Church ban on cousin marriage created culture of individualism in Europe



Super Caley

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So scientific researchers have put forward a theory that a Ban on cousin marriage enforced by the medieval Catholic Church had profound effects on Europe. Prior to that time, Europeans tended to be clannish and tribal. People tended to marry within the clan or tribe, this often meant marrying close cousins. The result was that people were inbred to a high degree. People living in clans were fiercely loyal to the clan and tended to distrust outsiders.

By enforcing a ban on cousin marriage, people had to search further afield for marriage partners. Over time, the decline of clannishness led to people becoming more individualistic and more trusting of outsiders. This led to increased co-operativeness and an increase of prosperity.
Interesting topic, Thanks for posting

Can't say I'd heard of that theory before, although it is one of many theories that argue that western culture / philosophy owes a lot to its' Christian heritage. There's book by a guy called Tom Holland on this, but there are others who have argued that Christianity resulted in Western ideas of individualism (Siedentop), science (Girard) and of course human rights. Such ideas are of course anathema to those who see Christianity in general and the RCC in particular as the source of all evil, and of course are also awkward for the Islamophiles who argue that give them (Muslims) a few centuries and they'll be just like us.

I'm a bit sceptical about this incest theory though, or at least it seems to raise more questions than answers.
For instance, what was it exactly about Christian teaching that lead it to take such a stance on cousin marriages? Might it even have been the other way around? Were the church trying to tackle what it saw as problematic clanishness and saw curtailing cousin marriage as a means to that end. That is, maybe the rise in individualism may not have been as much of an unintended side effect as it might seem.

Interesting though
 

Super Caley

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Not at all. I’ve seen in breeding in Ireland up close. And there seems to be certain genetic problems in Ireland which I’m sure are down to us having been too close. This will hopefully be sorted out with the influxes of the last two decades.

For example cystic fibrosis, Schizophrenia, being a bit touched.
You may be confusing two different types if inbreeding there.
There will inevitably be more in breeding in a geographically isolated population, that in one with greater contacts with the wider world. As in island, this was always going to more of an issue here than say in central Europe.

The question raised in the OP however concerns in-breeding arising not out of necessity (due to geographical constraints) but rather for cultural, or even political reasons.


And BTW Cystic Fibrosis, as another poster has already pointed out, is probably common in Ireland because of our exposure to TB (i.e. our dairy diet) rather than limited gene pool.

Also, Schizophrenia seems to have an incidence that is curiously consistent the world over, irrespective of geographic isolation, so is probably not relevant here.
 

McTell

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OP

So scientific researchers have put forward a theory that a Ban on cousin marriage enforced by the medieval Catholic Church had profound effects on Europe. Prior to that time, Europeans tended to be clannish and tribal. //
//
They banned it, but you could pay extra to get round it.

Sorry, a donation, not a "payment"
 

Degeneration X

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They were told. Are there not examples of them widening the gene pool at different stages in history? Isn't Betty and Bertie's marriage a product of it? She of German descent and he of Greek or something? I'm not into the whole royals thing but I know a number who are (for various reasons) and I've heard their conversations on it.
Bertie was also a German, German princelings took the thrones of many of the Balkan countries after they gained independence from the Turks.
 

Ireniall

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are they all mad in Iceland? if there was a problem it was possibly marrying only as far as the next parish or there was so much irish emigration by the more able that it made it look like there was problem. Has anyone tested the IQ of this influx? presumably inbreeding cousin marriage is on the rise in Ireland now?
The advent of the bicycle was apparently, a huge improvement parish wise.
 

Golah veNekhar

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So scientific researchers have put forward a theory that a Ban on cousin marriage enforced by the medieval Catholic Church had profound effects on Europe. Prior to that time, Europeans tended to be clannish and tribal. People tended to marry within the clan or tribe, this often meant marrying close cousins. The result was that people were inbred to a high degree. People living in clans were fiercely loyal to the clan and tended to distrust outsiders.
Nordies on both sides when they get savage are prone to calling "themuns" inbred. The origin of this comes from the fact that historically the Presbyterians and Baptists allowed cousin because it is not strictly forbidden in the Bible and if you look at Genesis the Patriarchs practiced it- this freaked out not just the Catholics but also the Anglicans and also made them make fun of the Dissenters for being in-bred. This could explain why a lot of Ulster-Prods are so autisticly myopic in a rather savage manner.
 

