A short history of the High Republic of Thiaria (Part 1)
1. Pre-colonial era (about 300 BC – 1568)
The oldest human settlements found on Thiarian soil date back to the 3rd century BC; modern historians generally agree that Carthaginian sailors have reached and settled the Eilean Deilf. They founded a high culture that lasted for nearly a thousand years and created several colonies all across north-eastern Thiaria, although total population remained low due to some in-fighting between independent city-states and an unpleasant habit of human sacrifice. A total of 116 sites on the Eilean Deilf and the Mainland have been discovered, a dozen of them remarkably well preserved including the world's sole still intact temple dedicated to Baal. Between them, these sites generate a considerable part of modern Thiaria's tourism revenue. The high culture went into decline about 500 AD, when the climate became colder for some reason and population began to dwindle after a probable severe outbreak of Ashburn Fever, a highly aggressive hemorrhagic infection with a lethality rate of 50% and a nasty tendency to permanently disfigure the survivors by leaving grey-black scars all over their bodies. Between 400 and 800 AD, native Americans of the Tapuia nation began to settle the archiple. Coming from the west and encountering only rocks and deserts at first, the Tapuia needed a few hundred years to spread over all the islands; from 600 AD, they encountered the pitiful remnants of the Phoenician colonists and conquered them. They then founded a short-living high culture of their own, centered around worship of a deity named Yucamacochtloc, which demanded human sacrifice on a level second only to the Aztec pantheon. Unfortunately, the Tapuia had no servant tribes to sacrifice, and they literally decimated their own population till the high culture faltered about 1000 AD in a bloody civil war that probably killed 80% of the population. After a period of decline into a purely agricultural society, there was an indigenous population of 80.000 in 1550.
2. Portuguese Era (1568 – 1659)
The first Europeans to set foot on Thiarian soil in 1555 belonged to a French expedition under Admiral Villegagnon. He circumnavigated the islands and sent a letter to Paris recommending to quickly dispatch settlers to the eastern part of the Isles and claim them for France before someone else did. The French court was slow to respond, and when the Portuguese attacked all foreign settlements in the part of South America awarded to them in the treaty of Tordesillas, only a few hundred Frenchmen lived on the Isles. After three years of bloody warfare, the Portuguese controlled the entire archipelago in 1568 and started settling, although at first with only marginally more vigour than the French. The unofficial Name Ilhas Oventorosas (Isles of Adventure) described the early part of Portuguese era quite aptly and eventually stuck, because the indigenous population quickly realized that the Europeans meant trouble and initiated small-scale warfare from 1580 onwards. The Portuguese responded with overwhelming military power and fed a considerable number of settlers into the islands; they started to build coffee, cocoa and cotton plantations in the south eastern Isles, and of course they did not forget to infect the natives with a variety of disgusting illnesses which decimated the indigenous population. By 1625, only 5.000 Tapuia were left, facing over 40.000 Portuguese and about 20.000 slaves working the rich copper mines discovered in 1588, and gave up the fight. This did not prevent the Portuguese from harassing them and driving them into the wastelands of the south-west, where the last remnants of the indigenous population miserably perished by 1640. In that year, the Union between Spain and Portugal broke, and the Spaniards, who were in desperate need of income to continue the Thirty Years War, occupied the Islands. They did not reap much from the plantations and copper mines because the Portuguese resisted with guerrilla warfare, and when the French, who had never quite forgotten the humiliation of being driven out of South America by the Portuguese, demanded the Isles from Spain during the negotiations which eventually resulted in the Treaty of the Pyrenees of 1659, the Spaniards were not too sad to concede, expecting the French to fare not much better.
3. First French Era (1659 – 1717)
Unfortunately for the Portuguese settlers, France was at the height of her military and economic power in the 1660s and forced them into submission within five years, renaming the colony to Nouvelle Oultremer. Fortunately for them, however, the French at that time were more interested in developing their interests in North America and India – apart from attacking their European neighbours in the Devolution, Dutch and Reunion wars – so only few settlers arrived. By 1690, the Islands had some 100.000 white inhabitants, of which 70.000 were Portuguese, 20.000 French and the most of the rest German or Flemish, which ironically were refugees from the areas where the French were fighting in Europe. The number of African slaves rose to 50.000 during the French age. Nouvelle Oultremer remained largely untouched by the wars fought by the French, but the waters around were harassed by Dutch privateers during the Dutch war till a French fleet under Châteaurenault defeated them in a series of engagements culminating in the battle of Noyalo in 1677, the largest naval engagement in the South Atlantic for the next hundred years. The year 1691 then marked a turning-point in the Islands’ history, although no-one realized that at first, because at that time the first ship of Irish refugees from the Williamite wars arrived in Nouvelle Oultremer. Word quickly spread in Ireland that this was a place of safety from English oppression; the southernmost islands, modern day Tir Parthas and Tir Sliceann, even resembled Ireland in terms of climate, because it was extremely windy and rained all day. The Irish liked that, and in the following ten years, 40.000 Irish settlers – all of them catholic and staunch Jacobites – left Ireland for a French Colony where the French now were outnumbered 6:1 by Irish and Portuguese settlers. The population reached 205.000 in 1701, which consisted of 70.000 Portuguese, 40.000 Irishmen, 30.000 Frenchmen, 50.000 Africans and 15.000 others. During that time, Nouvelle Oultremer became a major supplier of copper, salt, tin, sulphur, wood, cocoa, coffee and cotton, and despite some heavy-handed taxing by the French crown, the islanders accumulated a modest amount of wealth, which made Nouvelle Oultremer even more attractive to the Inhabitants of war-torn and impoverished Ireland, resulting in another 30.000 settlers between 1701 and 1711, which now also became the majority on the mainland. In that year however, an Asbhburn Fever outbreak of biblical dimensions struck the Isles and killed some 50.000 between 1711 and 1715. The disease would never again break out in this intensity, becoming extinct after 1880, but this time it really swept the country clean. The French and Irish – the latter being considered allies against the English in the war of Spanish succession raging at that time – received what medical attention was possible at that time, but the Portuguese and the Slaves were (literally) left to rot. Such was the situation when the war of Spanish Succession ended in 1713 with the Treaty of Utrecht. Having allied with the winning side, the Portuguese demanded the return of the Ilhas Oventorosas from France, and given the local situation – about which little was known in Europe – the French conceded. Within less than one year, the 40.000 remaining Portuguese re-established their dominance and executed their new power so clumsily that the Irish promptly launched a revolt. Lacking funds and personnel, the Portuguese failed to come to grips with the rebels, and by 1717, there was a real chance that the Irish might drive the Portuguese into the sea. At this point, England intervened, and negotiated the sale of the Ihlas Oventorosas for a ridiculously low sum in the Treaty of Greenwich 1717, with the sole exception of the New Portugal archipelago which remained under Portuguese sovereignty.
