Designer's Notes: GURPS Age of Napoleon

A Gazetteer of Napoleon's World

by Nicholas HM Caldwell

This gazetteer of the nation-states of the Napoleonic era was omitted from the final version of GURPS Age of Napoleon for space reasons. It supplements the book's chapters dealing with the history, personalities, and everyday life of the era, by providing more in-depth detail on the human geography, society and politics of the individual nations.


Great Britain

England was beginning an agricultural and industrial revolution. Agricultural experiments with new crops and crop rotations, enclosure of common lands, and animal breeding on private estates had increased yields tenfold. Other landowners followed suit, promoting Enclosure Acts through Parliament to acquire village common lands. The poorest peasants had to choose between becoming permanent laborers or emigration to the industrial towns.

By 1800, there were over 50 towns with more than 10,000 residents -- Birmingham had reached 45,000, Liverpool 78,000, and Manchester 84,000. The industries which encouraged this urban explosion varied considerably: textile mills (Lancashire), pottery (Staffordshire), iron and steel foundries (Sheffield), mining (Durham and Newcastle), shoemaking (Northampton), and hosiery (Leicester and Nottingham). Mechanization entered manufacturing in fits and starts: the water-powered spinning machine was adopted in 1769, but it was 30 years later before the arrival of the powered weaving loom left another group of semi-skilled workers jobless.

The factory workers were poorly paid, employed in unhealthy and dangerous conditions, and housed in slums. However for the prosperous, the growing towns became ever more pleasant, with better water supplies and fire prevention measures, elegant architecture, and cultural diversions such as theatres, libraries, and coffeehouses.

A burgeoning canal system and an improving road network provided England with an effective inland transport system. Meanwhile the great ports of London, Bristol, Hull, and Liverpool continued to attract more of the world's maritime commerce, thanks to British naval supremacy and an expanding colonial and trading empire. By 1790, there were more than 9,000 British merchant ships at sea.

Daily newspapers had existed in London since 1702. By 1780, there were 158 newspapers and periodicals being published throughout England. The newspapers were usually single large sheets, printed on both sides and folded once to make four pages. The content of the provincial publications drew heavily on the popular London newspapers. Popular periodicals such as The Spectator sold 20,000 copies per issue, but circulation remained low for most newspapers until the invention of the stream-press in 1814. As these ephemeral publications were relatively expensive, copies were normally shared or rented in coffeehouses. Press freedom, controversial journalists, and cruel caricaturists ensured that political and military news as well as society scandal and gossip propagated beyond the ruling elite, producing an informed -- albeit frequently by biased sources -- reading public.


The immediate effects of the Act of Union between England and Scotland had been to worsen conditions for Scotland, lending encouragement to the Jacobite Rebellions of 1715 ("the Fifteen") and 1745 ("the Forty-five"). The power of the clan system had been broken after the Forty-five, with severe penalties being levied on any Scots who bore arms or wore clan plaid or kilts. These laws were finally repealed in 1782.

As the Highlander nobles became mere proprietors and large-scale sheep farmers, clansmen drifted into crofting, fishing, and the army. Thousands emigrated to America. (Later many took the "high road" -- emigrated -- to England.) The vain hopes of a Jacobite restoration continued to stir the clans even into the 1770s, though the self-styled James III of England (and VIII of Scotland) had died in 1766. His elder son, Charles Edward Stuart ("Bonnie Prince Charlie" or Charles III), died in 1788. His younger son (the soi-disant Henry IX) became Cardinal York, dying in 1807, and ending the legitimate Stuart bloodline.

The later 18th century saw "North Britain" (as the English styled Scotland) benefit from better roads and increasing industrialization. Until American independence, the tobacco trade created many fortunes in Glasgow. After a brief slump, the linen and cotton industries became the Clyde Valley's largest employers.

Scotland's 1,600,000 people were represented by a mere 45 Members of Parliament (30 county MPs and 15 representing its 65 royal burghs) and 16 peers in the House of Lords. However, as there were only 3,000 actual voters (1788), manipulating the Scottish elections was easy and the Scottish bloc vote in the House of Commons could be relied on to support the incumbent government. The Scots were sympathetic to the American Revolution and advocated a widening of the electoral franchise after the French Revolution.


Wales remained stolidly rural with a population of 600,000 (1800) and no towns larger than 7,000 inhabitants. Wales elected 32 Members of Parliament; local government was dominated by the gentry who served as Justices of the Peace and county sheriffs. The richest aristocrats in Wales were actually English peers whose main estates were in England. The Welsh nobility and gentry were not as rich as their English counterparts, but the social gulf between them and their tenants was much wider. Owing to absenteeism among the landlords, estate stewards became powerful intermediaries. Successful stewards eventually became lesser gentry themselves.

Enclosure of land in the 1790s led to gradual agricultural improvements and local unrest. This coincided with extensive canal building by private entrepreneurs who recouped their investments through tolls. Previously the poor Welsh roads had made sea trade important. The new canals boosted the Welsh wool, leather, and mining industries, increasing exports of coal, copper, iron, lead, and tin.


"John Bull's other island," as Ireland was sometimes styled, was treated by England as another unruly colony rather than as part of Britain proper. It had been finally conquered by the English following the "Glorious Revolution" of 1688 and William III's defeat of James II at the Boyne (1690). As the Catholicized Norman and native nobility emigrated to Europe with their retainers, they were replaced with a Protestant Ascendancy subscribing to the established Church of Ireland, ruling over the 85% Catholic majority and the dissenting Presbyterians in Ulster.

Ireland's population rose from 2,700,000 (1771) to 4,200,000 (1791). Most lived in the countryside, farming potatoes or flax and weaving linen. Despite the efforts of English merchants to exert Parliamentary influence at Westminster to break Irish commerce, trade with America flourished from the western ports of Cork, Galway, Limerick and Londonderry, and smugglers exported Cork silver and Waterford glass to Europe.

Though some Ascendancy nobles were absentee landlords financing a life in England through Irish rents, the rest had become Anglo-Irish and sought a more equal relationship with England. Though hopelessly corrupt (two-thirds of the seats were "rotten boroughs" where the electors' votes were for sale to the highest bidder), Grattan's short-lived Parliament achieved some commercial concessions. Ireland was still governed from Dublin Castle by the Viceroy and his ministers. Irish legislation required the assent of both viceroy and King.

Dublin itself was the second largest city in Britain, with Ascendancy wealth rejuvenating its architecture. Parklands such as St Stephen's Green and Phoenix Park remained intact. Dublin was home to Ireland's sole university, Trinity College, established by Queen Elizabeth I for the education of Anglicans, and matched in quality only by Edinburgh. Philosophical, agricultural improvement, and cultural societies flourished. The popularity of the faked Ossian poems and authentic translations from the Gaelic led to harps appearing in Ascendancy homes. Nevertheless, poets such as Oliver Goldsmith sought fame and fortune in England.

Irish cities and towns were mostly populated by workers and beggars, leavened by a small middle class. In the countryside, most farmers leased their land under the "conacre" system, growing potatoes for themselves and managing grain and cattle for the landlord. Dwelling in mud cottages with their livestock, these Gaelic-speaking tenants subsisted on potatoes and skimmed milk. Short leases denied the peasantry any security of land tenure, making them subject to the arbitrary whims of landlords and their agents. Secret societies such as the Whiteboys committed acts of sabotage and occasional violence against landlords, their agents, and their property in retaliation for landowner brutality. Taxes and tithes (to the Church of Ireland) were ruthlessly levied. Beneath the conacre farmers was a large itinerant class of beggars, gypsies, tinkers, and gombeen men. The last sold clothing and salt to isolated communities, offering credit at usurious rates of interest.

Ulster and the Penal Laws

Ulster was Ireland's most prosperous province. The great landowners enjoyed a lavish lifestyle. Longer land leases had created a yeoman farmer class while the linen industry provided employment for thousands. Whaling, salmon fishing, and illegal whisky distilling supported coastal and isolated communities.

Western Ulster was predominantly Catholic; eastern Ulster was Presbyterian. Both Belfast and Londonderry had religiously mixed communities. Belfast had expanded to 18,000 thanks to the linen, cotton and ship-building industries, though many of the new inhabitants lived in cramped slums. Barred (like Catholics) from attending Trinity College, Presbyterians acquired Enlightenment ideas at Edinburgh and Glasgow universities and from American traders, so that Belfast's Presbyterian middle class became the most radical segment of Irish society. Land hunger kept sectarian hatred alive in the country with rivalry between the Presbyterian "Peep o' Day Boys" and Catholic "Defenders" flaring into frequent violence.

Throughout Ireland, the Penal Laws were enforced to ensure Catholics and Catholicism was unable to threaten the Ascendancy. No Catholic could vote or hold parliamentary office, or seek legal redress. They were excluded from careers in law, the judiciary, and the navy, and forbidden from attending any British university. (Medicine was their only permitted profession.) Catholics were educated by priests and at foreign universities. No Catholic was allowed to bear weapons or own a horse worth more than five pounds. They were required to divide all land equally among any sons. (An eldest son who converted to Protestantism inherited everything.) The equal land division was often foiled by sham conversions or transferring the property to a Protestant friend prior to death who then returned it to the intended heir. Bishops were banned from Ireland on pain of death by hanging, drawing, and quartering. Only 1,000 priests were legally permitted and they were forbidden to teach the Catholic faith. Nevertheless more were trained in continental seminaries and returned to work in secret. Many educated Protestants found the Penal Laws distasteful and assisted Catholics in evading them.


His Most Christian Majesty, Louis XVI, ruled over a nation of some 26 million inhabitants, exercising his authority through the same administrative machinery created a century earlier by Cardinals Richelieu and Mazarin and the Sun King himself, Louis XIV. The royal palace at Versailles outside Paris was both the seat of the royal court and of the French government. The purchase of noble titles had elevated higher officials into the aristocracy while marriages between the noblesse d'épee and de robe gradually reduced the effective social distinctions and enabled the ancient families to recover some measure of political power.

