A Destiny Realized: A Timeline of Afsharid Iran and Beyond

Well now that the Russian already have foothold in south of caucacus this is will be just the start of series of Russo-Persian war in the region. With Georgian success, Armenian might start to try break free too now with potential Russian help just beyond the border.

The Ottoman might start to worry too if this continue. I'm bit wonder why they not try to intervene just to limit Russian gain but it also make sense why they not intervene consider they are in the process of modernization and recently supress rebelion of their own.

Also what are the view of other great power regarding this Russian expansion in the caucacus?
I think it will all depend on how well the Armenians are doing under Persian rule and comparing it to life under Russian rule.
On one hand the Armenians do have the example of the successful Georgians but on the other, they have also been close enough to have seen the damage wrought by the long conflict. In addition to this, the territory of Armenia itself is far more mixed than Georgia was, and the Armenians themselves are far more dispersed. Any future Armenian national movement will have far more of a mountain to climb than the Georgians did.

The Ottomans themselves are still fearful of the Russian Bear. Although it is a decade since the Russians expunged Ottoman influence from the Crimea, the Ottomans have seen the Russians win some successes against their stronger Iranian neighbours and have taken note. They are quite aware that they have to be careful when playing this game of diplomacy.

In some ways, the fact that the Iranians are taken more seriously than they were in OTL, has limited concerns about Russian expansion in the region, and the fact that the British are not a territorial power in India beyond a few coastal enclaves will likely lessen concerns while averting the "Great Game". Nevertheless, events in Europe (which will be looked at a bit later) will ensure that Russian expansionism outside of Europe is forgiven.
At this point any hope of having the Caucasus as a border has been destroyed - with Georgia, the Russians opened a pretty big can of pretty nasty worms, which goes very well into their favor (to create a big buffer zone south of the Caucasus)
Defence against Russia will certainly be a harder proposition in the future, though the Iranian position is certainly far from hopeless. The Armenian Highland is still a fairly difficult area to campaign in, and Iran still has some possessions north of the Caucasian Mountain range. One aspect of any future Russo-Iranian War that has not been examined in the previous update is that of Russian expansion south in Central Asia. Instead of the weak and disparate Khanates she faced in OTL, she will instead by facing a strong Iranian state ruling a more densely-populated area.
I am quite to see if we will get a cultural update on Georgia some time in the future
The one question with future Georgian updates is where exactly to squeeze them, but I will find somewhere.
Love the narrative bits.
Same here, though I think it's harder to write a historical character than a fictionalized one.
I definitely agree about writing the parts about historical characters. I'm actually working on further narrative updates, so we may see a return to the kind of density that was seen at the beginning of the timeline, though with a wider range of characters.
This is a rather ironic question: how does Iran treat it's Jews?
Treatment of the Jews is, in some way, starting to slide behind that of some parts of Europe. The Jews still live under various social restrictions, though ghettoisation isn't as strictly an enforced rule as it was in OTL's Qajar Iran. One of Afsharid Iran's hallmarks is tolerance but this tolerance is scarcely extended to non-Muslim minorities. Some among the Armenian community have managed to thrive, and although the Jews have avoided the persecution that they faced in Iran's difficult 18th century so far, it remains to be seen how they'll fare in the 19th.
Since the battle of Georgia ITL, I doubt the Russians will going to leave Iran alone, nor will they forget. Well, Russians. One can imagined it to be like a battle between two giants.

On a different topic, what happens to the Azeris in ITTL? They're one of the major ethnic groups in the Caucasus. They're of Turkic bloodlines and shared the same Shiite faith with the majority of Iranians.
At the very least, Russo-Iranian wars will be a far more equal contest than they were in OTL.

The Azeris are very much around, though they're not really thought of as Azeris at this point anyway. It is worth keeping in mind that the Afsharids themselves were of Turkic origin, and Nader himself was very aware of this. Although not as important administratively as Persian, Turkish is still an important language within Iran, and is still the mother tongue of the ruling dynasties.
Thread marks?
Sorted. I was really sure that I'd put one on for the last update but apparently I hadn't.
 
