The Popular Will: Reformism, Radicalism, Republicanism & Unionism in Britain 1815-1960

Part 5, Chapter LXII
V, LXII: Do you see the Cat?

LDP cartoon espousing Georgist ideals entitled - "Do you see the Cat?" The LDP would adopt the cat as its symbol at the 1894 LDP Congress.

The 1890s in the Union was a period of significant political flux, marked by the emergence of new ideological currents and the reconfiguration of old ones. The era was a mix of trepidation, fear, and new ideas and ideologies emerging in the public consciousness. Debates about the merits of Actionism, Georgism, Unionism, Republicanism, and National Democracy became more prominent as a growing political consciousness emerged throughout the country. The politics of mass movements, unleashed with the emergence of the monster meetings, Rally for the Union, and eventually the Unionist Party and Social Democratic Federation, ensured that the future of power would be bedded not in smoky backrooms, but in the open, at congresses, political meetings, and rallies.

The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) leader Henry Campbell-Bannerman, was in a unique position, as a broad, mass party, to take advantage of this growing movement. While the Unionists had scoffed at the mass element of decision-making within the LDP, preferring its guiding lights to be drawn from elite Parliamentarians, the LDP embraced the federal nature (along with the SDF) of its forebearer, the Democratic Federation. Still, it had an issue. Despite its nine principles, it did not have the crystalised or enumerated ideology shared by its rivals, the Unionists to the right and Feds to the left.


Henry Campbell-Bannerman, Prime Minister 1896-97, 1903-1906

The party felt as though it was in a great position to take advantage of the lethargy and division of the Unionists. It was considered the most mainstream republican party, controlled a number of state governments, introduced popular and effective policies at the state level, and held the second-highest number of seats aside from the rapidly fracturing Unionists. It didn’t have a unifying philosophy, however, and no one was really aware of what an LDP Union would look like.

To remedy this situation, LDP leader, Henry Campbell-Bannerman, an old-school Radical, called a congress at the Free Trade Hall, Manchester in January 1894 to establish a party platform different from his predecessor, William Harcourt. His contribution to the debate would be to propose the party unite its disparate strands through a new doctrine, one he termed “Solidarism.”


Émile Durkheim

Solidarism, introduced by Henry Campbell-Bannerman in his keynote speech to the LDP Congress in January 1894, sought to integrate a number of popular strains of policy within the progressive bloc. Chief among them was French sociologist Émile Durkheim’s concept of organic social solidarity, which argued for a society where cultural and social attributes were collectively shared, and conflicts between employers and trade unions were mediated through a moral obligation to achieve social cohesion.

Having fled France during the rise of Boulanger, Durkheim was a member of the Spencean Club, and contributed to many journals and periodicals popular with LDP members, and his beliefs achieved a following in Britain in the aftermath of the Second French Revolution. His approach to evolve the industrial capitalist society from mechanical to organic solidarity gained the attention of CB in mid-1893, and he met with the philosopher in August at a meeting of the Oxford Union and was taken by his approach. The Solidarist philosophy, adapted from his teaching, thus became the ninth principle of the “Nine Principles of Liberal Democracy,” which symbolised the LDP’s commitment to creating a fair and equitable society where labour had a voice equal to capital.

The adoption of Solidarism as part of the LDP’s platform was a move to bridge the growing chasm within the party, particularly between the Solidarists and the Liberal Imperialists, or Republican Imperialists, who advocated for a synthesis between the Imperialist doctrine of the Unionist Party and the Liberal Democratic Party. This faction, critical of the LDP's direction under William Harcourt, believed in a nationalistic and imperialist approach, emphasising the need for the party to appeal to the centre vote and embrace the new popular Imperial spirit.

While the National Democratic wing, primarily from the Celtic Bloc, influenced the Congress, it was the synthesis of Solidarism and the established principles of the party that ultimately defined the LDP’s stance. National Democracy was an extremely popular doctrine in the party and indeed worldwide, where versions of its programme were being adopted in some form by advocates in the United States and (as we will talk about soon) in Iberia. Georgism, the collective ownership of land, was a unifying factor for a significant proportion of the party. Solidarism, therefore, included the socialisation of the land and the just taxation of land ownership union-wide.

“Rather than undermine the principle of Free Land, Free Trade, Free People, Solidarism enhances and increases the ability of the party to impress a radical redistribution of power and economic opportunity away from the Regent and his class of carpetbaggers and towards the free people of the Union,” CB said in the speech. Ultimately, CB brought the Congress to a vote on a package of measures to update the Newcastle Programme.

To address the chronic confrontations between employers and trade unions, Campbell-Bannerman proposed the establishment of National Labor Councils. These councils would serve as forums for dialogue and negotiation between workers' representatives, employers, and government officials. The objective would be to create a more harmonious labor market, prevent strikes, and ensure fair wages and working conditions through consensus and cooperation rather than conflict. Significantly, the LDP leader also proposed an addendum to the electoral reform element of the party’s platform to include a measure to introduce responsible government or a “pathway toward such a government” for the colonies not yet elevated to Union status and India. Campbell-Bannerman called upon Dadabhai Naoroji MP to take the stage to endorse the reforms. Finally, to ensure that professions contribute positively to the moral organic solidarity of society, Campbell-Bannerman proposed the creation of a National Council for Professional Ethics. This council would develop ethical guidelines for various professions and oversee their implementation, promoting professional conduct that aligns with the broader social good.

CB told the Congress, “These national policies, enacted through the cooperation between States and the Union Government, will create a harmonious society that promotes organic and healthy governance. I believe our advocacy for such policies will see that the 20th century will be the Liberal Democratic century.” After it was called to a vote, the reforms passed with support from significant elements of every faction within the party. Opposition was contained to the right of the party, which opposed the interventionist line of the proposed reforms. Twenty senators were counted as voting against the reforms, ominously.


Campbell-Bannerman speaks to the LDP Congress in 1894

A memorable conflict arose when Senator Alfred Hopkinson, a stalwart of traditional liberalism, launched a vehement opposition against Solidarism. Hopkinson's critique painted Solidarism as an unrealistic utopia, too far removed from the pragmatic concerns of governance and imperial policy.

A defining moment unfolded, encapsulating the ideological tensions brewing within the Liberal Democratic Party. The assembly, already charged with anticipation over Henry Campbell-Bannerman's proposal of Solidarism, was set for a dramatic confrontation. Hopkinson rose to address the congress. His presence commanded attention, and as he began to speak, a hush fell over the room.

Hopkinson's speech was a fervent critique of Solidarism. He questioned the practicality of integrating such an idealistic doctrine into the party's platform, arguing it strayed too far from the party's core liberal principles. "Solidarism," he declared, "is a mirage, leading us away from the tried and true path of individual liberty and free-market principles that have long been our party's hallmark." His voice, laden with years of political battles, echoed through the hall, articulating a deep-seated fear that Solidarism might alienate the party's base and undermine its electoral viability.

The tension in the room was palpable as Hopkinson's words hung in the air, a challenge not just to Campbell-Bannerman but to the very direction of the party. Attendees shifted uncomfortably, the weight of the moment not lost on them. It was then that Henry Campbell-Bannerman rose to respond, his demeanor calm yet resolute.


Senator Alfred Hopkinson

Campbell-Bannerman's rebuttal was a masterclass in political oratory. He acknowledged the deep respect he held for Hopkinson, yet he did not shy away from defending Solidarism with fervor and conviction. "My esteemed colleague speaks of mirages," Campbell-Bannerman began, "yet it is the mirage of unfettered individualism that has led to the social dislocations we witness today. Solidarism is not a departure from our principles but an evolution, a moral imperative to address the injustices wrought by unchecked capitalism."

With each sentence, Campbell-Bannerman's voice grew stronger, his belief in Solidarism's potential to foster social cohesion and resolve the chronic confrontations between employers and trade unions evident. He painted a vision of a society where organic solidarity could thrive, where the division of labour evolved to benefit all members of society, not just the privileged few.

As Campbell-Bannerman concluded, asserting that Solidarism was the path forward for the LDP and the Union, a mix of applause and murmurs filled the room. The ideological divide within the party had been laid bare, but so too had the passion and commitment of its members to navigate these complex waters. This confrontation, emblematic of the broader ideological battle within the LDP, underscored the challenge of reconciling differing visions for the party's future. Yet, it also highlighted the party's vibrancy and the critical role of debate in shaping its path forward. Ultimately, though, the congress was a testament to the party’s ability to unify various factions under a common banner, signified by the adoption of the Georgist symbol, the cat – a metaphor for the clear perception of Henry George’s land reform ideas once understood. It remains the symbol of the party to this day.

The adoption of Solidarism into the LDP’s doctrine was met with both internal and external challenges. Internally, the party had to navigate the delicate balance of appeasing both the traditional liberal wing and the newer Solidarist advocates. This was evident in the negotiations that led to the “Nine Principles of Liberal Democracy,” which had to cater to various interests within the party while maintaining a coherent ideological stance.

Within the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), the introduction of Solidarism by Henry Campbell-Bannerman stirred a cauldron of ideological dissent, most vocally from the Liberal Imperialists. This opposition brought H.H. Asquith, a junior MP, to the fore, as he critiqued Solidarism for its perceived departure from the party's imperial ambitions and its emphasis on social cohesion over economic and military strength.

Asquith articulated that Solidarism, with its focus on resolving employer-trade union conflicts and promoting social solidarity, neglected the Union's need for a robust imperial policy and a strong, centralized government capable of projecting power abroad. He argued that such internal focus could potentially weaken the Union's stature on the global stage. The debates at the congress crescendoed with Asquith’s challenge to Campbell-Bannerman, demanding a reconciliation of Solidarism with the Union's imperial imperatives.

Externally, the LDP faced the scorn of the Unionist Party, which dismissed the new program as a “conglomerate” of unpractical and faddish ideas. Yet, despite the Unionist mockery depicted vividly in contemporary cartoons, the LDP's adoption of Solidarism marked a profound shift toward a more inclusive and socially responsive political agenda. The LDP, along with the SDF, had the benefit of the development of a natural constituency - Republicans. The majority of Republicans believed that an LDP government would be the primary vehicle for delivering a Republic supported by the wider Republican movement.

The ideological pivot was a direct response to the socio-economic challenges of the time. The end of the 19th century was marked by rapid industrialisation, urbanisation, and the widening gap between the wealthy elite and the working class. The LDP's Solidarism, with its emphasis on social solidarity and functional representation, aimed to address the growing disparities and social dislocations that were becoming increasingly apparent in the Union.

The commitment to Solidarism complimented the LDP’s structural reforms and policy proposals. For instance, the party's advocacy for the separation of church and state and the disestablishment of the Unified Church of England reflected a broader move toward secular governance and the equal treatment of all religious groups under the law. This was a progressive stance that sought to diminish the institutional power of the United Anglican Church and promote religious pluralism.

The LDP's commitment to republicanism was another cornerstone of its platform. Campbell-Bannerman reiterated the party’s clear stance on the abolition of the regency and the establishment of a republic resonated with the party's base, which saw the monarchy as an anachronistic institution out of step with the principles of liberal democracy. Different groups proposed different models for a Republic, with many believing a simple replacement of the position of Regent with a President preferable, and others, like radical David Lloyd-George and the Fusionists, believing that a collective presidency would be the best way forward.

