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: 114. The Servi War Part 4

    Irene Professional Cactus

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    114. The Servi War Part 4

    1490
    Venice

    "The founding of Torcello (before it was abandoned for Venice.) was the coming together of hundreds of tiny island communities. Compromise is in our blood." Pentata di Kulen


    It was thought that the coming of rain would disperse the crowd, but the moisture just imposed an aggravating humidity upon the angry spirits. Crowds in the Plaza wasn't anything new, yet the sheer size of this one and the ominous chanting was disturbing. Feeling the pressure,

    an over-stressed Patrician named Gaetano felt tingles in his todger and sent for his favorite mistress. Perhaps it was a misuse of ministerial privileges to employ the secret emergency entrance for carnal gratification, but it felt like an emergency to the senator. Hurrying to the Pozzi (Wells) that imprisoned convicts in dark, damp, and humid conditions underneath the ducal palace Gaetano was confronted with the confusingly arousing sight of his mistress Fiora and a throng of rough men beyond the gate of the secret entrance. Unkownst to the senator a fella in the crowd had recognized Fiora as a relation to Gaetano, called it to the attention of a crowd, and followed her closely with the implication of violence should she refuse. [1]

    At a quick glance the senator understood the situation and the danger she was in. It would be safer, easier, and more logical to just walk away. Yet his loins ached and his resolve wavered at the sight of her pleading eyes. With a sigh the senator muttered about the "stupid sexy peasant", offered to lead them to the senate if they swore an oath of non-violence leading to the incredulous sight of the prominent senator announcing their arrival while his mistress clung onto him for dear life.

    Like boiling cauldron kept calm by a thin layer of oil the senator was feeling the heat while awkwardly shifting to hide his stress hard-on. Riled up and lacking direction the crowd bumbled about looking for provocations. It could've gone in so many ways, scuttles could've broken out and should anyone ad died the crowd would've been inconsolable, the crowd could've been rallied by a firebrand, or the violence-prone, ignorant, and conspiratorial peasants of the crowd could've taken the lead. With patience running thin as he made his announcement, the senator turned away from the senate, scanned the crowd and motioned towards the best dressed and hopefully calmest person. [2]

    Selected by chance, a woman by the name of Sofia d'Basile who was an esteemed member of a religious fraternity stepped up and addressed the senate. As an orginarii, Sofia was well informed of affairs of state and on the streets employing both in her speech. Demanding economic relief, the withdrawal of proposed tax measures, and active participation within the senate.

    In one of the rare incidents of politics the now ancient Dogeressa Enrica slipped out the back, returned dressed in a simple robe without the ducal regalia, descended from the ducal throne's platform, and asked what she could do to make things right. The sight of the widowed Dogeressa, in plain clothes earnestly trying to help was enough to disperse the anger of the crowd. In a throw-back to the earliest doges, the next several hours was spent with the Dogeressa hearing out the personal complaints of the crowd. Exhausted the old woman eventually retired while the senate held several improvised votes. The final form, drafted at the end of the day was the inclusion of elected representatives from the cittadini (citizens) into the Maggior Consiglio, the body which elects Patricians for office. It was a compromise to vent the frustrations of the crowd, assuage the egos of the Patriciate which refused to sit beside peasants, and mostly importantly did not immediate affect anyone's interests as the effects would only affect the senate later when new senate members are elected. [3]

    The following weeks would reveal plenty of support for widening of the political class with reservations. The colonial, exalted (men of military conquest), and bishopric Patricians were mostly in support once they realized that the mob was mostly anti-indirect taxation (anti-entrepôt). The originarii were split between the wealthy majority in support and the super-wealthy which brought several Patricianships in opposition to diluting their influence. The response among the poorer Patricians, many de-facto excluded from daily politics was a mix of relief from a consolation prize and identity crisis as they felt their title slowly crumbling. For better or worse, the Republic was taking the first tentative steps into the unknown.



    [1] IOTL, the Pozzi were among the worst jails within the Republic, sometimes called Piombi for their lead roofs that invited the chills of winter and heat of summer. ITTL the jails were exclusively employed by the Council of Ten which gradually faded as an institution, no longer exclusively reserved for political prisoners the jails are now mostly to imprison politically sensitive clergy.
    [2] IOTL, most mob of the time were undisciplined and lacked a directing ideology. The traditional result would've been either crushing military defeat or some concessions while the knights rallied and crushed the peasants. ITTL the residents of Venice lack both a class and political ideology yet it did have intellectuals
    [3] IOTL, revolutionary France showed that if given the right to elect anyone at the time the most likely representatives would be lawyers and doctors with good incomes, law-abiding attitudes, and spare time for politics. ITTL Venice is trying something different to preserve the tier citizenship system while still allowing for some responsiveness.
     
