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Thread: England's success may be in our genes

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    England's success may be in our genes

    The Industrial Revolution is the great event of world history. Before this, from the stone age to 1800, there was no gain in average living conditions. Now incomes rise steadily.

    It is attributed to political stability and free markets in 18th-century England. But this is the convient fantasy of modern economists. Medieval England was much more pro-market than even Thatcherite England - the average government tax rate then was less then 1% - yet achieved no growth.

    Instead, the Industrial Revolution is more plausibly linked to a Darwinian process of "survival of the richest" that operated from at least 1250. Capitalist attitudes and economic growth triumped in England because those with such attitudes came to predominate in the population by biological means. The modern English are th descendants of the upper classes of the preindustrial world, those who pospered economically. The poor disappeared. This process was most likely cultural, but we cannot exclude the possibility that the English may even be genetically capitalist.
    Continue reading;http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/com...cle2280334.ece

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    I've seen claims along these lines before, and frankly it's full of holes. To say there was no increase in living conditions from the stone age - where we lived in caves - to 1800, by which point huge architectually advanced structures were commonplace, is patently ridiculous.

    I would also like to see his sources for his claims. I've only ever seen one study which claimed hunter gatherers had a comparable level of calories in their diet to sem-modern man, and that study only came to that conclusion by comparing the average food intake of an entire tribe of hunter-gatherers to the food intake of only the very poorest sections of society in England.

    There are also many places throughout the world where history was as "dull" as it was in England, yet none of those places produced the same sort of society we did.

    Thanks for the link Americ, but i think the writer is living in a fantasy world.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Angelcynn Beorn View Post
    Thanks for the link Americ, but i think the writer is living in a fantasy world.
    I agree, I think it's quite obvious the author wants to justify an agenda and is using the old 'evolutionary history can 'prove' whatever I want' trick to try and extend his agenda to it being the 'natural' one of all English as being 'genetically capitalist' (lol!) .

    that's what it seems like to me anyway.

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    I think we should be thankful that a writer in a large national newspaper would even consider that an ethnic group could share actual characteristics of behaviour and mentality, even if his conclusions are a little of.

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    One big piece of evidence against this theory is in the last names of modern English people. Since the upper classes in England starting in 1066 were primarily of Norman ancestry, wouldn't most modern English people have Norman names if this theory were true? Yet the most common English names today are Anglo-Saxon names such as Smith, Carter, Miller, Taylor, Johnson, Anderson, Robinson, Thompson, Jackson, White, Brown, etc.

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    At the time of the conquest hereditary surnames had not been adopted. So someone could be of Norman descent & not have a Norman sounding name.

    As for the downward social mobility the author discusses, this is something I've noticed from my own genealogical research. All of my ancestoral lines, going beyond the 16th century, involved the propertied middle classes or the aristocracy. I sure I must have some peasants in my familytree going that far back, but because they were poor they had no need to leave records, documenting rights to property.

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    "What trapped preindustrial societies at a subsistence wage was was that the slow technological advance that created better living conditions simply resulted in population growth, declining land space per person and a return to subsistence."

    - Correct! So why does he basically claim the same in England's case (?):

    "Preindustrial England was thus a world of constant downward mobility. Given the static nature of the preindustrial economy, the superabundant children of the rich had to, on average, move down the social hierarchy to find work. Craftsmen’s sons became labourers, merchants’ sons petty traders, large landowners’ sons smallholders."

    - This is wild. It does not correspond with the traditional European (Germanic) family structure.

    "Medieval England was much more pro-market than even Thatcherite England", "Capitalist attitudes and economic growth triumphed in England because those with such attitudes came to predominate in the population by biological means", "Attributes that ensured later economic dynamism – the middle-class values of patience, hard work, ingenuity, innovativeness, education – were thus spread throughout the population for generations by biological means."

    - Reality check: biological determinism? Contradictions? Medieval England was more pro-market than Thatcherite England... before this "biological process" evolved? Liberalism, individualism, altruism, work ethic, innovativeness... are deeply rooted in Germanic history and culture, and therefore in evolutionary biology. But this has nothing to do with social classes. It goes much deeper.

    "The comparative wealth of England in the years before 1800 was not the result of superiorities in legal, political or economic systems"

    - Of course, it was. England was the first modern national state with the first capitalist economy.

    "Englishmen who were economically successful, all the way from the Middle Ages to 1800, left four or five surviving children at their deaths. In contrast, landless labourers left fewer than two children. Economic success translated powerfully into reproductive success"

    As already mentioned: this is the Asian, not the European, way.

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    All of my ancestoral lines, going beyond the 16th century, involved the propertied middle classes or the aristocracy.
    Are you able to trace these lines directly, step by step?

    If you're simply tracing it by means of the origin of surnames, then it could be problematic, because surnames tended to originate with landowners, but the people under the hereditary lordship (and belonging to the estate) of a particular noble family came to be known by the surname of that family.

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    Generation by generation. Once you get to 16th century & farther back, it gets more difficult because the records do not exist for most persons unless they had property and needed wills or other legal documents.

    As for families adopted the surname of their Lord, I think that was a Scottish & Irish custom.

    One reason for downward social mobility was likely the custom of primogeniture. Leaving all the property to the eldest son would make the other sons & daughters poorer then the father had been.

    But the downward social mobility of the middle & upper classes doesn't prove that the poorer classes didn't leave any descendants over the long term - It's just as I pointed out there was no need for them to leave documentation of their existence.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SwordOfTheVistula View Post
    One big piece of evidence against this theory is in the last names of modern English people. Since the upper classes in England starting in 1066 were primarily of Norman ancestry, wouldn't most modern English people have Norman names if this theory were true? Yet the most common English names today are Anglo-Saxon names such as Smith, Carter, Miller, Taylor, Johnson, Anderson, Robinson, Thompson, Jackson, White, Brown, etc.
    As Americ pointed out, surnames had not yet become fixed at the time of the Norman conquest. But even so, it was only in the level of the (higher) nobility that the Normans replaced the English. If we're including gentry (and perhaps other nobility; I'm not sure exactly where the line between gentry and nobility/aristocracy is drawn), wealthy farmers, merchants etc. as part of the upper classes, then probably the vast majority of the upper classes would have retained their status through the Norman transition, so the later upper class would overwhelming be of English descent.

    As for families adopted the surname of their Lord, I think that was a Scottish & Irish custom.
    mmm....I'll have to look into that. I was under the impression that it was a general characteristic of European feudalism.

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