4. English Era (1717 – 1783)
This treaty brought the Isles another new name – New Hanover – and a quick suppression of the Irish revolt by rather brutal means; the Brits intended the Islands to become their main penal colony for unruly celts, leaving the healthier North American colonies for proper Englishmen. When order was finally restored in 1720, the population had shrunk to 50.000 Irishmen, 40.000 Portuguese, 5.000 Frenchmen and 15.000 Africans. The Ashburn Fever epidemic had run its course by 1719, and the English went to the task of making New Hanover profitable. Within 20 years, 10.000 English settlers arrived and some 20.000 Scots which had taken part in the Jacobite rebellion of 1715 were deported; the British army maintained a permanent garrison of 5.000 to keep them at bay. Another 40.000 settlers came from Ireland between 1720 and 1750, almost all of them deported. During that time, the plantations and mines were reopened, and by 1740, their output was higher than before the plague. The last Jacobite rebellion in Scotland of 1745 resulted in another surge of about 30.000 Scottish deportees. Apart from that steady influx of deported people, the population of the settlers soared at an annual growth rate of 3% in the years between 1750 and 1770. By 1770, some 60.000 Englishmen – half of which were military personnel – ruled over a population of more than 600.000 Irishmen, Scots and their descendants plus about 80.000 Portuguese and some 100.000 African slaves, and tensions were growing weekly. Uprisings during the Seven Years war were brutally quelled, with thousands of victims, but the situation became ever more dangerous as London – not heeding the warning reports of the local governor – kept feeding rebellious Scots and Irishmen to New Hanover. Such was the situation when Britain’s North American colonies declared independence in 1776. At first, it seemed the English would quickly crush the rebellion, but when the expected victory failed to materialize and France and Spain declared war on Great Britain in 1778 and 1779, a major revolt in New Hanover was only a matter of time. Under the leadership of Liam Dunshayne, a former mercenary in Spanish service, the Irish and Scottish population of New Hanover started their own war of independence early in 1780; it was early in 1781 that the rebels started calling the Isles Thiaria (from Gaelic Tir Thiar, meaning The Land beyond). The French and Spanish saw an opportunity to distract British resources to a backwater area and did their best to aid the rebels. A British fleet carrying another 5.000 troops was intercepted by a numerically superior Spanish fleet under Admiral Cordova in 1780 in the battle of Arrecife (Canary Islands) and turned back under heavy losses; it was the largest Spanish naval victory over England in recorded history (although they needed a numerical superiority of 30 versus 16 battleships to win it). In 1781 then the rebels received direct support by the French when a fleet under Suffren landed 2.000 troops and bombarded British positions, resulting in the rebels gaining control over a part of the southern coast of the mainland; the British however remained in control of all smaller Islands, and Suffren had to proceed into the Indian Ocean after a few weeks. But when the British sent another fleet of 15 ships of the line to New Hanover late in 1782 after their victory in the Battle of the Saintes, Suffren made a surprising return and soundly defeated them in a dawn battle as they were busy unloading troops near Trasolas. The British lost four ships burned or exploded and another four taken prize against a numerically equally strong foe, making this encounter their most demeaning defeat since the Dutch raid on the Medway; it was Suffren’s grandest achievement. When the American war of Independence ended with the Treaty of Paris in September 1783, the British had lost all control over the south-eastern part of mainland New Hanover, and Dunshayne’s army numbered some 10.000 well-armed fighters. Thus, for the third time in their history, the islands were not considered worth the effort necessary to hold them, and ceded to France.
