For ease of use and for our friends in r/asoiaf, I’ve decided to put my economic development series in one place, with just links above the cut, and the full text below:
asbraveasrobb asked: I read your post about how the Riverlands have wealth that doesn’t reach Riverrun, and how if it was better managed could also yield way more fighting men. If you were Lord of the Riverlands during a period of peace, what would you do to fix the issues it has to make it wealthier/more powerful?
Excellent question. The question sort of depends on the period, but let’s drop me in as a Tully of Riverrun. They’re in a pretty good position, being right on the Red Fork and the River Road, but they don’t have too many resources – however, the relatively undeveloped nature of the Riverlands means that a canny lord could acquire more.
I’ve often thought that the mouth of the Trident is a hugely unexploited resource, so one of my first moves would be to build a second Riverrun (complete with a moat to wall off the third side) at the confluence of the Blue Fork and the Red. With a sufficient riverrine navy (which I would put no small amount of money into) and marine support from Riverrun, that position should be unassailable and allow me to dominate traffic on all three Forks, which should give me the upper hand on the lords of the Trident and the more easterly parts of my dominion (odd that the Lords Paramount of the Riverlands are so far away from the center of their region) and a major source of revenue from increased tax collection and a modest tariff. Riverrun-2 is also an excellent place for a cadet branch of the family and ensure that supernumerary brothers and sons can be made useful.
Next, I would work to combine regional alliances with regional development:
- a Blue Fork to Ironman’s Bay canal would hugely increase trade, to the benefit of House Mallister and my own (since the ships would have to pass by Riverrun-2), and allow House Mallister to better check the Freys (although I’d definitely insist that the Mallisters put some of the extra cash into more oceangoing ships – I want them to be the Riverlands Redwynes). At the same time, Riverrun-2 should ensure that the Mallisters’ new dependence on riverrine trade means a certain deference (make sure those ships’ keels are too long for the canal).
- An extension of the River Road from Maidenpool to Lord Harroway’s Town would do a similar thing with House Mooton (which is too far in King’s Landing’s orbit thanks to the Rosby Road, as we saw during Robert’s Rebellion). In addition to boosting trade along the River Road and improving access to seaport trade, this also means that I can move my armies faster to the eastern Riverlands – historically a region where the Kings of the Trident have struggled to project authority.
- Finally, I would put some money into the improvement of the defenses of Stony Sept, both by improving the fortifications of the town and by building a canal to link the Red Fork to the Blackwater (which also provides some competition to the Mallisters) to allow me to move reinforcements down from Riverrun and create a water barrier along the southern border. Indeed, if I can manage it, I’d try to take
- and creating a new center of gravity in the southern Riverlands since Harrenhal is such a deadweight.
All of these things should be paired with marriage alliances between House Tully and Houses Mallister, Mooton, Roote, etc. Hopefully, these links to these strengthened Houses would give me a constituency to back me against the likes of the Freys, the Blackwoods and Brackens, etc.
Third, political reform. Given so many fractious and divided vassals, I would institute a Great Council of the Riverlands as a permanent legislative assembly. This would serve multiple purposes – first, having a voice in consensus-building increases willingness to pay taxes; second, it allows me to play Houses off against each other through patronage; third, it hopefully puts some hostages in my grasp a la Versailles and Edo; forth, as we’ve seen from Alayne, lesser Houses eat up drama and pageantry. (Possibly look into a knightly Order of the Trident to further encourage this?) At the same time, to bolster my power vis-a-vis the lordly houses, I would establish city charters for LHT, Seagard, Stoney Sept, and Maidenpool as a way to create new direct relationships between House Tully and the merchant class of those places and further boost trade and economic development (and city militias are a good way to improve military readiness).
After that, technology and culture would be key. Import Myrish and Braavosi artisans and merchants (encourage them to bring theater and the like with them), establish guilds of artificers and engineers, build some watermills. Lobby the High Septon to upgrade Stoney Sept to a Great Sept with a Most Devout, maybe build up Humphrey Teague into a Riverlands quasi-saint a la Baelor the Blessed and encourage pilgrim traffic. Build church schools in the cities and towns to expand literacy.
Ok, so I’m the new lord of the Stormlands. I’ve got a kickass castle, bad weather, and a very dysfunctional family – how can I improve on this?
Goal 1: Timber and Trade
The two basic natural advantages of the Stormlands are that it’s really close to Essos and that it has an enormous amount of timber (the amber is nice, but it’s not particularly useful) – but it’s not really making any good use of these advantages.
So the first step is to begin making use of the Rainwood and the Kingswood (altho the king has sole hunting rights over the kingswood, he doesn’t seem to have sole cutting rights, as there are settlements in the kingswood. If necessary, bribe the king). Set up sawmills on the Slayne, Wendwater, etc. to build up a lumber industry and clear land for farming – while being careful to practice good forestry management. Encourage carpentry and woodworking in a big way – tax benefits, free land, guild charters, industrial espionage against House Forrester, etc. – to begin moving up the value-added chain and have something to export.
Once I have that infrastructure, engage in sufficient bribery and/or industrial espionage in Braavos and the Summer Isles to begin building up a shipbuilding industry second to none – which in turn should support a huge navy and merchant marine. This in turn, requires port cities – which means charters for any decently-sized and minimally-stormy harbor, and given that I’ve got some pretty hefty competition with King’s Landing means I’m going to have to heavily undercut my competition in terms of tariffs, harbor fees, warehouse fees, etc. Need to be careful to stay in the black, at least to start, and hope that my home-grown merchant marine can compensate.
In the early stages, this will have to be concentrated on Cape Wrath between Stonehelm and Weeping Town (which seem to be a bit more protected by the Rainwood), but once you’ve got revenue up, I’m going to need a massive system of breakwaters, lighthouses, and beacons to make Shipbreaker Bay a productive marine economy, as right now it’s at least a third of my territory and it’s not good for much.
Goal 2: Immigration
One of my major problems as the Lord of the Stormlands is that “the realms of the Durrandons and their successors have always been thinly peopled when compared to the Reach, the Riverlands, and the west.” A thin population means a low tax base, small labor force (which in a predominantly agricultural society means some hard limits on food supply, and thus population growth) and a small army.
So my second main goal is to attract immigrants – especially skilled craftsmen and sailors, but also lumberjacks, saw mill workers, longshoremen and warehouse workers, and farmers. And my main strategy here is going to be quite similar to a lot of German Princes after the Thirty Years War which depopulated much of the HRE – offer free land and tax exemption for a limited number of years to entice people to immigrate.
Given that primogeniture seems to be the rule, it shouldn’t be too hard to lure supernumerary sons from the Reach and the Riverlands. However, given my need for expert shipbuilders, sailors, merchants, and artisans, I’m going to need to look abroad too – the Summer Isles, Myr, Braavos, etc. Which is no doubt going to cause some social disruption, but that’s the cost of progress, and I am an ambitious early modern state-builder after all.
Goal 3: Administrative Reform
At this point, I have to recognize, even with a stronger economy and a larger population, there are hard geographical limits to the Stormlands, at least as long as the Iron Throne is operative. I’m not going to be able to grow as much food or field as many troops as the Reach, so I’m going to have to be more efficient, so that the extra ships, the extra farmland, the extra tax revenue is used to best advantage.
So that means I need my own version of the Small Council and a small army of clerks to push the Stormlands into something more like the Tudor state, although my ultimate aim is something like the Prussian Reforms.
(I know I said Dorne was next, but you go in the direction the muse points)
The nice thing about doing development policy for the Reach is that you’ve got a lot to work with – the Reach is highly productive, densely-populated, and quite wealthy. However, despite these natural advantages, there are some glaring examples of missed opportunities.
