Down the Parallel Road: An Afsharid Persia Timeline

  • Down the Parallel Road: A Timeline
    From the 18th Century and Beyond!

    Author's Foreword

    I first started thinking about starting a new timeline around the beginning of this year. It was originally intended to focus on making Napoleon great again, or something along those lines. However, Napoleon is very much treaded ground in terms of Alternate History. Discussions about which of his battles and wars could have gone differently are now done almost by script, and the more I read into it, the less interested I became unfortunately. Thus about ten thousand words of a timeline went down the drain, and I was more or less back to square one. So I thought of what would be a good point of diversion to play about with would be?

    The answer came from reading Michael Axworthy’s book, The Sword of Persia, a biography of the Persian ruler Nader Shah. This unfortunate chap seems to have caught a malarial infection sometime in the 1730’s, most probably during his campaign in the Caucasus. The Afsharids went from being a possible engine of Iranian/Persian revival to being a footnote in the country’s long decline, at least according to Axworthy himself. Proper stability wouldn’t be restored across the country until the Qajars. The question of how Nader’s reign and how it would affect Persia and the world had he not succumbed to his illness has been tackled by Hasdurbal Barca’s timeline, The One Allah Favours. It is certainly an interesting read for those with an interest, but I will try to take a different approach with my own work.

    This timeline will not be one focused on Persia, though initially there will be a stronger focus on the area. History in the rest of the world will be changed only by the effects of what happens differently due to Nader Shah’s better health. For all intents and purposes, this means that effects outside of “Greater Iran” and its neighbours will not significantly be felt until the Seven Years War, which is something of a pivotal war in world history, depending on how one looks at it. Neither will this timeline be one with the goal of ensuring Persia’s power and prosperity from Nader Shah’s reign onward. After all, Qing China was arguably the world’s greatest power from 1636 to 1800, greatly increasing its population and prosperity whilst neutralising all challenges to its security. Despite this, China would find itself at the start of a century of misery only a few decades after its apparent zenith.

    All this in mind, I want to stay away from a deterministic view of history, as it is a view I fundamentally disagree with. Japan may not have been able to escape the grasp of European Imperialists, nor was India doomed to succumb to it. While it would be correct to argue that Japan was less vulnerable because of its relative political unity and distance from Europe, the fact that something was more likely doesn’t necessarily mean that something was destined. While obviously with a work of fiction, I have to take some initiative with how the story will unfold, it will be a story that tries to steer within the current of history, rather than swim against it. Plausibility will be key for this timeline, and I will try my very best to balance entertainment with plausibility and accuracy, and I have put in a good amount of research to ensure this.

    Hopefully this will give you some idea of what I want to do with this timeline. It will be first and foremost an attempt to imagine how history would have unfolded had an historical event had gone differently, rather than trying to explain how a country could have arisen to greatness. It will also try to be an attempt to tell the stories of the people who live in this different world, be they heroes, villains or quite simply people. I do hope that it will be a fun read as well as an interesting one.

    The Caucasus can be a beautiful part of the world in the summertime. Snow-capped mountains dominate the horizons, and the valleys between are lush with flowers and grass. Nader Shah considered himself to have witnessed a thing of even greater beauty than nature, namely the defeat of his Ottoman enemies by his own armies. It had seemed in a few short years he had taken Persia from being the victim of its predatory neighbours to being a power capable of fighting its own corner in the world. With the Ottoman army in disarray, it appeared that his Western Flank was secure, at least for the time being. As he had settled his score with his Ottoman Enemies, a more dangerous foe homed in on him. Flying toward him, it landed on his hand, which was one of the only parts of the man’s body exposed. As this deadly enemy, a lowly mosquito prepared to quench its hunger, it found itself crushed by the man’s other hand.

    So it was that Nader avoided his brush with a disease that could have twisted him into a sick, demented shadow of himself...
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    The Rise of Nader Shah
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    Pierre Moreau; Great Power Politics Revisited: The Economic and Military Power of States 1500-2000

    The Rise of the Afsharids in Persia
    China was not the only Asian power to see a vast increase in its power and territory in the 18th century. Iran undertook the most remarkable transformation, turning from a state which had fallen so far in its power that its territory was occupied by foreigners, into arguably one of the most powerful nations in the world. In something of a frustrating turn of events for those critical of the “Great Man” theory of history, the Iranian ruler Nader Shah rose from being a regional warlord to being the Shah of Iran. In the last, dark days of the Safavid dynasty, Nader ensured that his power base of Khorasan did not suffer the depredations of the Hotaki Afghan invaders, and steadily built up his power until he was able to push the Afghans from Isfahan, and re-install the Safavid ruler Tahmasp II.

    As soon as his reign began in earnest in 1729, Tahmasp had to wrangle with being in the shadow of his supposed subject Nader. His hope was to secure the prestige of his dynasty through a military victory, though Tahmasp unwisely chose the Ottomans as his quarry. Tahmasp’s campaign turned out to be disastrous, losing all of the gains Nader had secured in the Caucasus previously, and leaving him dangerously bereft of support in the face of Nader’s fury. Tahmasp was disposed in 1732, with his infant son Abbas being made the new Shah. At this point it was rather obvious where the power in Iran lay, and it is some matter of debate as to why Nader did not take the title of Shah for himself at this point. It is likely that there was still much in the way of support for the Safavids amongst the clergy and nobility of Iran, who correctly saw a powerful Shah as a threat to their own position.

    Nader waged war with the Ottomans in order to regain what had been lost by Tahmasp, and conquered large swathes of the Caucasus. Although the campaign against the mountain peoples was difficult, Nader had by the end of it developed a fairly effective counter-insurgent strategy incorporating cavalry patrols and fortifications, as well as an appeal to Islamic unity to win hearts and minds. Nader had defeated the Ottomans and secured Iran’s North-Western border, yet this had not had a beneficial effect on Iran itself. Nader had declared himself as Shah in 1736, but was the ruler of a country that had been exhausted by Nader’s financial demands, as well as the wars and chaos that had marked the end of the Safavid dynasty. The population may have declined from 8 million at its height to around 6 million. Although successful in restoring territory and a semblance of pride, Nader’s wars had further increased the pain of the Iranian peasantry, who had borne the financial brunt of the campaigns.

    Nader’s main goals within Iran itself however seemed more oriented toward obtaining foreign policy benefits rather than improving the state of Iran itself. One of Nader’s main goals had been the healing of the Islamic schism between Shiism and Sunnism, which Nader believed to be one of the main forces driving conflict between Iran and the Ottoman Empire. Despite the defeat that he had inflicted on the Ottomans, they had remained firm in denying the legitimacy of the Jafari Madhab, or school of thought. Nader wanted its status as a school of Sunni Islam recognised by the Ottoman Caliph, a privilege enjoyed by the Hanafi, Hanbali, Shafi’i and Maliki schools. This innovation was impossible for the Ottoman Sultan Mahmud I to consider, and he dismissed the Iranians as Muslims more likely to fight other Muslims than to act as Ghazis, or warriors for the faith. This criticism in particular stung Nader and would hang over the foreign policy decisions of the Afsharids for much of the 18th century.

    Nader could well have successfully continued his war with the Ottomans, though even he knew that Iran was almost at its breaking point. He needed a new source of income before he could consider a renewal of war against the Ottoman Empire. In addition to this, he faced a dangerous revolt amongst the Lurs and Bakhtiaris who wanted to restore the Safavid Shah Tahmasp to the throne. Nader dealt harshly with the leader of the revolt, who had gone against Nader despite previous clemency on Nader’s part, and he engaged in a policy that had marked Iranian policy toward rebellion for thousands of years. He had many of the Lur and Bakhtiari tribesmen relocated to Khorasan. He also raised taxes once again to pay for a campaign against the Afghans at Kandahar. In particular, the clergy were made to pay higher taxes, which was a manifestation of Nader’s disregard for the Shia clergy of Iran. There were no further rebellions however, and Nader was able to launch an invasion of Afghanistan.

    Nader’s invasion of Afghanistan had shown just how far his military reforms had taken effect. His armies were swift, disciplined and incorporated lots of light artillery. Although the majority of his artillery were two or three pounders, and were thus of little help in a siege, they were used to similar tactical effect as Sweden’s three pounders decades before, and ensured that his forces had an effective fire component as well as shock. This weakness in terms of siege warfare proved troublesome in the siege of Kandahar, which took just under a year to fall to the forces of Nader. The Abdali Afghans were separated and deported to depopulated areas of Iran, in the hope that they would lose their tribal cohesion. It was also at this time that Nader began preparing the ground for his invasion of India.

    Although as I have previously argued, great Asian Empires such as Qing China and the Ottoman Empire had not lost their great power “status” by the 18th century, Mughal India most definitely had. The Mughal Emperor, Muhammad Shah, was in theory the rule of much of India. In reality, his power was limited to a small portion of the Indo-Gangetic Plain. His governors had become rulers in their own right, and European nations had established trade companies that were increasingly subverting the Mughal Emperor’s power in the subcontinent. Nader had been in contact with a number of the Mughal governors, and had established that the time was ripe for an invasion of India and all its riches. Even as Nader conquered the Afghans, his casus belli was being established as the Mughal Subedar (governor) of Kabul and Peshawar did little to stop the Afghans from using Mughal territory as a base.

    Nader launched his invasion of the Mughal Empire in late 1738, outflanking and destroying the army of the governor of Peshawar in a brilliant manoeuvre campaign at the Khyber Pass. Nader fought his way through the Mughal Empire, eventually encountering and decimating the enormous Mughal Empire at the Battle of Karnal. Nader’s subsequent occupation of Delhi involved a certain level of violence, but nothing like the wholesale massacre that was imagined by some [1]. The importance of the campaign was marked not by territorial gains, which involved Mughal land west of the Indus being given to Iran, but in the fiscal effects on Iran. It is still very difficult to explain just how much loot and tribute was brought back to Iran from the Mughal Empire. It is estimated that the value of this wealth was around £87.5 million pounds sterling, or a few million pounds less than France’s Entire budget for the Seven Years War. This was perhaps the biggest transfer of wealth between nations in the first half of the 18th century, and would change the economic situation of Iran greatly.

    In addition to the economic gain, Nader’s international stature was transformed by his defeat of the Mughal Empire. In the Islamic World, from Morocco to Java, tales were told of the momentous events taking place in India, as the mighty Nader seemed on the verge of wresting leadership of the Islamic world upon himself. In Constantinople, it was whispered in coffee shops that the Ottoman Sultan may have well had trouble holding onto his title of Caliph for much longer. Outside the Islamic World, Nader’s invasion of the Ottoman Empire was noted with fascination in Europe, and certainly gives an interesting vantage point onto European opinions of Asia at the time. More so than Qing China’s conquests, Nader’s conquests were well known by Europeans, and the possible effects were discussed in London’s and Paris’ coffee shops.

    Certainly, the shift in power was greater than any in 18th century Europe. There, wars were characterised by sieges, with strips of territory such as Silesia or Lorraine changing hands. An equivalent of Nader’s victory may well have been something like Louis XV’s France sacking Vienna and establishing its eastern border on the river Oder. The scale of the victory makes it all the more confusing that Western accounts of world history from the 19th century onward tended to omit it, or to mention it in passing. Considering the momentous effect that the collapse of Mughal power in India would have later on in Europe, this is a rather serious omission indeed, and brings into question any world history that does not take time to examine its effects. When Nader returned to Iran in 1740, he did it as the richest monarch on the planet, at the head of an army which had shown itself capable of beating a force vastly superior in number. However, the benefits of this success would not be felt by most Persians until after the death of Nader. With all this considered, it is Iran’s rather than Prussia’s rise to Great Power status that was the most dramatic in the 18th century.

    [1] – This marks the first big effect of the POD in history. Although it’s hard to say whether the massacre in Delhi was in some way caused by the malaria that was beginning to have its effect on Nader’s health, it is certain that it had a huge hand in his increasing brutality.


    Nurfarah Fatima; A Brief History of Islamic Religious Thought

    The Birth of the Jafari' Madhhab

    The introduction of the Jafari’ Madhhab to the mainstream of Sunni Islam was perhaps one of the most revolutionary changes in the landscape of Islamic thought, at least prior to the modern age. As is the case with many theological shifts, it had its roots not in a “Road to Damascus” personal crisis, but was motivated more by political rationale than anything else. Nader’s motivations in announcing the shift in religious policy in 1736 seemed to be based around improving his relations with neighbouring Muslim Monarchs, as well as reducing tensions in his own religiously heterodox state. However, pushing back against two centuries of Shi’a domination in Iran would not be an easy task, especially for a monarch with as much on his mind as Nader Shah. For the most part, his religious reforms were marked by the removal of various Shi’a practices such as the ritual cursing of the first three Caliphs or the statement in prayers that bared witness to Ali as the deputy of Muhammad.

    These reforms were evidently not enough for the Ottoman Caliph, who categorically refused much of the demands of Nader Shah when signing the first peace treaty between the Ottoman state and Nader’s Persia. The only religious demand of Nader’s that the Ottomans acquiesced to was the demand for a Persian Amir-ul-Hajj, a figure who would ensure the safety of Persian pilgrims to Mecca. The fact that the Ottomans had been so intransigent when it came to the recognition of the Jafari’ Madhhab as a legitimate school of Sunni Islam gave the Shi’a ulema of Iran grounds for the criticism of Nader’s religious policy. Qom in particular was a centre of opposition to what was seen by the clergy of the undermining of religious tradition in Persia. Recently recovered documents from the clerics of Qom allude to Nader’s “Betrayal of all that was sacrificed by Imam Hussain at the Battle of Karbala, a betrayal of those who struggle in the face of wickedness”. Combined with Nader’s drinking and treatment of the previous Safavid dynasty, there was little to endear the Shi’a establishment of Persia to Nader.

    Between Nader’s war against the Mughal Empire and his second war with the Ottomans, Nader appears to have turned more attention to religious matters in his Empire. His popularity heightened after reducing taxes, Nader felt that he was in a strong enough position to take on the Shi’a clergy in earnest. Now, those clergy who held onto Shi’a traditions were penalised. Mosques that were known to be frequented by anti-Reform clerics found themselves without support from Waqf entrusted to them, with the beneficiaries now being Mosques that had followed the changes decreed by Nader. The most persistent critics of Nader’s changes found themselves under constant surveillance, and the few foolhardy enough to call for revolution against Nader were jailed. While this led to a large amount of discontent, few were willing to revolt against Nader. He had brought stability to Persia, made taxes lower than they had been in centuries, and most importantly was at the head of a seemingly invincible army.

    Furthermore, the Jafari’ Madhhab still retained much of the philosophy and ideals of Shia’ Islam, easing it’s acceptance by the majority. In contrast to mainstream Sunni Islam, Jafari’ scholars emphasised the role of personal sacrifice and effort in ensuring justice and the propagation of virtue. They disagreed with the assertion that the course of history had already been decided, and insisted that human choice could change its course. This still made them quite different to most Sunni Muslims, though once the emphasis on the divine nature of the Ahl-al-Bait was abandoned, at least some Sunni Muslim in the Persian Empire could stomach this attempt at synthesis. Although the madhab would not come into its own until the reign of Reza Qoli, there was some progress made in the reign of Nader in the transition of the Jafari’ madhab from a Shi’a school of thought into a Sunni one.


    Author's notes: There isn't much change here from our own timeline of course, though the seeds have been sown. The basics of Nader's personality, his disdain for the Safavids and many of their ideas and methods have not gone away. Despite this, his cruelty will likely be a lot less arbritary, at least if Michael Axworthy's theory is correct. Presuming that Nader does not blind his son Reza Qoli, Iran may well have a different fate after Nader's death than the anarchy and invasion it got in our own worl.
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    The Conquest of India
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    Descending from the Iranian plateau through the Khyber Pass was like passing into a new world for Nader’s soldiers. The dusty plains, interspaced by isolated farmland passed into a seemingly endless stretch of farms and forest. While the heat was certainly familiar, there seemed to be more lushness and greenery surrounding one village in this land than there was in the whole of Persia. The men marched on through, their spirits lifted by the knowledge that this was a rich land, and that their enterprise may make rich men of them all. Onwards they marched to Karnal, where they would confront the forces of the Mughal Emperor himself.

    The great Battle of Karnal, like most great battles, was remembered as a kind of blur by those who fought in it. The adrenaline that shot through the bodies of the soldiers filled them with an exhilaration. Hassan Soleymani had been with Nader for the past two years since he was conscripted, and had seen the great conquest of Kandahar and Peshawar, though nothing seemed to equal the intensity of Karnal. They had heard before the battle that the forces of the Mughals outnumbered them at least two men to one Persian, perhaps even more. Those were odds to make even a hardened veteran fearful.

    And yet in the battle itself, numbers were almost forgotten. Hassan saw the Mughal cavalry advance in a dense formation. This would have been enough to smash a regular army, but Hassan and his comrades knew that they could withstand them. The Zamburak artillery tore through the dense mass of the Mughal cavalry as they came towards the Jazāyerchi. Withering musket fire ensured that just a few of the Mughal cavalry actually reached the line, though one Indian speared Hassan’s leuitenant in the middle of his chest, leaving him lifeless.

    “Come on brothers, slaughter these worthless dogs!” Hassan cried, as he dropped his musket and drew his sword. A mighty yell went from the Persians as they surged forward into the dazed and confused survivors of the Mughal cavalry. A man stumbled toward Hassan, clumsily attempting to hack at him. Hassan was able to avoid this and slash at the Mughal, spraying his own face with blood in the process. He threw himself onto another man who was struggling to come out from under his now dead horse. The man struggled, knocking the sword out of Hassan’s hand. The man punched Hassan causing him to stumble back, and resumed his efforts of trying to free himself from his horse. Hassan pulled his Khanjar out, stabbing the man repeatedly. On he and his comrades went, slashing their way through what remained of the cavalry.

    After it had been apparent the Mughal cavalry were all dead or captured, the Persians fell back into line, though they held their line the rest of the day, pouring fire onto their hapless Mughal opponents. When the smoke of the day cleared, even the common soldier were aware that they had achieved something momentous. Hassan’s comrades lifted him above their heads, cheering him on as a hero. This was something that did not go unnoticed by the Shah, who inspected his troops following the battle.

    He certainly cut an imposing figure. He was around half a head taller than his attendants, with a full beard and a piercing look. One could almost believe that he could kill a man by looking at him, and certainly one felt a unique sense of submissiveness in his presence. Hassan was let down by the men, and they saluted him. Nader walked slowly but with purpose right up to Hassan.

    He looked up and down at him as if to inspect him, and placed a hand on his shoulder. “You’re a commander of fifty now, my boy. Make me proud”.

    Hassan looked ridiculous while the Shah spoke to him, a boy covered in blood smiling like a child praised by his teacher, though at this moment it didn’t matter. He had been born in a village of mud bricks in a dusty corner of Persia, and here he was promoted by the Shah himself. A commander at the age of seventeen! Indeed, this was a day, a moment that would stay with Hassan all the rest of his days.

    Nader patted his soldier and moved on, leaving Hassan and the other soldiers silent momentarily.

    Hassan was still dumfounded. Was it really such a wise idea to make him the leader of fifty? Doubts filled his mind, but they were buried by the cheering of his comrades. He thought of the reaction his mother would have, his cousins. Would his dear sweet Fatima who cried so much when he was conscripted be proud of him? Did she even remember him?




    Karnal had been carnage, a sight of mangled men and beast that haunted Hassan’s memories, even weeks later. However, Delhi was the reward of all the pain and suffering Hassan and his men had been through. The city couldn’t have been any more different to the dusty hovels of Afghanistan and Iran. The city was covered in gardens, sumptuous palaces. And now it was in the hands of their master. Certainly, Hassan and his men expected their fair share.

    The streets were deserted, the Persians could feel the eyes of the people of Delhi nervously watching them from windows usually designed to allow upper class ladies an opportunity to see the world without being seen themselves.

    Should the Persians have been nervous? As Nader’s army marched into Delhi, the atmosphere was one of fear. The Mughal Emperor had been over-awed by Karnal, and had acquiesced control of Delhi. After marching through the city, Hassan and his men reached the palace in which they would be billeted.

    That night, Hassan had been invited to dine with other offices of the Jazāyerchi courts and Nader himself. Hassan had never seen anything like it in his life. He and the others in his village would purchase a sheep from the Lur tribesmen who lived close by every few months or so, and would treat themselves to a sumptuous meal of rice and slow-cooked mutton in the house of the village head. Certainly, the palace with its intricately decorated archways and exquisite artwork could not have been more different to the dusty mud-brick houses of his village. To see so much rice, meat and even wine laid out before him in such a magnificent room left him almost in awe.

    A voice came from behind Hassan. “If you think this is unusual now, you should see how the mood turns later”

    Hassan turned and was face to face with a heavy-set man with a great handlebar moustache and a face that managed to look friendly and jovial, despite a large scar on the left side.

    “You seem to be very new around here. I’m called Omar, of the Abdalis. You cannot be an Afghan, nor an Uzbek. You’re almost certainly Persian, am I correct?”

    Hassan nodded affirmatively. “Yes, I am. From a village near Hamadan”

    Omar smiled. “And by your age, I would guess this is your first campaign, certainly. Yes, yes, you certainly cannot be any older than my relative Ahmad. Perhaps you will allow me to introduce the two of you. Tonight he will be with the Shah, but we will be spending some time here in Delhi I should think. Come my boy, sit with me. You would make better company than the Qezelbash I should imagine. Ha ha!”

    Hassan had been feeling rather wound up, but the manner of Omar set him at ease. He still wasn’t quite sure whether he’d trust the Afghan, but thought it best to try and make friends among soldiers of his class.

    Hassan followed Omar to where a group of other Afghans were sat. The men sat around an enormous serving of rice and meat, served on a large silver plate.

    “They’ll probably let us keep this you know, when we’re done with it. We could sell it and buy four wives each in Bukhara”

    Did Omar ever say anything serious? Hassan was beginning to doubt it. One of Omar’s companions, Zahir, a younger man of about thirty years rolled his eyes and attempted a new topic of conversation.

    “I think this will be the end of our campaign. I have heard that the Mughal Muhammad Shah is going to submit to our Shah. That will be the end of it, we will have everything we want from them”

    “And then we’ll have peace?” Hassan asked, entirely seriously.

    The men all laughed at his youthful foolishness.

    Omar spoke. “Peace, by God no! We have Uzbeks to deal with, tribesmen, and that old unsettled score with the Ottomans. Don’t worry my boy, you’ll have plenty of opportunity for your guts to be shot yet!”