5. Second French Era (1783 – 1808)
The French, after having fought some of their most brilliant actions to gain what now again became Nouvelle Oultremer, did not really seem to know what to do with the Isles after the English retreated their personnel and most of their settlers except some 15.000 who opted to stay. The French assumed formal control, but lacked resources to crush the Celtic rebellion by force, so they entered negotiations and in 1788 granted the Irish and Scots considerable autonomy. They now actually enjoyed more political freedom than the inhabitants of mainland France, which added to the many sparks that started the French Revolution in 1789, as well as attracting ever more refugees from Ireland and Scotland. The British by that time used Australia as their main penal colony and tried to prevent any more Irishmen and Scotsmen to emigrate to Nouvelle Oultremer, but could not effectively control emigration, resulting in another 50.000 new settlers between 1783 and 1808. The French Revolution cemented Celtic autonomy even more; most of the French personnel on the Isles remained royalist, and the Revolutionaries offered the Irish and Scots even more autonomy, bordering on de facto independence, when they aided them in overthrowing the strong royalist fraction on what was now officially referred to as Thiaria even in France. Dunshayne grasped the opportunity and joined the revolution in 1794; the Royalists were quickly overthrown, and many went into Exile to England. By the End of the War of the First Coalition in 1797, only 20.000 Frenchmen remained in Thiaria, along with more than a million Scots and Irishmen, some of which lived there in the sixth generation, plus about 150.000 descendants of Portuguese settlers and the same number of slaves. Unlike the American Revolutionary war however, when both sides had their share of victories and defeats, the naval situation in the French Revolutionary wars was completely lopsided, with Great Britain winning virtually every battle, and after the rout of the Armada in the Battle of Saint Vincent 1798, a huge British under Lord Jervis fleet was dispatched to recapture New Hanover. The British settlers supported their fleet, and practically all the Isles around the mainland of Thiaria were captured with little effort. A major invasion of the mainland however failed, because the British could not spare enough troops to face Dunshayne’s now 20.000 strong militia, most of them experienced in fighting in the local terrain and climate and all of them well equipped by the French. Fighting dragged on till the peace of Amiens in 1802 which restored all of Thiaria to French control. Britain accepted France's demands with surprisingly little resistance, since the mainland – the most valuable part of the Archiple, where all the mines and most of the plantations were located – could not be taken by force, and the rest was considered worthless by the British, who already had bases all around the Atlantic which were easier to hold. With Napoleon quickly raising to power, the French now attempted to consolidate their control over the Islands and some 30.000 Frenchmen arrived within one year, many of which were military personnel. Napoleon detested the privileges the revolutionary government had given to the Celtic population and wanted to turn Thiaria into a French colony like any other; to this end, Irish and Scottish immigration, which had restarted during the brief peace period, was to cease forever. Additionally, Napoleon restored slavery. The result was a revolt of the African population, which at first was fully supported by Dunshayne. But when France and Britain went to war again in 1803, the threat of having the British come back was enough for the now sixty-year old Dunshayne to keep a low profile and pledge full support for France, leaving the Africans to fend for themselves. The British tried to attack Thiaria practically immediately, but an indecisive Battle in October 1803 off Ogleidhras with the French under Latouche-Tréville forced Admiral Carnegie to retreat. During this battle, three Frigates manned exclusively by Thiarians fought alongside Latouche-Treville's fleet, making it the first engagement of the fledgling Thiarian Navy. With no immediate threat of British invasion, Dunshayne quickly started to fight Napoleon's men again, and by publicly pledging to uphold the French revolutionary principles and denouncing slavery, he brought the African insurgents firmly into his camp and added the key element of black emancipation to Thiaria's founding myth. Napoleon's hold on Thiaria quickly crubled thereafter. After Latouche-Tréville’s death and his successor Villeneuve’s humiliation at Trafalgar, the British once again sent a fleet for Thiaria, this time under Admiral Strachan, which arrived in spring of 1807 with 20 ships of the line, 9 Frigates and over 50 troop transports after a rather leisurely advance. His orders directed him to attack the mainland and conquer the Capital Carriolar (no one used the French term L’Aquilon anymore). The French had nothing to offer but a few frigates and corvettes, but a small Spanish squadron of 7 ships of the line including the big three-deckers Mexicano, Conde de Regla and Purissima Concepcion was despatched from the Caribbean to ‘see what they could do`. This turned out to be nothing, undermanned and demoralized as the Spaniards were, and they just dropped anchor under the guns of the fortress of Noyalo, the biggest fortification in all of Thiaria (and, for that matter, the entire southern hemisphere). This was the moment of Sean O Conaire, a former privateer who had fought successfully for the Americans in the war of Independence and decided to come to Thiaria to aid his countrymen in 1798. He collected some 5.000 colonists with naval or merchant marine experience (among them 2.000 former sailors from the Royal Navy and a few from the USN) and captured the Spanish ships after their commander had refused to engage the English. The Spanish crews – mostly pressed native Americans from Mexico – were as unwilling to fight Conaire’s men as they were to fight the Royal Navy and quickly gave up; many Spanish junior officers joined Conaire’s men, as these wanted to fight the British and this was exactly what their original orders had said. Conaire’s force ran into a vanguard of six British ships of the line at June 9th, 1807, in the middle of the Bauaine halfway between Noyalo and An Trionaid, for which city the ensuing battle would be named. The British, who had been made aware of the poor readiness state of the Spanish squadron by their intelligence service, were thoroughly surprised by the offensive spirit and fighting skill displayed by Conaire’s ships. The 74-gun ships HMS Brunswick and HMS Dragon and the 38-gun Frigate HMS Diana were dismasted and captured, and the 32-gun Frigate HMS Alcmene was burned and sunk. Although Conaire had lost the Conde de Regla to a magazine explosion, the battle of Trionaid was a huge success against an enemy with a proven reputation of absolute invincibility. Strachan was reluctant to release his main squadron to chase Conaire because he feared the enemy might also have smaller craft which could attack his troop transports. This fear was unfounded, because the French commanders of the smaller ships refused to leave the security of Fort Noyalo’s guns, but allowed Conaire to escape with his prizes. While the Thiarians, as they had come to call themselves, celebrated Conaire’s triumph, Strachan proceeded to capture the undefended city of Arathiar, sending half his ground forces to attack Carriolar from the land side and planning to join the fray with his fleet as soon as the defenders were distracted by the land assault. This never happened, because the redcoats were intercepted by local Militia and their advance slowed down to a crawl; after three weeks, the flanking force was outnumbered 2:1 by the Thiarians, while the French garrison at Fort Noyalo remained firmly in place, manning some 150 heavy guns. Strachan, who was put under considerable pressure from London, waited till early August before launching an all-out attack. He suffered terrible losses, but eventually managed to capture Fort Noyalo on August 21st. Conaire’s Fleet, still outnumbered 2:1 and in a poor state of repair, left Carriolar on August 22nd in order to distract the British from their main goal, and succeeded. Strachan gave chase and his forces recaptured both ships of the line they had lost earlier and destroyed the old Spanish 74-gun ship of the line Guerrero. The rest of Conaire’s fleet, including five French frigates and ten smaller French ships, safely reached the Bay of Cathair Riordan, where Strachan promptly blockaded them. But in the event, all Thiarian efforts were in vain, because by September, another British fleet with reinforcements had arrived, and Carriolar was finally surrounded in early October. After a three-month siege, the Fortress of Noyalo fell to a final assault on December 15th, and Dunshayne was wounded and captured. Great heroism was displayed by everybody involved, and the Thiarians would celebrate their defeat at Noyalo as a huge moral victory, some kind of Thiarian Alamo. The surviving Militia retreated inward; most remaining French garrisons surrendered by year’s end. Conaire abandoned his ships and led his people to the countryside to fight as insurgents; the British later returned his ships to the Spanish Navy after Spain joined the war against France in 1808. Dunshayne and 18 other Thiarian leaders were publicly hanged on February 4th, 1808, and Thiaria once again was renamed New Hanover. At this point, the British really ran into trouble.