The King's government was undertaken by a small number of ministers, responsible for law, finance, home and foreign affairs, the army, and the navy, and some 34 intendants appointed as regional administrators. Originally created as the monarch's agents to control the aspirations of local nobles and enforce the royal will, the intendants had become aristocrats themselves and in the ensuing conflicts of interest, they frequently acted on behalf of their region (or its most vocal and powerful political factions). Subordinate to ministers and intendants was a large and unwieldy bureaucracy.

Various institutions in France such as the guilds and the Church enjoyed special privileges which mitigated the supposed absolutism of the regime. Provincial nobles agitated for further powers to be restored to their regional Estates from the central government. The 13 parlements, particularly the parlement of Paris, were attempting to acquire veto authority over new laws (rather than simply registration) in addition to their status as appeal courts.

Agriculture was the main-stay of most French families. The larger farms of northern France yielded comfortable incomes for their tenants; the west, south, and southwest were dominated by struggling sharecroppers with small plots.

Some 15% of the population lived in cities or towns, where municipal charters shielded the residents from rural feudal obligations and some taxes. With the exception of Paris and Lyons, the urban centers witnessing the greatest growth in prosperity were the coastal ports, such as Bordeaux, Le Havre, Marseilles and Toulon, thriving on overseas and colonial trade. The wealth of Nantes was derived from the linked commerce of sugar and slaves. Bordeaux spent its riches in its new theaters, shops, and fine buildings. Lyons, the second city of France (with 150,000 people) was the center of the silk industry, though workshops and small factories rather than steam-powered "dark satanic mills" predominated.


The Swiss Confederation and its allied communities of Geneva, the nominally Prussian fief of Neuchâtel, and the republic of Valais formed an extremely loose and disunited federation, lacking any central administration, legislature or constitution. Rent by internal religious divisions, the Swiss avoided foreign intervention, relying on their military reputation and difficult Alpine passes for their defense. More than 40,000 Swiss served as mercenaries abroad, though recruitment grew steadily more difficult as agriculture and manufacturing became more lucrative. Cotton, silk and lace-making became key industries in Zurich and St. Gall, while Geneva and Neuchâtel became renowned for watch-making.

The Forest Cantons of Schwyz, Unterwalden, Uri, and Zug remained dominated by Catholic nobles and clergy. Other rural cantons functioned as corrupt, popular "democracies" where the peasants sold prestigious offices to wealthy families and appropriated foreign pensions.

The urban cantons were ruled by town councils. In Zurich, the guilds ruled, regulating every aspect of life from dress to pastimes. Though half of Basel's inhabitants were citizens, the merchants' guild monopolized all high posts. Bern was governed by an exclusive patrician class of 68 families whose occasional six-year tenure of one of 60 bailiff posts enabled them to rebuild or enlarge their fortunes. Rural areas were neglected by the urban cantons. The common bailiwicks (under multiple cantonal jurisdiction) were misruled by bailiffs who recouped the office's purchase through levying fines.

Geneva's 25,000 people were stratified into four classes: office-holding citizens, voting burghers, natifs and newly arrived habitants who could neither vote nor hold office. A revolt in 1781 led to the temporary elevation of some natifs but was repudiated by the patricians supported by French intervention in 1782. Thereafter Geneva was ruled by its Small Council, and became a major financial center.

Though lightly taxed, the sharp social distinctions, censorship and legalism encouraged an attitude of seeking advantages from the States without doing anything in return. Swiss neutrality was quickly sacrificed by Napoleon. His Helvetic Republic (1798-1803) gave Switzerland a single government. Its treasuries were looted by France, while foreign armies and internal revolts led to anarchy and Napoleon's formation of a Helvetic Confederation under the Act of Mediation (1803). Switzerland languished as a satellite state until Napoleon's downfall, when an enlarged independent and neutral confederation was established.


Since the accession of Philip V, Duke of Anjou, as His Catholic Majesty, Spain had been ruled by a Bourbon dynasty descended from Louis XIV of France. He had abolished the constitution of Aragon, placing the entire nation under the laws of Castile and requiring all public business to be conducted in Castilian Spanish. From the Treaty of Utrecht (1713) onward which assigned Gibraltar to Britain, the British were seen as the enemy and the French as natural allies. Though Spain lost control of the western Mediterranean, the Spanish Navy expanded throughout the 18th century, defending the far-flung colonies and undertaking voyages of exploration.

Spain's population rose to 10 million (1800) with a hundred thousand living in Madrid. Half a million Spaniards claimed noble status; of these, only the 700 grandees and titulos de Castile enjoyed great wealth and influence. Links between the Spanish aristocracy and other European noble castes grew, with many Spaniards proving receptive to the writings of French and English thinkers. While the Inquisition remained active, its unwillingness to prosecute powerful grandees weakened its ability to halt the spread of subversive ideas

Population and prosperity migrated from the center to the Peninsula's periphery. The provincial nobility sponsored the foundation of regional economic societies between 1765 and 1789 to encourage investment and promote technical knowledge. Catalan and Basque merchants benefited from the opening of colonial trade to all ports by 1778. (Previously Cadiz and Seville had monopolized all commerce with the Americas.) Shipbuilding, coastal fishing, iron, and steel production expanded in the Basque region. The cotton and domestic industries enriched Catalonia. Valencia became a center of medicine and culture as well as the hub of the Spanish silk industry.

Agricultural improvements remained few; the great landowners were satisfied with the revenues from their estates while the peasants eked out a living on tiny plots and the common land. The landless laborers of southern Spain suffered most from increasing prices and rents.

The preference of many noblemen for French styles and fashions was equaled by the favor shown to native styles and customs by other sections of society and many noblewomen. Bullfighting, formerly popular only in Andalucia, became a national entertainment. Similarly flamenco singing and dancing spread throughout Spain.

A substantial French presence in Spain's commercial cities and a later flood of French émigrés propagated Revolutionary ideas and news of events north of the Pyrennees to ordinary Spaniards despite the best efforts of government censorship. Initial enthusiasm for the French Revolution collapsed with the execution of Louis XVI and the Terror. Basque and Catalan regional patriotism redirected itself against republicans, and the Spanish people united against the perceived Jacobin threat. The later loss of colonial trade and crippling military costs combined with disease epidemics caused severe hardship to many Spaniards, enflaming the discontent which erupted in violence against Godoy's ministry and during the War of Liberation.


The discovery of gold and diamonds in Brazil had ushered in a Golden Age for Portugal during the first half of the 18th century. Bullion paid for the construction of new palaces, churches, and noble residences. Portugal's economy was linked to Britain's by the enduring Methuen Treaties which ensured preferential treatment for Portuguese wines (in British territories) in return for unhindered sales of English textiles in Portugal. Fish and corn were also imported from British North America. All problems were (temporarily) solved by judicious gold payments; meanwhile English expatriates consolidated their hold on commerce.

The Lisbon earthquake of 1755 shattered the easy complacency of the House of Braganza, and caused many intellectuals at home and abroad to doubt the merciful nature of God. The city center was destroyed and the English Quarter was badly damaged. Directed by the Marquis of Pombal, chief minister of His Faithful Majesty Joseph I, Lisbon was rebuilt to a grid pattern. Though the homes of the nobility and the rich were quickly restored, housing for the poor took the form of huge shanty towns which grew in the areas around Lisbon's seven hills. Under Queen Maria, a royal police force preserved law and order in Lisbon aided by the introduction of street lighting. Little was done to improve the road infrastructure of the nation.

Maria's reign witnessed Portugal's population rise to three million with the bourgeois expanding to include some 80,000 traders. Over 100,000 craftsmen supplied Portuguese needs. The armed forces recovered their professionalism after the long stagnation under previous rulers. The Catholic Church regained its influence in society. Both the monasteries and the rural squires retained their feudal dues and medieval rights (e.g. in blacksmithing and milling). Though Portugal possessed thousands of lesser nobles and impoverished knights, the grandees numbered a mere 50 titled families. Emigration to Brazil provided a safety-valve for the disaffected youth of the smaller towns.

Portuguese merchants felt increasingly patronized and exploited by the heretical English who lived in fine fashionable homes in the suburbs of Lisbon and Oporto. Strenuous efforts were thus made by Portuguese traders to develop new industries and markets.

As Brazil became more self-reliant, Lisbon's merchants exported low-quality goods to Angola and created a triangular trade in slaves to Brazil. Careful only to sell cargo space to slavers rather than purchasing the slaves outright, the shipowners profited regardless of whether the slaves lived or died en route. Payment was accepted in gold, cotton, Peruvian silver, and sugar -- the colonial estates were always in debt to the home merchants. The silver was re-exported to India while the sugar was sold to Mediterranean customers. The cotton supplied the flourishing textile industry around Lisbon itself. The capital became noted for its numerous goldsmiths and booksellers.

Portugal's other city, Oporto, was the center of the wine trade to Britain, with shipments being sent to London, Hull and Bristol. Portuguese wine was sufficiently coarse to induce English merchants to fortify it with French brandy before selling it in England. Low prices induced landowners in many wine-growing regions to return to the cultivation of cabbages, cereals, olives, and the newly introduced potato. Thousands of artisans near Oporto became involved in the flax industry, performing piecework at home rather than in factories. The center of Oporto remained the city's commercial heart. Colonial returnees flaunted their wealth in miniature palaces in the eastern suburbs, while the English community gravitated to the western districts.

Portugal's bourgeois magnates briefly hoped that the French invasion would permit them to escape from British competition. The behavior of Napoleon's marshals swiftly disillusioned them. Selling supplies to the British forces provided a new source of income. Nevertheless, they were greatly aggrieved by the Anglo-Portuguese Treaty of 1810 which allowed the British direct access to the Brazilian markets.

The Italian States

Despite a population rising to 18 million, Italy remained a mosaic of small states ruled by powerless dynasties. Victories and defeats in the diplomatic conflicts of the continental European powers were translated into transfers of Italian states and duchies from one hegemony to another. New rulers invigorated their kingdoms, reintegrating Italy with Europe. New roads connected northern Italy through the Alps to European markets, while sea trade boomed in the free ports of Ancona, Leghorn, Trieste, and Venice. Northern Italy exported silk especially to France; oil, corn, and wine remained the principal exports of the south.

