Industrial Progress: A Story Of Venetian Suffrage (2019-09-11)

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by Irene, Sep 14, 2017.

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  1. Threadmarks: 110. The Servi War Part 3

    Irene Professional Cactus

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    110. The Servi War Part 3

    1490
    Venetian Republic

    "The crueler war is, the sooner war ends." Old Venetian Maxim

    By nature of being a revolt sparked by an agricultural crisis the Servi wars were short due to the exhaustion and hunger of the combatants. Despite its fleeting nature the war was a clash of cultures between the feudal and city-state polity against the centralist Venetians. Some cynical observers would note that it was a fight for mutually exclusive privilages between the Servi and the Oligarchs. By 1488 the mainland was under Venetian occupation and a majority of its populace too hungry, scared, and exhausted to continue. With its triumph the Venetian Republic proved that its meritocratic Servi was stronger, though not necessarily better than the defeated city-states.

    As the cities of Terrafirma were already hungry when a Venetian army that took over the countryside it was only a matter of time until the city starved. The exception were cities such as Ferrara and Cremona which were too strategically important with Venetian commanders opting to trade lives for time. Through a combination of local collaborators and generous negotiation (which can be renegotiated later, backed by the Venetian military) the cities of Terrafirma returned to Venetian control much diminished from their former glory.

    Terrafirma's trade networks, already fragmented by ancient regionalism and strained by an agricultural crisis broke down with the chaos of revolt and nearly one in ten of the urban population perished. Another one in ten would soon follow as vengeful soldiers took it upon themselves to exact justice against the rebellious cities that resisted, paying the deaths inflicted in the past. Finally, as the mainland was secured the Venetian Inquisition returned in force implementing the considered policy of the Patricians as opposed to ad hoc wartime responses. Seeking to decapitate and divide the mainlanders the Inquisition engaged in a series of manhunts and public executions with collaborators being compelled/ordered to participate. Thinking themselves the next victims due to the executions and the borders becoming steadily more policed thousands of mainlanders fled for foreign lands carrying whatever they could, their claims, and their grudges. Despite the depopulation in the cities the majority of the populace resided in the countryside and were relatively unaffected as fewer rural regions revolted and they were less affected by the agricultural crisis.

    For the Venetians there was much to do in the vital months following reconquest, thousands of exiles with claims and grudges were making their way around Christendom promising unicorns to anyone willing to patron them, rebels and civilians had to be judged and sorted especially those that held church offices, brigands needed to be dealt with, infrastructure had to be restored, and more still yet the senate was enthralled in a political crisis.

    The Soldo, named after the copper coin/bill equivalent (11USD$) that it cost to purchase an issue was a mass-produced weekly summation of news from the empire. Read in coffeehouses, salons, and plaza and being read to the illiterate the residents of the empire had access to fiery articles detailing the "treasonous and greedy oligarchs of Terrafirma". With so much access to information, even if they had to wait weeks at the remote ends of the empire the traditionally passive masses were galvanized to endure rising prices and wartime shortages against perceived traitors. Yet this was a double edged blade, the participation of the masses had allowed the Republic to fight half its subjects without distraction, the financial might allowed the Republic to avoid raising taxes avoiding tax revolts and economic contractions, but now the creditors wanted taxes for repayment and the masses didn't want taxes. Everyone wanted a say on the new taxes but not everyone had a say as only the Patricians and Orginarii had any direct access to the senate. [1]

    Reflecting changes in Patrician attitudes and the shift from trading city towards empire the Republic has increasingly shifted from direct taxation (head taxes, gondola taxes) towards indirect taxation on trade goods as the later was easier to measure, implement and enforce bureaucratically. For many Patricians which owned businesses and stakes throughout the Republic the tax was seen as fair and efficient and an increase was only logical and secondary to concerns on the mainland. For the colonial and exalted Patricians did not oppose indirect taxes but, rather the entrepôt policies which favored Venice. For the Orginarii all of which were wealthy, just not Patrician wealthy the problem was a matter of responsibility; that is they were expected to pay for what was in their view the mistakes of the more represented Patricians and demanded more say in government. Normally only about the rough hundred Patricians that made up the various committees and the hundred and twenty of the Pregadi that handled daily affairs would be consulted for decisions but the issue affected even the poor marginalized Patricians and those employed in the bureaucracy showed up. Numbering at 1,600 the number of Patricians in Venice staggered any attempt to come to a consensus. While the mired in deadlock some of the Originarii sponsored Patricians took to transcribing senate correspondence for the benefit of their backers, writing which inevitably ended up in more hands than intended. Unlike the old times where word of mouth was the main source of communication, a process that took days and was embellished every step of the way Venice now had the Soldo which provided daily updates. Whether the Patriciate liked it or not the residents of the city were going to participate in politics as angry men and women crowded into the Piazza San Marco (Saint Mark's Plaza). [2][3]




