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Mutual Aid by P. Kropotkin

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Schrenk, O. Finsch) described the Ostyaks and Samoyedes in almost
the same words. Even when drunken, their quarrels are
insignificant. "For a hundred years one single murder has been
committed in the tundra;" "their children never fight;" "anything
may be left for years in the tundra, even food and gin, and
nobody will touch it;" and so on. Gilbert Sproat "never witnessed
a fight between two sober natives" of the Aht Indians of
Vancouver Island. "Quarrelling is also rare among their
children." (Rink, loc. cit.) And so on.

34. Gill, quoted in Gerland and Waitz's Anthropologie, v. 641.
See also pp. 636-640, where many facts of parental and filial
love are quoted.

35. Primitive Folk, London, 1891.

36. Gerland, loc. cit. v. 636.

37. Erskine, quoted in Gerland and Waitz's Anthropologie, v. 640.

38. W.T. Pritchard, Polynesian Reminiscences, London, 1866, p.

39. It is remarkable, however, that in case of a sentence of
death, nobody will take upon himself to be the executioner. Every
one throws his stone, or gives his blow with the hatchet,
carefully avoiding to give a mortal blow. At a later epoch, the
priest will stab the victim with a sacred knife. Still later, it
will be the king, until civilization invents the hired hangman.
See Bastian's deep remarks upon this subject in Der Mensch in der
Geschichte, iii. Die Blutrache, pp. 1-36. A remainder of this
tribal habit, I am told by Professor E. Nys, has survived in
military executions till our own times. In the middle portion of
the nineteenth century it was the habit to load the rifles of the
twelve soldiers called out for shooting the condemned victim,
with eleven ball-cartridges and one blank cartridge. As the
soldiers never knew who of them had the latter, each one could
console his disturbed conscience by thinking that he was not one
of the murderers.

40. In Africa, and elsewhere too, it is a widely-spread habit,
that if a theft has been committed, the next clan has to restore
the equivalent of the stolen thing, and then look itself for the
thief. A. H. Post, Afrikanische Jurisprudenz, Leipzig, 1887, vol.
i. p. 77.

41. See Prof. M. Kovalevsky's Modern Customs and Ancient Law
(Russian), Moscow, 1886, vol. ii., which contains many important
considerations upon this subject.

42. See Carl Bock, The Head Hunters of Borneo, London, 1881. I am
told, however, by Sir Hugh Law, who was for a long time Governor
of Borneo, that the "head-hunting" described in this book is
grossly exaggerated. Altogether, my informant speaks of the
Dayaks in exactly the same sympathetic terms as Ida Pfeiffer. Let
me add that Mary Kingsley speaks in her book on West Africa in
the same sympathetic terms of the Fans, who had been represented
formerly as the most "terrible cannibals."

43. Ida Pfeiffer, Meine zweite Weltrieze, Wien, 1856, vol. i. pp.
116 seq. See also Muller and Temminch's Dutch Possessions in
Archipelagic India, quoted by Elisee Reclus, in Geographie
Universelle, xiii.

44. Descent of Man, second ed., pp. 63, 64.

45. See Bastian's Mensch in der Geschichte, iii. p. 7. Also Grey,
loc. cit. ii. p. 238.

46. Miklukho-Maclay, loc. cit. Same habit with the Hottentots.



The great migrations. New organization rendered necessary.
The village community. Communal work. Judicial procedure.
Inter-tribal law. Illustrations from the life of our contemporaries.
Buryates. Kabyles. Caucasian mountaineers. African stems.

It is not possible to study primitive mankind without being
deeply impressed by the sociability it has displayed since its
very first steps in life. Traces of human societies are found in
the relics of both the oldest and the later stone age; and, when
we come to observe the savages whose manners of life are still
those of neolithic man, we find them closely bound together by an
extremely ancient clan organization which enables them to combine
their individually weak forces, to enjoy life in common, and to
progress. Man is no exception in nature. He also is subject to
the great principle of Mutual Aid which grants the best chances
of survival to those who best support each other in the struggle
for life. These were the conclusions arrived at in the previous

However, as soon as we come to a higher stage of civilization, and
refer to history which already has something to say about that
stage, we are bewildered by the struggles and conflicts which it
reveals. The old bonds seem entirely to be broken. Stems are seen
to fight against stems, tribes against tribes, individuals against
individuals; and out of this chaotic contest of hostile forces,
mankind issues divided into castes, enslaved to despots, separated
into States always ready to wage war against each other. And, with
this history of mankind in his hands, the pessimist philosopher
triumphantly concludes that warfare and oppression are the very
essence of human nature; that the warlike and predatory instincts
of man can only be restrained within certain limits by a strong
authority which enforces peace and thus gives an opportunity to
the few and nobler ones to prepare a better life for humanity in
times to come.

And yet, as soon as the every-day life of man during the historical
period is submitted to a closer analysis and so it has been, of
late, by many patient students of very early institutions--it
appears at once under quite a different aspect. Leaving aside the
preconceived ideas of most historians and their pronounced
predilection for the dramatic aspects of history, we see that the
very documents they habitually peruse are such as to exaggerate the
part of human life given to struggles and to underrate its peaceful
moods. The bright and sunny days are lost sight of in the gales and
storms. Even in our own time, the cumbersome records which we
prepare for the future historian, in our Press, our law courts, our
Government offices, and even in our fiction and poetry, suffer from
the same one-sidedness. They hand down to posterity the most minute
descriptions of every war, every battle and skirmish, every contest
and act of violence, every kind of individual suffering; but they
hardly bear any trace of the countless acts of mutual support and
devotion which every one of us knows from his own experience; they
hardly. take notice of what makes the very essence of our daily
life--our social instincts and manners. No wonder, then, if the
records of the past were so imperfect. The annalists of old never
failed to chronicle the petty wars and calamities which harassed
their contemporaries; but they paid no attention whatever to the
life of the masses, although the masses chiefly used to toil
peacefully while the few indulged in fighting. The epic poems, the
inscriptions on monuments, the treaties of peace--nearly all
historical documents bear the same character; they deal with
breaches of peace, not with peace itself. So that the
best-intentioned historian unconsciously draws a distorted picture
of the times he endeavours to depict; and, to restore the real
proportion between conflict and union, we are now bound to enter
into a minute analysis of thousands of small facts and faint
indications accidentally preserved in the relics of the past; to
interpret them with the aid of comparative ethnology; and, after
having heard so much about what used to divide men, to reconstruct
stone by stone the institutions which used to unite them.

Ere long history will have to be re-written on new lines, so
as to take into account these two currents of human life and to
appreciate the part played by each of them in evolution. But in
the meantime we may avail ourselves of the immense preparatory
work recently done towards restoring the leading features of the
second current, so much neglected. From the better-known periods
of history we may take some illustrations of the life of the
masses, in order to indicate the part played by mutual support
during those periods; and, in so doing, we may dispense (for the
sake of brevity) from going as far back as the Egyptian, or even
the Greek and Roman antiquity. For, in fact, the evolution of
mankind has not had the character of one unbroken series. Several
times civilization came to an end in one given region, with one
given race, and began anew elsewhere, among other races. But at
each fresh start it began again with the same clan institutions
which we have seen among the savages. So that if we take the last
start of our own civilization, when it began afresh in the first
centuries of our era, among those whom the Romans called the
"barbarians," we shall have the whole scale of evolution,
beginning with the gentes and ending in the institutions of our
own time. To these illustrations the following pages will be

Men of science have not yet settled upon the causes which
some two thousand years ago drove whole nations from Asia into
Europe and resulted in the great migrations of barbarians which
put an end to the West Roman Empire. One cause, however, is
naturally suggested to the geographer as he contemplates the
ruins of populous cities in the deserts of Central Asia, or
follows the old beds of rivers now disappeared and the wide
outlines of lakes now reduced to the size of mere ponds. It is
desiccation: a quite recent desiccation, continued still at a
speed which we formerly were not prepared to admit.(1) Against
it man was powerless. When the inhabitants of North-West Mongolia
and East Turkestan saw that water was abandoning them, they had
no course open to them but to move down the broad valleys leading
to the lowlands, and to thrust westwards the inhabitants of the
plains.(2) Stems after stems were thus thrown into Europe,
compelling other stems to move and to remove for centuries in
succession, westwards and eastwards, in search of new and more or
less permanent abodes. Races were mixing with races during those
migrations, aborigines with immigrants, Aryans with
Ural-Altayans; and it would have been no wonder if the social
institutions which had kept them together in their mother
countries had been totally wrecked during the stratification of
races which took place in Europe and Asia. But they were not
wrecked; they simply underwent the modification which was
required by the new conditions of life.

The Teutons, the Celts, the Scandinavians, the Slavonians,
and others, when they first came in contact with the Romans, were
in a transitional state of social organization. The clan unions,
based upon a real or supposed common origin, had kept them
together for many thousands of years in succession. But these
unions could answer their purpose so long only as there were no
separate families within the gens or clan itself. However, for
causes already mentioned, the separate patriarchal family had
slowly but steadily developed within the clans, and in the long
run it evidently meant the individual accumulation of wealth and
power, and the hereditary transmission of both. The frequent
migrations of the barbarians and the ensuing wars only hastened
the division of the gentes into separate families, while the
dispersing of stems and their mingling with strangers offered
singular facilities for the ultimate disintegration of those
unions which were based upon kinship. The barbarians thus stood
in a position of either seeing their clans dissolved into loose
aggregations of families, of which the wealthiest, especially if
combining sacerdotal functions or military repute with wealth,
would have succeeded in imposing their authority upon the others;
or of finding out some new form of organization based upon some
new principle.

Many stems had no force to resist disintegration: they broke
up and were lost for history. But the more vigorous ones did not
disintegrate. They came out of the ordeal with a new organization--
the village community--which kept them together for the next
fifteen centuries or more. The conception of a common territory,
appropriated or protected by common efforts, was elaborated, and
it took the place of the vanishing conceptions of common descent.
The common gods gradually lost their character of ancestors and
were endowed with a local territorial character. They became the
gods or saints of a given locality; "the land" was identified
with its inhabitants. Territorial unions grew up instead of the
consanguine unions of old, and this new organization evidently
offered many advantages under the given circumstances. It
recognized the independence of the family and even emphasized it,
the village community disclaiming all rights of interference in
what was going on within the family enclosure; it gave much more
freedom to personal initiative; it was not hostile in principle
to union between men of different descent, and it maintained at
the same time the necessary cohesion of action and thought, while
it was strong enough to oppose the dominative tendencies of the
minorities of wizards, priests, and professional or distinguished
warriors. Consequently it became the primary cell of future
organization, and with many nations the village community has
retained this character until now.