The luxurious Renaissance villas of the nobility and classical monuments contrasted with the hovels of a mostly illiterate peasantry. The warm climate encouraged most to spend their waking lives outdoors. The wealthy had their sons schooled by private tutors or in the Jesuit academies; their daughters prepared for eventual marriage with a convent education. Though attached to Catholicism, popular and aristocratic morality was little influenced by its tenets. Despite the censors, printers published Enlightenment works in French and in translation; the native thinkers responded by emphasizing Italian (rather than classical) history and urging the use of Italian (rather than Latin) for cultural thought. Following the French invasion (1796), careers in the universities, academies, schools, the military and journalism became attractive alternatives to law and the Church for intellectuals. As Italy suffocated under Napoleon's Continental Systems, Jacobins channeled desires for an independent united Italy through numerous and popular secret societies such as the northern Adelfi, central Guelfia and Neapolitan Carboneria.

The House of Savoy ruled Piedmont and Sardinia as an absolute monarchy, reorganizing both territories to ensure the preeminence of the ruler and stifling enlightenment thought. Although Sardinia was a rural backwater, Turin and Nice enjoyed significant expansion. Determined to expand territorially, Savoy's Victor Amadeus III exploited the balance of power between France and Austria.

Mantua and Milan (population 131,000) combined to form Austrian-ruled Lombardy. Divisions between town and country had been reduced by a reorganization of the Lombard provinces to ensure urban and rural participation in each administrative unit, while church influence was curbed. Agricultural innovations improved the standard of living and increased the wealth of the great landowners. With the extinction of the Medicis, Florence (population 72,000) and the Grand Duchy of Tuscany were ruled by Austrian Habsburg princes. Peter Leopold's reforms abolished torture and the death penalty and instituted free trade policies. Despite this "Enlightened" despotism, most peasants were sharecroppers or heavily indebted, the bourgeois were politically weak, and the landholders supported only the changes which were in their interests. The Este Duchy of Modena was an Austrian satellite.

The Bourbons governed the joint Kingdoms of Naples and Sicily. The Neapolitan barons were ill-versed in trade, preferring the extravagance of the court at Naples (population: 400,000), and allowing commoner parvenus to lease or purchase their estates to pay off debts. Heavy business taxes on commoners limited commercial and industrial growth. Agriculture concentrated on cultivating fruit, vegetables, grapes, and cereals. Seizures of monastic lands, the suppression of the Inquisition, and elimination of the right of sanctuary shifted power away from the Church. Sicily was ruled by a viceroy from its capital of Palermo (population: 140,000) -- however, the baronial parliament ensured the retention of aristocratic economic and social privileges. Another branch of the Bourbons ruled the duchy of Parma.

Reduced after the loss of Corsica to a city-state, the Republic of Genoa was still under the absolute control of the oligarchy of the Bank of St. George. The impoverished nobility and gentry subsisted on the salaries obtained from filling the minor posts of the army, administration and diplomatic service.

The Most Serene Republic of Venice was a shadow of its former glory. Its ruling oligarchy had declined to a mere 50 families. The city population had stabilized at 137,000. New walls were erected to protect Venice from flooding. The mainland territories were completely subordinated to the needs of the city and willfully neglected, lacking even a network of roads. The country towns emulated the city in lording it over their rural neighborhoods. Increasingly isolated from the outside world, Venetian foreign policy was to hide from all attention; its people and its rulers were gripped by a "terror of the future."

The Papacy was at its nadir of prestige. The Papal States and the Church were run by a ruling class of courtiers, "nephews" of cardinals and popes, and feudal nobles, for their own benefit. Divided by the Apennines, the southern papal domains consisted of large fiefs (worked by sharecroppers) and unhealthy marshes, while the northern regions exported hemp and silk, and enjoyed a measure of commercial prosperity. The University of Bologna sufficed as the center for Enlightenment thought. Rome itself (population 162,000) was filled with beggars and priests -- fully a third of the inhabitants of the States were in holy orders. The reforming ambitions of Pius VI (pontiff 1775-99) foundered; his successor Pius VII (1800-1823) had more urgent concerns.

The Dutch Netherlands

The Dutch Netherlands, then called the United Provinces, had declined from their peak in the 17th century, becoming a second-class power. Holland still dominated the federation. Although officially a Calvinist state, the two million inhabitants of the United Provinces included 700,000 Catholics and 200,000 Jews and Protestant Dissenters, who were excluded from all military posts and commercial office.

Political tensions in the United Provinces included the House of Orange's desire to convert their hereditary title of Stadtholder into an effective ruling monarchy, the rivalries between the nobility of the landward provinces and the merchant patricians of Holland, and the desires of the burghers (the self-styled Patriot factions) to obtain some share in the States-General which constituted the government. The aristocratic families, known as Regents, monopolized all positions of power and influence, even forming cabals to ensure vacant offices were transferred to appropriate holders. Though society became more stratified, wealth was a passport into the regent families.

The decay in the fortunes of the Netherlands was most visible in the cities and towns. By the 1790s, Amsterdam's inhabitants numbered less than 200,000; elsewhere towns steadily depopulated. Urban areas became filthier, dead animals were common sights in the canals, and outbreaks of typhus, cholera and fever increased in frequency. Gin drinking became a widespread vice as the traditional meat, bread and dairy diet was eschewed in favor of gins, adulterated brandy, and low-quality tobacco. Begging increased in the towns, while robber bands prowled the countryside.

Devastating cattle plagues forced Dutch farmers to diversify more, raising sheep and cultivating asparagus, clover, chicory, flax, madder, potatoes, and tobacco. Fishing and whaling declined owing to a lack of qualified native sailors and supporting crafts. Dutch ships remained small and traditionally designed, while other nations constructed larger, faster ships, dredged their harbors effectively, and avoided the need for Dutch middlemen. The Dutch remained the premier smugglers in the New World -- this led to Dutch bankers supporting the rebellious American colonies with substantial loans and the importation of American revolutionary ideas into the Patriot cause. Manufacturing of textiles and ceramics collapsed from foreign competition, causing skilled workers to emigrate. High taxes (for the maintenance of the Barrier Forts guarding the borders) and guild restrictions (which increased prices) added to Dutch misery. The rise of Amsterdam as a world banking center did little to reassure the elite, who continued to fret about whether the United Provinces had exceeded their resources or reached the maximum extent of their wealth.

The Austrian Netherlands

The Austrian Netherlands (sometimes called Belgium and including modern Luxembourg) was granted by the Treaty of Utrecht (1713) to the Austrian throne. The Habsburg emperors modernized the previously Spanish governmental institutions, making appointment to public office depend more on merit than influence or status. The three million Flemings and Walloons came to be ruled by a combination of Viennese officials, Belgian administrators, native nobles with a French outlook, and Catholic prelates. The cities of Antwerp, Bruges and Ghent were governed by their leading burghers. The subordination of Flemish to French as the language of officialdom and the upper classes caused some resentment among lower-class Flemings who neither spoke nor understood French.

Under Maria Theresa, the Austrian Netherlands enjoyed an era of increasing prosperity with agricultural progress being matched with growth in manufacturing (such as cotton and woolen goods) and mining activities. Wages remained low and the ongoing blockade of the Schelde estuary by the Dutch prevented Antwerp's recovery as a port. For the well-to-do, it was a time of revelry, dancing and feasting. Enlightenment ideas percolated into employment, education, health and religious affairs.

Emperor Joseph II's attempt to lift the Schelde blockade failed; his administrative and religious reforms threatened the political autonomy of the Austrian Netherlands and the powers of the native aristocracy. The latter triggered an unlikely alliance between conservatives and progressives, culminating in a middle-class revolt (the Brabant Revolution) in 1789. The coalition fractured and Austrian control was reasserted by Leopold II in 1790.

The fall of the Austrian Netherlands to French Revolutionary armies brought annexation to France. Revolutionary and Directorial France abolished all traditional privileges, suppressed the Catholic Church, and eliminated all vestiges of autonomy. Extensive military conscription led to rural revolts (1798-99) and savage repression. The Consulate and the Empire introduced the Code Napoleon and restored religious worship under the Concordat. As an integrated part of France, the economy, especially in the coal, metal, and increasingly mechanized textile industries actually grew, unlike the other satellite states. Napoleonic control of Holland effected the removal of the Schelde blockade, restoring Antwerp as a port and staging ground for a French invasion into the unprotected eastern counties of England.

The German States

Germany was not a single nation; instead there were hundreds of mostly small states forming the Holy Roman Empire -- which was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire. The German rulers were ostensibly vassals of the Emperor in Vienna. In their own territories, these nobles could behave as absolute rulers.

The states had varying characteristics. There were about a thousand imperial barons and knights, mostly in the south-west and in the Rhineland, who held small fiefs as direct vassals of the emperor. Hereditary castes of senators governed the imperial free cities of Frankfurt-on-Main, Hamburg, Nuremberg, and some 50 lesser municipalities. Unusually, Hamburg prohibited nobles from owning property within its confines; however this bourgeois bastion had nine levels of citizenship. The larger principalities in the west, numbering some 250 states, were endowed with landed nobility and bureaucracies, with small farmers working the land. Feudal obligations were frequently "bought off." Only Baden, Bavaria, Hanover, Hesse-Darmstadt, and Württemberg were of significant size. In eastern Germany, serfs and near-serfs grew cereals on the large estates of the Junker nobles of the major kingdoms of Brandenburg-Prussia, Mecklenburg, and Saxony. Serf revolts were frequent.

The state's religion normally mirrored its ruler's, though the conversion of a ruler did not necessitate mass conversions among his subjects. Each state was represented at the "Perpetual Diet" in Regensburg (which met until the empire's dissolution in 1806), providing a forum for diplomacy and dispute resolution without recourse to war among the minor powers. Citizens and nobles had recourse to two imperial courts (one in Regensburg which had a huge case backlog; the other in Vienna). To simplify administration, the tiny states were grouped into imperial districts which functioned as regional federations.

The nobility constituted about 1% of the total population. Imperial aristocrats married within their own class in order to preserve their votes in the Diet. Ruling nobles created elaborate courts (in proportion to their wealth) with entourages of secular and religious advisors, entertainers, and servants. The upper classes' demand for luxury goods adversely effected the economic development of the states.