Step 1: Harnessing the Land
The great strength of the Reach is in its incredibly fertile soil, so we begin by playing to our strength, focusing our efforts on making sure that the farmers of the Reach are at their most prosperous, so that House Tyrell can be as well.
This begins with constructing a Mander-to-Blackwater Canal. It’s something I’ve talked about before(link), but the advantages are so clear that it’s kind of mind-boggling that it hasn’t been built yet. King’s Landing needs huge supplies of grain, the Reach is the major source of grain in Westeros; Oldtown is tied for the largest commercial entrepot in Westeros, and yet the journey from Oldtown to Essos (or vice versa) is easily twice as long as the journey from Plankytown or Gulltown or White Harbor or King’s Landing.
A canal linking the two rivers would expand the Reach’s, well, reach enormously, by reducing the time-to-market from around 21 days from the Reach to King’s Landing to 8 days.
- To begin with, this would allow the Reach to dominate the agricultural market on both coasts of Westeros and the Free Cities, shipping not only more perishable goods like wine but produce and grain (products where a few day’s difference can mean the spoilage of huge amounts of goods).
- Moreover, it makes the Mander the natural commercial highway of Westeros – leaving aside the fact that no foreign merchant in the world is going to take the longer and dangerous route across the Sea of Dorne to trade with the west coast, the speed advantage of ships vs. carts means that internal trade will gravitate towards the Canal, because why take five and a half months overland from Gulltown to Lannisport when you can take the Canal and get your goods there in 13 days?
- Finally, it massively increases the Tyrells’ power at court. With the capitol’s trade passing through my canal, with Tyrell grain able to undercut any competitors from the Reach or the Riverlands, and with travel to and from the Reach decreased in time, it’s much easier to project both soft and hard power w/r/t the King and Small Council.
Equally importantly, once the Canal is built, it becomes an enormous moneymaker for the Reach. Taking the port of London for a historical example, in 1613 the port of London brought in 109,000 pounds in customs duties (this was well before the explosion of commerce that would see the port bringing in 1.26 million a year in 1710 and so on and so forth) – that works out to 87,200 dragons annually in revenue. That’s a staggering amount of money on top of what House Tyrell already earns from its lands and feudal taxes, which means it can be put to use instantly.
That money would help to capitalize a Land Bank of Highgarden. This would essentially be a kingdom-level central bank, which with 87,000 dragons annually as its reserve (to say nothing of House Tyrell’s normal tax and land revenues, or deeds to House Tyrell’s lands and real estate) would produce 872,000 dragons in deposits and 741,000 in loans – and that sum is going to increase dramatically as the reserve keeps growing thanks to our canal. So this land bank has all of the sudden made House Tyrell the equal of House Lannister in income…unless the Lannisters start their own bank (more on that when I get to the Westerlands).
Here I’m going to borrow from the Populists, and link the Land Bank to asub-treasury system. The basic idea is that farmers would have the right to sell their crops to a public warehouse at a guaranteed minimum rate in exchange for an official letter of credit, which they could then redeem for their crops again if prices rose. It works on several levels:
- first, it increases and stabilizes farmer’s incomes and their access to credit, while massively expanding the Land Bank’s reserves by a huge factor (forget the Lannisters, I’m now the richest House in Westeros by far); the classic Tyrell style of doing well by doing good.
- Second, it allows for the stabilization of agricultural prices. If food prices falling is going to damage the incomes of peasants and lords alike (including that of House Tyrell), the sub-treasury’s minimum ensures that a bumper crop benefits farmer and consumer both. If a sudden spike in food prices would lead to famine, House Tyrell is here to save the day (our pleasure really, sure you’ll return the favor some day) and making itself the indispensable force across a continent’s economy.
- third, it massively increases House Tyrell’s influence within and without the Reach. Within the Reach, the sub-treasury’s bargain is too good to turn down – which now means that the whole of the smallfolk now have a direct connection and dependence on House Tyrell, as will many lords who’ll be all to happy to turn their excess crops into cash in hand. Except now House Tyrell has the power to seize your crops and capital, rouse your smallfolk and vassals into rebellion, if you cross me. Outside the Reach, our influence over the price of food is now so strong that we would make Petyr Baelish’s proposed manipulations in the Vale look like child’s play.
- fourth, it provides for an explosion of credit to invest in increasing productivity. Want to build a barn or pens for livestock or a silo or a mill, buy more livestock or a new plow, or some new seeds for a more diverse crop or more fertilizer for a better yield, or maybe drain some marshy land or clear a wood for more farmland? The Land Bank of Highgarden is happy to extend a loan on easy terms. As prospers the land, so prospers the fisher king.
Step 2: Industry and Infrastructure
So now I’m hugely rich and have money to invest, it’s time to diversify the Reach’s economic base. To begin with, textiles – with my immense and more productive farmland, the less fertile land can be turned over to large-scale flax production for linen. The foothills of the Red Mountains are perfect for herding sheep for wool. Combine that with all of the lovely rivers and setting up watermill-powered factories for the production of linen, thread, and woolen cloth. Once you’ve got that up and running, time to do some industrial espionage – see if you can copy (or bribe craftsmen who know how to make them into immigrating to the Reach) Dornish silks and satins, Lorathi velvet, tapestries from Qohor and Myr, fine woolens and lace and carpets from Myr. They don’t need to beat them for quality as long as I can bring to market more cheaply than the competitor thanks to the Canal.
Next, there’s probably good minerals in the Red Mountains – so let’s get some mines running, poach some craftsmen from Qohor or the Westerlands to build up metalworking. Not that I’ll necessary need an arms industry right now (in the mean time, they can make pots and pans), but I don’t want to be dependent on imports from the Westerlands if I might need to go to war with them.
Third, infrastructure. The Canal is good, but the Hightowers would pay nicely for an extension linking the Mander to the Honeywine to diminish the threat that the Canal would shift trade away from Oldtown. Moreover, as a matter of security, boom chains on the Mander and the Honeywine would provide protection against Ironborn raiders and improved control over canal traffic.
The Reach has a fair few roads, but it could stand to use more. In the north, a ringroad that connects Old Oak, Goldengrove, and Tumbleton would allow for swifter reinforcements on my northern border, and enhance overland travel and trade; in the south, a ringroad connecting Sunflower Hall, Uplands, Horn Hill, Ashford, and Grassy Vale (as well as Oldtown and Highgarden) would do the same for my southern border. Finally, bridges – while I want to keep the Canal clear (with one exception), for better movement I want a stone bridge over the Silverhill river by Goldengrove, over the Blue Byrne by Grassy Vale, and over the Cockleswent by Ashford.
Step 3: Institution-Building
With all of this increasing wealth and productivity and increasing industry, I’ll need some cities to put people in. To a certain extent, I’ll need to play this by ear – don’t know where concentrations of agriculture, commerce, and industry will warrant cities, precisely – but I do have two cities particularly in mind.
First, a port-city at the mouth of the Mander (Canalmouth? Mandertown? New Oak?). In addition to quite a lot of harbor facilities to service the Canal trade, this port city will be designed around a shipyard, as well as a sizable garrison to protect the boom chain (I will make very sure that the port and shipyard are behind and not in front of the chain). In addition to providing repairs and refits for passing ships, the purpose of this shipyard is to build a proper navy for the Shield Isles (as well as a decent riverrine navy with plenty of transports). A few dozen longships is not sufficient for my major northern naval defenses, so I want to build up a decent-sized fleet of at least 20 if not 50 ships of the line – House Redwyne may need to be mollified by creating a reserved Redwyne post somewhere in the chain of command – Admiral of the Northern Navy? Lord/Castellan of the city? Master of the Shipyard? Depends what they’re willing to give me for the privilege.