It is now known, and scarcely contested, that the village
community was not a specific feature of the Slavonians, nor even
of the ancient Teutons. It prevailed in England during both the
Saxon and Norman times, and partially survived till the last
century;(3) it was at the bottom of the social organization of
old Scotland, old Ireland, and old Wales. In France, the communal
possession and the communal allotment of arable land by the
village folkmote persisted from the first centuries of our era
till the times of Turgot, who found the folkmotes "too noisy" and
therefore abolished them. It survived Roman rule in Italy, and
revived after the fall of the Roman Empire. It was the rule with
the Scandinavians, the Slavonians, the Finns (in the pittaya, as
also, probably, the kihla-kunta), the Coures, and the lives. The
village community in India--past and present, Aryan and
non-Aryan--is well known through the epoch-making works of Sir
Henry Maine; and Elphinstone has described it among the Afghans.
We also find it in the Mongolian oulous, the Kabyle thaddart, the
Javanese dessa, the Malayan kota or tofa, and under a variety of
names in Abyssinia, the Soudan, in the interior of Africa, with
natives of both Americas, with all the small and large tribes of
the Pacific archipelagoes. In short, we do not know one single
human race or one single nation which has not had its period of
village communities. This fact alone disposes of the theory
according to which the village community in Europe would have
been a servile growth. It is anterior to serfdom, and even
servile submission was powerless to break it. It was a universal
phase of evolution, a natural outcome of the clan organization,
with all those stems, at least, which have played, or play still,
some part in history.(4)

It was a natural growth, and an absolute uniformity in its
structure was therefore not possible. As a rule, it was a union
between families considered as of common descent and owning a
certain territory in common. But with some stems, and under
certain circumstances, the families used to grow very numerous
before they threw off new buds in the shape of new families;
five, six, or seven generations continued to live under the same
roof, or within the same enclosure, owning their joint household
and cattle in common, and taking their meals at the common
hearth. They kept in such case to what ethnology knows as the
"joint family," or the "undivided household," which we still see
all over China, in India, in the South Slavonian zadruga, and
occasionally find in Africa, in America, in Denmark, in North
Russia, and West France.(5) With other stems, or in other
circumstances, not yet well specified, the families did not
attain the same proportions; the grandsons, and occasionally the
sons, left the household as soon as they were married, and each
of them started a new cell of his own. But, joint or not,
clustered together or scattered in the woods, the families
remained united into village communities; several villages were
grouped into tribes; and the tribes joined into confederations.
Such was the social organization which developed among the
so-called "barbarians," when they began to settle more or less
permanently in Europe.

A very long evolution was required before the gentes, or
clans, recognized the separate existence of a patriarchal family
in a separate hut; but even after that had been recognized, the
clan, as a rule, knew no personal inheritance of property. The
few things which might have belonged personally to the individual
were either destroyed on his grave or buried with him. The
village community, on the contrary, fully recognized the private
accumulation of wealth within the family and its hereditary
transmission. But wealth was conceived exclusively in the shape
of movable property, including cattle, implements, arms, and the
dwelling house which--"like all things that can be destroyed by
fire"--belonged to the same category(6). As to private
property in land, the village community did not, and could not,
recognize anything of the kind, and, as a rule, it does not
recognize it now. The land was the common property of the tribe,
or of the whole stem, and the village community itself owned its
part of the tribal territory so long only as the tribe did not
claim a re-distribution of the village allotments. The clearing
of the woods and the breaking of the prairies being mostly done
by the communities or, at least, by the joint work of several
families--always with the consent of the community--the
cleared plots were held by each family for a term of four,
twelve, or twenty years, after which term they were treated as
parts of the arable land owned in common. Private property, or
possession "for ever" was as incompatible, with the very
principles and the religious conceptions of the village community
as it was with the principles of the gens; so that a long
influence of the Roman law and the Christian Church, which soon
accepted the Roman principles, were required to accustom the
barbarians to the idea of private property in land being
possible.(7) And yet, even when such property, or possession for
an unlimited time, was recognized, the owner of a separate estate
remained a co-proprietor in the waste lands, forests, and
grazing-grounds. Moreover, we continually see, especially in the
history of Russia, that when a few families, acting separately,
had taken possession of some land belonging to tribes which were
treated as strangers, they very soon united together, and
constituted a village community which in the third or fourth
generation began to profess a community of origin.

A whole series of institutions, partly inherited from the
clan period, have developed from that basis of common ownership
of land during the long succession of centuries which was
required to bring the barbarians under the dominion of States
organized upon the Roman or Byzantine pattern. The village
community was not only a union for guaranteeing to each one his
fair. share in the common land, but also a union for common
culture, for mutual support in all possible forms, for protection
from violence, and for a further development of knowledge,
national bonds, and moral conceptions; and every change in the
judicial, military, educational, or economical manners had to be
decided at the folkmotes of the village, the tribe, or the
confederation. The community being a continuation of the gens, it
inherited all its functions. It was the universitas, the mir--a
world in itself.

Common hunting, common fishing, and common culture of the
orchards or the plantations of fruit trees was the rule with the
old gentes. Common agriculture became the rule in the barbarian
village communities. True, that direct testimony to this effect
is scarce, and in the literature of antiquity we only have the
passages of Diodorus and Julius Caesar relating to the
inhabitants of the Lipari Islands, one of the Celt-Iberian
tribes, and the Sueves. But there is no lack of evidence to prove
that common agriculture was practised among some Teuton tribes,
the Franks, and the old Scotch, Irish, and Welsh.(8) As to the
later survivals of the same practice, they simply are countless.
Even in perfectly Romanized France, common culture was habitual
some five and twenty years ago in the Morbihan (Brittany).(9)
The old Welsh cyvar, or joint team, as well as the common culture
of the land allotted to the use of the village sanctuary are
quite common among the tribes of Caucasus the least touched by
civilization,(10) and like facts are of daily occurrence among
the Russian peasants. Moreover, it is well known that many tribes
of Brazil, Central America, and Mexico used to cultivate their
fields in common, and that the same habit is widely spread among
some Malayans, in New Caledonia, with several Negro stems, and so
on.(11) In short, communal culture is so habitual with many
Aryan, Ural-Altayan, Mongolian, Negro, Red Indian, Malayan, and
Melanesian stems that we must consider it as a universal--
though not as the only possible--form of primitive

Communal cultivation does not, however, imply by necessity
communal consumption. Already under the clan organization we
often see that when the boats laden with fruits or fish return to
the village, the food they bring in is divided among the huts and
the "long houses" inhabited by either several families or the
youth, and is cooked separately at each separate hearth. The
habit of taking meals in a narrower circle of relatives or
associates thus prevails at an early period of clan life. It
became the rule in the village community. Even the food grown in
common was usually divided between the households after part of
it had been laid in store for communal use. However, the
tradition of communal meals was piously kept alive; every
available opportunity, such as the commemoration of the
ancestors, the religious festivals, the beginning and the end of
field work, the births, the marriages, and the funerals, being
seized upon to bring the community to a common meal. Even now
this habit, well known in this country as the "harvest supper,"
is the last to disappear. On the other hand, even when the fields
had long since ceased to be tilled and sown in common, a variety
of agricultural work continued, and continues still, to be
performed by the community. Some part of the communal land is
still cultivated in many cases in common, either for the use of
the destitute, or for refilling the communal stores, or for using
the produce at the religious festivals. The irrigation canals are
digged and repaired in common. The communal meadows are mown by
the community; and the sight of a Russian commune mowing a meadow--
the men rivalling each other in their advance with the scythe,
while the women turn the grass over and throw it up into heaps--
is one of the most inspiring sights; it shows what human work
might be and ought to be. The hay, in such case, is divided among
the separate households, and it is evident that no one has the
right of taking hay from a neighbour's stack without his
permission; but the limitation of this last rule among the
Caucasian Ossetes is most noteworthy. When the cuckoo cries and
announces that spring is coming, and that the meadows will soon
be clothed again with grass, every one in need has the right of
taking from a neighbour's stack the hay he wants for his
cattle.(13) The old communal rights are thus re-asserted, as if
to prove how contrary unbridled individualism is to human nature.

When the European traveller lands in some small island of the
Pacific, and, seeing at a distance a grove of palm trees, walks
in that direction, he is astonished to discover that the little
villages are connected by roads paved with big stones, quite
comfortable for the unshod natives, and very similar to the "old
roads" of the Swiss mountains. Such roads were traced by the
"barbarians" all over Europe, and one must have travelled in
wild, thinly-peopled countries, far away from the chief lines of
communication, to realize in full the immense work that must have
been performed by the barbarian communities in order to conquer
the woody and marshy wilderness which Europe was some two
thousand years ago. Isolated families, having no tools, and weak
as they were, could not have conquered it; the wilderness would
have overpowered them. Village communities alone, working in
common, could master the wild forests, the sinking marshes, and
the endless steppes. The rough roads, the ferries, the wooden
bridges taken away in the winter and rebuilt after the spring
flood was over, the fences and the palisaded walls of the
villages, the earthen forts and the small towers with which the
territory was dottedall these were the work of the barbarian
communities. And when a community grew numerous it used to throw
off a new bud. A new community arose at a distance, thus step by
step bringing the woods and the steppes Under the dominion of
man. The whole making of European nations was such a budding of
the village communities. Even now-a-days the Russian peasants, if
they are not quite broken down by misery, migrate in communities,
and they till the soil and build the houses in com mon when they
settle on the banks of the Amur, or in Manitoba. And even the
English, when they first began to colonize America, used to
return to the old system; they grouped into village

The village community was the chief arm of the barbarians in
their hard struggle against a hostile nature. It also was the
bond they opposed to oppression by the cunningest and the
strongest which so easily might have developed during those
disturbed times. The imaginary barbarian--the man who fights
and kills at his mere caprice--existed no more than the
"bloodthirsty" savage. The real barbarian was living, on the
contrary, under a wide series of institutions, imbued with
considerations as to what may be useful or noxious to his tribe
or confederation, and these institutions were piously handed down
from generation to generation in verses and songs, in proverbs or
triads, in sentences and instructions. The more we study them the
more we recognize the narrow bonds which united men in their
villages. Every quarrel arising between two individuals was
treated as a communal affair--even the offensive words that
might have been uttered during a quarrel being considered as an
offence to the community and its ancestors. They had to be
repaired by amends made both to the individual and the
community;(15) and if a quarrel ended in a fight and wounds, the
man who stood by and did not interpose was treated as if he
himself had inflicted the wounds.(16) The judicial procedure was
imbued with the same spirit. Every dispute was brought first
before mediators or arbiters, and it mostly ended with them, the
arbiters playing a very important part in barbarian society. But
if the case was too grave to be settled in this way, it came
before the folkmote, which was bound "to find the sentence," and
pronounced it in a conditional form; that is, "such compensation
was due, if the wrong be proved," and the wrong had to be proved
or disclaimed by six or twelve persons confirming or denying the
fact by oath; ordeal being resorted to in case of contradiction
between the two sets of jurors. Such procedure, which remained in
force for more than two thousand years in succession, speaks
volumes for itself; it shows how close were the bonds between all
members of the community. Moreover, there was no other authority
to enforce the decisions of the folkmote besides its own moral
authority. The only possible menace was that the community might
declare the rebel an outlaw, but even this menace was reciprocal.
A man discontented with the folkmote could declare that he would
abandon the tribe and go over to another tribe--a most dreadful
menace, as it was sure to bring all kinds of misfortunes upon a
tribe that might have been unfair to one of its members.(17) A
rebellion against a right decision of the customary law was
simply "inconceivable," as Henry Maine has so well said, because
"law, morality, and fact" could not be separated from each other
in those times.(18) The moral authority of the commune was so
great that even at a much later epoch, when the village
communities fell into submission to the feudal lord, they
maintained their judicial powers; they only permitted the lord,
or his deputy, to "find" the above conditional sentence in
accordance with the customary law he had sworn to follow, and to
levy for himself the fine (the fred) due to the commune. But for
a long time, the lord himself, if he remained a co-proprietor in
the waste land of the commune, submitted in communal affairs to
its decisions. Noble or ecclesiastic, he had to submit to the
folkmote--Wer daselbst Wasser und Weid genusst, muss gehorsam
sein--"Who enjoys here the right of water and pasture must
obey"--was the old saying. Even when the peasants became serfs
under the lord, he was bound to appear before the folkmote when
they summoned him.(19)

