IX

THE SOLIDARITY OF THE KINDRED GROUP

1 THE ‘FRIENDS BY BLOOD’

THE ties based on blood relationship existed long before, and were by their very nature foreign to, the human relations characteristic of feudalism; but they continued to exert such an important influence within the new structure that we cannot exclude them from our picture. Unfortunately this is not an easy subject for study. It was not without reason that in old France the family community of the country districts was commonly described as the ‘silent’ (taisible) community. Intercourse between close relatives naturally dispenses with writing. Though it was resorted to in exceptional cases, these specimens of family correspondence, which come almost exclusively from the upper classes, have for the most part perished—at least, those earlier than the thirteenth century. For the ecclesiastical archives are practically the only ones preserved up to that date. But that is not the only difficulty. A comprehensive picture of feudal institutions can be legitimately attempted because, originating at the very time when a real Europe was taking shape, they spread without fundamental differences to the whole European world. But the institutions of blood-relationship were, on the contrary, the legacy—and a singularly tenacious one—of the particular past of each of the groups of diverse origins whose destiny had brought them to live side by side. Compare for example the almost uniform character of the rules relating to the inheritance of the military fief with the almost infinite variety of those which regulated the transmission of other forms of property. In the following account, it will be more than ever necessary to concentrate upon a few major currents.

In the whole of feudal Europe, then, there existed groups founded on blood-relationship. The terms which served to describe them were rather indefinite—in France, most commonly, parenté or lignage. Yet the ties thus created were regarded as extremely strong. One word is characteristic. In France, in speaking of kinsfolk, one commonly called them simply ‘friends’ (amis) and in Germany, Freunde. A legal document of the eleventh century originating from the Îie de France enumerates them thus: ‘His friends, that is to say his mother, his brothers, his sisters and his other

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