05 September 2014

Friday Flag - United State of the Ionian Islands


Flag of the United State of the Ionian Islands 1815


During the Congress of Vienna the United Kingdom wanted to gain rights to 'protect' the United State of the Ionian Islands. This group of seven islands off the coast of Greece had a number of ports that could be of use by the British. The Austrian Empire was not thrilled at the prospect of continued British expansion into the Mediterranean so they unexpectedly pushed for more rights there themselves.

With the numerous more important issues to be handled at the Congress, it was quickly decided that the British and Austrians would form a condominium over the islands. It quickly became apparent that the two powers would be unable to cooperate. This allowed the Ionians to exert much more control over their own territory. In late 1815 Ioannis Kapodistrias became President of the United State of the Ionian Islands. He became adept at playing the two powers against each other and advancing his own ends as they squabbled or ignored the islands.

While many inhabitants preferred British laws to Habsburg they desired their own freedom as well. Taking the best each culture had to offer and taking inspirations from ancient Greek city-states and modern American political innovations the tiny new nation tried to create its own identity.

In 1864 the British pushed to have the Ionian Islands annexed into the Kingdom of Greece. Luckily a half-century of relative independence allowed them to resist annexation. With Habsburg involvement now almost non-existent the Ionians turned to Imperial Russia for help. Turning to the Tsar to ensure their freedom was bizarre, but worked. By allowing Russian access to some of their ports they were able to get the Tsar to support their independence.

Again the United Kingdom had other more important interests to deal with and eventually let the matter drop.

04 September 2014

Great War 1912 - Mobilization

The Chairman of Council of Ministers of the Russian Empire, Pyotr Stolypin, having survived an assassination attempt in 1911 continued his duties. He would attempt to steer his nation away from war in November 1912 but fail.

The Balkan War was in full swing. Bulgaria was leading Serbia, Greece, and Montenegro on successful campaigns against the Ottoman Empire. Germany and Austria-Hungary were remaining relatively uninvolved in the conflict. The Kaiser was still upset over the overthrow of his friend, Sultan Abdul Hamid II in 1909. Germany would follow a policy of "free fight and no favor", allowing the conflict to play itself out. Despite Serbian gains in the area, including gaining access to the Adriatic were threats to Austrian power in the region the Austro-Hungarians did not mobilize and enter the fight.

Seeing the lack of Austrian involvement as weakness, Russian Minister of War Vladimir Sukhomlinov saw an opportunity to move against the Turks and have a chance at finally seizing Constantinople. Russia could not afford to allow the city to fall into Bulgaria's hands. On 22 November 1912 Sukhomlinov prepared plans for a 'partial' mobilization of Russian forces from Warsaw through Kiev and all the way to Odessa. They could move into the Balkans and either 'aid' the Bulgarian faction and claiming Constantinople for Russia, or they could crush the Balkan armies and seize the city anyway.

The next day, 23 November, the Tsar called an emergency meeting of his most important ministers. There were to discuss Sukhomlinov's plan and other options available. Chairman Stolypin warned against the mobilization. He felt that the Austrians would see it as a direct threat and mobilize themselves. At that point war with the Turks, Austria, and even Germany would be a real possibility.

While a number of other ministers were in agreement with Stolypin's position he was growing increasingly unpopular due to continued pushes for reforms. The same unpopularity that led to the attempt on his life a year earlier kept enough ministers from siding with him to defeat the Minister of War's plan. In a narrow decision the Tsar and his ministers decided on a partial mobilization against the Ottoman Empire and possibly Bulgaria.

Russian mobilization began 24 November (7 December 1912 Gregorian Calendar). The Austrians would react. Mobilizing their military forces to deploy against the Bulgarian alliance and to reinforce border regions with Russia, in particular Przemyśl Fortress. It would not take long for war to spread.


Information on the historical figures can be found on Wikipedia or by using Google, Bing, or whatever search engines you like. I used a couple books as reference when plugging away at this timeline:

1) The Russian Origins of the First World War by Sean McMeekin
2) Blood on the Snow by Graydon A. Tunstall

22 August 2014

Friday Flag - Hussite Army 1437



On 6 July 1415 Jan Hus was murdered at the Council of Constance, King Sigismund of Luxembourg the ruler of Kingdom of Hungary having betrayed him with promises of protection. Hus was a religious man but saw faults with the Catholic Church. He attempted reforms from within only to be excommunicated. After his martyrdom the rising nationalism in Bohemia combined with religious unrest led to rebellion.