6. Struggle for Independence (1808 – 1816)
London considered the Irish and Scottish inhabitants of New Hanover rebellious subjects of the British crown who had to be whipped into obedience if necessary lest their example inspired their relatives in Scotland or Ireland to rise up. Consequently, compromise was not an option for the new British Governor, General Sir James Craig, himself a loyalist Scotsman who passionately hated the Thiarians and considered them all rebels and traitors. While the British fed more troops to New Hanover in order to root the rebels out, Napoleon, who considered Thiaria lost for good, surprised everyone by granting the Isles full independence on June 30th, 1808; this resulted in many settlers who had kept neutral so far - after all it was Napoleon’s war - joining the rebels. By year’s end, the entire mainland was a war zone, and an untimely outbreak of Ashburn Fever, against which many of the settlers were immune by that time, additionally weakened the British forces. Another strain on their manpower was Wellesley’s Peninsular campaign which consumed most personnel reserves of the British army. So, while the rebels gained strength, the power of the British occupation force could not be augmented any more after 1809. Moreover, the frequent atrocities committed by both sides added to tensions in Scotland and Ireland and created unrest among the considerable number of British soldiers from these parts fighting in Spain; the French did theirs to exaggerate every engagement to a bloody massacre by printing false reports and circulating them in Ireland. By May 1810, no end of the insurgency on Thiaria was in sight, and the burned-out Craig was sacked and replaced by General Slade, who was vaguely instructed to win the hearts and souls of the settlers. He interpreted his orders rather conservatively and did nothing at all for almost a year, allowing the rebellion to spread over the entire archipelago. In March 1811 he was sacked too and replaced by General Erskine, a man of high nobility, but unfortunately clinically insane. He held his position for precisely two years and ordered no less than six major offensives against the rebels, all of which changed their respective objectives several times as Erskine issued increasingly erratic orders; in the end, he too failed to come to grips with the rebels, and by early 1813, the British garrisons were isolated and besieged and could only be resupplied by sea. To add injury to insult, Conaire escaped to the US and volunteered to fight for the US Navy under the anglicised name John O'Connor, directing much of America’s war effort in the war of 1812 towards severing communications between Britain and Thiaria, with some success; ironically, the USN named a Somers-class destroyer for him in the 1930s, which actually fought against Thiaria in the second world war. Erskine was finally sacked in March 1813 and soon after committed suicide by jumping out a window (his last words allegedly were ‘Now why did I do that?’). His successor wrote in his first report that Britain’s cause was quite lost; the Thiarians would never return to British rule and would have to be annihilated, for which he calculated an army of 100.000 would be necessary. The British government actually considered the latter option after the Napoleonic wars had ended, but the Waterloo campaign required every man Britain could muster, and when that last effort had finally succeeded, no-one in Britain seriously wanted to embark on another large campaign that promised to last for decades and cost myriads of lifes. Furthermore, political bias in Britain shifted towards dialogue with the Irish, which was chiefly advocated by Wellington himself, who flatly refused to take command of a possible Thiarian expedition. Consequently, less than a year after Waterloo, Britain formally gave up all claims upon Thiaria in a treaty with the French, who became the Archiple’s owners once again, after all of Napoleon’s edicts including the one that had granted the Thiarians full independence, had been revoked. The French claimed sovereignty over Thiaria until the July Revolution of 1830, but never attempted to enforce it; for all practical purposes, the Archiple was now a free country.