    Hassan smiled awkwardly, unsure of how to react to the joke. Zahir tousled Hassan’s hair as if he were young boy. “Don’t worry, we are sure you will do well. We have heard of what a fine job you did at Karnal. At your age, that shows promise. Real promise. And we can tell you this, treat your comrades better than anyone else in the world, and you won’t go far wrong”

    Hassan nodded. This was good advice indeed, advice that he would do well to live by.
    Nader's Invasion of the Ottoman Empire
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    Muhammad Begum; The Age of Chaos - The 18th Century in Islamic Eyes

    Nader Shah's Second Invasion of the Ottoman Empire

    Nader’s campaigns in Central Asia had been somewhat less dramatic than his campaign in India. However, the ramifications of his success in dealing with the Uzbeks and other nomadic confederations in the region were significant, especially for the inhabitants of Nader’s power base in Khorasan. During the long decline of the Safavids, Uzbek slave raiders operated from Tashkent, praying on settled peoples in Persia and Central Asia. This activity had made Tashkent a hub for the slave trade. Although Nader had relatively little sympathy for the troubles of settled people when compared to the Safavids and his own successors, he nevertheless recognized that nomadic slavers were detrimental to the wealth and stability of his burgeoning empire. Furthermore his campaigns in Central Asia further reinforced his goal of emulating Tamerlane. By the winter of 1742, Nader had received the submission of most Uzbek Khans, and had established garrisons as far as the Aral Sea. With the use of similar techniques to the Russians and the Chinese, Nader left his nephew Ali Qoli as viceroy in Central Asia to weaken the power of the nomads there.

    Nader was by no mean sated by the conquests he had embarked on so far, and now looked west toward the Ottoman Empire. He considered himself as having “unfinished business” with the Ottoman Sultan Mahmud, and desired a number of concessions from the Ottoman Empire, which included the ceding of Mesopotamia and much of the Armenian Highlands. In addition to this, he wanted official recognition of the Jafari’ madhhab and a recognized position of primacy in the Islamic World. The last concession was ambitious to the point of folly, as it would essentially render the Ottoman Sultan’s title of Caliph hollow. Nader’s ambitions in his last war with the Ottomans would be every bit as ambitious as his wars in India and Central Asia, even if he was aiming for less than the complete conquest of the Ottoman Empire.

    The preparations for the war were no less ambitious. A total of 250,000 troops would be mobilized for the war, which was such a significant expenditure that despite the windfall from India, taxes still had to be raised. The taxes were resented, though not quite to the ruinous level that had been seen in the waning years of the Safavids, which minimized the unrest which Nader faced due to the taxes. The few rebellions which did arise were easily dispatch by Nader’s armies. As well as these other preparations, the question of a regent in Persia needed to be settled. Nader’s crown prince, Reza Qoli, had performed admirably as regent during Nader’s invasion of India. However, Nader had taken exception to the rather ostentatious manner that Reza had taken up as regent, and his reported arbitrary cruelty reported reminded Nader too much of the Safavids. After careful consideration, Nader decided to take Reza Qoli with him on his invasion of the Ottoman Empire, leaving his trusted lieutenant Taqi Khan as regent in Persia instead.

    Nader seemed to have hoped that he could personally influence Reza, drawing him away from the kind of luxury that he had hated about the Safavids, and imparting what Nader saw as good, Turkic values of clean and simple living. The fact that the supposedly decadent Safavid dynasty which he had overthrown had Turkic origins as well was clearly forgotten. Judging by the later rule of Reza Qoli, it appeared that Nader’s attempt at persuading Reza to embrace his Turkic roots were not too successful, though to some extent the taste for luxury seemed to have moderated following the invasion of the Ottoman Empire. Furthermore, it allowed Reza a chance to prove his military finesse once again, as he was chosen to head the Persian Northern army, given the task of taking Kars while Nader invaded Mesopotamia.

    The Persian invasion of the Ottoman Empire began quite well. Nader’s siege train had improved considerably since the last war, and he was now able to take the fortresses that had eluded him in the last war with the Ottomans. After a fierce but quick assault, Mosul fell after just two weeks of siege. To the Ottoman Sultan Mahmud, this was deeply disturbing news, and he began preparing to march out to his eastern borders in order to meet the Persian threat. Although disturbed by the Persian invasion, Mahmud had previously defeated the Austrians, and was confident that his forces would be able to contain the Persians. What he had not counted on was the military revolution that had taken place within Persia. Nader now commanded perhaps the most finely drilled, effectively administered and professional force outside of Europe. Morale was high following success in India, Central Asia and the Caucasus, and the prospect of success and booty was enough to ensure that Nader did not have to resort to levies of peasants. The Persian army was now the harbinger of the “Military Revolution” in the Middle East. Though the unreformed Ottoman armies fought bravely, they were completely outclassed.

    While the Ottoman forces at this point were not as decrepit as is popularly imagined, they had not made the jump to a modern method of army administration as the Persians had. Ottoman troops were not always paid on time, and some of those who were did not serve upon the request of the Sultan. The Janissaries had become a nuisance as early as the early 17th century, when they had murdered the young Sultan Osman II who had planned to replace them with a more effective fighting force. Now, the Janissaries had turned into a group that resembled an organized criminal organization as much as an army. Many continued to draw salaries from the Sultan, but supplemented this income through racketeering and their own ties to guilds. In a situation that had mirrored Japan’s, many of the supposed military class undertook other occupations. Far fewer of the Janissaries joined Sultan Mahmud than hoped, which left the Ottoman army with fewer men then had been expected.

    Nader gradually took all the fortresses and cities of Iraq, capturing Baghdad in the spring of 1746 and crushing the army of Ahmad Pasha. Now he was able to join with his son Reza Qoli and advance through Anatolia on Constantinople. The Ottoman Sultan Mahmud was in Konya, hoping to block the way, but as he received news that the Persians were closing his position, he pulled back his forces to Constantinople, fearing a repeat of the Battle of Karnal. His dreams of smashing the Persians and regaining some of the lands that had been lost were now abandoned, and his thoughts turned to leveraging his existing power to protect his own empire rather than rolling the dice. He was well aware of the threats that Austria and Russia now presented to the weakened Ottoman Empire. He appealed to Nader’s own self image as a Turkic warrior, and offered to settle their differences at a Qoroltai [1]. Keen to see if he could secure his reward without a potentially bloody battle, Nader accepted the Ottoman Sultan’s proposal.

    The two men met, reportedly exchanging warm welcomes as fellow Turkmen and Muslims, though beneath the cordial surface, there was a lot of tension between the two men. Mahmud was under intense pressure from the Sheikh-ul-Islam and the Ottoman religious establishment to deny recognition of the Jafari’ Madhab. Nader wanted territorial concessions, as well as a recognition of Persia’s status as a member of the Sunni Muslim world. These would be bitter pills to swallow, though Mahmud was aware that he would risk much be denying Nader his wishes. He did try to balance this with a settlement that would secure the Ottoman Empire’s security, and with a mixture of flattery and appeals to their shared religion, attempted to persuade Nader into acting as a Ghazi for the Islamic faith, turning his sword against non-Muslim powers. After several days of meetings that involved Nader, his son and numerous Ottoman dignitaries including the later Sultan Mustafa, the Treaty of Constantinople was agreed upon by both parties.

    The treaty itself was a near-revolutionary document. It announced the Ottoman Caliph’s recognition of the Jafari’ Madhab as the fifth school of Sunni Islam, and congratulated Persia on its rejection of heresy (which of course, produced suitable amounts of outrage amongst the Ottoman Ulema). It gave Mesopotamia and a swathe of Eastern Anatolia to Iran, including the Black Sea port of Batumi, which was the largest territorial concession that the Ottoman Empire had made in her history. The Ottomans gave a significant indemnity to Nader worth around £10 million pounds sterling at the time, which while not being anywhere near the sum that Nader had wrested from India, marked a significant windfall for the Persian government. In return, Persia was to swear off any further aggressive actions toward the Ottoman Empire, and was obligated to aid the Ottomans in future wars with the Russians rather than allying with Russia as she had done in the 1730s. Nader was pleased by the treatment of Persia as an equal rather than a less powerful state, and agreed to the treaty.

    Nader had achieved much in his invasion. He had brought the Persian Empire to its territorial apex, stretching from the deserts of Arabia to the borders of China, and from the Black Sea to the Arabian Sea. Despite his high taxes, unorthodox religious policies and disregard for the previous Safavid ruling family, Nader’s success had secured his position among the people of Persia. He had restored internal security, defeated her neighbours and endowed her army with glory. However, economically little had changed in Persia. Although there was some economic recovery with the restoration of political stability, Nader saw the cities and farmlands of Persia as a resource to be exploited when needed rather than nurtured. However, this suited Persian peasants, who preferred organization in their own corporate structures rather than heavy government intervention. In the later years of his reign, there was a growing rift between himself and Reza Qoli, whose priorities were becoming more closely entwined with the Persian majority in the Empire, rather than with the Turkmen as his fathers were.


    [1] – A Turkish word borrowed from Mongolian, which meant a gathering of tribal leaders.

    Author's Note: Here is where the serious diversions from history in Iran's story are to be seen. Without the tax regime of Nader being quite so cruel and rapacious, Iran itself is having the opportunity to begin a real recovery. Axworthy states that from the height of the Safavids to the conquest of Isfahan by the Hotaki Afghans, the population of Persia dropped by a third. Historically, it's recovery was sluggish and Persia would not reach nine million again until well into the 19th century. Here of course, things are set to get better sooner.

    Thanks for all the comments guys!
    The Final Years of Nader's Reign
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    Muhammad Begum; The Age of Chaos - The 18th Century in Islamic Eyes

    The Final Years of Nader Shah's Reign

    With his victory over the Ottoman Empire, and his establishment of the largest Iranian Empire since the pre-Islamic Sassanids, Nader had achieved much. He had started with a state that had ceased to function and that was occupied by numerous foreign powers. In under twenty years, he had transformed it into the second most powerful state in Asia, that had curbed the power of the nomadic states to the north, established primacy over Northern India and that humbled the power of the Ottoman Empire. Persia was recognised as the most powerful of the Islamic Empires. Nader was without doubt a brilliant soldier who had created a world-beating army and a great legacy of conquest, in emulation of his hero Timur. Persia was now at peace on her terms, with the power of Uzbek Slavers, Afghan Tribes and their Ottoman neighbours all curbed. Superficially, Nader was the ruler of one of the most powerful nations on Earth.

    However, like numerous conquerors in history, he found that peace was often more difficult than war. Persia was a country of contrasts, hosting some of the largest cities in the world with a large nomadic population that was still socially dominant in many areas. While some areas of the nation were dominated by those with tribal loyalties, others were arguably proto-national in their outlook. Persia, at least socially, was a nation marked in its divisions, and Nader’s superficial attempts to join the Shia and Sunni populations through the Jafari Madhab seemed to make little difference to either the practice of Islam or the religious tensions in the country. Nader made his peacetime home in Mashhad which had become the de-facto capital of Persia, though even in the city he felt most comfortable in, he was restless. His own chronicles identified the cause of his restlessness as his “Turkic urge for movement” and he rarely spent time in palaces and gardens as previous Persian rulers had done.

    Instead, the latter part of his reign was characterised by tours of his kingdom and extended hunting trips. He also put down a number of rebellions among various Afghan and Lur tribes, as he sought to curb their own power further. He viewed the power of the tribes in Persia not only as a threat to his rule, but as thieves who siphoned some of the tax income that should have by all rights gone to him. The traditional balance of power between the nomadic peoples of Persia and the settled people was weakened during Nader’s reign, as he forbade the giving of protection money to nomadic tribes, and cracked down harshly on the banditry that some nomadic and tribal peoples engaged in to supplement their income. In areas such as Luristan, watchtowers soon dotted the landscape as Nader fought what was essentially an insurgency. However, his superior resources started to tell as time went on, and clashes between Persian soldiers and the Lur and Kurdish tribesmen of Western Persia became less common as time went on.

    While Nader withdrew ever more from the matter of serious administrative government, his son and presumptive heir, Reza Qoli took more of an interest in civilian government. While Nader’s childhood had been a frugal and simple one, Reza Qoli had only known being the son of an influential man. As well as growing up in opulent Persian surroundings, Reza Qoli’s childhood tutors had imbued him with a greater sense of a Persian identity than Nader possessed. Nader’s later attempts to mould him into the model of a Turkic warrior ruler were not entirely successful, and after their triumph over the Ottoman Empire, the rift between the two in terms of identity only seemed to grow as time went on. Despite the fact that the two found themselves at odds on a personal level, the two began to settle in an equilibrium politically, as Reza Qoli had become the de-facto co-ruler of Persia. While Nader spent as much time away from his court as possible, Reza Qoli focused more on administrative reforms. He greatly increased the scope and size of the bureaucracy, ensuring that more and more revenue reached the central government. Tax collection was made more systematic while lowered, and state monopolies were introduced on the spice trade and the export of Persian carpets.

    This improvement in the consistency of revenue led to lower levels of discontent amongst the populace of Persia, and enabled the army to be regularly paid. Even after the conquest of Nader had ended, the army maintained a colossal 200,000 standing soldiers, an enormous figure considering that even including the new conquests, Persia contained a population of around 12 million or so people. For an empire with the kind of power that it wielded, this was a low figure, being less than half of the Ottoman total. However, it is important to remember that this was a low point in the population of many of the areas that made up the Persian Empire, many areas of which had seen internecine warfare for decades previously. The decline had halted by the time that Nader had invaded India, and with the conquest of fertile areas in Central Asia and the Caucasus, areas of settlement had been opened up to aid a Persian population boom.

    Nader’s life of campaigning eventually caught up to him. During the summer of 1749 whilst on campaign against the Esapzai Afghans, Nader was shot in the leg. He had managed to survive without amputation, and returned to Mashhad. However, as the winter approach he became increasingly ill. His son Reza Qoli spent a great amount of time with him in his last days, reportedly bridging much of the personal distance that had grown between the two previously. While it is possible that the Persian royal chronicles emphasised the reconciliation in order to smooth the transfer of power, Nader was noted for his closeness toward his son when the two were physically together. It doesn’t seem out of character for the two men to put aside their stubbornness when death was at the door.

    With his son by his side, Nader died early in 1750, leaving Reza Qoli as his sole heir. He was crowned Shah just before Nowruz, in a ceremony that resembled those of the Safavid Shahs more than of Nader’s coronation on the Moghan plain. Absent from his coronation was his cousin, Ali Qoli. Ali had fled to Hamadan as soon as Nader had grown sick, and now planned to lead a rebellion on the behalf of a scion of the Safavids. This was mainly done to shore up his own position, as there had always been a level of rivalry between himself and Reza Qoli. What made the rebellion so threatening was Ali Qoli’s appeal of Shia Islam as a base of support in the rebellion, a move that garnered him significant sympathy amongst the clergy, who had seen themselves side-lined during the reign of Nader. They hoped that with the replacement of the Shah with a candidate more reliant on themselves, they would regain much of their previous influence.

    However, the gamble that Reza Qoli lacked the spirit of his father (a foolish gamble considering his previous military achievements) were soon put to rest as he defeated Ali Qoli at Rey, before moving to Qom and launching a careful purge of clergymen who had been vocal in their support of Ali Qoli’s rebellion. This would have been unthinkable only decades ago, though the strength of the Afsharid State had grown to such that they were now in a position to treat the Shia clergy as it did the rest of its subjects. This as much as anything demonstrated that if anything, the Afsharid dynasty was stronger than the Safavids had been. Although their legitimacy was quietly doubted by some, and although there were tribes who resented the overbearing government, few of these groups supported the rebellion best placed to bring the new dynasty down. The majority of Persians were in all probability more concerned with stability, which had improved with the coming of the Afsharids. With his internal opposition cowed, Reza Qoli’s crown was now secure.


    The Persian Empire at the death of Nader Shah (Not counting Vassal states)


    Author’s notes: In history, the unfortunate and blind Reza Qoli was murdered soon after his father’s death. Here, he certainly has potential to carry on the reforms that had been undertaken in his father’s reign. Now that Persia has more or less reached the natural limits of her expansion, the challenge will be for Reza Qoli to secure himself without redress to conquest. His temperament and self-image in our own history seemed to be rather different from his father’s, and with Nader now gone, Reza Qoli may feel even more confident in undertaking different policies.
    The Shock of the Ottoman Defeat
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    Gerhard Schneider; Osman's Children - A History of the Ottoman Empire

    Nader’s invasion of the Ottoman Empire was one of the worst disasters the Ottomans had ever seen. For the first time in centuries, a foreign power had been at the gates of Constantinople, and huge areas of the Empire had been lost on the east. To make matters worse, Sultan Mahmud I’s treaty with the Persians was unpopular with almost every level of Ottoman society. Local notables feared that the central state would be unable to protect them from foreign powers, and that they would lose their power as a result. The Ulema greatly resented the recognition of the Jafari’ Madhab, which they viewed as an insidious innovation and it’s recognition as an acceptance of heresy. Although the amount of manpower that had been lost on the conflict was not catastrophic, the financial demands made on the Ottoman State certainly were, and it was these as much as anything that had broken down the previous system of accommodation based around tax farming between the Sublime Porte in Constantinople and the regional notables.

    With their ties to Constantinople weakened, in the years following Nader’s invasion, Ottoman governors began amassing more local power to themselves, with many choosing to enact policies quite different from those seen in Istanbul. Although this trend of decentralisation was already present in the Ottoman Empire, the process now accelerated as local notables seized the reigns of the state in all but name. The Karaosmanoğlu family in Anatolia were an example of these “over mighty notables”, though the most pressing challenges would be in North Africa. Algeria had ceased to be a part of the Ottoman Empire for all intents and purposes in the late 17th century, and this trend was now spreading to Tunisia and Tripoli, with the hereditary Beys removing all but the most tenuous of ties to Constantinople. The most troubling change was seen in Egypt, where the ruling Mamluk Othman Bey now had designs on making his own Vilayet as independent as the other North African regions. The Egyptian Beys had always had to play a delicate balancing act between their own Mamluk soldiery and the Sultan in Constantinople, and the weakening of the latter was seen by Othman as an exceptional opportunity to shore up his own position.

    Othman Bey attempted to win the approval of the Mamluks by promising a reduction of taxes, though at this point in time this open rebellion may have been premature. The Ottoman Army was still intact following the deal with Nader Shah, and was sent south to Egypt to crush Othman’s insurrection. Most of the Mamluks abandoned him in order to keep their own positions rather than sacrificing them for an apparently hopeless cause, and to some extent, notables who had ideas of attempting to forge a fully independent path elsewhere in the Empire were dissuaded by the example of Egypt. Nevertheless, the Ottoman Empire had crossed a point, and from now on it would be increasingly difficult for the Sultans to keep a lid on the ambitions of their governors. While there was an increasing desire at the centre for administrative reforms similar to those seen in Persia, the weakness of the central government meant that the Ottoman Empire struggled to put in place the kind of reforms and taxes that were necessary for a modernization of the army and state.

    Mahmud I, overwhelmed by the challenges that now faced the Ottoman Empire, died a year before his rival Nader. He left the throne to his brother Osman, a man ill-suited for the enormous challenges that now faced the Empire. He was more known for his aversion to music and his fear of women than for any administrative ability. His five year reign was marked by a continuation of the weakening of the Ottoman government. Regional notables managed to amass more power, unchecked by the central government, and it was only growing tensions in Europe that saved the weakened Ottoman State from the predatory Austrian and Russian Empires. While Osman retreated further into solitude due to his increasingly common episodes of mental instability, his brother Mustafa began to articulate a clearer vision of how he thought the Empire should be governed. As well as writing his ideas in private, he also began to build a cadre of educated men with which he planned to set the Empire on the path to recovery.

    This did not go unnoticed amongst the people in the Empire who were opposed to reform, such as the regional notables and a substation portion of the Janissary corps, who now began to plot against Mustafa’s life. Aware of his growing unpopularity among the ruling class, Mustafa in turn attempted to build as much of a coalition of reformers as he could. Most importantly, he secured the allegiance of the Grand Vizier, Koca Ragıp Pasha, who was a fellow believer in the need for a meaningful reform in the Ottoman Empire. Following an assassination attempt which had left him wounded, Mustafa now decided that he would strike against his brother, and managed to unseat Osman and his supporters in a relatively bloodless coup. A few Janissaries had been killed, though many had surrendered in the vain hope that serious reform could be headed off under the new sultan. This was greatly mistaken however, and underestimated the transformation that the Ottoman Empire would begin to undergo in the reign of Mustafa.




    “You needs to relax a bit more. The clothes would actually suit you if you into the right state of mind…”

    The message the words conveyed seemed to be lost as soon as Hassan heard them. He fidgeted with his robe, not quite achieving the look he was aiming for. He slumped rather awkwardly back onto the couch.

    “You should not be nervous if you are thinking about making the right impression on Anisah. She’s a very easy girl to please you know”

    Hassan shot Yasser a mortified look.

    “No my boy, nothing like that! I’m merely saying that you have the kind of personality that will appeal to her. Trust me, I’ve known her since she was born. And at any rate, her father has probably been filling her ears with your noble deeds”

    Hassan’s expression had scarcely changed. He looked rather despondent.

    “That’s my worry Yasser. She may have this image of a latter day Rostam in her head, a giant with a sword in one hand and an enemy’s head in the other”

    “She isn’t prone to flights of fantasy”

    “But she may be disappointed nonetheless”

    “Women learn not to have high expectations. She’s an Afghan, she hasn’t exactly met a whole lot of men. You know, we are not like you Persians, where your women have met half the men in the world by the time they’re married”

    Hassan shot an annoyed look toward Yasser. But the two men started laughing, and whatever tension was in Hassan’s body melted away.

    “Any daughter of Omar’s is likely to be as agreeable as he is. I should stop worrying”

    Yasser took a step back and examined Hassan, looking from head to toe.

    “You’re not quite Rostam, but I think you’re a bit more dashing than you take yourself credit for. You would pass for a lancer I would think”

    “Yes, but in order to do that I’d have to want to emulate you wimps in the first place”

    Yasser smirked. “You’re good. But I think it is almost time. Ready to become a married man?”

    Hassan nodded his head, and with that, the two men left the chamber.

    It was a short walk to Omar’s house, one of the more opulent buildings in the rebuilt Kandahar. Like most Afghan houses, it was austere on the outside, though the courtyard on the inside was clearly well looked after, with flowers growing around a central fountain.

