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Effects a two decade long war (with truces in between) would have on a decentralized

Discussion in 'Research' started by Netardapope, Mar 29, 2017.

  1. Netardapope

    Netardapope Sage

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    Hello, I've been working on my novel recently, and a massive event that occured around 7 years before the story starts was the end of a Twenty Year War between most of the civilized nations. I want to focus on what kind of effects this would have on a decentralized Empire, akin to the Holy Roman Empire during the 1450's.

    Things like agriculture, population, and infrastructure would be nice to know about. Mainly, I think it's safe to assume that many villages would be struggling due to a lack of men, and cities would have entire families that are descended from refugees. But that is around the extent of my knowledge. Also, this decentralized Empire was the one that lost the war.

    This is the list of priorities I want for advice:

    1. The Economy

    2. The Culture

    3. The politics

    Thanks!


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  2. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    This is fairly easy to answer--just look at the Hundred Years War.

    I'm afraid you may be disappointed, though. 1450 is still before handguns, though they did have cannons. Not really field artillery yet (they were soon to gain that). Basically, the effect of warfare was still limited. If you lived where an army marched, or in a besieged city, or were otherwise in the path of violence, then the war could be very disruptive. But you could be as little as thirty miles away and you might barely notice it. I can go into a number of localized exceptions (such as the notorious routiers), but the above would be your starting point.

    It wasn't just the technology. Even more important were the limited capabilities of governments to raise armies and keep them in the field for extended periods of time. The 100YW was characterized by two things: sieges and chevauchées (basically large-scale raids). That said, there could be significant implications on a more localized level. The successive French losses at Crécy (1346) and Poitiers (1356) did result in a succession crises and (combined with famine) a widespread rebellion. But by 1370 that was all but in the past. Few long-term effects.

    Contrast that with the 30YW, which was catastrophic for Germany. By the 1600s, armies had good field artillery, much better siege weapons, and sidearms (no rifles yet). They could cause death in the thousands. They could so batter a city (Magdeburg) as to create a firestorm. Whole villages could and did wither away.

    But you really do need a government that has a regular and reliable income stream (which medieval governments did not), effective central authority (just being king ain't enough), standing armies, and the full range of gunpowder weapons. The 30YW was Europe's most destructive war until WWI.
     
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  3. Netardapope

    Netardapope Sage

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    Forgive me if it seems like I'm shooting in the dark here, but would this assesment be similar should the war take place in a period more akin to the early to mid 16th century? I'm looking to make my story during the period right before the popularization of gunppwder and near the latter days of knighthood. So would that be the proper time? And what kind of affects would the war have during THAT time period.

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  4. Ban

    Ban Sir Laserface Article Team

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    I'm not an expert on warfare, but I can almost certainly say that the 30 year war would not have been remotely the same without the guns available at the time. As Skip alluded to, the introduction of advanced handheld guns led to a major change in the way war was fought. The middle ages were characterised by sieges. It was incredibly rare to have a major battle in medieval times. Usually armies would hide inside their castles and either be starved out by the enemy till they surrendered or outlast the besiegers. Gunpowder changed this significantly. Fortifying yourself for months was no longer an option because the enemy was able to tear the castle down before then. From that point onwards large armies fighting large armies was the go-to option, which made war far more bloody far quicker.

    From my knowledge there wasn't any really large war like the 30 years war or 7 years war fought in the transition period you're describing. On wikipedia it says that the first hand-held "cannon" was developed in Italy at the end of the 15th century (schioppo). As it so happens Italy was pretty damn divided and there was atleast two fairly major wars between different important countries going on at the time, the Italian War of 1499–1504 and the War of the League of Cambrai. I don't know anything about either but they might help you along the way. Personally I doubt that guns as primitive as these would have had a terribly big effect on the structure of battle. The armors used by the elite would probably have adapted fairly quickly though. Plate armor isn't very useful when the enemy has guns.