In their conceptions of justice the barbarians evidently did
not much differ from the savages. They also maintained the idea
that a murder must be followed by putting the murderer to death;
that wounds had to be punished by equal wounds, and that the
wronged family was bound to fulfil the sentence of the customary
law. This was a holy duty, a duty towards the ancestors, which
had to be accomplished in broad daylight, never in secrecy, and
rendered widely known. Therefore the most inspired passages of
the sagas and epic poetry altogether are those which glorify what
was supposed to be justice. The gods themselves joined in aiding
it. However, the predominant feature of barbarian justice is, on
the one hand, to limit the numbers of persons who may be involved
in a feud, and, on the other hand, to extirpate the brutal idea
of blood for blood and wounds for wounds, by substituting for it
the system of compensation. The barbarian codes which were
collections of common law rules written down for the use of
judges--"first permitted, then encouraged, and at last
enforced," compensation instead of revenge.(20) The compensation
has, however, been totally misunderstood by those who represented
it as a fine, and as a sort of carte blanche given to the rich
man to do whatever he liked. The compensation money (wergeld),
which was quite different from the fine or fred,(21) was
habitually so high for all kinds of active offences that it
certainly was no encouragement for such offences. In case of a
murder it usually exceeded all the possible fortune of the
murderer "Eighteen times eighteen cows" is the compensation with
the Ossetes who do not know how to reckon above eighteen, while
with the African tribes it attains 800 cows or 100 camels with
their young, or 416 sheep in the poorer tribes.(22) In the great
majority of cases, the compensation money could not be paid at
all, so that the murderer had no issue but to induce the wronged
family, by repentance, to adopt him. Even now, in the Caucasus,
when feuds come to an end, the offender touches with his lips the
breast of the oldest woman of the tribe, and becomes a
"milk-brother" to all men of the wronged family.(23) With
several African tribes he must give his daughter, or sister, in
marriage to some one of the family; with other tribes he is bound
to marry the woman whom he has made a widow; and in all cases he
becomes a member of the family, whose opinion is taken in all
important family matters.(24)

Far from acting with disregard to human life, the barbarians,
moreover, knew nothing of the horrid punishments introduced at a
later epoch by the laic and canonic laws under Roman and
Byzantine influence. For, if the Saxon code admitted the death
penalty rather freely even in cases of incendiarism and armed
robbery, the other barbarian codes pronounced it exclusively in
cases of betrayal of one's kin, and sacrilege against the
community's gods, as the only means to appease the gods.

All this, as seen is very far from the supposed "moral
dissoluteness" of the barbarians. On the contrary, we cannot but
admire the deeply moral principles elaborated within the early
village communities which found their expression in Welsh triads,
in legends about King Arthur, in Brehon commentaries,(25) in old
German legends and so on, or find still their expression in the
sayings of the modern barbarians. In his introduction to The
Story of Burnt Njal, George Dasent very justly sums up as follows
the qualities of a Northman, as they appear in the sagas:--

To do what lay before him openly and like a man, without fear
of either foes, fiends, or fate;... to be free and daring in all
his deeds; to be gentle and generous to his friends and kinsmen;
to be stern and grim to his foes [those who are under the lex
talionis], but even towards them to fulfil all bounden duties....
To be no truce-breaker, nor tale-bearer, nor backbiter. To utter
nothing against any man that he would not dare to tell him to his
face. To turn no man from his door who sought food or shelter,
even though he were a foe.(26)

The same or still better principles permeate the Welsh epic
poetry and triads. To act "according to the nature of mildness
and the principles of equity," without regard to the foes or to
the friends, and "to repair the wrong," are the highest duties of
man; "evil is death, good is life," exclaims the poet
legislator.(27) "The World would be fool, if agreements made on
lips were not honourable"--the Brehon law says. And the humble
Shamanist Mordovian, after having praised the same qualities,
will add, moreover, in his principles of customary law, that
"among neighbours the cow and the milking-jar are in common."
that, "the cow must be milked for yourself and him who may ask
milk;" that "the body of a child reddens from the stroke, but the
face of him who strikes reddens from shame;"(28) and so on. Many
pages might be filled with like principles expressed and followed
by the "barbarians."

One feature more of the old village communities deserves a
special mention. It is the gradual extension of the circle of men
embraced by the feelings of solidarity. Not only the tribes
federated into stems, but the stems as well, even though of
different origin, joined together in confederations. Some unions
were so close that, for instance, the Vandals, after part of
their confederation had left for the Rhine, and thence went over
to Spain and Africa, respected for forty consecutive years the
landmarks and the abandoned villages of their confederates, and
did not take possession of them until they had ascertained
through envoys that their confederates did not intend to return.
With other barbarians, the soil was cultivated by one part of the
stem, while the other part fought on or beyond the frontiers of
the common territory. As to the leagues between several stems,
they were quite habitual. The Sicambers united with the
Cherusques and the Sueves, the Quades with the Sarmates; the
Sarmates with the Alans, the Carpes, and the Huns. Later on, we
also see the conception of nations gradually developing in
Europe, long before anything like a State had grown in any part
of the continent occupied by the barbarians. These nations--for
it is impossible to refuse the name of a nation to the
Merovingian France, or to the Russia of the eleventh and twelfth
century--were nevertheless kept together by nothing else but a
community of language, and a tacit agreement of the small
republics to take their dukes from none but one special family.

Wars were certainly unavoidable; migration means war; but Sir
Henry Maine has already fully proved in his remarkable study of
the tribal origin of International Law, that "Man has never been
so ferocious or so stupid as to submit to such an evil as war
without some kind of effort to prevent it," and he has shown how
exceedingly great is "the number of ancient institutions which
bear the marks of a design to stand in the way of war, or to
provide an alternative to it."(29) In reality, man is so far
from the warlike being he is supposed to be, that when the
barbarians had once settled they so rapidly lost the very habits
of warfare that very soon they were compelled to keep special
dukes followed by special scholae or bands of warriors, in order
to protect them from possible intruders. They preferred peaceful
toil to war, the very peacefulness of man being the cause of the
specialization of the warrior's trade, which specialization
resulted later on in serfdom and in all the wars of the "States
period" of human history.

History finds great difficulties in restoring to life the
institutions of the barbarians. At every step the historian meets
with some faint indication which he is unable to explain with the
aid of his own documents only. But a broad light is thrown on the
past as soon as we refer to the institutions of the very numerous
tribes which are still living under a social organization almost
identical with that of our barbarian ancestors. Here we simply
have the difficulty of choice, because the islands of the
Pacific, the steppes of Asia, and the tablelands of Africa are
real historical museums containing specimens of all possible
intermediate stages which mankind has lived through, when passing
from the savage gentes up to the States' organization. Let us,
then, examine a few of those specimens.

If we take the village communities of the Mongol Buryates,
especially those of the Kudinsk Steppe on the upper Lena which
have better escaped Russian influence, we have fair
representatives of barbarians in a transitional state, between
cattle-breeding and agriculture.(30) These Buryates are still
living in "joint families"; that is, although each son, when he
is married, goes to live in a separate hut, the huts of at least
three generations remain within the same enclosure, and the joint
family work in common in their fields, and own in common their
joint households and their cattle, as well as their "calves'
grounds" (small fenced patches of soil kept under soft grass for
the rearing of calves). As a rule, the meals are taken separately
in each hut; but when meat is roasted, all the twenty to sixty
members of the joint household feast together. Several joint
households which live in a cluster, as well as several smaller
families settled in the same village--mostly debris of joint
households accidentally broken up--make the oulous, or the
village community. several oulouses make a tribe; and the,
forty-six tribes, or clans, of the Kudinsk Steppe are united into
one confederation. Smaller and closer confederations are entered
into, as necessity arises for special wants, by several tribes.
They know no private property in land--the land being held in
common by the oulous, or rather by the confederation, and if it
becomes necessary, the territory is re-allotted between the
different oulouses at a folkmote of the tribe, and between the
forty-six tribes at a folkmote of the confederation. It is worthy
of note that the same organization prevails among all the 250,000
Buryates of East Siberia, although they have been for three
centuries under Russian rule, and are well acquainted with
Russian institutions.

With all that, inequalities of fortune rapidly develop among
the Buryates, especially since the Russian Government is giving
an exaggerated importance to their elected taishas (princes),
whom it considers as responsible tax-collectors and
representatives of the confederations in their administrative and
even commercial relations with the Russians. The channels for the
enrichment of the few are thus many, while the impoverishment of
the great number goes hand in hand, through the appropriation of
the Buryate lands by the Russians. But it is a habit with the
Buryates, especially those of Kudinsk--and habit is more than
law--that if a family has lost its cattle, the richer families
give it some cows and horses that it may recover. As to the
destitute man who has no family, he takes his meals in the huts
of his congeners; he enters a hut, takes--by right, not for
charity--his seat by the fire, and shares the meal which always
is scrupulously divided into equal parts; he sleeps where he has
taken his evening meal. Altogether, the Russian conquerors of
Siberia were so much struck by the communistic practices of the
Buryates, that they gave them the name of Bratskiye--"the
Brotherly Ones"--and reported to Moscow. "With them everything
is in common; whatever they have is shared in common." Even now,
when the Lena Buryates sell their wheat, or send some of their
cattle to be sold to a Russian butcher, the families of the
oulous, or the tribe, put their wheat and cattle together, and
sell it as a whole. Each oulous has, moreover, its grain store
for loans in case of need, its communal baking oven (the four
banal of the old French communities), and its blacksmith, who,
like the blacksmith of the Indian communities,(31) being a
member of the community, is never paid for his work within the
community. He must make it for nothing, and if he utilizes his
spare time for fabricating the small plates of chiselled and
silvered iron which are used in Buryate land for the decoration
of dress, he may occasionally sell them to a woman from another
clan, but to the women of his own clan the attire is presented as
a gift. Selling and buying cannot take place within the
community, and the rule is so severe that when a richer family
hires a labourer the labourer must be taken from another clan or
from among the Russians. This habit is evidently not specific to
the Buryates; it is so widely spread among the modern barbarians,
Aryan and Ural-Altayan, that it must have been universal among
our ancestors.

The feeling of union within the confederation is kept alive
by the common interests of the tribes, their folkmotes, and the
festivities which are usually kept in connection with the
folkmotes. The same feeling is, however, maintained by another
institution, the aba, or common hunt, which is a reminiscence of
a very remote past. Every autumn, the forty-six clans of Kudinsk
come together for such a hunt, the produce of which is divided
among all the families. Moreover, national abas, to assert the
unity of the whole Buryate nation, are convoked from time to
time. In such cases, all Buryate clans which are scattered for
hundreds of miles west and east of Lake Baikal, are bound to send
their delegate hunters. Thousands of men come together, each one
bringing provisions for a whole month. Every one's share must be
equal to all the others, and therefore, before being put
together, they are weighed by an elected elder (always "with the
hand": scales would be a profanation of the old custom). After
that the hunters divide into bands of twenty, and the parties go
hunting according to a well-settled plan. In such abas the entire
Buryate nation revives its epic traditions of a time when it was
united in a powerful league. Let me add that such communal hunts
are quite usual with the Red Indians and the Chinese on the banks
of the Usuri (the kada).(32)

With the Kabyles, whose manners of life have been so well
described by two French explorers,(33) we have barbarians still
more advanced in agriculture. Their fields, irrigated and
manured, are well attended to, and in the hilly tracts every
available plot of land is cultivated by the spade. The Kabyles
have known many vicissitudes in their history; they have followed
for sometime the Mussulman law of inheritance, but, being adverse
to it, they have returned, 150 years ago, to the tribal customary
law of old. Accordingly, their land-tenure is of a mixed
character, and private property in land exists side by side with
communal possession. Still, the basis of their present
organization is the village community, the thaddart, which
usually consists of several joint families (kharoubas), claiming
a community of origin, as well as of smaller families of
strangers. Several villages are grouped into clans or tribes
(arch); several tribes make the confederation (thak'ebilt); and
several confederations may occasionally enter into a league,
chiefly for purposes of armed defence.