    Omar came out of the entrance to the main part of his house to meet Hassan and Yasser. “Salam Aleikum, so glad to see you both”

    He turned to Hassan. “Second Khastegāri, don’t worry about it. The first one is the harder one, and you could be meeting far scarier parents than me. Ha! Please, come this way”

    In the main sitting room of Omar’s house, the formalities were discussed. Living arrangements, religious considerations and all the other nuts and bolts of married life. After some time had passed, the important part of the ceremony had arrived, as Omar offered tea to his guests. The tea was served by Anisah herself. Hassan’s nervousness returned, and he shifted about in his couch and constantly fidgeted, as if he was unsure of what to do with his hands.

    The girl walked into the room, carrying a tray with small cups of chai tea arranged in a circle on it. One by one, she offered the guests a cup, coming face to face with Hassan last. He had avoided her gaze beforehand, and now found that he had to look at her.

    She was certainly a great beauty, and bore little resemblance to her father. The most noticeable feature were her large brown eyes, which had a rather unusual effect on those who looked into them. Her thin lips may have been considered unattractive by other men, but Hassan didn’t notice. Hassan was smitten, in love even. He had made the right choice indeed…
    The Persian Hegemony in India
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    Mark Huntington; Studies in Indian History - An Anthology

    The Effect of Karnal on India

    The Mughal Empire had been in decline for some time before the Battle of Karnal. The reign of Aurangzeb had been a glorious one marked by conquest and unprecedented wealth and prosperity, but less than fifty years after his death, the Mughal Empire would be moribund. Growing prosperity in India had led not to the spread of the Persian-speaking court culture of the Mughal Emperors, but a growing strength of different regional identities. This trend had been exacerbated by warfare toward the end of the 17th century, which had often encouraged the growth of local identities that were innately opposed to the Mughal “other”. While the Empire appeared to be strong, regional rebellions could be crushed and the general order of things in the Empire would remain as they were.

    However, this was a delicate equilibrium, and the Battle of Karnal shook it to the very core. The wealth that was handed to the Persians represented many years of government income, and the impact of that paled in comparison to the effects on Mughal prestige. The Peacock throne, the symbol of Mughal Power, was carried off to Mashhad. As if the humiliation from that was not enough, the Mughal Emperor had to swear fealty to the Shah of Persia, promising to send an annual tribute in exchange for protection. Muhammad Shah had kept his throne, but it was a throne which was much diminished in the eyes of its subjects. Now, those who had been hostile to the Mughals for a long time, such as the Marathas saw their opportunity to carve out their own Empires.

    The Marathas had already struck as far as Delhi in previous offensives, and now seemed to consume the Mughal Empire piece by piece. The Marathas had been buoyed by a stronger sense of social cohesion than the Mughals, as well as the increasing commercialisation of their cotton production, which ensured that the Marathas had sufficient resources with which to challenge the Mughals with. In Aurangzeb’s time, he was able to dismiss the Maratha ruler as a “mountain rat”. Muhammad Shah and his successors could ill afford to do the same, as the Marathas were now levying tribute from regional rulers who were supposed to be subjects of the Mughal ruler. The increasingly prosperous and energised Maratha state was now a looming existential threat on the horizon for the Mughal Empire, and it seemed that energetic policies of reform would be needed to stop the Marathas from eventually unseating the Mughal Emperor.

    Muhammad Shah’s response to the growing weakness of the Empire was not to embark on a serious policy of reform, but to sink ever deeper into a concentration on his patronage of the arts. This availed the Mughal Empire little as its revenues sank into Maratha hands, as well as the hands of regional governors. The only saving grace for the Mughals was that the Marathas, rather than forging a centralized Empire along a Persian model in her new conquests, chose instead to demand tribute from existing rulers. As with the Mughals, tribute rather than tax made up a large portion of government income, and this inefficiency prevented the Mughals from being able to smash the Mughals immediately. Although one after one, the regional rulers who had once sworn allegiance to the Mughals now paid tribute to the Marathas, for the immediate period after Karnal, the Marathas did not threaten the heart of the Mughal Empire.

    As well as the growing threat of the Marathas, the Mughals had to contend with threats from other regional powers, as well as the ominously growing European powers. British attempts at seizing a foothold in the Gangetic Plain were foiled at the Battle of Rajshahi, but this was due to the assistance of the Persians more than that of the Mughal Emperor (or the French allies of the Nawab of Bengal). Nevertheless, in the Seven Years War the British managed to consolidate their hold on the Carnatic, and seemed willing and able to move into the vacuum caused by the retreat of teneous Mughal Power in the South of India. In the Punjab, the Sikh Jats grew increasingly resentful of Mughal persecutions and began to take local power into their own hands. Even with the assistance of the Persians, the Mughal Empire was seemingly unravelling.

    It was the ambitious Maratha Peshwa, Balaji Baji Rao who wanted to formally unseat the Mughals. Rumours had abounded that the Persian ruler Reza Shah had withdrawn his support for the Mughal Emperor, who was according to intelligence unsupported by any other power. The Mughals now appeared isolated and ripe for their final downfall. However, they had been fed false information by some of their supposed allies, such as the Nizam of Hyderabad. The reasons for this are still unclear, but it is likely that the thesis famously argued by Saju Chandratreya that they saw Persian dominance over India as preferable to that of a power based in India. The thesis argues that the Nizam of Hyderabad as well as other local rulers feared a truly dominant Maratha Confederacy, and fed false information that Reza Shah had pulled back his armies to Persia itself. In actual fact, Reza had kept a 50,000 strong “Observation Force” at the border town of Mardan, ready to intervene in India once again.

    The Maratha army marched north toward Delhi, intent on forcing the Mughal Emperor Ahmad Shah Bahadur off his throne. Reportedly they rode at the head of a mighty army of 70,000 men, mostly cavalry. The Mughal Emperor attempted to combat this force on his own, but was decisively defeated at Bhopal. After the defeat, he had around 40,000 loyal soldiers left, and looked certain to be defeated if he stood alone. He called upon his nominal overlord, Reza Shah for assistance. This was a humiliating move, though the sting was taken out when Reza Shah obliged, and once again sent his army into India to assist a Muslim ruler against non-Muslim assailants.

    By a stroke of good luck, the army happened to arrive as the Marathas were besieging Delhi. The Mughals sallied out of the city in support of the Persians, and the great armies clashed at the Battle of Delhi. It was a hard fought effort, but the veteran Persian forces proved their superiority once again, and by the afternoon much of the Maratha force was in disarray. The Maratha Pindari had fled as early as noon, which left the core of professional Maratha soldiery to deal with the onslaught of Reza Shah’s disciplined force. The downfall of the Maratha army came when the cavalry on their right was annihilated by Afghan lancers commanded by the famous Ahmad Durrani. The Persian infantry proved quite capable of holding off attacks from the Maratha cavalry, which began a re-examining of conventional military wisdom in India.

    Although it was the Persians and the Mughal Emperor who had overcome the Marathas at the battle of Delhi, it was in fact the regional rulers, like the Nawab of Bengal and the Nizam of Hyderabad who profited most from the battle. What little prestige the Mughal rulers had was now gone, and the Persians were distant masters at best, soon to be distracted by troubles elsewhere on their borders. Following the Battle of Delhi, one by one local Indian rulers broke all but the most tenuous of ties to the Mughal Emperor, leaving India to be a subcontinent dominated once again by rulers with a regional rather than subcontinental focus. By 1760, one could have been forgiven for believing the map of India to have reverted to its state before the Mughal invasion.


    India Circa 1760​
    Reza Shah's Reign - Part One
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    Pierre Marchand; In The Shadow of the Enlightenment - The Role of Political Thought in government in the 18th Century

    The nature of Reza Shah’s reign was rather different than that of his father’s. Like his father, Reza embarked on a number of wars, however few of these were wars of conquest as Nader’s wars had been. Iranian historians long referred to the wars under Reza Shah as the “Ghazi Wars”, seen as wars of defence of the Islamic nation rather than wars of conquest for the Persian one. Nader had shown himself to be a ruler disinterested in serious administrative policy for the most part, whereas Reza actively took an interest in government policy aimed not only at increasing taxes in the short term, but providing some basic level of support for the populace as well. Although both rulers are considered to be the “Greater Afsharids”, aside from their success at keeping the peace within Persia and their attempts at religious reform there were some divergent threads that very much distinguished their reigns from each other.

    However, not all of these differences can be explained by the different personalities and goals of the respective rulers. It has to be kept in mind that the world that the Persian state inhabited under the rule of the two men were very different ones. Persia and the Islamic world had already had their first experiences with the growing power of Europe before the reign of Nader, as the Ottomans had been defeated by the Austrians and the Russians had occupied parts of Iran following the fall of the Safavid Empire. However, generally speaking, during Nader’s reign, European states presented little existential threat to the various Islamic polities around the world. These previous defeats had been seen as minor setbacks that were soon corrected, and there was as of yet nothing that seemed superior about the organization of European societies to Muslim observers. Muslim polities remained largely free of European political influence outside of the East Indies.

    This pattern changed as Reza’s rule progressed. The Mughal Empire and her successor states in India came under pressure from expansionist European powers, as did the Ottoman Empire in the West. These two had been the other great “Gunpowder Empires” in the 16th century alongside Persia, and their political weakness was seen by many of the political class of Persia as a warning sign about her own vulnerability in a changing world. Ali al-Yazdi, a prominent 18th century cleric and historian had argued that when faced with the rising power of non-Muslim powers, that powerful Muslim rulers should put aside their differences with others to unite against the threat. This line of thought was particularly influential in the Iranian court under Reza Shah, and there is some indication that al-Yazdi personally influenced Reza toward undertaking interventions in India, Central Asia and the Caucasus. Certainly, until his death the cleric served as one of Reza Shah’s leading advisors.

    Whereas Nader saw himself very much as a spiritual successor to Tamerlane, Reza instead looked elsewhere for models of kingship. His youthful enthusiasm for war seems to have ebbed away in the course of his twenties, and he listened carefully to those who said that the role of the Shah was not simply to win victories for the sake of his own glory, but to act as a patriarchal carer of his people. Some of the ideas that were articulated during Reza’s reign seem to have been inspired somewhat by Confucian thought, which may explain why certain intellectuals who thought this way fell out of favour after the Sino-Persian war. Nevertheless, the idea that the Shah should act as a steward seems to have stuck, if only for the reason that it justified the Shah’s huge personal landholdings, which included much of Iran’s forested area.

    Indeed, to some extent many of the intellectual trends in society during Reza’s reign seemed to have promoted ideas that served to enhance the power of the Shah and settled elites. Particularly after the increase of contact with Europe following the Seven Years War, the Persians became interested in the idea of the “Rationalisation” of government. Bureaucrats were ordered to use Persian for all official business, regional dialects such as Mazandarani and Lur were discouraged, and tribal grazing lands were given over to those chiefs who agreed to settle. This wasn’t an effort to create a “Persian” nation however, but was more perceived in terms of weakening potential opposition to the government. One of the side effects of the anti-Nomadic policies of Reza’s reign was that many tribesmen who previously spent their lives with their herds moved to Persia’s cities. This contributed to the existing trends of urban growth, as well as the homogenization of Persian society, as the languages of the former tribespeople usually lasted little more than a generation in cities like Isfahan and Rey.


    Charles Page; State Formation and Development in a Global Context

    Persia also falls into the pattern seen in France and South East Asia. The beginning of the 18th century saw invasion and the destruction of the existing order in an episode every bit as devastating of the Burmese sack of Ayutthaya. The Hotaki Afghan tribal warriors found Isfahan one of the most prosperous cities in the world and left it a shadow of its former self. However, as in Siam and Burma, the Persian state was revived by a powerful military ruler who was able to vanquish the enemies that bedevilled his country and to properly subordinate the less sophisticated hill people and nomads. However, Persia was large enough to have an impact on the rest of the world, and her revival had implications for great powers with interests in the Middle East, India and Central Asia.

    There were undoubtedly some unquestionable losers from Persia’s revival. The European Trading Companies in India had their hopes of Empire in the Ganges Plain dashed by Persia’s ambitions in the area. The Persian Shahs saw Northern India as a key source of tribute, and did not want to risk losing this to either Europeans or native Indians. In order to ensure this, for much of the 18th century Persia had an army based at Mardan on the border with the Mughal Empire to ensure that they could respond quickly to any threats to the status quo in North India. Maratha ambitions to replace the Muslim dominated Mughal Empire with a new Hindu Empire were similarly discouraged by the Persians. Without the influence of Persia in India, it seems likely that another subcontinental Empire might have arisen in the 18th century as opposed to the multi-state system that endured into the 19th century.

    Although the Persian’s gained much from tribute in India, her main source of income was derived from Persia itself. Whereas previous Persian rulers had relied on crown lands and ad hoc taxes, the reign of Reza Shah saw the rationalisation of the revenue system. Persian crown lands tended to be limited to areas with a key strategic resource, such as the forests of Mazandaran and the Alborz mountains. Forestry in this area was carefully managed to avoid deforestation, but also to provide the Persian Shah with a steady source of revenue, which was crucial for maintaining Persia’s standing army. Exports and imports were also a key source of income for the Persian government. As trade picked up through the 18th century, the crown ensured that the ports of Batumi, Basra and Bandar Abbas were under careful control, as much of Persia’s trade was conducted in these cities.

    The result of this rationalisation was a general growth in the amount of commerce within Persia and the overall level of prosperity. The bureaucracy grew, with there being roughly one government official for every 400 Persians by the beginning of the 19th century. This marked a significant growth since the start of the Afsharid period, and ensured that the realm was more integrated than at previous points in Persian history. This, alongside the establishment of a steady stream of revenue ensured that the Persian state could afford to pay for a modern standing army without recourse to extraordinary source of income, at least outside of war time.
    The Ten Year's War
  • Erstes_pr._Bataillon_Leibgarde_in_Schlacht_bei_Kollin.jpg

    Henri Braun; Europe's Bloody 18th Century

    The Ten Years War

    The Origins of the great “Ten Years War” were most definitely European. Austria still seethed at Prussia’s seizure of Silesia during the War of Austrian Succession. The rivalry of Britain and France across the globe was heating up. However, it was rather curious that the traditional enemies of Austria and France were allies during the war. This was largely due to the British promise of cooperation with Prussia, which created the impression among many of the Continental powers that Britain was an untrustworthy and duplicitous player in Continental politics. This shift in the diplomatic balance was known as the “Diplomatic Revolution”. Britain hoped that an alliance with Prussia would help secure Hannover. The French hoped that her new allies would help her secure a total victory on the continent that had eluded her in previous wars with Britain.

    Although Britain and France had already been at war for two years already, the war exploded in 1756, with a Prussian offensive quickly overrunning Saxony, and absorbing her armies in preparation for an offensive into Austrian Bohemia. The speed of the Prussian offensive took many by surprise, and the admirers of the Prussian King Frederick saw these early successes as proof of the king’s genius. However, Austria had made considerable improvements in her army since the War of Austrian Succession, and under the Count Daun, manage to blunt the Prussian offensive and push Frederick out of Bohemia. Notable was the unreliability of the Saxon forces that had been pressed into the army of Frederick, as battalions actually defected to the Austrians in the heat of battle! The Prussian Gambit had failed to pay off, and now she was faced not only by the received Austrians, but by Russia as well.

    The deteriorating position of Prussia was bad enough news for Britain, her own position deteriorated. At the battle of Hastenbeck, the French had defeated the combined British-Hanoverian army and signed a truce with Hannover, forcing the British army of observation to pull back to Stade. In North America, the French and their Native American allies inflicted a series of defeats on the British. Perhaps most humiliatingly of all, the British East India Company was obliterated in Bengal as the Persians supported Bengali moves against the British base in Calcutta. These reversals were too much for the embattled British government, which now found itself dominated by William Pitt, the new leader of the House of Commons. Pitt decided on a new strategy, which would increase the military focus on the colonies, a strategy which made use of Britain’s superior naval strength.

    As 1757 wore on, the situation in Europe started to improve somewhat. The Prussians defeated forces from France and Austria at Rossbach and Leuthen, though Prussia’s prestige was hit by an Austrian raid in which Berlin was partially occupied for a short time. The situation appeared to have stabilised though, and the British-Prussian alliance now felt confident enough to continue the war in earnest. In the following year, Frederick felt confident enough to launch an attack on Austrian Moravia, while the British focused on colonial operations. However, the Prussians were once again pushed out of Austria by Daun, while Russian forces occupied East Prussia. Frederick was now increasingly worried about the ring of steel that was closing in on him, and although he checked the Russians and the Swedes, Prussia’s strategic situation was increasingly untenable. The only consolation for their alliance was that France’s own situation was deteriorating, and the French king appointed a new chief minister to try and turn France’s fortunes in the war around.


    Britain’s navy won great victories against the French and her allies in Europe, the Americas and the Indian Ocean, almost destroying the Persian fleet totally. Combined with the great Hanoverian-British victory at Minden, this encouraged to keep the Prussians in the war despite the great defeats inflicted by the Russians and the Austrians. Britain followed up her naval victories with conquests overseas, with a number of French forts and allies in North America being overrun. In India, the French settlement of Pondicherry was taken, though British attempts to re-establish a presence in Bengal were thwarted. The situation was now one in which defeat in Europe and victory in the rest of the world seemed to be racing against each other for the Prusso-British alliance. Britain hoped that once she had won the war overseas, she could knock France out of the war and come to the rescue of her Prussian ally, though she encouraged Frederick to consider concessions in a negotiated peace too.

    By 1762, the situation for Prussia was desperate. Her army, once the most highly-regarded in Europe, had been whittled down to around 60,000 men. Although the Russians and Austrians were depleted, they still appeared to have the numbers needed to finish off Frederick. However, the Prussians were about to experience a stroke of good luck. The Russian Tsarina Elizabeth died, putting the Prussophile Tsar Peter on the throne of Russia. Peter negotiated a peace treaty with Frederick, and even discussed an alliance. Such an alliance may have totally reversed the balance of power in Europe. Close to panicking, the Austrian and French governments sent envoys to the Shah of Persia to pressure Russia into remaining neutral and negotiate a formal alliance. Flush with victory in India and with an interest in keeping Russia cowed, the Persians moved a hundred thousand men to their border with Russia, threatening to invade if the Russians took up arms against the French or Austrians. Peter in turn assured all three powers that he would remain neutral.

    Without the hoped-for help from the Russians, Prussia proved incapable of pushing Austria from Silesia, even with increased numbers of recruits from East Prussia. The situation of Britain also changed as the two Iberian powers, Spain and Portugal joined the war. France saw this as an opportunity to increase pressure on the British both in Europe and outside of it. She sent a small army to aid the Spanish in her offensives against Portugal, helping her to secure Lisbon. In Germany the French also saw renewed success against the numerically inferior British-Hanoverian forces after promised Prussian reinforcements had failed to materialise. Pitt’s government fell and he was replaced by Grenville, who tried to rescue the situation in Europe by stripping the colonies of troops. While this action saved Hannover, it also left Britain’s gains in North America vulnerable to French and Indian attacks, though despite attempts, the French proved unable to regain Quebec.

    By now, almost all of the European powers involved in the conflict were exhausted in one way or another. Austria was financially ruined, Prussia drained of manpower, France undergoing unrest and the British in political disarray. The new Russian Empress Catherine suggested a treaty to bring the war to an end, brokered by herself. The exhausted powers agreed, and the treaties of St Petersburg and Paris were drafted. The French aimed to keep Britain as weak as possible, and negotiated control her colonies in North America back, though found that the British were unwilling to give up control of the wealthy Caribbean islands that she had seized. Saint-Domingue was left as the sole French possession in the Caribbean, but France had managed to cut Hannover down to size, reducing Britain’s ability to interfere in Continental affairs. Spain negotiated the cession of a number of Portuguese colonies in America and the East Indies, resulting in a great boost of popularity for the new Spanish King Charles III.

    However, it was in Eastern Europe that everything seemed to have changed. Austria secured her Silesian prize, formally securing it as well as the independence of Saxony. Prussia was left greatly weakened both economically and in terms of prestige. Silesia was the most industrialised region in Eastern Europe at the time, and with its possession Austria had been left more confident in its status than before. Prussia meanwhile had been knocked out of the ranks of the great powers after only a few decades. A delighted Maria Theresa remarked that Prussia was “no longer able to enjoy her own agency in the affairs of Europe, and must contend with the secondary status that befits her”. Despite Austria’s triumph, the defeat of Prussia now left a vacuum she had once occupied that the weakened Polish state was unable to fill.


    The World at the close of the Ten Years War


    Talal Mirza; Shrouded Mirrors - Islam's Relationship to the West in History

    The Persian Embassy to France

    Persia’s relations with the West had always been rather ambiguous. Nader Shah had succeeded in forcing Peter the Great of Russia to recognize Persia’s territorial integrity, and had thrown the Russians back across the Caucasus, but this was the extent of significant relations between Persia and the West in the first half of the 18th century. However, with the increasing influence of European trade companies in India, the powers of Europe increasingly loomed larger on the horizon. Reza Shah acquiesced to the growing Western influence in India so long as did not impact Persia’s dominant position on the Indo-Gangetic plain. The equilibrium between the West and Persia in India broke down when tensions between the British and the Nawab of Bengal exploded at the dawn of the Ten Year’s War between France and Britain.

    The Nawab had been opposed to what he saw as the British disregard for his authority, and seized the city of Calcutta when the British had refused to stop the building of fortifications. The British recaptured the city and made preparations for a campaign deeper into Bengal. The Nawab went over the head of the Mughal Emperor and made a direct request to the Shah of Persia for aid from the British. Reza Shah sent thousands of men to strengthen Bengal against the paltry force that the British East India Company had sent against the Nawab, and annihilated the force. This marked the destruction of the British presence in Bengal, and brought the Persians to the attention of the French and her European allies.

    Frenchmen who had fought alongside the Bengalis and Persians against the British attested to the “Great ability and discipline” of the Persian forces. Encouraged by the possibility of a strong ally against the British in India, the King of France sent an embassy to Isfahan, and encouraged the Persians to send an ambassador to Paris. Reza Shah settled on two men to go to Paris, a military leader by the name of Hassan al-Hamdani and a scholar named Qassim Khalil. The two men kept notes of their observation which remain a fascinating look into Islamic impressions of Europe in this period. Khalil was scandalised at the court dress of French women, but nevertheless remarked that “no country in this whole world seems as well-ordered as France, which seems as if to be set out to a single plan. There are many handsome towns and villages, and the countryside is as green and lush as Mazandaran, but to a greater area of the land”. Khalil busied himself translating a number of agricultural and scientific treatises into Persian while al-Hamdani soaked up the court culture of France. Certainly, the opulence of Versailles was impressive, and he compared it favourably to other palaces that he had seen.

