Algazi League

From CWS Planet
Jump to: navigation, search
þinaqor Algoðí
Algazi League
Symbol
Administrative centersYazurum, Farigh
Lingua Franca Middle Algaz
Type Trade bloc, economic union, military alliance
Membership
Establishment 1503

The Algazi League (Middle Algaz: Sınaghor Algozi, Algaz: Sınaghar Algazi) was a confederation of city-states in Western Ekuosia established in 1503. Named for the Algaz language spoken by the regional elite, the League was formed in response to the expansion of the Neviran Empire. The growth of the League's membership contributed to it's economic expansion, becoming a major power in the global economy in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The increasing integration of the Algazi League culminated in its formal unification at the 1724 Congress of Eyadhan, establishing the Algazi Union.

History

Background

The decline of the Hafsighi Kingdom after 903 weakened the monarchy and encouraged the accumulation of power by nobles and governors; most Hafsighi cities were largely autonomous by the start of the eleventh century, with aristocrats and bureaucrats alike eager to expand their control. The oubreak of civil war between 1078 and 1094 led to widespread upheaval and instability across the former Hafsighi territories and the surrounding region. While peripheral cities such as Mırad and Adhar had broken away in the previous century, the breakdown of the last remnants of central authority led to the kingdom's complete disintegration, with all of the kingdom's major cities fully independent by 1094.

Though largely spared the catastrophic destruction around Hafsigh itself and the Lake Wadan region, the newly-formed city-states were nonetheless rocked by territorial disputes and internal political turmoil. While most of the original Hafsighi governors initially assumed control of their cities, most were overthrown by coalitions of noble families, who in turn began to fight among themselves for dominance. By the mid-twelfth century, however, these aristocratic conflicts had largely given way to tentative power-sharing agreements, which developed into the oligarchical and republican systems that came to characterize the Algazi world.

The stabilization of the region in the second half of the twelfth century led to the gradual renewal of trade. Aristocratic families, hesitant to break their fragile political agreements, monopolized trade and invested heavily in local industries in a bid to out-compete each other economically. Establishing trade posts throughout Western Ekuosia, Algazi merchant families built substantial mercantile networks that encouraged financial innovations. Much of the earliest recorded banking activity took place in Algaz-speaking city-states, with the first bank established in 1218 by the Paveyk family in Beghım, with branches in Letpahat, Tagra, Alesia and Agotasa. The oldest known insurance contracts also date from this period, predominantly from the cities of Mırad, Yazurum, and Nawaz.

Formation of the Algazi League

Detail of an Algazi manuscript illustration depicting the 1513 seige of Neviran-occupied Adhar by Algazi League forces.

Algazi city-states were initially unconcerned with the rapid expansion of the Neviran Empire in the late fifteenth century, as trade was not significantly disrupted. Most were therefore largely unprepared when the empire reached the Argeyaz region, and fell quickly to the firearm-equipped Neviran forces. Only the more peripheral cities, largely in the west and south, were able to maintain their independence. Instability in the recently-annexed Hemesh, however, encouraged rebellions in many Algazi cities; Beghım was the first to successfully break free from Neviran rule, followed months later by Mırad. These two cities drafted a treaty in 1503 with the unconquered cities of Yazurum, Daridje, and Letpahat that created a formal anti-Neviran military alliance, dubbed the Algazi League, in order to strengthen their vulnerable position. In addition to military and strategic cooperation, the treaty eliminated tariffs between signatories on food, iron, and other strategic resources in order to ensure that all cities would be well-supplied. With merchant families from all five cities channeling their substantial wealth into the war effort, successful acquisition of firearms, and Neviran forces still occupied in Hemesh, the League scored several major victories in its first three years, liberating the cities of Hafsigh, Nawaz (which promptly joined the League) and provoking significant rebellions in Eyadhan, Farigh, and the strategic port of Varij. In 1509, the League, now expanded to nine members, won a decisive victory at Lake Heshov; with the Neviran Empire stretched thin by growing unrest on its frontiers, the Algazi League was able to leverage the victory to push the bulk of Neviran forces out of the region. The last Neviran-held city, Adhar, was liberated in 1513, leading to a truce the following year.

Expansion and Integration

The the Algazi League did not immediately disband following the truce as leaders were concerned that the Neviran Empire would re-consolidate its power and attempt to annex the Argeyaz region once again. Until such time, however, the Algazi merchant rulers saw the Kauzic Empire's weak domestic economy as an opportunity. By expanding their already-established presence in much of Neviran territory, Algazi merchants funneled a great deal of the empire's financial and material wealth back to their home cities, even coming to control the flow of resources in much of the western empire. This program of economic warfare was facilitated by the expansion of the earlier tariff exemption to all goods and an agreement ensuring legal protection and freedom of movement and commerce to all citizens of member cities in each others' territories.

These measures had immediate impacts beyond the Neviran Empire, however. Foreign ports and trade zones that previously belonged to specific cities were now open to merchants from all Algazi League members, creating ever-wider and more complex business and family networks. The influx of new merchant houses encouraged the rapid growth of existing Algazi trade settlements and the establishment of new ones. Many of these grew into substantial Algazi communities as mercantile agents and their families were followed by clergy, tradesmen, scholars, and artists. The Algazi communities in the Azri cities of Tagra and Sedim became so powerful that they assumed control of the cities in 1537 and 1552, respectively, making them the last two cities to join the Algazi League.