The Kabyles know no authority whatever besides that of the
djemmaa, or folkmote of the village community. All men of age
take part in it, in the open air, or in a special building
provided with stone seats. and the decisions of the djemmaa are
evidently taken at unanimity: that is, the discussions continue
until all present agree to accept, or to submit to, some
decision. There being no authority in a village community to
impose a decision, this system has been practised by mankind
wherever there have been village communities, and it is practised
still wherever they continue to exist, i.e. by several hundred
million men all over the world. The djemmaa nominates its
executive--the elder, the scribe, and the treasurer; it
assesses its own taxes; and it manages the repartition of the
common lands, as well as all kinds of works of public utility. A
great deal of work is done in common: the roads, the mosques, the
fountains, the irrigation canals, the towers erected for
protection from robbers, the fences, and so on, are built by the
village community; while the high-roads, the larger mosques, and
the great market-places are the work of the tribe. Many traces of
common culture continue to exist, and the houses continue to be
built by, or with the aid of, all men and women of the village.
Altogether, the "aids" are of daily occurrence, and are
continually called in for the cultivation of the fields, for
harvesting, and so on. As to the skilled work, each community has
its blacksmith, who enjoys his part of the communal land, and
works for the community; when the tilling season approaches he
visits every house, and repairs the tools and the ploughs,
without expecting any pay, while the making of new ploughs is
considered as a pious work which can by no means be recompensed
in money, or by any other form of salary.

As the Kabyles already have private property, they evidently
have both rich and poor among them. But like all people who
closely live together, and know how poverty begins, they consider
it as an accident which may visit every one. "Don't say that you
will never wear the beggar's bag, nor go to prison," is a proverb
of the Russian peasants; the Kabyles practise it, and no
difference can be detected in the external behaviour between rich
and poor; when the poor convokes an "aid," the rich man works in
his field, just as the poor man does it reciprocally in his
turn.(34) Moreover, the djemmaas set aside certain gardens and
fields, sometimes cultivated in common, for the use of the
poorest members. Many like customs continue to exist. As the
poorer families would not be able to buy meat, meat is regularly
bought with the money of the fines, or the gifts to the djemmaa,
or the payments for the use of the communal olive-oil basins, and
it is distributed in equal parts among those who cannot afford
buying meat themselves. And when a sheep or a bullock is killed
by a family for its own use on a day which is not a market day,
the fact is announced in the streets by the village crier, in
order that sick people and pregnant women may take of it what
they want. Mutual support permeates the life of the Kabyles, and
if one of them, during a journey abroad, meets with another
Kabyle in need, he is bound to come to his aid, even at the risk
of his own fortune and life; if this has not been done, the
djemmaa of the man who has suffered from such neglect may lodge a
complaint, and the djemmaa of the selfish man will at once make
good the loss. We thus come across a custom which is familiar to
the students of the mediaeval merchant guilds. Every stranger who
enters a Kabyle village has right to housing in the winter, and
his horses can always graze on the communal lands for twenty-four
hours. But in case of need he can reckon upon an almost unlimited
support. Thus, during the famine of 1867-68, the Kabyles received
and fed every one who sought refuge in their villages, without
distinction of origin. In the district of Dellys, no less than
12,000 people who came from all parts of Algeria, and even from
Morocco, were fed in this way. While people died from starvation
all over Algeria, there was not one single case of death due to
this cause on Kabylian soil. The djemmaas, depriving themselves
of necessaries, organized relief, without ever asking any aid
from the Government, or uttering the slightest complaint; they
considered it as a natural duty. And while among the European
settlers all kind of police measures were taken to prevent thefts
and disorder resulting from such an influx of strangers, nothing
of the kind was required on the Kabyles' territory: the djemmaas
needed neither aid nor protection from without.(35)

I can only cursorily mention two other most interesting
features of Kabyle life; namely, the anaya, or protection granted
to wells, canals, mosques, marketplaces, some roads, and so on,
in case of war, and the cofs. In the anaya we have a series of
institutions both for diminishing the evils of war and for
preventing conflicts. Thus the market-place is anaya, especially
if it stands on a frontier and brings Kabyles and strangers
together; no one dares disturb peace in the market, and if a
disturbance arises, it is quelled at once by the strangers who
have gathered in the market town. The road upon which the women
go from the village to the fountain also is anaya in case of war;
and so on. As to the cof it is a widely spread form of
association, having some characters of the mediaeval Burgschaften
or Gegilden, as well as of societies both for mutual protection
and for various purposes--intellectual, political, and
emotional--which cannot be satisfied by the territorial
organization of the village, the clan, and the con federation.
The cof knows no territorial limits; it recruits its members in
various villages, even among strangers; and it protects them in
all possible eventualities of life. Altogether, it is an attempt
at supplementing the territorial grouping by an extra-territorial
grouping intended to give an expression to mutual affinities of
all kinds across the frontiers. The free international
association of individual tastes and ideas, which we consider as
one of the best features of our own life, has thus its origin in
barbarian antiquity.

The mountaineers of Caucasia offer another extremely
instructive field for illustrations of the same kind. In studying
the present customs of the Ossetes--their joint families and
communes and their judiciary conceptions--Professor Kovalevsky,
in a remarkable work on Modern Custom and Ancient Law was enabled
step by step to trace the similar dispositions of the old
barbarian codes and even to study the origins of feudalism. With
other Caucasian stems we occasionally catch a glimpse into the
origin of the village community in those cases where it was not
tribal but originated from a voluntary union between families of
distinct origin. Such was recently the case with some Khevsoure
villages, the inhabitants of which took the oath of "community
and fraternity."(36) In another part of Caucasus, Daghestan, we
see the growth of feudal relations between two tribes, both
maintaining at the same time their village communities (and even
traces of the gentile "classes"), and thus giving a living
illustration of the forms taken by the conquest of Italy and Gaul
by the barbarians. The victorious race, the Lezghines, who have
conquered several Georgian and Tartar villages in the Zakataly
district, did not bring them under the dominion of separate
families; they constituted a feudal clan which now includes
12,000 households in three villages, and owns in common no less
than twenty Georgian and Tartar villages. The conquerors divided
their own land among their clans, and the clans divided it in
equal parts among the families; but they did not interfere with
the djemmaas of their tributaries which still practise the habit
mentioned by Julius Caesar; namely, the djemmaa decides each year
which part of the communal territory must be cultivated, and this
land is divided into as many parts as there are families, and the
parts are distributed by lot. It is worthy of note that although
proletarians are of common occurrence among the Lezghines (who
live under a system of private property in land, and common
ownership of serfs(37)) they are rare among their Georgian
serfs, who continue to hold their land in common. As to the
customary law of the Caucasian mountaineers, it is much the same
as that of the Longobards or Salic Franks, and several of its
dispositions explain a good deal the judicial procedure of the
barbarians of old. Being of a very impressionable character, they
do their best to prevent quarrels from taking a fatal issue; so,
with the Khevsoures, the swords are very soon drawn when a
quarrel breaks out; but if a woman rushes out and throws among
them the piece of linen which she wears on her head, the swords
are at once returned to their sheaths, and the quarrel is
appeased. The head-dress of the women is anaya. If a quarrel has
not been stopped in time and has ended in murder, the
compensation money is so considerable that the aggressor is
entirely ruined for his life, unless he is adopted by the wronged
family; and if he has resorted to his sword in a trifling quarrel
and has inflicted wounds, he loses for ever the consideration of
his kin. In all disputes, mediators take the matter in hand; they
select from among the members of the clan the judges--six in
smaller affairs, and from ten to fifteen in more serious matters--
and Russian observers testify to the absolute incorruptibility
of the judges. An oath has such a significance that men enjoying
general esteem are dispensed from taking it: a simple affirmation
is quite sufficient, the more so as in grave affairs the
Khevsoure never hesitates to recognize his guilt (I mean, of
course, the Khevsoure untouched yet by civilization). The oath is
chiefly reserved for such cases, like disputes about property,
which require some sort of appreciation in addition to a simple
statement of facts; and in such cases the men whose affirmation
will decide in the dispute, act with the greatest circumspection.
Altogether it is certainly not a want of honesty or of respect to
the rights of the congeners which characterizes the barbarian
societies of Caucasus.

The stems of Africa offer such an immense variety of
extremely interesting societies standing at all intermediate
stages from the early village community to the despotic barbarian
monarchies that I must abandon the idea of giving here even the
chief results of a comparative study of their institutions.(38)
Suffice it to say, that, even under the most horrid despotism of
kings, the folkmotes of the village communities and their
customary law remain sovereign in a wide circle of affairs. The
law of the State allows the king to take any one's life for a
simple caprice, or even for simply satisfying his gluttony; but
the customary law of the people continues to maintain the same
network of institutions for mutual support which exist among
other barbarians or have existed among our ancestors. And with
some better-favoured stems (in Bornu, Uganda, Abyssinia), and
especially the Bogos, some of the dispositions of the customary
law are inspired with really graceful and delicate feelings.

The village communities of the natives of both Americas have
the same character. The Tupi of Brazil were found living in "long
houses" occupied by whole clans which used to cultivate their
corn and manioc fields in common. The Arani, much more advanced
in civilization, used to cultivate their fields in common; so
also the Oucagas, who had learned under their system of primitive
communism and "long houses" to build good roads and to carry on a
variety of domestic industries,(39) not inferior to those of the
early medieval times in Europe. All of them were also living
under the same customary law of which we have given specimens on
the preceding pages. At another extremity of the world we find
the Malayan feudalism, but this feudalism has been powerless to
unroot the negaria, or village community, with its common
ownership of at least part of the land, and the redistribution of
land among the several negarias of the tribe.(40) With the
Alfurus of Minahasa we find the communal rotation of the crops;
with the Indian stem of the Wyandots we have the periodical
redistribution of land within the tribe, and the clan-culture of
the soil; and in all those parts of Sumatra where Moslem
institutions have not yet totally destroyed the old organization
we find the joint family (suka) and the village community (kota)
which maintains its right upon the land, even if part of it has
been cleared without its authorization.(41) But to say this, is
to say that all customs for mutual protection and prevention of
feuds and wars, which have been briefly indicated in the
preceding pages as characteristic of the village community, exist
as well. More than that: the more fully the communal possession
of land has been maintained, the better and the gentler are the
habits. De Stuers positively affirms that wherever the
institution of the village community has been less encroached
upon by the conquerors, the inequalities of fortunes are smaller,
and the very prescriptions of the lex talionis are less cruel;
while, on the contrary, wherever the village community has been
totally broken up, "the inhabitants suffer the most unbearable
oppression from their despotic rulers."(42) This is quite
natural. And when Waitz made the remark that those stems which
have maintained their tribal confederations stand on a higher
level of development and have a richer literature than those
stems which have forfeited the old bonds of union, he only
pointed out what might have been foretold in advance.

