Anglo SaxonThinking about Evolution & Economics and Some Notes on the Evolution of Ideas

Part 6 - Anglo Saxon culture - The strange tale of Joe & Jane Sixpack, the evolution of culture, the vernacular and the law of the land

Tapestries of Individual Rights & Obligations

 

Now God said, and I agree with her - 'There's no such thing as society but there is a living tapestry of men & women, of families & friends, of clubs & companies, of tribes & religions, of cities & states. There's no such thing as a right unless someone has met an obligation ...'

'Tapestry' - Webster's dictionary - 'as in complexity or richness of design - nature's rich tapestry' - a woven pattern depicting a visual story where the overall effect emerges as the tapestry is being woven from a series of scenes - there is nothing there but the coloured weft, a multitude of individual threads which are an integral part of a structure, held together by the unseen 'glue' of the warp - the whole effect emerges as more than the sum of the individual parts.

'Emergence' - Wikipedia - 'the way patterns arise out of a multiplicity of relatively simpler interactions'.

'Culture' - Oxford English - 'customs, institutions and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement'.

'Society' - 'community of people having shared customs, laws and institutions'.

'Exchange' - Oxford English - 'an act of giving one thing and receiving another in return'.

Throughout history tapestries have vividly told the stories of cultures, of Greeks & Romans, of Renaissance & Reformation and of the Anglo Saxons ...

So what was 'society' if it was not a 'thing' ... was it a 'culture'? For sure all cultures were different ... some said Anglo Saxon culture & Anglo Saxon economics were different? So what made the Anglo Saxons different?

But don't get it wrong ... Anglo Saxon culture was just one example of the way the cookie crumbled ... at the last check all folk were different, the 'society thingy' didn't exist, but nothing stopped folk from cooperating ... and the genes themselves did cost/benefit analysis ... read Chapter 12 of 'The Selfish Gene'.

The Evolution of Anglo Saxon Culture

Living was a risky business, ask Joe Sixpack. Joe had a remarkable capacity to learn but this only confirmed the depth of his ignorance ... there seemed to be two, or was it four, perverse problems at the very root of his survival -

change & conflict undermined the survival 'know how' that had been painfully accumulated in the past by his ancestors - the 2nd law of thermodynamics continuously ravaged all survival structures - unpredictable change 'just happened' ... no one seemed to be in control of the process ...

complexity & scarcity undermined the discovery of new survival 'know how' by Joe & his mates - everything seemed to be an immensely complex system of interconnected systems - an emergent hierarchical 'whole shebang & caboodle' ... innumerable abject failures always preceded the few rare gems of success ...

Prior to 1859 most history was taught as a chronology of the activities of big men, 'the powers that be' ... Bishops, Princes, Generals and tribal majorities led by Soothsayers ... all with mythical & magical 'powers' to impose their rational, purposeful, intentional, plans on the hapless Joe & his mates ... the Bible, the Koran, the Anglo Saxon Chronicles and the ecclesiastical history of the Venerable Bede all told stories of top down shenanigans, concoctions and the whims & fancies of big men, all imposed through encyclicals, fiat, statues and tablets of stone ... it was assumed big men imposed their power ... but the girls who took most of the decisions seldom got a mention ... and, for sure, the girls were involved ... nobody had discovered any alternative way of spreading the genes ... and the genes must have spread otherwise we wouldn't be here to interpret history ... think about it?

Then in 1859 Charles Darwin arrived with his 'strange inversion of reason', with his 'awful stretchers' and his humble admission that 'natural selection was a poor description of the process' ... now there was an alternative interpretation of history ... a deep history which didn't suddenly start with the written record ... a history which was discoverable in cosmology, tectonics, archaeology, fossils, linguistics, radioactive carbon, molecular & metabolic chemistry, genetics, cognitive science ... and thermodynamics and complexity science ... science was reinterpreting history ... uncovering a clearer picture of what was really happening to Joe Sixpack and his mates at the coal face, in the trenches, in the villages ... coping & copulating ... and learning ...

This reinterpretation of history was not about top down rational, purposeful, intentional plans, but rather about a discovery & accumulation process involving a flood of random mutations some of which differentially survived ... this was 'stuff happening' ... the result of the evolutionary process ... copy / vary / select ... hubris / nemesis / catharsis ... stumbling slowly and intermittently towards the stupendous modern puzzles of why 'The Scientific Revolution', why 'The Spread of Democracy', why 'The Failure of Economic Planning' and why 'Technological & Organisational Innovation'? ... this was Joe's inheritance and Joe's modification ... the emergence of ever more complexity ... this was deep history, the way it must have happened as there is no known physical alternative ... let's be clear Anglo Saxon culture must have evolved ... emerging slowly step by step ... bottom up as the genes mixed and Joe's brain proved to be impervious to top down shenanigans, concoctions and the whims & fancies of big men ... after all Joe had to please the girls ... not the kings ... didn't he? ... try as he would Joe never found any alternative way of passing on his genes ...and deep history was 'written' in the genes ... the genes did cost / benefit analysis ...

emergenceBigger Brains in the Trees - long long after the emergence of DNA chemistry and long after Joe's ancient ancestors crawled out of the sea, the culture of the Anglo Saxons can be traced back through the genes to Africa ... just like all human cultures ... In Africa Joe's arboreal ancestors evolved the bigger brains necessary to co-ordinate agile body movements and speedy escape routes in the trees ... particularly the grasping actions of opposable fingers and thumbs ... of course all those beings that didn't have the bigger brains ... must have discovered alternative ways to survive ... or must have died out ...

But bigger brains meant painful births for the girls and more babies survived if they were born before their heads had grown enormous ... nine month terms, litter size and prolonged lactation were not biological accidents ... the earlier births meant longer infant dependency and babies were quite helpless for several years ...during this period of development survival was almost impossible without caring mothers ... in turn nursing mums and their babies found it more difficult to survive without fathers ... the girls were suffering and needed help and protection ... families and kin became important survival aids ... and deep down in the skull strange feelings of family bonding and love began to emerge ... the genes had to be given a chance to survive!

... and there's more ... families with successful behavioural caring habits now had the opportunity to educate the youngsters during the long period of dependency ... bigger brains had bigger capacities to learn ... not only learning from mum but also learning from competitive playmates and always learning from the successful behavioural habits of ancestors long dead ... a process which was dramatically improved with the evolution of language and writing ... stories of wisdom from the past could be passed onto the youngsters ...  cultural wisdom was now increasing the survival chances of children, grandchildren and great grandchildren and ... and ... and ... behavioural 'rules of thumb' and even 'morality' were now evolving as well as the genes ...

It was bigger brains that distinguished Joe's ancestors from the masses of also rans as cultural wisdom was passed on to the youngsters ... education, education, education ... ancient survival 'know how' ... and also an avalanche of new survival tricks -

specialised tools - good technology & science ....

social skills - good manners & customs ...

... a double whammy ...

'Social necessity' was established, communication of vital survival 'know how' from one brain to another!

* sharing of the perishable carcase - there was too much for Joe to eat and deep freezing had not yet been invented ... the genes did cost / benefit analysis ...

GroomingCooperation on the Savannah - Joe was now out of the trees and on two feet and upright ... bipedal posture lessened the damage from direct overhead sunlight, helped running and left hands free to handle tools ... throwing spears (400,000 years ago) bows & arrows (25,000 ya) line fishing (12,500 ya) ...

The survival battle continued, 'nature, red in tooth and claw' ... eat or be eaten ... this was much more critical on the open savannah where there were no escape routes in the trees and there was competition for the readily collectable fruits & nuts ... and then there was meat ...

High protein fatty meat fed the intensifying metabolism of the bigger brain more efficiently than veggies ... but securing meat from the big kill required a group of like minded folk with the advantage of numbers ... group hunting required cooperation -

co-ordination of different skills - tracking, experience, endurance running, spear throwing, carcass transport, camp relocation, butchering, fire making  ...

defence of the carcass after the kill - some scavengers and predators always found stealing easier than hunting ... and competitors were not only the vultures ... other bands of enterprising homo sapiens were trying out alternative survival strategies ... and stealing ...

... the resultant size of a viable hunting band was necessarily around 20 - 40 folk ...

The hunting band synergies, the advantage of numbers, came from economic specialisation & scale.

In this way several families built on ancient gender specialisation and began to extend cooperation ... the girls were already specialist egg producers and embryo growers ... and now there were individual specialisations in the various hunting & gathering skills ... survival required cooperation and cooperation required peace & trust ... domesticated social groups evolved ... and once again those folk who didn't develop domesticated, cooperative habits found themselves outside the group ... ostracised and starving ... and without girls ... their genes didn't spread ...