  2. Sceonn Peace at a Bargain Price

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    Representative government will assuage a great deal of anger and certainly further stabilize Venice.
     
  3. Threadmarks: 115. Industrial Progress: Part 2

    Irene Professional Cactus

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    115. Industrial Progress: Part 2

    Venetian Republic
    1380s-1500s

    The textile industry of the Republic employs over half of all industrial workers while its reach extends to every corner of the Republic and beyond. Divided roughly into four steps of raw material production, spinning, weaving, and tailoring each step of which is intimately interwoven into a wider international network.

    At the very top of the profit margins, concentrated in Venice and the cities were the prestigious luxury tailors and textile houses. Venerable and steadfast the segment has changed little since the 1380s, the guilds still existed to maintain high quality through rigid regulation, the choice of opulent materials and styles moved at a glacial pace with costumers in the Republic's changing Patricians, new feudal patricians, and feudal international nobles with the majority of sales conducted by personal connections to the rich. [1]

    Moving down the value chain were the weavers and tailors responsible for the processing of yarn into fabric and fabric into clothing respectively. Tailoring for the most part was unchanged, they worked in their homes measuring, repairing, and altering clothes from fabrics; due to the need for tailoring most textile trade were unfinished fabric/yarn or commissioned luxury items. There was a brief disruption in the 1450s with the proliferation of knitted clothing (socks, stockings, gloves…etc) which could stretch to fit most people and took away some demand from tailors. [2]

    Weaving on the other hand saw dramatic changes. Traditionally weavers would create fabric from yarn (cotton, wool, flax, hemp & silk) with foot operated looms, yet the width of the clothe was limited by the reach of the weaver while the speed was limited by the weaver's hands. The first development was intensive as capital and labour were brought together in a more connected Republic. Called the wide loom two weavers would operate an expanded loom from two ends allowing for much wider clothe, which saved on labour (as it was often a child with an adult) while commanding better prices for wider clothe. The second change came from the series spinning wheel, which increased yarn production several-fold within a few years making yarn cheap and weavers in demand. Unable to multiply the number of skilled weavers as quickly aspiring and overworked weaving sheds created the pendulum loom which replaced the precision and time required to operate shaft bars in traditional looms with a design that allows the shaft bar to be simply thrown by a single person and halving labour requirements. Still this was not enough to cope with the glut of yarn being produced and more was needed. The unintended side effect of the pendulum loom was to reduce weaving into simple and discrete steps which could be automated and powered by water-mills, with many prospective ventures already underway by the end of the century. If successful the water-powered pendulum loom has the potential to make the current affair of dispersed families of weavers obsolete within a generation in favor of centralized water-looms and shift the limiting resource from labour towards wealth. [3]

