The Function of Socialization in Social Evolution

Chapter 7: The Kinship Stage of Socialization

Ernest W. Burgess

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The matriarchal type.—The first perceivable stages of socialization in Britain up to the conquest by the Anglo-Saxons find their explanation in the conflict of two peoples, the tall, fair-haired Aryan Celts or invaders and conquerors, and the small, swarthy Iberian natives. The tendencies of the social process set up by the subjection of these stone-using aborigines to the metal-ax wielding invaders afford the crude outline of the main process of future evolution in spite of the complications introduced by Roman rule, by Anglo-Saxon settlement, by the Danish incursions, and by the Nor-man Conquest. A working conception of the resultant social organization of Iberian and Celt is, therefore, essential to an understanding of the modifications consequent upon racial dominance.

It is only within the last few decades that the historians have given us anything but a confused impression of the social changes which have taken place among the masses in England. The Roman conquests of Britain, the extermination of the Celt by the Teuton, the Danish inroads, and the Norman Conquest had been described with detail of persons and of battles, but with only vague reference to the condition of the slave, serf, peasant, and yeoman, and the effect of these larger political occurrences upon the intimate social and industrial life of the people. The work of Dawkins, Elton, and Rhs has given us the beginnings of more exact knowledge of the prehistoric inhabitants of Britain, while Seebohm, Vinogradoff, Maitland, and others have made our knowledge far more definite concerning the actual social and industrial relations in the village and manorial communities.

When Julius Caesar made a landing on the British shore in 55 B. c., several waves of Celtic immigration had already passed over the island. Amid all the complexity of the resulting situation, several points stand out clearly. In the first place, the Neolithic natives may have been cruelly decimated, but they were not destroyed.[1] In some districts, the tribes probably retired before the invaders. In certain remote and isolated parts, the Aryan invasion did not

( 76) penetrate. In northern districts, for example, the Iberians held out against the invader. But where the natives were compelled to bow before the conquerors, although a few of the conquered may have been impressed for servile personal duties, the investigations in Scotland, Ireland, and Wales indicate[2] that the old village community was not broken up, but entered into a tributary and dependent relation to the victorious Aryan tribal group, and especially to the family and tribal chiefs as representing the group.

Only glimpses of the life of this prehistoric Neolithic race are available to us, so our reconstruction of its social organization and socialization will intentionally err on the side of simplicity. We must picture to ourselves, in the words of Sir Henry Maine, "a territory occupied by village communities, self-acting and as yet autonomous, each cultivating its arable lands in the middle of its waste, and each . . . at perpetual war with its neighbor."[3]

The socialization of these Iberian communities appears to have rested upon the ties of maternal blood and the tribal totem,[4] though taking its particular form from economic and military experience, with reference, first, to the food quest, and secondly, and of more importance, to the offensive and defensive measures against the neighboring communities. We may surmise that the matriarchal organization presents the features made prominent by the researches of ethnologists, the reckoning of descent in the female line, the position of husband more as guest than as member in the maternal household, the ranking of uncle or brother, rather than father or husband, as the executive head of the mother clan. In all probability, the men watched the flocks or pursued the game in the forests, while the women were weavers of coarse cloth and pottery-makers. The latter also were probably the main tillers of a portion of the common waste upon the hillside and hilltop; for with only stone axes, the Neolithic tribes had made but little progress in clearing the forests in the valleys.

If the common pursuit of game and the collective digging of the ground tended toward co-operation based on the equality of indi-

( 77) -viduals, the exigencies of warfare made for organized co-operation stamped by the emergence of the tribal chief and the beginning of his dominance in the group. Dawkins compares the social condition of the people in this period with that of the tribes of Central Africa at the present time. The inter-tribal warfare led to the ascendancy of the chief "whose dominion was limited to the pastures and cultivated lands protected by his fort, and extended but a little way into the depths of the forest, which were the hunting grounds common to him and his neighbors."[5]

How much farther social differentiation was carried by the results of inter-tribal conflict is a subject only for venturesome and profitless speculation in the present state of knowledge. Aside from absolute hostility, the only relation between the tribes that we may safely posit is the institution of the market. Sir Henry Maine says : "At several points, points probably where the domains of two or three villages converged, there appear to have been spaces of what we should now call neutral ground. These were the Markets. They were probably the only places at which the members of the different primitive groups met for any purpose except warfare, and the persons who came to them were doubtless at first persons specially empowered to exchange the produce and manufactures of one little village community for those of another."[6]