    [1] IOTL around the 1550s the official Venetian newspaper was called the gazeta, for a coin with a french-loan word in the 1570s. ITTL the gazeta simply doesn't exist yet and the soldo (copper coin) is instead the bastardized name for which foreign newspapers took on, in modern terms a single newspaper would cost about 11$ for an modern American - that is pricy but affordable and available. 12 soldo = 1 lira, 12 lira = 1 ducat, 15 ducat = annual wage of labourer, 40 ducat = annual wage of skilled workers, wages in Venice are double that of colonial regions.
    [2] Indirect taxes are, for the most part broad in scope, elastic, targetable, easier to implement, but regressive, cyclical, and inflationary. Due to the difficulty of assess personal income/wealth for taxation indirect taxes are much easier to implement as all one had to do was count the amount of goods travelling along transport routes; of course excessive tariffs leads to corruption and smuggling. There's also the psychological effect of indirect taxation, people simply don't take well to an paying an perceived extra amount at the point of purchase, in contrast indirect taxes are concealed in the price of a good and "less aggravating" to consumers, the trade off is the lack of civic consciousness-people simply aren't that invested in government expenditure when taxation isn't immediately evident. Indirect taxes are often elastic, that is they could be adapted on the fly as trade was a constant stream of tariffs as opposed to the lump-sum method of direct taxation. Indirect taxes could be targeted at specific goods, often sin or luxury goods in the minds of the senate. Indirect taxes are also broad in scope, ensuring that everyone who buys things are taxed as opposed to the narrow tax base that comes from direct taxation and the often shoddy surveying of the age, of course this also makes indirect taxes regressive as it falls on everyone equally regardless of their means or income. Indirect taxes are cyclical, that is to say that they are dependent on trade and will diminish in times of crisis. Indirect taxes might be inflationary, depending on which economic school you subscribe to.
    [3] Just as IOTL the Pregadi has retained its name and most of its functions.
     
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2019
  2. Sceonn Peace at a Bargain Price

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    Looks like the Roman Mob is back! :evilsmile:
     
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  3. Al-numbers Well-Known Member

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    In terms of taxes, what are Venice's trading neighbors thinking about the Serene Republic's slapping of them on their goods? I imagine there might be angry complaints from overseas producers about how their wares are priced higher (and thus, more unreachable for purchase) than normal.
     
  4. Nyvis Well-Known Member

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    So now people know what's happening in their senate and can get riled up about it. I don't think the idea of people getting together to get the funds for a single new patrician is going to cut it this time. Also, quite a bit of those poorer people could still be important parts of the Venetian system, in the city proper, on boats and in the various trading posts that connect the empire. Is there any chance the city could move towards a bicameral system that would grant broader representation in one without touching the patrician system?

    Also that tax issue sound pretty bad. We're so used to income taxes, but those are pretty modern and require extensive records of income to work. A way to tax the accumulated capital and encourage people to spend and invest rather than sit on it could be useful though.

    How does Venice handle inflation so far? Did the paper script lead to a situation where there's more money than gold flowing around already? Inflation is pretty important to ensure sitting on money is never the best option and people keep it moving around.
     
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  5. Irene Professional Cactus

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    Honestly its not as bad as you think, mainly as the normal response is muted contempt until they lynch the tax collector. The fact that it hasn't gone to violence is quite an improvement.