... and more ... the larger the social group and the more specialised the skills, the more complex the recognition / memory / social interaction problems became ... social skills became evolutionary grist and an arms race ensued ... bigger brains fed a more complex diversity of social interaction with the associated survival advantages ... sure it was important to be able to thread a needle and plan the hunt ... but now it was important for Joe to practise his social skills with Jessica ... mate selection became important ... no point in mating with an idiot ... is there? ... and also Joe had to find ways of securing fair shares for his family in the larger group ... so for sure ... folk that failed to domesticate and to solve these social problems ... died out ... just like short necked giraffes ... and their genes died with them ... and, of course, it was the girls, not the big men, who refused to pass on the errant genes ...

'Social problems' were established - how did folk secure the interaction synergies from specialisation & scale necessary for competitive survival when cooperation in ever larger groups was required? ... and the environment was still full of change, conflict, complexity & scarcity ...

Bigger BrainSocial Success & Colonisation Out of Africa - successful groups of hunter gatherers moved out of Africa to pastures new ... more success meant more surviving babies and more colonisation of virgin lands ... first Asia and eventually Northern Europe ... no doubt others chose to stay put at home and cope with a Malthusian cul-de-sac ... and fewer surviving babies ...

At this stage success involved further ongoing intensification of specialisation & scale activities ... the resultant higher population densities brought diminishing returns from land which were counter balanced by an increasing variety of tools, more sophisticated oral communication, food preservation & storage ... and inevitably ever more elaborate rituals to appease the fates of starvation and death ... it was now a struggle against diminishing returns ...

Clearly Joe's ancestors were now on a high road ... dependent, not on sharper claws, but on bigger brains as increasing neural complexity provided the capacity for more cultural accumulation and more individual innovative discovery of ever more complex technological and social survival tricks -

learning from the past and imagining possible futures resulted in better & more useful mental models of the real world

exploring every nook & cranny of sense perceptions with a flexibility, diversity and richness that supercharged mental creativity

imagining before commitment, generating & testing alternative ideas in the mind before risking execution in the real world

social skills extended cooperation beyond kinship into reciprocal altruism and eventually trust in strangers and trade - more and more diversity, larger and more complex groups

communication of complex ideas to others with a flexible symbolic language

focusing the mind on single concepts in a context & a time frame and inspiring analytical choice between the cost / benefit of alternatives

... and later music, humour, science and economics ... 

There were alternative survival strategies which depended on sharper claws and the violence of the pecking order ... but socially successful groups had a competitive edge over rival groups ... social co-operation secured synergies ... a competitive edge that provided some immunity from parasites & predators ... a competitive edge that extended to defence and warfare ...

In this way a robust 'tit for tat' cooperative behaviour emerged ... cultural 'rules of thumb' which protected the girls and educated the babies ... and the 'rules' were foolproof ... they always 'worked' ... 

cooperate - try to discover the 2 + 2 = 5 synergies with your mates, avoid expensive conflict and don't try to win at the expense of others

defend - always retaliate if attacked to protect the benefits and discourage parasites & predators

communicate - develop trust by responding clearly, simply, in time and emphatically to avoid misunderstandings

recruit - forgive errors whenever there is remorse to maximise the scale opportunity for future cooperative benefits

learn from outcomes ... cooperate with cooperators but retaliate against attack ... and try again ... again & again ...

It seemed both cooperation with your mates inside the group and defence against spoilers from outside groups were always needed for survival ... and never forget some predators were inside the group and called parasites ...

'Social solutions' emerged as cultural 'rules of thumb' ... tit for tat! ... you play ball with me and I'll play ball with you ... the genes did cost / benefit analysis ...

Top PeckSocial Problems - Survival in Pecking Orders & Kingdoms - inevitably the larger groups necessary to secure economic advantages made internal trust & peace more fragile ... more folk more differences more bickering ... simple as that ...  Group pecking orders first emerged to cope with such bickering as internal order was established by physical violence ... but later kingdoms emerged to cope with external threats to order ... it was clear that larger groups tended to wins wars ... and larger groups with the strongest leaders tended to win more wars ...

The war band leader who won the battles naturally became the chief, the war lord and eventually the king ... initially these kingdoms were competitively unstable ... anyone who fancied his chances could unseat an incumbent by winning battles ... kings were only as secure as their last victory ... after all their power base depended on an ability to gain territory, plunder and slaves to reward supporters ...

For long long periods in the evolution of all human cultures this system of patronage and allocation of spoils was the norm and it caused a general drift of social life from small group freedom towards large group servitude and centralisation ... it was all about wars and pecking orders ...

Driven by the necessity of defence and the synergies of specialisation & scale, the direction of social evolution was always towards increasing complexity - families - bands - tribes - chiefdoms - kingdoms - empires - religions ... this hierarchical emergence must have evolved ... inevitably & inexorably -

bottom up - successful social interactions at lower levels brought benefits which required protection from the emergence of more complexity at a higher level

self-consistent - each level must have worked effectively or the cultural whole shebang & caboodle would have collapsed ... and died out ...

... it couldn't have been a top down process ... could it? ... think about it ...?

So just like the cox in the rowing eight, the king's coordinating 'shout' was essential for the discipline of the military phalanx and the military drill ... but did the kings have special skills? ... this was not a grand design of big kings ... but just the way the cookie crumbled ...

The patterns moved on, at some stage kings became leaders but not necessarily the strongest warriors, maybe sons of previous kings, maybe elders, maybe those that had luck with the rain dances ... good kings protected Joe and his mates but bad kings abused their privileged position ... and the social problem changed ... power corrupted and absolute power corrupted absolutely ... there were new internal threats as well as the external threats ... checks & balances were needed on the shenanigans of kings ... and no doubt many lost their heads ... a precedent for much later had already been set ... with their privileged stocks & gold & girls, all kings tended to ignite smoldering troubles associated with -

tyranny & oppression

bribery & corruption

envy & greed

sloth & decadence

tax & spend

acquiescence & appeasement ...

Joe Sixpack was in a cleft stick ... he needed the protection of a strong leader with a large group of warriors and he welcomed the booty and the benefits of pastures new ... but there were costs ... not only did the warriors and defences have to be paid for (taxation was as old as the pecking order) ... but also there was a cost to family freedom ...

In a hostile environment where the future was risky and uncertain there were evolutionary pressures for aspiring folk to try for their own survival tricks and oppose the imposition of the peck ... kings got into a pickle when they wanted to be 'top peck', control events and have the pick of the girls ... crowd trouble emerged ... Joe and his mates always wanted to try their own hand and go for longevity ... after all it was Joe's wife who was raped and Joe's hut which was pillaged ...

True to expected form the early Anglo Saxon communities were fiercely independent and resisted any form of control over their successful productive efforts ... but it seemed warrior kings were a necessary evil ... Joe was learning the hard way ... perhaps the only way ... he had to fight for the freedom to choose how to best survive ... and the fight was against internal & external threats ... and if he didn't fight he wouldn't live to tell the tale to his grandchildren ...

Thucydides, perhaps the first scientific historian of the ancient Greek democracy, was clear -

'the secret of happiness is freedom and the secret of freedom is courage'- 'The History of the Peloponnesian Wars'

 ... other cultures in other places at other times were learning the same lessons ...

... it seemed the same patterns emerged in all cultures ... but the speed of discovery & accumulation depended on the local context of place and time ... and for sure those cooperative communities without strong kings and strong technologies lost battles and died out ... this was evolution ... never the best but always better than the alternatives available at that time & place ... a sort of Hegelian unfolding, where each new complexity contained the seeds of a new problem ...

'Social solutions' required eternal vigilance ... ongoing checks & balances against parasites & predators!

Like it or not the first Anglo Saxon kings in England were undoubtedly leaders of successful war bands ...

WheatAgricultural Settlements & Surpluses - the relatively rich foraging yields in Northern Europe may have delayed the emergence of settlements and farming but eventually the Anglo Saxons followed the patterns of the first agricultural settlements in the great river valleys of Mesopotamia, the Nile, the Indus and the Yellow River ... nomadic life gave way to more intensive interactions and energy flows associated with food cultivation & animal husbandry ...

There was now an abundance of stocks to share ... and steal ... and defend ... stocks lessened the risk of starvation but exposed new security risks ... social cooperation for production and defence became even more critical for survival ...

We can imagine how the embryonic Anglo Saxon culture must have evolved more complexity ... inter group fighting was a way of life ... the strongest, the swiftest and the most agile became 'top peck' and kept the pecking order functioning ... but slowly social 'rules of thumb' emerged as the more successful groups discovered behavioural alternatives to expensive and inefficient violence ...