This, then, was the type of socialization founded on the primitive democracy of the maternal group, and upon the growing ascendency of the chief, due to the necessities of efficient organization_ inthe continuous inter-tribal conflicts. The social bond is the tie of maternal blood together with a subordination to the chief relatively strong on the warpath, but weaker in the internal affairs of the group. Relying chiefly upon magic for the control of nature, subject to taboos sometimes functional, but always arbitrary,[7] in the lowest stages of acculturation or the assimilation of the culture of neighboring groups, these small tribal groups were not as far advanced politically, socially, or industrially as the Aztecs at the time of the Cortez Conquest. The possibilities potential in the social process instituted by this inter-tribal warfare and economic ex-change were, at any rate, not permitted to develop far; for the

( 78) Goidels first and later the Brythones, both Celtic races, successively overran the island and instituted a more complex social process which set up that interaction of superiority and inferiority which has determined the main processes in English social evolution.

The patriarchal type.—The socialization of the aborigines of Britain has been described above in its simplest reconstruction as the joint product of the strongest instinctive ties and of the co-operative activities of the hunt and inter-community warfare. But the socialization of the Celt when he reached Britain was already developed on the Aryan pattern, and an understanding of its primary characteristics is a necessary preliminary to the study of its modification under race contact. We shall, therefore, first describe the social mind of the Celtic invader as it found concrete expression and further development in the mode of settlement, in land-holding, in the interrelations between the individual and the group, and in religious rites.

The superiority of the Celt over the natives was marked in two ways : by the use of metal tools and weapons, and by the union of persons according to male descent. The result of superior technical control of nature will be treated later; the character and effect of Celtic social organization will receive first attention. "There can be no doubt," says Professor Vinogradoff, "as to the ruling principle according to which Celtic society was arranged; it was the union of persons descended, or supposed to be descended, from the same ancestor 'through males, the union of agnatic relations." [8] Even in the primitive groups based upon maternal descent there may exist a more or less strong tendency to utilize the actual preponderance of the male as the organizing principle in social organization. Among the Celts, as with the Aryan races in general, this tendency had over-come the resistance afforded by the primordial matriarchal grouping. Among the forces making for agnatism were[9] the natural superior strength of the armed sex in the primitive community, the desire of the male to gain exclusive control of the woman, particularly as the growing importance of agriculture increased her economic value, the settlement in separate households with its tendency to permanent marriage and to the establishment of patriarchal authority in the household.


The earliest written records concerning Britain indicate that these Celtic Britons were divided into at least twelve[10] separate tribes occupying distinct parts of the island. Professor Seebohm's study of the Cymric tribe has given us a quite clear conception of the socio-political, as well as the economic organization of the tribe. The tribe "was a bundle of . . . kindreds bound together and interlocked by common interests and frequent intermarriages, as well as by the necessity of mutual protection against foreign foes."[11] The organized tribal unit, with its chief and other officers, was the kindred constituted by "the descendants of a common ancestor to the ninth degree of descent."[12] Each kindred was divided into family groups, each with its head man. Thus, Celtic society had three distinct degrees of rank above the tribesman:[13] the head of the family group, the chief of kindred, and the tribal chief or king.

The force of the tie of paternal ancestry as a social bond and its ramifications throughout Celtic tribal society are best observable in its concrete manifestations in the mode of settlement and in land-holding. The powerful tendency for the family to keep together as long as possible finds striking expression in the two general modesof settlement, namely, in tribal houses and in hamlets. In some cases all the members of one large family dwelt together in the large dwelling-house, "adapted for the joint occupation of a number of tribesmen living together. The great hall, opening between trees, the boughs of which met to form the roof of the house, was the common room and the dining hall of the whole household, and in the aisles on the right and left of it lay the beds or compartments of the families which constituted it."[14]

The more usual mode of settlement, however, appears to have been to provide the young man at marriage with a small separate dwelling easily constructed by the members of his kin group. Often the dwellings were collected together into a small hamlet, which in some cases included only the members of a large family, but, in other cases, the larger kindred group, grouped according to families. "In all," concludes Vinogradoff, "the strong influence of the agnatic group on the arrangement of the rights of its component

( 80) households is making itself felt by settlement in tribal houses, by the clustering of dwelling-houses into villages and hamlets, and by the scattering of them for the purpose of their pastoral occupation." [15]