Second, a city across the river from Highgarden – to be known as Newgarden – with a swinging bridge across the Mander, with its . The first purpose of this city and this bridge is to act as the central customs point for the Canal (although subsidiary points will be needed at Canalmouth and at Tumbleton), and I’ll probably need to build an artificial harbor to host the canal trade as they pay their due. The second purpose is to give a location for the Great Council of the Reach – which I want for the same reasons that the Lord Paramount of the Riverlands does, but even more so because it’s the chivalry and pageantry-obsessed Reach, and a Versailles strategy will be super-effective. Throw some epic Grand Balls, hunts, jousts at Highgarden proper – but only if you’re important enough to get an invite across the bridge – to keep everyone currying for favor, but to keep everyone busy, stuff Newgarden full of gambling dens, race tracks, Braavosi theater troupes, all the singers you can shake a mandolin at, go wild with it. While I’m at it, recreating the Order of the Green Hand a la the Winged Knights is a great idea – but why not shoot for 700?
Next, time to invest my money in human capital. First things first, time to start sponsoring students at the Citadel – but my object here is to produce large numbers of half-maesters who I can use as administrators, experts, and above all, teachers. The Citadel might get stroppy, but as long as all of them have to get their accreditation at the Citadel and we agree that a maester’s chain is necessary for the top management jobs. Second, establish a network of free schools – probably can’t manage one per village, but one per town/major castle should work – with a competitive examination system to get into the Civil Academy at Newgarden I’ll establish to train and recruit the vast army of bureaucrats to run my new institutions.
At the same time, can’t neglect the practical subjects – I’ll want a Naval Academy at the Arbor (go where the ships are) to train up professional naval officers, a Military Academy at Old Oak (close to the Shield Isles and the northern borders) to do the same for the land forces, and an Engineering Academy somewhere close to the new industries by the southern border.
Ok, I am the Prince/Princess of Dorne. What do I have to work with? Well, Dorne is geographically closest to the Free Cities, which is very useful for trade. In addition, Dorne also produces very good exports – exotic produce (olives, peppers, citrus fruits), wines, textiles (Dornish silks and satins), and fine horses.
What are my problems? Well, like the North, I have a low population and less fertile soil than the rest of Westeros. I’m also not geographically situated conveniently to the rest of Westeros compared to the Reach or the Riverlands.
So how do I deal with these problems?
Goal 1: The Water Must Flow
The first limit to growth that must be dealt with is the lack of water, which is worth diamonds in Dorne. Which means that I need a massive desert-greening campaign based around:
- the construction of artificial wadis protected by your hardier trees (acacias, eucalyptus, cacias, conifers, cedars, etc.). The wadis store water from rain, the trees prevent evaporation through shade, and then you can begin building irrigation canals out from the wadis.
- in the areas of Dorne prone to flash floods, the construction ofdiversion canals and dams centered on the existing seasonal rivers, once again protected by trees, and then linked up to irrigation canals.
- down the line, once I’ve got the money for it, divert the Torrentine east. The amount of potable water that is wasted by the river’s straight plunge into the sea is absurd, and if I can divert some or all of that water to spill down into that valley between Sandstone and Hellholt (properly guided through canals to prevent flooding), I can make a third of Dorne bloom (with no need for Aerys’ tunnels).
With more water, more land can be turned over to cultivation, as I’ll talk about next. However, this more water should remain under Princely control (by starting the process in House Martell’s own lands, and expanding outwards by lending money for construction in return for water rights), so that it can be used to improve political influence over the various lesser Houses.
Goal 2: The Earth Must Produce
Now that I’ve got more water to work with, it’s time to begin to improve the soil and bring it under cultivation, starting in “the eastern half of Dorne,” which “is largely barren scrub, it’s dry, stony soil, yielding little, even when irrigated.” (And that’s with the Greenblood). The first step is to improve the quality of the soil through the planting of hardy plants (lyme grass, sea couch grass, marram grass, and other anti-erosion plants used in coastal landscaping) that thrive on sand and salty soil (which also helps to lower the salinity in the soil), as well as those hardy trees described above to provide shade and prevent evaporation.
Together, these steps should begin to improve the quality of the soil so that the additional water acquired above can actually have a significant effect. In the mean time, one strategy for improving agricultural production in desert climates is to build saltwater-cooled greenhouses to spur the production of Dorne’s traditional export crops in coastal areas). It’s fairly easy to do, Dorne has no shortage of raw materials, and export production is key to prosperity in a country with a small population. Where possible, I should also be looking for staple crops that thrive on bad soil – has anyone invented the potato yet?
And the same time, I also need to make previously useless territory productive. To begin with: salt. Dorne’s got tons of it, it was historically immensely valuable, and there’s no reason why I couldn’t encourage House Gargalen to turn Salt Shore into a center of salt-production (especially if I can use evaporation processes to produce fresh water at the same time) that would leave Saltpans in the dust. Equally if not more importantly, there’s no way in hell the Red Mountains don’t have valuable minerals in them – mostly likely iron and copper. Set up some large-scale mining operations in the Red Mountains, and then set up smelting mills, foundries, and workshops near-by to produce ironwork and copperwork for export.
Goal 3: Trade, The Wealth of Nations
So, now that I’ve got my exports humming, it’s time to get into commerce to sell them and pay for all the improvements I’ve been making (note – these are going to have be done at the same time, as more production -> more trade -> cash for the improvements that drive production).
A Dornish State Bank is going to be useful here, although it’s not going to be anywhere the size of a Reach Land Bank or a Casterly Rock Bank or a Royal Bank of Westeros. Indeed, I may need to partner with the Iron Bank and see what kind of start-up capital I could get for a 49% stake in the State Bank and a limited-time monopoly as middle-men for Dornish overseas trade.
In addition to helping to finance my production-boosting campaign, one of the chief tasks of the Dornish State Bank will be to sponsor ship construction at Planky Town (which, btw, is going to need a city charter asap, as will Sunspear; I’m also going to want to build a port-city somewhere on the Yronwood lands to use as a bribe/counter to their power). Given my limited resources, I’ll need to build a fleet that can do double-duty as navy and merchant marine – sort of a floating, armed sovereign wealth fund.
In addition to attempting to engross, regrate, and forestall as much of the Narrow Seas trade as I can (trading on the fact that I can get to the Free Cities faster than anyone else, as long as no one builds a canal), it might not be a bad thing to do some pirate hunting in the Stepstones and build some naval bases so that I can start taking control of the crossing. Maybe sign a compact with Braavos and the Three Sisters limiting the tolls I can charge in return for recognition of Dornish control, pay a hefty share back to the Crown, but it’s still a mostly-free source of revenue I can use to fuel the State Bank. That it also gives an excuse to have a large, well-blooded navy is of no consequence.
Down the road, I probably also want to build a shipping canal that connects the Scourage to the Yronwood, massively cutting down on the time it takes those caravans to get to where they’re going, allowing for faster movement of metalworks to Plankytown for export, etc. (Also allowing me fast access to Yronwood if they ever decide to get troppy again). It’s not going to be anywhere near as productive as the Mander or Blue Fork Canal, but you need to do the best with what you’ve got.
Goal 4: Immigration, Urbanization, and Dornish Customs
The thing about new land and new industries and more commerce is that it all takes people and Dorne doesn’t have many of those. Now, once the land begins to produce, that’ll change, but that’ll take a few generations to kick off.
In the mean time, I’ll need to look to immigration – and Dorne is close-ish to Essos, and has some advantages in attracting immigrants. For one, we’re not a bunch of racist, religious-fanatic prudes like them in King’s Landing. For another, we’ve got our Dornish solidarity going.
