Why Were Medieval and Renaissance Aristocratic Republics Limited to High IQ Germanic Populations?

https://sellsword.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/canaletto-return_of_the_bucentoro_to_the_molo_on_ascension_day1.jpg?w=700One of the great misconceptions that many people hold about the Middle Ages in Europe is that they were a time uniformly devoted to royalism and monarchy.   The typical picture is that of a king, attended by his retinue, waging war against other kings, each surrounded by servile knights willing to fight to the death for the honour and welfare of His Royal Majesty.  Such a picture, however, presents a woefully inadequate image of the rich tapestry that was medieval government.  Monarchy varied in its strength, and was sometimes even elective.  Quite often, aristocrats were masters in their domain and waged wars with each other upon their own authority.  Free cities abounded across the continent, many with decidedly un-monarchical governments.

More commonly than many realise, aristocratic republics of various types (designed so as to distinguish them from post-1789 “democratic republics” on the model of the French Revolution) existed at various points in medieval and early modern European history, at various places on the continent.  While varying in their details and traditions, these republics generally shared one thing in common – stable administration provided by a process in which the best men in their polities were brought to the fore and included in sharing power within their oligarchic systems.  These republics were not in any sense “democratic” as we now generally think of “republics” as being – they were neither communist shams like the “People’s Democratic Republic” of North Korea nor democratic shams like the United States of America and others around the world today.  Within them the franchise – the exercise of political authority – was held by the leading men and was generally restricted to those who had either proven themselves in battle or through political wisdom or who were successful in the (sometimes quite literally) cutthroat world of medieval commerce.

However, when considering the histories of these medieval and renaissance republics, it is striking that their existence follows a definite pattern.  Almost invariably, we find these republics existing among populations which fulfill two qualifications – high average national IQs and Germanic in culture and ethnicity.  The medieval and early modern republics which we can identify consist of the following:

  • The Maritime Republics of northern Italy (Venice, Genoa, Pisa, etc.)
  • The Dutch Republic
  • Several of the Swiss city-states
  • Several of the German Hanseatic city-states
  • Some of the Alsatian city-states in the Décapole
  • The Pskov and Novgorod Republics
  • The Icelandic Commonwealth

To this list we might also add the short-lived English Republic of the 1640s and 1650s.  However, the Cromwellian state was something of an aberration, and is rightly to be dealt with separately because it was an artificial imposition resulting from regicide and did not have the legitimacy resulting from a long train of tradition behind it, even though in many ways it was a logical progression from the sort of parliamentarianism already developing in England at the time. It could have been handled better, to put it mildly.

The first thing we should note about the peoples of each of these nations is that they are, on average, high IQ populations.  I’ve linked to it before, but Richard Lynn’s paper on national wealth and national IQ provides data on the IQs of nearly every country in the world (see esp. Table 4).  From the data therein, we see the national IQs for each of these groups of people: Italy (IQ=102), the Netherlands (102), Switzerland (101), Germany (102), France (98), Swedes/Russians (101/96), Iceland (98), and the UK (100).

At this point, I’d like to make the point that I am not attempting here to say that monarchy was or is a form of government for lower IQ populations.  Indeed, many high IQ populations in Europe were also monarchies, and grew into more absolutist monarchies over time (e.g. Spain – 99, France – 98, Austria – 102, several major German states – 102, etc.).  However, monarchy was also shared with many lower IQ states as well, such as Portugal and several of the Balkan states prior to their absorption by the Ottoman Turkish monarchy, itself also a lower national IQ state.  Aristocratic republicanism was not to be found among these types of populations.

Why were many high-IQ populations prone to preferring aristocratic republicanism over monarchy?  I suspect that much of the reason has to do with the fact that a relatively larger segment of their populations would have had the high IQ (say, above 120 or so) necessary to allow them to really understand and apply the mechanisms of administration, economics, and law.  In such cases, a broader pool of talented and worthy men meant that power did not need to be concentrated into the hands of one man.  Indeed, a larger pool of such men would have meant a commensurately greater number of men who were not only ambitious, but capable of acting on their aspirations for public renown.