7. Free at last (1816 – 1850)
Thiaria was diplomatically acknowledged by the USA and Denmark in 1815, by Russia in 1817 and by most others including France, Great Britain, Spain and Prussia between 1830 and 1833; the Portuguese took their time till 1886, and Brazil as the very last country did not establish diplomatic relations with Conaire prior to 1975. Being formally a colony of the French crown, the Thiarians resisted attempts to establish a Monarchy of their own, which was seriously contemplated because republicanism was not held in high regard in the general political climate after the fall of Napoleon. They elected one of their most accomplished military resistance leaders to prime minster in 1815, a gruff Scotsman named Craig McIlhany who was succeeded in 1830 after three terms by a shrewd Irish diplomat named Eoain Macanta, who served for four and a half terms and would have been re-elected for a fifth had he not died in 1852 on the height of his fame as the Prime Minister under whose tenure full independence was attained. The first 40 years after de-facto independence in 1815 were thus very stable and quite peaceful, apart from constant tensions with the Spanish and Portuguese, who (with some justification) accused the Thiarians of assisting South American independence movements with money, weapons and volunteers. Especially the Spaniards were close to declaring war upon Thiaria in 1819 during the Argentine struggle for independence, but refrained from doing so, because legally this would require declaring war on France too. After 1840, tensions shifted towards Brazil, whose Portuguese rulers had never given up their century-old claim on Thiaria and kept considering it a territory under enemy occupation to be liberated till 1889. Internally, Thiaria was at that time organized the way it still is today, as a centralist state of the French fashion whose provinces had little executive responsibilities. Population soared again, fuelled by another wave of immigrants from Europe including 200.000 Irish and Scotsmen between 1815 and 1845. The country was less attractive for Continental Europeans for two reasons: First, everyone was required to speak Thiarian Gaelic, which was the sole official language; it was a simplified mix of Irish and Scots Gaelic, but still quite hard to learn for non-native speakers. Second, there was no freedom of religion, with Roman Catholicism being recognized as state religion and practice of other faiths discouraged by a variety of harrassments. This limited non-celtic immigration to 20.000, half of them Hungarians, who were already catholic and whose own language was so alien to most others that learning Gaelic was not much harder for them than learning English would have been. Population more than doubled to little over four million between 1815 and 1850. After full independence was attained, an elected president was installed as a figurehead of the state, but real power remained with the prime minister, who – like the president – was elected directly and then appointed his own government, with parliament being responsible for ratifying the budget and all other fiscal matters. This awkward system was retained till 1919; from then on, the president was no longer elected directly by the people, but by the Senate, stripping that office even from any moral and symbolic power it might have held. Economically, things went uphill throughout the whole first half of the 19th century. Apart from the still abounding copper and sulphur deposits, big deposits of black coal and high-quality iron ore were discovered in the 1840s, and the agriculture – apart from providing complete autonomy in all kinds of foodstuffs – produced a considerable surplus of coffee, rice and cocoa. Meat and milk were produced for the domestic market only; exports did not commence prior to the first world war. By mid-century, natural rubber became another export item, and Thiaria remains the world’s second-largest producer of natural rubber to this day. There was no Thiarian military until full independence from France was gained in 1830, only local militias, which however could muster up to 120.000 well armed infantrymen with considerable artillery assets in 1830. After 1830, the militias came under unified command, but no attempt at creating a true standing army was made until 1916. The navy received more attention; a fleet of a dozen large frigates and some 40 sloops and corvettes was built till 1825 and enjoyed an excellent reputation second only to the US Navy at that time; like the US Navy, however, the Thiarian fleet fell into disrepair during the 1830s and retired its large ships without replacements. Afterwards, the fleet maintained only coastal and fishery protection forces before the early 1880s witnessed the purchase of Thiaria's first ironclads.
8. Industrialization (1850 – 1894)
The industrial revolution hit Thiaria late, but with a vengeance. The availability of coal and iron ore from 1830 spawned a railway construction programme all across the south-east, and punitive customs rates on British textiles made the creation of indigenous textile factories profitable. The first shipyard for iron-hulled ships opened in 1862, and the first Thiarian Steel plant in 1880. Thiaria's Chemical industry was set up in the 1890s and produced fertilizers that increased the already high yield of the Thiarian agriculture even more. The Potato Famine in Ireland brought another surge of immigrants (500.000 within 15 years), and the political situation in central and eastern Europe - especially the crushing of the Hungarian revolt of 1846-1848 and the Polish uprisings of 1830/31, 1846/48 and especially 1863/65 - added immigrants from there too. Improved medical conditions in the second half of the 19th century also helped the population grow, and by 1880, there were fifteen million Thiarians. The original restrictive policy towards languages and religions gradually became more liberal, especially because a growing percentage of Irish and especially Scottish immigrants no longer spoke Gaelic and many former subjects of the Prussian and Austro-Hungarian States shared German as a common language; ironically, not being forced to learn Gaelic motivated most immigrants to do it anyway, and the percentage of non-Gaelic speakers in Thiaria never exceeded 5% before the 1990s (2013: 6,5%). Freedom of religion was finally granted in 1882, but the Catholic Church continued to dominate the country to this day (78% in 2013). In foreign affairs, Thiaria enjoyed a lasting peace till the 1880s. This changed when Thiaria and Brazil were at each other's throats over the New Portugal Islands, which belonged to Brazil since 1821 and where one third of the population was Irish/Scottish and the rest Portuguese. The Portuguese government had not restricted immigration, but the Brazilians feared a hostile takeover and closed the Islands for immigrants in 1846; in 1855, they declared Portuguese the sole language of the Islands and conceived one new way of harassing the Irish settlers every year. The Thiarians at first did not care much for the fate of their Irish countrymen - they were living in a foreign country, after all, and their own immigration policy was rather heavy-handed itself. But a mining company run by Irishmen and owned mostly by Thiarian stockholders started to mine one of the world's largest supplies of Nickel in 1878, suddenly giving New Portugal vast strategic importance. Since the opening of the Nickel mines coincided with the commissioning of Thiarna's first ironclad ships in the early 1880s, Brazil - with some justification - feared trouble and started fortifying New Portugal. The British - always eager to harass the Thiarians - offered Brazil all the warships it might need at a discount price, and Thiaria reacted by ordering more modern seagoing ironclad battleships in France. The Irish population of new Portugal, which had suffered all Brazilian outrages in the last thirty years relatively quietly, became restless in the mid-1880s, fueled by Thiarian propaganda. All the way, a naval arms race was underway. Tensions were already critical when the complacent and ineffective Brazilian Empire was swept away by the revolution of 1889. The republican government needed five years to get a firm hold upon the country; then they nationalized the Nickel and the newly discovered Chrome mines on New Portugal. A few days later, the Thiarians declared war.