Economic reforms were central to the LDP's agenda. The party's push for compulsory powers for States to acquire lands for smallholdings and the national land value tax reflected its commitment to addressing rural poverty and the inequities of land ownership. Such policies were designed to empower rural workers and promote a more equitable distribution of land and resources.

The LDP's advocacy for educational reforms, such as linguistic reform to allow for national languages to be taught in schools, reflected its commitment to cultural pluralism. This was particularly important in the Celtic nations, where the promotion of native languages was seen as essential to preserving cultural identity. The LDP also pushed for electoral reforms, such as the direct election of the Senate, aimed to democratise the political process and make it more accessible to the working class. This was a radical departure from the traditional elitist approach to governance and reflected the party's commitment to populist principles.

In the aftermath of the LDP Congress, state governments under LDP control embarked on an ambitious implementation of Solidarist-inspired policies. In Lancashire, Herbert Gladstone initiated the establishment of Community Labor Boards in May 1894. Thie marked a pioneering move towards mediating labor disputes, significantly reducing industrial unrest. Scotland, under Edward McHugh, saw the introduction of educational reforms embedding social solidarity into curricula, aiming to foster a community-conscious youth. These policies exemplified the practical application of Solidarism, showcasing the LDP's commitment to translating ideological principles into tangible reforms that addressed the Union's socio-economic challenges.


Edward McHugh, Premier of Scotland

Despite the ambitious nature of the Solidarist platform, the LDP's reforms were not without their detractors. The Unionist Party's criticisms hinged on the belief that the LDP's platform was too disparate and lacked coherence. The Unionists contended that Solidarism was nothing more than an attempt to appease the various factions within the LDP rather than a genuine effort to address the Union's challenges. This critique was encapsulated in Chamberlain's description of the Newcastle Programme in 1892 as 'capsules made up in gelatine,' suggesting that the reforms were superficial coverings for unpalatable policies.

However, the LDP's commitment to an economy incorporating both liberal and solidarist ideals stood as a direct challenge to the laissez-faire capitalism that had led to social dislocations. The party’s promotion of capital-labour cooperation and economic democracy sought to bring about a more just and equitable society. The liberal corporatist approach, with its roots in the economic philosophies of figures like John Stuart Mill, provided a blueprint for the LDP's economic vision.

The LDP's policies on agricultural affairs and judicial reform showcased a forward-thinking approach to social and economic issues. The emphasis on cooperative tenant farming, a national land value tax, and the simplification of the Union courts spoke to a broader vision of a society where fairness and efficiency were not mutually exclusive. Campbell-Bannerman’s commitment to Georgism, a popular doctrine within the party.

However, the LDP's platform and the implementation of Solidarism would not be without obstacles. The party would have to navigate the complexities of translating its principles into actionable policies, facing opposition not just from the Unionist Party but also from within its ranks. The balance between maintaining party unity and pushing for reform would be a recurring theme in the LDP's history. The integration of Solidarism into the LDP’s platform was more than a mere political manoeuvre; it represented a philosophical realignment with the potential to transform society. The LDP recognised the emerging complexities of an industrialising nation and sought to preempt the social strife that could arise from unchecked capitalism and entrenched class divides.

The LDP's Solidarist approach did not exist in a vacuum. It drew from a rich tapestry of contemporary social thought, aiming to synthesise these ideas into a cohesive political platform. The party's commitment to social solidarity and functional representation was a nod to Durkheim's vision of a society where individuals were integrated into a cohesive whole through the division of labour.

Moreover, the LDP's Solidarism was a direct response to the Union’s socio-political climate. The late 19th century was a time of significant change, with new social movements emerging and traditional structures being questioned. The LDP's policies sought to harness these changes, channelling the energy of mass movements into a structured political program that could appeal to a wide cross-section of society.

One of the most significant challenges for the LDP was translating its Solidarist philosophy into practical governance. The Unionist criticisms that the program lacked coherence were not entirely unfounded. The LDP's platform was ambitious and wide-ranging, encompassing everything from church-state separation to land reform to linguistic and judicial changes. The party had to ensure that these various elements could be integrated into a workable policy framework that would not collapse under its own weight.

The party’s efforts to democratise the political process and make governance more inclusive were particularly noteworthy. The LDP sought to break down the barriers that had traditionally excluded the working class and other marginalised groups from political participation. By advocating for state-funded elections and the direct election of the Senate, the party was pushing for a more participatory democracy.

The LDP's Solidarist platform also had an international dimension. The party's advocacy for peace and its opposition to war aligned with the broader international movement towards pacifism and conflict resolution. The LDP's vision of a society based on social solidarity extended beyond the Union’s borders, reflecting a desire for a more peaceful and cooperative international order. Its ideological evolution through the adoption of Solidarism did not occur in isolation but was part of a larger political narrative that included interactions with the Unionist Party and the Social Democratic Federation (SDF). The Unionists, led by Salisbury, derided the LDP's shift as a naive surrender to idealism, lacking in practicality for governance.

Meanwhile, the SDF criticized the LDP for not going far enough, advocating for a more radical overhaul of society that would dismantle the existing capitalist structures. The chapter should explore a series of public engagements, debates, and rallies where LDP leaders, faced with opposition from both the right and the left, defended Solidarism as a balanced approach to social reform, aiming to carve a distinct political identity for the party amid the Union's turbulent political waters. This section should highlight the LDP's navigational challenges and successes in positioning itself as a viable alternative to both the conservative Unionist stance and the radical socialist proposals of the SDF, underscoring the competitive yet occasionally cooperative dynamics that defined the era's political landscape.


Free Trade Hall, Manchester, site of the LDP Congress 1894

In conclusion, the LDP's adoption of Solidarism at its 1894 Congress was a seminal event that reflected the party's commitment to progressive reform and social cohesion. It marked a shift from the politics of pure liberalism towards an approach that sought to integrate the working classes and address the societal impacts of industrialisation and capitalism. The LDP's Solidarist doctrine acknowledged the importance of community and collective responsibility, challenging the individualistic ethos that had dominated the political narrative.

Solidarism was, in many ways, ahead of its time. It anticipated the social welfare policies and corporatist structures that would become more common in the 20th century. The party's efforts to create a moral solidarity based on professions organised into a single public institution were an early attempt to reconcile the interests of labour and capital. This issue would continue to be a central theme in social and economic policy.

The LDP’s platform also indicated an early recognition of the importance of diversity and pluralism within a democratic society. By advocating for linguistic reforms and the rights of different nationalities to co-exist within the Union, the LDP laid the groundwork for what would become a multi-culturalist policy approach. However, the LDP's vision was not without its flaws. The challenge of implementing such a comprehensive platform was significant, and the party struggled with internal divisions and external opposition. The need to maintain party unity while pursuing a progressive agenda would remain a delicate balancing act for the LDP leadership.

Furthermore, the LDP's Solidarist platform faced the inevitable tension between idealism and pragmatism. While the party's principles were laudable, the realities of political power and the resistance from entrenched interests meant that the LDP's reforms would be hard-fought. The Solidarist vision required not just political will but also a societal willingness to embrace change.

The 1894 LDP Congress can be seen as a critical juncture that set the stage for future debates on social policy, governance, and the role of the state in regulating the economy. The Solidarism espoused by the LDP highlighted the evolving nature of liberalism and its capacity to adapt to the demands of a changing society. Within 18 months, CB would have the chance to enact his policies but would be hampered in his effective deployment of the philosophy with the outbreak of conflagration on the continent.
Ah many thanks for noticing this!

Full paragraph is as follows:

"Republicans were worried about the prospect of Cecil taking the reigns but were unconvinced of the ability of any of their Parliamentarians to gain enough support from Unionists to overturn the will of the 1884 Committee, who issued strict instructions to back Cecil once consensus emerged that he was the most popular candidate. An attempt from Charles Dilke, of all people, to find a challenger, failed after just 7 parliamentarians attended his meeting."

Thank you, Mr. President! 🤝
Hello All! I’ve moved house and changed jobs recently so I’ve not had loads of time to finish off a few updates I’ve been working on - but don’t fear, it will be finished soon!
You know, while re-reading the last batch of updates, I noticed something weird with the LDP:

The younger politician (Hopkinson, b. 1851) is spearheading the internal opposition to the proposed new political programme for the party championed by the older politician (Campbell-Bannerman, b. 1836).

You don't see that often in real life. :winkytongue:
Part 5, Chapter LXIII
V, LXIII: The Exiled Empire


Santa Isabel in 1894

Under the relentless blaze of the Equatorial sun, 40-year-old naval officer Nicolás Franco Salgado-Araújo stood on the bustling docks of Santa Isabel, the heart of what was once an obscure island, now the beacon of Spain-Equatoria. Clutching his three-year-old son close, his gaze fixed on the horizon as the royal vessel approached, Nicolás felt the weight of history and hope merge in a single moment.

“In the suffocating heat, our spirits soared with the arrival of Her Majesty,” he later penned in a diary, worn and faded by time. “Exhaustion gave way to exhilaration; despair turned into determination. Here, in this uncharted land, we were to forge a new Spain, a testament to our resilience and enduring spirit. The Queen, our phoenix, arose from the ashes of a fallen empire, promising rebirth and guiding us into an uncertain but hopeful future.”

Few stories capture the imagination of the Western world more than the flight of the Spanish Empire. To call the expulsion of the Spanish Crown from Iberia an expulsion wouldn’t quite be right. It was a series of expulsions that sent loyalists to the regime around the world and back again, touring the globe in search of a safe refuge. It took approximately four years and saw fleeing loyalists head to the Americas, to Asia, and finally to Africa.

In 1890, the last key figures of the Spanish Empire, Queen-Regent Maria Christina and the young King Alfonso headed out to an uncertain future as they were chased out of the peninsular. First to Portugal, they then found themselves seeking refuge in Paris by 1891. They witnessed the declaration of the new French monarchy and its fall before heading to Rouen upon the French Civil War reaching the gates of the capital. In 1893, seeing the safe corridor closing, Maria Christina attempted to find a route for herself and the six-year-old Spanish Monarch to return to safety. Despite escaping Rouen, the two were found by Fédérés and arrested while crossing into Brittany. Both were caught smuggling various valuables, including a sceptre, a present of Rudolf II to King Felipe II, which confirmed their guilt.

The Popular Army took Maria Christina to a prison in Lorient. At the same time, the King of Spain was “re-integrated,” and given a home somewhere in France, eventually ending up in Toulouse. He grew up only partially aware of his royal lineage: one school report by an unsuspecting teacher in 1897 when he was 12, said Alfonso, then given the name Andre Durand, was “a fantasist and a dreamer, continually telling his fellow schoolmates that he was destined for greatness.” Durand would finally receive the confirmation of his lineage and return to Spain-Equatoria in 1903, but that is very much a story for another time.


Queen-Regent Maria Christina of Spain

With Alfonso gone, Maria Christina disappeared, and the Spanish Crown smashed, Royalists seemed a spent force. A Spanish writer described them as “Una Pluma en el Viento,” or A Feather in the Wind. With their leadership decapitated, there was no coordinated response. Exiles travelled to the former Empire - to Morocco, Cuba, and the Philippines. In each of these territories, the exiles were essentially delivered to hell. The rejection in mainland Spain of the Crown was timed perfectly with attempted uprisings in colonial outposts, as Spanish soldiers found their command structures running silent.