    The French reacted to the Persians with curiosity. The Islamic religion of the men was a source of fascination, and the French were somewhat surprised to hear that Persia was going through what was explained as a “Reformation”. The Quran was translated into French, though it is unclear that it won over any converts. Nevertheless it and the other writings left in French by the Persian ambassadors represented an interesting topic of study for Enlightenment thinkers. Khalil also wrote a treatise that positively described French absolutism, and theorised on how such a system may work in a Persian context, which represents one of the first examples of European political thought being absorbed into an Asian context.


    Author's Notes - TTL's version of the Seven Years War actually goes fairly similarly to OTLs until the "Miracle of the House of Brandenburg", which has left us with a neutered Prussia and an England that while still dominant colonially, looks a lot less dramatic on a map. The main change comes from the neutered Prussia, which is now barely a match for Saxony, never mind Austria. How Austria will react with her Northern neighbour so weakened will have interesting implications for Europe and the rest of the world.
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    Reza Shah's Reign - Part Two
  • Patrick O'Connor; The Rising Colossus - The World Economy in the 18th Century

    Trade and Urban Growth in 18th Century Persia


    The wars, rebellions and general unrest of the late 17th and early 18th centuries in Persia took a heavy toll on its previously thriving cities. In particular, the city of Isfahan which may have had as many as 500,000 inhabitants at its height under the Safavid Shah Abbas was reduced to around 100,000 by the time that Nader Shah formally came to power in Persia. Nader himself had favoured Mashhad as a capital, but in general disregarded cities and their inhabitants, seeing them as little more than sources of cash for his many military expeditions. In general, although the population of Persia’s cities stopped declining during the reign of Nader Shah, there was only an increase towards the end of his reign as his son Reza became a larger influence on the Persian state. While Nader was dismissive of the concerns of the cities, Reza seemed to have a greater appreciation of their role in the economy of the country as a whole.

    When he took the throne after his father’s death, Reza Shah appealed to memories of the Safavids by moving the capital back to Isfahan, which occupied more of a central location in the Empire than Mashhad had done. Whereas Nader desired to emulate Timur and other great nomadic leaders, Reza’s choice of a role model was Abbas the Great, the Safavid ruler who had turned Isfahan into one of the greatest cities in the world. In a Persia where the Shah and his administrators were to be the ultimate power, cities were seen as key in the order of things, where royal power could radiate throughout the countryside from. Therefore Reza Shah made it one of his top priorities to ensure that Persia’s cities were restored to their former glory through a program of building, the encouraging of trade and industry, and resettlement.

    This last policy went hand in hand with Reza’s policy to weaken the power of the tribes, and turn troublesome peoples like the Lur and the Afghans into more easily controllable and taxable subjects. The cities of Western Persia such as Isfahan, Hamadan and Qazvin each saw thousands of new inhabitants who had previously inhabited more mountainous and isolated regions. In these growing cities, tribesmen from Kandahar lived side by side with Armenians, Persians, Arabs and a whole host of other peoples from across the Persian Empire and beyond it. The Christians in particular played an important role in trade, with the Armenians developing a strong network of trade deep into Europe. The increasing population and wealth of Europe stimulated a demand for Persian luxuries such as carpets, silk and cotton cloth, and it was largely the Armenians who marketed these products to the growing European market.

    The Muslim populations of the cities often took more menial roles, though a number began to establish themselves in industry such as carpet manufacturing. Carpets, perhaps the most famed of Persian exports, had enjoyed a period of fame and glory during the Safavid era, though production had shrunk during the waning years, and by the time the Afsharids came to the throne, the production of carpets had shrunk to being an insignificant handicraft. The restoration of order in Persia, as well as the growth in international demand encouraged the growth of the industry, and in the largest cities of Persia production took place on a proto-industrial scale by the latter half of the 18th century. The wealth that the production of carpets brought into Persia stimulated the demand for luxuries amongst Persian noblemen and merchants, and they looked both East and West for said luxuries. Mechanical goods from the United Kingdom became particularly favoured amongst members of the aristocracy, as well as exotic spices from areas of the East Indies not under European control.

    Muscat, which was under Persian control but which still maintained a significant amount of autonomy, did extremely well out of the growth in trade between Persia and the rest of the world. Its population reached about 50,000 by the end of the 18th century, harbouring a diverse mix of Arabs, Persians, Indians, Malays and even Europeans, as well as a population of Africans. As well as trade from Europe and Asia, merchants based in Muscat presided over the growth of the slave trade into Persia. The vast majority of slaves brought into Persia were from East Africa. Purchased from cities such as Mombasa and Dar Es Salaam, whose Swahili rulers made huge profits from capturing slaves from the interior of Africa, Omani slavers sold them to plantations in Southern Persia and Mesopotamia. The proceeds of this trade in human misery built much of the Old Town of Muscat, and funded a cash crop economy particularly in the irrigated lands of Persia and Iraq, though an estimated million slaves were imported into Persia over the course of the 19th century, causing untold misery amongst the enslaved.

    This huge increase in trade and industry ensured that Persia’s cities grew even larger than in the Safavid era. Isfahan exceeded its earlier peak, and had around 700,000 inhabitants by 1800, though it was not the only enormous city in Persia, with Mashhad boasting 200,000 inhabitants and the cities of Baghdad, Rey, Hamadan, Herat and Samarkand each having over 100,000 inhabitants. An estimated 2 million Persians lived in cities by 1800, representing over 10% of the population, an enormous number for a pre-industrial state. Persia’s cities had done very well out of the relative peace and prosperity of the 18th century, boasting considerable cottage industries as well as having integrated themselves into the global economy fairly well. However, as economic conditions outside of Persia and political conditions within Persia began to change, the period of growth and prosperity was running out for Persia’s cities.


    Daniel Cohen; “Ghazi of the Faith” – The Foreign Policy of Reza Shah Afshar: Journal of Middle Eastern Historical Studies


    Reza Shah’s forays into Northern India were not merely about protecting Muslim rulers from encroachment by non-Muslim rulers, and on their own are not convincing enough of a foreign policy which was consciously aiming to preserve the independence of Muslim rulers. Persia’s tribute network in Northern India was strong and well-established, and for most of the 18th century provided considerable revenues to the Persian state. However, Persia’s policy toward the Ottoman Empire, as well as the Qing Empire in this period is more indicative of a policy to protect and expand Muslim independence where possible. Depending on the situation though, Persia’s policy towards both Muslim and non-Muslim powers differed greatly. In particular, the Persian reaction to the Russo-Turkish war of 1768-1775 will be examined as well as Persia’s actions in Central Asia.

    Persia’s relations with Qing China were complicated, driven by the desire to secure influence in Central Asia as well as her hold on the fertile areas of the region, as well as to support the Muslims of the region against the Qing. However, the latter objective was very much a subordinate one, and the Persians were quite happy to undertake offensive action against Khanates that were aligned to China rather than herself. Even at the times when the Persians attacked Muslim states, such as Badakhshan, Persia’s rulers were careful to dress her expansionism in religious sentiment, claiming their moves against the Mirs of Badakhshan were triggered by his cooperation with the Qing during their conquest of the largely Muslim Tarim Basin. Persia managed to defeat and subjugate the Mir with relative ease, as well as little protest from the Qing government, who were wary of beginning a war with a new power so far away from her own borders.

    The meek response of the Qing encouraged the Persians to look to Central Asia as a source of new military glories however. Reza Shah looked to the Muslim regions of Central Asia not already under his control as a new source of tribute, as well as a buffer to Qing and possible Russian expansion within the region. In 1762, he began sending agents into the Tarim basin to encourage the Muslims of the region to revolt. However, he need not have sent these agents, for in the end it was Chinese actions that pushed Muslims of the region into rebellion. Many in the region resented Qing labour levies as well as the perceived abuses of Han officials, and the presence of Chinese merchants was widely resented. The trigger for the Great Tarim Rebellion and subsequent war would be the replacement of the loyal beg of Ush with a replacement who violated the wives of the former beg as well as extorting grain from the inhabitants of the region.

    The rebellion was launched by a few hundred porters, resentful of the corvee labour they were subjected to. The rebellion quickly spread, and around three thousand rebels from Ush fought Qing forces in the area. There was a great deal of fear in the Qing court that this would lead to the spread of the rebellion beyond Ush, and the Emperor dispatched troops from Ili and Kashgar to suppress the rebellion. The rebel’s attempts to convince other areas of the Tarim basement to join their rebellion were unsuccessful, but a delegation to the Persian Empire gained the interest of the Persian Shah. Reza Shah pledged 20,000 troops to aid the rebellion and encourage the other Muslims of the region to revolt, as well as subsidies for the rebels of Ush. This move caused alarm in Beijing, and amounted to a declaration of war from the Persians. However, if the Persians expected the reaction of the Qing to be as meek as it was during their war against the Mir of Badakhshan, they were to be disappointed.

    The Qing had only recently completed a campaign against the Dzungars, in which they had totally annihilated opposition to their rule by exterminating much of the Dzungars peoples. The campaign against the Dzungars had been costly and hard fought, and the Qing were unwilling to give up the gains of their campaign so easily. The Emperor dispatched a force of Manchu Bannermen, Han Chinese forces and Mongols to support his forces already in the region. While the Persians saw some early success against the garrison forces in the Tarim Basin, they were defeated in a number of battles by the main Chinese forces. Finding themselves heavily outnumbered, the Persians abandoned their attempted conquest of Kashgar and fell back on the city of Ush to await further reinforcements from Persia. Reza Shah dispatched a large force of tribesmen as well as conscripted Persian infantry to reinforce his beleaguered forces. They were able to blunt the assault of the Qing forces on Ush, and once again marched out toward Kashgar, seeing it as the key to the Tarim basin.

    However, the Chinese fought a scorched earth campaign to slow the advance of the Persians, while continuing to build up their own forces in the area. The Persians were disappointed in the lack of local support outside the city of Ush, but nevertheless laid siege to the city of Kashgar. The Qing meanwhile had built up a superior force in the area, and struck at the Persian force, destroying a good part of it and forcing the Persians back to Ush once again. This time, the Persians proved to be too weak to keep the Qing from entering the city, which was almost destroyed in the Qing re-conquest of it. By now, the dreams of establishing a great chain of tributary states in Turkestan had been quashed in the Persian court, and Reza Shah was nervous about the prospect of a prolonged and costly war and a possible Qing invasion of the fertile Fergana valley. By now, the financial situation had deteriorated for Persia and taxes had to be increased to a level unseen since the reign of Nader Shah. Unrest was simmering and Reza Shah decided to offer a peace treaty to the Qing Empire.

    The Qianlong Emperor was delighted, as he was nervous about the prospect of his army campaigning so far away from its supply bases. As well as a hefty indemnity, the Qing demanded that Persia recognize Qing domination of the Tarim Basin and the Ili Basin. For Persia, these were humiliating and presented a significant challenge to Reza Shah’s posturing as the champion of the Muslim World, though with unrest at home growing and the military situation untenable, Reza Shah acquiesced to these terms. Persia had spent something in the region of 50 million pounds sterling over the course of four years of war and in return had experienced humiliation. Although her finances were soon to recover from the conflict, her sense of pride was not. Persian foreign policy now began to move away from the support of rebellions, and toward the support of existing Muslim states. This represented an increase in caution, as Persian policy became one to limit the growth of existing threats rather than to secure new land for the Empire.

    It seems unusual that after a severe defeat at the hand of the Qing Dynasty that Persia would fight another major power so soon. However, the move was not as foolhardy as is often imagined. Although the Ottoman Empire seemingly had the upper hand in the first year of the Russo-Turkish War of 1768, the superior organization and skill of the Russian army soon began to tell against the Ottoman forces. Russian expansion toward the Black Sea made a number of European powers nervous, but Persia was made even more nervous. Although it had fought its Western Neighbour only two decades ago, Reza Shah saw the survival of the Ottoman Empire as key for the security of Persia. She had not intervened in the Egyptian War, but now with the Ottomans assailed by a Christian power who also represented a threat to Persia’s security, Persia began taking a heavy interest in the welfare of the Ottoman Empire.

    The British, who were worried about Russian pretentions in Europe and outside of it, made the offer to Persia that she would support any effort undertaken in support of the Ottomans with subsidies. As in India when she fought the British, Persia had the opportunity to fight a war without having to pay for it. And unlike the war against Qing China in the Tarim Basin, Russian moves into the Ottoman Empire represented a tangible security threat for the Persian state. As the Russians won a string of land and naval battles in 1770, the Persians decided to intervene before the Crimean peninsula was taken by the Russians. The Persians sent around 30,000 troops west to aid the Ottomans in the main theatre of war, and dispatched a distraction in the form of an expedition to Astrakhan. These moves were successful in stabilizing the situation, though the Astrakhan expedition suffered a defeat at the Battle of Kharabali in 1772, when the Persian force was forced to retreat back into Dagestan. Nevertheless, the Persians held against Russian attempts to force back the allied forces on the Crimean Steppe.

    The fighting was long and costly, with the Persians suffering around 40,000 casualties over the course of the war. However, the Russians were themselves exhausted, having not counted on fighting such strong opposition so soon after the Seven Years War. Both sides, pushed along by the other powers of Europe, signed the Treaty of Aqyar. The Russians secured only minor border gains in exchange for her years of struggle. The Ottomans had managed to save their Crimean vassals for the time being, but were consciously aware that they would have suffered an enormous defeat had it not been for the intervention of the Persians. The Persians themselves had secured the territorial integrity of the Ottoman Empire, but had sacrificed many men for no real gain. The “Peace Faction” of the Persian court that had been boosted by the war against the Qing now had the upper hand, and from then on persuaded Reza Shah to focus his efforts on administrative reform rather than war. Persia would not fight another major war until the 19th century, only to find that the nature of warfare had changed greatly.

    Was Reza Shah successful in his attempt to play the “Ghazi of the Faith”? While one looks at the limited gains of his reign, and their temporary nature, it can be tempting to say that ultimately all he did was delay the inevitable. However, it can be equally valid to argue that in preserving the power of Muslim states from Bengal to the Ottoman Empire, Reza Shah staved off the growing power of European Imperialism. Certainly his actions would become an inspiration later on. One should also keep in mind the effect that Reza’s foreign policy had within Persia itself. Through years of fighting non-Muslim enemies, the tensions that had been present between traditionalist Sunnis, Jafari’ Sunnis and the remaining Twelver Shia population in Persia was reduced to a considerable degree. Through the focus on an external enemy, Reza had made the internal differences in Persia’s population count far less than they had done before. This in itself can be seen as a major success, as fostering unity in the heterogeneous Empire had been a challenge for his father as well as the Safavids.


    Author's Note: A bit of a hefty update, but hopefully one that isn't overly-focused on war. As you might have guessed, interesting things have been going on in the Ottoman Empire, and we will take a look at those things next. We're through most of Reza Qoli's reign now, and things are going to start getting interesting as we begin to look at the effects of Persia on the rest of the world, which are hinted to in the first part of this update. Enjoy!
    The Ottomans and Persians - Late 18th Century
  • f7b14c5f99a418040ff72f4bb67fcd60_k.jpg

    Gerhard Schneider; Osman's Children - A History of the Ottoman Empire

    Mustafa III came at the end of a decades-long run of poor Ottoman Sultans. Both Mahmud and Osman, his immediate predecessors had presided over the loss of wars and great amounts of territory. Mahmud had been lucky to maintain what power he had done, as the Ottomans faced disaster in a war with Persia that left the Empire’s finances drained, as well as vast swathes of territory in the East in Persian hands. The defeat had an effect on many of the power brokers in the Ottoman Empire, with some further away from the Sultan in Constantinople seeing the opportunity to amass more autonomy, and others seeing the need for serious reform in the Empire. Indeed, Mustafa’s accession to the throne had been helped along by those sympathetic to the cause of reform along the lines of Peter the Great or Nader Shah.

    Mustafa began his reign in 1755 with an ambitious program of reform. Along with his Grand Vizier, Koca Ragıp Pasha, he decided the first priority was the establishment of a modern, European drilled military force. He invited officers from all corners of Europe, though found it difficult as the Ten Years War broke out in Europe. The Ordu-I Cedid, or “New Army”, was founded in 1755. This new force was only small initially, with about 20,000 men organized into European style infantry, cavalry and artillery regiments, but Mustafa and the reformists hoped that it could be the bedrock of a new Ottoman Army that could stand its ground against aggression on the part of its neighbours. New army and engineering schools were established in Constantinople to ensure that the latest advances in European military science were absorbed by the men who would officer the army.

    However, although a promising start had been made, the rot in the Empire would prove to be a constant thorn in the side of the Sultan as he attempted to reform the Ottoman State. There had previously been a rebellion in Egypt on the part of a Mamluk Bey who aimed to create his own state in the Southern provinces of the Empire. That rebellion had been defeated, though the idea that the Empire was weak enough to break away from would be an attractive one for ambitious men. The man with both the ambition and the ability to lead such a rebellion was Ali Bey al-Kabir. Originally from the Caucasus but sold into slavery as a boy, he had risen through the ranks of the Mamluks in Egypt and had become the dominant figure in Egyptian politics by the 1760s. He was Constantinople’s governor, but it was noted that he was dangerously independently minded. These suspicions turned out to be entirely correct when he had his replacement dispatched from Constantinople enslaved, and when he declared the Mamluk Sultanate reformed under his own leadership.

    This was as critical a challenge to the Ottoman Empire as Nader Shah’s invasion had been. Although Egypt was loosely tied to the Empire, it was nevertheless one of the richest provinces and its loss would be a catastrophic blow for the Empire. Mustafa was determined not to let Ali Bey rule without a challenge, and called up an army to take back Egypt for the Sultan. However, while some regional governors sent armies to the Sultan, others such as the Karaosmanoglu refused, fearful of the precedent that would be set by the Sultan removing Ali Bey from power. The Sultan’s army marched through Syria, and defeated an Egyptian force at Gaza. However, having been harassed on their journey through the Sinai Desert, the Sultan’s army was decisively defeated at Zagazig. As they fell back on Damascus, Ali Bey and his army now followed them back into Syria. Jerusalem fell without a fight, and Acre surrendered after a few weeks of siege. Mustafa sent reinforcements south, hoping to stem the loss of any more territory, though his army was annihilated at Damascus, and Ali Bey marched north toward Hama and Aleppo.

    There was now serious concern outside the Ottoman Empire about its fate. Reza Shah of Persia offered to mediate between Ali Bey and the Sultan. He had his own interest in keeping his borders to the west divided between different powers, but he felt at least some level of responsibility to the Ottoman Sultan based on the Treaty of Constantinople that had been signed by himself and his father. He aimed to stop the expansion of Ali Bey into Anatolia, and with the implicit threat of Persian Steel, he encouraged the two sides to come to an understanding at the Great Convention of 1765. Although the Ottoman Empire had been saved for now, it had lost a great deal of its population and territory, and was now limited to Anatolia and the Balkans. The Sultan and his reformist cortege were horrified, and the cause of reform would now be put into overdrive.

    As part of this renewed effort toward reform, taxes were raised and Europeans invited to teach at the first modern university in Constantinople. Plans were made to raise the size of the Ordu-I Cedid, though these were put on hold by the Russo-Turkish war of 1768-1775. Once again, the Ottomans were preserved through the intervention of the Persians, and although its Crimean vassal had lost much of its presence outside the Crimean peninsula, the Ottomans managed to keep a hold of its influence there and in the Romanian Principalities. Mustafa had been on the throne for twenty years, and despite a desire to reform had seen the loss of huge swathes of territory. By the late 1770s he had resolved to fully transform the Ottoman state and destroy much of the impediments to reform. The most significant of these were the Janissaries, who he identified as the main obstacles to modernization. He cut off their salaries in 1779, and deployed the Ordu-I Cedid against the Janissary corps in order to purge them completely.

    This was the first major success of Mustafa’s reign, and it enabled him to start the lengthy process of centralising the Ottoman state to a degree seen in Europe or Persia. The first half of the 1780s saw him bring much of Anatolia under the direct rule of the Porte, but he suffered a heart attack in 1784 and left the throne to his son Ahmed. Ahmed, unlike his predecessors for the past few centuries, had been raised outside of the harem and had received an education. This was helped by the fact that the number of male members of the Ottoman dynasty had been whittled down to a handful, reducing the fear of palace coups. Although he lacked the energy of his father, it appeared that Ahmed would continue the centralization and reform policies.


    In the Shadows of the Shahs: Persia in the Islamic Period to the Modern Day

    Nader Shah’s conquest of the Amu Darya Basin, as well as the fertile Fergana Valley, would prove to be an enormous watershed in Central Asian history. Nader’s main motivation for his conquests were to secure access to Uzbek and Turkmen soldiers for his growing armies, as well as to prevent the emergence of any strong challengers among the nomads to Persia’s north. However, Reza Shah had always taken a special interest in the region. It had been his first independent campaign, as he had attacked Khiva when his father was in India. When Reza became Shah, he envisioned Central Asia as more than simply a recruiting ground for the army.

    As the 1700s went on, the population of Persia began to increase rapidly. Recovering from the unrest and bad governance that had marked the first part of the century and the late 1600s, Persia’s population increased from a low point of perhaps 6 million in the 1720s to around 10 million by 1750. While a lot of this increase was due to conquest, there had been some stimulation of population growth. Reza Shah further encouraged this by a program of tax and famine relief, as well as tax holidays for those settling previously nomadic lands. Areas such as the Zagros Mountains saw an increase in population, as well as a demographic shift, as Lur speaking tribesmen found themselves supplanted by settled Persian speakers. While the government had no avowed policy of “Persianisation”, many of the policies undertaken by the Persian government during the reign of Nader Shah had the effect of promoting the Persians over other peoples, with the exception of other settled peoples such as the Arabs, Azeris and Armenians.

    This policy of encouraging settlement by farming peoples on formerly nomadic territories was writ large in Central Asia. There had always been a community of Persians who had lived in the area, making a disproportionate amount of the urbanized populace. However, Reza Shah handed out much of the land area to loyal retainers of his, as well as holding onto much of the land as crown land. In much of the claimed area, irrigation was used to grow foodstuffs as well as cash crops such as cotton, which fed the growing textile cottage industries of Persia. Attracted by available land as well as the offer of tax holidays, many from the Iranian plateau immigrated to Central Asia, lured by the prospect of prosperity. It is estimated that as many as a million and a half made the journey north into Central Asia during the course of the 18th century, which went a long way toward reversing the Turkification that had taken place in the 1st Millennium AD.