However, even more important than the IQ perspective, I believe, is the facts that each of these populations was Germanic in origin and ethnicity.

For clarification, I would like to take a moment to establish the “Germanic-ness” of some of the nations on the list above.  Obvious, the German city-states, the Dutch, English, Swiss, and Icelanders need no proof of their Germanic pedigrees.  Looking to the northern Italian city-states, let us remember than northern Italy was much more “Germanised” during the Völkerwanderung that ended the western Roman Empire.  Ostrogoths, Lombards, and Saxons settled more thickly in northern Italy than Germans did in other parts such as Spain or North Africa.  Even today, northern Italians look much more Germanic than do Neapolitans or Sicilians, often having blond or red hair and blue or grey eyes.  Alsace, though part of France in modern times, is a descendant of the old Frankish kingdom, and lay within the more properly Frankish, rather than Gallo-Roman, portion of the old Carolingian empire.  As for Pskov and Novgorod, though these are now Russian cities, they were originally founded or else brought heavily under the influence of Swedish Vikings (aka Varangarians) who moved into the area to establish trading posts, and who intermingled with the local Slavic populations.

What is it about the Germanic charactre of these peoples that might make them amenable to the sort of aristocratic republicanism seen among them?

First, there is the evident importance of private property ownership within Germanic communities.  The bulk of the early laws that we have evidence for among the Germanic groups deal with property – its ownership, its transfer, and its inheritance.  This is important because while private property is often thought of in particular as a bulwark of more modern capitalistic systems, we can understand that property ownership has more traditionally denoted inclusion in and involvement with the local community.  Even in modern Western cultures until very recently, property ownership (buying your first home, acquiring your own farm or store) was considered to be a sort of “graduation” into full participation and membership in the community.  Owning property gives a man a stake in the welfare of his community and society, hence, gives him a right to have a say in its governance and direction.

Second, and deriving from the first, I believe we can point to the traditional social system of freemanship within Germanic societies.  Like most others, Germanic societies were hierarchical in structure.  Indeed, the weregild system demonstrated quite a stratified sense of the worth of individuals at each level within society.  Nevertheless, in Germanic societies, as opposed to Mediterranean ones, freemen formed a larger percentage of the population.  As a result, these men – who generally consisted of farmers and other property owners, and were more prosperous than the slaves, serfs, and artisans below them – were able to wield a greater share of political power within their societies, enough so that the nobles would often have to work with them or court their support for decisions involving the community or tribe or nation.  Hence there was a more broad-based petty aristocracy in place which granted a greater legitimacy to the hierarchical system that existed.  More men existed who were more independent in mind and station, and could take part in ruling rather than simply being ruled.  We can see on the map below that with a few exceptions, there is a great deal of overlap between the individualistic regions in Europe and places where these medieval and early modern aristocratic republics existed.


Third, and in turn arising from the second, the Germanic peoples had more well-developed aristocratic institutions in which authority within their communities was shared among the leading men, but certainly not with every single person in society.  Every noble and freeman was entitled to sit in the things, the Germanic councils that made day-by-day decisions.  Likewise, many of these peoples did have kings – but the kings were elective, non-hereditary, and their power was limited by both law and traditional custom.  When the transition from tribes to medieval nations took place, it was a short step to transform the thing and gathering into a city council, and the elected king into a Doge or stadtholder.  The conceptual mechanism was already in place and was a settled part of Germanic culture, broadly defined, such that it carried through into the much more sophisticated apparatuses seen later.