The clergy remained a privileged order. Many Catholic bishops enjoyed opulent lifestyles, delegating their pastoral duties to assistant bishops who were usually of commoner and burgess stock. The Protestant clergy recognized the local prince as governor of their church.

Everywhere in Germany, from the secular courts of Munich and Dresden, the cathedral cities of Cologne and Mainz, to the university town of Göttingen, beggars formed up to a quarter of the population. Some indigents were bourgeoisie citizens who had been bankrupted, former officers, even nobles fallen on hard times. Hygiene was nonexistent, with filth even to the very walls of palaces; the absence of plagues was miraculous.


Six million Prussians acknowledged the rule of Frederick the Great in 1769. His scattered domains were reflected in his multiplicity of titles -- Margrave of Brandenburg, Grand Duke of Silesia, King in Prussia (as its territories were not part of the Empire), and Duke of Ansbach, Bayreuth, Cleves, East Frisia, Mark, Minden-Ravensburg, and far-off Swiss Neuchâtel.

Though the Prussian territories embraced multiple faiths, royal decrees granting religious freedom forestalled any sectarian violence. Prussia was the most tolerant of German states in this respect, but for pragmatic rather than liberal reasons.

Likewise, pragmatic requirements for aristocratic support during his wars forced Frederick the Great to concede greater powers over their serfs to the Junker nobility. Military and civil appointments were monopolized by the Junkers. Contemptuous of mere trade, the haughty Junkers were frequently in debt -- though Frederick bailed many out, increasing their loyalty. They quickly became a disciplined and obedient elite, performing their tasks efficiently in the bureaucracy and the army. On their own estates, they were paternalistic overlords.

To ensure an officer corps, Junkers' sons were required to attend cadet school in Berlin from age 12. Armed "escorts" were used to prevent parental feelings interfering with a punctual departure for school. The ordinary soldiers were recruited from each canton. The exclusion of urban burgesses and property-owners ensured that this burden fell on the peasants.

Prussia's healthy economy was based on a combination of agriculture, commerce, and manufacturing. Many bourgeoisie became rich; some astute property developers even received leases to royal lands. However, wealth could not purchase a noble title in the fixed Prussian social hierarchy.

The Austrian Empire

The Habsburg dynasty had held the title of Holy Roman Emperor since the election of Albert II in 1438, and it remained their preferred title. It was not, however, a hereditary title -- each new Habsburg monarch had to seek election from the electoral college consisting of the Electors of Bavaria, Bohemia, Brandenburg, Hanover, and Saxony, as well as the Archbishops of Cologne, Mainz, and Trier. The end of each reign and the beginning of the next presented opportunities for the electors to extract concessions from weak monarchs in order to assent to their election. The true power of the Habsburgs lay in their own "crownlands" of Austria, Bohemia, and Hungary, rather than in their tenuous hold over the German States (see above).

Even in the crownlands, Habsburg monarchs were required to rule through consensus with the regional elites. The crownlands had been united by "personal unions" of Habsburg princes with the previous ruling dynasties rather than by conquest; hence the existing governmental structures had been preserved and each local nobility resisted the establishment of a homogenous constitution. The discontinuous territories and the central European location of the crownlands ensured that some part of the empire was always threatened by foreign intervention, denying the monarchy any opportunity for forcing internal reform. As the regional Diets would support defensive wars, Habsburg foreign policy emphasized coalitions maintaining the balance of power.

Unlike their fellow monarchs, Their Apostolic Majesties (as the Habsburgs were styled) were relatively well-informed upon conditions of their ordinary subjects. This was due to Joseph II's predilection for travelling incognito at home and abroad as "Count Falkenstein," both as prince and co-Emperor. Joseph's fact-finding trips inspired many of his reforms.

With a total population of 27 million, the crownlands had the usual high proportion of nobility and Catholic clergy, but most were peasants on noble estates and proprietors of small farms. The gradual reduction of the hated robot (compulsory feudal labor services) and an increase in rural manufacturing led to better conditions for the peasantry. Towns remained small.

Vienna was the empire's capital owing to its central location between Prague, Graz, Innsbruck, and Pressburg. Its population had grown to 300,000, with a third living in the suburbs. Vienna supported a substantial bourgeoisie class as well as many urban poor. Court and royal life centered on the Schönbrunn Palace.

German was instituted as the official language of the crownlands in 1784, replacing Latin and displacing national tongues such as Magyar. Public education was widespread. In rural areas, children received moral, religious, and vocational training. In urban areas, children learned reading, writing, and arithmetic. Burghers' children proceeded to a "middle school," focusing on either academic or vocational skills. The brightest and the wealthiest were finally sent to the regional gymnasium in preparation for university.

Road building and river dredging initiatives, an internal free trade zone, and the elimination of guild privileges led to a commercial boom. There was even a thriving sea trade with the Ottoman Empire and the East Indies.

The Revolutionary Wars forced a monarchic reaction against Enlightenment. The secret police expanded and censorship was enforced. The wartime inflation enriched many farmers.

The Habsburg Dominions

In addition to Austria, the Habsburgs ruled the kingdom of Bohemia (including Moravia), the kingdom of Hungary, the former Ottoman territories of Croatia, Slavonia, Banat, and Transylvania (much of which were still classified as the Military Border regions, home to scattered military colonies providing a permanent defense against the Ottoman Empire), Polish Galicia (see Poland), Lombardy (see The Italian States), and the Austrian Netherlands.

The Slavic lands, i.e. Bohemia, Moravia, Slavonia, Croatia, and Polish Galicia, had both the wealthiest landowners and the poorest peasants in Europe. In Bohemia, the robot for bondsmen was several days of labor per week; many nobles exploited their serfs even more. Three-quarters of a million Bohemians and Moravians were employed in manufacture, particularly in the textile industry. Brno became known as the Moravian Manchester in this era -- although its Castle Spilberk became infamous as a prison for revolutionaries and radicals. Czech nobles continued to govern Greater Bohemia from the Hradcany Palace in Prague, which with a population of 80,000 was the second-largest city of the crownlands.

Hungary was controlled by the numerous belligerent Magyar nobility. Only a few (such as the Esterhàzy family) were great magnates; the rest drew their wealth from horse breeding and cereal farming. Hungary exported livestock, grain and wine to the other crownlands. Hungarian peasants had a better standard of living than their Polish or Czech contemporaries owing to a much lower urbarium (equivalent to the robot). Decades of peace had encouraged a rise in population and re-established an artisan class. Colonists and Balkan immigrants had repopulated the southern and eastern regions. Pressburg had reached 30,000 inhabitants; the twin cities of Buda and Pest on opposite banks of the River Danube housed 50,000.

In urban areas of Hungary, the arts were flourishing. The great nobles constructed new palaces, while the wealthier towns founded theatres and orchestras. Newspapers, reading clubs, and Masonic lodges multiplied. In more rural areas, converted mosques reminded the traveler that while Hungary had been detached from the Ottoman Empire for decades, it had yet to be fully absorbed into the European mainstream.


During the 18th century, Denmark possessed the Germanic duchies of Schleswig and Holstein, the kingdom of Norway, and the ancient Norwegian territories of the Faeroes, Iceland, and Greenland, as well as three Caribbean islands (St. Thomas, St John, and St Croix) and trading posts in India and Ghana.

Denmark proper had a population of one million, of whom a tenth lived in semi-autonomous Copenhagen, where nobles and a large garrison mixed with merchants, craftsmen, sailors, and fishermen. With the decline of the Dutch, commerce had flourished, though Denmark was limited in its exports to meat and oxen, with its inferior grain being shipped to the captive Norwegian market.

Denmark was temporarily governed in 1770-71 by Johann Struensee, physician and Queen Caroline's lover. A conservative coup then reversed the Germanization of the court, leading to the restoration of Danish as the official language of the military and the government. Foreigners were prohibited prohibition from serving the Crown from 1776 onward. These "Danish" policies invigorated the national literature while Denmark's neutrality during the American War boosted maritime trade. A special treaty with England protected the vital Norwegian timber exports.

Nine-tenths of Denmark was divided into some 1,000 estates owned by several hundred landowners. From the 1780s, the magnates introduced various reforms, commuting seigniorial dues into money rents and increasing the process of enclosure. The lot of the peasantry, who were also taxed and tithed, improved, through an underclass of day laborers and cottagers appeared due to the shortage of available land.

Crown Prince Frederick's military and foreign policy of merchant convoys and neutrality in the 1790s served Denmark well until 1801. After the forced dissolution of the Baltic armed neutrality pact, it was only a matter of time before the Danes were compelled to choose sides. Vacillation led to the second British assault on Copenhagen and Danish incorporation into a Napoleonic alliance and the Continental System. Its overseas holdings were seized while British squadrons prevented communication with Norway and the Atlantic possessions. Though half the Danish merchant fleet was lost, Danish privateers enjoyed some success against British Baltic shipping. Widespread smuggling through British-held Heligoland ameliorated the impact of this unpopular war in the German Duchies.

Though Denmark forfeited Norway at the conclusion of the Napoleonic Wars, it recovered its Caribbean possessions and retained control of Iceland, Greenland, and the Faeroes.


United from 1536 with Denmark, Norway remained a distinct realm. During the 18th century, its fiefdoms were replaced by a system of shires and bailiwicks, administered by governors and bailiffs appointed by the Danish crown. Norwegians could appeal the decisions of these officials to the king.

The 800,000 Norwegians were thinly scattered in coastal communities. Three-fifths of Norway's farmers owned their own land; in the north of the realm, the great landowners preferred to offer limited tenancies to preserve their own hunting and fishing rights. Farming, timber, mining, fishing, and shipping formed the sole Norwegian "industries," with merchants and burghers garnering fortunes during the wars of the 18th century. Taxation was lighter than in Denmark, owing to successful Norwegian defenses against Swedish incursions. Nationalism began to appear in the upper classes at the close of the century.

Inclusion in the Continental System brought bankruptcy, hardship, and isolation from Denmark. Ruled by a commission and threatened by Sweden, Norway was granted a temporary dispensation in 1809 from the System to renew trade with England, but suffered famine in 1812. Despite short-lived resistance, Norway was severed from Denmark and united with Sweden in 1815.