Vitally important in the history of Anglo Saxon cultural evolution was this tendency towards alternatives to downward spirals of violence ... learning about opportunity costs ... learning about the economic advantages of cooperation  -

fighting over food was the norm until folk learned about cost/benefits of sharing ...

fighting over fair shares was the norm until folk learned about cost/benefits of reciprocal morality ...

fighting over girls was the norm until the folk learned about cost/benefits of monogamy ...

fighting over specialised tools was the norm until the folk learned about cost/benefits of barter & trade ...

fighting over land was the norm until folk learned about cost/benefits of property rights ...

fighting over stocks was the norm until folk learned about cost/benefits of the warrior / farmer specialisation & division of labour ...

fighting over leadership succession was the norm until folk learned about cost/benefits of elders, hereditary & elections ...

fighting over diminishing returns from land was the norm until folk learned about cost/benefits of investment in agriculture - forest clearing, enclosure, irrigation, fallows, husbandry, manures, crop selection & rotation ...

fighting over slaves was the norm until folk learned about cost/benefits of alternatives - draft animals, water wheels & wind mills ... and wages ...

fighting over rights was the norm until folk learned about cost/benefits of obligations ...

fighting over injustice was the norm until folk learned about cost/benefits of customary law & torts ...

fighting over the power to tax was the norm until folk learned about cost/benefits of diversity & choice ...

fighting over the grace of the Gods was the norm until folk learned about cost/benefits of explanatory science ...

fighting over 'natural' resources was the norm until folk learned about cost/benefits of technological 'know how' ...

fighting over fiat money was the norm until folk learned about cost/benefits of education ...

fighting over cultural beliefs was the norm until folk learned about cost/benefits of liberal democracy ...

... no wonder deep deep down in the skull hard wired emotions emerged underpinning deals in rights & obligations as an alternative to violence ... the mediating emotions of cooperative kindness & love emerged ...

The logic was cruelly emphatic - those that chose violent behaviour only had a 50/50 chance of winning the fight in the long term ... no one could guarantee a bigger clout ... no one could guarantee which side of the hedge they would fall ... a zero sum game where 2 - 2 = 0 ... but those that chose cooperative behaviour discovered that synergies were available ... in positive sum games where 2 + 2 = 5 ... and those synergies meant more babies tended to survive ... and so the genes spread ... and with the genes those associated mediating emotions ... the genes did cost / benefit analysis ...

... but always the synergy benefits had to be defended from parasites & predators ... otherwise they weren't benefits ... were they ... think about it?

In this way Anglo Saxon customary law evolved ... step by step ... as a series of experiments which worked ... cultural behaviours which promoted peace & trust within tribal agricultural communities and defended production from theft by both parasites & predators ... clearly these tendencies were universal evolutionary outcomes associated with all cultural survival ... there was no distinctive Anglo Saxon culture ... yet ...

'Social stability & progress' required the continuous discovery & accumulation of cooperative tricks as an alternative to violence!

The English bands who came over from the Continent to Roman Britain around 450 AD possessed this evolving agricultural / warrior culture with behavioural  'rules of thumb' and customary law ...

The British, the original inhabitants of Roman Britain, slowly assimilated this new culture of the Anglo Saxon settlers ... the English ...

CenturionRoman Civilisation - the Roman Empire had apparently solved the social problem magnificently and created social stability & progress. They inherited the wisdom of the great Axis Age philosophers - Isaiah, Pythagoras, Confucius, Mahavira and Buddha who all probed the same question - how did you get diverse citizens to act as moral human beings as interactions intensified in large groups? After the first flowering of civilisation in Mesopotamia, the awesome success of Greece was consolidated in the Roman Empire which reached Britain from AD 43 ... a massive empire bound together by the success of their military technology, the privileges of Citizenship and slaves ...

The Romans constructed a successful administrative bureaucracy based on top down edicts from a central Emperor and Senate in Rome. Back then some folk thought of 'society' as a 'thing' orchestrated by the Emperor through a hierarchy, rather than a Darwinian population of individual folk ...

The myth of Emperors, bureaucracies and 'society' as a 'cause' of things happening was easy to understand ... the Roman Empire was successful and belief in the bureaucracy of government was persistent just as persistent as the myth of history being built by the whims & fancies of big men ... the Emperor decided or 'society' decided ... the closer to Rome the more persistent the belief ... but this was misleading ... all individuals were different ... look at their genomes! ... and although this top down autocracy was accepted by continental cultures the barbarians on the periphery always resisted ...

However which way, emerging from Anglo Saxon behaviour was a very different belief ... if you yourself want to enjoy a right someone else had to accept and obligation ... it seemed Anglo Saxon culture emerged from successful individual interactions ...a deep productive bottom up cooperation ... the only way round that was to sit in splendid isolation ... and that was no good for the genes, ask the girls? ...

It was a good life in Rome ... but for the persistent problems of -

predators from without - barbarian attacks - competitors bent on stealing stocks and girls ...

parasites from within - grabbing rights without fulfilling obligations - greed, decadence ... and neglect of defence ...

diminishing returns from land - territorial overstretch associated with central command in Rome and escalating taxation ...

Edward Gibbon described these simple truths in 'The Decline & Fall of the Roman Empire' in 1776.

'Social failure' always seemed to be associated with predators, parasites or diminishing returns ... Thucydides, Tacitus, Gibbon and later Malthus ...

In AD 450 a once great civilisation was crumbling ... this was the environment found by the bands of Saxons, Angles & Jutes who came to Britain as the Romans left ...

Saxon helmetCompetitive Diversity & the Emergence of a Characteristic Anglo Saxon Culture - back in the villages, at the grass roots, in the trenches, working at the coal face, there was a population of human folk pursuing goals with their mates ... sticking to the cultural 'rules of thumb' which had helped them in the past ... and experimenting ... discovering alternatives to violence ... educating the youngsters ... and ... with much help from the girls ... passing on their genes ...as the immensely diverse competition continued many kings were benevolent but others succumbed to tyranny and oppression ... but back in the village Joe Sixpack was domesticated, cooperating with his mates, learning specialised skills and building larger networks of more intensive deals & bargains ... he was busy ... he had a family to feed and babies to protect ... and he had aspirations for betterment ... as Rome collapsed Joe Sixpack was busy having his own go at solving the problems of parasites, predators and diminishing returns ...

The Barbaric Tribes of the Dark Ages - the Roman historian Tacitus in the 1st century wrote about the barbarians in Northern Germany who had developed outside of the Roman Empire and were a constant irritation, never part of the Empire. In 'Germania' he described the customs and laws of these belligerent folk ... some of them were Anglo Saxon. He identified a strong independent culture ... monogamous, chaste, meritocratic, chivalrous, rowdy, drunken, lazy, litigious, industrious farmers, enterprising traders and courageous warriors ... where leadership was by example with authority the result of elections in assemblies (Things) ... ancient traditions, well established, where the king's power derived from the assembly and was constantly checked and balanced and in awe of crowd trouble ... Rome it seemed did not have a monopoly of good ideas ... and the Dark Ages were an opportunity - a Darwinian moment - for competitive alternatives to be given a chance ...

Anglo Saxon colonisation of a Roman vacuum - no doubt the first Germanic war bands arrived in Britain as adventurers, pirates and plunderers but others came at the invitation of the sub-Roman government to serve as 'foederati' - mercenary troops paid to defend the Empire against barbarian attacks. When Roman Britain failed to live up to expectations of tribute and plunder and there was no offer citizenship and privilege, the Anglo Saxon mercenaries revolted, adding to the Empire wide problems ... the revolt spread and as Rome declined, the English settled on the vacated land ... a diversity of feuding Anglo Saxon chiefdoms replaced the more centrally governed British Roman provinces ... these chiefdoms, or kingdoms, grew out of the bands of 'foederati', bottom up, they were small, cohesive, many and varied but they retained their common customs and their language from Northern Europe ... settlers encouraged their friends and families back home to join them ... the land on the Berkshire downs was rich and fertile ... the Anglo Saxons flooded into a vacuum there was no attempt to seize a non existent British throne ... this immigration was a colonisation process ... similar to the previous ages old trek out of Africa ... and similar to a later flow of enterprising Anglo Saxon risk takers to North America ... these Anglo Saxon bands were relatively small feuding bands with strong allegiance to their local leader ... they imported into Britain the same principles of freedom and independence, which they had inherited from their agricultural / warrior ancestors ... they were entrepreneurs, opportunists, risk takers, disciplined teams of crewmen in seafaring ships with a necessary aptitude for improvisation and experiment ... the others stayed at home ...

Based on productive agriculture and ferocious defence (they were fighting one another just as violently as they were fighting the British!) the new England was built from the bottom up, the settlers did not take over the Roman villas and cities ... they were not city dwellers ... yet ... this was a mass folk migration, not some aristocratic, elitist, political takeover ... a few boat loads at a time ... a heroic band leader became a war lord who established viable territorial presence ... with an inherited community of tradition, custom, law and descent ... call it a kingdom? ...

Celtic influence - of course the colonisers were checked for a time by the British ... Arthur and his Knights had inherited Boadicea's spirit and they knew about cooperation ... the table was round ... they knew about group loyalty, family traditions and the obligation to avenge ... they also knew about 'knighthood'  and chivalry - bravery, loyalty, courtesy, honour ... and the importance of gallantry towards the girls ...

The Anglo Saxon invaders initially left their own girls at home ... so inevitably the genes mixed and the cultures mixed ... not all the Celts ran away to the hills, many were recruited as slaves and many Celtic qualities must have survived with the girls and assimilated into the dominant Anglo Saxon culture ...

