The medieval period really shaped Europeans

Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

In an old interview, HBD Chick describes some of the ideas she has popularized:

In the 1960s, John Hajnal noticed a curious feature in Europe populations and that is the fact that, compared to just about everybody else in the world, northwest Europeans have this history (going back to at least the 1500s) of marrying quite late (mid-20s+) and/or not marrying at all. The line divides eastern and western Europe, but some other areas — like southern Italy and Spain, Ireland, and parts of Finland — are also “outside” the Hajnal line.

I picked up on it from an historian of medieval Europe and family history, Michael Mitterauer.  In his book, Why Europe?, Mitterauer discusses at some length how the Hajnal line coincides in space with the extent of manorialism in medieval Europe, the connection being that, because young people often had to wait to take possession of a farm within the medieval manor system, they also had to wait to marry.  I suspect that, over time, this led to the selection for, as they call it, “low time preference” in northwestern Europeans — or, at least, that this was the start of it in Europe. In other words, those individuals who could “restrain themselves” were eventually rewarded with reproductive success in the form of having access to a dedicated piece of farmland on a manor.  These are (some of) the people who successfully reproduced in the Middle Ages (along with the aristocracy).

Interestingly, the Hajnal line seems to coincide with other curious features of northwestern European society, too, such as little or no cousin marriage. Mitterauer makes the (convincing, I think) argument that the various bans on cousin marriage across medieval Europe enabled the spread of manors eastwards across the continent out of the Frankish heartland in northeast France/Belgium, since the cousin marriage ban weakened European clans, and clans and manorialism did not go together, the manor system being based around nuclear families.  Mitterauer points out the eastern limit of manorialism in Europe coincides with the Hajnal line and with the earliest and strongest bans on cousin marriage. Cousin marriage was, eventually, banned in eastern Europe (Russia, for example), but much later than in western Europe. Also, extended families seem to be more important “outside” the Hajnal line, in eastern Europe for example. Even average IQs appear to be generally higher “inside” the line than out, so I suspect that Hajnal’s discovery is much more important biologically than folks have supposed up ’til now.  Population geneticists and evolutionary biologists really ought to take a very close look at it.

Most folks out there who are interested in human biodiversity and the differences we see in American society today have probably read Hackett Fischer’s Albion’s Seed, but I cannot recommend enough Mitterauer’s Why Europe? for really understanding where Europeans came from!  It should really be on everyone’s shelf next to Albion’s Seed (or also on their Kindles).  I think, taking a page out of The 10,000 Year Explosion, that the medieval period really shaped Europeans — even transformed them (us!) — especially northwest Europeans. And I think the population’s switch to regular outbreeding (i.e., the avoidance of cousin marriage) played a huge role in that transformation because it set the stage for a whole new range of selection pressures to act on the population. The loosening of genetic ties in medieval Europe led the population down a path towards greater individuality versus collectivity, greater feelings of universalism versus particularism, and less of an orientation towards the extended family and more of a focus on the commonweal. These are all really a very unique set of traits compared to most other human populations, and the roots of those traits are biological, and their origins not that old. At least that’s what I think!


  1. Bob Sykes says:

    Today, Europe is the site of a truly Darwinian struggle between native outbreeders and invading inbreeders. At least for now, the inbreeders seem to be winning, especially with the connivance of the European Ruling Class. That Ruling Class ought to reflect that the inbreeding communities of the world are governed by brutal dictatorships. But maybe that is the goal.

  2. Graham says:

    Whenever I see David P. ["Spengler"] Goldman commenting on the ‘Faustian’ nature of Western civilization, I mentally add this factor to his model for a more complete picture.

  3. Flotsom says:

    How did the Roman empire compare to Western Europe in terms of a) cousin breeding, and b) low time preference?

    What about the barbarians invading Rome vs. the current invaders?

    How does China compare?

  4. DJohn1 says:

    HBD Chick Lives.

    Your assurance of 1/17/17 seemed funerary months ago.

  5. Bomag says:

    Today, Europe is the site of a truly Darwinian struggle between native outbreeders and invading inbreeders.

    The distressing thing is that the struggle is between parasite and host. I like to think the host prevails in the end, but to paraphrase Keynes, “the parasite can stay successful longer than the host can stay solvent.”

  6. Flotsom says:

    Thank you, HBD Chick!

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