    Running hand-in-hand with weaving was the dye industry, while not necessarily the next step down the value chain was nonetheless an essential part of the textile industry. Despite the dramatic increase in demand caused by increases in spinning and weaving productivity change within the industry has been intensive rather than qualitative. Lacking an understanding of the natural world the dye industry is left stumbling in the dark, occasionally stumbling upon a lucky break but unable to achieve any real breakthrough. Building on economies of scale traditional dye baths have been steadily aggregated or replaced by dye-works hosting hundreds or thousands of dye-vats dying bleached fabrics/yarn into vibrant and expensive cloth/yarn. The dyes themselves are grown or harvested from various roots, plants, lichen, and insects with techniques acquired slowly and secretively through the generations. As the republic's population grows costs for dye plantations have risen due to the demand for arable land at the same time that a wealthier republic is demand more dyed textiles. Due to the nauseous odor the profession is considered a pauper's lot and second-choice of occupation for most. During the process mordants are employed to bind the dyes to the fabric, adjust the hue, and are considered the main limiting resources. Alum, the best mordant as it brightens colors is mined only in the Papal States and the Venetian island of Lesbos is limited and dyeworks are forced to resort to sub-optimal mordants such as copper. [4]
    The next step down the value chain was spinning, the act of twisting and stretching sorted fibers into yarn with the assistance of spindles or spinning wheels. Tedious, of marginal profit, and considered women's work about 4 spinsters were needed for every weaver traditionally. The first change was organizational, as transportation improved within the Republic spinsters no longer brought fiber from the few local households that made fiber on the side (after which work had to stop for a lack of materials) but rather regional markets on credit; eventually amalgamating/hired into Patrician run/sponsored manufacturates that offered the stability of a salary in contrast to the volatility of personal yarn sales. Whether compelled by competition or luck the series spinning wheel was invented and brought into use, featuring multiple spindles placed in parallels aided by mechanisms for guiding and twisting fibers it was now possible for a single person to create multiple threads of yarn at once. Almost immediately protests and acts of vandalism occurred as a majority of spinsters were forced to choose between unemployment or competition at deprivation wages. Within the mainland and parts of the Republic with more patriarchal cultures most spinsters were women spinning on a part time basis and the loss was absorbed by the family, in contrast the other parts of the Republic saw much more vocal and violent disruption, especially in Venice where marriage came later and children are expected to strike out on their own. To the Patricians and well-off this was an inevitability with some wanting to assist the spinsters in moving on and others complaining that they'd paid their part with tithes, tolls, and taxes for the grain subsidy and admonishing the ungrateful and lazy. In the end the manufacturates won out by having transformed the entire yarn market, most yarn were being brought and sold by long-distance wholesalers to individual weavers, it was difficult for individuals to acquire the distribution necessary to work full-time and many had to bare the pains of occupation change. Property rights were rigorously protected with arrests and a few eyes symbolically plunked out though by the 1490s a good deal of representatives elected to the Maggior Consiglio had work camps and unemployment subsidy on their agendas.[5]


    The next and final steps down the process are the production of the various types of fibers; wool, linen, cotton, and silk. Wool was warm, resistant to dirt and water though it was itchy, shrinks with water, and too warm for a Mediterranean summer. Linen in contrast was cool, breathable, and more lustrous though it suffered from poor elasticity and a tendency to wrinkle. Cotton for the most part was a better fabric as it combined the best of both wool and linen, although it still wrinkled and suffered from high labor costs in its production. Finally, considered the best fabric was silk at the top; strong, shiny, and comfortable its lustrous appearance alone was enough to overcome its price, middling tear resistance, weakness to sunlight and lack of absorbency. The republic for the most part preferred Irish linen for its thrift, breathability, and the fact that the flax which linen is made from grows poorly in warm climates. Manufacturing on the other hand was primarily wool, for the relatively cheap labor cost and silk for the price margins. The cost of pasture can be and is sometimes outsourced towards the Turks and the Balkans while the higher profit stages of bleaching, dying, and weaving is hopefully done within the Republic. Labour intensive and requiring some chemical input water-power has come a long way in reducing the most burdensome parts of linen and wool production while silk relied upon the traditional pair of nimble hands. [5]



    [1] Even today, a good deal of luxury goods are limited production runs due to small market/artificial scarcity. IOTL the restrictive regulations and industrial culture led to the downfall of the industry in the late 17th century as newer techniques and styles from Lyon took over. IOTL the industry fell not for a lack of effort, as records show the government and guilds making determined attempts to steal/attract French talent and technique. The problem was conceptual, even when they did steal some technique or style Lyon would've produced a new style within a few months; what they were missing was a competitive and innovative market with institutions to support that.
    [2] Just as IOTL knitted clothing was one of the few finished textile goods that could be exported, in essence shifting jobs from export markets to domestic knitters.
    [3] Unlike IOTL where the flying shuttle simplified weaving and created bottlenecks in yarn production the reverse is true in ITTL, where increased yarn production is dragging along loom improvements. Also ITTL Venetian water power is more abundant and developed than coal power leading to the logical looms powered by water.
    [4] Just as IOTL showed the field of chemistry was heavily knee-capped by a lack of theoretical basis and improvements are always incremental, accidental, and a far-cry from the breakthroughs that the textile industry needs.
    [5] Similar to IOTL, linen was mostly a north European thing due to climate and kept artificially low by English desires to price-dump and suppress competitors.
     
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  4. Sceonn Peace at a Bargain Price

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    How far along is the intensive industrialization of Venice spreading to other large cities within the Republic?
     