In Morocco, Berbers launched a campaign to rid colonialists of its land under the banner, with a helpless Sultan Abdelaziz caught between three forces - Spanish exiles, the Rifians, and after the Second French Revolution, Actionists entering from Tunisia and Algeria. With dwindling supplies, they were an ineffective force by 1893. In Cuba, they had faced a ferocious anti-Spanish force, fuelled by American aid, with a similar phenomenon in the Philippines. All over the world, the Spanish Empire was sailing into the sunset in a sea of apathy. While the Royalists were still in nominal control of Cuba and Puerto Rico, their hold was tenuous - patronage was held through a constitution and nationalist and pro-American sentiment (and a well organised and armed resistance against Spanish control) was a huge force.

The totals vary from analysis to analysis, but by 1894, there were an estimated 1,300,000 refugees from the wars on the peninsula plotting a nomadic existence around the world. Many settled in Europe, especially Italy, but the vast majority were bound by a sense of duty to continue the Spanish Crown somewhere. More importantly, the wealth of the Spanish state, including a large amount of gold, literature, and historical artifacts, needed a safe deposit space free from the risk of looting or plunder by opposing forces.

Once again, the Second French Revolution set a course - although this was a different course to the typical path around the world. In Guinea, an old Spanish holding comprising the island of Fernando Po and insular territories on the African continent, the Spanish Royalists were better armed, more secure, and escorted the Countess of Girgenti, Isabel, with the riches of the regime. It was decided that Isabel would be the best custodian of the riches - she headed straight out of Spain after the end of the conflict and did not travel to France for fear of the French taking the state's wealth as plunder - and they decided on the island of Fernando Po as a destination.

The area now comprising the mainland portion of Spain-Equatoria was occupied partly by the Germans, but mostly by the French, who were themselves divided into factions mirroring the dividing lines of their own Civil War. Throughout the territory, the French were in retreat and in the Gabon and the Congo Valley, their authority had been fatally weakened. By 1894, the French were in complete disarray, and although a number of holdout outposts remained, mostly loyal to the Federative Union, they could not claim to be in control of the territory. The Accord Powers were concerned about the administration of the region, and wished to see a settlement that was acceptable to all parties. The Germans had established a colony in the Cameroons surrounding the previous Spanish claim, but were in agreement with the British that a strong neutral presence, in this case the Exiled Spanish, would be preferable to a French force in the region.

Therefore, both parties met with representatives from the Spanish Army secretly in 1893 and gave consent for the Spanish, should they be able to establish an effective occupation of the region, to establish an exile colony, expelling the French. This gave the Spanish the wiggle room to expand their holdings and create more room for settlements in the area. They were allocated a region to the Campo River in the North, and the Gabon River in the South. The rest, it was decided, would be divided between the Germans and British.

Initially, in 1890, around 25,000 people, including Isabel, fled to Fernando Po. After the expulsion of the Spaniards from Morocco in 1893, and the beginning of the defeat of the remaining Spanish Armies in Cuba in 1895 (which would be completed as an opening act of the Turbulence), the numbers began to grow. Cuba’s politicians began to encourage independence, furthering decline of the hold of the Spanish Crown, fuelling further immigration around the remaining outposts.

Finally, in April 1894, with the King missing, Regent presumed dead, and holdings collapsing, Isabel decreed that the Spanish Council of State should meet in Santa Isabel to discuss the future of the monarchy. Isabel believed that a new monarch would need to be proclaimed for there to be any chance for the institution to survive anywhere in the world. For Isabel, this was not an attempt to grab power for herself, far from it - she was reported to have said “The crown is heavy, and I do not have the shoulders for it,” but an attempt to restore the crown to some kind of respectability through someone else.


Santa Isabel in 1890 before the relocation of the Spanish Empire to the Island

The issue for Isabel was, frankly, no one wanted the job. Various branches of the royal family who had survived were touted, all declined the advances. As early as 1891, Isabel was in contact with many other dynasties to donate a son or a cousin to the cause but found radio silence. Isabel decided that the only course of action was to call all Spaniards in defence of the crown to Guinea to rally and decide the next steps.

On April 17, 1894, she issued a proclamation called “To The Loyal Subjects of the Empire” to meet in Santa Isabel in a year to decide on the future of the Spanish State. A curiosity at the time, the proclamation received significant attention from the global press, including in Iberia, where it was met with ridicule and derision. In Britain, it was seen as a romantic last crusade against the turning tide against Monarchy by some, and an attempt to restart the war by others. In the shadowy halls of European diplomacy, the exodus to Equatoria was met with a maelstrom of suspicion and intrigue. The Vatican, seeing an opportunity to support a Catholic monarchy in exile, covertly dispatched resources and spiritual support, strengthening Isabel's position. Meanwhile, traditional monarchies, quietly unnerved by the republicanism sweeping Europe, offered clandestine aid, hoping to preserve a bastion of royalism.

The response was far beyond what Isabel could have expected. Over the next 4 years, nearly 350,000 answered the call and travelled to Africa. These included nearly 40,000 from Iberia, who embarked on a strenuous trek through mainland Africa, through the conflict-ridden territories of French Africa and Cameroon, wilfully allowed passage by several different authorities. Remarkably, 34,000 arrived in the Spanish holdings on the mainland, ready to contribute to the new venture in Africa.

To facilitate the relocation, Isabel and her council successfully negotiated support from sympathetic nations, notably the Vatican. This network provided logistical support, funds, and resources, enabling the migration. Additionally, a clandestine organization, the “Order of the Exiled Crown,” formed by affluent Royalists, played a pivotal role in coordinating the exodus, leveraging their wealth and international connections to secure safe passage and initial settlement needs. Private merchants from Italy and Austria paid for ships to take exiles to the territory, and support came from all over the Catholic world to help the Spanish establish their exile kingdom. Thanks to the support and safe passage, Santa Isabel, the capital of the island Fernando Po, swelled from a population of around 20,000 to 100,000, led by Isabel, and became the centre of the new Spanish Empire. While not thrilled about the destruction of the monarchy and the relocation to a remote island in Africa, Isabel saw an excellent opportunity to build a new empire on the continent.

To do this, Spanish settlers arriving on the island, already struggling with the new influx of persons, were diverted to settlements in mainland Africa, and in the early 1890s, Cabo Santa Clara, Cabo Lopez, Corsico, Cabo San Juan, Rio Benito, and Rio Del Campo saw significant population growths in concurrence with the Fernando Po demographic shift. Informal understandings with Great Britain (who could not yet sign a formal treaty with the territory due to its commitments with Iberia) and Brazil-Nova Lusitânia, the ongoing Turbulence in France, and increased funds from private investment saw the Spanish push inland, expanding at the expense mainly of the French. The tacit acknowledgement from the Germans and British allowed the Spanish Army to conduct a war to expel French settlers from the region and settle large numbers of the immigrants from Spain and its former empire into the mainland.

Across its newfound territory, the pulse of a community celebrated the throes of creation. Spanish architecture, with its grand facades and tiled roofs, rises alongside traditional African structures, a testament to a merging of worlds. Marketplaces bustle with the exchange of goods, Spanish olives, and wines laid next to exotic fruits and spices, while the air carries a blend of chatter and music, a melody of newfound coexistence. The exodus to Equatoria, while offering a lifeline to Spanish Royalists, imposed significant logistical challenges. The sudden population surge in Santa Isabel and mainland settlements necessitated immediate expansion of infrastructure—roads, housing, and sanitation facilities were rapidly constructed, often with rudimentary methods.


Cacao Plantations in Spanish territory, 1894.

Upon arrival, the settlers faced daunting challenges: diseases such as malaria and yellow fever were rampant; the dense Equatorial forest and unfamiliar climate demanded significant adaptation; and initial relations with local populations were tense, leading to conflicts. Trade dislocation and a lack of infrastructure caused two serious malaria outbreaks, in 1893 and 1895, ravaging the population and leaving serious scars.

On September 12, 1894, a settler, Ana Garcia, wrote “Malaria has taken hold. It spreads like wildfire, sparing no one. Our dreams of a new beginning are now marred by feverish nights and the lamentations of the ill. The outbreak has decimated our numbers, and the joy of our arrival turned to mourning. In this darkest hour, our resolve is tested.” Garcia died two weeks later, along with 14,000 others unable to get access to Quinine thanks to a shortage. Despite these hurdles, the settlers' resilience, underpinned by their shared purpose and unity, saw them through. Efforts to understand and adapt to the local environment, coupled with medical knowledge brought by the exiles, gradually mitigated health issues.

The settlers brought with them as much as they could of Spanish culture and society. In Santa Isabel, the settlers reestablished Universities, the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, University of Salamanca, and University of Valladolid were each established, the Royal Academy of Sciences relocated to the Island alongside the Royal Spanish Academy, the Royal Archdiocese of Madrid claimed Santa Isabel as its seat of authority, and various other institutions declared the island its home. Finally, when the Council of State, comprising a few minor nobles and experts, met, it declared that Santa Isabel was the capital of Spain and the seat of the Crown.

They also endeavoured to recreate a microcosm of Spanish society, establishing schools, universities, and cultural institutions. Paired with this desire to assimilate the local infrastructure was the need to evacuate local populations. This process saw up to 45,000 of the native population evicted from their homes and sent on boats to the mainland. A significant proportion were retained as servants and workers on the coffee and cocoa plantations - creating significant wealth in the export trade for the colony and helping them gain currency and raw materials to build the outpost.

Economic sustenance initially relied heavily on this agriculture, with crops suitable for the climate, such as cocoa, coffee, and sugarcane, being cultivated. Trade relations were slowly established with neighbouring territories and, clandestinely, with German, British, Brazilian, and Belgian traders, providing the necessary income to sustain the settlement and begin economic expansion. Artisanal industries, particularly in textiles and metalwork, incorporating both Spanish techniques and local materials, also emerged.

The influx both strained local resources and invigorated the economy. It led to the creation of new agricultural projects and trade pathways, although there was an initial dependence on imported essentials. This era was characterized by the contrasting experiences of adversity and possibility, as pioneers struggled with the challenges of founding a new community. However, those calling the territory home learned lessons quickly. On May 15, 1894, Rodrigo Alvarez wrote in his diary, “The land here is unlike anything we knew back in Spain or Cuba. Our first attempts at planting crops we knew—wheat, olives—were met with failure. The soil, the climate, it conspires against us. We've had to turn to the local flora, learning from indigenous practices. It's a humbling experience, realizing our survival depends on embracing this new world, not imposing the old.”

Maria Torres, a missionary from Valencia wrote, “Today, we bartered with a local tribe for seeds of plants we cannot name but they assure us will flourish here. Our reliance on our supplies is a looming spectre over our colony; we must become self-sufficient. The challenge of adapting our traditional Spanish dishes to the local produce has been unexpected but rewarding." Throughout the new venture, settlers began to adapt and acclimatise to the reality of living 4,500 km from home.

A settler, Isabel López, wrote “Our days are a blend of the familiar and the utterly foreign. We hold mass in a makeshift chapel, our prayers mingling with the unfamiliar sounds of the jungle. Yet, in the evenings, we gather to share stories of home, the memory of Spain alive in our laughter and tears.” Yet life in the colony was oppressive and hard for the settlers, many of whom were not rich and did not arrive with vast wealth. Isabel’s husband, Carlos, wrote to a friend who settled in Italy, saying “The heat here is oppressive, unyielding. Our clothes cling, soaked with sweat, as we labour to build roads, homes, and a future. Yet, in the cool of the evening, when the air is filled with the scent of blooming flowers unknown in our homeland, there is a sense of peace, of belonging."