More illustrations would simply involve me in tedious
repetitions--so strikingly similar are the barbarian societies
under all climates and amidst all races. The same process of
evolution has been going on in mankind with a wonderful
similarity. When the clan organization, assailed as it was from
within by the separate family, and from without by the
dismemberment of the migrating clans and the necessity of taking
in strangers of different descent--the village community, based
upon a territorial conception, came into existence. This new
institution, which had naturally grown out of the preceding one--
the clan--permitted the barbarians to pass through a most
disturbed period of history without being broken into isolated
families which would have succumbed in the struggle for life. New
forms of culture developed under the new organization;
agriculture attained the stage which it hardly has surpassed
until now with the great number; the domestic industries reached
a high degree of perfection. The wilderness was conquered, it was
intersected by roads, dotted with swarms thrown off by the
mother-communities. Markets and fortified centres, as well as
places of public worship, were erected. The conceptions of a
wider union, extended to whole stems and to several stems of
various origin, were slowly elaborated. The old conceptions of
justice which were conceptions of mere revenge, slowly underwent
a deep modification--the idea of amends for the wrong done
taking the place of revenge. The customary law which still makes
the law of the daily life for two-thirds or more of mankind, was
elaborated under that organization, as well as a system of habits
intended to prevent the oppression of the masses by the
minorities whose powers grew in proportion to the growing
facilities for private accumulation of wealth. This was the new
form taken by the tendencies of the masses for mutual support.
And the progress--economical, intellectual, and moral--which
mankind accomplished under this new popular form of organization,
was so great that the States, when they were called later on into
existence, simply took possession, in the interest of the
minorities, of all the judicial, economical, and administrative
functions which the village community already had exercised in
the interest of all.


1. Numberless traces of post-pliocene lakes, now disappeared, are
found over Central, West, and North Asia. Shells of the same
species as those now found in the Caspian Sea are scattered over
the surface of the soil as far East as half-way to Lake Aral, and
are found in recent deposits as far north as Kazan. Traces of
Caspian Gulfs, formerly taken for old beds of the Amu, intersect
the Turcoman territory. Deduction must surely be made for
temporary, periodical oscillations. But with all that,
desiccation is evident, and it progresses at a formerly
unexpected speed. Even in the relatively wet parts of South-West
Siberia, the succession of reliable surveys, recently published
by Yadrintseff, shows that villages have grown up on what was,
eighty years ago, the bottom of one of the lakes of the Tchany
group; while the other lakes of the same group, which covered
hundreds of square miles some fifty years ago, are now mere
ponds. In short, the desiccation of North-West Asia goes on at a
rate which must be measured by centuries, instead of by the
geological units of time of which we formerly used to speak.

2. Whole civilizations had thus disappeared, as is proved now by
the remarkable discoveries in Mongolia on the Orkhon and in the
Lukchun depression (by Dmitri Clements).

3. If I follow the opinions of (to name modern specialists only)
Nasse, Kovalevsky, and Vinogradov, and not those of Mr. Seebohm
(Mr. Denman Ross can only be named for the sake of completeness),
it is not only because of the deep knowledge and concordance of
views of these three writers, but also on account of their
perfect knowledge of the village community altogether--a
knowledge the want of which is much felt in the otherwise
remarkable work of Mr. Seebohm. The same remark applies, in a
still higher degree, to the most elegant writings of Fustel de
Coulanges, whose opinions and passionate interpretations of old
texts are confined to himself.

4. The literature of the village community is so vast that but a
few works can be named. Those of Sir Henry Maine, Mr. Seebohm,
and Walter's Das alte Wallis (Bonn, 1859), are well-known popular
sources of information about Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. For
France, P. Viollet, Precis de l'histoire du droit francais. Droit
prive, 1886, and several of his monographs in Bibl. de l'Ecole
des Chartes; Babeau, Le Village sous l'ancien regime (the mir in
the eighteenth century), third edition, 1887; Bonnemere, Doniol,
etc. For Italy and Scandinavia, the chief works are named in
Laveleye's Primitive Property, German version by K. Bucher. For
the Finns, Rein's Forelasningar, i. 16; Koskinen, Finnische
Geschichte, 1874, and various monographs. For the Lives and
Coures, Prof. Lutchitzky in Severnyi Vestnil, 1891. For the
Teutons, besides the well-known works of Maurer, Sohm
(Altdeutsche Reichsund Gerichts-Verfassung), also Dahn
(Urzeit, Volkerwanderung, Langobardische Studien), Janssen, Wilh.
Arnold, etc. For India, besides H. Maine and the works he names,
Sir John Phear's Aryan Village. For Russia and South Slavonians,
see Kavelin, Posnikoff, Sokolovsky, Kovalevsky, Efimenko,
Ivanisheff, Klaus, etc. (copious bibliographical index up to 1880
in the Sbornik svedeniy ob obschinye of the Russ. Geog. Soc.).
For general conclusions, besides Laveleye's Propriete, Morgan's
Ancient Society, Lippert's Kulturgeschichte, Post, Dargun, etc.,
also the lectures of M. Kovalevsky (Tableau des origines et de
l'evolution de la famille et de la propriete, Stockholm, 1890).
Many special monographs ought to be mentioned; their titles may
be found in the excellent lists given by P. Viollet in Droit
prive and Droit public. For other races, see subsequent notes.

5. Several authorities are inclined to consider the joint
household as an intermediate stage between the clan and the
village community; and there is no doubt that in very many cases
village communities have grown up out of undivided families.
Nevertheless, I consider the joint household as a fact of a
different order. We find it within the gentes; on the other hand,
we cannot affirm that joint families have existed at any period
without belonging either to a gens or to a village community, or
to a Gau. I conceive the early village communities as slowly
originating directly from the gentes, and consisting, according
to racial and local circumstances, either of several joint
families, or of both joint and simple families, or (especially in
the case of new settlements) of simple families only. If this
view be correct, we should not have the right of establishing the
series: gens, compound family, village community--the second
member of the series having not the same ethnological value as
the two others. See Appendix IX.

6. Stobbe, Beitrag zur Geschichte des deutschen Rechtes, p. 62.

7. The few traces of private property in land which are met with
in the early barbarian period are found with such stems (the
Batavians, the Franks in Gaul) as have been for a time under the
influence of Imperial Rome. See Inama-Sternegg's Die Ausbildung
der grossen Grundherrschaften in Deutschland, Bd. i. 1878. Also,
Besseler, Neubruch nach dem alteren deutschen Recht, pp. 11-12,
quoted by Kovalevsky, Modern Custom and Ancient Law, Moscow,
1886, i. 134.

8. Maurer's Markgenossenschaft; Lamprecht's "Wirthschaft und
Recht der Franken zur Zeit der Volksrechte," in Histor.
Taschenbuch, 1883; Seebohm's The English Village Community, ch.
vi, vii, and ix.

9. Letourneau, in Bulletin de la Soc. d'Anthropologie, 1888, vol.
xi. p. 476.

10. Walter, Das alte Wallis, p. 323; Dm. Bakradze and N.
Khoudadoff in Russian Zapiski of the Caucasian Geogr. Society,
xiv. Part I.

11. Bancroft's Native Races; Waitz, Anthropologie, iii. 423;
Montrozier, in Bull. Soc. d'Anthropologie, 1870; Post's Studien,

12. A number of works, by Ory, Luro, Laudes, and Sylvestre, on
the village community in Annam, proving that it has had there the
same forms as in Germany or Russia, is mentioned in a review of
these works by Jobbe-Duval, in Nouvelle Revue historique de droit
francais et etranger, October and December, 1896. A good study of
the village community of Peru, before the establishment of the
power of the Incas, has been brought out by Heinrich Cunow (Die
Soziale Verfassung des Inka-Reichs, Stuttgart, 1896.) The communal
possession of land and communal culture are described in that

13. Kovalevsky, Modern Custom and Ancient Law, i. 115.

14. Palfrey, History of New England, ii. 13; quoted in Maine's
Village Communities, New York, 1876, p. 201.

15. Konigswarter, Etudes sur le developpement des societes
humaines, Paris, 1850.

16. This is, at least, the law of the Kalmucks, whose customary
law bears the closest resemblance to the laws of the Teutons, the
old Slavonians, etc.

17. The habit is in force still with many African and other

18. Village Communities, pp. 65-68 and 199.

19. Maurer (Gesch. der Markverfassung, sections 29, 97) is quite
decisive upon this subject. He maintains that "All members of the
community... the laic and clerical lords as well, often also the
partial co-possessors (Markberechtigte), and even strangers to
the Mark, were submitted to its jurisdiction" (p. 312). This
conception remained locally in force up to the fifteenth century.

20. Konigswarter, loc. cit. p. 50; J. Thrupp, Historical Law
Tracts, London, 1843, p. 106.

21. Konigswarter has shown that the fred originated from an
offering which had to be made to appease the ancestors. Later on,
it was paid to the community, for the breach of peace; and still
later to the judge, or king, or lord, when they had appropriated
to themselves the rights of the community.

22. Post's Bausteine and Afrikanische Jurisprudenz, Oldenburg,
1887, vol. i. pp. 64 seq.; Kovalevsky, loc. cit. ii. 164-189.

23. O. Miller and M. Kovalevsky, "In the Mountaineer Communities
of Kabardia," in Vestnik Evropy, April, 1884. With the
Shakhsevens of the Mugan Steppe, blood feuds always end by
marriage between the two hostile sides (Markoff, in appendix to
the Zapiski of the Caucasian Geogr. Soc. xiv. 1, 21).

24. Post, in Afrik. Jurisprudenz, gives a series of facts
illustrating the conceptions of equity inrooted among the African
barbarians. The same may be said of all serious examinations into
barbarian common law.

25. See the excellent chapter, "Le droit de La Vieille Irlande,"
(also "Le Haut Nord") in Etudes de droit international et de
droit politique, by Prof. E. Nys, Bruxelles, 1896.

26. Introduction, p. xxxv.

27. Das alte Wallis, pp. 343-350.

28. Maynoff, "Sketches of the Judicial Practices of the
Mordovians," in the ethnographical Zapiski of the Russian
Geographical Society, 1885, pp. 236, 257.

29. Henry Maine, International Law, London, 1888, pp. 11-13. E.
Nys, Les origines du droit international, Bruxelles, 1894.

30. A Russian historian, the Kazan Professor Schapoff, who was
exiled in 1862 to Siberia, has given a good description of their
institutions in the Izvestia of the East-Siberian Geographical
Society, vol. v. 1874.

31. Sir Henry Maine's Village Communities, New York, 1876, pp.

32. Nazaroff, The North Usuri Territory (Russian), St.
Petersburg, 1887, p. 65.

33. Hanoteau et Letourneux, La Kabylie, 3 vols. Paris, 1883.

34. To convoke an "aid" or "bee," some kind of meal must be
offered to the community. I am told by a Caucasian friend that in
Georgia, when the poor man wants an "aid," he borrows from the
rich man a sheep or two to prepare the meal, and the community
bring, in addition to their work, so many provisions that he may
repay the debt. A similar habit exists with the Mordovians.