  5. Irene Professional Cactus

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    Not very, as I've mentioned its more of a rural thing; more about proximity to resources than markets. Venice has to deal with high rents, labour costs, and disease-of course there are good reasons to be in the cities as well being the focal point of finance, shipping, trade and talent. The mainland cities on the other hand aren't the center of regional states anymore and plenty have waned in population which along with the old-fashioned guilds within them convinced plenty of newer industries to steer clear of them. There are also the Adriatic cities, mostly regional trade & industry hubs along trade routes with plenty of activity in the countryside; possibly the purest application of Venetian law and intentions due to its history. On the other hand there's Rashid (Rosetta) in the Nile, despite the flooding and poor water-power the city is the regional hub of the Nile and point of entry for dye and textile imports from India. Cyprus is a special case of industrial serfdom while Crete is still mired in its feudal legacy.
     
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  6. Threadmarks: 116. The Sullen Years

    Irene Professional Cactus

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    116. The Sullen Years

    Venetian Republic
    1380s-1500s


    Called the Sullen years, the 1490s was a depressing time for Terrafirma. In order of severity hunger, infighting, chaos, battle, and finally vetting and execution by the State Inquisition had chopped down the ranks of the urban population. Just like how Rashid had bloomed into the regional center of the Nile after the Mamluks fell in the vacuum of Cairo the same process occurred in reverse in Terrafirma. No longer the political, economic, nor military centers of their city-states they had persisted by inertia in insular pockets putting off change. The process was far from universal as Milan, Genoa, Mantua, Bologna, and Ferrara were natural economic and/or military centers by geography and/or labour pools and would in the coming decades see their populations rise once they recovered from the shock. [1]

    Politically traditional measures such as limited autonomy were no longer seen as viable for the mainland; it was simply too strategically important and unlike the Mediterranean territories impossible to dominate with naval power alone. Autonomy and privileges were reined in, with the exception of loyalists who were granted non-inheritable lifelong privileges for their current families. Important loyalists, nobles, and patricians from the mainland were given Patricianship to make it easier for the Inquisition to keep an eye on them. It had stopped just short of taking noble and patrician children hostage just like the Dalmatians historically if only for the logistical problems. Podestàs, magistrates, and numerous other positions were consolidated under the authority of the Rector (the Venetian rank for governor) who is chosen in Venice; whether they wanted it or not gaining civil power was about working with Venice and now divorced from direct economic gains. Those who raised arms against Venice but did not commit severe transgressions were barred from politics, military, and civil service. Proud, stubborn, and petty the changes led to another round of vicious rebellions in a doomed attempt against the still mobilized Sons of Erasmus. Of particular interest is the great ease with which Genoese patricians adapted and prospered to the new situation in Venice. Hailing from the former Genoese republic, a government sharing many similarities to a public corporation where one participates by buying a stake within the Senate provided an imperial reach unmatched by the Genoese Republic at its height.[2]

    Economically the region was finally becoming integrated into the Republic; no longer were there tolls between historic city-states or city-gates, no longer were guilds given local monopolies, no longer were there several dozen sets of commune law codes, no longer were there dozens of types of coins with specific values, no longer was tax collection an ad-hoc matter, and no longer were institutions funded by local taxation, graft, and private wealth but transfers from Venice. [3]

    The reactions were mixed, for some the changes was welcome, a massive effort and expenditure went into exchanging old coins for Venetian script and coin with the cost of restoring the metallic purity. Yet for others the same measure was an insult to the commune's pride, a violation of their traditional autonomy, and a loss of a revenue source for the political class. For many of the higher middling population, which were politically involved and had acquired at great cost offices with the expectation of returns from graft this was a massive crisis with those counting themselves as fortunate to find new positions with the Venetian bureaucracy to the many now impoverished literati exclaiming their grievances and revulsion of the state of affairs. While a minority and elitist the literati were the most publicized in Terrafirma.

    Despite the effective changes in law the people of the communes mostly continued on as they've had before organized around families, guilds, and patrons going about in very personal and petty ways. Belief in the moral economy was still strong with concepts of supply and demand dismissed as esoteric manure; good honest labour should be rewarded with good living and it was wasn't then scapegoating was demanded. General fears about Venice dominating and exploiting the mainland grew, only muted by the fatalism and dejection from being defeated again. [4]

    As later anthropologists would note "material culture affects and is affected by social culture" mainland urban society adapted to the new economic conditions. Exposed to Venetian industry that had gone through their own evolution decades ago the various guilds, workshops, and artisans were subject to brutal competition with a general decline in income despite some prospering with access to cheap credit and a massive market while others saw their income decline or their careers rendered unnecessary. Two factors delayed the change and prolonged the pain. The first being the lack of a free-labour market; despite the legal framework employers and workers were still in the city-state mind-set and nepotism, neighbourhood xenophobia, and personal preference dominated hiring and firing practices forcing many bright workers to seek manufactorates in the countryside or within the old regions of the Republic. The second being hubris and reluctance to change; for the half of urban workers which were involved in guilds it was a matter of identity in which many took pride in, the guild was where they meet most of their friends and family with intermarrying between families in a guild was common, and the guild was where they received social and economic support. There were riots which were suppressed while banditry was minimal as the pain was mostly urban.

