the West. In clannish societies, one inclined to distrust one’s non-family neighbors—for good reason, since each is looking out for their own clan’s interests. This explains the inability of democracy to truly take hold in either the Muslim world or much of Eastern Europe, especially the former Soviet republics.
(Greece, BTW, is not exempted from this problem, since they have been de facto inbreeding for some time. Greeks tend to marry locally, and if you do this long enough, after awhile everyone in your town becomes your cousin).
World War II, the Cold War, and perhaps 9/11 and the “War on Terror” were the great clashes of these ideologies, in which the liberal democratic ideology of Western Europe—particularly Britain and her products (esp. the U.S.) has (so far) prevailed.
Notice how all the outliers from the “core” of Europe are the current problem areas of the present E.U. (as seen on the map of the average IQ of the European nations with the Hajnal line superimposed):
The P.I.I.G.S., Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece, and Spain, are all areas outside the Hajnal line in whole or in part, all have lower-than-average IQ, all have had a recent history of inbreeding, and all today suffer from massive unemployment and economic malaise, which, as of this writing, is reaching critical levels in Spain. The facts gleamed here would indicate that there is no easy solution to these problems, as the people of the periphery of Europe are fundamentally less economically productive than those in the interior (edit: also see A Tale of Two Maps).
Indeed, the contrast of people and their differing ideals have significance for our country as well, as the United States is comprised of people from different parts of the British Isles (supplemented by immigrants from the rest of Europe and the world, who came here both willingly and unwillingly), each having a different evolutionary history and intractably different political views.
Historian David Hackett Fischer’s book Albion’s Seed examined the origin of the early American settlers and each group’s influence on the regional culture of the United States. Broadly, Fischer explains that the northern part of the U.S. was settled by colonists from southeast England (the highly outbred part), with the Northeast U.S. settled by the Puritans and the upper Midwest ultimately settled by the Quakers (also see here). Meanwhile, the Southern and Western U.S. were settled by colonists from Western and Northern Britain (the inbred, clannish part), with the U.S. Deep South settled by Cavaliers and indentured servants from southwest England (who established the Southern plantations), and Appalachia, the lower Midwest, and ultimately the far West settled by the fierce (and highly clannish) Border Reivers and other Scotch-Irish.
The settlers in the American north, originating from the part of Britain that embraced the classic nuclear family, were the classic independent outbred liberal/libertarian capitalists. The settlers of the South on the other hand, are inbred and clannish, and in the case of the Scotch-Irish, traditionally herders. It can be seen that the great family feuds of the American South essentially were a continuation of such conflicts from the north of Britain (as present-day Glasgow attests to). These groups favor more conservative values, such as faith, distrust of central authority (that is, favoring “freedom” from central authority to remain loyal to extended kin), and less enthusiasm for the welfare state (which distributes goods from kin to non-kin). This is blazingly evident on this map of the 2008 U.S. Presidential election results, by county:
Taking into consideration areas with large non-European ancestry, the places where these different British groups settled are evident from looking at the above map (outbred Pilgrims/Quakers blue, inbred Borderlanders red, likely then accentuated by other European groups, who may have sorted themselves into places where they meshed with the local culture). This is also evident by looking at the dominant religions in the various U.S. regions:
The Bible Belt is very evident, as is the Scandinavian/German Lutheran region of the upper Plains, and the Mormon stronghold of the West (the northern tier Protestant regions, and by extension the West Coast, being weaker in adherence to religion overall, do not have any large single dominant Christian sect, allowing the Catholic Church to be the largest religious body in these regions).
And indeed, the American Civil War was just the latest rematch of the ongoing conflict between the various factions of Britons, which included the English Civil War of the 1600s. This in good part explains the complete nonsense going on in American politics these days, and why it seems that Northerners and Southerners are from different planets at times (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tuI2LEKHGiQ). I’m not sure how well this bodes for the future of the “greatest country on Earth”. Edit 8/24/13: About the various (White) American Nations, see my series of posts on the matter:
A Tentative Ranking of the Clannishness of the “Founding Fathers”
Flags of the American Nations
Maps of the American Nations
Rural White Liberals – a Key to Understanding the Political Divide
Edit 7/14/13: Also see HBD Chick’s start page: start here | hbd* chick
Edit 3/24/14: See also HBD Chick’s big summary post on the hajnal line
Edit 8/24/13: Also be sure to see my HBD Fundamentals page, particularly the section On the evolution of modern advanced civilized people
Edit: Theme for this post (“Silent” by Barry Goldberg):