Toward Regional Consolidation - India 1805 to 1831
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Regionalism or National Formation? The Politics of the Indian Subcontinent in the Early 19th Century

The seeming re-consolidation of the Mughal State in Hindustan, albeit limited in scope and under the actual control of the Awadhis, promised yet further change on the Indian Subcontinent which had already seen half a century of geopolitical revolution. The puppet Mughal Emperor Shah Alam III sent demands to those Nawabs still left in power that they would defer to the Awadhi Grand Vizier, though ultimately all that this accomplished was the confirmation of the decade of Mughal Power outside its Hindustani core. By 1806, the Nawab of Bengal had, in an astonishing proclamation, declared the now Shi’a dominated government of the Mughal Empire defunct, confirming his own independence as the Sultan of Bengal, harking back not to Mughal sources of legitimacy but those of the earlier Islamic Sultanate of Bengal which had dominated the area before the rise of the Mughal Empire. He was enabled to take this radical course of action by the growing power and prosperity of Bengal, which was by now one of the richest and most populous states in the world, by some measures second only to the Empire of China.


While none of the other surviving post-Mughal states ruled by the Nawabs and Subedars still supposedly loyal to Delhi engaged in so violent a break with the puppet Padishah, the Awadhi takeover for them confirmed that the relative independence was the new reality as opposed to a temporary occurrence. Although it would still take time before the Awadhi-dominated Neo-Mughal state came to accept its adjusted position within the Indian Subcontinent, the decades after its consolidation saw an increasing acknowledgement of the new reality on the part of both its neighbours as well as the former vassals of the Mughals. In this new post-Mughal world, the states of the Indian subcontinent now had to work toward a new understanding of inter-state relations, though this was very much complicated by the heterogeneity of the region. The Hindu Marathas bristled against both Muslim and Hindu neighbours, the Shi’a Awadhis found relations with their Sunni Muslim neighbours complicated and the Sikhs of the Punjab found themselves comparatively isolated.


It was in this era of confused relations and confused loyalties that the beginnings of what would later be known as the “National Revivals” of India would begin. The term, ultimately a fundamentally misleading one when the greater context of India’s history is taken into account, came to describe the process which had begun to take place in some Indian states which saw a heightened focus on the majority language of said states. This was noticeable in Bengal, which would still retain a Persian-speaking court well into the 19th century, but which from the first decade of the century onward saw an increasing emphasis on the Bengali language in popular literature as well as commerce [1]. This reflected a gradual shift in outlook which saw the Bay of Bengal and the seas beyond it as increasingly important as Bengali trade was ever more seaborne, as well as the changed political outlook following the formal break with Delhi. The growth in production of Bengali textiles fuelled both increased trade abroad as well as prosperity at home. While the appearances of Bengali cities such as Dhaka still left Europeans unimpressed, there was nevertheless a great deal more economic dynamism in these cities than in European metropolises such as Naples and Moscow.


If Bengal was inching toward a sense of national identity, than the Maratha Confederacy was racing toward it. To a large extent opposed to the Mughals and Indo-Islamic culture, the Maratha rulers had turned not only to a renewed emphasis on Hinduism but on Marathi language and culture [2]. In the wake of the Maratha Civil War of 1787-98 and the weakening of ties with outlying provinces such as Malwa and Orissa, this trend was strengthened. Following the “Confederation Wars” of the 1810s which saw what had formerly been outlying provinces turned into independent states, the pace of change was quickened and by the 1830s, Marathi was not only the language of the majority of the population of the Maratha state, but was also on the way toward becoming the language of administration and the army. Maratha poems, songs and literature increasingly spoke of a “Maratha people” as a distinct entity from the rest of India, and the rulers of the state focused not on building a pan-Indian Empire as their predecessors had done, but on further consolidating their rule in their home territory. Not for nothing was the emerging “Maharashtra” later labelled as the first true Indian Nation State [3]. This may not have been obvious in the 1830s but in retrospect the seeds of a true national identity had been sown in this era.


A move toward a kind of proto-national consciousness was not present in all the emerging states of India however. Mysore in particular, although ably-led and possessing a modern army, lacked the kind of natural cohesion which some of its neighbours did. Although the majority of its people were speakers of Dravidian Languages, few thought much of this at the beginning of the 19th century. Mysore’s rulers held a territory that was quite heavily Hindu and heterogeneous in population. There were four main languages spoken by the inhabitants of the enlarged Mysore, as well as dozens of smaller languages. The authority of the Sultan was based largely on conquest, and unlike regions further north, the creation of a Muslim empire encompassing the whole of the Dravidian-speaking South was a novel idea. Thus while the other Indian states were moving swiftly or steadily toward the adoption of regional languages as languages of administration and the court, Mysore’s rulers had little incentive to follow this trend. Mysore would remain as one of the Indian states more open to Iranian influences well into the 19th century despite its geographical distance from Iran.