The characteristic feature of land tenure, to quote the same writer, was "the idea that every head of a household ought to be put on an equal footing with the men of his generation within the gwely." [16] He shows in detail how this idea was carried out in practice : "Theoretically the founder of the gwely was considered as if he had effected the first settlement on the land, and taken possession of the whole of that land. At his death each of his sons got an equal share with his brothers ; if, for example, there were four sons, four shares were formed in the gwely; if, after a time, one of the sharers, say A, died, leaving two sons, these last enteredprovisionally as half-sharers for the part which their father had held, so that instead of four shares there were henceforth three full shares and two half-shares (A/2, A/2 B, C, D). Suppose B died leaving three sons, and C, leaving four, as long as D was alive the division would be into one full share, two half-shares, three thirds,

and four fourths (A/2, A/2, B/3,B/3,B/3,C/4,C/4,C/4,C/4,D). But on D dying and leaving, say, one son, the whole apportionment would be readjusted, each of the cousins forming the third generation taking one-tenth share of the whole gwely. By the same process the shares of the great grandsons of the founder would be formed inside their fathers' lots as long as there was a single member of the third generation alive, but on the death of the last grand-son, the second cousins would redivide the whole into, say, twenty equal shares. . . . The appeal to the gwely of the original founder was barred after the fourth generation, the process of equalization going on nevertheless, but starting theoretically, not from the first founder, but from every one of his sons ; though in practicemany of the gwelys must have held out longer. Of course in order to carry out such a system people had to reclaim new land and to send out the surplus of the population when the conditions of settle-

( 81) -ment got tight. . . . Originally, as is fully established by the surveys, attributions of real allotments were not practised : . . . what was meant was the admission of more or `fewer' persons into a community, and the appreciation of their respective shares in the concern." [17]

This system of control of land through the heads of families, together with the rules governing its use, exhibits to us in concrete and objective form the advanced type of the socialization which constituted the Celtic social bond. The psychic community under-lying the arrangement is manifestly affinity in blood and association through origin from one and the same household. The conscious object of the group appears to be to recognize the right of every born tribesman to a share in the tribal territory by reason of his membership[18] in a particular family and kindred. This conception of the value and use of land expresses the feeling of a kin group of free warriors[19] who embodied the strength of the group in inter-tribal conflicts. The functional value of the family holding as an economic unit is made clear by the basis that is afforded by it for a collective equipment of each kin settlement. "This is the complement of a lawful trefgordd (family hamlet) : nine houses and one plough and one oven and one churn and one cat and one cock and one bull and one herdsman."[20]

Settlement and land cultivation show us the typical structural cast of the Celtic mental community; the joint responsibility of the kindred for the crimes of the kinsman[21] indicates still more clearly the organic solidarity of tribal society. Responsibility for crime was not individual, but mutual. Kindred to the ninth degree of descent were liable[22] to the payment for homicide committed by any, kinsman within this relationship. For insults and less serious in-juries, the circle of responsibility extended only to second cousins. Superseding blood-feuds based on the law of absolute hostility, these compositions for injuries must have given the individual firm support in his relations outside the kindred. "In those days of violence, the mutual insurance of powerful combinations of kindred

( 82) was not only the means of checking, to a certain extent, lawlessness and greed, but, as we can judge at a glance from any barbaric code, it provided a machinery which was constantly in motion, and which impressed the mind of the people more than any other institution."[23]

For crimes committed within the kindred, the responsibility was individual, not mutual. "Three persons [are] hated by a kindred :" records the Gwentian Code, "a thief, and a deceiver, and a person who shall kill another of his own kindred; since the living kin is not killed for the sake of the dead kin everybody will hate to see him."[24] Thus the hatred of the kin group was the highest penalty for genticide or the murder of a clansman; for the kindred perceived with instinctive logic that blood-vengeance in this case only doubled the offense against the kin bond. But if the anger of the kindred flamed too high against the criminal, he might with their consent surrender the right of kinship. By thus breaking his kin he became a kin-wrecked man, or a stranger without the group. But still so strong is the bond of blood-relationship that his descend-ants to the ninth generation are protected in their full kinship rights. Only so abhorrent a crime as the murder of the chief of kindred sufficed to break[25] absolutely the tie of kinship.

Not only in the mode of settlement, in tribal landholding, and in mutual responsibility for crime is the socialization of the community organized about blood-relationship, but the religious rites of the household center around the sacredness of kinship and the symbolism of the hearth. "An analysis of the customs which at-tended the primitive hearth cult shows us that the sacred fire on the hearth was never allowed to go out ; that the ritual attendant upon marriage, birth, and death centered round the sacred fire; that offerings to the ancestral god at the hearth were made from the food of the household; and that the hearth represented to its early worshippers the source of all their happiness and prosperity."[26]

Not only is the hearth the center of the worship of ancestors and of the ritual of life, but it is also the symbol of family worship and inheritance. The technical term for the recovery of inheritance

( 83) was dadenhudd or the re-uncovering of the paternal hearth. More-over, the fireback-stone, with the mark of the kindred upon it, was the witness[27] to the rightful possession of land and homestead. The associations which gathered about the hearth as the objective symbol both of the right of participation in the tribal inheritance, and of psychic unity through membership in the household and the kindred, powerfully assisted in merging the individual into the group and in strengthening the agnatic articulation of society by the force of folk-sentiment and religious sanction.