    It was a mixture of government policies as well as the restoration of order and the popularisation of new world crops and new farming techniques that led to Persia’s 18th century population boom. Mirroring growth in nations such as China or France, the population had reached around 20 million by 1800. The population, though still quite heterogeneous, had a clear majority of Persian speakers, estimated to make up around 70% of the population of a whole. There were still a number of dialects of Persian spoken though, with Dari popular in the East of the country and in the Fergana valley. The country was also divided in terms of religion. The efforts of the government to promote the Jafari’ school of Sunni Islam had been partially successful, though a considerable minority of the population (around 30%) remained Shia. Government persecution of the sect lessened toward the end of the 18th century, which provided the embattled Shia with some measure of breathing space.


    Author's Notes: The Ottomans are in a strange position. They've lost a good portion of their territory, and are more vulnerable in OTL though. However, they are on the road to serious reform earlier than OTL, and their success in the future depends on whether they can avoid the loss of more territory. This of course will depend on how the situation in Europe changes.

    There's serious vibes of Qing China in Persia on a domestic front as the Persian population skyrockets, and the majority population of the Empire make inroads in areas traditionally inhabited by nomads and "Hill Peoples".
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    Europe Between the Ten Year's War and the Great Eastern War
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    Henri Braun; Europe's Bloody 18th Century

    The Aftermath of the Ten Years War
    The settlement of the great Ten Years War had left neither France nor Britain satisfied. France had lost her rich sugar colonies in the Caribbean, a pain felt particularly strongly in Atlantic ports such as La Rochelle. For her part, although Britain had made gains in the Caribbean and Southern India, her North American colonies were still threatened by the thinly-populated French lands of Canada and Louisiana, and her presence in Northern India was destroyed by France’s Persian allies. There were two strains of thought in the British parliament, but both were dismissive of Pitt’s strategy. Some had argued that his continental strategy had been well thought out, but that she had been diplomatically out-maneuvered by the French and left with tiny Prussia for an ally rather than Austria. Others thought that Britain would have done better not to send an army of observation into Europe, and concentrate on the extra-European theatre of War.

    Grenville, Pitt’s unlucky successor, found himself under criticism for losing Britain’s position in North America. His government collapsed in 1765, succeeded by Lord Bute. Bute’s area of concern were the North American colonies, which saw an increasing amount of unrest in the wake of Britain’s unsuccessful attempt to expel the French from North America. Many prominent figures in the Thirteen Colonies argued that Britain’s parliament was more concerned by the desires of merchants in Liverpool and Bristol than by the concerns of the colonies. The concern over the colonies led to a redirection of British strategy away from Europe and toward the extra-European theatre, as the British looked to consolidate their hold on Southern India and North America in any future war. Bute was supported by the new king, George III, but faced opposition from the Whigs in parliament.

    In British ports that traded in the Atlantic, the Ten Years War did not feel like a defeat. Plantations in Martinique and Guadeloupe brought in increased revenues, and there was a building boom in Bristol, Liverpool and to a lesser extent, London following the war. Those who made their money trading felt as if the government of Grenville had secured a brilliant settlement under the circumstances, and with this base of support Grenville began to make a climb back for power, supported by Pitt, with whom he had reconciled. Lord Bute’s government collapsed in the face of parliamentary opposition, which grew particularly strong following the Polish Crisis, in which the Russians had maneuvered a protégé of the Empress Catherine onto the throne of the weakening Polish Commonwealth. Bute’s seemingly neglectful handling of the crisis led to the collapse of his government and the return of Grenville to the office of Prime Minister.

    Grenville’s main priorities were the payment of Britain’s large national debt, as well as the rebuilding of Britain’s alliances on the Continent. With the breakdown of the Franco-Austrian alliance, Britain once again grew closer to Maria Theresa’s government. Both Britain and Austria had an interest in seeing France and Russia curbed in their expansionism, which made the two natural allies. France was particularly troubling, as now more of her colonists were going to North America. The population of New France reached around 100,000 by the dawn of the 1775 Franco-British War.

    This war, like the Ten Years War, was triggered by colonial tensions. The British settlers in the Thirteen Colonies felt themselves encircled by the French settlers of Canada and Louisiana, despite outnumbering them by a significant degree. France’s system of forts kept the British settlers hemmed in, and the settlers of the Thirteen Colonies were particularly land hungry. Clashes between the militias of the Thirteen Colonies and the French settlers of New France became increasingly common as the 1770s went on, and eventually regulars clashed at the Battle of Fort Duquesne. When word of this got back to London and Paris, rather than reign their troops in both parties declared war on each other in the June of 1775.

    Unlike other Franco-British clashes, this did not involve other European powers. Austria had greater concerns to her South and East than France, and did not wish to provoke her. While there were limited continental operations in Germany, this war would be fought largely on the seas, and it was in this war that British Naval Supremacy for much of the rest of the 18th century was established. A French fleet was smashed at the Battle of Quiberon, leaving the rest of the French fleet bottled up. Because of French Naval inferiority, the British were able to funnel troops into North America, making a good amount of progress and even capturing Quebec once again. Montreal stayed in French hands however, as did New Orleans, and the French proved quite capable of holding most of the forts she possessed. Eventually, the British settled on the objective of the conquest of the Ohio Valley, which British Settlers viewed as crucial land for settlement.

    The War in North America was marked by the slow and steady progress against the French position in the Ohio Valley. While the British War effort was marred by a surprise French reconquest of Quebec, British Regulars and their local militia allies made steady progress against the French in the Ohio Valley, and reached the Mississippi river by the spring of 1777. The “March to the Mississippi” was imprinted as a formative event for the Thirteen Colonies, though it was mostly British Regulars who had made the real gains in the campaign. George Washington, the commander of Colonial forces in the Ohio campaign gained a great reputation which would later be of benefit to him during the War of Independence.

    In India, the war too went to the advantage of the British. The French had a number of important allies in the South of the Subcontinent, including the Sultan of Mysore, Hyder Ali. The British saw French allies as an enormous threat, as it was French Allies in the North that had ruined Britain’s dreams of Empire in Bengal. The East India Company troops managed to win a great victory against the forces of Hyder Ali at Sholinghur. Further successes at Cuddalore and Palakkad eventually brought Hyder Ali to an agreement with the British, promising to repudiate French support and cede territory to the British. This would be short lived however, as Hyder Ali’s son Tippu Sultan would prove to be an even wilier foe than Hyder Ali had been. Nevertheless, British primacy in the Carnatic was now established and the French presence was now limited to support of various Indian states against the British.

    The war was concluded in 1777, with the treaty of Brest. The French conceded a great part of the Ohio Valley to the British in North America, and her remaining positions in Southern India had nearly all been taken from her. France had amassed a huge amount of debt, and she had lost a significant amount of prestige. This was a terrible start for the new King Louis XVI, whose reign was already being unfavourably compared to that of his father. Parisians derided their king for his poor governance, and for his marriage to a Princess from Modena rather than from one of the great powers of Europe. The war had done nothing to advance France’s position in Europe, and the clamour for reform was greater now than it had ever been. The Nobility were keen on regaining lost privileges, the peasants chafed at the immense tax burden placed on them and the bourgeois were appalled at the setbacks to French trade caused by the war. However, the fact that only a part of the Ohio Valley had been taken from the French in favour of gains in India left the Thirteen Colonies themselves dissatisfied with the British, who they now saw as allowing the French to remain in North America with an ulterior motive in mind.



    James Hamlin; Great Power Politics in Europe, 1700 to 2000

    Russia's Play for Supremacy in the East

    Austria’s great victory against Prussia in the Ten Year’s War did not bring her the security that she craved. Certainly with the return of Silesia the state’s power was enhanced, and the destruction of Prussia as a great power left Austria with one less rival in Central Europe. However, only a few years after the peace settlement, relations with the Russians began to sour, as Russia nakedly acted to become the key power in Poland. The Russian Empress Catherine placed her own candidate, Stanislaus Augustus Poniatowski on the Polish throne. That same year, Maria Theresa’s husband Francis had died, and her eldest son Joseph became the Holy Roman Emperor. He too became Maria Theresa’s co-ruler, and the divergent personalities of the two would often cause friction at the highest level of Austrian society.

    The main concern of the two rulers would be Poland, which Catherine the Great of Russia had hoped to secure as a protectorate. The new Polish king had known Catherine intimately, but proved not to be the puppet that she hoped. In 1766, he moved toward abolishing the Liberum Veto of the Polish nobility, a move which was opposed by Russia, due to the effects that it would have on Poland’s ability to govern itself effectively. The instability that emerged from this move resulted in the War of the Bar Confederation, in which the Polish king was forced to rely on the aid of the Russians to put down a revolt of the magnates. The Russians, in return for their efforts at helping Poniatowski to secure his throne, rewarded themselves to a slice of Polish territory. Poniatowski was outraged, and considered resigning, but was eventually convinced to stay in power.

    Poland might have found herself powerless to resist the steady imposition of Russian authority had it not been for the Russo-Turkish war of 1768-1776. The war escalated in 1770 as the Russians found themselves at war with the Persians as well as with the Turks. With the eyes of Russia turned elsewhere, Poniatowski took it upon himself to embark on an ambitious programme of reform to restore the power of the Polish state. Poniatowski worked towards instituting a codified system of law, and managed to confederate many of the Sejims, giving him the ability to pass more serious reforms. The size of Poland’s army was increased, and taxes were raised in order to pay for it. This spate of reform however was put to a stop when Russia concluded her war to the south, and made it clear that Poland’s reforms had gone far enough.

    However, the fact that Poniatowski had so much success in reforming the Polish state had made the Russians nervous. The Austrians were split in their opinion, themselves being uncomfortable with the idea of a revived Polish state, but unwilling to see Russian domination in its place. The events that would lead to the Great Eastern War were set in motion when in 1780, the Russians helped themselves to another slice of Poland in response to the Polish suppression of a revolt of Magnates. This was a step too far for the Austrians, who now feared the collapse of Poland and the subsequent growth of Russia. Austrian diplomats now worked toward containing Russia, signing an alliance with Gustav III of Sweden. For her turn, Russia attempted to bring Prussia into her fold, signing an alliance with her and promising to give Prussia sizable portions of Poland. When the provisions of this treaty became known in Vienna, there was much indignation at the prospect that Frederick’s Prussia may be revived as a power. France’s attempts at mediation came to nothing as the stage was set for the Great Eastern War.

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    Islamic World - Late 18th Century
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    In the Shadows of the Shahs: Persia in the Islamic Period to the Modern Day

    Reza Shah had seen a tremendous amount of progress in his reign. Persia was richer, more secure and more advanced than it had been at any point in its history. No longer were nomads a threat to the settled peoples of Persia, and her trading network meant that her influence was felt as far west as the Mediterranean, and as far East as the Malay Peninsula. Although there had been setbacks in wars, Reza Shah had preserved the territorial integrity of his Muslim neighbours against encroachment by the Europeans, a feat that would earn the admiration of later Muslim Rulers. However, after 43 years of rule, Reza Shah displayed the first symptoms of Tuberculosis in the winter of 1792. Since 1736, Persia had a strong ruler at its helm, but any possible succession for Reza Shah would be complicated. His eldest son, Shah Rukh, was of moderate intelligence, but was unpopular for his widely suspected Shi’a sympathies.

    Initial doubts following Reza Shah’s diagnosis however were quashed by the man himself, who stated that Persia’s succession should run along the principle of primogeniture. Reza Shah was a towering figure over Persian politics, and even the Ulema obeyed the will of the Shah. Reza continued to rule, but by 1795, he had lost the ability to speak which meant that he was no longer in a position to affect events. Shah Rukh, rather than taking up the reins of government spent much time with his father and in prayer, leading to a vacuum at the top of the Persian administration. Ali Qajar, the governor of the Far Eastern Khyber province, attempted to raise a rebellion among the Afghan hill men to “restore order to the Empire”, yet this rebellion was easily quashed. However, a growing lack of oversight of the bureaucracy led to an increase in peasant unrest. The last year of Reza Shah’s reign resulted in no less than 80 recorded uprisings, more than had erupted in the entire decade of 1750 to 1760.

    When Reza Shah died in the May of 1796, he was sorely missed even by classes such as the merchants and urban manufacturers who usually care little for the passing of various monarchs. Yet it was not the man himself they mourned, but rather the stability which he brought and the good governance which his rule had ensured. Shah Rukh was crowned as Shah, but he still seemed to have little inclination to rule, only to reign. European observers note that he was rarely seen at the court, and that much of the actual governance was done by the Vizier, Jamal Afsharid, who was a distant cousin of the Shah. Although he was reported to have expended significant effort attempting to administer the sprawling empire, his edicts were often ignored by governors on the fringes of the Empire. As effective as the Persian administrative structure had been earlier, it had been dependent on the strong personality of the ruler. When this was taken, the system began to rot as corruption became more commonplace.

    The Ulema were increasingly uncomfortable as the only edicts that were promulgated by Shah Rukh himself concerned tolerance for Shia Muslims. While it had been a given that other Sunni Madhabs, Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians and even Hindus and Buddhists were to be tolerated within the Empire, from the 1770s onward the Persian Government had taken a negative outlook on the remaining Shia population which followed the Twelver school of thought. Although the only real violence resulting from this was the Hazara revolt of 1783, there was much unease between the Shah and his Shia’ subjects. The accession of Shah Rukh was hailed by the remaining Shia’ as deliverance, but the hopes of toleration were disappointed as it became apparent that Shah Rukh had comparatively little input on government policy.

    The lack of a strong hand on the Persian government began to worry those officials who still adhered to a conduct of good governance and honesty. As the administration of the Empire deteriorated in the 1790s, the situation became intolerable, and the “Party of the Shah” was formed. This was a clique of regional governors who wanted a stronger Shah in power, and they were heartened by what they heard from Shah Rukh’s eldest son, Abbas. Abbas wanted to resume a more assertive foreign policy in the face of European aggression against neighbouring Muslim countries, and even spoke of sending aid to far away states in the East Indies. He also argued for a greater centralization of power, ensuring that there were more checks and balances on regional governors.

    This secret society launched their coup in the July of 1800. There was little resistance from the part of Shah Rukh, who almost seemed relieved to lose power. It was arranged for him to live on a Waqf in an isolated region of Eastern Persia, far out of reach of those who would use him as a puppet against the new regime. Abbas himself was crowned Shah in an elaborate ceremony that recalled the celebrations of the Safavid era. His reign seemed to hold a lot of promise, and an effective Persian ruler was desperately needed as the Mughal Emperor found himself besieged once again, and the Ottoman Empire appeared to crumble in the West. However, the hopes that Abbas’ accession represented a revival in Persian power would soon prove to be disappointed.



    Mark Huntington; Studies in Indian History - An Anthology

    The accession of Shah Alam to the Peacock throne should have been the start of serious changes in the Mughal Empire. The new Emperor was a more intelligent leader than most of his predecessors going back to Aurangzeb, and seemed willing to be more than an Emperor in name only. However, the Mughal state had atrophied significantly since the time of Mohammed Shah. While Mohammed Shah was able to command a significant amount of loyalty from various regional potentates, Shah Alam’s power was limited in a way that no other Mughal Emperor’s had been. The Mughal effort to save Bengal was in fact a Persian led effort, and for much of the mid-18th century, the Mughal Emperors were de-facto vassals of the Persian ruler. Millions of rupees went up the Khyber Pass to the Persian Shah, and this was a source of concern to the increasingly money starved Mughal Regime.

    As the grip of the Persian Empire in the Gangetic Plain began to weaken in the 1770s, Shah Alam now found himself with somewhat more freedom of movement. He invited military experts from Persia and France to begin training a new army organized among modern lines, which he hoped would enable him to regain authority over much of Northern India. However, in the years following the Battle of Bhopal, the old Maratha enemies of the Mughals had also been consolidating their power for another strike to the North. As it became increasingly apparent that the Persians had lost their interest in dominating the North of India, the Maratha Peshwa Dhanwi Ray plotted another northern offensive that would allow for loot and the drawing of tribute from the rich lands of Northern India.

    Without the support of the Persians, the Mughals were defeated by this latest of Maratha attacks, and they went as far as to sack Delhi, which was perceived to be a mortal blow to the Mughal Empire. The Mughal Emperor once again was forced to make a humiliating show of subservience to a foreign monarch, and his power had been restricted to the city of Delhi alone. Satisfied with the promise of regular tribute from Delhi, the Marathas moved onto the other states of Northern India. The Punjab, Oudh and Mewat were all plundered by the Marathas, and even Bengal paid tribute to the Marathas. The had managed to establish themselves as the hegemonic power in India, though control over much of the Empire outside the Maratha heartlands was questionable. Based on the revenue of plunder and conquest, areas such as trade and industry were neglected, and despite the growth of the cotton industry in Deccan heartlands, the Maratha state seemed to move away from production as a means of wealth.

    While there was a significant growth in the cottage industries of areas such as Bengal at the same time, the neglect of industry by the rulers of the Maratha Confederacy meant that despite being better positioned to take advantage of a growth in worldwide demand for cotton textiles, industry in the Maratha Confederacy was stagnant for much of the late 18th century. Trade increasingly went out of the British East India company port of Bombay, which meant that the profits of trade went into the coffers of the East India Company as opposed to the Marathas. Indeed, the Marathas seemed oddly complacent about the growing threat that the East India Company posed. Although its threat had seemed to recede following its defeat in Bengal, the growing control of the East India Company of the South of India, as well as its monopoly on India’s trade with the rest of the world posed a much bigger threat to Maratha pretensions than its Peshwas saw.



    Perfumed Land: South East Asian History Reconsidered

    The growth of commerce in the Indian Ocean in the 18th century, with its roots both in growing demand in Europe and the Middle East had its own effect on the balance of trade in the Malay Peninsula. Aceh had traditionally had strong links with the Coromandel Coast, but with an increase in unrest in India, those who had traditionally done well out of Indian Ocean trade began to find themselves side-lined. The Sultanate of Kedah, which had traditionally been almost a nonentity when it came to trade in the Indian Ocean (With around 12 ships a year arriving to do trade in the country by the estimation of the Dutch) began to experience a growth in trade links with Muscat in particular, which had set itself up as a maritime gateway to the Persian Empire.

    As well as the maintenance of traditional links with India and China, this growth in Kedah’s trade in the outside world began to stimulate population growth and economic development. The population of Kedah, estimated at some 100,000 in 1700, seems to have tripled to 300,000 by the end of the 18th century. This growth was supported by the growth of agriculture on the Kedah Plain, which was (and still is) the most agriculturally productive area of the Malay Peninsula. Kedah had traditionally exported ivory, wax and tin to foreign traders, and with the growth of demand this was now supplemented by an increase in the supply of Pepper. The town of Alor Setar, founded by the Sultan Muhammad Jiwa Zainal Adilin grew from a town of perhaps a few thousand people in 1740 to a town of around 10,000. The town of Kuala Kedah, at the mouth of the Kedah River about 9 kilometres downstream from Alor Setar grew to a similar size as well, stimulated by the arrival of Arab Dhows and Chinese Junks. Even European ships began to be more commonly spotted as the 18th century went on.

    However, the increase in prosperity in Kedah did not go unnoticed elsewhere. Since the rebirth of the Siamese state under the Thonburi Dynasty, Siam had started an expansionist phase that had only been whetted by victory over the Burmese in 1782. With the northern border secure, the Siamese king Tanakorn looked south in search of military expansion. The northernmost Malay state of Pattani found itself easily defeated by the Siamese armies, and they marched southward to Kedah to gain as much of Kedah’s newfound wealth as possible. The first of the “Bunga Mas” tribute payments from the Sultan of Kedah to the King of Siam was sent in 1786, and this would mark the beginning of a period of Thai domination not just in Kedah’s history, but for that of the central Malay Peninsula. Although Kedah’s prosperity continued to grow, the ever watchful eyes of the King of Siam made governing the Sultanate a rather more troublesome prospect then before. Combined with the growth of competition in states such as Aceh and a resurgent Johor, it appeared that Kedah’s ascendency in the Malay Peninsula was over almost as soon as it had begun.


    Author's Notes: The death of Reza Shah really marks the end of the Persian "Golden Age". As highly developed as Persian society became during the 18th century, there is still a sizable gap between it and the Europeans in terms of societal organization. It remains to be seen whether Abbas will be able to revive the Empire though he would need to be in the mold of his grandfather and great grandfather. At the very least, Shah Rokh has a less traumatic life than he did in OTL (When he was old and blind, he was tortured to reveal the location of Afshar jewels).

    The geographical outlook of the TL is starting to expand. There's nothing dramatically different as of yet on the Malay Peninsula and in South East Asia, aside from a more prosperous Kedah (which hasn't saved it from Siam). Interesting developments will really start to appear in the 19th century with Burma still intact, and with certain changes coming to the Dutch East Indies. Pretty soon I want to cover what's going on in places like China and Latin America, so by the first update cycle of the 19th century we should be including much of the world.
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    The French Civil War and the Start of the Great Eastern War
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    James Hamlin; Great Power Politics in Europe, 1700 to 2000

    France's fortunes in the late 18th century

    France’s fortunes for much of the 18th century had been mixed. Although she had been involved in a few successful wars, these always seemed to be counterbalanced by defeats. Even the Ten Years War, arguably her biggest success, brought her little in the way of advantages. She had lost her most profitable colonies and had given a boost to Austria, who soon found her role as Britain’s primary continental partner again. In return, this wars had a ruinous effect on France’s finances, something that France was far less able to cope with than Britain was. The interest rates paid on France’s loans was extortionate, and due to her immature financial system, the primary way that France paid the interest on her loans was through taxation on her squeezed peasantry.

    Following her defeat in the Franco-British War of 1775-1777, France’s position was particularly precarious. The defeat had been costly, and by this point the interest on France’s public debt had taken up almost half of state expenditure. Turgot’s attempts to reform France’s fiscal system encountered opposition from the Parlements, and attempts by himself and his successors to reform the system of taxation were ultimately unsuccessful. While the government found itself increasingly powerless due to lack of money, the taxes on ordinary Frenchmen were ensuring that an increasing amount of the population found themselves indebted. The 1780s were marked by a number of poor harvests that saw farms possessed by creditors, and the price of bread in cities such as Paris skyrocketed. The increasingly hungry working classes began to listen to radical voices who called for a total revision of the division of power in France.