Other Celts maintained a constant influence from the hills where the fighting was always less intense and Joe was able to get on with life far from the madding crowd with some semblance of stability ... and the upland girls were also pretty and the genes mixed ...

The Celtic Brits were the original iron age farmers on the Berkshire Downs and herders of the sheep with rich fleeces ... many of their traditions must have survived ... the Anglo Saxons had good reasons for keeping production going ... they needed the bread, the milk, the meat ... and the wool!

In contrast very little of the great Roman civilisation survived the Dark Ages, it was far too expensive to maintain ... even the impressive Roman technology was lost in the dark until the fall of Toledo in 1085 ...

Clearly the Celtic culture persisted during the elitist Roman period in much the same way as the Anglo Saxon culture persisted during the elitist Norman period ... quiet continuity, unrecorded but indelibly etched in the hearts & minds of Joe & his mates ... elites could win battles but Joe's heart & his mind were inaccessible ... it was only the mixing of the genes that opened up hearts & minds ... the genes did cost / benefit analysis ...

Christian CrossChristian influence - by the time of Augustine's arrival around 600AD, the English were prospering on the rich fertile lowlands ... and as their culture was exposed to Christian influence there were very few changes in the basic structure of customary law ... it was entirely compatible with the new teachings ... and entirely compatible with the new prosperity based on land ownership, specialised skills and trade in wool ...

The cultural influence of the Christian church waxed, Augustine did not come to England with an army, he came with the Gospel, 'good news' which reinforced the deep emotions of Anglo Saxon cooperative efforts ... no wonder the kings welcomed Augustine's Gospel, it was a powerful tool in extending their influence and authority -

Grace of God - one God, the universal laws of nature can be investigated & exploited to help alleviate problems, seize the great opportunities! But these great opportunities came from the grace of God not from the Pope in Rome!

Trinity & Creation - great mysteries of life, so have faith, it can't all be reasoned out!

Original Sin - beware of the inevitable parasites & predators! Evil is within our bowels as well as across the sea!

Redemption - work hard for the restoration of the good life!

Incarnation - act here & now in the real world!

Atonement - don't worry, spiritual debts have been already been paid for you at Calvary!

Resurrection - hope, work hard for the girls & babies and the future!

Reconciliation - confess & try again!

Repent - confront the truth honestly!

Regeneration - keep learning, it's never too late!

Justification - experiment, free from guilt, hindsight is unavailable!

Sanctification - every human soul can contribute something!

Election - keep trying, salvation is not via good works but from grace!

leading relentlessly to the 'Protestant Ethic' - every soul is accountable to only God for his own acts, there is no human mediator ....

... a great avalanche of inspirational teachings seemed to galvanise Joe's efforts ... these seemed to be familiar stories ... the Old Teachings of tribal adversity and an unknown future in a foreign land ... the New Teachings of a change merchant acting against all the odds and involving the ultimate sacrifice ... hard work, honesty & thrift ... risk, change & failures ... no wonder the Bishops became important administrators of justice, collectors of taxes, recruiters of armies, educators and landowners ... they told a good yarn ... by the time of Domesday one third of all cultivated land was in church hands ... but Joe's church was not elitist from far away Rome but here & now in the village ... a spontaneous colonisation not an edict from Rome ... Joe remained resistant to Roman imposition and true to his independent customs ... a deep scepticism which eventually erupted in the English Reformation and religious pluralism when a corrupt church began to rot from within ...

... and with Christianity came writing ... but Anglo Saxon customary law was preserved in written English, in the vernacular, and significantly not in Roman Latin ... a characteristic mongrel culture was emerging ...

Beowulf was just a typical hero ... but Beowulf was enormously significant ... the first written record of Anglo Saxon culture ... perhaps building on the stories of the past, of Boadicea and Arthur & his Round Table, and certainly grist for the stories of the future about Hereward the Wake, Roger Godberg, Robin Hood and Wat Tyler ... and on to J R R Tolkein ... the qualities of these heroes was the stuff of legends ... late night entertainment round the fires, in the mead halls, earnest whispers of exploits unseen in the shadows of the past and the mists of far away places ... oral histories with themes that were significant if youngsters were to gain a deep understanding of Anglo Saxon culture ... these were the yarns they all listened to and absorbed - 

epic histories of heroes of great proud people confronting formidable foes ... strength, courage, wisdom & fortitude ... but humble & respectful ... with deepest respect for the family sword ... swords treasured from the days of the giants ...

seafaring skills where dominance of the oceans brought rich rewards from plunder and trade ... the land lubbers suffered from significant disadvantages in defence and payloads ...

immense mutual loyalty to the family tribal lineage and deep commitments to colleagues in battles ...  trust & respect beyond kinship ... not as a servant but as a mate ...

obligations & honour were to the death, blood feuds & warfare were a way of life ... complicated by inevitable internal subterfuge, jealousy and intrigue of complex social relationships ...

cooperation & loyalty were rewarded by generosity, more than a fair share of the spoils ... rich rewards followed battles won ... land, plunder, girls, lordships and even kingdoms ... cooperation celebrated traditionally in the Mead Hall ...

kings & warriors died to save their people ... they were leaders not tyrants ...

ongoing battles of a pagan warrior culture confronted the soft underbelly of Christian compassion, charity, forgiveness, acquiescence & appeasement ...

reciprocal rights & obligations ... debts owed and repaid ... embedded in wergild and financial compensation for injury and harm ...

This was Beowulf ... and the first written evidence ... but written evidence of an oral tradition ... and these emotions were particularly strong in the groups that undertook the exceptional risks of ocean travel to an unknown island environment with unknown alien opposition ... this was natural selection ... again ... only the entrepreneurs took the risks of pastures new and the possibility of profit ... those that stayed cocooned at home with a delusion of comfort were in danger of having fewer surviving children ... it was Beowulf the girls wanted to marry.

Beowulf was a war lord who proved competent at protecting his folk group, and the one who was invited to be a leader and king ...

Evolutionary principles - there were statistical tendencies at work, not abrupt changes but continuities ... ancient wisdoms from the past were modified and tested ... real populations interacting and novelty emerging -

bigger brains increased the diversity of behaviour through faster more complex learning and innovation ... there were lots of different options to try ...

cultural diversity tended to speed up experimentation and the discovery of useful customs and technology ... lots of different options were not snuffed out  ...

cooperative behavioural 'rules of thumb' differentially survived because they encouraged social interactions & synergies from specialisation & scale in the local environment at that time ... as less expensive alternatives to violence ...

cultural self consistency was guaranteed as higher level behaviours emerged from lower level repertoires of habits ... culture 'sank into' the brain as a robust self consistent whole, anchored & mediated by learning deep deep down in the skull ... foreign impositions were anathema ...

acting 'as if' a universal acid evolutionary processes alone shaped consciousness, social interactions, beliefs and eventually commercial trade and economics ...

learning brains were never available as 'blank slates' to be written on by big men, they were organs for absorbing cultural wisdom ... and creating new creative innovations ...

The culture of Anglo Saxon communities was diverse & competitive, slowly evolving from barbaric plunder to colonising new agricultural niches and eventually moving to more intensive commercial trade in cities based on agricultural surpluses and new technologies -

scale economies - increasing complexity - families - bands - tribes - chiefdoms - kingdoms - religions -nation states - trading blocks - globalisation ...

specialised technologies - increasing complexity - sticks & stones - clubs - flint axes - language - spears - fires - levers - wedges - writing - wheels & axles - bows & arrows - bronze - iron - pulleys - screws - gears - oars - sails - horse shoes, stirrups & harnesses - cultivation & husbandry - steam engines - electricity - computers ...

... all underpinned by the necessary social skills ... the essential moral prerequisites ...

It's all in Adam Smith and the Enlightenment philosophies - the fruits of cooperative moral sentiments and the division of labour!

'Social triumphalism' was incompatible with Anglo Saxon diversity & choice ...  as 'rat races' confronted 'folk moots', successful cultures were never the best ... just better than alternatives available at the time and place ... the result of evolution ... just the same as opposable thumbs & fingers ...

But don't get it wrong ... and don't forget other cultures ... all cultures we see developed some immunity from predators, parasites & diminishing returns ... otherwise they wouldn't have survived ... the genes did cost / benefit analysis.

Manifestations of Anglo Saxon Culture - immune to top down shenanigans, concoctions and the whims & fancies of big men, the characteristic Anglo Saxon culture emerged in England during the Dark Ages ... it was expressed in the twin pillars of survival success -

English Language which developed and survived as the semantics & syntax of everyday communication, the vernacular

English Common Law which developed and survived as behavioural 'rules of thumb', as a body of customary law

Language and customs were like illuminated windows into cultures, helping to define the differences between diverse cultures ... the result of the choices made by Joe & his mates, and his ancestors ... and, of course, the girls. Everybody was included in. 