It seemed obvious to most in the Council of State the next steps to restore the Monarchy. Initially apprehensive, Isabel was urged by many of the relocated aristocracy to accept the throne and was finally turned on June 17, 1895, when a crowd of nearly 45,000 travelled to Santa Isabel to support a pronunciamiento to make Isabel the Queen of Spain. Upon seeing the crowds, she was said to have wept, overwhelmed with the love of her subjects. She accepted that day, and the Council of State declared that the government on the island was now the sole legal and representative government of Spain. The territory would become known as the Kingdom of Spain in Equatoria, a nod to an eventual return to the mainland, but would eventually become known to most as Spain-Equatoria.

Joseph Maria von Radowitz Jr., the German Ambassador to Iberia, visited the island after the proclamation, wrote to the Foreign Office in Berlin and said, “It seems this endeavour is here to stay - from the ashes of the old, the Spanish Empire is alive thousands of leagues away.”


Painting of Queen Isabel's proclamation as Queen of Spain in Santa Isabel.

As the sun dipped below the horizon, painting the skies of Spain-Equatoria with streaks of blood and gold, a palpable tension settled over the burgeoning empire. It was an empire born from desperation, thriving against all odds, yet at its heart lay an unresolved question: could this grand experiment in sovereignty and survival endure?

Amidst the celebrations of newfound stability and the flourishing of Spanish culture in an African heartland, whispers of unease threaded through the jubilant crowds. The world watched, as did those who had sacrificed everything for this dream, wondering if the tides of history might yet turn against this last bastion of a bygone era. As men like Nicolás Franco Salgado-Araújo closed their diaries, the ink still wet on the page, foreboding feelings were ubiquitous that their greatest challenges lay not behind them, but ahead, hidden in the shadows of an unpredictable future.

By 1898 and the beginning of the Franco-British Colonial War, the Spanish were a key ally against the French and Russians, and were rewarded with acceptance of their expanded claims along the Bight of Biafra in the Treaties of London. This treaty would be significant, as it would also see Iberia recognise the state, in exchange for it assuming a share of the inherited debt of the old Monarchy. The Germans, British and Spanish expelled and expunged all French settlements and the Germans and British divided the remaining lands between the Spanish, Germans, and a third party to the Treaty, the exiled King of Belgium, Leopold. Leopold would eventually take control of the remainder of the Gabon and French Congo, the Germans of all of Cameroon, and the British would gain control of territory in the African Great Lakes, claimed by the Germans, as compensation.


Eventual borders of Spain-Equatoria in 1898, as agreed between Britain, Germany, and King Leopold after the collapse of French authority in the region*

*Map making isn't my skill, and this is therefore overlayed on a map from the time - so ignore the rest of the borders,. Unless someone wants to help me make a more accurate map, this is the best I can do unfortunately!
Last edited:
You know, while re-reading the last batch of updates, I noticed something weird with the LDP:

The younger politician (Hopkinson, b. 1851) is spearheading the internal opposition to the proposed new political programme for the party championed by the older politician (Campbell-Bannerman, b. 1836).

You don't see that often in real life. :winkytongue:

Yes, but CB is regarded in both timelines as the last of the Old Radicals, so it's not a huge surprise to seem him at the forefront of Radical politics. He is significantly more energetic in this timeline though: a favourite quote of mine from him: "Personally, I am a great believer in bed."

True dat.
Wait, so why would Maria Christina have disappeared? Is there any reason her being in prison in France wouldn't be publicly known? Given that she's Austrian wouldn't the French want to use her as a hostage or something of that nature? What ends up happening to her, is she just in jail for a long time?
Wait, so why would Maria Christina have disappeared? Is there any reason her being in prison in France wouldn't be publicly known? Given that she's Austrian wouldn't the French want to use her as a hostage or something of that nature? What ends up happening to her, is she just in jail for a long time?
She has a Romanov-style ending. She was taken to a prison but never emerged out of it. The French State is keeping that fact quiet to keep the Austrians on side, and will insist that she was “lost” and presumed to have fled the country.

I’ll get into the details in a future Austria update, if that helps :)
Yes, but CB is regarded in both timelines as the last of the Old Radicals, so it's not a huge surprise to seem him at the forefront of Radical politics. He is significantly more energetic in this timeline though: a favourite quote of mine from him: "Personally, I am a great believer in bed."

True dat.

The things republicanism (and the danger of losing it) does to a MF. 😜
Part 5, Chapter LXIV

V, LXIV: The Regeneration: Iberia 1894-1895​


Manuel Zorrilla, the first President of the Iberian Federation (1894-1895)

The concept of “Great Man Theory” is a discredited and disliked concept amongst historians, but there are a few exceptions, a few times in which one figure seizes a nation and pulls it in the direction of their choosing. Manuel Ruiz Zorrilla is one such exception. A man who decided to change the direction of a nation and pull it in the direction of his choosing.

Upon the winds of change, throughout 1894, Iberia embarked on a journey from the ashes of its tumultuous past toward the promise of a rejuvenated future. A nation of nations, once fragmented by civil unrest and marred by the scars of external invasion, stood on the precipice of transformation, its destiny unwritten, teetering between the legacy of turmoil and the dream of renewal. It was a time when the spirit of Iberia, resilient and defiant, sought not just to heal but to reimagine itself under the banner of regenerationalism.

This reimagination was spurred in near totality by Zorrilla. His party, the Democratic Party, remains a giant in the Federation; his constitution remains the structure of the state; his commitment to ideology encapsulating plurinationalism and civic patriotism remains a key facet of the mood of the Iberian state. His death was a body blow to Iberia, but his greatest legacy was that his creed remained after he left, carried out by the party he created.

The federation went through that journey and emerged with a renewed sense of self, an organisation that has lasted to this day, and a spirit of plurinationalism that transcended borders. Marked by conflict and dislocation, Manuel Zorrilla stood above the parapet of consensus in the Federation and dared to make a significant pitch to Iberia: I will reconstitute the Federation, and make it work.

"Out of the shadows of our strife, we carve the path to our renaissance," Manuel Zorrilla once proclaimed, his voice echoing through the hearts of Iberians far and wide. This declaration became the anthem of a movement that envisioned an Iberia reborn, a federation united not just by borders but by a shared aspiration for prosperity, justice, and harmony.

Part 1 - The Need for Recovery​

At the end of a long and brutal two decades, marked by civil war and invasion, Iberia was a landscape marred by the ravages of relentless societal upheaval. Once a vibrant tapestry of cultures and traditions, the peninsular found itself weathered by the storms of war and migration.

By 1893, the scars of nearly two decades of turmoil had profoundly altered the essence of this proud region. Spain and Portugal, nations that had together boasted a population of 21 million souls in the year 1873, now cradled only 19 million within their borders. The exodus was stark, with waves of emigration bleeding the peninsula dry of its lifeblood, leaving behind a realm shadowed by loss and uncertainty. The peninsular had lost its colonies, lost its pride, and lost its sense of direction. Seeing the ruin of the conflict, many begun asking whether it was all worth it.

The French invasion had exacted a heavy toll, claiming the lives of 65,000 of the country’s citizens. Following the tumultuous overthrow of the monarchy, Portugal mourned the departure of the O Expulsos, 90,000 in total, to the distant shores of Brazil, a number which swelled by a further 100,000 in the ensuing years. The monarchist flight to Equatoria, a desperate bid for a new beginning, further syphoned the wealth and expertise that once flowed through Iberia. Financially ruined, politically chaotic, the writer Herman Melville travelled to Iberia in 1892 and witnessed the destruction, talking of Madrid as “a city half built, a people half dead.”

Prior to the war, Catalonia stood as a solitary hub of industrialisation, but its factories and foundries too were dimmed by the shadows of conflict. Positioned on the very frontlines of the Spanish Civil War and the subsequent Franco-Iberian War, the region bore the brunt of devastation, its output crippled to a mere 45% of its pre-war output. The blockade of traditional trade routes, particularly with France, forced a reliance on the export of agricultural goods to nations like Italy and Britain, a meagre substitute for the emerging commerce of yesteryears.


Rope and basket weavers, Cordoba, 1895

In search of a solution, the government of Spain, then Iberia, attempted to build self-sufficiency in the face of its status cut off from the world and its own colonies. The Iberian government's attempt at Autarky was thwarted by an undeniable dependence on British imports. The vital streams of gold and foreign currency, once the lifeblood of the economy, had been depleted, spirited away amidst the chaos of war, looting, and extraction by the retreating Monarchists. British banks, with Barings leading the charge, extended loans in a gesture of support, but the tightening noose of a global economic downturn caused by the Second French Revolution made repayment an Herculean task.

Agriculture, the ancient backbone of the Iberian economy, thrived anew under the stewardship of these collectives. Teams of five to ten tended the land with a care born of collective ownership. Their voices, melded in democratic chorus, shaped the decisions that guided their labour. Management committees, elected with the solemn gravity of general assemblies, orchestrated the daily symphony of agricultural life, from the procurement of materials to the distribution of the harvest.

Yet, even as these communities strove to forge a path of self-reliance, the spectre of dependency loomed large. Catalonia's urban centres, once the heart of Iberian industry, now mirrored the communal ethos of the rural collectives in their management of goods and services. However, the dream of autonomy was tempered by the reality of a nation still tethered to the imports that flowed from Britain's shores. Throughout this period, the challenges of rebuilding Iberia spilled into the political arena, heralding an era where the battle for the nation's soul would be fought not just in the fields but within the hallowed halls of power.

Part 2 - The Ideological Maelstrom​

This political battle emerged from the undercurrents of economic turmoil, manifesting as a deadlock that threatened to paralyse the Federation's resurgence. As Iberia emerged, battered and bruised from the fires of revolution, its corridors of power became the stage for a fierce battle of ideologies. The birth of the Democratic Federation of Spain (FDE) marked a new chapter, yet the ink was barely dry before the nation found itself ensnared in political deadlock. The halls of the Federal Congress, where the future of Iberia was to be forged, echoed not with unity but with the discord of divided factions.

The era, optimistically dubbed the "Era of Good Feelings" for its brief respite between Republican unification and the Civil War's end, belied the simmering tensions beneath. The Pact of Pamplona, intended as a cornerstone of unity, instead became a symbol of the unresolved fissures within the coalition, leading to a political stasis that permeated the air like a dense fog.

At the heart of this deadlock was a pivotal disagreement over the nation's economic future. The Anarchist FRE-AIT faction, fervent in their pursuit of collectivization and worker control, stood in stark opposition to the Federal Republican Democratic Party (FDRP), of which Manuel Zorrilla, the outlying element within the ruling Junta, was a prominent member.

Zorrilla was a tolerated, respected, opposing political figure to the anarchist and socialist founders of the Federation. He had grown concerned with the state's direction. More accurately, both were concerned about the directionless nature of the state since the retreat of the French. He had felt the pain of loss during the war - his wife had been killed in 1891 during the defence of Catalonia, and this had spurred his passion for the Republican project. Some called him a broken man after the loss of his wife, but his loss had allocated his full attention to the health of the Federation.