So a good deal of the land I’ve just put into cultivation, the new towns and cities in the mining and manufacturing districts and the commercial hubs of the east, will go to attract new settlers – the Summer Islanders are great sailors and shipbuilders and archers, the Free Cities have excellent artisans and merchants (it would be great to get some of the Rhoynar to settle in their home away from home, maybe encourage the mother tongue and Rhoynish culture?). Getting them to come across might involve some Jon Snow-esque emancipation tactics, but maybe we can partner up with the Braavosi to do some plausibly-deniable slave-liberation too (don’t want to provoke a foreign war until I’ve got my population up and the Summer Islanders and the sandy Dornish can get together and start to talk about the Dothraki).
But one major draw, and one of the major ways I’m going to need to channel the discontent with the rapid urbanization and social change in general, is going to be an expanded version of Dornish solidarity – namely, it’s time for a social insurance system (might need some more Braavosi advisers to help with that) to provide protection against old age, disability, the loss of a spouse, etc. Here in Dorne, everyone looks out for everyone.
(For previous parts in the series, see here)
So this development plan is slightly unusual, in that it’s covering a part of Westeros that I’ve actually written about the economics of in some detail – see here, here, here, here, and here– and the Westerlands is actually unlike most of the regions we’ve covered on this series. It’s actually more economically-developed than its peers (going by percent of the population not employed in food production), and has a huge amount of liquid capital it could dump into economic development.
So, if I’m the head of House Lannister, how do I play such a strong opening hand?
Finance and the Golden Bank
The first and most obvious step is to create a Golden Bank of Casterly Rock (much better security in the Rock than in Lannisport). My initial calculations suggest that the Lannisters might well have 2 billion gold in their vaults, given their yearly income and how many years they’d been piling up wealth. Even the lowest estimates say they’ve got a couple million. Through the magic of fractional reserve lending, this reserves could easily support a level of lending forty times the size of the Westerosi economy.
While the creation of this bank is basically at the root of everything else we’re going to do, it’s not a simple “I Win” button. The danger of dumping 18 billion gold into the Westerosi economy is that you’d generate a wave of hyper-inflation so bad that you’d make the Spanish Price Revolutionlook like a mere stock market hiccup. While in the long run providing the liquidity necessary for Westeros-and indeed even Planetos-wide economic development, the short-term implications would be the destruction of the Westerlands economy, as skyrocketing inflation would destroy the value of our reserves, cause our goods to be non-competitive, and cause the price of food to soar faster than wages, leading to massive socio-economic conflict.
So the key here is to carefully manage the Golden Bank’s lending: invest as much as possible in raising productivity (since you’re going to need the economy to grow at a good clip to ensure that supply doesn’t fall behind the added demand from your investments), and never invest more the economy will bear.
In order to ensure this latter goal is adhered to, one of the things the Golden Bank will have to be careful about is, once the goldsmiths of Lannisport realize how much money they can make from banking, is preventing financial bubbles and panics. Luckily, given the strong position of House Lannister vis-a-vis its subjects and the similarly strong position of the Golden Bank vis-a-vis, it would be pretty easy to establish strong regulations – reserve requirements, lending restrictions, oversight and regular auditing, etc. – to make sure that non-Lannister banks might spark a price revolution.
So now that I have all the liquid capital I need, it’s time to put it to work – and the first target for investment is the Westerland’s already relatively-advanced industrial base.
As I’ve mentioned before, the presence of silver and gold mean that there’s quite likely also a good bit of iron and copper in the hills and mountains of the Westerlands. And while gold and silver might be more prized metals than iron and copper, there’s a much bigger market (and more room for growth) in the production of domestic goods made of iron, copper, bronze, brass, and pewter. So one of our first targets for industrial expansion is the more intensive and larger-scale mining, smelting, and manufacturing of these metals.
Another step in making the Westerlands dominant in metalworking islarge-scale industrial espionage. Given that I have all the gold in the world for bribes, it’s time to raid Qohor for their steelsmithing, Myr for its artificers, and Braavos for its standardized parts/assembly line technology. Once I’ve got that skill inside my borders, it’s time to make sure that skill is spread to my existing workforce and across the generations – first, by either creating and/or renewing/expanding guild charters, especially in regards to training and licensing smiths and artificers to ensure quality and the transmission of knowledge; second, by providing Lannister patronage for Institutes of Technology, the equivalent of the historical Royal Society, etc.
Third, at some point, I want to invest in the ability to get my goods to market faster (and thus cheaper), given the inconvenient fact that Lannisport is stuck on the wrong side of the continent. This requires substantially more investment than in the case of the Riverlands or the Reach, because you’re building canals with much more verticality (which requires lots of locks) and you’re building in the mountains. However, acanal that links Hornvale to the Red Fork (and to a lesser extent the Silverhill river to the Gold Road, given that Lannisport-to-Mander/Lannisport-to-Oldtown is a pretty short trip already) would cut the time from the Westerlands to King’s Landing from over three months to five days.
Trade and Investment
Now that the flow of Westerlands merchandise is faster than ever, it’s time to get the best deal possible for our goods. To do this, I plan to use the leverage of the Golden Bank’s financing to promote the creation of industry-wide marketing and purchasing cooperatives – with the idea being that you’d get better deals the closer you can get to a monopsony and monopoly position.
At the same time, one of the things that House Lannister and the Golden Bank can do is engage in the stockpiling of raw materials, foodstuffs and finished goods (a la Sweden) – in the industrial equivalent of the Reach’s sub-treasury system. When prices for Westerlands metalworks decline to the point where they threaten the profitability of Lannisport’s factories and workshops, have the Lannisters buy up the surplus to maintain incomes, and act as a floor on prices; when prices rise to the point where they threaten exportability, sell off the stockpile at a profit. Do the reverse for raw materials like ore and fuel, and of course food, to keep the Westerland’s trade balance firmly in the black. And it just so happens that the Westerlands have tons of empty mines which can be easily converted into storage for these goods.
All of this is designed to not only enhance the economic development of the Westerlands but also the central position of House Lannister. As the central source and regulator of credit, the organizer and financier of the cooperatives and stockpiles, House Lannister becomes the guarantor of prosperity for the Westerlands economy upon which the fortunes of every artisan and merchant (and ultimately the lords who live off their taxes) depend. Let any lesser House dare to challenge House Lannister and the resulting credit crunch will drive them to their knees even as their subjects riot in the streets (naturally, House Lannister offers generous financing for loyal subjects).
At the same time, the history of finance tells us that, at any given time, there’s a limited amount of good investments in any one place, and if too much money chases too few investments, you get dangerous speculative bubbles. So the next phase of Westerlands economic development is investment in the other regions – but on Lannister terms. A Mander-to-Blackwater canal would be good for both the Westerlands and the Reach – so let’s make sure that it’s financed with Lannister gold in return for a good number of shares and Lannisters on the board, and some trade concessions on Reach grain. An extension of the River Road to Maidenpool is good for House Mooton – but only as long as House Mooton understands that what’s good for House Lannister is good for House Mooton.
Rather than seeking domination through monopolization of political power, here House Lannister extends its influence throughout the continent by ensuring that House Lannister’s support is so crucial that no one would want to do without. And of course, now this means that prosperity in the rest of Westeros now means prosperity for the Westerlands. And it means jobs for lesser Lannisters, Lannys, Lannetts, and Lantells, who can keep their eyes open in the rest of the country.
Now that we’re rich even richer, it’s time to show off how magnificent we are.
A mere 20-30 ships in the Lannisport navy when the mere Redwynes have 200 ships? The Lannisport Fleet should be at least 300 strong, enough to destroy the Ironborn for good if they ever attack again (incidentally, the Iron Islands could be a great target for expansion – lots of good metals in them islands).