Alfred1 - The English Language - the vernacular

Joe was wrestling with difficult cultural concepts ... such as rights & obligations as alternatives to fighting ... these seemed necessary if cooperative synergies were to be discovered ... and for synergies to be accumulated the youngsters had to be educated ... communicating difficult concepts was vital ... what was a duty? ... where did good manners come from? ... culture coevolved in step with language ...

Joe's brain was a system of systems of neural networks & circuits which categorised, memorised and generalised sense perceptions, enabling an explosion of combinations & permutations of ideas of staggering diversity ... good & bad ideas were sifted into self consistency by deep core intuition from the past ... reality and the brain were necessarily connected by descent, by ancient ancestors, the brain and reality coevolved, inextricably linked associations ... the discovery of real hidden laws and real order in nature was guaranteed ... otherwise such brain networks & circuits would not have survived ... would they? ... think about it? ...

Joe's language provided a new way of thinking about the communication process … he grasped the gist of folk's intentions from his culture, from a shared meaning ... he often ignored the 'literal' words & sentences used ... he sussed out cooperators & mates from cheaters & rivals in a community of others ... essential survival ‘know how’ ... the gist ...he tried to get the gist ... he had to pick up the wordless nuances ... the penny had to drop ... who did what to whom, when and where is what?

No one said it was easy ... and some of the youngsters couldn't even talk yet ... but they surprised Joe with their depth of understanding ... it was easier to understand than to explain ... but misunderstandings were always a problem and seemed to lead to aggro and worse ... if the language communicated basic information about substance, space, time & causality ... why was he misunderstood all the time? ... and the girls were a particular problem ... Joe suspected they really spoke a different language ...

Joe started to use tricks to help ... rather than blurting out meaningless words that were misunderstood, he found that indirect inferences & subtlety helped ... all this subterfuge & intrigue seemed to be necessary to communicate meaning ...

Alliterations = rhyming aids hearing - 'five fingers of fate'.

Analogies = similarities in some respects - '8 is like a snake' - appealing to reason.

Metaphors = descriptions using alternative words - 'winds of change' - appealing to imagination.

Similes = descriptions as if - 'as hard as iron'.

Allegories = extend metaphors & analogies into stories & parables.

Polysemy = exact same word but different meanings - 'boys will be boys'.

Euphemisms = substitution of harsh offensive words with sugar coating - 'Jessica slept around '.

Ironies = intended meanings are different from literal meanings - 'that's very clever you've gone and lost it'.

Sarcasm = stimulating a response by cutting remarks - 'he was an expert coin tosser'.

Swearing = emotional emphasis - 'fuck off'.

Idioms = restricted understandings - 'keep tabs on it'.

Politeness = soliciting cooperation - 'have a nice day'.

Hypocrisy = saying but believing something different - 'let's get back to basics'.

Humour = double entendre - 'as the actress said to the bishop'.

In this way the Anglo Saxons developed an expressive language ... to understand it, the connections had to be grasped ... embedded in every word was a concept, a meaning, a deep meaning, with complex subtleties of nuance (semantics) ... which was communicated to others with great difficulty, as concepts became more complex and more abstract ... a shared understanding emerged slowly from word combinations, sequences, prefixes, suffixes, qualifications and emphasis (syntax) ... at the same time unnecessary grammar, genders, conjugations and declensions which complicated but added little to the gist were stripped away ... Occam's Razor was at work long before William of Occam arrived in Oxford ... communication efficiency increased ...

Joe learned some of the meaningful words of the Anglo Saxon language ... language shaped thoughts & perceptions ... folk spoke different languages saw different things ... they had a different culture which embodied a characteristic social organisation -

Beowulf - poems and stories - entertainment and education ... the use of the vernacular to poetically illuminate the historic heroic values of Anglo Saxon culture ...

Bretwalda - king of kings - Alfred the Great of Wessex  was credited with the unification of England? ... but perhaps this transformation 'just happened' on Alfred's watch ... why?

Defence - very late in evolutionary time there was a spontaneous grouping of hundreds into shires into kingdoms as community size became an essential response to Danish attack. This was bottom up nation building in the face of an external threat. Pushing at an open door Alfred emerged as the leader of Anglo Saxon England as separate rival kingdoms merged to defend themselves against a common enemy, the Vikings ...   

Education - Alfred cemented the unification of England with the power of widespread written cultural education - 'both for the living and those yet unborn' - translations and teachings were in the vernacular ... the stranglehold of elitist Latin from the monasteries was starting to break ... written cultural education ensured everyone was singing from the same hymn sheet ... established in the English lowlands of Wessex, South West of Watling Street, and spreading from Winchester and the Berkshire Downs into Danelaw ...

The organisation of warfare (defence) and other specialisations (education & justice) made society necessarily stratified and hierarchical ... nevertheless the free democratic intentions of Alfred were never in doubt -

'I collected together those laws which I liked and ordered them to be written, many of them our forefathers observed, and many of those which I did not like I rejected with the advice of my councillors. For I dared not presume to set in writing at all many of my own, because it was unknown to me what would please those who should come after us. Then I showed those to all my councillors, and they then said that they were all pleased to observe them.' (Laws of Alfred, 885-99).  

Burghs - fortified strongholds - where villagers gathered to defend themselves from Viking raids ... the Danes intent on rape and pillage, invoked a response and attention switched from internal feuding to bigger groupings which could confront the external threat ... Burghs were deliberate royal planning, the conscious creation of towns as centres for refuge, defence and commercial life ... but they were a direct result of a learning process after Alfred's success at the Battle of Edington ... a consequential prize for the English was the restoration of the Mercian city of London as a burgh outside of Danelaw ...

Churles - farmers - Joe was busy cultivating wheat, barley, rye, oats & apples and keeping bees, fish, fowl, swine & sheep with the help of oxen, horses & dogs and developing specialised skills in carpentry, weaving & metal work ... and he had a 'nice little earner' creating trading surpluses from wool ...

Comitatus - Beowulf's war band - a system of loyalty, discipline & reciprocity led by a chief ... this was a pecking order but internally organised by a code of behaviour and respect ... not by violence and the peck ... Beowulf was a leader not an overseer ...

Dooms - a diversity of laws & judgements - enforced in kingdoms when existing customs were committed to writing ... Dooms tended to be customary law ... when a later code addressed an issue that an earlier code had overlooked, it was not new law ... such laws had in fact been in force for some time in the form of custom & practice ...

Eostre & Geol - Easter & Yule - pagan feasts and festivals readily assimilated the Christian innovations ...

Folk-moots - decision making gatherings - meetings where defendants would swear a solemn oath of innocence and bring forward 'oath helpers' to vouch for them ... everyone knew everybody else ... it worked ...

Folk-right - folk-law - customary law as distinct from 'privilege' originating in the distribution of war spoils ...

Frankpledge - reciprocal groups - all adult males were responsible for the good conduct of each other and banded together for their community’s protection ... Frankpledge existed more commonly in the area which came under the Danelaw, from Essex to Yorkshire, whereas tithings were found in the south and southwest of England ...

Fyrd - military service of trained 'professional' thanes - more specialisation, more time spent on defence as groups got bigger ...

But life was dangerous the Vikings were around ... the girls needed protection ... no culture could survive without defence ...

Gerefa - the chief - later gerefa became shortened to 'reeve', then 'shire reeve' then Sheriff ... the chief law enforcement officer of the shire, responsible for interpreting and maintaining law and order ... but every tithing man was expected to share the obligation of law enforcement ... it was the duty of every one to assist the Sheriff in keeping the peace ...

Hearm - harm - damage, injury, tort ...

Hide - unit of land area - the land required to support one family ... a measure of wealth and status ... and the basis of the hated Danegeld tax system ...

Hue & Cry - the alarm - when a suspect was at large or escaped, it was the Sheriff’s responsibility to initiate the hue and cry ... any member of the community who heard the hue and cry was then legally obliged to help to bring the defendant to justice ...

Hundreds - larger grouping of tithings - as obligations were institutionalised, the tithings were headed by an elected leader, a tithingman ... the tithings, in turn, were grouped in tens into hundreds, which were also headed by an elected chief, a hundredman, who served as both administrator and judge of an effective law enforcement system ...

Huscarles - elite warriors specialised in warfare - society became further stratified based on new skills ... a meritocracy where elites were respected and engendered loyalty ... where they earned big rewards in land and status ... adding to hierarchy, stratification and servitude ... but elite warriors were not reviled for the tyranny & oppression associated with the feudal system ...

Riddles - brain teasers - exploiting the sophistication of the vernacular for education & entertainment ...

Shillings - unit of account - the measurement system ... the value of a cow in Kent ...

Shires - larger groupings of hundreds - each hundred was eventually grouped into a shire for administrative and legal efficiency ... interactions spread far & wide ... bigger and bigger groups ...