Sweden had been in decline since its 17th-century apex of power, though it retained title to much of Finland and the Caribbean island of St Bartholomew. Gustav III's coup had ended the "Age of Freedom" which had degenerated into factional political strife between the "Hats" (supporting the nobility and bureaucracy) and the "Caps" (espousing the "people" and lower Estates). Rule was returned to the monarchy and the powers of the four Estates (nobles, clergy, burgesses, and peasantry) were reduced.

Three-quarters of Sweden's two million people depended on agriculture for their living. In response to the ever-present threat of famine, the Swedish farmers adapted English agronomic theories, introduced potatoes and turnips, and accelerated the process of enclosure of common lands. Insufficient work existed for the growing lower-class population; alcohol, especially gin, became the preeminent vice, especially as the government was unable to stop illegal distilleries.

Gustav III's reign witnessed an upsurge in cultural activity, especially in the theatre, opera, and belles-lettres. His policies led to the restoration of a healthy currency, a reorganization of Finland's administration, naval strengthening, and the abolition of torture. Enclosure of common lands in Finland led to discontent among the rural population and defenses against potential Russian encroachment were limited. In foreign policy, Sweden gradually became opposed to Denmark and Russia, as Gustav made little secret of his interests in detaching Norway and Russian-ruled Finnish provinces from his Baltic neighbors.

After Gustav III's assassination, Sweden had little direct contact with the rest of Europe between 1792 and 1804. Gustav IV concentrated on balancing Swedish finances and seeking a rapprochement with Denmark. An inability to form any alliances with Directorial France led Sweden to join the League of Armed Neutrality. After the collapse of this pact, friendly relations were restored with England, not least because Sweden exported half of its iron and steel output to Britain in return for commercial goods. Understandably fiscal policies were generous toward the minor industries of manufacturing and mining.

Napoleon's execution of the Duc d'Enghien drove Gustav IV into the Third Coalition and this personal animosity kept Sweden in the alliance despite Russia's defection after Tilsit, Denmark's alliance with Napoleon, and Russia's conquest of Finland. Turned into the scapegoat for all Sweden's ills, Gustav was deposed and a new constitution instituted which reduced the privileges and tax exemptions of the upper classes.

Bernadotte (as Charles John) gave Sweden its first secret police and espionage system as well as encouraging a resurgence of "Scandinavianism," the desire for a union of the Baltic states.

The Partitions of Poland

The "Royal Republic" of Poland ended in tragedy. At the beginning of the era, its population of nine million included some 750,000 gentry and nobility, mostly landless lords with excessive privileges. The peasantry were defenseless, the bourgeoisie had dwindled, and even the clergy were demoralized. Catherine II of Russia had arranged the election of her ex-lover Stanislas Poniatowski as King of Poland in 1764. Though his affection for Catherine influenced his foreign policy, Stanislas nevertheless sought diplomatic alliances with Austria and France. Internally he balanced Polish finances and limited the liberum veto, the principle which required decisions of the governing Diet to be unanimous.

Worried by these reforms, Austria, Prussia and Russia acted in concert, forcing Poland to surrender huge territories under threat of invasion. The First Partition gave Galicia as far as the Vistula river to Austria, all lands between the Dvina and Dneiper rivers to Russia, and West Prussia and the northern portions of Great Poland to Prussia (though they temporarily returned Danzig and Torun). Having shorn Poland of defensible borders, they imposed a Permanent Council on Stanislas, hoping to hamstring his rule. Instead he turned it to his advantage, increasing his popularity by being seen to seek consensus.

Russian preoccupation with the Ottoman Empire enabled Stanislas to convene the Great Diet from 1788-1792. By its constitution, the nobility renounced many traditional privileges. Polish citizenship was defined, with burghers of chartered towns being entitled to send delegates to the Diet, and the peasantry was placed under government protection. The liberum veto was abolished and the monarchy henceforth was to be hereditary in the House of Saxony.

Dissatisfied aristocrats "invited" Russian intervention, which took the form of armed invasion (1792) while Prussia repudiated its neutrality. Stanislas surrendered and the Second Partition was enacted (1793), whereby Prussia gained Great Poland, Masovia, Danzig, and Torun, and Russia acquired the eastern parts of the former Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Polish Ukraine. The brief revolt in 1794 led to the final Third Partition (1795): Austria gained Polish Galicia between the Pilica and Bug rivers; Prussia secured Warsaw and environs; and Russia the rest of Lithuania and the Duchy of Courland.

The Poles endured systematic Germanization by Austria and Prussia and repression under Catherine. Her successors were more conciliatory -- the Polish Prince Adam Czartoryski became a trusted minister of Alexander. Ineffectual conspiracies proliferated. The valor of Polish exiles who had enlisted in Napoleon's armies led to the temporary Grand Duchy of Warsaw (1807), a bureaucratic state modeled on France. After the Congress of Vienna, Poland was divided into five portions: the diminutive Republic of Krakow, Austrian-held Poland, Prussian-held Poland, the Kingdom of Poland, and the Lithuanian-Ruthenian territories.


Under Catherine the Great and her successors, Russia supported a population of 25 million people. Half a million were "nobles," entitled to own land and serfs. Courtiers, magnates, civil service officials, military officers, and provincial gentry alike were classified and pigeonholed according to the "Table of Ranks." Dedication to the nation through service was rewarded with elevation in the Table of Ranks, with the highest levels granting hereditary titles. Service demands and the attractions of the court prevented any close ties developing between absentee landowners and their estates. This divorce from rural and commoner concerns was exacerbated by many young nobles spending their formative years at the Land Cadet Corps College, where they studied languages, literature, mathematics, geography, and history as well as military and genteel skills. (Russian noblewomen were well educated in foreign languages at the expense of their native Russian.)

Free from direct taxation, the nobility could develop or dispose of their estates at their discretion. The richest nobles lived as independent princes on their estates, with scores or even hundreds of serf-servants. Armies of serfs could be raised to perform the slightest whim of a noble who had the power of life and death over them. Disobedient serfs could be beaten, exiled to Siberia, or sent to the navy. Three-quarters of the "nobility" owned fewer than 100 serfs; half owned fewer than 20. Many of these poorest nobles sank back into the peasantry.

Between the nobility and the huge peasantry were the clergy and the merchant classes. Though reduced to salaried officials of the state, the Russian Orthodox clergy, from ignorant village priests to the educated celibate "black" monks who formed the hierarchy, remained influential in the lives of ordinary Russians. The merchants were frequently conservative "Old Believers" harking back to the traditions of old Muscovy. Ennobled merchants were encouraged to engage in industry, using serfs as an involuntary work-force. Separated from home and village life, housed in barracks, brutally punished and ill-paid, the unwilling serfs proved too unproductive and were gradually replaced with free laborers. With the connivance of nobles, even serfs rose to become the de facto owners of the factories and merchants.

Rural serfs lived in wooden huts with tiny windows (closed with dried animal bladders or shutters), and no chimneys. Inside, a large stove served as cooker and heat source. Furniture was minimal and crudely made. An effigy of Christ or the Virgin Mary was usually the sole decoration. Clothed in skins, linen or wool garments, and a full-length frock fastened by a girdle at the waist, devout serfs wore a crucifix around their necks. They lived on a diet of black bread, cabbage, cucumber, garlic, mead, and fruit liquors. Entertainment consisted of visits to the local bathing house, taverns, and occasional fairs. Obligations for the local noble ranged from three to six days' work per week, grudgingly performed, as well as incidental services such as carting or building. The village council regularly redistributed the common land among the serf families, dissuading anyone from making improvement measures. House serfs were trained as artists, craftsmen, and professionals, or formed into ballet troupes and orchestras to entertain their masters. Quotas of conscripted serfs formed the rank and file of the Russian armies.

Imperial Ambitions

Starting in the reign of Tsar Peter the Great, the ruling classes of Russia had been compelled to shift customs and behavior from Asiatic Mongol to Enlightenment Europe. French was the official court language. French cuisine and Western dress were common among the nobility. The imported culture formed a veneer of civilization which did not reach the lower classes.

The capital was St. Petersburg on the River Neva, where a population of 270,000 endured a dreadful climate and sickly marsh mists, and an elite enjoyed the magnificence of the royal court. The annual freeze of the Neva from November to March dissuaded most merchants from residing in St. Petersburg, preferring accessible Moscow. The lower classes ebbed and flowed through the city according to the season. The cost of living was high owing to the necessity of importing all goods.

The Tsars ruled from the luxurious Winter Palace and the Hermitages. Among the thousands of rooms in these vast complexes were the sovereign's private libraries, galleries and theatres. The nobility spent their winters in fine townhouses situated in the broad, straight squares or overlooking the canals and spacious squares of the city. During the summer months, they resided in their huge palaces south of the city. Occasionally they opened their gardens to the public. The mornings saw the wealthy tour the city in carriages or sledges; the afternoons were spent taking naps or playing cards; the evenings concluded with parties, balls, or theatre outings. Immigrants, British merchants, sailors, and naval officers, foreign doctors, and language tutors swarmed in St. Petersburg, with swindlers and adventurers fleecing the more naive Russians.

The old capital, Moscow, was larger still, with 300,000 inhabitants. Overflowing with priests, monasteries, convents, and churches, Moscow remained the heart of the Orthodox Church as the "Third Rome."

The empire itself was divided into provinces ruled by royal governors, and further subdivided into districts whose administration was elected by the local nobility.

The Ottoman Empire

The Ottoman Empire was slowly shrinking in size, with only diplomacy and "Great Power" rivalry forestalling a much swifter collapse. Its population of 25 million was spread over three continents: 11 million lived in Europe, 11 million in Asia and 3 million in North Africa. Constantinople itself was home to over 300,000.

At the apex of Ottoman society was the Sultan and his family. The eldest male now succeeded automatically to the throne; the remaining princes lived in the "gilded cage" of the Topkapi Palace, awaiting their turn or death. The Topkapi Palace was a "forbidden city" constructed as a series of diminishing concentric circles. The public were only permitted into the first courtyard; the second courtyard was reserved for those with official business to present to the Divan (royal council), while officials were allowed into the third courtyard. The remaining sections were the preserve of the Sultan, the royal family and their retainers. The Sultans associated themselves with the ulemas (Muslim religious) and spent their wealth on building mosques, fountains and other public works.