    Slowly and with great pains, the Po Valley was joining the Republic.




    [1] IOTL, many historic towns in the Po Valley were founded long-ago or due to feudal-castles/bishoprics. ITTL, as evident during the unification of Italy massive population changes occurred with (relative) freedom of movement and a changing economy. ITTL, this is happening with an unified Po Valley under a government keenly interested in commercial matters.
    [2] IOTL the Genoese Republic was a corporate-libertarian's dream and nightmare, where government is brought by the rich and powerful for the rich and powerful. The system was adaptable, dynamic, and wealthy yet it was fractured and brittle with constant coups and vicious political struggles while being harsh for the bulk of the populace who are subject to abuses such as grain monopolies.
    [3] The traditional Italian city-states controlled rural territories known as a "contrada", while not necessarily economically negative as with the case of pre-confederation German states (weak governments, effective free trade and movement as small states compete for business) it was generally negative in the Po Valley where stronger governments were able to impose barriers.
    [4] ITTL and IOTL economic concepts are quite new with the majority of the populace adhere to a moral economy outlook and while the minority of Venetians are rather mercantile in outlook the is a considerable spectrum of views with the idea of invegràr (laissez faire) just one among many.
     
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2019 at 5:26 PM
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  7. Sceonn Peace at a Bargain Price

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    So the Po Valley countryside is also urbanizing?
     
  8. Irene Professional Cactus

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    De-urbanizing in a lot of places and re-urbanizing later in some after the disruptions.
     
  9. Nyvis Well-Known Member

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    The new ruling class dabs on the old ruling class. Good to see some standardization. I imagine as time passes, new urban dwellers in the terrafirma will forget about the privileges the old cities' monopolies accorded them and learn to work with the broader Venetian industrialization trend. Or those cities will die and new ones will spout around the manufactories seeking to exploit the more flexible labourers.

    Destroying all the trade barriers could also have interesting consequences for the countryside though. Rationalization of agriculture is probably going to displace a lot of people. I don't know if medieval Italy had commons to enclose? Traditional land owners are probably going to fall and be replaced by ones with more favour from Venice though.

    Has there been any big innovations in matters of agriculture yet? Because that would really change the dynamic between cities and the countryside.
     
  10. Sceonn Peace at a Bargain Price

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    Egypt seems quite ready to take them in. This would truly turn it culturally Venetian/Italian.
     
  11. Irene Professional Cactus

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    1494
    Less than others, it was about 1/3 vs more than 1/2 for Naples. Church law is weird about land transfer, the "easiest" and most common way was for spendthrift bishops to loan out land, the creditor to improve the land beyond what the broke clergy could payback years later and transfer ownership as compensation instead.
    Good point, there was a lot of Venetian and Italian emigration post 1890s IOTL, partially due to the shuttering of churches and moral economies that helped support so many underemployed people.
    I've mentioned the transformation from grain-fallow towards convertible husbandry, animal power, and manure fertilization. More to come with a new-world exchange; Venice doesn't really affect that-in fact it helped finance and encourage Portuguese exploration with its monopoly on eastern trade.
     
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2019 at 5:09 PM
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  12. Nyvis Well-Known Member

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    By the way, what happens to land owned by the church now that Venice is bringing its own law to the terrafirma? Does it get rolled into the state church? If so, that probably makes it a major landowner. But it would probably irk the pope so maybe not?
     
  13. Irene Professional Cactus

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    Does it ever? Papal relations had always been tough and fickle, some popes look at a map of the Aragonite-Venetian alliance and decided better while other popes try to assert the authority of the Papacy against the Republic; despite the lack of a military the church is rich and influential across the monarchs of Christiandom.
     
  14. Nyvis Well-Known Member

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    I don't understand your answer. Did they take the property under the state church? If so, I understand your answer as various popes flip flopping on the issue? But yeah the church could probably try to buy a king or emperor into trying to discipline Venice if they're really annoyed. It would be very similar to past investiture crises.
     
  15. Irene Professional Cactus

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    Its coming in a few updates, stay tuned.
     
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