    While Louis XVI tried to govern with at least some consideration for the people, he could not tolerate outright challenges to his own authority. Newspapers known to be sympathetic to those who wanted the monarch in France abolished were shut down, and the numbers of political prisoners in the Bastille began to rise. When the Paris mob attempted to storm the Bastille in 1788, the king’s troops cut the mob down with volleys of musket fire. This was the trigger for uprisings in many parts of France who were furious at the exploitation of officials and moneylenders, and the indifference of the king. For this part, the king co-opted the nobility in his fight against the “lower orders” of society, convinced that only an alliance of privilege could maintain his power. The nobility grew to be as powerful as they were before Louis XIV had curbed their power.

    By 1790, the whole of the region of Provence had come under the control of rebels, who now openly called for a Republican France. These rebels had formed an army of around a hundred thousand. Though it was not the numbers of this army that presented the greatest threat to the French monarchy, but rather the fear that it would grow as it marched north. Support from other European powers could not be expected as eyes had turned to the brewing conflict in Eastern Europe. The rebels won a number of important engagements and took the city of Lyon on the road to Paris. However, the Royalist forces won an important victory at Montceau-les-Mines and the rebels were forced back into Provence, where they waged a five-year insurgency against the king and his authority. In the end however, the rebels were overcome. There was little cause for celebration however, as the French Government had sunk even further into debt.

    France had gone from being the preminent power of Europe in the time of King Louis XIV into being a near irrelevancy. France made few efforts to intervene in the Great Eastern War that wracked Europe in the 1790s, and was treated as a laughing stock by the powers of Europe. The Austrian Chief Minister Von Waldburg said of France that “As a power, she has suffered a swift decline characteristic of Poland or the Ottoman Empire, and the future of Europe belongs to the power who can best move into France’s traditional sphere”. In the rest of Louis XVI’s reign, there were few concessions made to reform, and some privileges revoked from the Aristocracy. Confident in the ability to use violence to supress dissent in France, he became increasingly isolated from his generals and the French nobility.

    France eventually reached its breaking point in 1800, when crowds took to the streets of Paris, demanding that the Estates General, a legislative assembly that had last been convened in 1614, be convened once again to address France’s growing crisis. When the French military refused to follow the King’s command to supress the crowd through violence, the King finally acquiesced and announced the convening of the Estates General. However, the body turned out to be one very much based on tradition, and even many in the nobility thought that the requirement for the Third Estate to wear black was archaic. The Estates General appeared not to be the representative body that the Paris mob had in mind, and the protests began once again, this time calling for the reform of the Estates General. The King, once again returning to his familiar intransigence, refused to heed the calls from the mob, but by this time he had precious little support amongst any of the other classes either.

    The coup of 1801 was unprecedented in a number of ways. It was very much a bloodless coup, with around 12 recorded deaths. This was largely due to the sheer unpopularity of the stubborn, absolutist Louis XVI. A company of Royal Guards knocked on the door of the Royal Bedchamber, and announced that the Dauphin Henri had seen fit to request the king to abdicate and leave the country. After a fit of rage that left the Royal Bedchamber damaged, the King was eventually subdued and transported to Calais, from which he set sail to exile in Spain. He never announced or acknowledged his resignation, which was left to his successor Henri, who was crowned Henri V on the 23rd of February 1801. Only 20 years of age at the time of his coronation, he framed his coup as a necessity for meaningful reform in France. He announced that he would rule as the instrument of his people, rather than as their master.



    Henri Braun; Europe's Bloody 18th Century

    Russia's Play for Supremacy in the East

    The roots of the Great Eastern War lay in Russia’s expansionist policies under Catherine the Great. Catherine had been thoroughly unsatisfied with Russia’s gains in the Russo-Turkish of 1768 to 1775. Although Russia had secured herself a good portion of the northern shore of the Black Sea, Russia had expended a great deal of men for the paltry amount of gain that she got. While the Turks were still considered to be easy prey, for the time being her Persian protects seemed to be a match for the Russians. However, from this war the Russians gained many interesting ideas regarding the conduct of modern war. The tactically mobile Persian forces with their large numbers of cavalry and relatively mobile artillery gave the Russians a number of nasty surprises, and had enabled the Persians to push all the way to Astrakhan. The lessons that the Russians had received in mobile warfare in the Russo-Turkish War would not be put to waste.

    Boris Kozlovsky was perhaps the most important of the reformers who transformed the Russian army. Prior to the Austro-Russian War of 1783-1784 he found himself in a backwater, using much of his time to write treatises based on his experiences fighting the Persians in the Caucasus. However, following the stalemate of that war and the shock that it had given to the Russian army, he advanced up the ranks quickly, becoming the President of the Russian College of War in 1786. His no-nonsense pronouncements ensured that he was disliked by many in the court, though admired by contemporaries such as Suvorov and perhaps most importantly, Catherine the Great. Emphasising shock tactics and mobile firepower, he attempted to turn the Russian army into a force that would emphasise its strengths. Long an advocate of increased recruitment, he was given the right to increase the rate of conscription when Austria formed the “Eastern League”, whose stated aim was the preservation of the territorial status quo of Europe, something that was automatically seen as a foil to Russia, an avowedly expansionist power.

    An obsessive stickler for control, Kozlovsky attempted as much as he could to standardise artillery to 3 pounder, 6 pounder and 12 pounder guns. The guns compensated for their uniformity and mobility with a lack of range, though Kozlovsky saw this as a worthwhile trade-off. Especially in the relatively open areas of Eastern Europe, mobility and the ability to be at the right place at the right time was more important than the more rigid approach of before. The numbers of cavalry and mounted infantry were increased in the army, and these were to be supported by artillery drawn by horse. This increase in the numbers of men and animals meant that the traditional system of supply would be stretched to breaking point, and to this end officers were encouraged to devise a system to live off the land, taking food and other supplies from the local peasantry rather than relying on perilously slow supply trains.

    Kozlovsky was supported in his reform efforts by Suvorov, who advocated a much higher standard of training amongst the soldiery, as well as a more aggressive attacking spirit and a relaxation of the inhuman discipline common in European armies at the time. Despite the stereotypes of the unintelligent Russian peasant soldier, even enlisted men were encouraged to understand something of military science, and non-commissioned officers were expected to read and write to a satisfactory degree. Initiative was especially encouraged for skirmishing troops, who were expected to take cover and pick out officers on their own, weakening the cohesion of the enemy forces and leaving the masses of enemy infantry more vulnerable to the “storm columns” of Russian infantry. The perceived lax discipline and abandonment of emphasis on firepower in the Russian army did not impress other European armies prior to the Great Eastern War, and the military theory of Russia would not be taken seriously until they had proved their worth on the battlefield.

    Russia’s attempts to secure more Polish territory for herself in the Austro-Russian War of 1783-1784 confirmed a view of Russia across much of Eastern and Central Europe of a power that was expansionist and hungry for territory. Joseph of Austria lamented that as one mad dog had been beaten back (taken to mean Frederick II of Prussia), another had arisen to throw the balance of power into chaos. Russia justified her actions as restoring order to a land that had been in a state of anarchy, though this persuaded few other people in Europe. Catherine desired to enlist the support of anti-Austrian powers in order to neutralise Poland’s greatest defender, Austria. To this end, she signed an alliance with Prussia in 1788. Although it had fallen since its glory days, she still had an army of around 100,000 men to throw into the balance. It was hoped that the Prussians could keep the Austrians from marching their army to the aid of their Polish allies, giving Russia a chance to crush the Poles before moving to the relief of their Prussian allies.

    Had the alliance system stayed static from thereon, the war may have unfolded like that. However, Austria was well aware of a chain of powers nervous at Russia’s expansion, and set out to build up a coalition against her. The idea of a coalition hit an early roadblock when the Ottomans would refuse to join, unwilling to ally with a Christian power even to attack her deadliest enemy. Austria did have more luck with Sweden and Saxony however, and even managed to obtain the neutrality of France, a power which although hostile to Austria, had no desire to see Poland wiped from the map of Europe. For its part, Britain, a power deeply concerned about maintaining a balance of power in Europe, pledged to provide financial support to any effort to prevent the annexation of Poland by any power. The stage was set, and the size of the armies steadily increased as tensions rose further.

    The trigger for the role came from Poland itself, as Polish King Stanislaus Poniatowski promulgated a new constitution which abolished serfdom, and promised equal representation for both the nobility and the commons. This was a revolutionary proclamation, and one that even took Habsburg Austria aback. Catherine had sensed that Poland had overplayed its hand and deprived itself from the support of her Austrian protectors, who would be unwilling to come to the aid of such a revolutionary state. The Russians began mobilization in the April of 1791 and her troops moved into Poland on the 6th of June. 300,000 Russians marched into Poland against an estimated 50,000 Poles. Joseph of Austria was appalled, yet wrung his hands about whether or not to support the “reckless revolutionaries” in Warsaw.

    Joseph’s hand was forced when Sweden declared war on Russia in support of Poland, hoping that the action would convince Austria to join the war as well. Austria finally declared war on Russia on July 18th, followed by the Prussian and Saxon declarations of war on the 24th and 26th of July respectively. Almost a million men were now under arms in Central and Eastern Europe, marching off to fight the bloodiest war in history up unto that point. The Great Eastern War would become a byword for exhausting coalition war, and would change the course of European politics in the 19th century.


    Author's Notes: I've tried to do the research on this as best I can, but in all honesty 18th century Europe is not my strong point. What we are left with in the end is a France that appears to be a divided irrelevance to the rest of Europe, and an Eastern Europe divided between a Russian/Prussian camp that wants to improve its own position by any means necessary, and a Austrian camp that wants to preserve things as they are. The military strength would seem to lie with the former camp, but the conflict may well expand.
    Great Eastern War - Part One
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    Maurizio Carbone: The First Modern Conflict in History - The Great Eastern War

    Russia's First Offensive into Poland

    The Great Eastern War had been launched by an enormous miscalculation. Catherine had correctly judged that the Conservative Hapsburg monarchy would be horrified by the declaration of a liberal constitution in Poland. However, she had counted that Austria’s disdain for constitutionalism would prevent her from coming to Poland’s aid in the event of a Russian attack, which appeared to be a great misjudgement. Nevertheless, the war plans that Russia went to war with seemed to assume that Austria would join any conflict. The Russian army was split into three parts. The largest group, located in the south, was commanded by the famous Alexander Suvorov, and numbered some 150,000 men. This force was to drive through Poland’s southern flank and prevent Austrian interference with the Russian invasion. The other two armies were located near Minsk under the command of Nikolai Repnin, and near Sigulda under the command of Kirill Gorchakov. They were to move briskly through Poland, defeating her armies before a response by the other great powers could be organized.

    There were no Polish forces to challenge them at the border. The Polish army was outnumbered 6-1 by the Russians, and had no hope of surviving without foreign intervention. Nevertheless, Russia’s naked aggression galvanized public opinion in Poland, and alongside the proclamation of the Constitution gave the Polish king enough support to call for a mass conscription. In the summer of 1791 alone, this brought 100,000 men into the Polish army, though these troops would not be combat ready for some time. These conscripts would be of little avail to the regular army though, which set itself on retreating to a defensive line along the Vistula River. This was a foolhardy strategy, as Poland did not have the numbers to secure a line of over 600 kilometres. Nevertheless, it was necessary for the Polish army to proclaim that there was a greater strategy behind the retreat than hoping for foreign intervention.

    The first engagement of the war came at Lida. The Russian army under Nikolai Repnin had been quicker than expected, taking only twenty days to catch up to the small Polish army of around 10,000 men under Pavel Kossakowski. The Poles were outnumbered almost 8-1, and faced almost certain annihilation if the Russians caught up with them. With the Russians marching almost 10km a day to the 7km of the Poles, this seemed like a distinct possibility. Kossakowski decided to leave a regiment of foot behind to try and delay the advance of the Russians as much as he could. The leader of this seemingly doomed regiment was a Polish gentlemen named Andrzej Wiśniewski. He had joined the army only a few years before, but had been an observer of the French army. He fortified the town of Lida and entrenched his troops there for what was sure to be a hard battle.

    However, Wiśniewski’s defence was to be made easier by a number of key Russian mistakes. The Russians, in their haste to do battle, had left much of their artillery behind due to the Rasputitsa mud. The Russian commander who Wiśniewski would face was inexperienced and hot-headed, Fyodor Tolstoy. His diaries reveal a man who was obsessed with the idea of gaining military glory by being the first to defeat the Poles. In doing so, he neglected proper reconnaissance of the Polish position at Lida. He also declined to wait for reinforcements, deciding to march against the Poles with 3000 men, confident that these numbers would crush the resistance of the famously weak Poles.

    It was the Russian skirmishers who first saw first-hand the effectiveness of the Polish defences. Even those armed with rifles found it very difficult to score casualties, with the Polish fire being unsurpressed. Corporal Vladimir Litowski, one of the skirmishers involved in the first part of the battle later wrote that “Our fire seemed to have no effect on the Poles. We could barely see them, and took to shooting into the smoke produced by their musket fire. I would have been surprised if we had killed more than ten men in that first attack”. The Russians who had been involved in the skirmishing passed along their concerns about the strength of the Polish defence, though this was ignored by Tolstoy, who reasoned that a determined attack by storm columns of infantry would break the Polish defenders.

    The attack was launched at around 2 o’clock in the afternoon. Around 2000 Russians, arranged into the famous “storm columns” marched for the town of Lida. They charged toward the Polish infantry but were hit rifle and musket fire, as well as devastating case shot from the few Polish cannons left behind by the main army. The Russians kept advancing, but the advance stalled close to the Polish lines as the hail of fire became too thick even for the determined Russian forces. The Russian infantry stopped advancing, instead trying to take cover however best they could. Those further behind the front lines began to withdraw, seeing that there was little hope to reach the Polish lines. Russian officers tried to persuade their troops back into the fight, though with no artillery support and not enough troops to flank the Polish position, they fell back steadily. The attack was renewed once again as more Russian troops filtered into the area, though the Poles were successful in repulsing these attacks. At the end of the day, the Poles had lost 85 men dead, 169 wounded, but this paled compared to the heavy Russian casualties. Over 300 men had been killed with a similar amount wounded and missing.

    This was a disappointing start to the Russian war, and seemed to suggest that Russian shock tactics would be no match for well drilled infantry. The Poles vacated the town of Lida during the night, having successfully knocked the wind out of the Russian advance. Wiśniewski was hailed as a hero when he caught up to the main army under Kossakowski, and he received a promotion. Tolstoy on the other hand was dismissed for losing a battle that should have been won handily by the Russian forces. Repnin called for a halt around Lida to consolidate his forces and bring the artillery up. He took steps to ensure that commanders would not be so quick to attack well-prepared positions without artillery again, but his prestige had been hit nonetheless. He would resume the offensive in July, but by then the war would start to take a turn away from being a quick conquest against a week opponent.

    Suvorov’s army in the south had more success, taking Lvov with minimal casualties. His task was now to hook down into the rest of Galicia and make for the Polish fortress of Przemysl, ensuring that Austrian aid could not come to the Poles were they to intervene in the conflict. However, the Austrians declared war on Russia on the 18th of July, bucking Russian expectations that their armies would not be ready until late in August. Austrian troops began moving into Poland a day later, and an Austrian force of 20,000 men joined 15,000 Poles at Przemysl. Dominated by a modern star fort, the town would be extremely difficult for Suvorov to take, even with the numbers at his disposal. The siege of Przemysl would draw out for six weeks, quick by the standards of a siege but still painfully slow for the army that was supposed to knock Poland out of the war before the Austrians and Saxons could invade Russia’s Prussian allies.

    Indeed, the spread of the war seemed to compromise Russia’s invasion of Poland greatly. Sweden’s declaration of war had meant that some troops had to be taken out of Poland to defend Russia’s northern flank, and Austria’s declaration of war promised to equalise numbers in Poland before long. Russia’s hope was that Austria would focus on Prussia in the first part of the war, leaving Russia free to knock Poland out of the war before her hundred thousand conscripted troops could be thrown into the balance. Russia also began to increase conscription within her own borders, as Catherine was determined to be prepared if the war became a more drawn-out struggle. Suvorov assured her after the fall of Przemysl that a decisive battle could keep Austria from helping the Poles to a significant degree. With the news that an Austrian army of 71,000 under Field Marshall Kolowrat was on its way to Tarnow, Suvorov saw the opportunity to keep the Austrians out of Poland for the time being.

    In a dizzying 19 day march from Przemysl, Suvorov and 96,000 of his men caught the Austrians at Pleśna. The Russians were exhausted from months of forced marches and campaigning, but spirits were high. Suvorov was widely believed to be an invincible commander, having been defeated only once so far in his long career. This time, Russian battlefield tactics worked as intended, with the initial skirmishers targeting officers and weakening the cohesion of the Austrian battle lines. The coordination of the Russian infantry and artillery in the battle was disconcerting to say the least. Archduke Franz, who served as a brigadier in the battle noted that “almost as soon as the Russian artillery had finished ripping great holes in our battle lines, Russian infantry appeared, firing one volley and charging into our disordered lines with a great brutal strength”. On their right flank, the Austrians had more success, with excellent gunnery on the part of the Austrians managing the keep the Russian artillery back. Nevertheless, the Austrian army suffered a significant defeat at Pleśna. The 71,000 Austrian soldiers at the beginning of the battle had been reduced to around 53,000 effectives. The Austrians reeled back across the border, allowing Suvorov to now march north toward Warsaw.


    At Warsaw, around 37,000 Poles, 44,000 Austrians and 8000 Swedes prepared the last ditch defence of Poland’s territories. They were assailed by a force of around 140,000 Russians, a truly frightening number. The Russians advanced from two separate directions under Suvorov and Repnin, intending to converge near on the outnumbered allied forces. The prospects for the allies did not look positive, as they were heavily outnumbered and if they were defeated at Warsaw, the Russians would be free to break through to their beleaguered Prussian allies. The first shots of the battle were fired in the village of Zabki as Russian forces under Repnin used the nearby forest to sneak upon the Polish forces in the town. The Poles were taken completely by surprise, and after the success of Russian skirmishers, a body of around 5000 Russians stormed the village, sending its 3500 Polish defenders to flight. Repnin’s forces were now close enough to Suvorov’s for their Cossack irregulars to meet each other.

    Repnin now held his ground, and sent a contingent south to aid Suvorov’s assault on Wilanów, where the Polish King’s usual residence was. King Stanisław had already fled into the centre of Warsaw to rally his forces in the city itself, but the area still controlled the approaches to Warsaw from the South, and it was a crucial point for the defence of the city. Here, a mixed force of Poles and Austrians stood ready to defend the palace and its surroundings. Commanded by Kossakowski, this force gave a much better account of itself, holding the line throughout the afternoon, and ensuring that the Russians paid heavily for their gains. The Poles were finally forced out of the area at around 6 o’clock in the evening, retreating mostly in good order, unmolested by Cossack irregulars who had taken to looting the Polish palace. The Poles and Austrians left behind around 3800 dead and wounded at Wilanów, but had managed to inflict around 5200 casualties on the Russians. This admirable showing however, was not enough to safeguard the approaches to Warsaw. Warsaw was now mostly cut off from the rest of Poland, and 130,000 Russians stood ready to attack.

    The second day of the Battle of Warsaw began successfully for the Russians once again. A spoiling attack against Suvorov’s forces was driven back, and Russian artillery pushed groups of Austrian and Polish defenders back toward the city. By noon, Suvorov’s forces had reached Mokotów, and were engaging in street fighting against scattered Polish defenders. The main body of the Polish army conducted a fighting retreat through the city’s outskirts. However, the battle took a turn for the unexpected in the afternoon as the Russian advance stalled. Austrian forces who had been massing to the west of Suvorov’s army hit him in the flank unexpectedly, and his forces reeled back to Wilanów. Suvorov’s army had suffered 9800 dead and wounded, and had actually lost ground. Repnin had more success, but by the evening his army too had been forced back to their starting positions. In light of the poor Austro-Polish performance the day before, this setback for the Russians was unexpected.

    Among the Austro-Polish command, the situation was not a good one. The morale of the army had been boosted by the successes of the previous day, but they could not be repeated again. The army lost another 10,000 effectives, and was in danger of being bled dry. Debates continued until the night, but it was finally decided to retreat from Warsaw toward Łódź, and if needed, Austrian Silesia. Retreats planned so quickly rarely go smoothly, but the cautiousness of Repnin on the 27th of August helped the efforts of the allies greatly. While Suvorov attacked energetically, Repnin’s attacks were far more halting, with skirmishing kept up even when the situation was ripe for frontal attacks. This enabled Suvorov to capture much of the city, with Repnin resigning himself to areas on the east bank of the Vistula. The city had been captured by the evening but Suvorov had noted “Not many enemy captured or wounded. Bulk of enemy forces retreating to the West, will pursue in the morning”.

    However, the Russian army was exhausted by this point. Months of forced marches and fighting had taken their toll, as had disease. Suvorov’s army the next day advanced only 5 kilometers, and in the following week, the Russians lost contact with the remnants of the Austro-Polish army. Warsaw had been won by the Russians, though the war was far from over. The Austrian forces had proven themselves to be less flexible and mobile than the Russians, but had nevertheless given a good account of themselves. Similarly, although few in number the Polish army appeared to have caught up to those of the great powers in terms of quality. The Russians now had two options open for them. They could either push on through Poznan to the Prussians, who were steadily losing ground to the Swedes and Austrians, or she could turn south and attempt an invasion of Hungary through the Carpathians to knock Austria out of the war. Having lost an estimated 90,000 men through combat, sickness or desertion in the past few months, the Russians no longer had the resources to do both.


    Author's Notes: Very text heavy and military focused. The rest of the Great Eastern War will likely not be covered in quite as much detail, but I wanted to try and create an impression as to how far military science has come along in Russia. Taking more than a few notes from the Persian Army's shock tactics, they've combined them with artillery in a way that is especially devastating in Eastern Europe. However, Russia has bitten off rather more than she can chew, and even if France is prevented from intervening to protect her Polish friends by her own internal troubles, Austria may find aid from elsewhere.

    As always, comments and corrections are welcomed!
    Middle East and East Africa - Late 18th Century
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    Gerhard Schneider; Osman's Children - A History of the Ottoman Empire

    The Centralisation Efforts of Ahmed IV

    Ahmed IV of the Ottoman Empire had inherited a territory barely worth the name of Empire. It had largely shrunk to borders resembling those of Basil II’s Byzantine Empire, and was increasingly falling behind the world around her. Despite the best efforts of his predecessors, the Ottoman Empire had lost huge territories in all directions. The defeats of the 18th century convinced even reactionary elements of Ottoman Society that something was horribly amiss. Mustafa had confronted the obstructionist Janissary Corps and had begun training a new army which operated along European lines. He had hired experts from France and Prussia to train the force, and now at least had the power to prevent the further loss of territory to his own vassals. However, he had died leaving the Balkans dominated by powerful Beys who clung to their existing privileges. This was a situation that Ahmed could not abide by.