35. Hanoteau et Letourneux, La kabylie, ii. 58. The same respect
to strangers is the rule with the Mongols. The Mongol who has
refused his roof to a stranger pays the full blood-compensation
if the stranger has suffered therefrom (Bastian, Der Mensch in
der Geschichte, iii. 231).

36. N. Khoudadoff, "Notes on the Khevsoures," in Zapiski of the
Caucasian Geogr. Society, xiv. 1, Tiflis, 1890, p. 68. They also
took the oath of not marrying girls from their own union, thus
displaying a remarkable return to the old gentile rules.

37. Dm. Bakradze, "Notes on the Zakataly District," in same
Zapiski, xiv. 1, p. 264. The "joint team" is as common among the
Lezghines as it is among the Ossetes.

38. See Post, Afrikanische Jurisprudenz, Oldenburg, 1887.
Munzinger, Ueber das Recht und Sitten der Bogos, Winterthur
1859; Casalis, Les Bassoutos, Paris, 1859; Maclean, Kafir Laws
and Customs, Mount Coke, 1858, etc.

39. Waitz, iii. 423 seq.

40. Post's Studien zur Entwicklungsgeschichte des Familien Rechts
Oldenburg, 1889, pp. 270 seq.

41. Powell, Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnography,
Washington, 1881, quoted in Post's Studien, p. 290; Bastian's
Inselgruppen in Oceanien, 1883, p. 88.

42. De Stuers, quoted by Waitz, v. 141.



Growth of authority in Barbarian Society. Serfdom in the
villages. Revolt of fortified towns: their liberation; their
charts. The guild. Double origin of the free medieval city.
Self-jurisdiction, self-administration. Honourable position
of labour. Trade by the guild and by the city.

Sociability and need of mutual aid and support are such
inherent parts of human nature that at no time of history can we
discover men living in small isolated families, fighting each
other for the means of subsistence. On the contrary, modern
research, as we saw it in the two preceding chapters, proves that
since the very beginning of their prehistoric life men used to
agglomerate into gentes, clans, or tribes, maintained by an idea
of common descent and by worship of common ancestors. For
thousands and thousands of years this organization has kept men
together, even though there was no authority whatever to impose
it. It has deeply impressed all subsequent development of
mankind; and when the bonds of common descent had been loosened
by migrations on a grand scale, while the development of the
separated family within the clan itself had destroyed the old
unity of the clan, a new form of union, territorial in its
principle--the village community--was called into existence
by the social genius of man. This institution, again, kept men
together for a number of centuries, permitting them to further
develop their social institutions and to pass through some of the
darkest periods of history, without being dissolved into loose
aggregations of families and individuals, to make a further step
in their evolution, and to work out a number of secondary social
institutions, several of which have survived down to the present
time. We have now to follow the further developments of the same
ever-living tendency for mutual aid. Taking the village
communities of the so-called barbarians at a time when they were
making a new start of civilization after the fall of the Roman
Empire, we have to study the new aspects taken by the sociable
wants of the masses in the middle ages, and especially in the
medieval guilds and the medieval city.

Far from being the fighting animals they have often been
compared to, the barbarians of the first centuries of our era
(like so many Mongolians, Africans, Arabs, and so on, who still
continue in the same barbarian stage) invariably preferred peace
to war. With the exception of a few tribes which had been driven
during the great migrations into unproductive deserts or
highlands, and were thus compelled periodically to prey upon
their better-favoured neighbours--apart from these, the great
bulk of the Teutons, the Saxons, the Celts, the Slavonians, and
so on, very soon after they had settled in their newly-conquered
abodes, reverted to the spade or to their herds. The earliest
barbarian codes already represent to us societies composed of
peaceful agricultural communities, not hordes of men at war with
each other. These barbarians covered the country with villages
and farmhouses;(1) they cleared the forests, bridged the
torrents, and colonized the formerly quite uninhabited
wilderness; and they left the uncertain warlike pursuits to
brotherhoods, scholae, or "trusts" of unruly men, gathered round
temporary chieftains, who wandered about, offering their
adventurous spirit, their arms, and their knowledge of warfare
for the protection of populations, only too anxious to be left in
peace. The warrior bands came and went, prosecuting their family
feuds; but the great mass continued to till the soil, taking but
little notice of their would-be rulers, so long as they did not
interfere with the independence of their village communities.(2)
The new occupiers of Europe evolved the systems of land tenure
and soil culture which are still in force with hundreds of
millions of men; they worked out their systems of compensation
for wrongs, instead of the old tribal blood-revenge; they learned
the first rudiments of industry; and while they fortified their
villages with palisaded walls, or erected towers and earthen
forts whereto to repair in case of a new invasion, they soon
abandoned the task of defending these towers and forts to those
who made of war a speciality.

The very peacefulness of the barbarians, certainly not their
supposed warlike instincts, thus became the source of their
subsequent subjection to the military chieftains. It is evident
that the very mode of life of the armed brotherhoods offered them
more facilities for enrichment than the tillers of the soil could
find in their agricultural communities. Even now we see that
armed men occasionally come together to shoot down Matabeles and
to rob them of their droves of cattle, though the Matabeles only
want peace and are ready to buy it at a high price. The scholae
of old certainly were not more scrupulous than the scholae of our
own time. Droves of cattle, iron (which was extremely costly at
that time(3)), and slaves were appropriated in this way; and
although most acquisitions were wasted on the spot in those
glorious feasts of which epic poetry has so much to say--still
some part of the robbed riches was used for further enrichment.
There was plenty of waste land, and no lack of men ready to till
it, if only they could obtain the necessary cattle and
implements. Whole villages, ruined by murrains, pests, fires, or
raids of new immigrants, were often abandoned by their
inhabitants, who went anywhere in search of new abodes. They
still do so in Russia in similar circumstances. And if one of the
hirdmen of the armed brotherhoods offered the peasants some
cattle for a fresh start, some iron to make a plough, if not the
plough itself, his protection from further raids, and a number of
years free from all obligations, before they should begin to
repay the contracted debt, they settled upon the land. And when,
after a hard fight with bad crops, inundations and pestilences,
those pioneers began to repay their debts, they fell into servile
obligations towards the protector of the territory. Wealth
undoubtedly did accumulate in this way, and power always follows
wealth.(4) And yet, the more we penetrate into the life of those
times, the sixth and seventh centuries of our era, the more we
see that another element, besides wealth and military force, was
required to constitute the authority of the few. It was an
element of law and tight, a desire of the masses to maintain
peace, and to establish what they considered to be justice, which
gave to the chieftains of the scholae--kings, dukes, knyazes,
and the like--the force they acquired two or three hundred
years later. That same idea of justice, conceived as an adequate
revenge for the wrong done, which had grown in the tribal stage,
now passed as a red thread through the history of subsequent
institutions, and, much more even than military or economic
causes, it became the basis upon which the authority of the kings
and the feudal lords was founded.

In fact, one of the chief preoccupations of the barbarian
village community always was, as it still is with our barbarian
contemporaries, to put a speedy end to the feuds which arose from
the then current conception of justice. When a quarrel took
place, the community at once interfered, and after the folkmote
had heard the case, it settled the amount of composition
(wergeld) to be paid to the wronged person, or to his family, as
well as the fred, or fine for breach of peace, which had to be
paid to the community. Interior quarrels were easily appeased in
this way. But when feuds broke out between two different tribes,
or two confederations of tribes, notwithstanding all measures
taken to prevent them,(5) the difficulty was to find an arbiter
or sentence-finder whose decision should be accepted by both
parties alike, both for his impartiality and for his knowledge of
the oldest law. The difficulty was the greater as the customary
laws of different tribes and confederations were at variance as
to the compensation due in different cases. It therefore became
habitual to take the sentence-finder from among such families, or
such tribes, as were reputed for keeping the law of old in its
purity; of being versed in the songs, triads, sagas, etc., by
means of which law was perpetuated in memory; and to retain law
in this way became a sort of art, a "mystery," carefully
transmitted in certain families from generation to generation.
Thus in Iceland, and in other Scandinavian lands, at every
Allthing, or national folkmote, a lovsogmathr used to recite the
whole law from memory for the enlightening of the assembly; and
in Ireland there was, as is known, a special class of men reputed
for the knowledge of the old traditions, and therefore enjoying a
great authority as judges.(6) Again, when we are told by the
Russian annals that some stems of North-West Russia, moved by the
growing disorder which resulted from "clans rising against
clans," appealed to Norman varingiar to be their judges and
commanders of warrior scholae; and when we see the knyazes, or
dukes, elected for the next two hundred years always from the
same Norman family, we cannot but recognize that the Slavonians
trusted to the Normans for a better knowledge of the law which
would be equally recognized as good by different Slavonian kins.
In this case the possession of runes, used for the transmission
of old customs, was a decided advantage in favour of the Normans;
but in other cases there are faint indications that the "eldest"
branch of the stem, the supposed motherbranch, was appealed to to
supply the judges, and its decisions were relied upon as
just;(7) while at a later epoch we see a distinct tendency
towards taking the sentence-finders from the Christian clergy,
which, at that time, kept still to the fundamental, now
forgotten, principle of Christianity, that retaliation is no act
of justice. At that time the Christian clergy opened the churches
as places of asylum for those who fled from blood revenge, and
they willingly acted as arbiters in criminal cases, always
opposing the old tribal principle of life for life and wound for
wound. In short, the deeper we penetrate into the history of
early institutions, the less we find grounds for the military
theory of origin of authority. Even that power which later on
became such a source of oppression seems, on the contrary, to
have found its origin in the peaceful inclinations of the masses.

In all these cases the fred, which often amounted to half the
compensation, went to the folkmote, and from times immemorial it
used to be applied to works of common utility and defence. It has
still the same destination (the erection of towers) among the
Kabyles and certain Mongolian stems; and we have direct evidence
that even several centuries later the judicial fines, in Pskov
and several French and German cities, continued to be used for
the repair of the city walls.(8) It was thus quite natural that
the fines should be handed over to the sentence-finder, who was
bound, in return, both to maintain the schola of armed men to
whom the defence of the territory was trusted, and to execute the
sentences. This became a universal custom in the eighth and ninth
centuries, even when the sentence-finder was an elected bishop.
The germ of a combination of what we should now call the judicial
power and the executive thus made its appearance. But to these
two functions the attributions of the duke or king were strictly
limited. He was no ruler of the people--the supreme power still
belonging to the folkmote--not even a commander of the popular
militia; when the folk took to arms, it marched under a separate,
also elected, commander, who was not a subordinate, but an equal
to the king.(9) The king was a lord on his personal domain only.
In fact, in barbarian language, the word konung, koning, or
cyning synonymous with the Latin rex, had no other meaning than
that of a temporary leader or chieftain of a band of men. The
commander of a flotilla of boats, or even of a single pirate
boat, was also a konung, and till the present day the commander
of fishing in Norway is named Not-kong--"the king of the
nets."(10) The veneration attached later on to the personality
of a king did not yet exist, and while treason to the kin was
punished by death, the slaying of a king could be recouped by the
payment of compensation: a king simply was valued so much more
than a freeman.(11) And when King Knu (or Canute) had killed one
man of his own schola, the saga represents him convoking his
comrades to a thing where he stood on his knees imploring pardon.
He was pardoned, but not till he had agreed to pay nine times the
regular composition, of which one-third went to himself for the
loss of one of his men, one-third to the relatives of the slain
man, and one-third (the fred) to the schola.(12) In reality, a
complete change had to be accomplished in the current
conceptions, under the double influence of the Church and the
students of Roman law, before an idea of sanctity began to be
attached to the personality of the king.