[1] – Think of this as somewhat akin of the “Bengali Renaissance” of the late 18th century of OTL.

[2] – All while adopting Mughal methods of rule as their territories were taken over by Marathas, it must be noted.

[3] – A bit lazy in terms of the name I’m aware, though the etymology behind the name doesn’t make it too unlikely in terms of a name for a Maratha nation-state.

* * * * * *

The End of the Golden Age: India's Economy in the Early 19th Century

The first decades of the 19th century represented the continuation of the economic golden age that the Indian Subcontinent had seen in the 18th century. A rise in population that coincided with the reduction of the intensity of warfare as the post-Mughal states saw increased cultivation, a boon in a region where fertile uncultivated land was still in relative abundance. The one exception to this was Maharashtra, whose devastating civil war in the 1810s saw the population shrink by almost a quarter, but even the wake of this war saw an increase in cotton production in particular, and although her population in 1830 was roughly equivalent to what it had been in 1800, both increased trade ties with the British as well as the growth in the production of cash crops meant that her per-capita income had actually increased, despite the effects of the Confederal War. Not for nothing has it often been argued that in contrast to China and parts of Europe, India was far from the “high-level equilibrium trap” that had supposedly trapped the more developed areas of the world by the beginning of the 19th century. Clearly in India there was yet more room for growth.


And yet this rosy picture of the subcontinental economy belies a number of structural weaknesses that afflicted the economies of the subcontinent. In examining these weaknesses it is worthwhile noting that these were not common to all the economies of the subcontinent. The financial system was far more developed in Bengal for example than it was in the Punjab. Likewise wages for manufacturers in Mysore were considerably higher than they were elsewhere on the subcontinent. However, there were a number of features that tended to be common to the various Indian states. Although there were huge financial houses in the advanced regions of the Indian subcontinent such as the Seths of Bengal, the accumulation of capital was hampered by the lack of complex financial institutions and instruments as seen in the more advanced regions of Western Europe. While Indian governments were often able to find the credit that was needed to prosecute their wars, entrepreneurs apparently unable to raise the capital needed for certain enterprises.


These issues had not been enough to stop the rise of Indian manufacturing in the 18th century. However by the second decade of the 19th century, the impact that the beginnings of industrialisation in Europe would bring was becoming apparent. In far-flung areas where Indian textiles had traditionally been in high demand, competition from machine-woven textiles from Lancashire made Indian exports less and less competitive. By the 1820s, the amount of silver that India imported in exchange for her exports had noticeably declined, which was becoming a serious concern in a subcontinent whose population was still growing swiftly. In 1823 Vinod Seth, a prominent Bengali banker and scion of the Seth Banking house, officially petitioned the Nawab to address the decline in the availability of specie. Having drained countries such as Iran of their precious metals in the 17th and 18th centuries with their exporting vigour, the economies of India were now in the process of having the same unpleasant process happen to them. By 1828, the process had become so intolerable that Mysore became the first country on the Indian subcontinent to ban the export of silver from the country, a move that appeared to stop the outflow of silver for the time being but which would bring its own problems.


With the decline in exports came a slowdown in the growth of manufacturing. While the cultivation of both foodstuffs and cash crops continued to grow in the 19th century, India’s previously world-beating textiles industries first became stagnant, and then began to shrink as time went on. What prevented the wholescale collapse of manufacturing in India tended to be the retention of state industries in some states. The Punjab, Bengal and Mysore in particular maintained large weapons-manufacturing concerns, and Mysore’s armouries in particular were noted for the high quality of its manufactures, which a French attaché to the Mysorean army judged as “equal, if not a small measure superior” to those of his own country. Weapons manufacturers in the Punjab created excellent light artillery, well suited to the mountainous areas which bordered Iran as well as arid areas of the country. The retention of these industries, which often relied on the state as the sole customer, went a considerable way toward ensuring the retention of technical expertise in some of India’s larger states [4]. In the smaller states, as well as those with closer European ties such as Maharashtra, the increasing reliance on cheaper European arms came with some benefits but also with a loss in technically proficient manufacturers, who often emigrated to areas where their skills were more in demand.


[4] – The loss of this technical expertise in OTL, in part a consequence of company rule and a resulting lack of state demand for native weapons manufactures, may well have hampered India’s long term economic growth.

* * * * * *

Author's Notes - India may have diverged almost as much as Iran by this point, and is more or less unrecognizable to the India of our own timeline by this point. There has been no great imperial successor to the Mughals, and instead the growing tendency in the late Mughal era toward fragmentation seems to have strengthened. It remains to be seen whether these Indian states will emerge as nation-states as we would understand them, but they are certainly on that path, with some exceptions.