    The size of the Ordu-I Cedid had increased to around 40,000 by the beginning of his reign. An impressive force, but still miniscule by European standards. In order to fund the growth of the army, more revenue was needed. In the course of the late 16th and 17th centuries, the Ottoman Empire had undergone a process of decentralisation, with regional governors and notables taking on more of the responsibilities of government, as well as the revenue-raising rights that came with it. By 1750, this had resulted in a situation where the Ottoman Empire with a population similar to that of France’s had around one twentieth its revenue. With centralised states in the form of Persia and its European neighbours seemingly pointing the way forward, it was necessary for the Ottoman Empire to restore full control within its borders, administered by a bureaucracy directly accountable the Porte rather than to autonomous governors.

    In order to focus on this task, the Ottomans turned inward from the world as much as they could. They were able to take advantage of conflict between the Russians and the Austrians to focus on their internal reforms. The Ulema approved of this self-reliant approach for security, rather than that which openly allied with Christian powers for defence against other Christian powers. Able to unite the educated classes around his program of reform, Ahmed rebuffed offers of alliance from the Austrians prior to the Great Eastern War and kept a neutral course throughout the conflict. While Europe engaged in perhaps the bloodiest conflict in history up to that point, the Ottoman Sultan was able to remove the last of the internal opposition. While areas such as Silistra and Epirus were brought relatively easily into the control of the Porte, Bosnia and Serbia were different.

    The rulers of both areas, Ali Osman Pasha and Hassan Pasha both signed pacts with each other to defend themselves against the encroachment of the Sultan. Both decided to hedge their bets on promising greater liberties for their Christian subjects in return for greater liberties, and played on the concerns of local Muslim notables about the growth of central control. These preparations, as well as the difficult terrain of the provinces meant that the war fought to restore control the provinces was a long, grinding war of attrition. The provinces were devastated by their villages and towns changing hands between the Pashas and the forces of the Sultan, and the Christian populations of the provinces suffered acutely due to the cruelty of the soldiery. All in all, an estimated 200,000 people died in the Serbian and Bosnian conflicts of the late 18th century. Although the Sultan had brought them under his unquestioned control, they were depopulated and ravaged by ten years of war.

    By the dawn of the 19th century, the Ottoman Empire was more centralised now than at any point since the 16th century. Ahmed IV’s ministers were in unquestioned control of the country, as regional Beys and notables had been curbed. Despite this, the Ottoman Empire was a shadow of its former self. Excluding the vassal states of Crimea, Wallachia and Moldovia, the Empire numbered some 16 million inhabitants, around half the figure of 1700. She had lost rich agricultural areas such as Egypt and Iraq, and appeared a pale shadow of her neighbours Austria, Russia and Persia, all of which seemed to be much larger and richer than herself. Ahmed IV died in 1806, leaving an Empire that appeared little at risk from the internal struggles which had resulted in her losing her valuable Syrian and Egyptian provinces. Despite this, the future of the shrunken Ottoman State appeared to be in question, as the Great Eastern War in Europe had ended and Russia once again began to look south rather than west in search of new land.



    Khulood al-Shuwaikh; The Story of the Arab People

    The Latter Mamluks

    Hopes that a change in the status of Egypt would lead to economic and social change were not realised even after the Persian-brokered agreement that ended the conflict between Ali Bey and the Ottomans. Ali Bey’s new state resembled that of the old Mamluk Sultanate on a map, and there were a number of aspects of that state that the new Mamluk Sultanate took on. This was not to be a state ruled by Egyptians or any other Arabs, but rather by Turkish speaking Mamluks from the Caucasus, as Ali Bey himself was. In celebration of his new status as Sultan, Ali Bey constructed a great mosque and palace complex for himself on the Cairo Citadel. Rather than centralising administration in a similar fashion to Persia, Ali Bey preferred to grant Iqta land holdings to those who had supported him against the Ottoman Sultan.

    Egypt saw a great deal of economic change in the late 18th century, though this was rarely due to the actions of the government. Like the Ottoman Empire, Egypt found herself increasingly integrated into the “Greater European” economy. Artisanal textile industries in Cairo and Damascus found themselves increasingly in competition with cheaper textiles from Europe, especially with the advent of industrialisation in Great Britain. In return, the raw materials of Egypt such as cotton and sugar were in demand, though again they had to compete with often cheaper goods coming from European colonies in the Americas. The population of Egypt was stagnant for much of this period as wages steadily declined. As of yet, there were few attempts on the part of the government to intervene in the economy, and government funding of irrigation projects as seen in Persia was almost entirely absent in Mamluk Egypt.

    Despite the gloomy social and economic picture in late 18th century Egypt though, the arts saw a renaissance. Between 1765 and 1816, 63 mosques were built throughout Egypt and Syria by the Mamluk Sultans. A string of Sultans left their marks architecturally, with baths, bridges, markets and mosques all being commissioned by the Sultans. These building projects were one of the main concerns of the rulers, besides the maintenance of the army. In addition to this, literature saw something of a revival in interest with the spread of the printing press. Although literacy rates were appallingly low, the circulation of news pamphlets as well as religious treatises and works of fiction steadily increased throughout the end of the 18th century. There was little appetite for European novels at the time, though a few scientific works were translated into Arabic and could be found in public libraries. Despite the previous impression of decay in 18th century Egypt, it can be seen that there was in fact an intellectual flowering, even if it was mitigated by decaying economic circumstances within the country.

    The foreign policy of Mamluk Egypt tended to be oriented toward Arabia. Unwilling to start a war with the Persians or the Ottomans, Ali Bey’s successor, Abd-al Karim turned his eyes south toward Yemen. Yemen had experienced a period of great prosperity in the early part of the 18th century when she had a monopoly on coffee production, but as production moved elsewhere the income of the country steeply declined. Nevertheless, as the most fertile area of the Arabian Peninsula, there was still wealth enough to interest the Mamluk Sultan, eager for a diversion for his restive Mamluk aristocracy. However, the first Mamluk invasion of Yemen, led by a Circassian by the name of Murat was a complete failure. The victorious Zaidi Imam had 3000 Mamluk prisoners paraded in Sana’a before he sold them into slavery. The second invasion, led by Sultan Abd-al Karim himself had more luck though, and Sana’a was conquered in 1786.


    Brian Harrison; Africa - A History

    The Rise of Mombasa

    The Omani Empire in East Africa had ended almost as soon as it had begun. Although she had expelled the Portuguese from the cities of Zanzibar and the East African coast by 1730, Oman itself was threatened by Persia only a decade later, and found itself a part of Nader Shah’s revived Persian Empire. Naturally, with such a shock at home, the Omani presence in East Africa began to flounder, but rather than being replaced once again by the Portuguese, the cities of the East African coastline once again asserted themselves, and once again East Africa became dominated by a chain of city states and Sultanates stretching from Mogadishu to Portuguese Mozambique.

    Of all these states, it was Mombasa that rose to become the hegemonic power in the 18th century. Muhammad Khamis, a notable landholder who had profited under Omani rule gained the loyalty of the small garrison there, and by 1750 had declared himself as the Sultan of Mombasa. Through a mixture of diplomatic dealings, economic pressure and military action he campaigned up and down the coast of East Africa, bringing many cities and Sultanates into a loose alliance with each other, with Mombasa acting as the “first amongst equals”. With stability established, the East African coast could now profit from the increase in Indian Ocean trade seen in the latter part of the 18th century. As areas such as Bengal and Iran looked to the Indian Ocean Basin for luxury goods, the cities of East Africa were happy to oblige. Slaves, cloves and ivory left ports on the East African coast and ended in warehouses in Muscat, Calcutta and Basra, ready for transport to growing internal markets.

    However, despite the growth in trade, the foundation of Mombasa’s power remained fairly weak. The Sultanate itself was less an institution, and more a personal extension of the Sultan. There were few challenges to Muhammad Khamis following the extension of his influence over East Africa, though this was due to the force of his personality more than any other bonds. The foundation of his power were the alliances he had built up with other landowners and strongmen, as well as his own extensive landholdings. However, the elites of the Swahili coast were well aware that they were likely to be more prosperous as long as the peace was kept. Thus, among the elite of the coast, a kind of consensus and shared experience in the form of their language, their religion and increasingly, other elements of their culture. This system encouraged peace and prosperity for the time being, though would prove to be unstable in the face of future crises.

    The increase in prosperity in the cities of East Africa led to a great flowering of Swahili culture. The first examples of a written Swahili language come from the early 18th century in the period of rule by Oman, but by the late 18th century a number of Swahili folk tales and other types of literature had been written down. A small number of scientific treatises were translated from Arabic. Although there was little in the way of original scientific research, it is thought that many of the major advances known in the Islamic world were now known by educated men in the Swahili cities of East Africa. This reflected a general integration of knowledge in much of the Islamic World in the 18th century, as trade links increased between coastal areas. This resulted in cities such as Mombasa becoming more cosmopolitan than ever before, as one could find Arabs, Gujaratis, Bengalis and even a few Malays resident in the cities.

    The growth of the slave trade produced a great amount of misery in the 18th and 19th centuries, and the growth in prosperity in Persia in particular increased the demand for slaves from the East African interior. Talented Swahili bootleggers from the coast who desired riches made their way into the interior of Africa, sometimes capturing thousands of slaves in a single raid. The gunpowder weaponry used by the Swahilis made short work of resistance, and the trade in human beings made many an ambitious freebooter a very rich man. In the second half of the 18th century, hundreds of thousands were shipped out of the ports of East Africa, facing lives of servitude or death.
    Great Eastern War - Part Two
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    Maurizio Carbone: The First Modern Conflict in History - The Great Eastern War

    The Continuation of the War

    Russian opinion was split in the first winter of the Great Eastern War. They had occupied much of Poland, but the Austrians refused to back down in their defense of Poland, and Russia’s allies in Prussia were hard pressed by the Swedes, Austrians and Saxons. After fierce debate and a public rift between the two main Russian commanders, Suvorov and Repnin, the Russians decided to push westwards onto Poznan and Prussia rather than south into Galicia and Hungary. Russia felt that preserving her ally’s army was more important than the mere chance of knocking Austria out of the war. Pushing through to Poznan would also have the welcome side effect of surrounding the 20,000 Polish and Austrian soldiers who were holding the town of Danzig. By March 1792, Russia had made good much of her losses in the previous year and prepared two armies of experienced and battle hardened soldiers to implement a plan devised by Suvorov and Repnin.

    Repnin and 100,000 men would march to the north of Danzig, close enough to provide support to Suvorov’s army if needed, but would then hook north and retake Pomerania, which had been occupied by Allied troops since the autumn of 1791. Suvorov’s army would march for Poznan, take the town and then march onwards to Berlin. Then with their numbers augmented by the Prussians, the armies would launch invasions of Saxony and Bohemia, hopefully forcing both powers out of the war and leaving Sweden and Poland defenceless. However, this plan failed to take into account the fact that the resistance encountered was likely to be stronger than the year before. The Allied powers had begun recruiting new soldiers and had more men to put into the field. Whereas before the Russo-Prussian forces had outnumbered those of the allies by around 60,000 in 1791, their numbers were roughly equal in 1792. Nevertheless, the Russian forces maintained a qualitative advantage due to their emphasis on shock tactics and great use of mobile artillery.

    The Russians marched from Łódź on the 16th of May, and by the end of the month had reached Poznan. Although the defenders of Poznan were outnumbered 2-1 by the Russians, they nevertheless held the Russians off for two days of combat and inflicted around 10,000 casualties on Suvorov’s army. Although the Russians had managed to kill and capture a similar number of Poles and Austrians, the Russian advance was stalled until the middle of June, at which point the Russians marched for Berlin with no Allied armies between them and the city. Meanwhile, Repnin had already advanced into Pomerania, and quickly overwhelmed the Allied forces in the area. The capture of the Northern Army of Poland and their Austrian comrades brought the number of Allied prisoners to around 50,000, a startling figure.

    The arrival of Suvorov and the Russians into Berlin was a welcome sight. The Prussian King Frederick William held a parade of Prussian and Russian forces in the city, and the two allies now confirmed their earlier plans. However, by this point it was already July, and the Austrians and Saxons were well prepared for what was to come. The Prussians volunteered to send the bulk of their army (78,000 men) at the Saxons to repeat their lightning offensive of the Seven Years War, while Suvorov and his 114,000 Russians would press into Silesia and Bohemia. Combined with a Russian offensive into Finland, it was hoped that this would see the Allies acquiesce to the demands of the Russians and Prussians, which had by now extended to a total partition of Poland and the return of Silesia to the Prussians who had lost the area decades before.

    However, the Prussians received a nasty shock at the Battle of Torgau, when two Prussian divisions blundered into the whole Saxon army led by the famous Prince Erich Wettin. In a single afternoon, the Saxons killed, wounded and captured 15,000 Prussians. This weakened the Prussian advance fatally, and although the Prussians advanced toward Leipzig, they were defeated decisively at the battle of Leipzig by an Austro-Saxon force led by Prince Erich. The Saxon victories electrified the Allied side, and brought generous British subsidies to Saxony, who now began to be saw as the third major German power. The Saxons now used the breathing space gained by the victories to embark on a reform of the army along Russian lines. Artillery was separated from infantry units, the enlarged Saxon army was split into two corps, self-sufficient units that nevertheless remained no more than a day’s march from one another.

    The Russians had no more luck against the Austrians. Although they had won a number of early engagements, they had been thrown out of Silesia by the end of September, though they had inflicted a number of great losses upon the Austrians. About the only good news for the Russo-Prussian forces was that the great Swedish fortress of Lovisa had fallen to the Russians in October. The bad run of campaigning in the latter part of 1792 was compounded by the formal British entry into the war on the 29th of November, 1792. The Allies had now halted the Russian advance, and had begun the process of absorbing the impressive tactical lessons that the Russians had imparted. With the entry of the British, Russia’s only hope was to enlist the help of anti-British and anti-Austrian powers within Europe. However, these were limited. France was embroiled in a Civil War, Spain had declared that it had no interest in the conflict. In the end, Russia’s overtures were heard only in Denmark, who was attracted by the prospect of gains against the Swedes. Denmark made a solemn promise to intervene in the conflict before 1794.

    However, this promise had been known about by Austrian agents, who subsequently passed along the information to the British. The British made plans for a quick destruction of the Danish fleet, as well as the detachment of Norway from Denmark which Britain hoped would play as an agent of British interests in Scandinavia. The speed of Britain’s assault on Denmark was astounding. A pre-emptive declaration of War was made on the 2nd of June, and by September much of Denmark outside the Jutland Peninsula and Copenhagen was held by the British. The Danes signed the Convention of Aarhus in October, recognizing Norway as a separate kingdom and ceding control of Iceland and the Faroe Islands to Norway, as well as ceding control of the Danish Virgin Islands to Britain. The humiliation of this defeat coloured the Danish psyche for decades to come, and the refusal of Sweden to participate in the pre-emptive strike against Denmark led to a rise of esteem amongst the Danes for their erstwhile rivals.

    On the European mainland, 1793 was a period of recovery for the Allies. The Saxons pushed the Prussian forces out of Saxony altogether, and pushed into Brandenburg. The Austrians defeated the exhausted Russians at Lüben, Suvorov’s first major failure on the field. However, this was countered by Russian success in Galicia, where they succeeded in pushing the Austrians under Schwarzenberg back to the Carpathians. By the end of the year, although the strategic balance had changed little, the armies were now swelling due to the number of new recruits who had been pressed into service. The Russian army, which had numbered around 400,000 at the beginning of the war, now numbered some 600,000, stretched along a front from Northern Finland to Stanisławów. They were joined by around 125,000 Prussians. The Allies had similarly increased their numbers, and in total numbered around 620,000. The advantage of numbers still lay with the Russians and Prussians, though their forces were overstretched. Suvorov’s legend had been smashed at Lüben, though the wily old general still had a trick up his sleeve. The Russian plan for 1794 was a grandiose one that involved pushing the British off the continent by launching an invasion of Hannover. The Russians felt that with the British out of the war, the remaining Allies could be defeated in detail.

    The Russians would see a great amount of success with this plan, though it did not have the intended effect. The Russians had early success in the campaign, pushing the Saxons from Magdeburg and into Leipzig. The Allies assumed that this was another attempt to roll up the Saxons, though they were surprised when a Russian blow against Dresden did not come. Instead, 150,000 Russians poured into Hannover, overwhelming the 50,000 British and Hanoverian soldiers in the area and pushing all the way to the North Sea. The British Government under the Earl of Coventry saw a challenge in Parliament following the disaster, though this was seen off by the wily Coventry. Instead, Coventry attempted to play on the fears of many German princes and encouraged the Austrian Emperor to invoke the Holy Roman Empire. A number of Catholic states heeded the call, including Bavaria, Nassau and Münster, which combined their armies into a force of around 50,000 to the south of Hanover.

    By the beginning of 1795, the Great Eastern War showed no sign of ending. The Russians had pushed forward 1350 kilometres in search of victory but despite a number of great victories, was no closer to forcing the other great powers to accept the partition of Poland it had in mind. The Russian position was worsened by the sudden death of Catherine the Great in the February of 1795, who suffered a stroke whilst horse riding. The new Tsar, her grandson Peter, was young and inexperienced. There were worries about whether the Russian war effort would stay as focused with him at the helm, though he made the common sense decision of appointing Suvorov as the Generalissimo of all Russian forces on mainland Europe. Suvorov however, was running out of ideas of how to strike the final blow. Even the great Suvorov failed to see the great Allied offensive of 1795 coming though.


    Edit - Author's notes: The next update will be the last one focusing on the Great Eastern War, and will be something less of a blow by blow account of the war. Afterward the plan is for a few more updates to fill gaps and what not before the beginning of the 19th century cycle in earnest. If anyone does have any areas of the world in particular they would like to see covered, please do suggest something and I can slot it into an update soon.
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    Great Eastern War - Part Three
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    James Hamlin; Great Power Politics in Europe, 1700 to 2000

    The End of the Great Eastern War

    The year 1795 is often identified as the turning point in the Great Eastern War. Why is it then that the war continued for six more bloody years? Certainly, Russia’s willingness to use her almost bottomless well of manpower under Peter II was an explanation. It was only in 1797 that Russia’s army peaked at around 700,000 men after all. However, while Russia’s army steadily declined from that point onward as virtually all the easily recruitable manpower had been forced into the army, the size of the allied armies rose, with Austria’s reaching her peak of 400,000 only in 1801. These armies were phenomenal in size, dwarfing almost all that had gone before them anywhere else in the world. Only the enormous Qing Empire, whose population was more than twice that of Europe’s, could boast an army of a similar size.

    These armies were expensive as well as numerous. The allied powers were able to recruit such large armies partially due to the aid of British subsidies, which were dependent on the advanced financial institutions that could be found in the city of London. But where did Russia get the money for its war effort? Credit from neutral powers such as the Dutch was a fraction of the money that the Allies got from Great Britain, and Russia’s own financial institutions were still small and undeveloped. Certainly in the first few years of the war, plunder secured by Russian troops made up a large part of shortfall in Russian finances. In the years 1794-1796 when fresh conquests began to peter out, the Russians accumulated three times the debt that they had done in the preceding three years. If the Russians had continued to borrow at that rate, the government would have almost certainly become bankrupt by 1798. How then did Russia keep on fighting until 1801?

    The answer is that it was a number of factors that allowed Russia to raise the monies necessary to continue the war. She attempted to make the collection of wealth in occupied areas much more streamlined through the creation of puppet governments. Both the Kingdom of Lower Germany and Occupied Poland supplied a great deal in taxes and forced loans to the Russians. The great port of Hamburg suffered as the wealth of her merchants was drained to feed the rapacious Russian war machine. This was combined with taxes on both Russian nobility and peasantry, which was met by revolts on the part of the latter. Tsar Peter attempted to raise support amongst the nobility as speaking of the struggle as Russian Orthodoxy fighting for its right to exist in the face of a renewed and aggressive Catholic Europe.

    Considering that the war had begun when the German-born Catherine the Great launched an aggressive invasion against her Polish neighbour, the paradigm as Russia as fundamentally different, as well as a victim of the designs of the Austrians was risible to many public figures in areas such as Britain, where Burke had penned a satirical essay shortly before his death wondering just how a country which discriminated heavily against its Catholic population would be part of a great Catholic conspiracy against Russia. Despite the hypocrisy of the Russian government’s paradigm, it succeeded in generating a level of patriotism and support for the war effort, which was combined with a swift switch for the primary language of the Russian aristocracy from French to Russian. Whereas Russian was considered a “Peasant Language” by well-heeled Russians in 1791, it was considered in poor taste for a Russian aristocrat to conduct his business in French by the end of the war. It was one of the most visible signs of a rising Russian nationalism in the 19th century.

    It was not the only paradigm shift that had taken place in Russia however. The successful allied offensives of 1795 and 1796 took back a good portion of Southern Poland and forced the Russians to pull most of their forces back through Europe. Under the stresses and strains of the deteriorating situation, Russia’s great Generalissimo Suvorov died in the January of 1797. This left the Russian command now split between Repnin, who favoured a more offensive approach, and Kutuzov, who wanted to assume a more defensive footing. Kutuzov was largely sidelined after the successful offensive into Galicia in the summer of 1797, which saw the Austrian army in Poland thrown back across the Carpathians. Repnin now intended to strike into Hungary the following year and force Austria out of the war. However, instead what 1798 saw was a surprise offensive on the part of the Austrians. Repnin had assumed that the Austrian army had been rendered unfit, but buttressed by British subsidies and arms, the Austrian army caught the ill-prepared Russians in a spoiling attack near Tarnow. The Russian army reeled back to Krakow, which now left the Russian army in danger of being cut off from its homeland.

    Repnin was sent to an ignominious retirement and Kutuzov was named Generalissimo of the Russian forces. Kutuzov’s army fought a brilliant retreat, beating off an Austrian attempt to cut them off and by the autumn of 1798, the Russian army had retreated back to Warsaw. This had left Prussia and the client state of Lower Germany to their fates, but had preserved the Russian army from total annihilation. It is unclear when exactly Russian war aims changed, but is likely by this point that the Russians had resolved not for domination of all Poland, but for control of a section of it. Kutuzov prepared to defend Russian occupied Poland in the following year.