Symbel - a ritual drinking feast - mead hall entertainment, in which mystical revelation was achieved through drinking alcohol, usually ale (malted barley) or mead (fermented honey) ... this ritual was typically associated with the divine, and the quest for good fortune by alignment with the forces of destiny ... the wyrd ...

Thus the wyrd and rain dances were replaced by a pragmatic monotheistic morality ... the movement was from the mystical rivalry of many gods and many kingdoms to one god and one kingdom ... but the cohesive glue was the sanctity of the individual human soul ... Joe Sixpack retained his freedom and independence ... the Christian god was not a top down designer ...

Thanes - warriors - some of Joe's mates were more adventurous and opted for more risky rewards ... known for their courage, bravery, recklessness, and foremost, for loyalty to their leader ... they organised protection for the community ... they traded an obligation to risk their lives in return for rights to a greater share of the spoils of war ...

Thralls - slaves - prisoners of war (predators) and offenders serving their punishment (parasites) ... some who were defeated in battle survived as slaves ... some law breakers forfeited their freedom ... and even some orphan children were slaves if it was the only way to survive ... some slaves could buy their freedom at the going rate ... this was an economic institution ... Anglo Saxons did not have a feudal system ...

Tithings - social groups - Joe and his mates were living in groups, no way could they manage on their own ... just like the hunting bands, groups of 10 or12 families cooperated to provide mutual benefits from specialisation & scale, encapsulating the domestication of social life ... group membership required a reciprocal duty, each family trading 'rights' to help from others for an 'obligation' in turn to help others ...

Tuns - villages - Joe and his mates lived in small rural villages called tuns (towns) ... these groups were often feuding over land and stocks and always hoping for better ways of solving disputes than resorting to bloody violence ... sometime well before the written chronicles, a system of local self-government emerged based groups of ten families ...

Wealh - Welsh - the native inhabitants of Britain ...

Wergeld - financial compensation payments - this was the heart of the Anglo Saxon justice system ... the basis of a welfare system and a remedy for injured individuals ... this was restitution not retribution ... when an offence was committed there was a victim, and it was up to the victim and the victim's family to seek justice and punishment for wrong doers ...

Wics - villages - trading stations and centres of commercial activity ... London was one of many - Lundenwic ... trade was far & wide in early history ... no point in acquiring a specialisation if you can't trade ...

Witenagemot - emerging from the folk-moots, functioned as an assembly of wise men whose primary function was advisory ... the earliest parliament ...

Wite - fines - the tradition of reciprocal rights & obligations from the tithings and hundreds came under pressure as travel increased and groups got larger ... victims found it increasingly difficult to track down offenders and plaintiffs were often not strong enough to pursue their own justice ... so Sheriffs, with the king's backing, were called in for additional help ... when a victim requested such assistance fines were extracted from the defendant and paid to the king to reimburse the efforts ... the additional money fines and the additional chance of conviction was a disincentive for all offenders ...

Worth - homestead - Anglo Saxon law was concerned with the protection of individuals and their property ... every freeman's house was 'his castle' ...

Wyrd - fate or karma - past actions continually affected and conditioned the future and the future affected the past ... everything was an interconnected woven web of intrigue ... polytheistic religious ideas of the Anglo Saxons involved the worship of many gods, many fates ... when Gregory the Great & St Augustine introduced Christianity there were prohibitions on the Anglo Saxon practice of magic & fate ... this helped to move wyrd based beliefs to the simpler universal laws of monotheistic Christians and helped to reinforced the existing behavioural 'rules of thumb' which were focused on the here & now practical reality ... abandoning the wyrd helped the pragmatic aspect of Anglo Saxon culture and this pragmatism helped to suppress the tendency of the new Christian church to veer towards a mythical utopia of the soul and the after life ... and the neglect of defence ... the soft underbelly of Christianity ...

2 - The Common Law of England - the law of the land

Effective law evolved naturally within Anglo Saxon communities ... behavioural 'rules of thumb' ... pragmatic custom & practice ... found in the warp & weft of society ... 'doing unto others' ... tort law & contract law ... minimising the costs of violence ... this was a characteristic difference between customary law in England and the top down influence of Rome which persisted in much of continental Europe ... in the island nation the law evolved bottom up during the Dark Ages as Joe respected the cultural behavioural habits which 'worked' for him and his mates ...

Joe's freedom to discover & accumulate survival tricks depended on his obligation to respect the rights of others ... freedom and rights were an impossible nonsense without obligations ... all the cooperative economic interactions which produced survival synergies were underpinned by laws protecting basic freedoms ... all based on the reciprocal rights & obligations of wergild ...

As specialisation & scale intensified, the most important laws for Joe Sixpack's livelihood were those dealing with personal harms, property ownership and exchange ... this was what mattered ... in the villages ... at the grass roots ... at the coal face ... in the trenches ... here tort law and contract law mediated the burgeoning deals and bargains ... economic interactions -

individual skills and properties were exchanged in markets where clearing prices emerged ...

investment in agricultural stocks & surpluses depended on honouring debts incurred and debts paid ... trust & confidence ... and increasingly trust & confidence between strangers in the next village and beyond ... the same trust & confidence which was later required for fiat money & banking credit ... without it deals would not be struck ...

But these issues tended to receive short shrift in most of the written law codes which survived in Church archives ... these codes were written by kings who were concerned to protect their own interests ... in this way written records tended to mislead generations of historians who used the written word as their source ... nevertheless the Anglo Saxon codes had to be consistent with the mass of customary law which had been handed down orally over the generations otherwise there would have been crowd trouble ...this mass of customary law eventually became the foundation of the Common Law of England codified in the 13th Century ... and the same underpinning rights & obligations continued to pervade Anglo Saxon culture and found expression much much later in Magna Carta and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights ...

Common Law was customary law evolved from wergild and folk moots, based on compensation for injured victims, and contrasted with Roman Civil Law and Canon law, based on principles imposed from above ...

In Roman civil law jurisdictions legislation was seen as the primary source of law ... the whims & fancies of Bishops, Princes, Generals and bureaucratic majorities were codified in statutes, encyclicals & tablets of stone ... Canon law and all socialist law were part of the same civil law system ...

In common law jurisdictions it was precedents from actual cases that became the primary source of law, there Joe pleaded his case before his peers ... the folk moots ...

The common law system was based on customs -

the tithings and self policing involving the obligation to protect the rights of others

the hue & cry where villagers themselves hunted and ostracised criminals

wergild compensation paid by offenders to victims

folk-moot trials with judge & jury, oath helpers and votes ... this was peer review ...

Wergild levied penalties for injury to others, so when the law was broken, the violator had to pay damages minutely detailed by the wergild system ... personal protection, property rights, exchange, settlements, restitution, oaths, promises, marriage, vows, duties, wardship, succession ... good manners ... were all covered in these unwritten laws ... strengthening the sinews of kinship, friendship, cooperation and community ...

Plaintiffs charged defendants and demanded compensation ... if oath helpers came to swear in support of denial, the defendant walked away free ... this may seem incredibly naive and open to abuse, but the hundred was a small area, perhaps a thousand people, bound together by a web of rights and obligations ... and everyone knew everyone else ... it worked better than the alternative ...

The hue & cry was a reciprocal duty to pursue thieves, where ever and when ever ... thieves who didn't pay wergild could be declared outlaws ... ostracism followed and rights to social benefits were denied ...

Torts were well tried & tested by a preponderance of evidence before 12 good mates & true ... as well as by the rigors of time ... everybody knew about anti social behaviour and fairness, wrongful injury & death, assault, theft (conversion), contracts, fraud, restraint of trade, due care, nuisance, negligence, false imprisonment, defamation, product liability, pollution, trespass, slander, defamation. Everybody knew the difference between negligent and intentional Torts, and personal injury & property rights ... Torts evolved by custom & practice and precedent.

Later some wrongs were classified as botleas; theft, murder, arson, treason ... where there was no remedy of compensation, and perpetrators were at the mercy of the King ... crimes evolved by legislation.

In this way general liberty was protected by the administration of justice in the courts of the hundred ... and in the county courts all the freeholders were assembled twice a year and received appeals from the inferior courts ... all types of cases were decided, ecclesiastical as well as customary, and the bishop, alderman or earl, presided ... the affair was determined in a summary manner, without much pleading, formality or delay ... by a majority of voices ... speedy resolution was welcome ... the presiding officers had no great authority other than to keep order among the freeholders and interpose with their opinion just like everyone else ...

We the people, Beowulf, Hereward, Roger Godberg, Robin Hood and Joe Sixpack behaved in this way ... laws were embedded in the culture of generations of ancestors ...

Joe was happy to send his representative to 'head office' to do his bidding with checks & balances to secure protection, help, enablement, freedom and education ... Joe did not want instructions from 'head office', from prima donnas in ivory towers who had 'gone native' like demagogues ... usurping freedoms and imposing taxes on profits ... Joe didn't wish for an avalanche of new whims & fancies, encyclicals, statutes and tablets of stone ... he already had his 'rules of behaviour' ... all he wanted was enforcement of existing rules in an increasing large group where the opportunity for parasites & predators increased as stocks and trust increased ...