    As for income tax it is possible, IOTL Renaissance Italy and ITTL Venice had plenty of accountants (many self-taught as a secondary skill); the problem is that everyone had an official ledger and a private ledger (guess which one was used for taxes?). The manufactorate and corporate nature of the Republic lends itself well to that-the problem is that it would be taxing the most productive, innovative, and politically connected population within the Empire.

    IOTL, whenever the great galleys went east most of the bullion in the city was effectively exported for the season and the effect was readily observable. There is some advantage in being so small and centralized as a city-state that they were able to implement, observe, and adjust policies at much lower cost and speed than an empire. ITTL I've alluded that the basics of supply and demand have been circulating around financial circles in Venice and that of the regulating fractional reserve banking (velocity of money so to speak). As for inflation its somewhat of an improvement over IOTL, pre-industrial Venice is growing at rates of 0.5%-1% a year; almost recessionary by modern standards yet magnificent in world economy perceived as static. So yes they will run into inflation, but they have the theoretical knowledge needed to deal with it eventually.

    As for paper, its yes and no. In theory gold is worth more than money as bullion is universal, whereas paper is dependent on promises of repayment from St. Matthew's syndicate and later the exchange bank of Venice. In practice paper is well circulated in the "Old Republic" outside of Terrafirma as the majority of bullion is used in international trade and war as foreigners didn't take paper as well as jewellery.

    As for an idle wealth tax; its very difficult to pull off and a magnet for corruption. Venice already provides the banks and financial system for people to deposit money for interest which is invested; greedy and innovative Venetians have already achieved a system where idle wealth is redirected towards prospects without the investors needing knowledge or personal connections.

    The usual, while it maybe a casus belli there's little they could do about it. The Mediterranean is feudal and few asides from the Valois could negotiate as an equal. I'm going to get more international later, especially as Europe's kingdoms centralize, exert themselves, and Venice's relative advantage in mobilization is withering.
     
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  6. Threadmarks: 111. Venetian Inundation

    Irene Professional Cactus

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    111. Venetian Inundation

    1440s-1490s
    Nile Valley

    For military, political, and economic purposes the capitals of a state/region tended to be centrally located or near military frontiers. The logistical demand of any substantial bureaucracy meant that the roaming feudal courts were rapidly becoming outdated as the ministries of the Republic could attest to. Function determines location and location influenced function and the Nile was no exception, surrounded on three sides by desert the Mediterranean was the natural conduit to the world for the river. Under the Romans, Byzantines, and Caliphates the provincial capital was on the Mediterranean coast in Alexandria reflecting its role as the breadbasket of the empires. As the Islamic world eventually fractured the capital shifted upriver towards القاهرة‎ (Cairo) as the natural epicenter between the fertile Nile delta, the sub-Saharan caravan routes, the fertile Nile valley, and caravans to the east. Finally, as the Venetians consolidated power the regional center shifted north towards the port city of Rossetta-reflecting the empire's Mediterranean orientation and the economy of the Nile.

    The story of the Venetian Nile begins in earnest in the 1440s after the disastrous Coptic rule was sidelined for direct rule of the Patricians. Rich in fine soil deposited by the Nile the region was perfect for agriculture with a climate ideal for plantations and considered highly desirable. Despite peace treaties and the best efforts of Venetian diplomats the Bedouin of the Sahara were unlike any people the Venetians have ever faced before. Being decentralized the Bedouin raids resumed almost immediately - there was no central authority to negotiate or enforce terms on, being nomadic the Bedouin could not forced into battles having superior knowledge of riding and the desert, and unlike the neighbouring Greeks of the Balkans the Venice did not share a history with the Bedouin and relations were often violent. Unable to bring the Bedouin to battle nor prevent their raids the Patricians were left to the choice of either a sustained campaign of attrition or supplying and arming a friendly tribe. Drawn by the cheaper price the Patricians were given fines and harsh rebukes by the Inquisition for the short-sighted attempt to arm Bedouins so close to Venetian territory. [1]