    However, 1799 would prove to be a decisive year in Germany. The Austrians and British co-ordinated a war strategy, and agreed that the Russian presence in Germany would have to be removed before any offensive action against Kutuzov’s main army was to be undertaken. The remains of the Hanoverian army, buttressed by a large British army was landed in Northern Germany, and marched against the weak resistance of Russian garrisons to take Hannover by the May of 1799. The Russian client state of “Lower Germany” was dissolved and the larger pre-war states were declared to have their territory restored to them, though proper control was not restored until later on in the year. With the Russian client now gone, Prussia stood alone with around 100,000 men against 50,000 Saxons, 20,000 Swedes, 70,000 British and Hanoverians and around 20,000 men from the smaller German states. The Prussians were overwhelmed, and Berlin was occupied on the 18th of November.

    Frederick William, face with the destruction of his Kingdom, sued for peace the following December, leaving Russia alone against a large coalition of enemies. Kutuzov was left with around 420,000 men in Poland, but these were arrayed against allied forces of around 700,000. The Russian forward defence army managed to hold the British back at Gniezno. The Southern Russian Army was beaten at Przemyśl and was forced back to Lvov, where it beat off a further Austrian attack. However, this still meant that an Austrian army under the command of the Archduke Leopold was able to join the Allied armies gathering near Kutuzov at Warsaw. Kutuzov had 185,000 men in the city, but the allies had built up a force of almost 300,000. Kutuzov begged the Tsar to allow a retreat, but even the pragmatic Peter could not countenance giving up the greatest prize in Poland without a fight. For the sake of honour, the Russians fought the cataclysmic Second Battle of Warsaw.

    It was a strange battle, curiously unlike the First Battle of Warsaw. Many of the contested areas were curiously devoid of infantry, as the artillery of the Allies and Russians fought furious duals throughout the first and second days of the battle. However, on the third and fourth days, the Allied infantry began to make headway in the city, breaking through the barricades of the Russians and defeating the Russians decisively. The defeat forced Kutuzov and what was left of his army to retreat. Out of the 185,000 Russians who had been there on the 5th of July, only 42,000 left Warsaw in any semblance of order. The Russian army had been decisively defeated in Poland, and now looked as if it would be pushed back into Russia.

    The situation for the Russians was a grim one. The balance of forces was now decisively in the favour of the Allies. She was on the verge of bankruptcy and appeared as if she would be forced out of all the gains she had made. Her only saving grace was that the allies were in as bad a position as her. Britain was increasingly focused on her troubles in North America, as well as her war in India against the Sultan of Mysore. Saxony, having finally assured her security vis-à-vis her Prussian rival wanted only to see that Poland’s independence was preserved in some fashion. It was only Austria and Sweden who wanted to press on and see Russia’s previous annexations against Poland reversed. By the spring of 1801, the powers were exhausted, and convened in Berlin to sign the “Treaty of Berlin”, which was described by the British Prime Minister the Earl of Derby as ‘nothing more than a glorified ceasefire, which does not a single thing to allay any grievance on the part of any of the powers in question’.

    Certainly, the hopes of those who wanted to see a reduction in militarisation in Europe would be dashed by the treaty. Poland was preserved, though the Russians gained some land from her. Russia, Britain, Austria and France, who had been neutral in the war, agreed to preserve Polish independence and territorial integrity. Sweden’s gains in the war had not been what was hoped, consisting of border rectifications in Finland and a reduction in Denmark’s power, though she was more secure than she had been in a while. Saxony had much to be pleased about, having secured land in Germany, but more importantly, having eclipsed her stronger Prussian rival in Germany to be the first of the Lesser German states. For her part, Austria had preserved the balance of power in Europe but it had come at a horrible cost, leaving the Empire near bankrupt and the army in a state of exhaustion.

    However, it was in Russia that the effects of the war were most deeply felt. All aspects of Russian society had been affected by the war. Economically, Russia was broken, deeply in debt to Dutch and other European bankers, with her merchants also weakened from year’s isolation from markets in the rest of Europe. Socially, the Russian aristocracy looked less toward Western Europe as a cultural model and began looking at an idealised version of their own past. In a wave of popular sentiment, the Tsar Peter signed a decree aimed at curbing the worst excesses of Serfdom. It was also in strategic goals that Russia’s priorities shifted as she started to look to the south in the hopes of expansion rather than to the West. While Austria served as an effective shield to Russian expansionism in Eastern Europe, the declining Asian Empires seemed to offer more hope of wealth and glory to the Russian Tsars.


    Author's notes - I didn't want to drag out the Great Eastern War too much, as I would like to begin focusing more on cultural changes and economic changes as the 19th century begins to unfold. Nevertheless, it is quite important as the great "War of Attrition", one that France and the Mediterranean world has avoided. Austria is left as the greatest power in Central Europe, though she is as exhausted as the other powers are, and may well be vulnerable. Also, hurray for surviving Poland? A map is on the way for those who are interested of course.
    Secondary European Powers - Late 18th Century
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    Frederick Cregan: A History of Modern Europe

    Spain in the 18th Century

    The 18th century in Spain had seen some measure of recovery from her decline in the 17th century. Under the reforming Charles III, Spain’s economy and government underwent reform, and the power of the Catholic Church was curbed. In Spain’s only major war of his reign, she performed rather admirably, managing to occupy Portugal and inflicting a number of defeats on Britain in the Americas. Although Spain was still considered to be one of Europe’s lesser powers, she was still a power to be taken into consideration by more powerful nations, and France considered her to be perhaps her closest ally. This was further encouraged by the signing of the “Bourbon Covenant” which promised aid and cooperation between France and Spain.

    Internally, Spain saw the removal of many of the restrictive “Ancien Regime” internal barriers to trade. Spain was still less of a nation and more a conglomeration of smaller states locked in a personal union, divided by language and law. Charles III did much to unify the country and standardise Spanish law across the nation, though the crowns of Castile and Aragon remained distinctive. Nevertheless, the rationalisation of the law encouraged economic growth, with Catalonia in particular entering a state of proto-industrialisation by the end of the 18th century. Despite these advances however, Spain remained a country of contrasts, largely dominated by peasants of varying levels of prosperity. While smallholding peasants in Castile and Leon largely did well from the improving agricultural practices of the 18th century, the landless labourers of Andalucía saw no benefits.

    Externally, Spain focused less on the conquest of new territories and more on the reform of her existing and extensive overseas possessions. Spanish colonies provided little for the homeland in terms of markets and goods such as sugar and tobacco. King Charles instituted a raft of reforms designed to clarify the legal status of slaves and encourage the growth of plantation economies in areas such as Cuba, and to this end the Spanish saw some degree of success. In Cuba itself, the colony went from being a net drain on the Spanish treasury to a great asset, as the production of sugar, tobacco and coffee made the island one of the wealthiest in the Caribbean. On the mainland of the Americas, the administration was reformed to increase the power of the Spanish crown, and educated Spaniards were placed high into the administrations of the Viceroyalties, though this had the effect of disenfranchising the local elites and increasing resentment against the Spanish crown.

    Spain wisely stayed neutral in the Franco-British War of 1775-1777, acting as a mediator in the conflict while protecting her own interest around the world. Charles III died in 1787, and had died being seen as perhaps the greatest king Spain had in many years. He was succeeded by his son Ferdinand, who had less of an interest in Enlightenment reforms and a much stronger religious conviction than his father had. The curbing of the power of the Catholic Church that had taken place under Charles was partially reversed, though many administrative reforms had been kept. Although the Spanish economy continued to prosper, especially in the 1790s as much of the rest of Europe became embroiled in war, resentments continued to build up in parts of the Spanish Colonial Empire as local elites were increasingly side lined by administrators from Spain itself. The famous Spanish historian Hernando Castro noted that although Spain was looking increasingly powerful and prosperous, ‘Her navy and army were suffering from the rot of peace and neglect, her policies toward the Americas marked by complacency”. Spain appeared to be profiting from the storms of the 1790s but her own problems appeared to be looming.


    Sweden in the 18th Century

    Sweden in the 18th century had been marked by the decline of absolutism and the rise of the Swedish parliament and its two dominant factions, the Hats and the Caps. The former were pro-French, and solidly anti-Russian while the latter preferred to seek accommodation with Russia. The Hats were discredited somewhat by a run of Swedish defeats in the course of the 18th century, and by the 1770s the Caps were firmly in control of Swedish politics. It seemed as though Sweden had resigned herself to standing aside while Russia made a bid for supremacy in Northern and Eastern Europe, but this was not to be. With the Russian annexation of Polish territory in 1780 and the subsequent Austro-Prussian war of 1783-84, the Hats found themselves once again on the ascendency as fears of Russian expansion came to a head.

    On top of her traditional alliance with France, Sweden found it increasingly expedient to join Austria in a coalition to protect the territorial integrity of Poland, which was seen as a key bulwark against Russian Expansion. While France was increasingly beset by internal conflict as well as conflict with the United Kingdom, Austria took on France’s role as the guarantor of European stability. For a weakened nation like Sweden, this made her an ideal partner. Charles Gustav IV adroitly manoeuvred in Parliament to gain general approval for his alliance with Austria, which he did not frame as a move away from the traditional alliance with France. The Caps of the Swedish Parliament however were still unsatisfied that the policy was an anti-Russian one, and chafed under the impression that Sweden had just changed one master for the other in her quest for Empire.

    Sweden’s performance in the Great Eastern War that followed left a lot to be desired. She had just about managed to hold the line in Finland, though lost a major fortress. Her biggest gain in the war was the splitting of Norway from Denmark. This meant that Sweden was no longer faced with a potential competitor on her Western flank, and indeed became more interested in cooperation with Norway. In an attempt to win favour with the British, who had established themselves as the most prominent great power in the Scandinavian Peninsula. Sweden endeavoured to form friendly relationships with the newly independent Norway mainly as a way of shoring up her own international position, which had still been left precarious following the Great Eastern War.

    Following the Great Eastern War, Sweden’s main priority was keeping the Russians out of Finland. A chain of forts along the border were intended as a statement of Sweden’s undiminished determination to keep Finland out of Russian hands, though she now increasingly had to contend with a growth of discontent within Finland itself. Although still too primitive to be called a nationalism, a sense of a Finnish identity, separate from that of Sweden had emerged in the course of the 18th century. It had only been the harsh nature of Russian administration in the parts of Finland that she did rule that had persuaded many Finns that domination by Sweden was preferable to that of Europe’s. Going into the 19th century, there was still no significant sign of Finnish discontent with Swedish rule, though among the new Finnish-speaking chattering classes of towns like Åbo and Helsingfors, there was the wish for more autonomy in Finland, and less of the tight control of their cousins across the water of the Gulf of Bothnia.



    Italy in the 18th Century

    Italy in the 18th century was something of a strange beast. Divided between 12 states, with many more dialects. Indeed, it was less a country than a “clumsy geographic expression”, as the French King Henri V referred to it as. Following the end of the war of Austrian Succession in 1748, Italy saw a long period of relative peace and prosperity. However, despite the general growth of population, it was characterised by other Europeans as a place that was declining. Phrases from contemporary literature surrounding Italy characterise it as a “Place of beautiful cities that are in terminal decline” or a “Garden inhabited by ill-educated beggars and the lowest levels of humanity”. The lack of powerful and dynamic states in Italy further contributed to this impression, whether it was the reactionary Papal States, or the timid Venetian government.

    With weak government control, Italy increasingly became a land filled with beggars and brigands. The fact that there were almost no real roads worthy of the name, combined with the sheer volume of brigands, especially in the centre and south of the country, meant that the growth of trade that took part in other areas of Europe did not take place in Italy. Indeed, it has been estimated that per-capita income dropped in the 18th century as harvests remained unreliable and the population grew from around 13 million to 17 million. Italy was an overwhelmingly agricultural nation, and what manufacturing had existed in the past generally atrophied, as Italy increasingly became drawn into the sphere of Austria.

    However, there was one exception to the general image of malaise seen in Italy. In 1788, an ambitious nobleman who’s birth name was Giuseppe Bianco, but who is known to history as the Count of Asti, became the Prime Minister of Sardinia-Piedmont. A man who mixed an interest in the enlightenment philosophy with an aristocratic disdain for the idea of accountable government, he embarked upon an ambitious program of reform within Piedmont. He wanted to emulate what he saw as the ruler who had managed to distil the ideas of the enlightenment into good governance, Frederick the Great of Prussia. Although Frederick’s ambitions of power had met an ignoble end in the Ten Years War, Asti still thought that there were useful lessons that could be learned from his rule. Like Frederick, he attempted to reform the Piedmontese military, economy and government.

    His reforms took much in the way of effort to undertake. He found himself having to spend years building up the personal connections necessary to make his reforms a reality, though the results were seemingly worthwhile. The countryside was patrolled by Carabinieri, based on the French Gendarmes, which reduced levels of brigandage. The increase of agricultural production was made a priority as well, and by 1805 had resulted in a Piedmont that was significantly more prosperous on a per-capita basis than much of the rest of Italy. However, in terms of politics, Asti had failed to create a class of bureaucrats dedicated to improving the state of Piedmont. Corruption and nepotism remained entrenched in the Piedmontese Civil Service which reduced the efficiency of Piedmont as a state.


    Author's Notes - A bit of a dry update, but I think it's important to see the background for changes in the 19th century, though without Jacobinism and the French Revolution/Napoleon, things in all of these places will be greatly different. Next update will focus on parts of Asia not covered yet, and then it's back to the future! Or back to the 19th century at the vary latest.
    Asia - Late 18th Century
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    Lajos Csapó; A History of Chinese Civilization

    A Question of Stagnation?

    The Campbell Embassy of 1792 is often seen as the last hurrah of China’s dominant perception of itself. After weeks of entertaining the British Embassy lead by William Campbell, the Qianlong Emperor ultimately decided that British Manufactures were not desired by China, and that there was nothing that the British could offer that the Chinese wanted. China remained a country that was largely closed to Europeans, their main outlet being the port of Canton (Guangzhou) from which Chinese manufactures flooded onto the world market, causing a concerting movement of bullion from Europe into China. Campbell noted that although China’s enormous population and vast wealth gave it an intimidating presence, he argued that under poor leadership, the country may well break apart. This view contrasted with those of people like Voltaire, who compared Chinese Civilization favourably to European Civilization.

    Indeed, looking at China from a certain perspective in the 18th century seems to suggest that it was China rather than Europe that was on the cusp of world domination. In the 50 years from 1740 to 1790, China’s population more than doubled from 140 million to 301 million. Areas such as the Yangtze Valley became ever more commercially integrated, and prior to the Industrial Revolution it was this area that was the world’s workshop. Vast new areas came under cultivation and the introduction of new world crops powered the growth of China’s population and economy. Wise policies on the part of the Qing Government augmented this, enabling China to reach new levels of prosperity. When compared with the strife and displacement seen on many parts of the European Continent, one could certainly assume China was on the surer road to prosperity.

    However, it was not just in the economic sphere that China seemed to excel in. Unlike European powers such as Russia and France, China was the 18th century power that seemed to take on all comers and eliminate all challenges to its security. The Qing had defeated the last serious remnants of Han resistance in the 17th century, and in the 18th century augmented China with vast conquests in the West, destroying peoples such as the Dzungars and bringing much of Inner Asia under China’s sway. It was the Qing that finally eliminated the threat to the Steppes, expanding the Middle Kingdom deep into Mongolia. And it was not just Nomads that the Chinese triumphed over. Although China’s wars against Dai Nam and the Burmese were ultimately unsuccessful, China won a great victory against the greatest Muslim power of the 18th century, that of Afsharid Persia. The Banner Armies proved superior to Persia’s armies, and prevented a Persian takeover of the Muslim West of China. Victories such as these reinforced China’s sense of superiority, and assured its security.

    However, this picture of great strength and prosperity was underlay by the growing problems that would haunt China in the 19th century. During his travels through China, Campbell noted both China’s immense wealthy, but also its potential vulnerability. He reckoned that the forts defending Guangzhou could easily be levelled by European gunnery, and that the merchant fleet could be sunk by a handful of frigates. The military weakness of China vs that of the Europeans was already apparent to some, but at this juncture war was not desired due to the value of trade with China. British control of trade between India and China made the East India Company very wealthy indeed. The minds of those in the East India Company that desired expansion still dreamed of enforcing the submission of various Indian states such as Bengal and the Marathas rather than a war with China. China may have fallen behind in terms of military technology and organization, but she was far from any European power.



    Mark Huntington; Studies in Indian History - An Anthology

    The Destruction of Mysore

    The Sultanate of Mysore had been perhaps one of the most dynamic kingdoms in India. Its rulers had an army that was technologically the equal of the British East India Company’s, and during the reigns of Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan, had reformed the state into perhaps the most advanced in South Asia. Why was it that the British East India Company was able to conquer this thriving state? Traditionally the conquest was painted as the inevitable result of the racial inferiority of the Indian peoples by British scholars, while subsequent Indian writers often identified sectarian tensions as the main force in bringing down Mysore. However, more recent scholarship has dismissed many of these arguments, and a general consensus has built that it was actually a number of factors that led to the triumph of the British over Mysore.

    By the 1960s the idea of Britain’s racial superiority as the main cause of Britain’s victory was falling increasingly out of favour even in the United Kingdom. Gordon Hopkinson’s epic tome “The Definitive History of India” had pointed out that the majority of the East India Company’s army were Indian Sepoys rather than recruits from Britain itself. In most major engagements after the 1780’s, the British had superior numbers to those of Mysore thanks to the aid of Indian allies, and by the final assault on Mysore in 1800, the East India Company’s army had almost double the troops that Mysore did. Thus it was not the superior military organization or technology that won the wars for the British, but rather her superior numbers.

    These numbers had been augmented by Britain’s earlier victories against France in the Carnatic. Following the Ten Years War, it had briefly seemed with the victory of France’s allies in Bengal that it would be France rather than Britain who would become the dominant European power in India. However, in the subsequent war, the British managed to push the French territorial presence out of India altogether, leaving France’s influence on the continent only in the form of advisors and “factories”. With the exception of the Dutch in Ceylon, the British were left as the main European influence on the subcontinent, and the East India Company’s territories expanded to make it one of the largest powers on the southern half of the subcontinent. In addition to this, the growing British trade presence elsewhere in India meant that the revenues of the company now began to pull ahead of her Indian competitors. No matter how well-managed the tax revenue systems of Mysore, she could not compete with a trading power which possessed continental trading links. This money gave the British in India an increasingly important advantage over her competitors.

    Ultimately, as the 18h century turned to the 19th, the states of India increasingly conducted their foreign trade through the British. Perhaps in Mysore more than other areas, the Hindu merchant families saw the British as a useful counterbalance to their Muslim rulers, many of whom raised much of their taxes by placing a heavy burden on the Hindu population. The old Mysore Muslim tale of a traitorous Hindu allowing the British into the fortress of Seringapatam has long been proven to be a myth, but there was indeed much in the way of tension between the Muslim rulers of Mysore and their largely Hindu populace that the British East India Company was only too happy to capitalise on as she aimed to break resistance in the Kingdom. Even if Tipu Sultan had avoided death at Seringapatam than perhaps the best that Mysore could have hoped for was a steady breakdown of the societal consensus as well as the decline of its economy in the face of European manufactures and control of trade.

    Can Mysore’s downfall be seen as the harbinger of Europe’s domination of India and the rest of Asia? Or must its fate be examined separately? Certainly, almost no other Indian state saw the breakdown of institutions that Mysore did. Even the name of Mysore was erased from all except history books, testament perhaps to the fear that Tipu Sultan had inflicted on the British in India, but also of the increasing power of Europeans in Asia. Although its destruction may have had few parallels in history, the strength which had been demonstrated by the British in the war that led to her doom was to be a tale repeated for a long time after Mysore was wiped from the map.



    Enver Mehmetoglu; Perfumed Land: South East Asian History Reconsidered

    The Rise of the Tan Hop Dynasty

    Much as the rise of the rise of the Thonburi dynasty in Siam had partly had its origins in the drastic defeat of Ayutthaya at the hands of the Burmese, the rise of the Tan Hop dynasty in Vietnam had its roots in the defeat of the Nguyen Dynasty at the hands of the Siamese. The Vietnamese failure in the war, combined with the high levels of taxation and government corruption found in many parts of Vietnam at the time led to the a rebellion led by two bothers form the village of Tan Hop. With a strong base of support amongst the peasantry of Vietnam, the rebellion began to spread from beyond the province of Quang Tri, and threatened the Nguyen capital of Hue city. With the unseating of the Nguyen dynasty, the Tan Hop dynasty was formed, and was now assailed by the Trinh.

    However, the Trinh dynasty suffered from many of the same weaknesses that had afflicted the Nguyen, and after a short campaign their armies were on the retreat. In 1788 the Tan Hop army had conquered the North of Vietnam, and fended off a Chinese attempt to establish supremacy in the North. The two Tan Hop brothers agreed to rule as co-emperors, though following the death of one of the brothers by tuberculosis, Anh Dung ruled as sole emperor. During his reign, he encouraged the growth of foreign trade, inviting both the French and the British to set up trading posts in Gia Dinh on the Mekong Delta. The increase in trade with the outside world brought wealth that was used to fund Emperor Anh Dung’s renewed war against Siam, which was fought bravely but which ended inconclusively in 1804.

    Emperor Anh Dung focused heavily on land reform as well, remembering his own humble roots end encouraging the distribution of land to peasants, resulting in a Vietnam in which the land was held in large part by small-holding peasants. As well as this he encouraged linguistic and cultural reforms, attacking those nobles which were deemed to be too sympathetic to the view of Vietnam as a “Chinese nation”. Anh Dung preferred instead to focus on the assimilation of smaller ethnic groups in his own country, such as the Hmong and the Cham, and in campaigns resembling those of China’s bloody wars against the Miao people, embarked on campaigns to bring the hill people to heel. In this endeavour however he experienced limited success, managing to enforce the supremacy of the Vietnamese people in the valleys, but leaving the jungles and hills largely to speakers of different languages.


    Author's Notes - This took a bit longer than I would have liked to. I'm off to Prague on Wednesday so I'll try and squeeze another update in before then but then the next update probably won't come for around to weeks or something like that. I just wanted to give a bit of a view on other areas that haven't been covered (especially China and South East Asia). Australia's history has diverged due to the later American break off and this of course will have a great impact, but we won't explore that until the nineteenth century, which will begin properly next update!