9. One war every half-dozen years (1894 – 1908)
The war of 1894 was fought entirely at sea. The Thiarians, who had more cruisers than the Brazilians, established a blockade of the Brazilian coast and intercepted 65 merchant ships in three months, planning to draw the numerically slightly superior Brazilian battlefleet to the open sea, where their ships, most of which had low freeboards typical for British-built ships of that era, would be at a disadvantage. The strategy was sound - all their own ships were reasonably good sea boats with high freeboard - but they failed to anticipate that the Brazilians might come for them on a sunny day during a dead calm, only hours after the Thiarian flagship had hit a mine and was forced to retreat. In the ensuing battle, the Brazilians surprised the Thiarians again by handling their ships well, and the result was a sound defeat of Thiaria's vaunted fleet against an enemy whose reputation had so far equalled the Swiss navy. Rather than attacking New Portugal, they had to fortify their own coast to guard against a Brazilian invasion, which however never materialized due to a lack of transport capacity. After a few months of desultory fighting along Brazil's trade routes, where the Thiarian cruisers proved uncatchable, the war bogged out, and in the US-brokered peace of Boston, the Thiarians renounced all claims towards New Portugal and agreed to pay the quite broke Brazilians an outrageous compensation for their losses during Thiaria's successful trade war. Immediately afterwards, both sides prepared for the next war, with the Thiarians investing considerably more effort; unlike the Brazilians, the Thiarians by that time were already able to order capital ships on domestic yards, while the Brazilians had to make do with second-hand ships handed down from the Royal Navy. As the new fleets neared completion, Great Britain embarked on the Boer war of 1899 through 1902. Although their fleet was still not operational, thousands of Thiarians volunteered to fight the British alongside the Boers. They managed to transport 2.000 volunteers to Namibia clandestinely under the eyes of the Germans, who were sympathetic to the Boer cause as well. The insurgents inflicted heavy casualties upon the rather ineptly led British forces, but failed to remain clandestine for long. The British were outraged and blockaded Thiaria with a dozen battleships and at least 20 cruisers. Although no war was ever formally declared, the Thiarians made several sorties with torpedo craft, all of which retreated after a few warning shots by the British. When the Boers were finally overwhelmed by the British army, the remaining 1.400 Thiarian volunteers dispersed back across the Namibian border and were repatriated by German ships after the war ended. Although they had achieved pretty much nothing at all, just fighting the English had felt fine, and although they had not been significantly hurt by the Thiarians, the British were outraged about their presence in South Africa and were gung ho to invade Thiaria for a few weeks. Emotions finally cooled down when the atrocities committed by the British against the Boers - petty by the standards of the 20th century, but unusually well publicized by 19th century standards and widely despised by the British public itself - became common knowledge. The Thiarians, now holding the moral high ground, came away with paying some modest reparations to Britain, most of which were used to fund additional arms shipments to Brazil. The Thiarians immediately started to build a small professional army of 30.000 around their Boer war volunteers; national defence however continued to rest with the lightly armed militia. Priority lay with the navy. In 1907, the Thiarians finally had their revenge on the Brazilians. The actual reason for the war was the simple fact that both sides wanted war, and tensions erupted over virtually nothing at all. The battlefleets of both sides were ready and prepared, but this time the Thiarians had sufficient naval transport capacity to stage an immediate invasion of New Portugal. Within three weeks into the war, 40 transports sailed, and the two coast defence ironclads stationed in New Portugal were overwhelmed by Thiarian battleships in the port of Naomh Seoirse. The Brazilians were forced to throw their entire fleet at the invasion force. The never learned that the transports were empty until it was too late. As planned, the Thiarian battlefleet - much superior to the Brazilian fleet both in numbers and in quality - maneuvered itself between the Brazilian fleet and their bases, and the transports scattered. The Brazilians were more confident than would have been prudent and engaged the Thiarians on December 18th, 1907, shortly after sunrise while heading to the north-east. They could be clearly seen against the rising sun while the Thiarians were hidden in the dark, and the latter had gotten rid both of the arrogance and the training deficiencies which had doomed them in 1894. The ensuing battle of Tranacorr (Gull beach, 35 miles off the northern coast of New Portugal) was as lopsided as Tsushima. The Thiarians showed a surprised world that French-designed ships could prevail over British-built ones when properly handled, and destroyed two Brazilian Battleships against very few losses. Six weeks later, the invasion fleet sailed again, and this time, it was laden. Brazilian resistance on New Portugal was stiff and occasionally heroic, and their positions were well fortified, but without naval support they were doomed, as Thiarian ships bombarded them into submission at leisure. Ten months after the war had started, New Portugal and the world's largest deposits of Nickel and Chrome were under Thiarian control.