Economically of course, there are elements that mirror OTL. Technological innovations in the British textile industry were always going to make Indian products less competitive on the world market, but other aspects of Indian de-industrialisation were very much a product of the EIC's policies as demonstrated by Prasannan Parthasarathi's excellent book Why Europe Grew Rich and Asia Did Not. India's economy will certainly suffer, but this won't be a mirror of OTL by any stretch of the imagination.
 
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songs and literature increasingly spoke of a “Maratha people” as a distinct entity from the rest of India

The Maratha ethnic group is distinct from everyone who speaks Marathi. A Maratha is a member of an ethnic group which originated in the armies of the Deccan Sultanate and later claimed Rajput status. The Peshwa was not a Maratha, however, and neither were most of the administration or even most of the army - they were Brahmins. According to the Cambridge History of India, the Maratha nobility was so irked by this that they openly discussed overthrowing the Peshwa and restoring the Chhatrapati (a Maratha) to real power.

I think you’d see songs and literature speak of a “Marathi people” here.

Also, by the way, “Maharashtra” denotes only the place where Marathi is native, and therefore excludes parts of the Empire where, say, Konkani is spoken. Perhaps, when it comes to the nation name, we could see some variation on “Swarajya”, used by Maratha rulers to refer to their dominion.

Think of this as somewhat akin of the “Bengali Renaissance” of the late 18th century of OTL.

I am curious - does anyone like Ram Mohan Roy emerge? At the very least, an anti-sati campaign something like his is likely to emerge since there were real social forces behind it such as the decline in population of the Kulin Brahmins and a belief that keeping widows alive and allowing them to remarry would reverse this decline. This decline seems to have originated as far back as the seventeenth century.
 
I hope that Bengal becomes a modern independent state, with both OTL Bangladesh and also Indian Bengal. Also, today was Yom Kippur, fasting (no foor or water for 24 hours) was AWFUL!
 
On one hand the Armenians do have the example of the successful Georgians but on the other, they have also been close enough to have seen the damage wrought by the long conflict. In addition to this, the territory of Armenia itself is far more mixed than Georgia was, and the Armenians themselves are far more dispersed. Any future Armenian national movement will have far more of a mountain to climb than the Georgians did.

The Kurds and Assyrians, both people's share homelands that cover geography with the Armenian's.

To a large extent opposed to the Mughals and Indo-Islamic culture, the Maratha rulers had turned not only to a renewed emphasis on Hinduism but on Marathi language and culture [2]. In the wake of the Maratha Civil War of 1787-98 and the weakening of ties with outlying provinces such as Malwa and Orissa, this trend was strengthened. Following the “Confederation Wars” of the 1810s which saw what had formerly been outlying provinces turned into independent states, the pace of change was quickened and by the 1830s, Marathi was not only the language of the majority of the population of the Maratha state, but was also on the way toward becoming the language of administration and the army. Maratha poems, songs and literature increasingly spoke of a “Maratha people” as a distinct entity from the rest of India, and the rulers of the state focused not on building a pan-Indian Empire as their predecessors had done, but on further consolidating their rule in their home territory. Not for nothing was the emerging “Maharashtra” later labelled as the first true Indian Nation State [3]. This may not have been obvious in the 1830s but in retrospect the seeds of a true national identity had been sown in this era.

Good to see the Maratha national identity being built up
 
So Bengal is a sultanate now, with the Nawab changing his title to Sultan, but still being the Nizam of Bihar and Orissa? Also, if I read that right, the Marathas have lost most of Malwa and Orissa along with other regions?
 
So Bengal is a sultanate now, with the Nawab changing his title to Sultan, but still being the Nizam of Bihar and Orissa?

I’d assume he’d simply absorb them into his title as Sultan - it doesn’t make sense for a king to be his own viceroy, after all.
 
Bengal may be the one to become European-level in terms of modernness. i mean, a lot of their land has just 1 language (Bengali) so there will be less internal fighting, and as we know, Bangladesh has the most arable land in the world.
 
I am simply ecstatic at how well Bengal is doing. An independent Sultanate and thriving economy and powerful, well-drilled and armed military. So happy!
 
So far the Bengalis seem to be leading the pack as far as development and modernity, but I do see the Punjabis and maybe the Awadhis following suit.
 