Government had three basic functions - the legislative, which made new law - the executive, which ensured that laws were observed - the judicial, which determined whether laws have been broken and the appropriate punishment for offenders ... among a people who lived in so effective a manner as the Anglo Saxons with administration of group activities embedded in custom, the judicial process was always of greatest importance ... there was little need for new laws to be imposed by 'head office', a few statutes were enacted for clarification and consistency but England was essentially governed by customs not laws ... customs permitted the necessary flexibility of interpretation for particular contexts ... customs which had stood the test of time ...

This Anglo Saxon system of law had slowly replaced the older British system where revenge and divisive long term blood feuds were often seen as a fitting response to injury or grievance ... where uneasy family truces and arranged marriages seldom worked ...

Thus although the general trend of the Anglo Saxon government was to centralisation for defence purposes, there was still considerable strength in the culture of the ancient democracy. 

By the tenth century, an English state had emerged ... this perception of unity was the underpinning for the king's law ... as time went by the rights originating in royal grants of privilege tended to overwhelm folk-rights and became themselves the starting point of an alternative legal system ... the feudal system ...

Wite was the new king's law and enforced by government through fines and punishment ... wite originally attempted to cope with problems of larger groups and distant travel ... but it unintentionally and substantially reduced the incentive for Joe to trade rights & obligations with his mates and maintain their reciprocal arrangements for the pursuit and prosecution of justice and to participate in the local courts ... the abuse of wite started ...

Criminal Law - the king's wars were costly, lives were lost and warriors had to be paid ... kings who were not as benevolent as Alfred began to see the protection that the farmers enjoyed from the justice system as a source of revenue ... offences were not only a harm to the victim but also became an offence against society at large, against the unity of the English nation ... more and more payments started to go to the king rather than to the victim ... the warriors pulled rank, instead of victim compensation, the farmers were now paying fines to the king for their misdemeanours ... victims suffered and opportunities for abuse escalated ...

The institutionalization of wite was one of the first steps in the evolution of the revenue generating role of law enforcement for kings ... this was retribution without restitution ... and in this way Anglo Saxon law gradually evolved a more stringent and complete set of rules ... more rules more revenue ... this dramatically undermined the effectiveness of wergild and opened up the opportunity for abuse by top down imposition of whims & fancies, false accusations, bribery & corruption ... and worse ... the fledgling system was seized upon by the Norman conquerors and used as a ready made efficient system for raising taxes and to tyrannise and oppress Joe and his mates ...

Sheriffs, originally elected by serfs to represent serfs and settle disputes by folk-rights became the king's agents, administering the privileged distribution of spoils and collecting fines which added to the stratification of society ... the Sheriff of Nottingham, was now the king's man, rich with ill-gotten gains ... Joe's hero was now Robin Hood who was concerned with returning ill-gotten gains to the poor ... the persistent reality was that it was Joe who was assaulted and Joe who had been burgled not the king! ...

Inexorable under the Normans English customary law became the king's law ... the subsequent evolution of public policing, prosecution and punishment can be traced back to incentives set in motion at this time ... replacing wergild with wite ... replacing common law with civil law ... compensation for victims was replaced by a tax raising scam which eventually moved to a costly tax funded criminal justice system ... interest groups vigorously demanded that the government 'do something' to protect them from criminals, and inevitably the public bureaucracies that were instituted to do so pursued greater power and bigger budgets at the expense of victims ... the abuse persisted long after the end of Feudalism ... the power of the legislature increased ... the 'pork' flowed ... culminating in an attempted coup de grace in 1911 with the English 'Parliament Act' which suggested the triumph of statute over common law ... only the future will determine whether this attempted coup de tat can overwhelm the bulwark of the US Constitution ... and article 30 of the the UDHR ...

But ... irrepressible cultural instincts remained and always favoured the victim ... Joe ... at the sharp end ... in the trenches ... at the coal face ... in the villages ... 12 good men and true took the decisions not the Sheriff of Nottingham ...

The Danish legacy - Christianity and domestication had arrived and perhaps tamed the turbulent vigour of the belligerent English and let the Danes move in through the unprotected back door … sure there was much rape and pillage but, as before with the Celtic British, there was social integration with the incumbent Anglo Saxons ... the genes mixed and there was sharing out of the land and social organisation ... Danish words and customs were assimilated as 'hundreds' became 'wapentakes' ... virgin land was colonised on the tributaries, but established English 'tuns' on the rivers continued to prosper ... side by side development ... but there were also messy compromises -

Danelaw - a further division of the country - North East and South West of Watling Street, and

Danegeld - a further tax burden for farmers - protection money, bribery, acquiescence & appeasement

Perversely in the North East on rich fields of the Fens, Lincolnshire and East Anglia, Danelaw & Danegeld preserved the old Anglo Saxon culture of free men and land ownership ... in contrast Alfred's centralisation of power in Wessex, although necessary for defence and taxation, had resulted in an inexorable flow into servitude ...

The evidence is in Domesday ...  perhaps, as the Fens were drained, free men flowed into the area and became new landowners ... for sure, this area of Danelaw became a hot bed of English freedom, initiative and individualism and Hereward's centre of resistance against the Normans ...

And more ... perhaps, in Lincolnshire there is evidence that the girls started seeking prudential marriages where the work ethic and specialised skills challenged blue eyes and blonde hair as the way to a lady's heart ... babies now needed much more investment if they were to survive ... monogamy, 'until death us do part' and prudential marriage were significant cultural behaviours ... seldom mentioned in the written histories of big men ... but such customs dominated behaviour in the villages ...

And more more ... perhaps, yet further mixing of the genes and cultures led to more diversity ... yet more grist to the evolutionary mill from which a robust English individualism was to emerge ...

So in spite of Alfred's efforts England was a messy hotch pot of a kingdom stumbling and groping towards coherence ... frantic diversity, some bits worked and were retained most failed and fell into oblivion ... the view that everything that was great and good in England was Anglo Saxon in origin is suspect ... this was evolution ... English culture was still in the crudest stages of its making, it had folk moots but problems with common law enforcement, no parliament, no agreed constitution, no effective standing army or navy, no universities, few schools, little literature and art ...

But meanwhile back in the trenches Joe Sixpack and his mates continued to defend their wives and families by joining larger social groups ... motivated by emotions deep down in the skull ... love and reciprocal obligation ... the Danes were, perhaps, motivated by less potent emotions ... envy & greed & and a hunger for the greener grass on the productive fertile swathes of the Berkshire Downs ... however within a few generations the Danes had come to regard the kings of Wessex as their natural lords and became respectable 'English' freeholders ... who would believe it ... the Anglo Saxon culture proved its resilience ...

For sure the kings still struggled with diverse anarchy, but nevertheless deep roots were established ... deep roots of a common language & concepts and a common customary law & behavioural 'rules of thumb' ...

Something distinctive was emerging ... Anglo Saxon culture was not snuffed out by the Romans ... they had left ... and the Danes joined the party ... the deep roots grew during the Dark Ages ... they were 'allowed' to grow ... salt water protected a small island from many invasive competitive cultures ... unlike the Continent where the grip of Roman law and bureaucracy persisted ... unlike Eastern Christendom where the influence of the divine Emperor and Patriarchs was suffocating ... the Dark Ages gave Anglo Saxon culture a chance! ... ?

So it seemed Canute inherited a persistent Anglo Saxon embryonic culture ... a remarkable success of the Dark Ages and the barbarian West ... a dominant culture in a small island was now far too strong for mere mortals to manipulate ... we all know what Canute thought about the power of kings!

The Norman Legacy - Saxon kings had gradually concentrated the power necessary for defence and associated taxation but after the Norman Conquest, the kings exploited this inherited system of government for their own ends ... they were dictatorial, tyrannical and oppressive ... the ruthless feudal system was imposed ... a government of expropriation ... the geld taxes flowed into William's coffers and there was a massive transfer of English land into Norman hands ... where the Danes had previously settled on their farms alongside the English the Normans simply expropriated English farms by naked force ...

One of the earliest and most significant changes the Normans made in English law was to completely destroy the wergild with a system of fines and confiscations to the king ... and along with corporal and capital punishment ... top down impositions were institutionalised at the expense of the bottom up heart of Anglo Saxon culture ...

When Harold lost at Hastings and the Norman feudal system took over the trappings of power ... Hereward and Robin were confronted by a Norman Conqueror imposing a top down oath of fealty ... this was an alien culture ... but William had no chance! ... feeding a wife and family and making a bit for himself from the wool trade was OK but working to produce supplies for an invading army was not on ... unacceptable ...