    EDIT: Found this wikipedia page which could be of use Early modern warfare - Wikipedia .
    From the Europe section on it describes the changes made by the introduction of gunpowder (and other major changes at the time)
     
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2017
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  5. Russ

    Russ Istar

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    I would have no problem writing a 40,000 word thesis on your question but I can't find the time.

    So what you are trying to do is model something, a all powers long war in central europe pre-gunpowder, that never happened, on events that did happen.

    Because as has been pointed out quite astutely above wars were much more limited in scope and purpose before the great wars of religion that the reformation brought on. It is hard to do what you are asking but not impossible.

    First thing we need to know, was what were the wars about? Because war aims impact how and why you fight the wars. If you are fighting the war to conquer more arable land and peasants to farm it, then you don't kill the darned peasants and might not burn the crops. IF you are fighting to convert or kill everyone to your worldview, or to punish for crimes, or to get more women etc, you fight the war very differently. Is it about resources, than the question is what resources and who do you get them?

    Refugees are a pretty modern phenomena.

    So I might suggest you look at some exemplar wars that were similar to the causes and technologies of the ones that you are interested in. If you are looking for total war, have a look at some of the wars in the east between the Ottomans and the Habsburgs. Or even look at the Mongol incursions. You could look at the Reconquista in Spain. Or you could model the Hundred Years War, or the Wars with the Vikings. IT all kind of depends on who was fighting and very importantly why they were fighting? Was ransoming important to these wars? That makes a big difference as well.
     
  6. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

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    Weirdly, the OP's questions and situation come fairly close to that in my stories.

    Solaria: a nation on another world, patterned after a sort of 'reunited Roman Empire.' The premise being that it was put back together by a Charlemagne type figure through a combination of conquest and political marriage (Morgan DuSwaimair). That's about 150 years in the past. (My superficial understanding is that Charlemagne had a similar opportunity to reunite the eastern and western empires, but was sabotaged.)

    Charlemagne's empire effectively broke up after his death. Same almost happened with Solaria - Morgan's heir wasn't all that great a ruler. The third emperor (Franklin), though, was a brutal, competent populist. He basically massacred the would-be plotters, and maintained control via a centralized bureaucracy that came close to being a police state - lots of spies and informers. He also standardized the army, imposing the old legion model on the whole country - prior to that, the army thing was the typical knights and peasant militia bit. He also effectively outlawed the regional nobles from maintaining standing armies. Individual knights, bodyguards, and small units remained. To cement all this together, he ordered built thousands of semaphore signal towers, line of site, each equipped with telescopes (optics on this world is far more advanced than the norm). Legion veterans were offered land in conquered areas and citizenship, along with their families - means of improving their status that enraged the established nobility.

    Successive emperors were far less brutal, making the bureaucracy less of a terror organization and more of a civil service.

    About 25 years ago, a border feud between Solaria and Traag (a state without direct earthly parallel) spun out of control. Traag, a nation noted for sorcerous expertise, invaded, its somewhat inferior troops bolstered with conjured demons. They also recruited entire tribes of barbarians and city-states of goblins to their cause, among others.

    Solaria's legions and knights could usually better Traag's troops on the battlefield, but being weak in magic, couldn't do much about the demons - at least to start with. They embarked on a threefold program:

    1 - demons needed to be summoned. So, they dispatched assassins after those doing the summoning.

    2 - they systematically went through the empire, identifying those with magical talent, and putting them through a crash training program. A little magic being better than no magic.

    3 - they sought out alternatives - specifically technology. Enter Equitant, a Solarian province that was mostly ignored even in the old days. Equitant was a frontier province, settled by soldiers, many of them 'immunes' (artisans). Over the centuries, these artisans honed their skills. A few decades prior to Morgan, a predecessor emperor (long story) decided to see what might happen should these artisans be exposed to the most educated folks in the realm. Early results included the printing press (made an immediate, absolute monopoly by Church and State), telescopes, crude hot air balloons, primitive submarines, and the signal towers, among others. Up until the Traag War, Solaria's government went to substantial lengths to suppress these inventions outside of Equitant, on the grounds they were too disruptive militarily and socially. But the war changed that.