The individual appears to us submerged in the kin ; but, in reality, the freedom of the individual is only possible and so far possible as blood-relationship gave him a standing within the kindred and the solid support of his kinsmen to the world without the tribal group. This subjection was not so much of the person to the tribal group as the mental interdependence of all the kinsmen, the function which we call the folk-mind, that inter-mental process at once an effect and a cause of the activities of past generations. This membership of the individual in a community reaching back to past generations through idiom, myth, and custom was powerfully effective in controlling the activities of his daily life and constitutes the real significance of the subjection of the individual by the group.

It is difficult to determine just to what extent the more efficient agnatic organization of the Celt was a factor in the subjugation of the native matriarchal groups. It is certain, however, that the possession of superior tools and weapons was of decisive value in the contests with the Neolithic aborigines. Yet the superior technique of control over nature secured to the invader by his bronze and iron ax had a tendency to adjust the conflict of interests between the hill-dwelling Iberian and the valley-settling Aryan. With his metal blade the Celt cleared the forests for his settlement and was con-tent to leave the less desirable hilltop land[28] to the tribute-paying non-Aryan community. In time the cultivation of the hilltops was discarded and the dependent groups occupied the less desirable tracts of land in the valleys. This relation of the Celt tribal community to the inferior pre-Aryan group instituted a social process, the main factors of which, to repeat, are still operative in English social and industrial evolution.

( 84)

The crux of the relationship of the natives to the Celtic conquerors was that only a fraction of the former were reduced to personal slavery, while the remainder were grouped in small settlements within the tribal territory under the control of the tribal chiefs or the heads of kindreds and of family groups.[29] For the very reason that possession of slaves was undoubtedly confined to a minority of the freemen, slave-owners naturally attained special prominence within the kindred.[30] This tendency to differentiation was doubtless augmented by the fact that it was the influential men of the tribes, that is, the heads of kindreds and households and especially the king and his immediate followers, who were likely to profit from the exactions upon the serf communities. The emergence of the powerful man, or lord, beyond the limits of leadership recognized in the tribal grouping, instituted the beginnings of a conflicting type of social organization. The free youth began to look for maintenance to the strong man in the kindred, rather than[31] of yore to a participation in the landed rights of his family group. The contribution for the support of the chief and the tribal king was levied alike upon the free tribal group and upon the serf community. Our knowledge of the extent to which the second Celtic invasion may have carried the "feudalizing" of the free, as well as of the unfree communities, rests upon the interpretation of brief Roman[32] statements, although Professor Seebohm[33] is inclined to emphasize its tendency in that direction. But at all events a work-able conclusion would be that while a growing concentration of political power in the hands of the tribal king and of the prominent men in the kindred was required in the interests of military efficiency in the inter-tribal conflicts, even this exploitation of the kindred was concealed under the old forms of kin relationship, and fell upon the family group rather than upon the person, and that to the individual the assurance of his economic status and the guar-

( 85) -anty of mutual protection based on membership in a family group were still the dominant forces controlling his activities.

The three hundred years of Roman occupation seem to have introduced little qualitative change in the social and economic organization of the mass of the inhabitants of Britain. Although Roman towns grew up around the military camps, and the upper classes of the Britons were quickly Romanized,[34] the greater pro-portion of the population was relatively untouched by the artificial urban life. Even the villas and great Roman estates in Britain were confined to restricted areas, and for that reason could have had no general effect upon the landholding system. At the most, the Roman occupation only accelerated the tendencies already in progress, namely, the differentiation and separation of the upper classes from the tribal society, the equalization of the condition of the Celtic tribal group with that of the pre-Aryan community, and, doubtless, in certain districts, the amalgamation of the two racial stocks. It is evident that these tendencies were unequal: strongest no doubt in the southeastern part of the island and progressively weaker toward the west and the north. Consequently, no uniformity[35] of conditions arose : for on the one side were Italian villas and Roman municipal government ; on the other, tribal arrangementsalmost unmodified by Roman administration. Undoubtedly, an accommodation took place between the Roman with his ideas of political government and absolute individual ownership and the Briton with a tribal system based on personal freedom and a communalistic practice in landholding. But on the whole, to quote Professor Vinogradoff's conclusion, "The rural arrangements of the Roman period seem to have been to a great extent determined by Celtic antecedents."[36] As Gomme sums up the matter, "Rome left the village communities of Celtic Britain like England would leave the village communities of India, untouched in their inner life, but crystallized in form by the pressure from without."[37]