Bengal may be the one to become European-level in terms of modernness. i mean, a lot of their land has just 1 language (Bengali) so there will be less internal fighting, and as we know, Bangladesh has the most arable land in the world.

Not necessarily a single dominant language namely Bengali, because Oriya language is quite a different language from Bengali and is spoken by quite a large enough population that Bengali can only said to be have a plurality rather than the dominant language when we also take into account the lands of Bihar having populations speaking a varied range of languages and dialects including Hindustani, Maithili,Magadhi and the languages of the hill tribes in present day Jharkhand.

As for infighting, well they still control the heartlands of the present day Naxal movement with the reasons for that movement not really removed, so that remains to be seen. Also hill tribes if not properly dealt with, can prove to be a thorn in the side especially when your enemies are willing to provide them with weapons and money to trouble you.
 
the lands of Bihar having populations speaking a varied range of languages and dialects including Hindustani, Maithili,Magadhi

I can imagine Bengal achieving some success in assimilating Biharis into the Bengali-speaking population because those dialects are not too dissimilar to Bengali. Oriya and the Jharkhand languages, on the other hand, will certainly be rather tough to absorb.
 
Now we are really diverging.
The Maratha ethnic group is distinct from everyone who speaks Marathi. A Maratha is a member of an ethnic group which originated in the armies of the Deccan Sultanate and later claimed Rajput status. The Peshwa was not a Maratha, however, and neither were most of the administration or even most of the army - they were Brahmins. According to the Cambridge History of India, the Maratha nobility was so irked by this that they openly discussed overthrowing the Peshwa and restoring the Chhatrapati (a Maratha) to real power.

I think you’d see songs and literature speak of a “Marathi people” here.

Also, by the way, “Maharashtra” denotes only the place where Marathi is native, and therefore excludes parts of the Empire where, say, Konkani is spoken. Perhaps, when it comes to the nation name, we could see some variation on “Swarajya”, used by Maratha rulers to refer to their dominion.

I am curious - does anyone like Ram Mohan Roy emerge? At the very least, an anti-sati campaign something like his is likely to emerge since there were real social forces behind it such as the decline in population of the Kulin Brahmins and a belief that keeping widows alive and allowing them to remarry would reverse this decline. This decline seems to have originated as far back as the seventeenth century.
Some of the reading I've done seems to suggest that the Marathas are a caste, others that they're an ethnic group. Trying to learn the difference between caste and ethnicity in various Indian societies really makes my head hurt sometimes. What I didn't know was that the Peshwa was not a Maratha which is rather interesting.

The eventual plan for the Marathas is to go some way toward assimilating the various non-Maratha peoples who live within their reduced borders (which are still somewhat more extensive than modern Maharashtra in India) but I suppose that the name change would be a bit too premature in this sense.

In regards to campaigns against social issues such as Sati, there certainly was an imperative for it within India even before the arrival of the Europeans in force. Aurangzeb for example published an edict forbidding the practice (though of course, enforcement was difficult in such a large and corrupt empire). As much as some histories have framed the Hindu reform movement against child marriage and Sati entirely as a reaction to Western sensibilities, I remain somewhat unconvinced. Even if the campaign to abolish Sati is somewhat delayed, I don't see it surviving beyond the 19th century as India changes and is influenced by other parts of the world.
I hope that Bengal becomes a modern independent state, with both OTL Bangladesh and also Indian Bengal. Also, today was Yom Kippur, fasting (no foor or water for 24 hours) was AWFUL!
A united Bengal would be a pretty serious force even if it was around today in our timeline, so a Bengal which manages to avoid the various ravages of colonial rule would be imposing indeed. And I didn't know Yom Kippur involved fasting, that sounds like a more condensed yet somehow more difficult version of Ramadan. The longest I ever had to go was about 18 hours, which I suppose is one of the uncool things about living so far north.
The Kurds and Assyrians, both people's share homelands that cover geography with the Armenian's.