Hence, we can see that aristocratic republicanism was not simply a fluke that appeared ephemerally here and there during the millennium between 700 and 1700 AD.  Instead, it was a culturally appropriate and indeed traditional form of government among many of the peoples during this time period who were descended from, and still carried with them, the Germanic culture of the peoples who flooded into the western Empire and spread all across northern Europe.  That they did this is entirely predictable, since overall cultural traits are surprisingly stable and remain with the people carrying them even if specific forms change. Further, and despite the impressions that many may have, aristocratic republicanism was a form of government which was actually quite capable of providing competent administration and stable, well-grounded government to the people fortunate enough to live under it.  Let us not forget, for example, that the Venetian Republic lasted for eleven centuries – longer than the French or Austrian monarchies – and was only overthrown when it was conquered by Napoleon in 1797.

This has ramifications for us today.  I’ve observed before that in the event of the Great Reset – the partial or complete collapse of America and the West as a result of the increasing energetically strained discord with reality that progressivism is forcing upon us – the likelihood of a genuine monarchy being established in one or more American successor states (especially of the absolutist kind preferred by some strains of neoreaction) is pretty much nil.  Instead, we should expect to see the white population fall back upon the Anglo-Germanic roots of its culture and return to the sort of aristocratic republicanism which rests on the authority of property-owning freeholders and those who rise to the top because of their personal merits from among the larger mass of the population.


15 thoughts on “Why Were Medieval and Renaissance Aristocratic Republics Limited to High IQ Germanic Populations?

  1. Very informative piece. I had no idea just how widespread aristocratic republicanism once was.

    England/Great Britain conforms to the pattern you’ve identified in several important respects, even though the enduring national preference was for hereditary monarchy (with the brief exception of the whole Cromwell thing). In early-modern England, as with the Germanic republican States, there were very large classes of freeholders (I recall having read that as of the 17th c. up to 40% of Englishmen had enough property to qualify for the franchise). Accordingly Parliament, and the House of Commons in particular, kept getting more and more powerful (with control over legislation and taxation) even as their counterparts in the European monarchies withered away into impotence or outright desuetude. By the early 18th c. the preponderance of executive power was increasingly exercised by the Prime Minister and Cabinet, and the U.K. was effectively an aristocratic republic as you’ve defined it until universal manhood suffrage was introduced later on (even then, the landed aristocracy continued to dominate Parliament, and was regarded as the natural governing class of the nation, for a long time to come).

    From the late Renaissance to the Enlightenment, Britain also produced a wealth of civic-republican social and political theory whose keynote theme is that the best social order is one in which a large yeoman class of small freeholders comprises the backbone of society, while represented politically by a gentry class that actually governs the country and sees to it that the rights of the yeomen are upheld. I think an important part of a reset to aristocratic republicanism in America would be to entice the muh-Constitution crowd to start reading this stuff, since it is directly ancestral to their position, but without the manifold Libertarian distortions that unfortunately mar Constitutionalism as it exists today.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have to say this piece and the previous one on the role of militias really has me fixated on the concept of Aristocratic Republicanism. It has seen success here in North America as well. Colonial Virginia was essentially an aristocratic society from 1604 till the revolution. Check out the First Gentlemen of Virginia by Louis Wright. It details an era of American History forgotten in today’s progressive texts.

    My own family was from Georgia, which was originally founded as a debtor colony, but came to possess similar attributes to what existed in Virginia; albeit with a tad less formalism than existed under the Kings of England. As a southerner, proud of a heritage that is constantly under attack from the prog media; I am increasingly convinced that this form of government is more natural to us than what we presently suffer. Competant leadership with respect for tradition, the role of the church, and natural hierarchies is exactly what we need.

    Thank you for such an excellent read.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi JC,

      Thanks for the comment, and I’m glad you’re enjoying the articles! I’ll have to check out that book. Sounds like it would be a good read!

      I see a lot of folks in NRx who keep pushing for absolutist monarchy here in the USA as the replacement for democracy, which is, I think, just as nonsensical and “ideological” (in the sense of letting theory override common sense and reality). Our culture simply wouldn’t allow for it. AM might work in Oriental lands, or even in places like Russia or Germany, but not anywhere in the Anglosphere. Shoot, we never had absolutist monarchy even when we had real kings who were actually more than just figureheads!