Emilio Castelar, Second President of the Democratic Party

Zorrilla, advocating for a synthesis of market-based economics within the new framework, found himself at a crossroads, his voice a lone call for moderation in a sea of extremism. Time was of the essence for the 61 year old in 1894 - his health had been deteriorating, but that didn’t stop his vigour. He was determined to leave a better peninsular than the backward, declining power he was born into.

"The path to prosperity lies not in the extremes but in balance," Zorrilla argued, his words resonating in the hallowed halls of Congress, yet falling on ears divided by ideology.

Zorrilla also advocated for policies that recognised the intrinsic value of individual religious beliefs while firmly supporting the separation of church and state. He envisioned a federation where the free exercise of faith went hand in hand with liberal governance, echoing his personal stance as a critical Catholic dedicated to the marriage of liberal and religious principles. Zorrilla, thus, sought to reduce the Church's overt political power but not its spiritual presence in the individual's private life.

The emergence of the Federation of Spanish Workers (FTE), later renamed the Federation of Iberian Workers (FTI) following Portugal's integration, introduced a new actor to the political theatre. It provided a platform for more nuanced debate, though the shadow of the FRE-AIT loomed large, especially in the rural heartlands and the industrial bastions where memories of the revolution and the struggle against foreign domination were still fresh.

The debates extended into the realm of agriculture, where the future of Iberia's breadbasket hung in balance. The insistence on decentralisation by the FRE-AIT clashed with calls for a semblance of central oversight, a debate that mirrored the broader ideological chasm and threatened to undermine the very fabric of Iberian economy. The FRE-AIT remained a formidable force thanks to its support among rural peasants and militant industrial workers, many of whom had fought the Centralised Republic and the French, who hailed it for the transfer of land after the revolution.

Amidst these turbulent debates, the Turno Pacífico system, a mechanism designed to rotate leadership among the Federation's key figures, became a symbol of the political inertia gripping the nation. As Commissioner Pi and General Llunas took their turns at the helm, the absence of fresh ideas and solutions became increasingly apparent, leaving the populace yearning for change. Zorrilla was a beneficiary of this system, but felt it was stifling the natural creativity of the peninsular and its inhabitants. His work with the Junta brought him back into contact with an old friend and fellow traveller of the Republican movement, Emilio Castelar.

Castelar was a product of Revolution and has been a stalwart of the revolutionary movement, present since the radical movements of the 1860s. He had taken a backseat in the current government, but was a keen member of the Federal Congress. A fan of Byron, he was considered an outstanding orator, and one of the key members of the moderate republican movement. A liberal democrat, he was ostracised by much of the Federation’s elite during the early days of the conflict, mainly for his association with the centralised republic, but as the years passed, he became influential and critical of the nature of the structure of the Federation.

A key factor of the state was its decentralised nature, but many now believed it was too disorganised, too decentralised, and too weak to protect itself. The unorganised and chaotic administration of the state meant there were many different classifications of subdivisions in the Federation. Three republics - Catalonia, the Basque Regions, and Portugal - held additional power and were fiercely autonomous. While each province, city, and region had its own junta, the jurisdiction and scope of each varied, and their powers were undefined. Some were well organised, like Madrid and the nations, while some were less so, like many primarily rural cantons.

The Universal, the governing document of the Federation, outlined the relationship between the Federation, cantons, and juntas, but not the respective jurisdictions of each layer of government. The only principle, subsidiarity, meant that the most local functional layer of government should deal with any issue. With a weak court, the Commission of Common Justice, which had little enforcing power in disputes, arguments between local, cantonal, and federal politicians were common. All these issues with the founding principles of the state were to be remedied, the two saw, and this could not be done with the help of the Anarchists.

It was in this climate of stagnation that Manuel Zorrilla and Emilio Castelar, two figures once on the peripheries of Iberian politics, began to emerge as voices of reason. Zorrilla, with his history as Prime Minister of the Centralised Republic, and Castelar, whose defection marked a pivotal moment of unity, shared a vision of a more organised, centralised federation capable of defending itself and charting a course toward stability.

"Iberia stands as a state of great metropolises and vast wilderness engulfed in chaos," Castelar lamented in a speech in 1893, encapsulating the sense of disarray that plagued the Federation.

Their critique was not just of the present but of the very foundations upon which the Federation was built. The Universal, the document meant to guide the Federation, was silent on the intricate balance of power between its constituents, leading to a labyrinth of jurisdictional disputes and inefficiencies.

As Zorrilla and Castelar navigated the complex political landscape, their resolve hardened. The Federation's salvation, they believed, would not come from the anarchistic principles that had birthed it but from a new vision of governance, one that embraced the necessity of strong leadership and a unified direction. Amidst the cacophony of voices and the clash of ideologies, their mission was clear: to forge a new path for Iberia, one that would lead it out of the shadows of conflict and into the light of a promising future. The political impasse, ripe with discord, laid bare the need for a new vision, a unifying force that could rise above the fragmented discourse and chart a course for Iberia's regeneration.

Part 3 - The Birth of Regenerationalism​

Enter regenerationalism, the philosophy championed by Castelar, Zorrilla, and their contemporaries, poised to infuse the Federation with the vitality it desperately needed. In the wake of a tumultuous era, as Iberia steadied itself on the path to recovery, a profound dialogue about its future began to unfold. The call to arms for this new chapter was sounded by none other than Emilio Castelar, whose late 1893 proclamation of "self-organisation" and "regenerationalism" reverberated through the corridors of power in the burgeoning Iberian state. It was a clarion call to fortify the nation against the spectre of foreign domination, to weave the fabric of a resilient and self-sufficient Iberia.

Castelar, a visionary with his gaze firmly fixed on the horizon, understood that while the Federation had been shaped by the fires of rebellion and conflict, its institutional framework remained a patchwork quilt of reactionary measures. "We have built a state in the image of defiance," he mused, "yet now, in the absence of a common enemy, we find ourselves at a crossroads. Must we not endeavour to sculpt a lasting edifice from the clay of our collective aspirations?"

The waning threat of French aggression, under the more conciliatory Keufer premiership, provided a much-needed respite, a moment of calm that Castelar, alongside Manuel Zorrilla and José Francos Rodríguez, seized to advocate for sweeping reforms. Through the editorial pages of Zorrilla’s popular newspaper, El Globo, they championed a vision of Iberia renewed, shedding the oppressive legacies of land inequality, ecclesiastical dominance, and oligarchic governance. Yet, they contended, such transformation necessitated a departure from the anarchy of decentralisation towards a more unified, centralised governance model.

"This Federation, this remarkable construct of our collective will, stands as a beacon of hope," Zorrilla penned in a passionate editorial. "Yet, to navigate the tempests of the coming century, we must anchor ourselves in principles that transcend the mere absence of conflict. Self-sufficiency, neutrality, respect for the myriad voices that compose our nation, and a commitment to strength — these are the pillars upon which our future must be built."

Zorrilla's reflections struck a chord, resonating deeply with an emerging middle class and a new generation of thinkers disillusioned with the dogmas of the past. They envisioned Iberia not as a singular, monolithic entity but as a vibrant mosaic of identities — a "nation of nations." This ethos of pluranationalism formed the core of Zorrilla's regenerationalist philosophy.

The battle-scarred landscape of Iberia, having endured over a decade of internal strife, yearned for unity and purpose. The regenerationalist movement, therefore, did not seek to erase the distinctions between Catalans, Basques, Portuguese, and Castilians but to celebrate them within the cohesive framework of a reimagined Federation. "In our diversity lies our greatest strength," proclaimed Lucas Mallada, echoing the sentiments of fellow supporters like the Portugese Republican, Teófilo Braga, Joaquín Costa and Ángel Ganivet.


Teófilo Braga, leading member of the Democratic Party of Iberia

This vision of reform and renewal found international admirers as well. Notably, the Liberal Democracy Party (LDP) in Britain saw in Zorrilla and his movement a reflection of their own aspirations. Herbert Gladstone, upon visiting Iberia, lauded the regenerationalists: "Here lies a patriotic endeavour not to dismantle but to build, to foster institutions that will stand as a testament to the resilience of the Iberian spirit." Such endorsements only underscored the universal appeal of the ideals that Zorrilla and his compatriots espoused.

As the Federation stood on the cusp of monumental change, its architects — driven by a shared vision of progress, unity, and resilience — embarked on a journey to redefine the very essence of Iberia. In their words and deeds, they laid the foundation for a new era, one rooted in the lessons of the past but reaching boldly into the future. As the regenerationalist movement gained momentum, its ideals would soon be put to the test in the crucible of public opinion: the impending elections."

Part 4 - The Defining Election of 1894​

The year 1894 was not just another notch on the timeline; it was the moment when the ideals of regenerationalism would face the ultimate trial by fire—the judgment of the people in a defining election. The dissolution of the Federal Congress set the stage for an election that promised to be the most defining moment since the Federation's inception. Across the sprawling landscape of Iberia, from the bustling streets of Madrid to the tranquil villages dotting the countryside, the air was thick with speculation and hope. Manuel Zorrilla, embodying the call for radical reform, stood poised against the established order represented by the FTI, signalling a pivotal showdown that would chart the course of the nation's future.

"The atmosphere in Madrid is electric, almost chaotic," observed a New York Times correspondent, painting a vivid picture of the pre-election scene. "The city's squares teem with passionate orators, their voices merging into a cacophony of ideals and aspirations, while the ground is littered with the remnants of fervent pleas for progress."

In response to the overwhelming clamour of public discourse, Zorrilla and his allies embarked on a strategic campaign to engage the populace directly. They wove through the dense fabric of Iberian society, from the heart of bustling metropolises to the serene solitude of rural hamlets, sharing their vision of a rejuvenated Federation. "Our journey is not just through the streets of Iberia but into the hearts of its people," Zorrilla declared, as he rallied his supporters to disseminate their message of reform.

Faced with the challenge of widespread illiteracy, Zorrilla embraced the symbol of the cat, a nod to the broader movement toward moderate democracy that was gaining momentum worldwide. "In this emblem, we find our shared identity—a creature known for its independence, yet part of a greater community," he mused, symbolising the delicate balance between individual freedoms and collective responsibility that he envisioned for the Federation.

As the election unfolded over the span of four weeks, a wave of anticipation swept across Iberia. The people's verdict was resoundingly clear—a mandate for change, for an end to the old ways and the dawn of a new era under the banner of regenerationalism. As the citizens of the cantons and nations headed to the poll, one thing became clear - Zorrilla and the moderates had secured an unassailable faction in both houses of the Federal Congress. The victory of Zorrilla's faction was not just a political triumph but a seismic shift in the ideological landscape of the Federation.

In the wake of this electoral landslide, Zorrilla addressed the newly convened Federal Congress with a resolve that echoed through the annals of Iberian history. "Today, we stand at the threshold of a new epoch. With your support, we embark on the noble task of rebuilding the Federation," he proclaimed, his voice resonating with the weight of the moment. While Zorrilla was expected to attempt to govern with the other members of the Pactist Coalition, with the wind blowing firmly in his direction, at the first meeting of the Federal Congress, he made a firm attempt to seize control.

After it was clear that support for his unilateral reforms would be enough to secure a majority in both houses, he told the joint session that he intended to withdraw from the Pactist Coalition, seek a motion to dissolve both the JEC and CCS and elect a new, pro-reform slate of candidates on both bodies. The JEC and CCS would be given the powers to propose a new constitution and pass economic reforms to fulfil the promise of regenerationalism. His supporters cheered him on, while opponents of his reforms and supporters of the current system, including Commissioner Pi, were incredulous. Zorrilla pleaded for Congress to pass his reforms as quickly as possible, believing his ministry would not be eternal, and the window for reform would eventually close.