The real power had shifted to the viziers and provincial pashas, whose families and households supplied subordinate administrators. Political marriages cemented alliances, so divorce and polygamy were rare among the upper classes, though the former was common among the ordinary people.

Ottoman society was divided into the askeri (the ruling class) who included the ulemas, the kadis (judges), the muftis (law interpreters), and the military, and the reaya who were the empire's merchants, craftsmen, and peasants. The military were mostly trained in obsolescent weapons and tactics. The once famed Janissary warriors, formerly children of Christian subjects trained as elite troops, had become a Muslim caste. The Janissaries were now garrison troops, who found additional employment as artisans and enforcers offering "protection" for businesses.

Religious sheriat law applied to Muslim subjects, while the Sultan devised laws for those of other faiths and circumstances not covered by the sheriat. The Orthodox faith was protected by the Sultans as a bastion against Catholicism and pro-Western sympathies. Though Orthodox clergy were exempt from taxation, each new Patriarch paid the Sultan 20,000 piastres ($15,000) for the privilege of succeeding to the office.

Some foreigners enjoying special status ("capitulations") were subject to their own nation's laws while in the Empire, and exempt from taxes and customs, (Other foreigners had no protection.) Non-Muslims dominated trade. The Empire imported coffee, dyes, and coffee, and exported cereals, hides, tobacco, and wool. Its subsistence farmers also grew olives, fruit and vegetables.

In the towns, homes were partitioned by gender into selamlik and haremlik spaces for men and women respectively, and furnished with raised platforms covered with cushions. Men frequented coffee houses while both sexes enjoyed the markets with their storytellers and puppet theatres. The Sufi brotherhoods and lodges provided a focus to the religious and social lives of many. The larger lodges included living quarters, classrooms, libraries, hospices and even tombs.

The cities were primitive, congested, and filthy. Epidemics even of bubonic plague occurred often. Strangulation of rivals, beheadings and the staking out of felons' bodies reminded westerners that the Ottoman rulers remained capricious and ferocious.

The Lands of the Sublime Porte

The Sublime Porte, as the court-government of the Ottoman Empire was styled, had limited control over its provinces. The city of Dubrovnik sent cash payments to the Sultan, but in all other respects behaved as an Italian city-state. Noble families such as Suleiman's descendants ruled Baghdad, Ali Bey ruled Egypt, and Ali Pasha held Epirus.

In the Balkans, Albania, Bosnia, and Montenegro paid nominal tribute to Constantinople. Villages elected their own notables, some of whom abused the tax-raising powers for self-aggrandizement. The armatoles (or Christian militia) frequently doubled as bandits. The Balkan peninsula suffered from increasing depopulation during the second half of the 18th century; peasants who wearied of Ottoman rule simply left to live in its hills, mountains and vast forests. The Turkish population was concentrated in the towns and cities as administrators, troops, craftsmen and merchants.

Moldavia and Wallachia retained their native boyar nobles, but the Sultan selected their princes from leading Greek families who intrigued and paid huge sums for the positions. The princes could expect to earn much more, even during short tenures, from tax-farming and serf labor.

Ottoman Greece supported an elite of native scholars and clergymen. These families, known as the Phanariots, became wealthy through their services as interpreters, agents and diplomats for the Empire. They secured control over the Orthodox Patriarchy and looked forward to the overthrow of the Turks and the restoration of a Greek Empire as a second Byzantium. Greek mainland villages were governed by their own notables and granted relative autonomy in return for prompt tax payments. The communities of the Peloponnesus archipelago elected delegates to their own senate.

The Arab provinces, especially Egypt, were dominated by the Mamelukes. Initially purchased as slaves, the best of these soldiers were educated in the households of their generals, manumitted, and gradually rose to positions of power. Egypt became effectively autonomous from Constantinople during the period. In Arabia itself, the Wahhabi movement (led by Abdul Wahhab and later Muhammad ibn Saud) denounced the "degenerate" rule of the Sultans and demanded a return to the strict teachings of the Prophet. They menaced Ottoman control of the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.

In North Africa, ostensible vassals such as the Dey of Algiers continued their piracy and slave raids. (The Sultanate of Morocco was never part of the Ottoman Empire.)

The New World

The United States of America

Prior to the Revolution, the 13 American colonies had each been administered by a royal governor, an appointed colony council, and an elected assembly. The franchise to vote and hold office in the assembly was limited to white males. Both council and assembly could propose legislation, which was then subject to the governor's veto. If he approved, the new law required ratification by the English government. After the Revolution and the Philadelphia Convention of 1787, each state admitted to the union was entitled to elect two members of the Senate and one member of the House of Representatives per 30,000 franchised voters. The frontier lands beyond the borders of the states were administered as territories under appointed governors, being allowed to petition for elevation to statehood on surpassing 60,000 inhabitants.

By the mid-1760s, the population of the American colonies reached two million, doubling to four million by 1790 and to eight million by 1814. The slave population rose from half to three-quarters of a million.

The New England colonies of Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island supported flourishing timber and maritime industries. Boston (16,000 residents) in Massachusetts and Newport (11,000 inhabitants) in Rhode Island thrived as shipping, fishing and whaling ports.

The "Middle Atlantic" colonies of New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania were better suited for agriculture than New England. The Hudson and Delaware rivers were critical trade arteries. The cities of New York (25,000 residents) and Philadelphia (45,000 inhabitants) dominated this region.

The "South Atlantic" colonies of Georgia, Maryland, North and South Carolinas, and Virginia harbored half the American population. The Chesapeake region continued its cultivation of tobacco, while wheat and corn plantations increased in the interior of Maryland and Virginia. North Carolina added timber and naval stores to its tobacco exports. Baltimore was the principal town and port for these three states. Rice and indigo were the mainstays of Georgia and South Carolina with Savannah and Charleston (properly Charles Town) being the only significant urban centers in the south.

Wealth rather than noble lineage determined status and influence in America, before and after the Revolution. In the rural areas, planters with large estates controlled political power; in the cities, financiers and merchants formed the colonial and post-revolutionary elite.

The Western Frontier

Despite the Royal Proclamation of 1765 forbidding further settlement in Native American territories, American land speculators and pioneers continued to covet the western territories. After the Revolution, expansion into the frontier territories (Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee and Kentucky) gathered momentum, leading to confrontation with the indigenous Native American tribes.

The territories which later became the states of Ohio and Indiana were home to a number of settled tribes such as the Delaware, Iroquois, and Shawnee. Strife between settlers and tribesmen led to pitched battles. American victory at Fallen Timbers (1794) broke Indian power in Ohio, requiring them to concede substantial lands. Ohio became a state in 1803. Continued immigration produced renewed hostilities in Indiana. The Shawnee chief Tecumseh and his brother, the Prophet, attempted to raise a native coalition against the entirety of the American border in conjunction with British military support in 1811. The Prophet was defeated that year by Governor Harrison at Tippecanoe. Tecumseh died at the Battle of the Thames in 1813. The British defeat at New Orleans weakened their negotiating stance, preventing them from realizing their demand of an independent Native American nation in the northwest. Indiana became a state in 1816.

In Tennessee, American pioneers were largely independent of royal authority, prior to the Revolution. Early cordial relations with the Cherokee tribesmen degenerated to intermittent violence as permanent settlers superseded trappers and traders. Volunteers from Tennessee fought in both the Revolution and the War of 1812, and their territory was the first to receive statehood (1796).

Daniel Boone was the first successful American explorer of Kentucky. He was followed by waves of settlers in the 1770s, despite the belligerence of Shawnee and Cherokee tribes, who were encouraged to attack by the British during the Revolution. Immigration increased after independence and Kentucky was detached from Virginia's jurisdiction and recognized as a separate state in 1792.


Britain's original intentions were to assimilate Canada by encouraging Anglo-American immigration and reorganizing its administration on American colonial patterns. Territorial changes to New France added coastal Labrador to Newfoundland and mainland Acadia to Nova Scotia. Though several hundred English-speaking families arrived and quickly assumed economic control, British governors preferred the French seigniors, clergy and professionals to the pushy merchants, and sought their loyalty. Under the Quebec Act of 1774, Catholics were allowed to hold office while French law and the seigniorial system were upheld. The newly established Catholic clergy persuaded their congregations against rebellion; the English-speaking Nova Scotians' reliance on military-naval subsidies and English trade kept then loyal.

After the American revolution, the United Empire Loyalists buttressed Canadian allegiance to Britain, mostly settling in Cape Breton Island and New Brunswick, and on the frontier in western Quebec.

Though French Quebec rejected the rationalist ideals of France's Revolution, tension continued to rise between the English and French communities. The British response was the 1791 Canada Act, which partitioned Quebec into Upper Canada (west of the Ottawa river) where English law and land tenure held sway, and Lower Canada where the French system prevailed. The English-speaking merchants of Montreal were again disappointed in their attempts to obtain an elective assembly and the jurisdiction of English common law which would have aided them in ousting the French citizens from office.

Newfoundland became a crown colony. Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick were provinces administered by elective assemblies. Cape Breton Island had an appointed council, while Rupert's Land was run by the Hudson Bay Company. The unknown lands beyond were merely claimed.

The Maritime Provinces grew slowly, reaching a population of 100,000 by 1812. Prosperity came from fishing and trading local timber and foodstuffs with Britain and the West Indies. By 1812, land speculation and immigration of Scots, Irish, and Americans into Upper Canada created a loyalist landed oligarchy.

Lower Canada's population expanded to 300,000. Montreal itself was home to 30,000, and the city's merchants continued to control the fur trade. The "Chateau clique" of French ecclesiastics and seigniors, and English merchants dominated Lower Canada's government, though commoners and professionals successfully manipulated the assembly on key issues.

French Canadians' fear of assimilation into an American superstate, British Canadian loyalism, the presence of regular British troops, and American failure to attack Montreal decisively all preserved Canada in the War of 1812.


