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Al Andalus Paradox Mega-LP

by Hashim

Part 96: World of 1900

Chapter 16 - World of 1900

The first mornings of the twentieth century have dawned, and across the width of the globe, the drums of war are beating loud.

Much has changed over the course of the past half-century, and the world of 1900 is more divided than ever before. The globe spins around an axis of nationalism and radicalism, with once-powerful empires now in steep decline, with once-enduring alliances gone sour and toxic, and with once-insignificant powers teetering on the verge of greatness.

And like the spokes of a great wheel, the Great Powers of the world have risen and fallen and rearranged themselves, with the Sultanate of Al Andalus emerging from the Continental War as the victor in all but name.

That victory has led to an unprecedented era of dominance for Al Andalus, which now reigns over an empire that stretches from Africa to India, but their bitter rivals in the Dual Monarchy of France-England are ever-lingering and ever-watching. Just behind them, the eastern behemoth of Japan has been flexing its muscles, bullying their neighbours and seizing large parts of Siberia and India with little opposition. And just below them are the second rung of great powers, which includes the likes of North Germany, Russia, the United Republic and Ibriz - all determined to challenge for the crown, and all very capable of doing just that.

At the moment, however, Al Andalus stands proud at the pinnacle of the world. Just eighty years after the reunification of Al Andalus, the sultanate has rocketed to dominate continental and global politics, but its path to the summit was paved with bones and swamped in blood. It took three short wars - the Iberian War, the Rhine Crisis, the Continental War - and three bloody victories to unite Iberia under the Andalusi flag, victories that had brought the Russian Empire to a standstill, that had seen the Dual Monarchy humbled, that had left Almoravid Morocco reeling and faltering.

And it had certainly been worth it, with Al Andalus at its zenith and the crowned pomegranate fluttering proudly above every city and town in the peninsula.

Al Andalus is not nearly as united as it seems, however.

A rift has been growing between the parties of the Majlis al-Shura, the hereditary parliament of Al Andalus. The liberals have dominated the assembly for the past three decades, but whilst they were launching imperialist expeditions and drafting expansionary laws, their rivals in the reactionaries and socialists have been growing strong.

And now, at long last, the liberals have been unseated. The Reformed Socialist faction governs the nation, having come to power on the promise of peace and isolation, but with bloody riots becoming commonplace and three Grand Viziers assassinated in quick succession, their rule has proven to be rocky and unstable thus far, and a resentful conflict is quickly brewing between them and the Royalist faction.

This conflict is embodied by the struggle for power between the Sultan and the Grand Vizier, and it is being fought on every level of society, from the dank streets and alleyways to the smoke-filled assemblies and council halls.

Grand Vizier Rajul, leader of the reds, commands the support of the autonomous governorates of Portugal, León, Castille and the Pyrenees - all of which are populated by poor, disenfranchised labourers and workers, and ruled by Majlis-appointed governors. Sultan Khuzaymah, supported by the blacks, has managed to rouse the support of the Taifas - the old nobles and proud aristocrats of Al Andalus, who trace their lineage back centuries and yearn for the return of autocracy.

And as these two leaders jostle for power, a north-south divide is gradually descending across the width of the peninsula, one that many fear will erupt into civil war before long.

There are many nobles who do not support the Sultan so eagerly, however. These are the powerful and ancient names of the Majlis, who remember a time when the Zulfiqar kings were little more than upjumped commoners. The Aftasids of Batalyaws - who once ruled as Sultans in their own right; the Yahaffids of Balansiyyah - who preside over immensely fertile estates of farmland, orchards, olive groves and vineyards; the Tirruni of Qattalun - who once boasted a vast empire that stretched across the Mediterranean; and the Jizrunids of Palermo - who hark back to the days when they had ruled in Iberia.

Fickle and ambitious, these high lords keep a wary eye on Qadis, ready to grasp for their grand aspirations at a moment’s notice.

With that said, however, the reds are still at a disadvantage. Iberia as a whole boasts a population of almost forty million, ten million of which are adult, male workers. But almost 70% of those forty million reside in the southern half of Al Andalus, with only twelve million people populating the autonomous governorates and Qattalun.

And to add to that massive inequality, over a tenth of the population reside in Qadis - the capital of the Andalusi Empire, and a global cultural and economic node. Harbouring and feeding over four million souls, Qadis ranks far ahead of its rivals in Europe in sheer riches and population, with the closest competitors being Dublin and Hanover, which rank at almost three million apiece.

With all that taken into consideration, it isn’t much of a surprise that southern Iberia contributes most to Al Andalus, both in terms of population and economy.

The economy of Al Andalus as a whole has been unstable in recent years, what with the assassinations and political uncertainties, but before that it had rocketed to become one of the largest in the globe. This rapid rise in economic power is chiefly down to Imperialist policies, with their liberal ideals of free trade, slashed tariffs and naval expansion quickly making the early years of stagnation and lethargy a long-forgotten memory. Under the Imperialist Faction, foreign trade flourished and national income ballooned, with the soaring revenues then invested into the burgeoning industry and infrastructure of Iberia. The economy did suffer a few hits over the decades, of course - most prominently by the Springtime of Nations, the Rhine Crisis, and the recent instability - but it always recovered in the years that followed, gradually rising to become the third-largest economy in the world, just behind the Dual Monarchy and Japan.