Does Oldtown have the Citadel and the Starry Sept? Time to build aGolden Sept even bigger and more magnificent, and hire as many ambitious young maesters and halfmaesters as necessary to establish aUniversity of Lannisport! And so on until Lannisport is the largest city in Westeros.
And while we’re at it, the Westerlands should have more cities than the rest of Westeros! Kayce, Hornvale, Sarsfield, the industrial centers near Pendric Hills, Nunn’s Deep, and Castamere, etc.
Of all of the regions of Westeros we’ve planned for, the North is perhaps the most difficult case we’ve deal with, next to Dorne (which had a much better export profile).
As the Lord of Winterfell, my main difficulties are that the North is severely underpopulated, and has extreme weather conditions that exacerbate the northerly climate’s limits on agricultural productivity.
So how do we overcome these problems…ideally, before winter comes?
Putting the Land to Work
In pre-modern societies, population growth and agricultural productivity were mutually reinforcing – the more people you have, the more you can grow, the more you grow, the more people you can have. Unfortunately for the North, the reverse also applies – the North’s low population limits its agricultural production, which in turn limits its population growth.
There are three main ways that the North can break this vicious cycle: first, it can increase the productivity of soil already in production; second, it can move into new industries which provide more of a return per capita than subsistence farming; third, it can bring more soil into production (if it can find the workforce to do it).
The first will require something similar to the British Agricultural Revolution, as occurred between the 17th and 18th centuries and doubled the population, while greatly adding to life expectancy due to decreased malnutrition. This Revolution doesn’t really require much in the way of technology, which helps us stay more within the boundaries of contemporary Westeorsi knowledge. The main drivers of production in the Agricultural Revolution were:
- a shift away from a two-field crop rotation system (in which one field is allowed to remain fallow to restore nutrients) to a four-field crop rotation system (in which you alternate between wheat, turnips (which can be grown in the winter and pull up nutrients from a lower soil level), clover (which provides fodder for livestock and pulls nitrogen from the air into the soil, acting as fertilizer), and barley (which is a hardier grain that can be used for fodder, beer, or in bread). Given that this is the North, you may need to substitute hardier grains like rye or oats for wheat.
- improved animal husbandry. Between the turnips and clover, you can keep soil yields up while keeping your livestock alive longer, which means they give more animal byproducts (milk, cheese, wool, etc.), more meat, and more offspring. With selective breeding, you can select for hardier animals who can better survive the winter, better wool for your sheep, bigger animals for more meat, etc. And these aren’t small numbers we’re talking about – the agricultural revolution increased the average size of cattle by between 25% and 127%, which is a lot of meat.
All of this is possible with existing technology and doesn’t require modern scientific knowledge, it’s more a matter of improved organization and some capital investments in terms of seed and livestock.
The second route to unlocking the land’s value is to trade in on the North’s pre-existing advantages in timber and sheep. With the former, we’re basically copying the plan for the Stormlands to get into lumber and then woodworking (climbing the value-added chain), but even more so – the North has much more timber by several factors than the Stormlands, and it’s got a lot more rivers to build sawmills on and ship their goods out to sea on (more on this in a bit). So even if the Stormlands tries to develop on those lines, the North can undercut their prices. With the latter, we’re copying the plan for textiles in the Reach, but with a heavy emphasis on wool cloth – turning the North of Westeros into something like the North of England in the Industrial Revolution, but with water power instead of steam. In addition, we’re also going to make a strategic investment in House Ryswell’s horse farming – for reasons that I’ll get into later.
For the third route, we’re going to want to monetize the practically unlimited amount of unused land in the North by encouraging homesteading and immigration. Both will involve the distribution of a good bit of land – starting with the second plus sons of the North, who’ll be getting your 40 acres and a mule as their birthright (and forming part of the North’s own system of solidarity), and then moving on to second sons from the Vale and the Riverlands (families that follow the Old Gods for preference), and potentially (assuming pre-ACOK) even the Ironborn, if they’re willing to make some concessions and if you can spread them thinly enough so that they get assimilated into the Northern culture. And yes, a big part of this is going to be settling the Gift, preferably by incorporating the wildlings into the realm. House Stark can absorb the political blowback easier than Lord Snow, it ends a major security threat, and the Gift is practically made for grazing those massive reindeer herds the wildlings can live on and trade with. Also, we’re going to need the meat.
As with other plans, financing is going to be a big deal, especially in later steps. Now, the North does have a good bit of silver that it could put into a Silver Bank at White Harbor, and once unused land starts getting cleared and plowed, the value’s going to go up, and you can then put the unsold land into the Silver Bank and turn it into a Silver/Land Bank, and you can throw House Stark’s tax revenue in their for good measure. However, given the lack of capital, the North will need to reach out to the Iron Bank and offer them a minority share in the Bank (and possibly a commission from immigration land sales) in return for outside investment and goodwill in order to get the money we need without trouble.
Building a New North
Hopefully, all of the above means a massive land and population boom, because the next step is going to need a labor force we can use to modernize the North.
The first step is, as comes as no surprise to people who’ve been following this series, canals:
- The main canal is not, as some people have speculated, at Moat Cailin. Yes, that’s the cheapest and shortest route, but there’s some potential drawbacks – one, it potentially allows the Ironborn to hit Moat Cailin and White Harbor in rapid succession, and two, it makes the Manderlys very powerful without directly enhancing House Stark’s power, which is dangerous for long-term feudal politics.
- Instead, the main canal is going to be Torrhen’s Square to White Knife. It’s a bit longer and more expensive to build, but it means that the canal passes through lands more directly under my control, which both benefits House Stark and allows for better security, and means that there’s a handy link from the canal to the Kingsroad. It also means that House Manderly’s prosperity will be increased (and I’ll need it to be increased, because I’ll want their (at this point) 100-odd ships available on the west coast), but only by grace of House Stark, which should keep them currying favor.
- Less dramatically, we’re also going to want to build some smaller canals to benefit the timber/lumber/woodworking and wool/thread/cloth/weaving industries we want to start. Here, we want to extend the White Knife further into the Wolfswood so we can float logs, lumber, and woodcraft straight to market (and so that I can move my forces to Deepwood Motte or Bear Island faster if necessary), although we may want to link Long Lake to the Last River as well (especially as it would allow me to sail from Winterfell directly to the Dreadfort…). Likewise, connecting Torrhen’s Square to the Stony Shore river could potentially do the same for the wool industry that would do well in that region (although it could be centered almost anywhere in the North not under forest).
- In addition to the usual commercial fleet, we’ll also want to invest in a fleet of sledges so that when the canals freeze over in winter, we can continue to use them for commerce.
The second step is roads, which the North is practically without. Here, we do want to look to Moat Cailin, which will be the center of two broadly coastal roads. The first will go Moat Cailin to Barrowton to the Rills to the mouth of the Stony Shore River, which (along with the rivers and canals linking to Torrhen’s Square) should boost trade and speed up travel times to the North’s lone town, the center of its horse-breeding region, and its woolen industry region. The second will go Moat Cailin to White Harbor to Ramsgate to the mouth of the Last River, doing the same for the east coast.