The Louisiana Territory, ranging from the "Stony" Mountains (later renamed the Rockies) in the west to the Mississippi River in the east, and from Canada in the north to the Gulf of Mexico in the south, was originally part of France's vast North American empire. Ceded to Spain as compensation for the Spanish loss of the Floridas in the Seven Years' War, the 50,000 French settlers remained sentimentally attached to France despite their abandonment. A brief revolt in 1768 was swiftly suppressed by the Irish-Spanish governor, Alejandro O'Reilly, who instituted and adapted conventional Spanish colonial government to Louisiana.

The new governor and cabildo (council) of New Orleans took over every aspect of civic and regional administration, fixing prices for essential commodities, maintaining the streets which became dustbowls in dry weather and quagmires in wet weather, licensing all medical practitioners, and so forth. The French practices of licensing traders and sending gifts to important Native American chiefs were continued and the tribes remained mostly peaceful. From Louisiana, Spanish forces harassed the British during the American Revolution, capturing West Florida.

Despite being almost totally destroyed by fire in 1788 and 1794, New Orleans rebuilt itself twice as a flourishing port of 10,000 residents. A gay city of high living and loose morals, New Orleans was the quintessential blend of wealth and poverty. The rich enjoyed masked balls, the theatres and the opera; the poor preferred the abundant taverns. All classes enjoyed the legal dances and the illegal gambling.

The 1780s saw a resurgence of tobacco cultivation in Louisiana in addition to its strong indigo industry. The tobacco expansion was too sudden; the produce was badly packed, spoiling quickly, and the export market simply collapsed. Cotton replaced tobacco during the next decade.

Louisiana failed to develop into a typical Spanish colony. Trade concessions made it a popular smuggling route to Spain's other possessions. A failure to attract sufficient Spanish and European Catholic immigrants meant it was unable to halt Anglo-American expansion, requiring Spain to grant American settlers navigation rights on the Mississippi and trading privileges in New Orleans. Hence from 1795, Spanish policy aimed at returning Louisiana to France, so that the latter could shield the Viceroyalty of New Spain from American continentalism. Unfortunately for Spain, Napoleon repudiated his word.

The Spanish Americas

Spain's American empire included most of Central and South America as well as portions of western North America. South America was governed as three viceregal dominions. The Viceroyalty of La Plata was the newest with 350,000 residents and its capital at Buenos Aires. From Lima, the Viceroyalty of Peru ruled one and a half million inhabitants. Two and a half million people lived in the Viceroyalty of New Granada which stretched from the Brazilian to the Mexican border. The seven million people of Mexico and beyond to California belonged to the populous Viceroyalty of New Spain.

Below the ruling viceroys, presidents, and captain-generals, the territories were subdivided into provinces administered by intendants responsible for all branches of government. Spanish towns were run by elected councils and appointed subdelegados. The officials were generously paid, efficient, and disliked by the colonials. Defeats in the Seven Years' War encouraged increasing militarization, with peace-time conscripted militias being reinforced with professional regiments from Spain.

New Spain became the empire's major silver producer. Despite the assistance of foreign experts, mismanagement and conservative techniques limited effective production to a few rich mines.

Salt beef and leather exports from the La Plata plantations and native settlements flowed through the thriving port of Buenos Aires. European goods destined for Upper Peru went overland from Buenos Aires; cargoes for coastal Chile sailed round Cape Horn.

Catalan merchants established permanent bases for their fishing fleets in Chile. The sea bream and conger catches were salted for sale in Upper Peru. The Patagonian whalers exported whale oil directly to Barcelona.

The South American Indians forgot their own agricultural expertise and were slow to adopt European techniques. The Spanish haciendas (plantations) employed thousands of natives cultivating native crops such as potatoes and maize, as well as introduced crops such as rice and bananas. These inefficient and overextended estates strove to be self-supporting but largely failed.

Zealous missionaries led Spanish settlement and Native American conversion northward through California after 1768. The Jesuits were followed by ranchers and prospectors, leading to the creation of new towns at San Diego and San Francisco in California, as well as San Antonio and Albuquerque. This countered the expansionistic tendencies of Russian traders operating from Alaska and British claims to the Pacific shores of Canada.

Elsewhere an uneasy truce existed between the Spanish and the British logging settlements in Honduras. The settler population in the Dutch Guyana colonies of Berbice and Demerara-Essequibo became predominantly of British extraction, and surrendered to the British rather than join the French Empire. Disease-ridden French Guyana served as a penal colony for Revolutionary France.

Spanish American Society

Economically, Spain's colonies were bound to European markets, particularly England with its insatiable demand for raw materials and agricultural products. Mercantilist policies protected Spanish manufacturers, inhibiting industrial organization in the New World, though many independent master craftsmen serviced colonial needs. A preference for land and trade reduced the available capital for industrial investments. The removal of trading restrictions between the provinces from the 1760s onward encouraged legal commerce and colonial road-building, though the mountains still required mule and llama trains. Despite the risk of privateers, smuggling remained common, especially in war years. By 1797, Spain permitted its colonies to trade with neutral powers.

Spanish American (or Creole) society seemed ordered and prosperous, exuding self-confidence in civic splendor and lavish townhouses. Officials, senior clergy, and owners of plantations and mines spent most of their time away from their stoutly-built haciendas, which were used more for storage than as residences.

Creole society was highly stratified into castes. At the apex were the gente distinguida who included senior officials and clergy, professionals, wealthy landowners and mine-owners, and merchants. Some mestizo (mixed-race) families who could trace their ancestry back to the original conquest were accepted in high society. Mixed-race shopkeepers and artisans formed the colonial middle-class, with impoverished white immigrants determined to avoid manual labor and the natives making up a discontented proletariat.

Creole social life focused on the provincial courts and the local cathedral or church. Salon society as practiced in continental Europe was unknown. The theatre and bull-fights were equally popular pastimes. Though censorship was enforced, it was too slow and haphazard to prevent Enlightenment and revolutionary ideas circulating. However, the Creole learned societies concentrated on practical matters and periodical publishing.

Hostility grew between Creoles and Peninsular Spaniards, with the former styling themselves Americanos to differentiate themselves from the Peninsular immigrants and the mestizos. Though Creoles did become viceroys, competition for the lesser posts and well-paid sinecures in government and church was much greater. Catalan merchants disrupted cozy monopolies and preferential treatment received by low-born immigrants offended the sensibilities of Creole patricians. Gradually Creole loyalty to Spain eroded.

The Portuguese Americas

Discoveries of gold in the 1690s created Brazil's mining industry. By the mid-18th century, the economy had diversified to include cattle ranching, whaling, sugar, and tobacco cultivation. Interior provinces such as Minas Gerais became self-sufficient, while the coastal plantations adhered to mercantilist policies. By 1801, Brazil's population stood at three million, with a steady influx of immigrants from Portugal and the Azores ensuring the colony remained Portuguese. A shortage of white women meant that the sons of mixed marriages were educated and allowed to hold minor offices. However, the military and religious orders were much stricter on race.

Brazil was organized into 14 regional "Captaincies." The towns were administered by municipal councils consisting of up to six aldermen, two magistrates, and one attorney. These councilors were selected from patrician families or elected by complex annual ballots. European and Brazilian-born Portuguese had equal opportunities to enter the councils, except in the largest cities. These bodies enjoyed the right to correspond with the monarch, a privilege frequently exercised by those of Rio de Janeiro and Bahia.

Portugal had various rights, privileges and duties with regard to missionary work. In return for bearing the cost of proselytizing, the monarchy had the right to collect tithes and appoint bishops in its colonial territories. Papal desires to rescind these concessions (so that Rome could more effectively organize the missionaries) led to conflict with the monarchy. As in Portugal, leading Brazilians joined lay confraternities (misericórdia) which focused on charitable works. Membership in these associations was considered an honor.

Brazil's rural aristocracy came from humble origins. Their practice of endogamy -- cousins marrying cousins and uncles marrying nieces -- kept their estates undivided. Many families owned vast lands in the interior. Commissions in the militia were sought as status symbols but the regular army and navy were avoided. (The rank and file of these services were recruited from ordinary citizens and mulattos.) The Crown sold all offices which even potentially generated revenue, and was unable to prevent its officials from making fortunes during their tenure. Merchants became rich from crown monopolies -- this also encouraged smuggling by the less fortunate traders.

The American struggle for independence encouraged some of the Brazilian elite to consider the desirability of ousting the Portuguese leadership so that they could form the new apex of society, even to the extent of forming conspiracies with American collaborators. The rebellion of 1789 in the mining province of Minas Gerais demanded economic freedoms, subsidies to attract white women to emigrate from Portugal, and the establishment of a militia. It was vigorously suppressed by the authorities. The deteriorating situation and eventual massacres of settlers in Haiti (former Hispaniola) reminded the Brazilians of their own discontented underclass. Though it was crushed, the 1798 rebellion of mestizos and blacks indicated how quickly Jacobin ideas had propagated through Brazilian society.

West Indies

Spain's major Caribbean possession was Cuba, a center of naval shipbuilding and already a tobacco exporter to North America and Europe. After the Seven Years' War, Cuba's fortresses were reinforced and slaves were introduced to establish sugar plantations. Spain also owned Santo Domingo (the eastern half of Hispaniola), Puerto Rica and Trinidad, though settler numbers remained in the low thousands.

French holdings included Martinique, Guadeloupe, Saint-Domingue (western Hispaniola) as well as St. Lucia, Tobago and islets such as Les Saintes. Martinique was the seat of government for the French Windward Islands. Both Martinique and Guadeloupe were prosperous sugar producers, but easily eclipsed by Saint-Domingue, which was responsible for two-thirds of French overseas trade. Annually 1,500 ships carried sugar, coffee, cotton, and indigo from the colony's 8,000 plantations to Europe and to British North America in return for cash, grain, fish, timber, and horses. Merchant houses in Bordeaux, Marseilles, and Nantes reaped vast profits, while racial and class tensions seethed among the 40,000 white settlers, the 40,000 mixed-race "mulattos" and freed slaves, and the half-million slaves. (Slaves who married French subjects were immediately freed.)

The Dutch islands of Curaçao and St. Eustatius used their free port status to prosper as clearing houses for manufactured goods and colonial products.