The Hussites were a very effective fighting force. Many new tactics were developed including war wagons. These helped play an important part in winning an independent Czech kingdom after numerous crusades against them. Finally a decisive victory at the Battle of Lipany in 1434 allowed them to finally get peace with King Sigismund in 1436.

The five failed crusades against the Hussites helped to spread their message of reform across Europe. The Church ended overt attempts to destroy them and changed their strategy to isolate the new Czech Kingdom and minimize the spread of what they considered the Hussite Heresy.

The flag above became the official flag of the Hussite armies after the end of the wars. It combined elements from a number of popular flags during the wars.

08 August 2014

Friday Flag - Amikejo



In 1816 a quirk in decisions during the Congress of Vienna created Neutral Moresnet. This area was about 1 square mile and contained a zinc mine neither the Netherlands nor Prussia wanted the other to control. For nearly a century the small territory survived the turmoil around it never being attacked or invaded. Even after the zinc mine went dry the town continued to boom as new enterprises grew.

Refugees, exiles, and adventurers from across Europe, and from as far as the United States and China, arrived in the territory boosting the population. This growth and new ideas helped to expand the economy of Neutral Moresnet. A lack of central authority and the option to use several different law systems to settle disputes also added to the uniqueness of the land.

In 1908 the territory had become a gathering point of speakers of Esperanto. Soon the territory declared its independence as Amikejo, a word in Esperanto meaning 'place of friendship'. The World Congress of Esperanto that met in Dresden declared the settlement the world capital of Esperanto.

Its neighbors were unsure what to do with this territory since both Belgium and Germany neglected for decades their obligation to oversee it. Neither wanted to cause a diplomatic situation on the others border. By 1920 with the German Empire more concerned with monitoring wars in the Balkans and failing Ottoman Empire paid less attention to its borders with Belgium and France. This allowed Amikejo to continue to prosper as a free trade city and through smuggling.

Amikejo would eventually gain recognition by other nations. Once this happened it became a small free state not much larger than Monaco.

(For more information on Neutral Moresnet see Peter C. Earle's short book A Century of Anarchy: Neutral Moresnet through the Revisionist Lens.)

02 August 2014

Book Review - Napoleon in America

(image from Amazon.com)

Napoleon in America was written by Shannon Selin

THE STORY
The story was great. Jean Lafitte rescues Napoleon from Saint Helena and takes him to New Orleans in the United States. After recovering from his exile Napoleon tours the United States claiming a desire to live in peace. It is clear that he is less than honest in his claims. North America appears ripe with opportunities for the little dictator. Canada, Texas, the west, Europe, and even the United States itself could possibly become the object of his desires.

Once he determines his target, Napoleon gets to work at attempting to accomplish his goal. There are plenty of French exiles, American mercenaries, and people with questionable motives available for a new army. They are gathered together and thankfully some time is spent training the mixed force. There are still plenty of surprises during the campaign; North America is not Europe, there are plenty of things to catch Napoleon off guard.

The ending was satisfactory, and the outcome was in question until the end. While I felt the possibility of a sequel the story was self contained and doesn't need a sequel to be complete.

THE CHARACTERS
Well, the most important character is Napoleon himself. A large supporting cast made up of a great many historical figures helps round things out.

In the back of the book is a summary of the cast of characters, at least the ones that were based off actual historical figures. And there are a lot of them! The Napoleonic era was never one of my strong points so I didn't recognize many of the characters but knowledge of them all wasn't necessary to enjoy the story.

FINAL THOUGHTS
This is an excellent book. The only real complaint I had was that things seemed to flash back to Europe a little too often. I was anxious to see what Napoleon would do. I do realize the European reaction to Napoleon's escape is an important part of the story, but a little more insight into what the American government's reaction to Napoleon's betrayal of their hospitality and protection would have been nice.

Despite my limited knowledge of the source material the book was obviously well researched. When the battles finally took place they were well detailed and not glossed over. I've tried to avoid spoilers. Napoleon does raise an army in America but I left out the target. While he may or may not have been successful there is a good end point for the story and the reader isn't left disappointed.