Cartoon of Zorrilla in a Spanish-language newspaper

When the Supervisors brought Zorrilla's motion to a vote, it was passed by a margin of 138-67. Thunderous cheers filled the congress hall. Later that day, the members who voted in favour met on the steps of the Congress. Led by Zorrilla, Braga, Castelar, Mallada, Costa, and Ganivet, they declared the formation of a new political party in Iberia: The Democratic Party.

As a broad-based political movement, the Democratic Party represented a coalition of moderates, reformists, and progressives united under the banner of regenerationalism. This new political force aimed to transcend the ideological divisions that had previously fragmented Iberian politics. "Let this party be the crucible in which we forge a brighter future for all Iberians," Castelar stated, encapsulating the spirit of the movement. "Our program will be the foundation upon which we build a society that honours our past while boldly stepping into the future," he declared, setting the stage for a transformative era in Iberian history.

This period of reform and renewal, marked by the emergence of the Democratic Party and the leadership of visionaries like Zorrilla, Castelar, and their compatriots, heralded a new dawn for Iberia. A dawn where the ideals of regenerationalism would illuminate the path towards a unified, prosperous, and equitable Federation. With the election concluded and the people’s mandate clear, the true work of regeneration lay ahead, ready to transform political success into tangible progress.

Part 5 - Crafting the New Constitution​

The electoral triumph was the catalyst that unleashed a cascade of reforms, initiating a period of intense transformation across the fabric of Iberian society. Following the election, sweeping reforms were initiated by Manuel Zorrilla and his Democratic allies. Iberia underwent a period of profound transformation that reshaped its political, economic, and social landscape. These changes, while controversial, marked a significant departure from the anarchic and decentralised system that had characterised the Federation in the wake of the French invasion and subsequent conflicts. The focus on economic revitalisation, political restructuring, and international engagement set the stage for a new era in Iberian history.

Zorrilla's first task was rewriting the federal constitution. Completed in December 1894 and ratified by referendum in January 1895, the new constitution established a new legislature, the Central Council, a President elected by the legislature, and an Executive composed of legislative members. This streamlined governance model aimed to reduce the political deadlock and foster more efficient decision-making.


Supporters celebrate the passage of the Constitution

Cantons would provide input on federal legislation by sending a member to the Federation Council, which would be given the power of review and a suspensive veto on all legislation passed by the Central Council. These members wouldn't have permanent mandates but would consist of a delegation which could be changed between meetings.

For legislation to become law, the Central Council and President would need to consent to its passage, while the Federation Council could only delay legislation, and if the Central Council rejected amendments made by the Federation Council, the Central Council could pass the legislation unamended again. Despite this, the body would have an absolute veto on constitutional changes and legislation that affected the power of the cantons. One of the pivotal aspects of the constitution was, for the first time, a clearly delineated sphere of powers for cantons and juntas - ending the practice of implied powers and subsidiarity.

The constitution also reformed and strengthened the judicial branch, enumerated civil rights across the Federation, and gave the newly established Supreme Court of Iberia the power of judicial review, appointed by the President on the recommendation of the Central Council. It also redefined the roles of cantons and juntas, providing a clearer delineation of powers and responsibilities across different levels of government. Three levels of government were established: the Juntas at the base level, the cantons at the state level, and the Federation. Some Cantons were structured differently, mainly to incorporate nationalities or major cities.

Cantons comprising one city or locality were dubbed "Cantons and Juntas," essentially merging the two levels of government into one. These were Asturias, Baleares, Madrid, La Rioja, Murcia, Cartagena, and Navarre, uniquely named the Chartered Canton and Junta of Navarre. The second difference was the national republics, known as "Republics and Cantons," these were Catalonia, Euskal Kantonamendua (Basque Community), Andalucia, Galicia, Valencia, and Portugal, which was reunited under a single government. However, the reforms retained referendums and initiatives within the constitutional framework to continue public participation in the political process. The new constitutional framework was only the beginning; the regeneration of Iberia would demand a bold economic realignment to bring prosperity back to its people.

Part 6 - A New Prosperity​

As Zorrilla’s government turned its focus from the laws of the land to the livelihoods of its citizens, the landscape of Iberia's economy braced for groundbreaking changes. Zorrilla's government furthered the development of Iberia by implementing policies allowing private enterprises to resume operations, marking a shift towards a mixed economy. He loosened the restrictions on cooperative industries by allowing private individuals to own multiple businesses, provided the board contained worker representatives on the board. This move, coupled with the Investment Plan of Autumn 1894, aimed to attract foreign investment, signalling Iberia's openness to global economic participation after agreeing to loans from German and British banks.

Zorrilla’s reforms extended to the realm of education, deeply informed by his conviction that an enlightened populace was the bedrock of a vibrant democracy. His government prioritised the establishment of secular educational systems that empowered citizens with knowledge, while permitting religious institutions to participate in the educational landscape under liberal standards. It was a delicate balance, reflective of Zorrilla's commitment to nurturing an informed society that could uphold the tenets of a progressive republic.

The establishment of the Bank of Iberia in January 1895, a federal mint, and the introduction of the Unidad/Unidade in January 1895 as the new federal currency was a critical step in economic normalisation. Pivotally, Castelar organised a gold purchase to back the currency with gold in exchange for a share of future exports. It eased trade, increased confidence, and stimulated investment within and beyond Iberia's borders.

The Infrastructure Plan launched in March 1895 focused on rebuilding and expanding transportation networks, utilities, and public services, laying the groundwork for sustained economic growth and integration into the global economy. Mallada and Castelar worked to make the Iberian treasury viable and looked to raise revenues to invest in the economy. This included trade deals with Italy, Britain, and Germany in 1895, opening up foreign investment in the country. Castelar also established a state monopoly on alcohol sales to raise funds and export wines and spirits for export, used foreign loans to increase the country's railway network and allowed the federal government and cantons to cooperate to launch irrigation schemes and canal improvements to stimulate agriculture.

The transition towards Zorrilla's reforms was fraught with contention. At the municipal and cantonal levels, debates raged between those advocating for preserving communal farming practices and proponents of economic liberalisation. In rural areas, the shift away from collectivised agriculture was met with resistance, particularly from communities that had flourished under the previous system. Stories of heated town hall meetings, where farmers clashed with reformist officials, encapsulate the human dimension of this ideological struggle. The path to modernisation, it became clear, was paved with disputes over the soul of Iberian society.

The public's reception to Zorrilla's reforms was a tapestry of support, scepticism, and outright opposition. The FTI's eventual endorsement of the reforms came after intense internal deliberations, reflective of a broader societal debate over the direction of the Federation. Despite his initial misgivings, Pi came to understand and appreciate the reforms, for instance. The radical left, including the FRE-AIT and radical FTI members, viewed the reforms as a betrayal, organising protests that underscored the deep divisions within Iberian society. This opposition was not merely political but also a reflection of a society grappling with its identity and future in the wake of upheaval.

Still, the economic reforms, while ambitious, had mixed outcomes. In rural areas, the transition from collectivised to mixed economies led to an initial increase in unemployment as the market adjusted to new dynamics. However, by 1896, as the world stepped into the onset of the Turbulence, agricultural output stabilised, growing at an annual rate of 2.7% as diversification efforts took root. Introducing private enterprise spurred innovation and highlighted the disparities between urban and rural areas. Inflation, a looming spectre in the initial years, was gradually tamed by the stabilisation of the Uni, named as an abbreviation of Unidad and Unidade, meaning unit, leading to a more predictable economic environment.

With economic strategies taking shape, Zorrilla understood that enduring change also needed a stable political environment—one that would emerge from yet another realignment.

Part 7 - Political Landscape Transformed​

The aftermath of economic restructuring set the stage for another significant shift: a political realignment that would secure Zorrilla’s vision and pave the way for the Federation's future. With the new constitution passed, Zorrilla announced the dissolution of the Federal Congress and all cantonal and municipal bodies for a further election on April 3rd, 1895. The election saw a victory for the Democratic Party and after the Central Council met, Zorrilla was elected as the first President of the Iberian Federation.

Seeking to entrench the cooperative spirit of the revolutionary period, prior to the election Zorrilla approached Pi and senior members of the Federation of Iberian Workers about forming a "Grand Coalition" after the election. With the results confirmed, Zorrilla was able to convince a number of the members of the FTI to go along with his plan, and to sweeten the deal, former-commissioner Pi became the first President of the Council of Ministers, akin to the Prime Minister, and the new government featured an even split between Democratic Party and FTI members.

When the Central Committee of the FTI refused to back the coalition agreement, Pi led the parliamentary members of the group out of the FTI and, in May 1895, founded the Workers Party of Iberia, which brought with it moderate trade unions and left the radical workers, most notably the mining unions in the north of the country and industrial workers in Catalonia, outside the governing coalition. The trade unions that allied with the government formed the UGT (Unión General de Trabajadores/União Geral dos Trabalhadores), which those opposed to the government formed the Federació Local de Societats Obreres (FLSO), emerging from the reconstitution of the FRE-AIT.

The FLSO adopted a focus on direct action and community organising outside the parliamentary framework and did not sponsor Central Council candidates until 1898. Since Keufer's takeover of France, the FLSO began to ally itself with the growing Left-Actionist movement and eventually formed the Communist Party of Spain in 1900. While some members continued the AIT as a group opposed to the reforms, the appetite for outright stateless anarchism fell as an era of cooperation reigned supreme.


Zorrilla just before his death in 1895

It was under Zorrilla's stewardship that the Federation witnessed an opening towards a more inclusive approach to religion in public life. He spearheaded legislative initiatives that ensured the protection of religious freedoms, offering reassurance to the devout that regenerationalism did not equate to a denial of faith. This approach aimed to dismantle fears and build a bridge between progressive state policies and the diverse spiritual tapestry of Iberia.

The period of reform also catalysed a cultural renaissance in Iberia. As political and economic landscapes shifted, so too did the realms of art, literature, and public discourse. A surge of creative expression reflected the redefinition of national identity, emphasising inclusivity and diversity. Artists and writers, inspired by the tumult of recent history, explored themes of resilience, unity, and hope.

The cultural renaissance under Zorrilla’s era also reflected his liberal yet conciliatory approach to religion. His administration fostered an atmosphere where religious and secular voices alike could contribute to the burgeoning public discourse. This was emblematic of Zorrilla’s broader vision for a Federation that championed both the advancement of secular ideologies and the respect for religious diversity, aiming to sculpt a societal ethos that was enlightened yet inclusive.

The church's role, diminished in public life, gave way to a secular society more reflective of Iberia's pluralistic reality, but the new government attempted to court the Catholic Church with less restrictions and a softer line of secularisation. The integration of Portugal expanded the Federation's cultural tapestry and reinforced the notion of Iberia as a "nation of nations," celebrating its regional identities while forging a unified national narrative.

With his power base secure and the country modernised and reformed, Zorrilla would now seek to secure the federation's borders by approaching the old enemy of the Federation, France, with a peace treaty. To his surprise, Zorrilla found Keufer willing to entertain such a suggestion, and the two would meet in December 1894, although the consequences of the peace treaty would have profound ramifications for Keufer, Iberia, and the world - as we will examine in the next chapter. As the new political landscape solidified, the era of regeneration entered its maturity, bringing forth a blossoming of Iberian culture and identity.