10. Becoming a major player (1908 – 1916)
In 1908, Thiarian population hit 19 million, and the nation's gross domestic product per inhabitant equaled France's. Thiarian industry produced half of France's steel output, at much better quality which rivalled England's, and her merchant fleet was the world's seventh largest. The country was the largest exporter of Nickel, Chrome, Copper, natural rubber and cocoa worldwide, and it was entirely self-sufficient in all kinds of foodstuffs except bananas. Healthcare and education had reached continental European standards; the illiteracy rate - which had been at 75% as recently as 1870 - was down to 15%, and the average lifespan exceeded 65 years. The political situation was stable and the constitution had remained largely unchanged since the 1840s. Freedom of property, religion, opinion and the press was guaranteed, courts were reasonably fair and impartial and the dominant role of the catholic church had gradually eroded, resulting in a much more liberal society. The inferiority complex that stemmed from the defeats against Brazil in 1894 and England in 1902 had been blown away by the victory against the Brazilians in 1908, and further naval construction cemented Thiaria's position as the dominant naval power of the southern hemisphere. Brazil abandoned all moderation in naval spending and bankrupted itself by ordering two dreadnoughts in 1906 and three more in 1910, 1913 and 1914. Thiaria matched this effort hull for hull and then some; they could spend half again as much money on defense as Brazil, but with its tiny army (the militia with its outdated and mostly light armament came virtually for free) 80% of all defense spending went to the navy. After being mostly ignored by foreign powers during most of the 19th century - they had cordial relationships with France and the USA, but no formal alliances - Thiaria now became a force to be reckoned. Their involvement in the Boer war had improved their relationships with the Germans and the Dutch - their relations with Britain could hardly deteriorate any more - and their wars with Brazil had resulted in a formal alliance with Brazil's continental rival Argentina in 1909. Their relations with France and Russia cooled down after 1904; they informed the French that they considered the Entente Cordiale extremely un-cool and actually offered to broker a continental alliance between France and Germany, which left both supposed allies wondering just how much of their excellent domestic whiskey these Thiarian politicians really consumed. Repeated anti-British schemes - in 1912, for instance, the Thiarians tried to get the Italians and the Ottomans to jointly conquer Egypt in case of war, only weeks before both countries went to war against each other - failed quite tragicomically and only worked to isolate Thiaria internationally. By 1914, they had alienated everyone except Germany and Austria. From 1912, Thiarian industry collected major orders for international weapons sales: Turkey ordered a battleship with three 340mm triple turrets (to be named Sultan Osman I) in 1912 and two light cruisers in 1914, and Argentina two light cruisers in 1913. During the first two years of the war, Thiarian deliveries of high-quality steel and heavy guns to Mexico, the Netherlands and Spain enabled those countries to proceed with their domestic battleship programmes. Thiaria's own navy numbered 30.000 personnel in 1914; as Thiaria's four super-dreadnoughts Conaire, Lormaic, Macanta and Dunshayne neared completion, a follow-on class of two giant 24-knot 30.000-tonners with 12 340mm guns each was ordered, with one ship each laid down in 1915 and 1916. In between, three battlecruisers - one of 25.000 tons with 9 305mm guns and two of 30.000 tons with 9 340mm guns - were laid down in 1912 and 1914. None of the Conaire-Class were finished when the first world war broke out in 1914; one commissioned in late 1914, the other three in 1915. The first battlecruiser followed in 1916. With these units, Thiaria all of a sudden had the world's seventh-strongest navy, surpassing Italy and Austria-Hungary, and was as hostile towards Great Britain as ever. With the Royal Navy pinned against Germany's powerful fleet and France's fleet needed in the Mediterranean, Thiaria's might was unchecked except by Brazil's fleet, which was only kept functioning by massive British financial aid.
11. Short and painful (1916 – 1918)
Both Brazil and Thiaria stayed neutral during the first two years of the first world war, but public opinion in Thiaria was openly in favour of the central powers. The Thiarians conceived the whole point of the war as Britain's desire to remove Germany as the first serious threat to their naval supremacy since 1805 and would sympathize with any enemy of the British Empire. As early as 1914, the Thiarians almost came to the aid of Scheer's doomed squadron off the Falklands, but they had only two armoured cruisers available near the battlefield and wisely decided not to start the war with a crushing defeat against two British battlecruisers. Italy's war entry on the Entente's side threatened to free the French fleet for use against Thiaria, but allied naval losses against the Ottomans and the lack of efficiency of the Italian fleet continued to pin it in the Mediterranean. Increasing tensions in Ireland further added to the determination of a major part of Thiaria's population to go to war against Britain; all they needed was a plausible casus belli. The British served them one on a silver plate with their handling of the Easter uprising of 1916, and on April 20th, Thiaria declared war upon them, to the unanimous consent of nearly all her 23 million inhabitants. Their Fleet - consisting of four super-dreadnoughts, one semi-dreadnought, three pre-dreadnoughts, four armoured cruisers, four turbine scout cruisers and four older protected cruisers - was already at peak readiness and immediately descended on British shipping in the South Atlantic, with considerable panache, but no coherent strategy at all. Within three weeks, 80 merchants were sunk or captured and the South Atlantic was effectively sealed off. Britain needed to react immediately and dispatched her four newest and biggest battleships Warspite, Malaya, Valiant and Barham under RAdm Evan-Thomas to Capetown on May 10th. They arrived there on May 28th after having collected a retinue of older vessels to support them, including three pre-dreadnought battleships, four old armoured cruisers and ten light and protected cruisers (belonging to nine different classes). Apart from the four super-dreadnoughts, the British ships were no match for their Thiarian counterparts and Evan-Thomas knew it. He had no chance to reopen the shipping lanes with this force without having defeated the main body of the Thiarian fleet first; only then could he afford to disperse his super-dreadnoughts to hunt down the Thiarian raiders individually. He asked for further reinforcements, but on May 31st, the Grand Fleet finally met the German imperial navy off Jutland in the largest naval battle of the war. The battle - strategically a draw without any influence whatsoever on the course of the war - was a complete disaster for Great Britain, with five of Beatty's ten battlecruisers sunk by their five German counterparts under Hipper. One wonders how the encounter between Beatty and Hipper would have turned out with Evan-Thomas' four