However, it lies beyond the scope of these essays to follow
the gradual development of authority out of the elements just
indicated. Historians, such as Mr. and Mrs. Green for this
country, Augustin Thierry, Michelet, and Luchaire for France,
Kaufmann, Janssen, W. Arnold, and even Nitzsch, for Germany, Leo
and Botta for Italy, Byelaeff, Kostomaroff, and their followers
for Russia, and many others, have fully told that tale. They have
shown how populations, once free, and simply agreeing "to feed" a
certain portion of their military defenders, gradually became the
serfs of these protectors; how "commendation" to the Church, or
to a lord, became a hard necessity for the freeman; how each
lord's and bishop's castle became a robber's nest--how
feudalism was imposed, in a word--and how the crusades, by
freeing the serfs who wore the cross, gave the first impulse to
popular emancipation. All this need not be retold in this place,
our chief aim being to follow the constructive genius of the
masses in their mutual-aid institutions.

At a time when the last vestiges of barbarian freedom seemed
to disappear, and Europe, fallen under the dominion of thousands
of petty rulers, was marching towards the constitution of such
theocracies and despotic States as had followed the barbarian
stage during the previous starts of civilization, or of barbarian
monarchies, such as we see now in Africa, life in Europe took
another direction. It went on on lines similar to those it had
once taken in the cities of antique Greece. With a unanimity
which seems almost incomprehensible, and for a long time was not
understood by historians, the urban agglomerations, down to the
smallest burgs, began to shake off the yoke of their worldly and
clerical lords. The fortified village rose against the lord's
castle, defied it first, attacked it next, and finally destroyed
it. The movement spread from spot to spot, involving every town
on the surface of Europe, and in less than a hundred years free
cities had been called into existence on the coasts of the
Mediterranean, the North Sea, the Baltic, the Atlantic Ocean,
down to the fjords of Scandinavia; at the feet of the Apennines,
the Alps, the Black Forest, the Grampians, and the Carpathians;
in the plains of Russia, Hungary, France and Spain. Everywhere
the same revolt took place, with the same features, passing
through the same phases, leading to the same results. Wherever
men had found, or expected to find, some protection behind their
town walls, they instituted their "co-jurations," their
"fraternities," their "friendships," united in one common idea,
and boldly marching towards a new life of mutual support and
liberty. And they succeeded so well that in three or four hundred
years they had changed the very face of Europe. They had covered
the country with beautiful sumptuous buildings, expressing the
genius of free unions of free men, unrivalled since for their
beauty and expressiveness; and they bequeathed to the following
generations all the arts, all the industries, of which our
present civilization, with all its achievements and promises for
the future, is only a further development. And when we now look
to the forces which have produced these grand results, we find
them--not in the genius of individual heroes, not in the mighty
organization of huge States or the political capacities of their
rulers, but in the very same current of mutual aid and support
which we saw at work in the village community, and which was
vivified and reinforced in the Middle Ages by a new form of
unions, inspired by the very same spirit but shaped on a new
model--the guilds.

It is well known by this time that feudalism did not imply a
dissolution of the village community. Although the lord had
succeeded in imposing servile labour upon the peasants, and had
appropriated for himself such rights as were formerly vested in
the village community alone (taxes, mortmain, duties on
inheritances and marriages), the peasants had, nevertheless,
maintained the two fundamental rights of their communities: the
common possession of the land, and self-jurisdiction. In olden
times, when a king sent his vogt to a village, the peasants
received him with flowers in one hand and arms in the other, and
asked him--which law he intended to apply: the one he found in
the village, or the one he brought with him? And, in the first
case, they handed him the flowers and accepted him; while in the
second case they fought him.(13) Now, they accepted the king's
or the lord's official whom they could not refuse; but they
maintained the folkmote's jurisdiction, and themselves nominated
six, seven, or twelve judges, who acted with the lord's judge, in
the presence of the folkmote, as arbiters and sentence-finders.
In most cases the official had nothing left to him but to confirm
the sentence and to levy the customary fred. This precious right
of self-jurisdiction, which, at that time, meant
self-administration and self-legislation, had been maintained
through all the struggles; and even the lawyers by whom Karl the
Great was surrounded could not abolish it; they were bound to
confirm it. At the same time, in all matters concerning the
community's domain, the folkmote retained its supremacy and (as
shown by Maurer) often claimed submission from the lord himself
in land tenure matters. No growth of feudalism could break this
resistance; the village community kept its ground; and when, in
the ninth and tenth centuries, the invasions of the Normans, the
Arabs, and the Ugrians had demonstrated that military scholae
were of little value for protecting the land, a general movement
began all over Europe for fortifying the villages with stone
walls and citadels. Thousands of fortified centres were then
built by the energies of the village communities; and, once they
had built their walls, once a common interest had been created in
this new sanctuary--the town walls--they soon understood that
they could henceforward resist the encroachments of the inner
enemies, the lords, as well as the invasions of foreigners. A new
life of freedom began to develop within the fortified enclosures.
The medieval city was born.(14)

No period of history could better illustrate the constructive
powers of the popular masses than the tenth and eleventh
centuries, when the fortified villages and market-places,
representing so many "oases amidst the feudal forest," began to
free themselves from their lord's yoke, and slowly elaborated the
future city organization; but, unhappily, this is a period about
which historical information is especially scarce: we know the
results, but little has reached us about the means by which they
were achieved. Under the protection of their walls the cities'
folkmotes--either quite independent, or led by the chief noble
or merchant families--conquered and maintained the right of
electing the military defensor and supreme judge of the town, or
at least of choosing between those who pretended to occupy this
position. In Italy the young communes were continually sending
away their defensors or domini, fighting those who refused to go.
The same went on in the East. In Bohemia, rich and poor alike
(Bohemicae gentis magni et parvi, nobiles et ignobiles) took part
in the election;(15) while, the vyeches (folkmotes) of the
Russian cities regularly elected their dukes--always from the
same Rurik family--covenanted with them, and sent the knyaz
away if he had provoked discontent.(16) At the same time in most
cities of Western and Southern Europe, the tendency was to take
for defensor a bishop whom the city had elected itself. and so
many bishops took the lead in protecting the "immunities" of the
towns and in defending their liberties, that numbers of them were
considered, after their death, as saints and special patrons of
different cities. St. Uthelred of Winchester, St. Ulrik of
Augsburg, St. Wolfgang of Ratisbon, St. Heribert of Cologne, St.
Adalbert of Prague, and so on, as well as many abbots and monks,
became so many cities' saints for having acted in defence of
popular rights.(17) And under the new defensors, whether laic or
clerical, the citizens conquered full self-jurisdiction and
self-administration for their folkmotes.(18)

The whole process of liberation progressed by a series of
imperceptible acts of devotion to the common cause, accomplished
by men who came out of the masses--by unknown heroes whose very
names have not been preserved by history. The wonderful movement
of the God's peace (treuga Dei) by which the popular masses
endeavoured to put a limit to the endless family feuds of the
noble families, was born in the young towns, the bishops and the
citizens trying to extend to the nobles the peace they had
established within their town walls.(19) Already at that period,
the commercial cities of Italy, and especially Amalfi (which had
its elected consuls since 844, and frequently changed its doges
in the tenth century)(20) worked out the customary maritime and
commercial law which later on became a model for all Europe;
Ravenna elaborated its craft organization, and Milan, which had
made its first revolution in 980, became a great centre of
commerce, its trades enjoying a full independence since the
eleventh century.(21) So also Brugge and Ghent; so also several
cities of France in which the Mahl or forum had become a quite
independent institution.(22) And already during that period
began the work of artistic decoration of the towns by works of
architecture, which we still admire and which loudly testify of
the intellectual movement of the times. "The basilicae were then
renewed in almost all the universe," Raoul Glaber wrote in his
chronicle, and some of the finest monuments of medieval
architecture date from that period: the wonderful old church of
Bremen was built in the ninth century, Saint Marc of Venice was
finished in 1071, and the beautiful dome of Pisa in 1063. In
fact, the intellectual movement which has been described as the
Twelfth Century Renaissance(23) and the Twelfth Century
Rationalism--the precursor of the Reform(24) date from that
period, when most cities were still simple agglomerations of
small village communities enclosed by walls.

However, another element, besides the village-community
principle, was required to give to these growing centres of
liberty and enlightenment the unity of thought and action, and
the powers of initiative, which made their force in the twelfth
and thirteenth centuries. With the growing diversity of
occupations, crafts and arts, and with the growing commerce in
distant lands, some new form of union was required, and this
necessary new element was supplied by the guilds. Volumes and
volumes have been written about these unions which, under the
name of guilds, brotherhoods, friendships and druzhestva, minne,
artels in Russia, esnaifs in Servia and Turkey, amkari in
Georgia, and so on, took such a formidable development in
medieval times and played such an important part in the
emancipation of the cities. But it took historians more than
sixty years before the universality of this institution and its
true characters were understood. Only now, when hundreds of guild
statutes have been published and studied, and their relationship
to the Roman collegiae, and the earlier unions in Greece and in
India,(25) is known, can we maintain with full confidence that
these brotherhoods were but a further development of the same
principles which we saw at work in the gens and the village

Nothing illustrates better these medieval brother hoods than
those temporary guilds which were formed on board ships. When a
ship of the Hansa had accomplished her first half-day passage
after having left the port, the captain (Schiffer) gathered all
crew and passengers on the deck, and held the following language,
as reported by a contemporary:--

"'As we are now at the mercy of God and the waves,' he said,
'each one must be equal to each other. And as we are surrounded
by storms, high waves, pirates and other dangers, we must keep a
strict order that we may bring our voyage to a good end. That is
why we shall pronounce the prayer for a good wind and good
success, and, according to marine law, we shall name the
occupiers of the judges' seats (Schoffenstellen).' Thereupon the
crew elected a Vogt and four scabini, to act as their judges. At
the end of the voyage the Vogt and the scabini. abdicated their
functions and addressed the. 'What has happened on board ship, we
crew as follows:--must pardon to each other and consider as
dead (todt und ab sein lassen). What we have judged right, was
for the sake of justice. This is why we beg you all, in the name
of honest justice, to forget all the animosity one may nourish
against another, and to swear on bread and salt that he will not
think of it in a bad spirit. If any one, however, considers
himself wronged, he must appeal to the land Vogt and ask justice
from him before sunset.' On landing, the Stock with the fredfines
was handed over to the Vogt of the sea-port for distribution
among the poor."(26)

This simple narrative, perhaps better than anything else,
depicts the spirit of the medieval guilds. Like organizations
came into existence wherever a group of men--fishermen,
hunters, travelling merchants, builders, or settled craftsmen--
came together for a common pursuit. Thus, there was on board ship
the naval authority of the captain; but, for the very success of
the common enterprise, all men on board, rich and poor, masters
and crew, captain and sailors, agreed to be equals in their
mutual relations, to be simply men, bound to aid each other and
to settle their possible disputes before judges elected by all of
them. So also when a number of craftsmen--masons, carpenters,
stone-cutters, etc.--came together for building, say, a
cathedral, they all belonged to a city which had its political
organization, and each of them belonged moreover to his own
craft; but they were united besides by their common enterprise,
which they knew better than any one else, and they joined into a
body united by closer, although temporary, bonds; they founded
the guild for the building of the cathedral.(27) We may see the
same till now in the Kabylian. cof:(28) the Kabyles have their
village community; but this union is not sufficient for all
political, commercial, and personal needs of union, and the
closer brotherhood of the cof is constituted.