      1. I agree with your point. All present Western European and Anglophone nations are steeped in Demotist ideologies, which explicitly reject hereditary rule of the one. However, there is experience in our own patrimony that makes Aristocratic Republicanism an appealing option. It provides a stable framework where a citizen can function as an individual (own property, start an enterprise, self actualize, and move up the social ladder) while protecting tradition and social cohesion. Personally I come from a Rothbardian/Paleo-Libertarian background, but about a year ago I really started to doubt the sustainability of such a society, absent a formal framework to prevent outside incursion, or a drift in the direction of the political left. I started getting into NRX through the Hestia stuff and Unqualified Reservations, but to your point AM just isn’t going to happen where I live. I can only speak as a southerner; I have never lived outside the south for any length of time. AM has never been, and will never be compatible with our culture.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I have to agree, practically speaking. However, I think absolutist monarchy has some selling points to it as a coordination device, which is why it’s so popular in the movement at present.

        First, it’s radically different from anything progressive. Aristocratic republicanism, to a first approximation, looks a lot like demotic politics. It isn’t, I agree with your points on this, but when you’re trying to get converts you oversell. Thus monarchy, and especially absolutist monarchy, and its supporting arguments, are advanced precisely because it’s a radical departure from currently-accepted political theory and it’s obviously such.

        Second, related to the aforementioned, a theory of absolutist monarchy is much simpler than a theory of any other form of government, and so is easier to understand.

        None of this argues for its practicality as an actual form of government, which is questionable in the case of Anglophone reaction. Rather, it’s an attempt at explanation as to why the idea is so popular in our circles. Ultimately, reaction is no more immune than progression to the vicissitudes and necessities of political coordination.

        The real shame here is that we often don’t realize is. Progressives sacralize political coordination, we ignore or sometimes demonize it; neither has a good working understanding of it (though we’re working on it).

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Hi JC and Rhetocrates, sorry for taking long to respond. Frankly, I’m still not used to this whole “having multiple comments on a post” thing!

        Agreed, JC. We definitely need a return to a more legitimate and authoritarian system, but that system won’t be AM. Now, I will grant that it’s a feasible alternative to democracy and populism throughout much of Europe, the parts which have it as their tradition. Russia, Spain, Eastern Europe, even France (if played out right) could all be places where AM could revivify and flourish.

        I originally came to NRx through race realism and HBD (Steve Sailor and Unz, etc.), but then began to develop some ideas about what is the real basis for nationalism (i.e. not race, per se). I would not identify as a “White Nationalist” simply because White is not a nation. There are white nations – lots of them – but “white” is not itself a nation (ethnos, sharing common culture, etc.) and therefore cannot be a credible basis for a nationalistic system.

        Rhetocrates – those are good points. I tend to “oversell” AR because I look at it as the “now that you’ve rejected democracy, here’s an option that would work here in the Anglosphere” option. However, AM *is* a simpler and more direct idea, and I agree that it should be used for its “shock” value to make people wake up and smell the coffee about the dramatic shortfalls of demotism in general. AM for the red-pilling, AR for the finer tuning, eh?


      4. The general push for absolute monarchy aming the better read half of neoreaction is that the laws of entropy demand it.

        Only an absolute monarchy has the ability to impress eugenics. Only an absolute monarchy has the ability to create a decidability structure which can create stable westohalian equilibria, financial stability, etc.

        In freehold aristocracy, the temptation still remains to import cheap labor, there is still an incentive against killing a traitor who inports foreigners, and as hoppe remarks, a short term effecive sovereign has no legal or incentive interest in maximizing future gains.

        Our corporate-socialist hybrid kleptocracy is essentially a freehold aristocracy wherein semites, rich Indians, and the lawyer classes who they patronize, are the freehold citizens, and whites are the laborers.