Dame_Enda

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In fact in the Middle Ages you couldn't marry if you were up to seventh cousins.
 

Lumpy Talbot

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The advent of the bicycle was apparently, a huge improvement parish wise.
Not the first time the sport of emperors, bicycular velocipedalism, rears its head at important junctures in world history.
 

Joseph Emmet

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So this is a THEORY. It is niether true or false. Data seems to suggest... ahh who chose the data? how selective were they? what data did they dismiss? Think about it. Darwin's theory of selection, Einstein's theory of relativity and others. They are still only Theories!
 

McTell

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Cousin and aunt marriage was a germanic anglo saxon frankish norm, and they even faked a doc in the 700s to make it seem OK.


Boniface spent much of his later life in Continental Europe, where he encountered many canonical traditions that were unfamiliar to the Anglo-Saxons and that appeared to Boniface out of step with his knowledge of church tradition. The Libellus represented one such tradition. Boniface in fact had very practical reasons for questioning the Libellus. He had witnessed its recommendations being exploited by certain members of the Frankish nobility who claimed that the Libellus permitted them to enter into unions with their aunts, unions Boniface considered to be incestuous.

Libellus responsionum - Wikipedia


In fact we were and are very conventional. Modern individualism came from heading into the american wilderness and doing your own thing, with no control by church or crown. Or you were a merchant with his own ship. This is all very recent, 400 years max.
 

Malcolm Redfellow

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So scientific researchers have put forward a theory that a Ban on cousin marriage enforced by the medieval Catholic Church had profound effects on Europe. Prior to that time, Europeans tended to be clannish and tribal. People tended to marry within the clan or tribe, this often meant marrying close cousins. The result was that people were inbred to a high degree. People living in clans were fiercely loyal to the clan and tended to distrust outsiders.

By enforcing a ban on cousin marriage, people had to search further afield for marriage partners. Over time, the decline of clannishness led to people becoming more individualistic and more trusting of outsiders. This led to increased co-operativeness and an increase of prosperity.
Apologies for being late to the party. And I have absolutely no views about whether consanguinity is genetically problematic. Except it didn't bother us in the days of brehon law — which didn't fuss about royals boffing (and reproducing) with their siblings.

However, R.I. Moore's The War on Heresy (pp116ff) has been a major corrector to my appreciation. Yes, I have mentioned it elsewhere. So — apologies to parentheses for repeating the essential argument.

Here Moore is discussing the significance of Gregory VII Hildebrand's reforms:
The sacralisation of marriage greatly facilitated the enforcement of another change yet more radical in its consequences. All systems of social control are based on rules governing who may or may not sleep with whom, and on what conditions. Changes in those rules are always bitterly contentious and always indicative of profound social political change. The most important of them determine what constitutes incest — what degrees of kinship are so close as to prevent marriage. Christians had long agreed that this was the seventh degree, which was calculated by counting back from both partners to their nearest common ancestor, and adding the results. [...] Henceforth it was to be seven steps back from each partner to the common ancestor, not from both combined. [...]

Hold on there: 2x2x2x2x2x2x2=128. If I'm a medieval bod in community of >256 eligibles by age (assuming the male/female balance is equal) there isn't a single 'legitimate' prospect in sight!
The effect of this was to multiply the number of people whom one could not marry, on average, by a factor of about twenty. It meant that in a world of small communities, where almost everybody was related more or less closely to almost everybody else, almost every feasible marriage was incestuous, and therefore could not take place or, if it had already done so, was invalid. [...] Almost very marriage would indeed be invalid — unless everybody agreed to keep quiet about it and, in the priest's words, for ever hold their tongues. A marriage could take place, therefore, only with the agreement of everybody who might possibly be concerned. The restriction provided an immensely powerful instrument for parents to control the marriages of their children, and lords of their serfs.

In short, herein is an essential of feudal control. Alongside that change came enforced celibacy of the clergy — significant because church property could no longer pass through dynasties (the filthy lucre was church, not individual wealth). Next, a suitable and approved wife needed a dowry — no dowry, the daughter was unmarriageable (so shunted off to a convent). All of that consolidated and institutionalised power and wealth for the grandees and landlords — irrespective of whether they were clergy or lay.
 
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