The third step is to issue city and town charters. Chief among these will be the new port city of Salt Harbor, which I will locate on the Saltspear at the mouth of the Torrhen’s Square River (on the western bank, where a boom chain will be stretched across the Saltspear to prevent a naval attack on Moat Cailin or Torrhen’s Square). In addition, and to keep the Dustins in the fold, we’ll build a western shipyards at a city-chartered Barrowton, so that the North will once again have a fleet on the west coast (again, aiming for 50-100 ships to ensure that the North can hold off the Iron Fleet). However, I’ll keep the navy’s HQ at Salt Harbor to make sure that Western fleet is under closer control, although we’ll probably have to give Salt Harbor to a cadet branch of the Manderlys to get their commercial and naval expertise. Due to canal traffic and the need for warehousing, customs, and servicing the carrying trade, we’ll probably also need a charter for Torrhen’s Square and the new Cerwyntown (located at the intersection of the Northern canal and the Kingsroad). Town charters will be needed for Moat Cailin, the new Rillstown horse-trading center, and our centers of timber and wool production in places yet unnamed on the Stony Shore, Wolfswood, Long Lake, and at the mouth of the Last Harbor.
Finally, with all of this in hand, we can look to military readiness. First, and it’ll be easier with more traffic moving through it, we’ll need to rebuild Moat Cailin – at least repairing the curtain wall and the three existing towers. The navy by this point should be in decent shape, although much will depend on our ability to move our strength from one coast to the next as needed. However, for the army, I think the key is cavalry – even a growing North doesn’t have the population to field mass infantry at the scale of the Reach, but with strategic investments in the Rills (both in horse breeding and a military college), the North should be able to fielddisproportionate numbers of cavalry. Both in the War of the Five Kings and in the Dance of the Dragons, the Northern heavy cavalry have tended to punch above their weight through aggression. If I can increase the North’s cavalry from ~25% of its army to more like 50%, the North’s ability to project military power and win battles through shock tactics and maneuverability (since superior numbers are out of the question) will be greatly enhanced.
Surviving the Winter
However, all of this will be for naught if the next winter puts paid to our painfully-acquired growth. So the final and must crucial task will be to enhance the North’s ability to survive the winter without resorting to traditional customs of suicide.
So, as with the Reach, we’ll need a sub-treasury system, but one geared less to stabilizing prices and more to preserving surpluses. This will require a network of storehouses for crops, well-insulated barnsfor livestock, and greenhouses for fresh vegetables (it is a miracle the North doesn’t die of scurvy in a long winter), which I will decree be established in every city, town, and holdfast in the North, building on Northern traditions of Stark control over the harvest. At the same time, I will also build on the North’s traditions of guest right by establishing in law an absolute right to sustenance and shelter in times of winter (again, the North’s version of solidarity).
Finally, to improve on survivability during the winter, I will also order the construction of undertowns on the Mole’s Town model in all of the towns and cities of the North, so that as much as possible of the North’s population can safely wait out the winter. And while they’re waiting, I will also order the construction of winter schools to provide intensive education – the North’s going to need higher quality human capital too.
For rather idiosyncratic reasons, I’ve probably written more about the economic development of the Iron Islands (before starting this series) than any other part of the Seven Kingdoms other than the Westerlands – see here, here, here, here, and here. And one of the things I’ve learned is that the Iron Islands is a region that had a successful economic development strategy – the strategy of the Hoare Kings and Vickon and Quellon Greyjoys – and pissed it away.
Which of course complicates any future economic development plans, because all of your neighbors hate and mistrust you. So how do we proceed? In this case, I’m going to be taking on the role of Balon Greyjoy, but let’s say that in the wake of the disaster at the Mander, I have a Dickensian vision of the future that shakes me to the very core and causes a sudden conversion. So what do I do now?
The Hoare/Vickon/Quellon Model
So what is this successful model of development? If we look at the practices of the Hoare King and the successful Greyjoy lords, there are certain common themes:
First, they all limit and control reaving:
“The Hoare kings also discouraged the practice of reaving…Vickon Greyjoy, enthroned on Pyke on the Seastone Chair, proved a stern but cautious ruler. Though he did not outlaw reaving, he commanded that the practice be confined to distant waters, far beyond the shores of Westeros, so as not to provoke the wroth of the Iron Throne…Quellon preferred to walk the road of peace. He forbade reaving, save by his leave.”
Notably this isn’t the same thing as banning piracy outright. As we learn later, “Both reaving and trade played a part in the restoration of the pride and prowess of the islands…Reaving continued as well…but the “wolves of the sea” no longer hunted close to home, for the green-land kings had grown too powerful to provoke. Instead they found their prey in more distant seas, in the Basilisk Isles and the Stepstones and along the shores of the Disputed Lands.” By confining reaving to farflung regions, the Ironborn gain the benefits of piracy – namely, large amounts of essentially “free” wealth – without the downsides of being hated and mistrusted by all of their neighbors. In addition, they can use their naval combat skills legitimately, by acting “as sellsails, fighting for one or another of the Free Cities in their endless trade wars.”
Second, they all engage heavily in trade:
The Hoare kings also discouraged the practice of reaving. And as reaving declined, trade grew…Merchants and traders sailing from Lordsport on Pyke and the harbors of Great Wyk, Harlaw, and Orkmont spread out across the seas, calling at Lannisport, Oldtown, and the Free Cities, and returning with treasures their forebears had never dreamed of…Both reaving and trade played a part in the restoration of the pride and prowess of the islands. Other lands now built larger and more formidable warships than the ironmen, but nowhere were sailors any more daring.
Trade has two main advantages for the Ironborn – first, it plays to their maritime strengths while potentially adding a lot to national wealth. Second, it also plays into their political agenda – building relationships with their larger and more powerful neighbors who otherwise have no reason to do anything but go to war with the Ironborn.
At the same time, trade also allows the Ironborn to build up their military strength: “Qhorwyn had spent his entire reign accumulating wealth and avoiding war. “War is bad for trade,” he said, infamously, even as he was doubling, then tripling the size of his fleets and commanding his smiths to forge more armor, swords, and axes. “Weakness invites attack,” Qhorwyn declared. “To have peace, we must be strong.”
Third, they engage in cultural reform with a view to enhancing human capital and political alliances:
Harmund the Host was the first king of the Iron Islands known to be literate. He welcomed travelers and traders from the far corners of the world to his castle on Great Wyk, treasured books, and gave septons and septas his protection.
His son Harmund the Haggler shared his love of reading, and became renowned as a great traveler. He was the first king of the Iron Islands to visit the green lands without a sword in his hand. Having spent his youth as a ward of House Lannister, the second Harmund returned to Casterly Rock as a king and took the Lady Lelia Lannister, a daughter of the King of the Rock and “the fairest flower of the west,” for his queen. On a later voyage he visited Highgarden and Oldtown, to treat with their lords and kings and foster trade.
And since Aegon had accepted the Seven as his gods and been anointed by the High Septon in Oldtown, Lord Vickon allowed the septons to return to the islands once again to preach the Faith.
Lord Quellon Greyjoy, the wisest of the men to sit the Seastone Chair since Aegon’s Conquest. …brought maesters to the Iron Islands by the score, to serve as healers to the sick and tutors to the young; with them came their ravens, whose black wings would tie the isles to the green lands tighter than ever before.
It was Lord Quellon who freed the remaining thralls and outlawed the practice of thralldom on the Iron Islands (in this he was not wholly successful). And whilst he took no salt wives himself, he allowed other men to do so but taxed them heavily for the privilege…
As much as this strategy has been hated by hard-liners, it’s undeniably effective. The presence of the Faith creates some basis for fellowship with greenlanders who otherwise might view us as hostis humani generis; trade alliances with House Gardener and Hightower and marriage alliances with House Lannister means that the Ironborn can go to war with allies as opposed to fighting a united Westeros. Maesters provide education, health care, communications, and a lot more.
But most of all, moving away from thralldom means that, rather than trying to hold the majority of the population in bondage, the Ironborn can make use of the whole of its limited population.