Most of this economic growth results from the liberal policies championed by the Imperialists, of course. The Imperialist Faction dominated the government for three decades, and throughout this era of liberal hegemony, they established massive armament factories in northern Iberia, constructed huge shipyards along the coasts of southern Iberia, harvested enormous rubber forests in the Kongo, and nurtured vast opium farms in the Bengal.

And through the careful implementation of their commercial policies, the Imperialists managed to become the leading world producers in small arms, machine parts, steamer modules and opium poppy - no mean feat.

None of that would have been possible without the Fleet Acts, of course, with the Majlis passing a series of laws that mandated yearly expansions of the Andalusi Navy. It had been these expansionary laws that allowed the Andalusi to become a seafaring power again, crushing the Almoravid Navy in the Continental War and cementing their control over the Straits of Gibraltar.

The same cannot be said of the Andalusi Army, however. Though fairly large, the army had been allowed to fall into neglect and corruption in recent years, with the process only worsening since the socialists rose to power. Blue-blooded nobles bribe their superiors, feeble veterans dominate the command, salaries are pocketed and soldiers live the easy life - the army has become little more than a peacekeeping force, one that’s due to suffer a rude awakening very soon.

Unrest is gradually growing in Iberia, but pulling back from the peninsula, there is no shortage of enemies surrounding Al Andalus either.

Ever since the liberals lost the government, Al Andalus has been firmly isolationist on the political stage, with the socialists insisting on dissolving their alliances and avoiding foreign entanglements. But this “splendid isolationism”, as the reds like to call it, has only allowed other powers to cement their own alliances and unions - alliances and unions that aren’t very friendly to Al Andalus.

And posing the greatest danger to Al Andalus is, predictably, the Constitutional Coalition of France-England and Russia, along with their many spherelings and vassals. Bound by their liberal constitutional governments and blooded by their costly conflicts, these two empires together boast a combined strength of over a million professional, well-drilled troops, though their fleets are dwarfed by the Andalusi Navy.

With Al Andalus now firmly isolationist, the Congressional Coalition has kept Europe at peace for the past ten years. That peace is now being threatened, however, by the bloody wars raging in Germany.

The prospect of German unification has been on the horizon for almost a century now, but time and time again, its execution has been foiled by anxious neighbours or scheming chancellors or crushing battlefield losses. No longer.

The last of the German Wars is being fought between North Germany and South Germany, two unions that are otherwise polar opposites in every sense, with the former arising through war and the latter through peaceful union, the former being a democracy and the latter a monarchy, the former liberal and the latter fascist. There is no doubt that, whatever the outcome of the war, Germany will be as ravaged and fractured as ever.

Similarly, the Balkan peninsula has been drenched in blood for the past century, one of the many dire consequences of the Congress of Cádiz. With the sole exception of Hungary, the monarchies dotting the peninsula have been overthrown in bloody revolutions and sudden coup d’états, replaced by democracies or dictatorships or oligarchies.

The great powers have overlooked these tumultuous uprisings thus far, but with the outbreak of the Red Revolution and the world’s first communist government in Serbia, they have finally taken a stand. Led by Russia and France, several powers have dispatched expeditionary forces to depose the radical government and install a liberal monarchy - “for the good of the Balkan peoples”, or so they claim.

And finally, along the southern coast of the Mediterranean, we come to the Almoravid Sultanate of Morocco. Morocco stood as the world’s foremost power for the better part of the last century, but they were finally knocked from their pedestal during the Continental War, when the Andalusi ravaged their navy and occupied vast stretches of North Africa.

Since then, Morocco has relapsed into absolutism, with the Almoravid Sultan reigning supreme once more. Ajjedig has been struggling to halt the decline of his empire, and is currently embroiled in a war with the Pagan Kingdom of Benin, who opportunistically invaded Mali and Timbuktu this past year, whilst also facing constant tribal revolts in Algeria and Tunis.

At the moment, that is the only war raging in Africa. The rest of the continent has been carved apart and divided amongst five European powers in the Scramble for Africa - Al Andalus, South Germany, Provence, Russia and the Dual Monarchy.

Most of these powers rule their African domains as colonies, but Andalusi holdings have been centralised under the so-called “Khedivate of the Kongo”, led by the increasingly-powerful Min-al-Bita dynasty. The Khedives have gradually been accumulating power through the years, in strict violation of Andalusi law, but as long as the rubber, diamonds, sugar and salt continue to flow into Qadis, the government is willing to turn a blind eye to their autonomous rule.

And indeed, the Khedive has been extending his authority and even interacting with foreign rulers. Several embassies have already been established in neighbouring kingdoms, with the Khedive regularly corresponding with Benin and Egypt.