Good to see the Maratha national identity being built up
Don't forget the many Azeris who resided in OTL's modern Armenia before that whole... thing. The Caucasus has a rather sordid history when it comes to genocide and ethnic cleansing in OTL unfortunately, though it's hardly the only part of the world with that problem.
So Bengal is a sultanate now, with the Nawab changing his title to Sultan, but still being the Nizam of Bihar and Orissa? Also, if I read that right, the Marathas have lost most of Malwa and Orissa along with other regions?
I’d assume he’d simply absorb them into his title as Sultan - it doesn’t make sense for a king to be his own viceroy, after all.
Indeed he has absorbed the titles into his own, breaking entirely with the fiction that he is a representative on the Mughals on any level, though control over Orissa is limited at best. As of 1830, there is a smaller state which controls much of Orissa in the wake of the Maratha retreat from the region.
Can we get a map of the subcontinent soon?
Would like to see how much of the Marathas the Awadhis and Bengalis chewed up.
I might try and post a map of South and Southeast Asia in the next week or two to give an indication of how fast things there are moving along.
Bengal may be the one to become European-level in terms of modernness. i mean, a lot of their land has just 1 language (Bengali) so there will be less internal fighting, and as we know, Bangladesh has the most arable land in the world.
Not to mention easy access to the sea and a great amount of waterways for internal communication. Bengal had (and still does in many respects) a great amount of potential.
I am simply ecstatic at how well Bengal is doing. An independent Sultanate and thriving economy and powerful, well-drilled and armed military. So happy!
So far the Bengalis seem to be leading the pack as far as development and modernity, but I do see the Punjabis and maybe the Awadhis following suit.
Both the Punjabis and Awadhis have many of the resources needed to pull themselves ahead in the modernisation game, though a lack of access to the sea may prove to be a problem in the future. Bengal, besides Iran itself, is probably doing the best for itself compared to its OTL counterpart.
Not necessarily a single dominant language namely Bengali, because Oriya language is quite a different language from Bengali and is spoken by quite a large enough population that Bengali can only said to be have a plurality rather than the dominant language when we also take into account the lands of Bihar having populations speaking a varied range of languages and dialects including Hindustani, Maithili,Magadhi and the languages of the hill tribes in present day Jharkhand.

As for infighting, well they still control the heartlands of the present day Naxal movement with the reasons for that movement not really removed, so that remains to be seen. Also hill tribes if not properly dealt with, can prove to be a thorn in the side especially when your enemies are willing to provide them with weapons and money to trouble you.
I can imagine Bengal achieving some success in assimilating Biharis into the Bengali-speaking population because those dialects are not too dissimilar to Bengali. Oriya and the Jharkhand languages, on the other hand, will certainly be rather tough to absorb.
I suppose the advantage for the Bengalis is that a great portion of their population are Bengali speakers. The assimilation of large numbers of speakers of similar languages can be done, as happened to Occitan speakers in France in the 19th century, though Bengal isn't quite France. As Indicus points out, the Bengalis may have a better chance of assimilating Bihari speakers but others may prove to be more difficult.
 
The Changing Balance of Power - Southeast Asia 1805 - 1831
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The Rise of Chakri Siam

Of all the major mainland Southeast Asian kingdoms, Siam had arguably suffered the most in the 18th century. Ayutthaya, one of the world’s great cities, had been completely destroyed alongside the Siamese state by the Burmese. Subsequent struggles within Siam seemed to compound what the Burmese had done, leaving Siam in a state of near-continuous struggles for decades while the Burmese Empire seemed to go from strength to strength, even invading Siam once again in 1793. By the time that Burma had begun eyeing the rich lands of the Indian Subcontinent to the West, Siam had just about managed to consolidate her control of the lower Chaophraya basin once again. Siam was largely depopulated, a shadow of what she had been in the greatest days of the Ayutthaya Kingdom.


However by the beginning of the 19th century, the winds of change were beginning to sweep through the region. The death of the second Chakri King Mahasura brought his son Senanurak to the throne of Siam. Senanurak was reported to have an intense hatred of the Burmese, brought about not only by their aggression against his homeland but also due to his mistreatment during his time spent as a hostage in Ava, the Burmese capital. Hateful toward the Burmese he may have been, but Senanurak’s difficult early life had also imbued him with a great deal of common sense, and as was reported by several European residents of his court, a humble bearing in private. The first years of his reign saw an improvement of irrigation systems around the Chaophraya basin, and an increase in rice exports to the islands of Southeast Asia and beyond. The Siamese economy, having contracted severely in the last half of the 18th century, began to see a serious recovery in the early years of Senanurak’s reign. The renewed economic vigour began to attract foreigners, not only Europeans interested in the exotic goods that Siam produced, but Chinese immigrants who came not only as shopkeepers and artisans but as farmers as well [1].