    Large numbers of imperials became exposed to Equitant's inventions during the war. Perhaps the biggest was bicycles - crude, heavy single speed contraptions that nevertheless let legionaries travel close to a hundred miles a day along good roads. These troops gained expertise in bicycle construction and upkeep. Their mobility let entire legions outflank enemy troops.

    The most dramatic Equitant invention, though, was 'blasting powder' (gunpowder). 100 pound gunpowder bombs fired from catapults in the wars final battles proved more than even the demons could handle.

    But twenty some years of fighting proved a severe drain on the imperial coffers. When Solaria finally 'won,' the nation was effectively bankrupt and in economic crisis. When the bulk of the legions were demobilized, all of the troopers - not just the 20 year men as before - were granted land and citizenship in lieu of coin. Said citizenship extended to the soldiers brothers and sisters and their offspring. This effectively laid the groundwork for an explosion of the 'middle class' - which is one of the things my characters are grappling with in the stories.

    One character is a knight who realizes that era is ending, but knows no other way.

    Another is a soldier turned sorcerer trying to fit into civilian life.

    Another seeks status via aristocratic marriage - though the aristocracies power is showing some serious fault lines.

    And so on.
     
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  7. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    I just want to reiterate, it's not really about the tech. That was a factor, without doubt, but the crucial variables were a stronger central government, a standing army, and a much bigger income stream. Those things emerged during the religious wars of the 16th century, so the earlier you push it, the less true it will be. Also, in the period on which you seem to focus (say, 1450-1550), the real powerhouse was infantry, especially German and Swiss mercenaries. This was the age of the pikeman.

    It was also the heyday of mercenaries in general--condotierri, with colorful names and colorful careers. And that tells you something about the state of the governments who employed them. Those governments could not field an army for themselves. Or, if they did, the expense could not be borne for more than a year or two. Those artillery pieces that were being developed? Terribly expensive. Check out Charles VIII's campaign in Italy.

    As is true in more modern times, socio-economic forces drove tech, which in turn drove socio-economic (and political) change. You don't get one without the other.

    All that said, you can always introduce handwavium and make these awkward historical nits go away. But you did make the mistake of asking us the historical question, didn't you? ;-)
     
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  8. Sheilawisz

    Sheilawisz Queen of Titania Moderator

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    Hello everyone!

    I agree with the others on the fact that a twenty years long war (with truces) fought with 1450's weapons would not have a catastrophic consequence, even for the side that loses it. The wars back then were not as destructive as later, but still there would be some level of damage done to the things that you mentioned Net.

    A good source of income would give advantage for one of the sides at war. Another factor to consider is the Taxation system. Maybe your country has a lot of resources and in theory you have the potential for loads of income, but if you do not have a good system of taxes then that wealth is not going to benefit you much in case of war.

    Edward III was capable of mounting such powerful offensives against France because the English taxation system was much better than that of France, for example. Even a smaller country, with a smaller population can mount a very good War Effort if everything is planned and coordinated just right.

    Agriculture: The most destructive tactics would be huge raids, and in that case the raider forces could have burned a lot of crops and small villages. Perhaps they also poisoned the lands with salt or something, and in case that the war was particularly vicious then yes, the losing side would have a diminished amount of productive lands. Anyway, there would not be a massive famine years after the war.

    Population: Even a very vicious war could not have killed too many people. Perhaps tens of thousands of men died in battle, and ten of thousands more civilians that perished in raids or as a consequence of war famine. Still, this would not be very noticeable for a large empire, and they would recover quickly.

    Infrastructure: Not much infrastructure to talk about, really. Small villages raided and burned, perhaps some fortresses and a few important castles destroyed. I think the larger cities would have been safe during the war.