    Forced instead to take advantage of the adventurer-merchant ideal the Patricians promised Sconvòlgers land, grants, and guarantees of rights in the Nile in-exchange for militia service and 15 years of residence. The result was an odd mix as clusters of freeholder sprang up between giant industrial plantations on the behest of plantation owners. These settlers were a diverse mix of people from the majority of children after the eldest/appointed heir hoping to strike out on their own, those who valued the freedom of the Republic's frontier such as homosexuals (a capital offense), social outcasts, people of means that simply couldn't fit into Venetian society, mainlanders and Ealim returnees that attached a social prestige to land ownership in the homeland, and the religious deviants. The might of industry was stronger than a life in the saddle and farmers armed with gunpowder were able to trade casualties with the much less numerous nomads, yet they were defensive in nature and the Bedouin still controlled the desert's caravan routes in an uncomfortable mix of raids and trades. [2]

    While far from satisfactory the settlers were accepted as a necessary deterrent, the length of the Nile north of the Faiyum Oasis had to be fortified even if the Bedouin didn't attack-as insurance premiums demanded it. In contrast to the Sconvòlgers of the past, which conquered/strong-armed populated gains which the Republic administered and paid out an annuity of the settlers of the Nile worked their own land as a private venture. These men and the rare woman were more independent of Venice than their predecessors but retained the communal traditions of Venice due to the nature of life in the Nile. The first contrast was the overwhelmingly rural nature of the Nile, as the winds blew south while the river flowed north the Nile made for a natural trade route and it was easier to trade than manufacture goods locally. The only major city was Rosetta, a scholarly Islamic center and trade center whereas the rest of the "cities" tended to be fortified walls that sat empty for most of the year until the flood season when the idle Sconvòlgers gathered to refresh their training, fraternize, engage in competitions, sell their produce, and buy goods.

    The initial wave was predominately Venetian speaking, literate, and comfortable working with the bureaucracy and it would be only the 1490s when the Nile was perceived to be safe and bountiful enough for non-militarized settlers. By default a member of a local military unit the sense of communal identity was reinforced due to the nature of agricultural life as extensive waterworks were required to store flood waters, irrigate the fields, and maintain the dikes and ports all of which required communal funds and efforts, brothers and sisters together. Well fed and given all the advantages of the Republic without the disease and filth of the cities or the relative deprivation of the tiny traditional farms the population boomed. With the exception of the first wave brought over by the Patriciate to guard the plantations the foreign born population rarely exceeded 10%, families of 7-8 surviving children were massive by Venetian standards, the mean age exceedingly young with 26 for men and 22 for women. As men managed to establish themselves wives were found among the local Ealim/Coptic population or a few months away by ship, it was not uncommon for boys to return from the Nile as tanned and financially secure men looking for wives from their home culture. [3]

    From an initial 4-5 million under the Mamluks the population had collapsed to 600,000 by the end of the 1430s after more than a century of catastrophes starting with the Black Death and ending with an Coptic attempt at genocide. For the most part ignored as long as they paid their taxes and kept the peace the Copts lived around the rump city of Cairo while the Ealim resided in Rosetta and the delta. By the 1490s the Nile was nearly a third Venetian, developed, and safe enough to absorb the migration of mainlanders from the mainland, more still when the Valois invaded. Here the various cultures of the Republic mixed and stirred under the desert sun contributing more and more loan-words and contradictory grammatical exceptions to the hot mess that is the modern Venetian language. And unlike the Servi citizens scattered throughout the empire, the Nile was a dense mass of servi, original citizens, internal and external citizens raised far from the center of the Empire with their own increasingly distinct identity.



    [1] IOTL, the Romans decided to arm the Arab tribes with weapons and supplies with disastrous consequences in a moment of weakness. While Venice had dabble in such with the Taborites Hussites and the Tartars it was when the recipient wasn't neighbouring Venice.
    [2] Just as IOTL gunpowder allowed regular farmers the ability to match less numerous nomads, this was seen ITTL with the Tartars a century ago.
    [3] Statistics are taken from colonial settlements in America, no government in the old world really understood the sheer fertility of settlers without the deprivations and dangers of the Old World. ITTL Venice is given a very early example of colonial fertility which it will realize the value of later as growing revenue, trade, and manpower of the Nile becomes evident.
     
  7. Soverihn Proud Tribalist

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    So how high is the birthrate of the indigenous Muslim Egyptians? And is there migration from the rest of the Maghreb/Sub Saharan Africa/Near East?
     