This growth in the Siamese economy also enabled the growth of the Siamese army. Senanurak invited a number of foreign experts, mainly Persians and Frenchmen, to help rebuild the army that had been humbled by the Burmese repeatedly. This “New Model” Siamese army adopted gunpowder to a previously unheard of extent in the context of Southeast Asia, with an estimated 90% of Siamese soldiers wielding gunpowder weapons by 1820 [2]. This force was more than sufficient to begin integrating outlying chiefdoms and breakaway lords back into Siam. This reconsolidation of the Siamese kingdom was aided not only by the new army, but by the distraction of the Burmese, whose invasion of Assam had brought them into conflict with the powerful Bengalis. As the Siamese army won victory after victory, in many cases convincing the regional lords to surrender without a fight, Senanurak made sure to impose a regime which ensured tighter control from Bangkok, rather than the autonomous system that had governed the country in the Ayutthaya period. Free of the threat of Burmese invasion, the Siamese could afford to be aggressive when it came to their smaller neighbours. By 1811, even the southern city of Nakhon Si Thammarat had been conquered and reintegrated into the growing state.


At the border of the Malay state of Pattani however, the Siamese king turned back after receiving the token “Bunga Mas” tribute from the Sultans of Pattani and Kedah. The desire to bring these states under direct rule from Bangkok was outweighed by the news that the Burmese had concluded their war with Bengal. The Burmese armies had been defeated, and were exhausted from their long struggle with the Bengalis. Burma’s strength had been sapped for now but the Siamese seemed to be well aware that they would eventually recover. Senanurak thus resolved to have the seemingly inevitable Burmese conflict sooner rather than later. In 1813, Siamese troops crossed the border into Lan Na, a Tai-dominated Burmese tributary state and easily despatched the forces of the Lan Na, whose indigenously-made firearms were no match for the European and Middle-Eastern imports of the Siamese. The local population, who for the most part disdained Burmese rule, welcomed the Siamese with open arms. A Burmese counterattack the following year was smashed, and the Siamese forces took Chiang Rai, crossing the border into the Shan states of Burma.


Rather than contest the Siamese forces, many Shan were happy to cooperate with them, and reportedly served as guides through the mountain passes of Eastern Burma, allowing the Siamese to fall upon the upper Irrawaddy basin in 1815, at the same time that a smaller Siamese force entered Rangoon. With her armies defeated and her capital threatened, the Burmese king offered a peace to the Siamese on very favourable terms. As well as a large sum of tribute, the Burmese king renounced any claims of sovereignty over Lan Na, and ceded a swathe of the coastal province of Tavoy to the King of Siam. This was arguably the crowning achievement of Senanurak’s reign. Achieving what previous Siamese rulers had failed to after the downfall of Ayutthaya almost half a century ago, he had bested the Burmese in war and gained some measure of revenge for the destruction of Ayutthaya. He had also pushed back the borders of Burma, further securing the heartland of the new Siamese kingdom as well as gaining the allegiance of a number of smaller states in the region. Following his great victory, he began to be known as Maharaj, or “The Great” in recognition of his achievements.


With the Burmese defeated, Siam was now given a free hand to continue building one of the most powerful empires in Southeast Asian history. A few years after the defeat of the Siamese, the Khorat Plateau was finally reconquered, and the Siamese launched an invasion of Cambodia in 1819. This would soon prove to be a more difficult war than anticipated however, as the Khmers fought back furiously, and the newly-united Vietnamese provided aid to the king of Cambodia. The Vietnamese proved to be more energetic opponents than the exhausted Burmese had been, and despite initial successes, the war soon bogged down into something of a stalemate. After four years of war, the Siamese and Vietnamese finally agreed to a peace, establishing “zones of sovereignty” in Cambodia which for all intents and purposes was a partition of the country along the Mekong River. At this point, even the warlike Senanurak had to recognise that despite the string of successes his armies had seen, the treasury was drained and the population of Siam needed time to recover from the strains of war before further conquests could be attempted. Thus the rest of Senanurak’s reign was spent in peace, stewarding the large empire that he had built until his death in 1828.


[1] – The numbers of Chinese immigrants in Siam will be even more significant than in OTL. We may well see Malayan proportions of the population being Chinese, which if they do not integrate quite as well to the main body of Thai society as they did in OTL, may bring its own problems in the future.

[2] – Thanks to her maritime orientation, Siam was on a similar track in terms of gunpowder adoption in OTL, and used guns imported from the UK and the USA in the early 19th century to great affect against the more primitively armed Laotians who resorted to firing stones from their firearms.