        We need to set a schelling point revolving around high iq and relative germanic purity of blood, just like someone in the past suggested.

        If your fear is (((inequality))) making it unfeasible, you might take the monarchist model of the honorary aryans to the east. Very high societal equality, but with fixed schelling points, near zero reward for rebelling or betraying the core constituency, zero rewards for foreigners or traitors.

        The ethnic king provides that immutable fogurehead. Individualism drives economies, but causes long term death.


  3. Rhetocrates:
    You make some excellent points. AM is simple. Furthermore it is clearly legitimized; King conquours and protects therefore the land is his. Might makes right plain and simple. John Locke’s arguments against this point in favor of natural rights to property arising because of labor supplied are progressive swill and lead to confusion, that leads to arbitration, that leads to politics and the fall.

    Clearly though AM has its faults. If you look at any Monarchical line and there is a great man followed by lesser men. If the polity is strong enough the circle completes itself, but there are plenty of examples where this doesn’t happen and the polity fails. There is also the population to consider. As Titus elegantly states; some cultures are given to authoritarianism while others are not. This is clearly a source of instability. While I am still studying the concept; it is my belief that Aristocatic Republicanism has the chance to address the issues mentioned above. I have been learning about the Venetian Republic after reading this post and I think it’s an interesting model. It lasted 1,000 years, which few polities can claim (certainly no democratic ones). I’m interested to see how it handled property rites specifically, as I view that as key to stability – see Moldbug’s Formalist Manifesto. Should prove interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I quite agree with you about the drawbacks of monarchy, absolute or otherwise. Further, I think Titus (are we on a first name basis now?) has made a very good case for Anglo-German populations being naturally aristocratic. (If we broaden the idea of Aristocratic Republicanism out to politically fluid but class-rigid aristocracy, we capture even more of the phenomenon, such as pre-Norman England.)

      I was just answering the question of why AM is popular in reaction, not whether or not it’s any good as a practical solution.

      Aside, I do think less-limited monarchies have place in Europe, even Western Europe. France, the Iberian peninsula, Central and Southern Italy are all examples of places that seem to not only tolerate a more powerful monarch, but even thrive under one. Even England, to some degree or another, depending on which section of history you choose.

      Frankly, it appears that in places where Catholic influence is stronger, monarchy is stronger, though that might be confusing cause and effect.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. These are good points all, Rhetocrates.

        I’ve found it useful to think of the “political spectrum” (though this is a somewhat misleading term since the point to returning to authoritarian systems is to *eliminate* politics…) as extending from monarchy to aristocracy to democracy. Dictatorial and totalitarian systems (which would generally be even more “absolute” than what we typically think of as “absolute monarchy”) would shade out into AM and then on into, say, various levels of constitutional monarchy and then into various types of elective monarchies and into various aristocratic systems, and then on further and further to the left. It’s interesting that even those Germanic groups which didn’t necessarily form ARs still were relatively aristocratic, even in their approach to monarchy. E.g. I’m currently reading William Carew Hazlitt’s History of the Venetian Republic, and he makes the observation that the Goths (more so) and Lombards (less so) basically followed elective monarchy (which is, in reality, a sort of monarchy-aristocracy hybrid). IIRC, the Anglo-Saxons also followed this sometimes as well, as you hinted at. Indeed, once could make the case that even the modern-era English monarchy was elective at the advent of a dynasty. After all, the House of Hanover was more or less elected by the English nobility in 1714, though of course there were some irregularities and rival claims by the House of Stuart.

        That’s a good point about AM being more common in Catholic countries. I suspect it is because Catholicism itself has more centralising and monarchical tendencies. On the other hand, the affinities of many Germanic peoples for AR and for Protestantism I don’t think would be causal, however, but would stem from the same general set of cultural biases.


    1. Yes, yes it is.

      Of course, I suspect you wanted something a little deeper than that, LOL.