Part 8 - The Regenerated Iberia​

The regeneration of Iberia was now a vivid reality, its multifaceted transformation resonating in every aspect of national life—from governance to the everyday lives of its people. The adoption of a new constitution marked the cornerstone of this era, ushering in a governance model poised to bridge the divides that had long fragmented the federation. It was a testament to the collective will of a people determined to forge a future that honoured the diversity of their identities while navigating the complexities of the modern world.

The strides toward economic revitalization, underscored by the strategic embrace of a mixed economy and the establishment of the Bank of Iberia, signalled a departure from the shadows of autarky. This economic renaissance, bolstered by international investment and a renewed focus on infrastructure, promised a future where prosperity was not just a vision but a tangible reality for Iberians from all walks of life. Yet, it was perhaps in the realm of culture that the true essence of Iberia's regeneration was most vividly realised. A cultural renaissance, fueled by the spirit of reform and the vibrancy of Iberia's diverse communities, blossomed. Artists, writers, and thinkers, inspired by the tumult and triumphs of their times, wove a narrative of resilience and hope, crafting a tapestry of creativity that reflected the soul of a nation reborn.

"In every stroke of the brush, every word penned, lies the heartbeat of our federation," mused Zorrilla, reflecting on the cultural awakening that paralleled the political and economic transformation of Iberia. It was a reminder that the journey of regeneration was not just about rewriting laws or revitalising economies but about nurturing the spirit and identity of a people united in their diversity.

As the fledgling dawn of a new Iberia broke, its chief architect, Manuel Ruiz Zorrilla, was suddenly snatched away by the relentless hand of mortality. His untimely demise in June 1895 sent shockwaves throughout the federation. The nation mourned, not merely for the loss of a leader but for the visionary spirit that had rekindled the flames of hope in a land long shrouded in uncertainty. Yet, even as sorrow cast its pall, the indomitable will of Zorrilla—etched in the very fabric of the Federation’s rebirth—promised that his dreams for Iberia would endure beyond the grave, his legacy immortalised in the march towards progress and unity. A new election was arranged upon his death and Pi was elected as the second President of the Federation, with Teófilo Braga becoming Prime Minister.

As Iberia stood at the dawn of this new era, its future remained a canvas of possibility, shaped by the hands of those who dare to dream. A canvas that would be impacted, but not destroyed, by the Turbulence.
Last edited:
@President Conor , when can we expect a new update of this awesome TL? :) Is this hiatus a consequence of too many RL commitments to juggle or of writer's block?
Hello! My apologies - I’ve recently moved country and it’s put a bit of a kibosh on my writing. I’m working on it, but progress has been a little slow - I’m working towards finishing the current book (around 2-3 years in this TL) soon. It is coming!!
Just caught up with this and I gotta say this is really interesting. Republican Britan is allways underrepresented in AH so its cool to see a whole timline about it! A bit sad to see the anarchists falling out of influence in the latest update. It's always interesting seeing actual anarchist society and how they relate to a world of nation states. It does makes sense though, that with the coming of peace the moderates would be in the assent especially as the federation was a joint project from the beginning.
Part 5, Chapter LXV New

V, LXV: Sino-Japanese War​


Naval Engagements during the First Sino-Japanese War

It is often discussed whether the Sino-Japanese War can be considered part of the Turbulence. While it is not clear whether this is the case, there are good arguments in both directions. This is not the time, nor the study to make those conclusions, and the only reason this has not been included in the study of the Turbulence is simple: I have made the decision to only include a study of the Turbulence after Britain’s entry into the wider conflict.

Still, one thing is clear: The First Sino-Japanese War set the stage for the coming decade of conflict and revolution in the region and is, arguably, the first use of the Turbulence strategy employed by France in the following years. The conflict set both Japan and China on a path towards major instability and conflict. For Japan, it set a bellicose line that endured until the end of the global conflict saw it finally allowed it to finally take its seat as a Great Power. For China, it hastened the cultural transformation that would bring about the end of Imperial rule in the region.

Part 1 - Background​

The roots of the oncoming conflict can be traced back to the fundamental transformations both nations underwent in the late 19th century. After over two centuries of isolation, Japan ended its policy of seclusion with the Convention of Kanagawa in 1854, marking the beginning of its dramatic modernization under the Meiji Restoration. Japan rapidly transformed from a feudal society into a formidable industrial power, assimilating Western technologies and practices. This modernization also included a significant military buildup, positioning Japan as a rising power in East Asia.

In contrast, the Qing Dynasty's attempts at modernization were less successful. Despite some efforts at military and political reforms, China remained fragmented and weak, particularly compared to its rapidly advancing neighbour. The internal strife and the external pressures from Western imperial powers further exacerbated its vulnerabilities.

Korea, the focal point of Sino-Japanese tensions, found itself in the middle of this regional power struggle. Following the Ganghwa Treaty of 1876, Korea opened its doors to Japanese trade and influence, leading to significant internal political upheaval. The rise of Queen Min and her alignment with pro-Chinese factions led to a volatile political climate, with reformist factions inspired by Japanese modernization clashing with conservative elements loyal to China.

The Imo Incident of 1882 and the Gapsin Coup of 1884 highlighted Korea's internal instability and the external influences exerted by both China and Japan. The failure of the Gapsin Coup, supported by Japanese reformists, marked a dramatic decline in Japanese influence in Korea and a resurgence of Chinese control, underpinned by military presence and economic concessions.


Kim Ok-gyun, pro-Japanese reformed killed in 1894

The assassination of Kim Ok-gyun, a prominent pro-Japanese reformer, in 1894, served as the immediate catalyst for the First Sino-Japanese War. Kim's murder in Shanghai not only infuriated Japan but also symbolised the Qing Dynasty's bold defiance against Japanese influence in Korea. Japan viewed the Qing's refusal to prosecute Kim's assassin as a direct affront, escalating tensions to a breaking point.

Japan was ready for war. The Imperial Japanese Navy, modelled after the British Royal Navy, stood as a formidable force at the onset of the Sino-Japanese War. British advisors trained Japanese naval officers, who then honed their skills in gunnery and seamanship. By 1894, the Imperial Japanese Navy boasted 12 modern warships, eight corvettes, one ironclad warship, 26 torpedo boats, and several auxiliary vessels. Mobilisation saw the navy divided into five divisions of seagoing warships and three flotillas of torpedo boats.

Japan's naval strategy was influenced by the Jeune École doctrine, emphasising the use of small, fast warships like cruisers and torpedo boats to counter larger enemy ships. Despite its capabilities, the Japanese naval leadership remained cautious due to the incomplete delivery of new warships ordered in 1893, including battleships Fuji and Yashima. Consequently, the navy's confidence was tempered by concerns over its readiness for prolonged conflict.

Japan's major warships were constructed in British and French shipyards, highlighting its reliance on Western expertise. As the conflict commenced, Japan's relatively large merchant navy, bolstered by vessels from the Nippon Yusen Kaisha shipping company, provided crucial logistical support, ensuring the navy could sustain its operations.

Initially modelled after the French Army, the Imperial Japanese Army underwent significant reforms, eventually adopting German military doctrines. Nationwide conscription, established in 1873, created a Western-style conscript army. German advisor Jacob Meckel's influence in the mid-1880s led to a reorganisation of the army, enhancing its logistics, transportation, and command structures, making it comparable to European armed forces.

By the outbreak of the war, Japan's army was divided into six military districts, each serving as a recruitment area for square infantry divisions. These divisions, along with the Imperial Guard division, brought Japan's mobilised strength to over 220,000 troops. The army's equipment included the 8-mm single-shot Murata Type 18 rifles, with newer eight-round-magazine Type 22 rifles being introduced. Artillery units were equipped with 75-mm field guns and mountain pieces based on Krupp designs.

Despite logistical challenges and a reliance on civilian contractors for supply, the Japanese Army maintained high morale and discipline. Coastal guns positioned at strategic locations further bolstered Japan's defensive capabilities, providing additional firepower for siege operations.

As these tensions were emerging, in Paris French officials redeveloped their colonial policy, informed by their own desires to stabilise their holdings. Rather than push for expansion, which they felt could not be achieved, they would push for a twin strategy of an increased defence of France’s existing colonies, under threat from Royalist rebellion, and the undermining of fellow powers holdings through strengthening of weakened regional powers. First on this list would be China, which was exploited by nearly every Great Power, France included.

French officials arrived quickly and by April 1894, the French ambassador to China, Louis de Geofroy’s year-long mission in China had begun to reap the benefits of increasing cooperation. The French were low on cash, but had a well-stocked army, while the Qing had the cash to pay for arms, and needed training, advisors, and required the deals to remain discreet.

The first in a number of arms deals saw heavy artillery, Meunier & Lebel Model 1886 rifles, and 150 advisors travel to China a few weeks after the Siege of Rouen. The transfer of senior officers continued to the two strongest forces in the Qing military, the Huai Army and the Beiyang Fleet, and the purchase of two French naval ships, the Dupleix and Amiral Cecille, further strengthened this cooperation. Li Hongzhang, commander of the Huai Army, became increasingly close to the French through this relationship and de Geofroy wrote back to the Foreign Ministry in Paris in April 1894, saying, “Hongzhang will be our key ally in our oriental progress.”

In March 1894, de Geofroy invited military observers to the country who declared that compared to Western soldiers, fully trained Chinese soldiers in the Green Standard and Bannermen were on par. The issue for the Imperial capabilities was a lack of fully-trained troops: only around 100,000 of the nearly million men raised for the fighting in Korea had completed their training. Hongzhang’s army was far and away the best trained, best equipped, and most powerful military force in China, but others needed significant work. Advisors also struggled with headstrong Chinese officers, breakdowns in equipment, and found Chinese bureaucracy infuriating. One said, “they Chinese possess an intolerance to Action, it seems.”

Reforms were harder because the Qing Dynasty's military structure was complex and decentralised, consisting of the Eight Banners, the Green Standard Army, and irregular forces like the Braves. The Eight Banners, segregated along ethnic lines, formed the elite corps, while the Green Standard Army served as a gendarmerie force with minimal peacetime training. The Braves acted as a reserve force, loosely organised and varying in readiness.


Li Hongzhang, commander of the Huai Army

The Huai Army, under Li Hongzhang, was a notable exception, having received French training and modern weaponry. By 1894, the Huai Army, comprising approximately 45,000 troops, was considered China's most capable unit. However, the overall Chinese military suffered from a lack of standardisation, with troops using a mix of outdated and modern weapons. Training deficiencies and low morale, exacerbated by unpaid wages and widespread opium use, further weakened the Chinese forces.

The Beiyang Fleet, a product of Li Hongzhang's efforts, was once the dominant naval power in East Asia. However, its strength had waned due to poor maintenance and indiscipline. Despite possessing formidable battleships like Dingyuan and Zhenyuan, the fleet's effectiveness was undermined by outdated tactics and insufficient training. The fleet's reliance on visual signals, coupled with a lack of familiarity with their English signal book, further limited its operational coherence.