As to the social characters of the medieval guild, any
guild-statute may illustrate them. Taking, for instance, the
skraa of some early Danish guild, we read in it, first, a
statement of the general brotherly feelings which must reign in
the guild; next come the regulations relative to
self-jurisdiction in cases of quarrels arising between two
brothers, or a brother and a stranger; and then, the social
duties of the brethren are enumerated. If a brother's house is
burned, or he has lost his ship, or has suffered on a pilgrim's
voyage, all the brethren must come to his aid. If a brother falls
dangerously ill, two brethren must keep watch by his bed till he
is out of danger, and if he dies, the brethren must bury him--a
great affair in those times of pestilences--and follow him to
the church and the grave. After his death they must provide for
his children, if necessary; very often the widow becomes a sister
to the guild.(29)

These two leading features appeared in every brotherhood
formed for any possible purpose. In each case the members treated
each other as, and named each other, brother and sister;(30) all
were equals before the guild. They owned some "chattel" (cattle,
land, buildings, places of worship, or "stock") in common. All
brothers took the oath of abandoning all feuds of old; and,
without imposing upon each other the obligation of never
quarrelling again, they agreed that no quarrel should degenerate
into a feud, or into a law-suit before another court than the
tribunal of the brothers themselves. And if a brother was
involved in a quarrel with a stranger to the guild, they agreed
to support him for bad and for good; that is, whether he was
unjustly accused of aggression, or really was the aggressor, they
had to support him, and to bring things to a peaceful end. So
long as his was not a secret aggression--in which case he would
have been treated as an outlaw--the brotherhood stood by
him.(31) If the relatives of the wronged man wanted to revenge
the offence at once by a new aggression, the brother-hood
supplied him with a horse to run away, or with a boat, a pair of
oars, a knife and a steel for striking light; if he remained in
town, twelve brothers accompanied him to protect him; and in the
meantime they arranged the composition. They went to court to
support by oath the truthfulness of his statements, and if he was
found guilty they did not let him go to full ruin and become a
slave through not paying the due compensation: they all paid it,
just as the gens did in olden times. Only when a brother had
broken the faith towards his guild-brethren, or other people, he
was excluded from the brotherhood "with a Nothing's name" (tha
scal han maeles af brodrescap met nidings nafn).(32)

Such were the leading ideas of those brotherhoods which
gradually covered the whole of medieval life. In fact, we know of
guilds among all possible professions: guilds of serfs,(33)
guilds of freemen, and guilds of both serfs and freemen; guilds
called into life for the special purpose of hunting, fishing, or
a trading expedition, and dissolved when the special purpose had
been achieved; and guilds lasting for centuries in a given craft
or trade. And, in proportion as life took an always greater
variety of pursuits, the variety in the guilds grew in
proportion. So we see not only merchants, craftsmen, hunters, and
peasants united in guilds; we also see guilds of priests,
painters, teachers of primary schools and universities, guilds
for performing the passion play, for building a church, for
developing the "mystery" of a given school of art or craft, or
for a special recreation--even guilds among beggars,
executioners, and lost women, all organized on the same double
principle of self-jurisdiction and mutual support.(34) For
Russia we have positive evidence showing that the very "making of
Russia" was as much the work of its hunters', fishermen's, and
traders' artels as of the budding village communities, and up to
the present day the country is covered with artels.(35)

These few remarks show how incorrect was the view taken by
some early explorers of the guilds when they wanted to see the
essence of the institution in its yearly festival. In reality,
the day of the common meal was always the day, or the morrow of
the day, of election of aldermen, of discussion of alterations in
the statutes, and very often the day of judgment of quarrels that
had risen among the brethren,(36) or of renewed allegiance to
the guild. The common meal, like the festival at the old tribal
folkmote--the mahl or malum--or the Buryate aba, or the
parish feast and the harvest supper, was simply an affirmation of
brotherhood. It symbolized the times when everything was kept in
common by the clan. This day, at least, all belonged to all; all
sate at the same table and partook of the same meal. Even at a
much later time the inmate of the almshouse of a London guild sat
this day by the side of the rich alderman. As to the distinction
which several explorers have tried to establish between the old
Saxon "frith guild" and the so-called "social" or "religious"
guilds--all were frith guilds in the sense above
mentioned,(37) and all were religious in the sense in which a
village community or a city placed under the protection of a
special saint is social and religious. If the institution of the
guild has taken such an immense extension in Asia, Africa, and
Europe, if it has lived thousands of years, reappearing again and
again when similar conditions called it into existence, it is
because it was much more than an eating association, or an
association for going to church on a certain day, or a burial
club. It answered to a deeply inrooted want of human nature; and
it embodied all the attributes which the State appropriated later
on for its bureaucracy and police, and much more than that. It
was an association for mutual support in all circumstances and in
all accidents of life, "by deed and advise," and it was an
organization for maintaining justice--with this difference from
the State, that on all these occasions a humane, a brotherly
element was introduced instead of the formal element which is the
essential characteristic of State interference. Even when
appearing before the guild tribunal, the guild-brother answered
before men who knew him well and had stood by him before in their
daily work, at the common meal, in the performance of their
brotherly duties: men who were his equals and brethren indeed,
not theorists of law nor defenders of some one else's

It is evident that an institution so well suited to serve the
need of union, without depriving the individual of his
initiative, could but spread, grow, and fortify. The difficulty
was only to find such form as would permit to federate the unions
of the guilds without interfering with the unions of the village
communities, and to federate all these into one harmonious whole.
And when this form of combination had been found, and a series of
favourable circumstances permitted the cities to affirm their
independence, they did so with a unity of thought which can but
excite our admiration, even in our century of railways,
telegraphs, and printing. Hundreds of charters in which the
cities inscribed their liberation have reached us, and through
all of them--notwithstanding the infinite variety of details,
which depended upon the more or less greater fulness of
emancipation--the same leading ideas run. The city organized
itself as a federation of both small village communities and

"All those who belong to the friendship of the town"--so
runs a charter given in 1188 to the burghesses of Aire by Philip,
Count of Flanders--"have promised and confirmed by faith and
oath that they will aid each other as brethren, in whatever is
useful and honest. That if one commits against another an offence
in words or in deeds, the one who has suffered there from will
not take revenge, either himself or his people... he will lodge a
complaint and the offender will make good for his offence,
according to what will be pronounced by twelve elected judges
acting as arbiters, And if the offender or the offended, after
having been warned thrice, does not submit to the decision of the
arbiters, he will be excluded from the friendship as a wicked man
and a perjuror.(39)

"Each one of the men of the commune will be faithful to his
con-juror, and will give him aid and advice, according to what
justice will dictate him"--the Amiens and Abbeville charters
say. "All will aid each other, according to their powers, within
the boundaries of the Commune, and will not suffer that any one
takes anything from any one of them, or makes one pay
contributions"--do we read in the charters of Soissons,
Compiegne, Senlis, and many others of the same type.(40) And so
on with countless variations on the same theme.

"The Commune," Guilbert de Nogent wrote, "is an oath of
mutual aid (mutui adjutorii conjuratio)... A new and detestable
word. Through it the serfs (capite sensi) are freed from all
serfdom; through it, they can only be condemned to a legally
determined fine for breaches of the law; through it, they cease
to be liable to payments which the serfs always used to

The same wave of emancipation ran, in the twelfth century,
through all parts of the continent, involving both rich cities
and the poorest towns. And if we may say that, as a rule, the
Italian cities were the first to free themselves, we can assign
no centre from which the movement would have spread. Very often a
small burg in central Europe took the lead for its region, and
big agglomerations accepted the little town's charter as a model
for their own. Thus, the charter of a small town, Lorris, was
adopted by eighty-three towns in south-west France, and that of
Beaumont became the model for over five hundred towns and cities
in Belgium and France. Special deputies were dispatched by the
cities to their neighbours to obtain a copy from their charter,
and the constitution was framed upon that model. However, they
did not simply copy each other: they framed their own charters in
accordance with the concessions they had obtained from their
lords; and the result was that, as remarked by an historian, the
charters of the medieval communes offer the same variety as the
Gothic architecture of their churches and cathedrals. The same
leading ideas in all of them--the cathedral symbolizing the
union of parish and guild in the, city--and the same infinitely
rich variety of detail.

Self-jurisdiction was the essential point, and
self-jurisdiction meant self-administration. But the commune was
not simply an "autonomous" part of the State--such ambiguous
words had not yet been invented by that time--it was a State in
itself. It had the right of war and peace, of federation and
alliance with its neighbours. It was sovereign in its own
affairs, and mixed with no others. The supreme political power
could be vested entirely in a democratic forum, as was the case
in Pskov, whose vyeche sent and received ambassadors, concluded
treaties, accepted and sent away princes, or went on without them
for dozens of years; or it was vested in, or usurped by, an
aristocracy of merchants or even nobles, as was the case in
hundreds of Italian and middle European cities. The principle,
nevertheless, remained the same: the city was a State and--what
was perhaps still more remarkable--when the power in the city
was usurped by an aristocracy of merchants or even nobles, the
inner life of the city and the democratism of its daily life did
not disappear: they depended but little upon what may be called
the political form of the State.

The secret of this seeming anomaly lies in the fact that a
medieval city was not a centralized State. During the first
centuries of its existence, the city hardly could be named a
State as regards its interior organization, because the middle
ages knew no more of the present centralization of functions than
of the present territorial centralization. Each group had its
share of sovereignty. The city was usually divided into four
quarters, or into five to seven sections radiating from a centre,
each quarter or section roughly corresponding to a certain trade
or profession which prevailed in it, but nevertheless containing
inhabitants of different social positions and occupations--
nobles, merchants, artisans, or even half-serfs; and each section
or quarter constituted a quite independent agglomeration. In
Venice, each island was an independent political community. It
had its own organized trades, its own commerce in salt, its own
jurisdiction and administration, its own forum; and the
nomination of a doge by the city changed nothing in the inner
independence of the units.(42) In Cologne, we see the
inhabitants divided into Geburschaften and Heimschaften
(viciniae), i.e. neighbour guilds, which dated from the
Franconian period. Each of them had its judge (Burrichter) and
the usual twelve elected sentence-finders (Schoffen), its Vogt,
and its greve or commander of the local militia.(43) The story
of early London before the Conquest--Mr. Green says--is that
"of a number of little groups scattered here and there over the
area within the walls, each growing up with its own life and
institutions, guilds, sokes, religious houses and the like, and
only slowly drawing together into a municipal union."(44) And if
we refer to the annals of the Russian cities, Novgorod and Pskov,
both of which are relatively rich in local details, we find the
section (konets) consisting of independent streets (ulitsa), each
of which, though chiefly peopled with artisans of a certain
craft, had also merchants and landowners among its inhabitants,
and was a separate community. It had the communal responsibility
of all members in case of crime, its own jurisdiction and
administration by street aldermen (ulichanskiye starosty), its
own seal and, in case of need, its own forum; its own militia, as
also its self-elected priests and its, own collective life and
collective enterprise.(45)

The medieval city thus appears as a double federation: of all

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