The British West Indies included Antigua, Barbados, Dominica, Granada, Jamaica, Montserrat, Nevis, St Kitts, St. Vincent, and the Virgin Islands. The older colonies were worn out from overcultivation of sugar. The West Indian group in Parliament lobbied for lower sugar duties, cheaper slaves, and restrictions on trade with other sugar producers. The home merchants simply wanted cheap sugar and molasses, plus captive markets for slaves and manufactured goods.

The West Indian interests failed to avert war with the American colonies, but resisted overtures to join the rebellion, recognizing their reliance on the Royal Navy for defense. During the war, all the British islands save Antigua, Barbados, and Jamaica were (temporarily) captured by Franco-Spanish attacks, but the status quo was restored by treaty. Afterward price increases in timber and food imports from Canada, devastating hurricanes and rising sugar duties led to attempts to find new crop plants to replace the sugar monoculture.

The ambition of most white planters was to manage (and then own) an estate, retiring to Europe on the proceeds. The unhealthy climate, the absence of cultural pursuits and educational facilities for children, the lack of society, and the ever-present fear of slave revolt encouraged absenteeism. Attorneys and resident planters supervised the plantations of absentee neighbors, and became the leaders of island society, deputizing for officials, who preferred not to leave the mother country, and serving on elected assemblies and appointed councils.

The Rest of The World


India had perhaps 200 million inhabitants by 1800, mostly Hindus and Muslims. The Mughal Empire had contracted to an impotent city-state -- the old emperor Shah Alem was blinded by Afghan invaders in 1788 and eked out his life in Delhi's Red Fort. Agra, Jaipur and Delhi were administered by a protege of his former Maratha vassals. Sikh power was concentrated at Amritsar in the Punjab, while Muslim emirs and chieftains ruled Sind and frontier territories. Former vassals such as the pro-French Nizam of Hyderabad acquired legitimate titles from the emperor and acted as kings in their own domains. By avoiding dynastic proclamations and never striking coinage in their own name, they became independent without ever challenging the current emperor. By 1800, India had fragmented into 562 states.

The Marathas Confederacy had received permission to tax central India in the early 18th century. By mid-century, their interpretation of this as a license to raid, conquer, and then tax, had made them the greatest Indian power. The Confederacy was divided into five states ruled by distinct clans -- the Rao rajahs of Satara, the Gaekwar in Baroda, the Holkars in Indore, the Sindhia in Gwalior, and the Bhonsle in Nagpur. Though the Rao clan nominally headed this pentarchy, the Sindhia clan was the most powerful.

Mysore under the usurpers Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan contended for supremacy in southern India. Like the Marathas, imported Arabian horses gave Mysore better cavalry forces than their lesser rivals. Only Hyder Ali was sufficiently prescient to urge a Hindu-Muslim alliance to expel the British while this was still possible in the 1780s.

Although the French had been reduced to defenseless trading posts at Pondicherry, Mahé, Karikal, Yanaon, and Chandernagore, all of which were quickly captured by the British in the Revolutionary Wars, French mercenaries commanded and trained Indian armies, and manned their artillery units.

The British spread outward from their outposts and presidencies of Surat, Bombay, Madras, and Calcutta, preferring to support puppet rulers than attempt outright conquest initially. The Company gained tax rights over Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa. Under Cornwallis' Code of 1793, private ownership of land in return for fixed rents replaced the Indian system of lifetime land grants for local law and order. British provincial courts replaced Indian courts with Company officials serving as both police and magistrates. Internal duties were suppressed while the Company obtained monopolies over salt import and sales as well as opium production and sale. The latter provided it with a non-specie export for the Chinese market. Methodical and fair rule, annual rather than multiple taxation, and land settlements bound India's peasantry to the British Empire. Subsidiary alliances (where Company troops replaced the ruler's own military) and systematic force reduced the power of native princes and brought peace to the continent. By 1820, Calcutta was a capital of a quarter of a million inhabitants.

The East Indies


Until 1796, the Dutch East India Company controlled most of Ceylon from Colombo and protected the interior kingdom of Kandy. Large profits were made from cinnamon, pearls, and elephant sales (the last to India). The Dutch respected the existing structures of Ceylon society, including the local nobility who helped them administer the island. The British East India Company ousted their Dutch rivals in 1796, and Ceylon became a crown colony in 1802. An attempt to conquer Kandy failed in 1803, but succeeded with the aid of local chiefs in 1815. After a rebellion in 1818, Kandy was integrated fully into the colony. British rule led to agricultural progress, abolition of slavery, and a replacement of land grants with salaries for service.


Malaysia remained dominated by shifting sultanates whose subordinate chiefdoms were prone to waging civil and foreign war with their neighbors. The Dutch held the trading post of Malacca. The British East India Company purchased Penang Island in 1786 to assist in supplying the Chinese markets. In 1819, Sir Stamford Raffles purchased Singapore on behalf of the Company, eventually transforming it into the region's greatest port.


Indonesia was styled the Dutch East Indies. Dutch assistance in a series of succession wars in Java and elsewhere in the archipelago during the early to mid-18th century had established the Dutch East India Company as the preeminent power in the region from its bases in Batavia (now Jakarta). The native nobles remained in place as tribute collectors (of produce) for the company within its directly held territories. Elsewhere company trading posts became (through intimidation) the sole export routes for the semi-independent territories. Smuggling, corruption, and administrative expense led to the dissolution of the company in 1799, with the Dutch government taking direct control. French control of Holland brought eventual French rule in Java by 1806. Despite impressive fortifications, Java was conquered by the British East India Company in 1811, and Stamford Raffles was appointed governor. His attempts at centralizing the Javanese regencies and integrating the island into the British trading bloc were undone by its return to Holland in 1815.

The Philippines

The Philippines were ruled by a Spanish governor-general from the capital of Manila. As the natives were at least nominally Catholic, the archbishop wielded great political power and Church institutions became wealthy through the accretion of estates. Priests and friars, fluent in the indigenous languages, spread in the provinces, assisting the colonial administrators, educating the Filipinos in European agricultural techniques, and attempting to eliminate animistic religious survivals among their congregations. Lay Spaniards enriched themselves, trading Chinese silk for Mexican silver.

Other Lands


European knowledge and direct intercourse with Africa was confined to its coasts. North Africa was ruled by Ottoman pashas and independent Muslim princes. The Barbary States were infamous for piracy and slave raiding. East Africa was a patchwork of urbanized Somali peoples and Swahili-speaking nations, culturally influenced by the Arabian slave traders.

Scattered European trading posts and coastal colonies were established on the west coast of Africa. The French outposts were at Gorée and in Senegal. The British, Danish, Dutch and Spanish founded sturdy forts to protect their slaving interests on the Gold Coast, though they could easily have been overrun by neighboring native townships. The British created Sierra Leone, a colony for emancipated slaves, though settlement was limited to Freetown. From here, European influences seeped into West Africa. Meanwhile native nations and tribes such as the Ashanti, Dahomey, Oyo, and the Fulani (of Sudan) were all expanding toward the slaving coasts. Further south, the Portuguese dominated Angola, inciting war among its tribes, undertaking sporadic missionary work, and introducing New World crops such as cassava, maize, and sweet potato.

Owing to the milder South African climate, the Dutch base at the Cape of Good Hope blossomed from a mere port-of-call for ships en route to India and New South Wales to a colony of 20,000 settlers.


Britain decided to settle the New South Wales territory in 1786, ostensibly as a penal colony. The First Fleet (under Arthur Phillip) arrived with 1,000 marines, convicts, and free settlers in 1788, founding Sydney. Despite disease, hostile aborigines, and the lack of farming skills among the convicts, the colony survived with its population augmented by new batches of convicts, expanding the settled region around Sydney and in Tasmania. Australian whalers traded with the Maoris of New Zealand, introducing firearms to the tribal struggles.

The colony's governors were all military officers. This did not prevent clashes with the New South Wales Corps, whose leader, at the urging of a civilian coalition, deposed Governor William "Bounty" Bligh in 1808. The coup leaders were summoned to Britain for trial. Bligh's successor, Lachlan Macquarie, spent his term in office balancing the contending "exclusive" (former officers and free immigrants) and "emancipist" (former convicts) factions.


China, ancient, arrogant, and vast, was home to 300 million people. The Manchu emperors, like previous dynasties, considered China to be superior to all other nations. The Ch'ien-lung emperor (reigning 1735-96) patronized the arts (but censored any literature criticizing the Manchus) and funded military expeditions to secure and expand the frontiers. During his son's reign as the Chia-ch'ing emperor (1796-1820), piracy, localized revolts, and increasing opium addiction afflicted China.

While Shanghai became the principal port for Chinese traders, European merchants were restricted to Canton from 1759 and required to transact business in tea and silk with the association of firms forming the cohong monopoly. The favored Portuguese held a trading outpost at Macao near Canton. The East India Company convinced Admiral Drury in 1808 to seize it for Britain, officially to preserve it from the French. Macao seized, Drury was persuaded to continue to Canton. Civilians hurled projectiles from the banks at his barge while Chinese navy junks barred the river. Drury withdrew, receiving a letter later from Chia-ch'ing ordering him to quit Macao, which was restored to the Portuguese.


Japan was ruled by the Tokugawa shoguns on behalf of the emperors. Natural disasters combined with peasant revolts throughout the 1780s to unsettle the nation, with unrest reaching the cities in 1787. Attempts at reform to reconcile the monetary economy of the cities with the idealized and desired rice-based economy of the countryside failed. The samurai suffered poverty while the despised merchants enjoyed great wealth and richer farmers exploited their poorer neighbors, reducing them to mere tenants.

As part of the shogunate's isolationist policies, only the Chinese and the Dutch were allowed to trade with Japan, and only at Nagasaki. By the 1800s, Russian merchants were requesting and being denied commercial access to Japan. The Russians retaliated with sporadic attacks on outlying northern islands between 1804 and 1807. During a hunt for Dutch merchant vessels, HMS Phaeton entered Nagasaki harbor unopposed in 1808. This dishonor led to the ritual suicide of the port's governor and generals. Thereafter Japan was left alone.


Article publication date: June 27, 2003

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