    Economy, Culture and Politics: Depending on how much interest and effort were involved for winning the war, the economy could suffer to a significant degree. This would generate a snowball effect, which could cause something like a revolution that would end a ruling dynasty and allow another one to raise and take its place.

    There could be a change of culture, from one that always believed and trusted its leaders to one that is more careful and does more to stop something that could bring catastrophe, like starting a war for reasons that are sometimes trivial and weird.

    A potential consequence for the economy would be this:

    Imagine that the enemy managed to raid and burn not only your most important commercial port city, but several of other, smaller ones as well. Let's say that you used these ports to export goods that represent a great deal of your income, like wine, wool and grain. Oh, many of your ships were lost in battle, too!

    It's true that you would find other ways to export and the economy would recover, but you have a problem anyway.

    In general, war is a very unpredictable thing. I think that your war and its consequences do not need to be exactly like examples from real world history, you just need it to be accurate and believable enough.

    I have moved this thread from World Building to the Research Forum.
     
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  9. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

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    Pretty much the situation on my world. The chief difference (which I believe is credible) is that the imperial government had a love-hate mentality towards the tech, and for a long while was strong enough to keep the most useful (to the government) bits to itself and keep the remainder sequestered. Though, in the long run, the tech would still have spread despite these efforts, bringing social change with it. The Traag War accelerated matters. If my somewhat hazy memory serves, there are multiple instances of 1500-1800 AD governments attempting roughly similar programs.

    What inspired me was DeCamps 'The Ancient Engineers' where he pointed out the old Roman Empire had everything required to become a technological society, but deliberately and successfully suppressed this because their society was based on slave labor. With Solaria, tech potential snuck by in the backwater province of Equitant, and hesitantly bloomed under the protection of a curious Emperor.
     
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  10. Netardapope

    Netardapope Sage

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    I like your stance. The main point of this threead was so I could get the historical effects of such a war, despite that in my case, there would be magical aftereffects. I didn't want to really too much on those, since the magicak effects of the war are much more catastrophic, but I needed some historical aftermaths to balance it out.

    Thanks!

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  11. Ban

    Ban Sir Laserface Article Team

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    But weren't some of these the result of technological advancement? To me it sounds like a large standing army only became viable when castles grew ineffective, which I think only happened after the widespread usage of gunpowder. And a strong central government could only have been implemented and maintained by a monarch if they had a large standing army to enforce it. I don't think increased wealth and the rise of the pikeman alone could have brought about these changes. A pikeman was a strong counter to the heavy cavalry popular during medieval times which would have certainly changed the face of battle, but I don't see how the pikeman could have led to significant development in army size and military structure.

    I could definitely be wrong about this though :)
     
  12. Russ

    Russ Istar

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    Pikeman are a big deal, because they are cheap and easy as heck to train. A competent pikeman can be created in a very short period of time.

    We also have to keep in mind that attitudes towards fighting impact war quite a bit as well, it is not simply at technological/economic equation. Ideas about personal actions, what to do with prisoners etc all have an impact and are not always driven by economics or technology.
     
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  13. Ban

    Ban Sir Laserface Article Team

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    I agree that pikemen significantly changed the battlefield in how battles were fought tactically, but if I'm correct than the overall strategy of war would not have been changed alot. Sieges and raids would still be the primary way of waging war, neither of which require large armies with strong military hierarchies.
     
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  14. Russ

    Russ Istar

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    Well, the move towards pikeman does change army size, because they are cheap and very effective. You can have a lot more of them for a low cost, so your potential army size goes up.

    Pikemen definitely change hierarchy and structure because they represent a revolution in how one thinks about the individual soldier. They are useless on their own, they need to operate in large co-ordinated blocks, and thus you have to have more discipline amongst them than almost any other type of troop to make them useful.

    Raids, are a reflection of goals and values, and you are right that they are very important as a indicator of what the goal of war was at any particular time. Pikeman, however, make pretty crappy raiders, and they are symptom of changes in why people fought wars as well as how they fought them.