William could win battles by force but he could not win hearts & minds ... the deep emotional Anglo Saxon culture proved impossible to subsume ... the language and customs survived and eventually thrived as feudalism collapsed under the burden of taxation and the stifling of initiative ... the resilient Anglo Saxon culture slowly re-emerged ... Joe & his mates were breeding fast, a lot faster than the Norman conquerors ... sure population growth was checked later by the traumas of 'the great famine' and 'the Black Death' ... but these catastrophes together with the associated labour shortages precipitated the eventual demise of Norman feudal culture ... out of the ruins ... fee men blossomed and started to create wealth and self sustaining economic growth from new intensified commercial trade in cites ... Joe was wheeling & dealing his way out of servitude ... his propensity to truck, barter & exchange his own private property was laying the emotional foundations for the Industrial Revolution in England and the 1776 & 1787 revolution in America ... the Anglo Saxons don't speak French!

Magna CarterThe Myth of Magna Carta.

The myth of Magna Carta was a splendid summary of aeons of cultural inheritance as the genes themselves did cost / benefit analysis ... much was in place in the minds of Joe & Jane Sixpack in 1215 at Runneymede.

The Englishman's Castle - private civilised home for bread, ale & cheese as good table manners and privis emerge.

The Countryside - guardians of domesticated cultivation & husbandry. Wheat/barley/fallow. Cattle, sheep, chickens, bees, windmills & cart horses. Ickneid Way & Watling Street.

The Towns - free cities and customs, Liverpool & the Jews.

The Schools - training heirs, riding, swimming, archery, falconry, chess, song, debate & alphabets. Primary & Grammar Schools mainly for the boys. The best spoke Latin, French & English. Augustine started Latin in the Church and Grammar School. Alfred translated into vernacular English in Wessex. The Normans & Plantagenet's taught in French in churches. The Charter was significantly translated into French and English for popular consumption. Tyndale's Bible waited until Henry VIII.

The Family - feudes pardoned in pursuit of 'power'. Plantagenet strife & marriages of convenience.

The Tournaments - defence and learning horse skills & battle games.

The Hunts - access to privileged, prestigious, forest playgrounds.

The Church - free worship. Power struggles, Pope v. King & Beckett.

King John - loss of France brings independence to an island nation.

The King's Men - taxes purchased loyalty and scutage.

The Ordeals - justice promoted by the Pope & sponsors 25 peers as a prelude to trial by jury. 

The Christians - culture deeply ingrained but corrupt competition between rival Monastic orders.

The Celts - friendships with uncivilised rural backwaters.

The Wider World - free trade and studies abroad. Cultural tit for tat & Muslims.

The Charter - cooperation settles violent quarrels. Barons revolt against a failed king by curtailment of arbitrary power rather than support of a pretender. Freedom & independence agreed just to buy time for back sliding. 

So who was Joe Sixpack? - he followed in the footsteps of Boadicea, Arthur, Beowulf and perhaps the archetype heroes of Anglo Saxon culture - Hereward the Wake, Roger Godberg and Robin Hood ... possessing a multitude of naturally selected & deeply ingrained behavioural habits which were inherited by Thomas Jefferson's yeoman farmer -

a mongrel, not a trueborn Englishman but a patchwork of traits as the genes were mixed - Picts, Scots, Celts, Romans, Danes, Normans, Jews, Huguenots, Dutch, Hanovarians, Irish, West Indian, Asian... and wave after wave of immigrants from everywhere ...

a freeman of independent spirit, free from domination & control, belligerently fighting for the survival of his monogamous family and friends, protecting the girls and educating the babies ...

a creative thinker, sceptical of authority & curiously self reliant, having no truck with Bishops, Princes, Generals nor bureaucratic majorities ...

a property owner, celebrating production from investment in a strip of land and driven by a work ethic to acquire diverse specialised skills for exchange ... trading rich farmer skills for risky warrior skills ...

a warrior with skills relentlessly focused on maritime supremacy and the protection of trade routes ...

a co-operator, socialising in folk moots, mead halls, churches, coffeehouses, pubs, friendly societies and all manner of clubs and associations, interacting with his mates in intensely loyal, cooperative groups with well developed concepts of fairness & justice for everyone ... acquiring diverse synergistic benefits of specialisation & scale ... trading hard won rights for reciprocal obligations in ever larger groups ...

a Christian embracing strong beliefs and a supportive morality consistent with hard, work, honesty, thrift and risk associated with innovative alternatives to expensive violence ... but resolutely refusing to abandon the obligation to defend against inevitable parasites & predators

a sportsman, honing his social skills in the competitive rivalry of team games ... Morris dancing, soccer, cricket, baseball, basketball, American football, ruby, golf, tennis, hockey, lacrosse, squash, boxing, swimming, track & field, rowing, poker & bridge ...

law-abiding, developing a body of customary law and rules of behaviour which encouraged peace & trust amongst strangers ... 

articulate, developing a flexible, diverse, expressive vernacular which embodied all these deep cultural concepts ...

It was Anglo Saxon individual freedoms and ideas of liberal democracy which powered the Magna Carta, the Glorious Revolution and the American Revolution ... it was the English language and English Common Law that thrived in the New World ... driving the the Industrial Revolution in growing commercial cities as rights & obligations were traded ...

... from metal tipped spears, seafaring courage, the wool trade, the long bow, Darby pots, Wedgwood plates, Watt's engine, Telford's bridges, Brunel's ships, Whitney's gin, Singer's machine, Colt's revolver, railroads, telegraphs, telephones, Rockefeller, Carnegie, Model T Ford, J P Morgan, radio, Hollywood movies, telly, chewing gum, jazz, pop, Coke, Levis, hamburgers, crack, blow jobs ... and then the internet ... to educational institutions from Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Yale ... and Nobel Prizes in economics ... and a colonisation of 'know how' ... a globalisation process which spread the Anglo Saxon culture to the whole world ...

but ... perhaps unsurprisingly ... from competing cultures there was...  undisguised hatred ...  Philip II, Louis XIV, Napoleon, Kaiser Wilhelm, Hitler, Hirohito, Stalin, Mao, Chomsky, Nasser, Galtieri, Saddam, Khomeini, Bin Laden, Chavez, Mugabe ...

But don't get it wrong ... there was a fundamental schism ...design v. evolution ... top down v. bottom up ... Marx v. Adam Smith ... an priori delusion v. empirical science ... and the debates continue.

Today Joe Sixpack still behaves ‘as if’ searching for adaptive efficiency ... discovering & accumulating survival skills ... searching for synergies ... chasing profits and cutting losses ...doing deals ... knowing many will fail ... knowing everything is risky ... on the look out for parasites & predators ... but driven by hard work, honesty, thrift & risk innovation ... in a traditional England and transplanted to the New World ... close to the fertile land and the sea ... no longer a Churle or a Thane but now sending his son to fight in the US Marine Corps ... perhaps drinking beer in the pub or watching the match with a six-pack and his mates in front of the telly instead of in the  mead hall ... but still deep down emotions ... rooted in cultural institutions ... family, property, inheritance, clubs and education ... values constantly under attack but values constantly spreading -

freedom is not free - there is no such thing as a free lunch - every right involves an obligation - a leg up not a hand out. John Stuart Mill 'On Liberty' - 'Mill first applied his moral principles to the economy. Free markets were preferable to those controlled by governments. Mill argued that economies function best when regulated by moral sentiments. He believed that if bureaucrats ran the economy, then all people would aspire to be part of a bureaucracy which had no incentive to further the interests of any but itself'.

mind your own business - you mind your business & I'll mind mine - John Stuart Mill, 'The taste for making others submit to a way of life which one thinks is more useful for them than they do themselves is not a common taste in England'.

where do good manners come from? - manners maketh man - do what you want as long as you don't harm others - 'do unto others what you would they would do unto you'

co-operation with fairness of shares and resentment of cheats

an English man's home is his castle - Lord Camden,

'By the laws of England every invasion of private property be it ever so minute is a trespass'

This was cultural evolution which ... slowly ... deep down in the brain emotions were becoming 'hard wired' as Joe's success at raising children spread the genes in growing populations ... the evidence was in biological history ... but this was not triumphalism ... above all Joe knew that history was constantly being reinterpreted and it constantly changed ... thus influencing decisions ... and thus changing the future ...

This was the historical process that must have been at work, it was the only way evolution could work ... bottom up ... nobody studying deep economic history today believes Anglo Saxon culture was the result of the top down imposition of the shenanigans, concoctions and whims & fancies of big men ... after all the girls took all the decisions ... didn't they?

And the genes did the cost / benefit analysis.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights -

(1) Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible. (2) In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society. (3) These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations'. Articled 29, 1948 - 

 'Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein'. Article 30, 1948

Tony Blair - 'The old ideology suppressed the individual by starting with society. But it is from a sense of individual duty that we connect the greater good and the interests of the community'. New Britain: My Vision of a Younger Country London, 1996.

Margaret Thatcher - 'There is no such thing as society, there is a living tapestry of men and women and the beauty of that tapestry, will depend upon how much each of us is prepared to take responsibility. There's no such thing as entitlement unless someone has first met an obligation'. Women's Own magazine, October 31 1987

john p birchall

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