  8. generalurist Map Staring Expert

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    Speaking of this, what exactly was the ultimate outcome of the Hussite wars?

    This has the potential to result in an impressively liberal society, or massive strife.

    Does "Mamluks" refer to all the non-christian inhabitants of Egypt, or only a smaller subset of them? In any case, how are the surviving natives taking all the Italians moving into their lands?
     
  9. Nyvis Well-Known Member

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    Ah yeah, that'd be an issue. It works today because the state basically has a third set of books cobbled from various sources and can easily spot big disparities. Though of course tax law is complex enough it's still possible to weasel out, especially once you get richer and can hire accountants to optimize things.

    Carrot over stick? I guess that works. Though inflation is in itself an idle wealth tax, and that's what I was hinting at. The modern consensus is that some inflation is good for that reason.
     
  10. Sceonn Peace at a Bargain Price

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    Mamluks are former Slave Soldiers who rose to dominance and eventual leadership of Egypt. Successful Praetorian/Janissaries pretty much.
     
  11. victor vazquez Well-Known Member

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    Venice looks like it will able to keep its control of the spice trade and expand when the time comes to other products like chintz and porcelain provided they can invent or borrow ship plans for vessels like caravels to cross the Indian Ocean. Might we see a Venetian outpost in the Horn of Africa near Djibouti, Mogadishu or Aden?
     
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  12. Sceonn Peace at a Bargain Price

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    I esp. like the increasing spread of the Venetian language, it's set to dominate the Mediterranean.
     
  13. I'tikaf Mufti of Rome

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    Woah a third Venetian and such a drastic decrease in population? Will Egyptian Culture survive Venice? It'd be sad to see Egyptian culture flounder and be destroyed ITTL.
     
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  14. Irene Professional Cactus

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    Poor, a legacy of their exploitative Mamluk era a good deal of land plots are subsidence plots and the respective legacy of extractive administrations. Think of Terrafirma's reluctance, the cost of change, and a lot of bad blood.

    Asides from slaves and traders? Few, migration was something that happened to local cities or during hard times; most peasants wouldn't go long-distance unless you're Venetian with the Mediterranean as an aquatic highway.

    Well what is Egyptian culture? Genetically the Egyptians of today are mostly the same pool as the time of the pharaohs and that gives perspective on conquerors. The Venetian people are different as they are outgrowing the Ealim while there is inter-marriage between Venetians and Ealim.

    Exhausted and uneasy truce, Albert II Hapsburg tried several times to recover his inherited claims; his persistence resulted in a financial crisis that saw the resurgence of the Hungarian Parlamentum as the most representative kingdom in Christiandom at 10% of the populance (minor nobles).

    Poorly, but they're exhausted, powerless, and the young generations are perceiving it as the status quo. Plenty of ancient land claims that the Venetians do not care about nor are the natives able to defend properly against the Bedouin.

    Not in the immediate future, the Suez infrastructure isn't meant for bulky cargo whereas the Pharaoh's canal can carry bulk but only seasonally with special barges.
     
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  15. Nyvis Well-Known Member

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    So the Hussites remain standing too?
     
  16. Irene Professional Cactus

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    The Taborites
     
  17. Nyvis Well-Known Member

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    That's going to have interesting influence over Christianity. I wonder if others will try imitating them. Maybe maintain a more radical outlook for protest movements against the church.
     
  18. Irene Professional Cactus

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    It's currently being drafted in a religious update. Context is important and the taborite's anti feudal beginnings will affect that
     
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  19. BootOnFace Buoyant Armiger

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    Damn I knew Copt and Venetian rule would be rough, but a total collapse like that is probably the worst disaster Egypt has ever seen, worse even than the Bronze Age Collapse. It makes sense, but it's shocking. It seems like Egypt might end up the beating heart of the Venetian empire. Secure militarily and domestically, exporting food and and importing goods, an essential location for trade...

    Seriously though that's very sad.
     
  20. I'tikaf Mufti of Rome

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    I would be reffering to the Egyptian-Arab culture. After all Egypt was at the centre of the arab world from the fatimids onto the modern era.
     
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