    The larger question for the OP really is "could something more akin to the 'total war' have been fought using 1450 technology over two decades or so." I think that might have been possible. Just because it didn't happen, or more accurately, the military powers didn't chose to try that in that period, doesn't mean it could not have happened if they thought it was necessary. If you look at the wars against the Ottomans, Mongols or the crusades in Poland, Latvia etc you can see more aspects of the total war concept with pre-gunpowder technology.

    It is an interesting thought experiment, and could work in historically based fiction I think.
     
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  15. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    I would also consider the effects wrought by shifting border lines or control of lands on the edges of each country's sphere of influence. If your Empire has lost, it is likely to have lost lands and control of certain geographical features like coastlines, rivers, mountain passes.

    On the edges, something like culture shock could happen where one country's control was eliminated and another country expanded.

    At the time, military, economic, and cultural influence shrank with distance from the centers of power, already, so villages and peoples far from those centers might or might not notice a particular difference if country B took over control from the Empire. Quite possibly, peoples on the edges might already be a slight mix of cultures or even have ambivalence regarding the two countries, or a total disregard of both countries—before the war happened.

    But certain key towns and fortified populations might experience a lot of culture shock. Some privileged members of those communities could suffer economic loss (if not their lives) as new forces come into control. (E.g., the winning country establishes a new governor, along with all the bribery, patronage, etc., that come with a new governor.) Certain lines of trade could be altered as goods are now shipped and/or routed back to the conquering land. These types of changes would occur to a greater or lesser degree depending on the significance of the population centers that have been captured and on the intent of the winning country.

    Edit: Also, you might look at the way different cultures would blend in those population centers that have been captured.. Friction between cultures like this has often enough led to advances in technology, science, philosophy, and so forth. Art could be affected as different aesthetic frictions occur. Religious practices could even be warped, altered in the resulting mélange. These might not be entirely obvious so soon after the end of the fighting; but there could be hints of changes, and individuals within those areas might be further along than the societies as a whole.
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2017
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  16. TheKillerBs

    TheKillerBs Inkling

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    Rome says hi
     
  17. Ban

    Ban Sir Laserface Article Team

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    The Roman Empire grew in a period before castles became widespread, so that's an entirely different situation. Had castles been around at the time than the romans would not have been able to employ large standing armies. Why they chose to not build any castles would be a rather interesting research topic though.
     
  18. TheKillerBs

    TheKillerBs Inkling

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    Do you really think a castle would have fared any better than a fortified city against invading forces in the tens of thousands?
     
  19. Ban

    Ban Sir Laserface Article Team

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    Yes. Cities are generally built in vast low-lying areas such as valleys or plains because these are the places able to sustain large populations. This makes it far easier for besiegers to surround the city. Castles on the other hand were generally built on defensible positions such as hills or cliffs and if such a place was not available the owner would usually build a moat around the castle which would be difficult to do for most cities due to their size. The primary difference however is the supply of food. The main strength of a castle is that it allows long-time security for a relatively small group of key-figures from outside threats. Because a castle needs only defend such a small group of people it only needs a relatively small supply of food to sustain itself for months or years. A third advantage of the castle is that the people within the castle are in small enough numbers to be controlled by those in charge of the castle. In a city this is not the case however. If traders and farmers whose livelihood depended on goods produced outside of the city were to be locked up inside the city for months, the likelyhood of them rebelling against the lock-down for personal reasons would be high.
    The size of the besieging force of a castle also wouldn't have mattered in a pre-gunpowder society. Without gunpowder the besieging force would not be able to tear the castle down unless they were willing to lose most of their manpower. Which is doubtful because even in medieval times there was a limit to how hard you could push the employed soldiers.
     
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2017
  20. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    It's a fun but fruitless exercise to talk about what did not happen in history. It's hard enough to figure out what *did* happen. But standing armies and castles can and do go together. The Byzantines are but one example.
     
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