* * * * * *

Mainland Southeast Asia in the Early 19th Century

By the middle of the 1790s, it appeared that Burma was once again on the cusp of becoming the dominant power in Southeast Asia once again, as she had been for a short time in the 16th century. Burmese armies had once again smashed a Thai Kingdom in the process of consolidating the lower Chaophraya Basin, and other challengers closer to home such as the Shan and Mon peoples were firmly under the grip of Burmese control. With her closest neighbours fully subdued, Burma was able to look at conquests further and further away from home. In 1805, the Burmese conquered the Ahom Kingdom of Assam centred on the Brahmaputra Valley. Although a difficult war, the Burmese eventually managed to quash resistance as they had done elsewhere, gaining control of a rich, if distant land. From here, it looked as if Burma could either march down once again on the Chaophraya basin and quash any hope of a reconstituted Thai state once and for all, or even raid into the rich land of Bengal.


As it happened, the Bengalis were well aware of the threat that was posed by the Burmese, and the new Sultan of Bengal was determined to make a show of Bengali power and prestige, as well as bring the North-eastern corner of the Indian Subcontinent under his influence. Heading off the threat of the advancing Burmese would be an added bonus, and with this in mind, Bengali troops headed north not long after the Burmese conquest of the Ahom capital of Rangpur, supporting a son of the old king and inflicting a number of defeats on Burmese troops. Burmese resistance in Assam would only cease in 1809 following worrying news from Siam, which left a devastated Assam firmly under the influence of the Sultan of Bengal. By the time that Burma had become aware of the success of the Siamese to the south however, it was too late and they eventually amassed enough strength to challenge Burma once again. This time, the Burmese were overcome by a more energetic and modernised Siamese army, which by 1815 left the Burmese capital directly threatened by Siamese forces. In the space of twenty years, the Burmese had gone from dreams of a subcontinental empire to a decisive defeat at the hands of their old rivals.


The Vietnamese, perhaps due to their closer contact with the imposing Chinese Empire, were decidedly less ambitious. The triumph of the Tay Son, leaders of a great peasant rebellion, was checked when a Chinese-backed revolt of the Confucian Bureaucracy as well as the aristocracy saw one of the last members of the Trinh dynasty back to power, formally taking the throne that they had dominated for a century beforehand. The total Trinh defeat of the Tay Son in 1807 marked the reunification of Vietnam under a new noble dynasty, albeit one which attempted to legitimise itself with appeals to tradition rather than the revolutionary promises of the Tay Son. Rather than seeking to build vast empires of conquest as Burma and Siam had done, the Vietnamese seemed instead content to maintain their old sphere of influence, with the addition of Cambodia which was gradually turned into a vassal state. The Vietnamese Emperor’s plan for Cambodia was scuppered by a Siamese invasion however, which had resulted in a war between Siam and Vietnam. Neither power managed to secure a decisive victory, eventually settling on a border delineated along the Mekong River, partitioning Cambodia.

* * * * * *

Author's Notes - As I thought, there was enough going on in Southeast Asia to split the region into two updates, so we will all find on what is going on in Nusantara fairly soon. Siam's long nadir is finally over and she has risen to the heights of power that she did in OTL, though she quite hasn't ridden roughshod over the pesky Pattanis with their elephants quite yet...

Burma seems to have reached her limits realistically, though the Bengalis may not have the ability that the British did to end their independence, so what happens on that front will likely be quite interesting as zones of influence between the two are delineated in the hills that divide Southeast Asia from the Indian Subcontinent. And Vietnam is reunited under a quasi-legitimate dynasty, that unlike the Tay Son at least have noble blood, though it remains to be seen if the Trinh can win acceptance of their rule.

And it goes without saying, even if European influence in the region proves to be delayed rather than averted entirely, which is by no means a given at this point, the extra time spent as independent states will have very interesting effects in the future.
 
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As a minor aside, I'd like to point out that sati was not that common of a practice. In fact it was really prevalent only among Bengali Brahmins who were themselves were a small subset of Bengali society, certainly no more then single digits percentage wise. It's fair to say sati was no more widespread than witch-burning in Europe.
It's also confused very often with the Rajput custom of Jouhar, or ritual suicide to avoid dishonor, which was always voluntary and done in wartime. It's so tied to the concept of Kshatriya honor and chivalry that it spread even to Mohammedans. Tipu Sultan famously committed suicide rather than be captured by the British after the Battle of Seringapattam, for example.
 
In the final part of the Siamese section, it looks like you out “Siam” where you meant Burma. Right now it reads like Siam beat Siam, which allowed Siam to grow into a stronger power than Siam.

Other than that, interesting update. Would the British be willing to try and reestablish the EIC in Burma, and how would Bengal and Siam react if they tried?
 
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