super-dreadnoughts attached to Beatty's battlecruiser force, as had been planned before Thiaria's declaration of war; even German and Thiarian historians agree that it would have been nowhere near the walkover for Hipper's battlecruisers as it turned out in the absence of the Queen Elizabeth-class ships. In that sense, the Thiarians had helped cause Britain's worst-ever naval disaster with almost 10.000 casualties. Their own fighting spirit was considerably boosted by the poor performance of the British battlecruisers, and they failed to realize that British battleships were a completely different kind of threat. After June 1st, both the Thiarians and the English eagerly sought the decisive battle, and they found it on June 25th, in the midst of South Atlantic winter near the Islands of Tristan da Cunha, which had been occupied by the Thiarians one week into the war. The results were sobering for the Thiarians. Their ships and crews proved every bit as good as their reputation promised and dealt almost twice the number of hits to the British as they received themselves; their 305mm guns had twice the rate of fire of the British 381mm pieces, and the weather conditions did not allow the British to use their superior range to their advantage. After two hours of slugfest, Warspite was shot up beyond recognition and Malaya was heavily damaged too, with the other two having sustained medium damage. But none was lost, and it was the British 381mm shells that scored the really decisive hits. All Thiarian ships sustained damage, and LT Dunshayne, the newest one, sank on the return leg. Two British ships gave chase, but quickly abandoned it when the Thiarians feinted a counterattack. Within two months, HMS Queen Elizabeth reinforced the British fleet, and Evan-Thomas started to probe near the Thiarian mainland. Tristan da Cunha was retaken in September 1916, and several Thiarian raids against British shipping could be thwarted. In November 1916, the British suffered a setback when three Thiarian pre-dreadnought battleships and two armoured cruisers finally managed to catch a convoy with no British dreadnought anywhere close; the old pre-dreadnought HMS Prince George and the armoured cruiser HMS Kent were lost and the convoy was wiped out. Four Thiarian attempts to repeat that success failed in the following months, although they managed to sink the large protected cruiser HMS Powerful in March 1917. Three weeks before, both main fleets (three Thiarian and four British superdreadnoughts) had narrowly missed each other. The British finally had their revenge in April 1917, when three Thiarian pre-dreadnoughts were intercepted by HMS Warspite and the biggest one was destroyed, along with a large armoured cruiser. After a relatively eventless winter - the British had regained control over the shipping lanes, but had neither plans nor forces to carry the war back to Thiaria, and the Thiarians cancelled two sorties as their newest battleship Crionna (the former Turkish Sultan Osman I) tended to hit solid objects shortly after leaving port practically every time - the Brazilians entered the war. Within days, the Thiarians steamed up and bombarded Brazilian coastal cities, and achieved exactly what they had intended: In early December, the whole Brazilian fleet sortied for a return visit to Nua Phortaingeil. Although the Brazilians operated under strict EMCON, a Thiarian submarine spotted them, and on December 11th, three Thiarian and three Brazilian dreadnoughts met in the Battle of Caitriona. Only one Brazilian battleship made it home; only one Thiarian battleship suffered substantial damage, and the Thiarian commander Neill Trendean was the first Thiarian sailor in history to be promoted to Full Admiral. The British now knew they had to handle the Thiarians themselves (to be honest, they had suspected so all along); the Brazilian fleet was so demoralized as to be completely incapacitated, and the French refused to release their battlefleet for the South Atlantic because they - with some justification - did not trust the Italians to handle the Mediterranean alone against both the Austrians and the Ottomans. To make matters worse, the Thiarians were reinforced with another battlecruiser early in 1918, and with their morale boosted by the battle of Caitriona, they became more active. The British countered by restructuring their entire fleet and nearly tripled the number of dreadnoughts in the South Atlantic. With the US in the war, the Grand Fleet was reinforced by 6 (2 more followed in 1918) US battleships, and the British sent all four Iron Dukes, all four Orions plus Trafalgar, Agincourt, Colossus and Hercules to Capetown. This fleet was augmented by the battlecruisers Australia and New Zealand and the US battlecruisers America and United States; two British and two US pre-dreadnoughts formed the reserve. The Queen Elizabeths were recalled to the Grand Fleet. With such power, the British went actively on the hunt; the new commander Admiral Sturdee, Victor of the Falklands in 1914, developed an ambitious scheme to envelop and annihilate the Thiarian fleet. His plan backfired disastrously in the battle of Craighmiadh (Gaelic for Bad Luck Rock, a tiny island not so far away from Tristan da Cunha) on March 4th, 1918, when the five Thiarian dreadnoughts under Admiral Trendean, victor of Caitriona, managed to engage three of the four allied four-ship squadrons in sequence, sinking three British battleships and an American battlecruiser, then escaped with a loss of one battlecruiser and one armoured cruiser. Sturdee, who was wounded on the bridge of HMS Iron Duke, could not really be blamed, because Trendean would not have engaged any squadron substantially stronger than his own and had to be lured into the engagement somehow. The Thiarian success - like the German success at Jutland - was mostly caused by the resiliency of their ships which proved capable of taking an incredible amount of punishment and still perform a 25-knot dash out of the killing zone, combined with the premature retreat of the allied battlecruiser force after the loss of USS United States. After this battle, although it was a clear tactical success, the Thiarian fleet was reduced to two operational battleships; all other capital ships were so badly damaged they could not be repaired in time before the armistice in Europe. Evan-Thomas returned to command the British South Atlantic Fleet in May, but the only replacement he brought for the loss of HMS Agincourt, Colossus and Emperor of India was HMS Dreadnought herself. With all attention focused on the land war in Europe, the British South Atlantic Fleet was content to protect transports on the cape route; the Thiarians on the other hand were acutely aware how lucky they had been at Craighmiadh and not eager to test their luck again. They made a few limited sorties with their remaining force during the southern winter, but found no sufficiently valuable targets; in late October, they turned away when they sighted all four Orion-class battleships. A few weeks later, the war in Europe was over and the full might of the allied fleets was suddenly available to be thrown at Thiaria. Under these conditions, continuing the war would be suicidal, despite all the successes that had been achieved, and Thiaria finally asked for an armistice on November 24th, 1918.
Last edited by Garlicdesign on February 17th, 2017, 6:13 pm, edited 3 times in total.