Rebuilding the Iron Islands’ Credit
As the newly-enlightened lord of the Iron Islands, my first step will be to build on the work of Quellon in restoring the reputation of the Ironborn, and trying to get back to where our political credit was in the time of Harmund the Haggler. In this, my main advantages are: having technically been on the right side of Robert’s Rebellion, and having a good number of kin (three sons, one daughter, and two brothers) available for marriage alliances and fosterages.
While maintaining a degree of flexibility – it’s hard to know what connections you’re going to need not just at the time but twenty years from now – there are certain things I should shoot for:
- acquire land/timber in the North. As I’ll discuss down the road in my asoiaf analyses, Asha Greyjoy’s idea of acquiring land in the North isn’t a terrible idea. It’s just that it would never work in the wake of an invasion of the North. However, it might work as part of a combination fosterage/marriage alliance – perhaps one of my sons to one of Eddard’s daughters, or Asha for Robb, or maybe Victarion to Barbrey Dustin. The objective here is to get coastal land which allows for both the traditional fishing and commerce of the Ironborn and farming, preferably somewhere with access to timber (or at least work out a good trade deal with the Glovers and/or Forresters) – because I’m going to need that timber later on.
- better trade with the Westerlands. As one of my closest and by far my richest neighbor, good relations with House Lannister is historically a winning strategy for the Iron Islands, especially if down the line I’m going to want a rather sizable loan from Casterly Rock. Now, Tywin’s a hard bastard, but a combination of fostering and/or marriage alliances (Asha/Tyrion might not be an ideal marriage, but it might be our way in here; alternatively, maybe some lesser Lannisters might do?) could help to prize out some gold from the Rock.
- establish royal connections. Another target for fostering and marriage alliances is the new Baratheon regime, which is going to be looking for followers to fill up the royal court, and given the historical status of the Greyjoys as wild cards, we’re good targets for recruitment to keep us loyal. Getting some sons fostered – preferably with Stannis, as (as with the North and the Westerlands, one objective I have is to make sure that any Greyjoys fostered out of the Islands receive naval training, either with the Lannisport Fleet or the Manderlys or the Royal Navy). Down the line, I’m going to need royal backing for some of my plans.
Iron for Gold, Gold for Iron
So now that I’ve rehabilitated the reputation of the Ironborn somewhat, it’s time to make some money, because as Qhorwyn knew, gold can buy strength. In terms of exports, there’s really only one way to go:
Some say that the Iron Islands are named for the ore that is found there in such abundance…There was still a wealth of iron ore to be found beneath the hills of Great Wyk, Orkmont, Harlaw, and Pyke, and lead and tin as well. The ironmen’s need for wood to build their ships remained as great as ever, but they no longer had the strength to take it wherever they found it. Instead they traded iron for timber. And when winter came and the cold winds blew, iron ore became the coin the kings of House Hoare used to buy barley, wheat, and turnips to keep their smallfolk fed (and beef and pork for their own tables)..
As in previous installments, the key to economic development here is to climb the value added ladder – rather than selling iron ore, the Ironborn need to be selling finished products, and grow that market as much as possible. Thus, selling ironmongery and pewter goods to the civilian consumer market is a much better direction than exporting weapons and armor (we’re still going to make and sell those, but as much as possible for the domestic market) because of the much larger potential for market growth.
Another thing we’re going to want to do is improve the quality of our product by acquiring the best smiths we can from Qohor, Lannisport, and King’s Landing. And given that we’re Ironborn and not particularly touchy about honor, no reason we can’t bribe, purchase, or kidnap our craftsmen as a particularly violent means of industrial espionage.
At the same time, another major source of potential revenue is to go into the mercenary business – the 15,000 or so Ironborn under arms have very limited use in Westerosi warfare atm, but 5-10,000 of them in mercenary service as the Iron Company could earn a princely sum in Essos, as a Golden Company with its own navy. Moreover, we can compensate for the low numbers of the Ironborn by using our gold and iron to equip our mercenary army as dismounted men-at-arms in full plate(which historically were incredibly successful as infantry). We’re never going to out-number our opponents, but we can be superior in quality and maneuverability.
It’s also useful in diverting the cultural pressures of the Old Way, by ensuring that the majority of Ironborn warriors continue to earn their living with iron rather than with gold.
Ships Can Be Used For Many Things
The sad thing about Balon Greyjoy is that the idea of the Iron Fleet is actually a pretty good one. 100 real ships, albeit a third smaller than your standard warship, give the Greyjoys a real naval power. But why stop there? With more money to work with, the Iron Fleet can be a lot more impressive.
The first thing we need to do is to engage in some industrial piracy – get our hands on some swan ships from the Summer Islands and learn the standardized parts/production line methods of Braavos so that we can build a major shipyards on Pyke that can build us a proper ocean-going fleet…or two. (Incidentally, this is where the timber and loans come in)
In fact, that’s exactly what I want. Similar to the Dornish case, I want both a merchant marine (a very well-protected merchant marine that could be converted into privateering as necessary) and a navy that I can use as the sellsail accompaniment to my sellsword company. This in turn needs to be linked up to a marketing and purchasing cooperative, and a merchant bank so that the Iron Islands can get the maximum wealth out of commerce. (incidentally, this is another reason I want the loan)
Incidentally, this is also the point at which I start trading in on my royal connections (we might also want to partner with the Tullys and Mallisters to push a Blue Fork Canal that would speed up our Essos trade). The idea is to leverage our son’s connections with Stannis to start loading up the royal navy’s officer corps with a disproportionate number of younger sons of the Ironborn – with the idea being to channel their martial interests into royal service, to demonstrate the Iron Island’s usefulness and loyalty to the new regime, all the while gaining experiencing in commanding full-size naval vessels (and, as we’ve seen, in the case of a civil war, officers can half-inch royal ships).
Once we’ve built up our credit with Robert, now’s the time to press our big idea – offering the Iron Company and the Iron Fleet to clear the Stepstones of pirates and claim them in Robert’s name, while showing that the Ironborn as now on the side of law and order. This is the exact kind of venture Robert would love, and might well replace the Greyjoy Rebellion in the timeline. Possession of the islands would give us more territory to settle our population, our own base for the Iron Company/Fleet, excellent access to the Essosi market, and a great leaping off point for the next phase of our plan.
Becoming “Legitimate Businessmen”
All of this is very well and good, but probably puts the Ironborn somewhere around the power of House Redwyne or Hightower (maybe a bit more). So how do we go about becoming a continental power?
Well, the first step is to parlay our control over the Stepstones into some real power. In additional to charging a reasonable fee for passage – being careful to give Robert his fair share – we can also set up the Iron Island’sMerchantile Shipping Insurance Company and begin charging the merchants of the Three Daughters, Volantis, and points east premiums to be protected from piracy, while using our Iron Fleet to engage in some privateering against the pirates. (Notably, we’re going to be giving Braavos a wide berth – lower prices, avoid attacking their ships, and making a big deal of abolishing thralldom and attacking slavers – to avoid their fleet and their Faceless Men)
At the same time, there’s an internal purpose to all of this – teaching the Ironborn that there’s a middle way between the Old Way and the New Way, in which we learn to harness the Ironborn love of violence to profit, through the creation of organized crime networks in every port in Westeros:
- smuggling – I’ve got hundreds of longships who are very good at arriving and departing quickly and who don’t really care about excise and customs regulations.
- loansharking – the merchant bank will now have a lot of liquid capital, the merchant classes of Westeros are under-banked and I’ve got 5-10,000 experienced mercenaries to act as legbreakers.
- protection – with a lot of experience working protection rackets against trading cartels and Esssoi governments who don’t pay their mercenaries,
Once we’ve got this up and running, it’s time to buy influence, using many of the same methods that Littlefinger used – start with building up a client base in the merchant classes who fear and yet need me, then buy up the debt of the lesser nobility, and build our way upwards (especially in the capitol, where we’ll eventually want to try to supplant Stannis as Master of Ships). House Greyjoy’s power will not be the same as the Lannisters or the Tyrells. Rather, it will be the subtle power from the shadows, backed up by ruthless efficient use of our professional army and subversion within their own ranks.