By the mid-sixteenth century, the Neviran threat had largely receded, and though the League's maintained its mutual defense role, its economic and political functions expanded. Initially, the League provided a forum for deal-making and dispute resolution between cities; by the end of the sixteenth century, however, it had largely taken over these roles from the cities themselves, with investment in shared infrastructure and formal League courts for resolving disputes outside of a single city's jurisdiction. By the early seventeenth century, the Algazi League had even begun to assume a diplomatic role beyond trade agreements, and was managing new trade posts and settlements directly.

Congress of Eyadhan and Unification

The expanding role of the Algazi League and its increasing centralization, along with the growing power of its competitors after 1700, led to calls for formal unification among much of the cities' political classes. The Congress of Eyadhan was called in 1723 to discuss the possibility and, after an initial show of support, began negotiations and planning. The following year, the cities representatives signed on to the Treaty of Eyadhan, which established the Algazi Union and served as its constitution until 1885. Rather than continue having cities' leaders represent them on the new National Council, the position was split, with incumbents given the choice of which position to assume. Representatives would be elected through the same system nationwide, though cities would set their own voting requirements; cities maintained their own systems of election or succession for their leaders. No provisions existed that formalized rank or class on the national level, which most historians agree was the result of either oversight, with the status of patricians assumed as a given, or compromise, allowing each city to preserve its existing class system. The treaty also established a single currency, the Wadh, intially valued halfway between the most widely used currencies in the League, those of Eyadhan and Yazurum.

Organization

The Algazi League's governing body, the Council of the Fifteen Cities, met twice yearly in Farigh and was comprised of the leaders of each member city (or specially-selected delegates in the case of cities with directorial governments). As in the present-day Algazi National Council, decisions were generally made by consensus, with simple voting used if consensus could not be reached. Much of the League's bureaucratic infrastructure, including its military bodies, were located in Yazurum, however. Trade posts were typically owned and administered by either one individual city or by the League itself, with trading houses operating their own offices and warehouses within them.

Economy

The mainstays of the Algazi League's economy were trade and banking, with mercantile and financial networks extending across Ekuosia and down the west coast of Baredina, as well as Southern Miraria and portions of Northeast Boroso. Though the Algazi home region is relatively resource-poor, it was nonetheless a significant producer of several high-value raw materials, particularly textiles and salt. The coastal and northern regions also exported grains and fruits. Manufactured goods, particularly luxuries, ultimately comprised the largest and most valuable share of Algazi exports. While ships, carved ivory, and furniture relied on imported raw materials, others, such as alcohol, perfumes, dyes, and glassware were produced with largely domestic resources, facilitated by the League's policy of internal free trade.

The Algazi League's economic position was already vulnerable by the time of unification in 1724. The proliferation of joint-stock companies allowed foreign competitors access to capital that rivaled that accumulated by the Algazi merchant houses, who were averse to the idea of allowing even partial ownership to pass outside of familial control. While the Algazi League had been a pioneer of the commodities market, it was largely left behind by the increasing importance of stock. The absence of non-dynastic capital and investment was also a key factor, along with the conservatism of Great Families and lack of technological innovation, in the failure of the Algazi Union to industrialize.

Legacy

The Algazi League and its economic expansionism has been credited by many historians as one of the major factors in the spread of early mercantile capitalism, with merchants introducing many Algazi financial and economic innovations to new regions. In addition, the widespread and elaborate networks of communication and exchange established by Algazi merchant houses played a significant role in the dissemination of news, literature, scientific knowledge, new technology and cultural forms. Nationalist historian Ebek Tabiz esh-Panak famously called the Algazi League "the greatest force in the development of global modernity;" while the extent of this claim is dubious, most historians have agreed that the Algazi League played an active part in the process of economic, political, and intellectual globalization from the early sixteenth to the late eighteenth century.

Algazi Union

The present-day Algazi Union remains in many ways defined by the history of the Algazi League. The very concept of an "Algazi" identity emerged in the first decades of the Algazi League, were the language and culture of the region's merchant aristocracies was positioned as the basis for a common political and economic agenda. The centering of this new idea of Algaziness, coupled with the greater mobility and exchange fostered by the League, led to the cultural, linguistic, and ethnic homogenization of the League's member cities. The Algaz language was previously dominant only in the regions that had formed the core of the Hafsighi Kingdom; peripheral Algazi League cities typically had a very large Algaz-speaking minority which included the city's ruling class. Following the formation of the Algazi League, these languages, including closely-related Argeyazic dialects in the south, Lonish in the east, and Letsic languages (notably Vomzi) in the west, were largely displaced as a shared Algazi culture took shape. (A notable exception is Azri, which remains the majority language in the northern Algazi Union; this is because the northern cities of Tagra and Sedim did not come under the rule of their small Algazi populations until the mid-sixteenth century).

Politically, the Algazi League had an impact on the Algazi Union even beyond creating the conditions for unification. In spite of the implementation of a new constitution, the Charter of Union, in 1885, the Union's structure and political institutions are still for the most part inherited from the Algazi League. This continuity, combined with the wealth and global importance of the Algazi League at its height, has positioned it as a central part of modern Algazi identity, ideology, and culture. The Algazi League period is frequently portrayed nostalgically as a period of wealth, political power, and cultural flowering, often for particular political, cultural, or economic ends.

Algazi Diaspora

While the decline of the Algazi Union over the course of the 19th century led to the loss of almost all Algazi trading posts and exclaves (as well as the cities of Dardije, Veyski, and Letpahat), many of these communities survived, often maintaining ties to the Algazi Union even in cases where they integrated into their countries of residence. Azerin, Lons, Yerlan, and Ebo Nganagam in particular have sizable Algazi populations descended from earlier mercantile operations. Algazi-built towns, ports, and neighborhoods can be found across Baredina and Southern Miraria, even when the Algazis themselves either returned to the Algazi Union or were assimilated by local populations.