The Qing government had precious little control over its military and was severely lacking in comparison to its neighbour to the east. Its army was not centralised and had multiple command centres. The French, hoping to stoke a similar actionist revolution in China to give itself an ally against British interests in India. France would have to encourage major reforms in the Empire to create a better, more organised and bureaucratic government to wage war in the future. For now, its intervention would be simple.

France's intervention was multi-faceted and strategic, driven by its colonial entrenchments in Indochina and its desire to secure a foothold in China. Through clandestine agreements with the Qing government, France supplied advanced military technology and deployed advisors to fortify China's defences. These advisors, imbued with the aggressive nationalism that had characterised France's own internal upheavals, found eager pupils among the Qing military elite. France would present itself not as a colonising power, but as a fellow traveller in a world of strong, revived empires.

These agreements led to the introduction of the latest in French artillery, including the Canon de 75 modèle, and innovative fortification techniques. French military advisors, veterans of European conflicts, established training programs that emphasised modern warfare tactics, logistics, and command structures. The first advisors arrived in 1892, and were already bedded in when the incident with Japan was ongoing. Significant improvements to the Qing military had already been achieved.

The improvements were powered by extensive drills in artillery accuracy, rapid deployment strategies, and the integration of newly developed communication methods using telegraphs and signal corps. France’s disrupted industries were propped up by orders from China, and French advisors built railways, telegraphs, and roads throughout the north east of the country. The transformation of Chinese forces was so profound that by the time Japanese forces engaged them at the Battle of the Yalu River, they faced not only enhanced weaponry but also a rejuvenated and strategically astute opponent.

Part 2 - The Conflict​

The war began with the Battle of Pungdo on July 25, 1894, where the Japanese navy engaged and defeated Chinese warships escorting a convoy near Asan, Korea. This early victory disrupted Chinese logistics and boosted Japanese morale. Following their naval success, Japanese ground forces, well-equipped and highly disciplined, launched an assault four days later on Chinese positions at Seonghwan. The Japanese, using superior tactics and firepower, forced the Chinese to retreat. This battle secured Japanese control over key areas in Korea.

In a decisive move, Japanese forces besieged and captured Pyongyang in September 1894. Despite fierce resistance from Chinese defenders, the Japanese utilised their advanced artillery and well-coordinated infantry attacks to take the city. The fall of Pyongyang marked a significant blow to Chinese prestige and control in Korea.


Depiction of the Battle of Yalu River

China's efforts to modernise its military, bolstered by French artillery and advisors, began to show at the Battle of Yalu River a month later on October 25. The newly reformed Qing forces, employing improved tactics and weaponry, engaged the advancing Japanese army. The battle was brutal, with heavy casualties on both sides. Although initially gaining ground, Japanese forces were eventually pushed back, marking the first significant Chinese tactical victory of the war.

Following their success at Yalu River, Chinese forces, under the command of Li Hongzhang, launched an offensive at Jiuliancheng in November. Utilising their fortified positions and superior numbers, the Chinese inflicted substantial losses on the Japanese, who struggled with supply issues and harsh winter conditions. This battle halted the Japanese advance into Manchuria and shifted momentum towards China.

The turn of the new year saw the Japanese shift their focus to Port Arthur, a strategic naval base. The Japanese fleet sieged the Port on December 21, 1894 and engaged in intense fighting for three weeks, with Japanese forces eventually capturing the port on January 10, 1895. However, the victory came at a high cost, with significant Japanese casualties and depleted resources.

In retaliation, the Chinese navy, including the Beiyang Fleet, launched a counterattack to recapture Weihaiwei on January 20. Despite initial successes, Chinese forces faced logistical challenges and coordination issues. The Japanese, leveraging their fortified coastal guns and resilient defence, managed to hold the city after protracted engagements. While not a decisive victory for the Japanese, the Green Standard Army withdrew on February 12.

As winter waned, the Chinese forces' luck began to firmly change. They attempted a large-scale offensive at Yingkou, beginning on March 5. The battle was characterised by close-quarters combat and heavy artillery exchanges. Chinese troops, better supplied and motivated, managed to break through Japanese lines, recapturing the city and forcing the Japanese to retreat.

By mid-1895 however, both nations were exhausted from the prolonged conflict. Japan, having achieved significant early victories, was now facing a resurgent Chinese military, better equipped, trained, and resupplied with significant French support. China, despite initial setbacks, had regained key territories and demonstrated its ability to withstand Japanese offensives. The international community, led by Britain and Germany and cautiously supported by the United States, pushed for a resolution to prevent a complete overthrow of the status quo.

The prolonged conflict severely disrupted regional trade, particularly the lucrative silk and tea routes that were vital to China's economy. Japanese blockades and naval engagements hindered the movement of goods, causing prices to skyrocket and local markets to collapse.

European merchants reported significant losses, and insurance premiums for shipping in East Asian waters surged. The economic strain also impacted the Qing Dynasty's finances, forcing them to increase taxes and levies on an already burdened peasantry, which in turn fueled further unrest. These economic repercussions underscored the broader stakes of the conflict, beyond mere territorial ambitions.

Diplomatic efforts intensified, leading to the Treaty of Tianjin in December 1895. Aided by a strong consignment of French diplomats, China emerged relatively unscathed from the attack. The settlement allowed China and Japan to retain an occupation force in Korea for five years, and for zones of influence to be established. The north of the peninsula would be dominated by the Chinese, while the south would be dominated by the Japanese.

Part 3 - A world unnerved​

The close contact between senior Chinese officers and the French caused consternation throughout these talks. In a series of correspondences, British Ambassador Sir Julian Pauncefote wrote to his superiors, 'The entente between France and the Qing Dynasty presents a formidable challenge. The aggressiveness with which France has armed and trained Chinese forces cannot be overlooked, nor can the implications for our own interests in the region.'

Similarly, American diplomats expressed unease in confidential reports, warning that 'France's engagement in the East has significantly altered the balance of power, posing a direct threat to our Pacific holdings and trade routes.' These communications underscore the deepening trepidation among Western powers about the shifting dynamics in East Asia.

As the war progressed towards a stalemate and a negotiated peace looked achievable, the Qing government became increasingly confident, and looked to roll back the humiliation of the previous 50 years since the Taiping Rebellion by isolating foreign holdings in the country with increasing hostility. An exception to this was, of course, France, who maintained its holdings in Shanghai among other places, but made ceremonial gestures to roll back its iron-grip of control on concessions. Louis de Geofroy lobbied his colleagues at home for more and more concessions to the Chinese to present the French as a fellow anti-Imperialist power working against the Great Powers.

In Shanghai and other treaty ports, local populations increasingly viewed the war as an extension of foreign exploitation. Anti-foreign sentiments surged, culminating in violent protests and sporadic clashes with foreign nationals. Chinese workers and peasants, emboldened by nationalist rhetoric, formed militia groups that resisted foreign businesses and settlements. The Qing government, while covertly supporting these actions, publicly condemned the violence to maintain a veneer of diplomatic decorum. These local reactions not only strained international relations but also galvanised a broader movement against foreign encroachment across China.

De Geofroy stoked the flames. “Our two great civilisations are victims of a common wrong - humiliation and isolation,” he wrote in a letter to an official in Paris. “We must right our part in this wrong and great a strong and powerful friend and ally who can dominate Asia as we will eventually dominate Europe.”

Small scale, locally initiated attacks by residents occurred on the Shanghai International Settlement, and British and American administrators found increasingly standoffish responses from the Qing authorities when they asked for their help in quelling violence against foreigners. News reported in Britain of these attacks turned public opinion against the Chinese Government, and French involvement was considered an open secret.

Similarly, Japan, having modernised more effectively and rapidly than China, further militarised its society and found itself increasingly bellicose and bitter to its neighbour to the west. As it gained more of a hold on Korea, gaining control of Kwangju and most of Kaya by March 1895, its imperial ambitions became increasingly strident.

Meanwhile, Korea, caught in the crossfire of these titanic struggles, faced its own internal turmoil. Factionalism within the Korean court saw varying allegiances, with some advocating for Japanese protection while others sought Chinese intervention. The Korean populace, burdened by the chaos of war, experienced widespread displacement and economic hardship. The Korean government, in a desperate bid to maintain sovereignty, issued proclamations appealing to both international sympathy and domestic unity, though with limited success. The prolonged conflict exacerbated these divisions, leading to sporadic uprisings and a deepening mistrust of foreign powers.

This turn and the protraction of the conflict deeply unnerved the global powers. Observers like Sir Julian Pauncefote, the British Ambassador to Japan, expressed grave concerns in private correspondences. He noted, "The French have played a high hand in the East, aligning with China so closely that we may soon see a new alliance that challenges the very fabric of our Eastern agreements." The anxiety was palpable; a strengthened China under French tutelage could drastically shift the regional power dynamics.

The ramifications of the war were far-reaching. French involvement had not only enhanced China's military capacity but had also sown the seeds of fervent nationalism, a sentiment that found fertile ground among the Qing elites. This nationalism, inspired by France's own revolutionary zeal, began to resonate across China, stirring a potent mix of patriotism and xenophobia.

This ideological exchange was spearheaded by influential figures such as Li Hongzhang, Kang Youwei and Liang Qichao, who were deeply inspired by French revolutionary ideals. Their writings and reformist zeal drew parallels between France's revolutionary past and China's struggle against foreign domination. French actionist thought, which emphasised radical change and national rejuvenation, resonated particularly with young Chinese intellectuals and military officers. Study groups and secret societies flourished, advocating for a restructured society modelled on French nationalist principles, which aimed at not only expelling foreign powers but also revitalising China's own cultural and political institutions.

This rising nationalist fervour mirrored the anti-foreign sentiment that had characterised the French Civil War, suggesting a parallel emergence of a similar movement within China. Diplomats and strategists speculated about the potential for a Qing-supported, actionist-influenced rebellion which could further challenge foreign influences. Britain began to prepare plans to curtail this momentum and protect its interest in the region.

Key figures in China had a new vigour, and a desire to overthrow the unequal treaties that had blighted the development of its great society. Thinkers were submersed in French-influenced ideals of fervent nationalism, action, and a reordering of society to project power on the international stage. Similarly, in Japan, these ideals were gaining hold, although for now the support of the Accord Powers would temper aggression and expansionism.

In retrospect, the First Sino-Japanese War not only reshaped East Asian geopolitics but also set the stage for future upheavals. The interplay of French nationalism and Chinese sovereign aspirations catalysed a new era in regional politics, one marked by the rise of indigenous movements against foreign dominance and the complex interdependencies of international diplomacy. This volatile mix set the stage for future confrontations. China would be a significant theatre of the Turbulence, fueled by the same nationalist fervour that France had unwittingly stoked. The Qing government's increasingly hostile stance towards Western concessions sparked a series of punitive expeditions by foreign powers, further entrenching the cycle of violence and resistance.

Meanwhile, Japan, embittered by the war's inconclusive end, began to secretly expand its military capabilities, setting its sights on a future clash with Russia and consolidating its grip on Korea. These developments hinted at a broader, more destructive conflict looming on the horizon, as the fragile balance of power in East Asia teetered on the edge.
How Various Chinese religions impacted by Nationalism? Buddhism or Daoism?

Will it reduce Christian missionary activities die to Hatred towards any thing western other than France?
I think the nationalism will run parallel to French nationalism but won’t be directly copied by it. Religion will play a greater role in France in the coming years, and will obviously have an impact on China, but will not be the primary driver. I don’t think it will have an impact on missionary activities, however.