And so the Seven Kingdoms Economic Development series comes to a close – I’ve been asked repeatedly to extend this by taking a look at Slaver’s Bay or the whole of Westeros or other things, and I might do so if I’m feeling it, but I’ve got some great projects coming up soon that will require my attention so that might be down the road a bit.
The Vale’s an interesting case to end on – it’s got some good stuff to work with, but it seems like the Vale never quite lived up to its potential in part because of an excess of highborn conservatism has held it back. So let’s see what we can do to fix things…
“It stretched before them to the misty east, a tranquil land of rich black soil, wide slow-moving rivers, and hundreds of small lakes that shone like mirrors in the sun, protected on all sides by its sheltering peaks. Wheat and corn and barley grew high in its fields, and even in Highgarden the pumpkins were no larger nor the fruit any sweeter than here.”
One of the first strengths of the Vale that we need to tap into is agricultural productivity. While geography means that the Vale doesn’t produce as much in absolute terms as the Reach, the Vale significantly punches above its weight in terms of per-acre production.
My recommendations here should now be quite familiar: a Northern-style agricultural revolution to increase the yield from existing farms, linked to a Reach-style sub-treasury, land bank, and marketing and purchasing cooperative. Together, these measures should mean that overall levels of production are up and generating the most possible wealth for the kingdom, while ensuring that our system of storehouses (going to make damned sure that a LOT of our storehouses are going to be located inside the Giant’s Lance – more on which in a bit) help the Vale survives the winters.
One new element (which I had intended to introduce during the Westerlands section but ran out of space, so assume that the Westerlands is also doing this) is terraced farming. This is especially crucial for the more mountainous northern half of the Vale – Strongsong, Heart’s Home, Snakewood, and Coldwater – which don’t have the broad plains of the Vale of Arryn proper, and which we can now add to the net-surplus part of our Kingdom. There’s going to be some social and military implications
“On the far side of the stoneworks, the mountains opened up suddenly upon a vista of green fields, blue sky, and snowcapped mountains that took her breath away. The Vale of Arryn bathed in the morning light.”
The second target for development is mining and manufacturing. Now, given that the Andals’ conquest depended in no small part on iron, I highly doubt that the only thing that can be harvested from the Mountains of the Moon is marble, and I’m not about to take the WOAIF’s map at its face value – especially when the map puts said Mountains in the middle of the Vale as opposed to its western border. So I would guess that there is a good bit of iron in them hills – and given the iconography of the Royces, I’m guessing there’s a good bit of tin and copper for bronze.
Likewise, the Snakewood Forest, the many mountain streams, and the suitability of the terrain for sheep-herding, means that there’s opportunities for timber/lumber/woodworking, and wool cloth production as well. Now, the Vale is not going to out-compete the Stormlands, North, Reach, Westerlands, or the Iron Islands in any of these fields, but the idea is to diversify the Vale’s economy away from just exporting staple crops towards more value-added products, while boosting its exports to imports ratio. Also, while the Vale can’t match any of these other regions for volume of exports (and thus prices), its proximity to the Braavosi market (and thus lower transportation costs) will give it enough of an edge that it won’t get boxed out.
“Nor did the Kings of the Mountain and Vale neglect their fleets. In Gulltown they possessed a fine and formidable natural harbor, and under the Arryns it grew into one of the foremost cities of the Seven Kingdoms. Though the Vale itself is famously fertile, it is small compared to the domains of other kings (and even some great lords), and the Mountains of the Moon are bleak, stony, and inhospitable. Trade is therefore of paramount importance to the rulers of the Vale, and the wiser of the Arryn kings always took care to protect it by building warships of their own.”
One of the great underutilized resources of the Vale is Gulltown, which given that it’s one of the oldest cities in Westeros, it’s incredibly close to Braavos and the other Free Cities, should not be as small as White Harbor. The fact that it isn’t suggests the prevailing noble prejudice against merchants and commerce in the Vale has held back the development of its only city.
Hopefully, by locating the headquarters of the Vale Sub-Treasury (as opposed to its actual storehouses), the Land Bank, and the marketing and purchasing cooperatives for agricultural, iron, timber, and wool-production in Gulltown, we can begin growing the city – building a larger merchant class, deepening capital markets, and expanding warehousing and long-shoring employment.
Moreover, with the capital from the Land Bank and the cooperatives, we can begin to develop the Vale’s commerce by copying Braavos’ Arsenal and build a fleet of vessels that can do double service as a merchant marine and a larger Gulltown navy. The objective here should be to expand the rather modest Gulltown fleet to around 100 full-size ships, giving us some naval punch.
Moreover, given House Arryn’s position as Warden of the East, we have more of a legal pretext to engage in pirate-hunting and seizing the Stepstones than the Greyjoys or Martells or Baratheons. Incidentally, we’re also going to want a naval outpost on the Sisters to keep that unruly place under our thumb, and promote trade with White Harbor while giving us more of a presence in the Bite should it ever come to war.
Four-and-sixty knights had been invited to vie for places amongst Lord Robert Arryn’s new Brotherhood of Winged Knights, and four and-sixty knights had come to tilt for the right to wear falcon’s wings upon their warhelms and guard their lord… the eight victors would be expected to spend the next three years at Lord Robert’s side, as his own personal guard.
With the wealth of the land and the sea flooding into our coffers, it’s time to begin institution-building. The first thing we need to do is better knit together a Kingdom very much divided by mountain passes through aprogram of road-building – the High Road needs to be extended from the Eyrie in two directions, the first heading northeast to Ironoaks-Old Anchor-Longbow Hall, and the second southeast to Redfort-Gullotwn-Runestone. Next, we need to build another mountain road to connect Heart’ s Home, Strongsong, Snakewood, and Coldwater to the Vale proper, which would probably want to cross over the mountains at around Ironoaks or Longbow Hall, depending on which area has the easier pass.
These roads will greatly improve transportation, and thus commerce and communications between the southern and northern halves of the Kingdom. However, as with the terraced farming and the expansion of industry, this is going to bring us into conflict with the mountain clans, who are a major barrier to the development of the Vale. Which unfortunately gets us into the area of economic development that hearkens back to ideas of primitive accumulation through expropriation.
Thus – expanding on the idea of the Winged Knights from Alayne in TWOW, we would want to create an order of Knighthood much larger than just 8 men. Rather, I would look to a force of at least 700 knights (the top 7 of whom would be the bodyguard of the Lord of the Eyrie) whose task would be to hunt down the mountain clans and drive them out of the Vale, and thereafter to patrol the roads and maintain the peace in the Vale. Moreover, because I’ve been reading a lot about Byzantine cataphracts and how they combined the skills of the armored lancer and the compound recurve horse archer, I like the idea of using the Winged Knights as a military academy to train the knights of the Vale into an all-mounted army to be feared.
Finally, the Eyrie – depending on whether the Eyrie actually does have secret paths down the mountain that would require a besieging army to spread itself across the base of the mountain, I’d put some money into building them so that it is much more difficult to stave out the Eyrie (then again, with much of the Vale’s agricultural produce being stored in the sub-treasury storehouses dug into the interior of the God’s Lance, it’s going to be very difficult to do so). Regardless, you’d definitely want to start building into the mountain, such that you can house and supply more men in Stone, Snow, and Sky (the latter two of which could use some improvements), move men between castles unseen, and if besieged, move men behind the besieging force to cut it off from its own supplies.