Anyone who likes alternate history should find something to enjoy in this story. Unless you just have a general dislike of the Napoleonic era there should be something of value for you to find within.
One final note - I noticed the use of &c. for etc. I had never seen that before, and honestly thought it was a glitch in the Kindle version of the book at first. However that is a legitimate, but uncommon, way to abbreviate etcetera. Now I plan on springing that on my writing group the next time I have to use etc. in a short story.

4 out of 5 stars.

NOTES
Publisher: Dry Wall Puublishing
Page Count: 312
Genre: Alternate History
ISBN: 978-0992127503

25 July 2014

Friday Flag - Confederation of the Rio Grande and Texas



During the Battle of San Jacinto on 21 April 1836 Antonio López de Santa Anna was killed during the fighting. The war for Texan independence continued but the Mexicans suffered major setbacks after that battle. In 1837 another collection of Mexican states declared independence as the Republic of the Rio Grande. The battered Mexican Army gained made renewed attacks into the rebellious territory, but intervention by Sam Houston and his Texan forces secured the independence of the sister republic.

Having fought together against a common foe and facing an uncertain future together the two new republics formed the Confederation of the Rio Grande and Texas as a means to mutual defense and cooperation.

The flag of the Confederation has four stars - one for each of the states: Texas, Coahuila, Nuevo León, and Tamaulipas.

21 July 2014

Money Monday #4 - Certificado de Mercadoria (1970)



After the devastation of the Third World War the northern hemisphere was in ruins and the global weather patterns had shifted. The global economy suffered a catastrophic collapse leaving the surviving nations in chaos. Brazil made major changes in an attempt to avoid its own collapse. Surviving elements of the United States Navy would regularly use Brazilian ports in the years after the war. Since most currencies had collapsed the Americans had to pay for Brazilian help by helping their hosts maintain order.

As the turmoil began to slowly decline there was need of a stable currency to boost the sluggish economy. The Brazilain Real was experiencing extreme inflation and a loss of confidence. Local communities attempted to create their own currencies, some fiat, others based off labor. One of the more successful ones was the Certificado de Mercadoria (CM).

The CM was backed by the value of commodities that were supposed to be held in warehouses near major population centers. The certificates could be exchanged for the commodities listed on them at any time from these warehouses. This gave the certificates value and helped to counter the affects of inflation on the other currencies.

Every four to eight months a new series of certificates was issued. The new issue would have different exchange rates for commodities and some of the items listed on prior certificates would be removed while others added depending on supply. When a new issue was made older certificates were still good. This would lead to some confusion in exchanges but nobody wanted a currency that was only good for less than a year.

The Certificado de Mercadoria pictured above is from the second issuance of 1970.

The CM program was wrought with corruption, shortages of commodities, and other problems. However, it was still the most successful currency during in Brazil during the aftermath of the war. The last series for the CM was issued in 1981 and all outstanding certificates had to be redeemed by 1985 after the economy of South America recovered to a point where more traditional monies would function.

The text on the certificate reads: This Certificate of Merchandise allows access of commodities from the São Paulo storage facility as listed below. The exchange rate for this series (1970B) is based off ten-thousand (10,000) units.
Wheat 7,600 kg
Rice 7,250 kg
Sugar 2,000 kg
Coffee 120 kg
Corn 8,200 kg
Cotton 450 kg
Cement 17,000 kg
Copper 150 kg
Iron 8,000 kg
Aluminum 120 kg
Wool 80 kg
Peanuts 375 kg

This particular 1,000 CM certificate was exchanged in São Paulo during July 1974 by a construction company for 1,700 kg of cement.


The inspiration for this certificate comes from the Exeter Constant. Some information on that can be found at The History of Local Currency and in an article at Mother Earth News, The Causes of Inflation and a Commodity-Based Currency.

I designed a more colorful note and created it for a post-WWIII Brazil that was attempting to survive the collapse of the global economy. I used bits of an old one silver dollar bill from the US, as well as a $1,000 and $100 bill for elements of this design. I also copied a portion of a Brazilian bill for the top logo. Some color changes and other tweaks completed the design.

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