Egypt, more formally called the Crusader Kingdom of Egypt, has been especially friendly with the Khedivate. Ruled by the ancient Apanoub dynasty, Egypt has quickly pulled ahead in the race to dominate the Middle East, eliciting the help of their Russian allies to construct a massive navy and train their unexperienced army. And with the caliphs of Arabia and Armenia quailing, there is no doubt that war between these rivalled powers is fast approaching.

The price for this was very high, however, as the Rurikid dynasty of Russia purchased hundreds of shares to become the majority-shareholders of the Suez Canal Company. And along with their ironclad control of the Bosphorus and Bab-el-Mandeb straits, this meant that the Russians now controlled the most-traveled routes between the West and the East.

This, needless to say, posed a worrying problem to the other powers - more specifically, to Al Andalus and Morocco. India was largely divided between Al Andalus, Morocco and Japan - the “Three Rajas” - and the subcontinent served as the manpower and taxation breadbaskets of these empires, so the Suez and Bab-el-Mandeb straits are certain to become bloody battlegrounds in the future, should another war erupt between the great powers of the world.

Japan also has a reason to oppose Russia, with their common border at Siberia becoming the object of countless diplomatic incidents and border spats. Just then, however, the unwavering attention of Japanese politicians were wholly focused on their campaigns in China, where war had erupted just weeks prior.

Japan, a presidential dictatorship centralised under the shushõ, had been looking to exert their influence in China for decades now, only to be thwarted and opposed by endless obstacles. First, they were forced to deal with the unruly Jurchen Rebellions sprouting across Manchuria. When these uprisings were finally suppressed, the Mongol Empire began a decades-long struggle with Japan over the dominance of the east, stymying their advance at Khanbaliq in three separate wars. And by the time Khanbaliq was sacked and the Mongols collapsed, the Guang dynasty had reunited the petty warlords of China, rearing its mighty mane and refusing to balk under foreign pressure.

The Japanese issued a series of outrageous and draconian demands to the newly-crowned Guang Emperor, including the surrender of Beijing, the cessation of several port-cities, the granting of railroad and building permits to Japanese companies, and the strict restriction of their army and navy sizes.

These demands were immediately refused, of course, and war was declared just days later.

Further south, meanwhile, the petty princedoms and sultanates of Indonesia are in the process of being conquered and subsumed by foreign powers. Most prominently, Almoravid Morocco and the Dual Monarchy have been aggressively expanding their possessions in the region, though other European powers have begun launching expeditions of their own.

Finally, across the erratic and changeable waters of the Pacific Ocean, we come to the vast continents of Gharbia.

Politically, not much has changed over the past half-century, with Ibriz and New England still struggling for dominance in the north, Morocco maintaining its colonies in the Caribbean, and the Berber Union enforcing its uncontested authority in the south. Not everything is as it seems, however, and tensions under the surface are quickly bubbling into heated clashes and bloody confrontations.

Firstly, to the surprise of many, the Revolutionary Republic of Ibriz has gradually becomes rivals to both the Kingdom of New England and the Berber Union of Sultanates. Despite being a ‘democracy’ in name, Ibriz has become extremely authoritarian and autocratic, with voting restricted to the rich landholding classes, a single party dominating all elections, and the president ruling with absolute power.

In contrast, both New England and the Berber Union have evolved into liberal, constitutional monarchies. The Butler Queen has become a queen in name only, whilst the Three Sultans of the Berber Union are little more than popular figureheads, with power willingly devolved to national parliaments in both cases. And with such a radical divergence in ideology, the alliance that once bound Ibriz, New England and the Berber Union has long-since been discarded, replaced with mounting tensions and rabid nationalism.

Secondly, despite their vast territories, nether Ibriz nor the Berber Union can claim to be the dominating power in Gharbia. In terms of population, New England outranks them both, with refugees fleeing the wars in Europe rushing towards the eastern seaboard.

Refugees and immigrants from Iberia and North Africa, on the other hand, prefer to resettle in South Gharbia. Very few seem to make for Ibriz nowadays, desperate to avoid the prevalent discrimination, strenuous working conditions and authoritarian political system of the revolutionary republic.

Migration mapmode on 8 January, 1900.

And on top of that, New England is bound to the Dual Monarchy in matrimony and alliance. Together, the combined strength of this pact threatens to overwhelm both Ibriz and the Berber Union, whether they’re allied or not. Their navies are roughly on-par, with both New England and the Berber Union launching dozens of ironclads and monitors over the past few years, whilst Ibriz has been lagging behind.

All of these factors have contributed to the escalating friction between New England and Ibriz, and in the dying days of 1899, the vast northern continent finally erupts into war.

North to south and east to west, the world is fracturing and dividing. Old hurts are unforgotten, relations are strained, tensions are rising and war is exploding into a hail of bullets and gunfire, shrapnel and storm, smoke and ash. All of this will be remembered as a mere precursor to the war that is fast approaching, however - the Great War - and when it finally arrives, no nation on earth will be able to escape it.


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