      How to explain the anomaly of Hungary and its individualism…I suspect (this is all, btw, just my “educated guess” from my personal knowledge of the history involved, none of this is confirmed by academia or anything like that) that it has something to do with the Hungarians being the descendants of various Uralic-derived steppe peoples – not necessarily the Huns themselves, despite the name, but more a fusion of the Szekely and the Avar peoples was involved in the Hungarian ethnogenesis. Being steppe people, they had a high amount of individualism which differed from the Latin, Slavic, and Illyric-derived peoples around them. This individualism stemmed from the horse culture which they embodied, so it was rooted in a rather different type of social system than the Germanic individualism would have been, which may be why Hungarians had the individualism, yet also tended towards strong monarchies throughout the Middle Ages.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, I think those are very interesting and valid perspectives. I have visited the national museum in Budapest and it focuses heavily at the time period of the beginning of the Hungarian acquisition (or “conquest” – depending on which side you view it from). The region of what is now Hungary has very ancient roots for human settlements in primitive times. Before the arrival of the Magyars, there was also a period where the land was occupied by another Asiatic tribe which was sort of banned from its original place, somewhere far east. There were artifacts to support this.

        The horse culture and conquest of Europe is well known about the Magyars. Commonly mistaken as the Huns, it was the Magyars which claimed the Carpathian basin, but only after invading elsewhere, as far as present Italy, Spain, Denmark, etc. Native European populations at that time (around 2,000 ywars ago) mistook them as Huns for their Asiatic looks and for their horses and vicious fighting (launching arrows backwards on their horses as they recreated). They were also an incredibly rich artistic culture ornamented with many distinct designs. Ironically, the Huns were the first to deliver an almost annihilating blow to the very beginning the Hungarian settlement. It was miraculous that they recovered.

        Moving beyond this era, we can also undertake the comprehension of Hungarian-ness by more recent history. Although under communist rule during the reign of the USSR, Hungary was infamous for its bending of the rules which became coined as “Goulash Communism”. It was as if it was a sort of wager; how far could the Hungarians stretch the original rules of Russian communism? Ironically, the prevailing circumstances of working and economics for the average person has not much improved from those days. After traveling in Hungary and talking with Hungarians, I learned that many older generation people in fact miss the days of “Goulash Communism” – also known as *Kádár-ism” (a loved political leader, despite his failings).

        From my other travels in Central Europe, the perspective from a Czech person was that they are “all really the same tribe”. He went on to list the Czechs, Poles, Serbs, Romanians, Ukrainians – probably more – but he did not list the Hungarians. He pointed at the difference in language. Admittedly, he also pointed to cultural differences, a sort of “spiciness” that was exclusive to the Hungarians. He also described the horse culture and “wild” nature of the Hungarians as a people. He respected it, however, mostly because of a Hungarian girlfriend he had at some point.

        The entire history of Hungary has been of preservation. Hungary is also responsible for fending for the entire of Europe from Muslim invasion. Hungary was occupied by the Ottomans for a period. Even fighting for its claim for its own language was a struggle; for the beginning majority of the kingdom of Hungary, the official languages were Latin and German – not Hungarian, which was spoken by the common people. Széchenyi was a major political figure who helped erect the consciousness of the importance of the Hungarian language.

        Kossuth was another political leader during the same time as Széchenyi who was his principal opposite. Kossuth was a sort of conservative whole Széchenyi was a sort of social liberal. However, both were incredibly and deeply likeable, individualistic, and magnanimous.

        The history of Hungary is one rooted in individually – even in spite of oppression from various outside forces: Attila the Hun, The Ottoman Empire, The Habsburgs, or the USSR.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Hi James,

        Sorry for taking so long to respond! Again, the “not used to comments” thing, coupled with…well…general laziness, I think it’s called.

        It sounds like you know quite a lot about Hungarian history! An interesting areas, one which I will admit to not knowing very many specifics about, so thank you for the enlightening comment!

        It is no wonder the Hungarians never really took well to Soviet domination, too.

        Liked by 1 person

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