So, then, from first to last, the distinctive socialization of the Celtic inhabitants of Britain was based on the bond of blood-relationship. The characteristic features of Celtic social, political, and economic life were determined by the union of heads of families into kindreds bound together into a tribe. The functional value of

( 86) a community knit together by the consciousness of kin lies in the powerful solidarity afforded by it to groupings of moderate size. This type of socialization was adapted to the early conditions which confronted a half-pastoral people engaged in the migratory conquest of tribes of a lower technical equipment and of an inferior social organization. The ties of kin, while effective for local con-centration and tribal arrangements, do not readily bear the strain of an inter-tribal centralization of power. Social cohesion secured by blood-relationship was in two ways a hindrance to the larger union of the inhabitants of Britain. In the first place, the Celtic tribes in Britain never united into a permanent confederacy or coalesced into one people. Their inveterate tribal divisions facilitated, if they did not make possible, the Roman invasion. In the second place, the pre-Aryans who comprised a majority of the population did not become an integral part of Celtic social organization. The Aryan pride of blood forbade intermarriage; then, too, the barbarian culture of the Celt was not adapted to that efficient control of a subject people required by a system of slavery or of serf-dom. Tendencies toward a transition from the tribal system foundedupon kin ties to political arrangements based on personal relations have been noted in pre-Roman and especially in Roman periods. This movement, however, was largely within the old forms of the kin-relationship and by no means superseded the rural tribal arrangements. Personal relations, however, apart from those based on kinship, tend with the English settlement powerfully to weaken the bonds of blood-relationship; with the Danish invasion, definitely to reshape the economic and social arrangements ; and with the Nor-man Conquest, finally to complete the feudalization of society.


  1. Rhs, op. cit., p. 276.
  2. Skene, Celtic Scotland, 1880, III, 16f.; Rhs and Brynmor-Jones, The Welsh People, 3d ed., 1902, pp. 12, 35; Vinogradoff, Growth of the Manor, 1905, p. 25.
  3. Village-Communities, 3d ed., 1876, p. 192.
  4. "Probably they were at first a totemistic community, and their totems may still survive in the local nicknames of Celtic localities—such as the pigs of Anglesey, or the goats of Arvon."—Edwards in Social England, I, 6.
  5. dawkins, Early Man in Britain, 1880, p. 283.
  6. Op.cit., p. 192.
  7. "Dion Cassius mentions their strange refusal to eat the fish with which British rivers were at that time swarming."—Gibbins, op. cit., p. 11.
  8. Op. cit., p. 7.
  9. Ibid., p. 12.
  10. Cheyney, Industrial and Social History of England, 1901, p. 4.
  11. Seebohm, The Tribal System in Wales, 1895, p. 61.
  12. Ibid., pp. 61-62.
  13. Ibid., pp. 105-9.
  14. Vinogradoff, op. cit., p. 15.
  15. Vinogradoff, op. cit., p. 16.
  16. Gwely, "family homestead" or "family holding," literally "bed." See Seebohm, op. cit., pp. 8-9.
  17. Vinogradoff, op. cit., pp. 20-22.
  18. Ibid., p. 18.
  19. Ibid., p. 24.
  20. Seebohm, Tribal Custom in Anglo-Saxon Law, 1902, p. 36.
  21. Seebohm, Tribal System, pp. 77-81.
  22. Ibid., pp. 77-86.
  23. Vinogradoff, op. cit., p. 15.
  24. Seebohm, Tribal System, p. 58.
  25. Ibid, pp. 58-59.
  26. Gomme, The Village Community, 1890, pp. 129-30.
  27. Seebohm, Tribal System, p. 82.
  28. Johnson, Folk-Memory, 1908, pp. 278-82.
  29. Vinogradoff, op. cit., p. 28; see Seebohm, Tribal System, pp. 116-18.
  30. Vinogradoff, op. cit., p. 28; but see Rhs and Brynmor-Jones, op. cit., p. 12, who state that the Goidels "subjugated the natives, and made slaves of them."
  31. Seebohm, Tribal System, p. 65.
  32. Such as Caesar's milites and servi with definite Roman meanings, perhaps not applicable to Celtic social arrangements.
  33. "Villeinage in England," in the English Historical Review, VII (1892), 465.
  34. Richards, in Social England, I, 24.
  35. Vinogradoff, op. cit., p. 83.
  36. Ibid., p. 87.
  37. Op. cit., p. 292.

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