The 12th century is an era of widening horizons. The chaos, the devastation and the religious radicalisation brought about by the Black Death in the previous century, but also the victory of organised societies and governments over the pandemia with the help of effective administrations, modern biochemistry and medicine, have shattered traditions worldwide. The reconstruction toward the end of the 11th century was a communal effort uniting the societies in question and transcending divisions of tribality, ethnicity, language, religion, caste or class.
Upon the completion of reconstruction toward the beginning of the 12th century, a new generation, freed from traditional frames, developed fairly similar new ideas of man across the developing continents (Europe, Asia, Africa and the Easternmost fringe of Atlantis). They saw themselves as individual subjects in a transformable force field with "the others in the crowd", "the institutions of the state" and "non-human nature" as the other factors in relation to which everyone was free (but also condemned) to establish and negotiate their own conditions. Nothing is fixed, and there are so many possibilities in the world for everyone who knows how to seize them. Looking for an analogy with OTL, one might describe the 12th century as the era of humanism.
Among the sciences, chemistry, geography and medicine underwent the most spectacular developments in this century, fuelled by generous funding and well-endowed prizes by several governments and private foundations who hoped for providence against another catastrophe like the Black Death.
These were all overshadowed, though, by the bold and adventurous missions of explorer teams who mapped almost the entire world, with the exception of some islands in the Taipyingyang (OTL Pacific Ocean) and the Antarctic continent.
In contrast to OTL, none of these explorer missions were aimed at the establishment of new colonies, though. The most spectacular Celtic and Roman explorations of Atlantis and Caribia or Sogdian explorations of Siberia were funded by wealthy industrial dynasties (textile factory owners, fertiliser producers, steel magnates, arms and ammunition tycoons) who wanted to decorate the names of their families with the glory of discoveries - and who also looked for new resources and outlet markets. From Sri Vijaya and Indian empires, which were busy enough with consolidating and defending their spheres of influence, Buddhist monks, who did not quite agree with the slow de-spiritualisation of their home countries, travelled to Asambadha Anuttara (OTL Australia) and its surrounding islands to bring the wisdom and lore of Siddharta Gautama to the natives. Only Chinese explorers in the Taipyingyang, i.e. its many islands, the East coast of Asambadha Anuttara and the North-West coast of Atlantis, were funded and sent by the emperor. The late Sui nominally turned hundreds of chiefdoms into vassals of Sui; factually, though, the vast distances meant that Chinese control was almost nonexistent.
Even without colonial aspirations, the explorers brought enough bale as it was, spreading smallpox, measles and influenza among hitherto isolated native populations, where these diseases killed millions of people.
Economy & Technology
- Functioning electrical motors are constructed by Persian engineers and employed in manufactures and mines. They need enormous batteries.
- In 1192, a steam engine for pumping water out of mines is invented and used in Illyria.
The small private armies of mail operators (state-run in Europe and China, private in India) escort the explorer missions in Atlantis, Caribia and Asambadha Anuttara.
Philosophy & Science
- The existence and function of antibodies is discovered in Britannia. Their role in the coagulation of blood is explained in Greece.
- Several dozens of bacteria and corresponding antibodies are discovered.
- Vaccination with dead bacteria to create antibodies against diseases are used for pox diseases and experimented with in animals as well as humans for other diseases.
- Chinese economic theories find their way into Roman and Celtic academies.
- Atheists become a quickly growing minority in Europe and the Middle East, and even in East Asia. A new wave of "rationalist" Buddhism, which condemns the continuous veneration of local deities and all sorts of "superstitions", surges through China, Baekje, Dvaravati and the Pyu cities
Nations of Europe
- Religious terrorism returns to the Roman and Celtic Empire. Lukianist groups commit bloodbaths among celebrants of public feasts and orgies. On the other extreme, atheism is strengthened and political atheism develops in response to violent religious fundamentalism. Radical political atheists attack and assassinate members of outspoken religious minorities (Lukianists, Paulicians, Mazdakists, Manichaeists, Simonists, politically active Catholics and orthodox Jews etc.).
- Lettgallian, Semgallian, Selonian, Samogitian and Aukstaitian peasants revolt against the oppression and exploitation they experience from the hands of local aristocrats allied with urban Curonian elites. They install a peasant republic with a capital in Sēlpils.In the 1180s, the republic, which is surrounded by principalities, degenerates into a military dictatorship under the leadership of the charismatic Aigars Brazauskas. Aigars invades Livonia, Votia, Galindia and Vessia, "liberating" the peasants there from the yoke of voivods, chieftains, petty kings and usurious urban moneylenders. The Gutar inspire a Svear retaliative campaign, which does not manage to subdue the Balts, but kills Aigars in 1196 and ends his conquests.
- In Venetia, Corvatia, Velzitia and the Potamian Koina of the Borysthenes and the Tanais, peasant rebellions achieve the introductions of the Permiam model of incorporated villages, land reform and yeomen armies, bereaving the aristocracy of any real function and reducing knyases and high kings to figureheads.
- Scandinavia: The Olavist theocracy rules Norway for the entire century. Its mixed records include violent infights between Olavist factions, religious purges and the burning of witches and sorcerers, but also land reforms, compulsory public education and general literacy (in Latin) for town- and countryfolk alike. Olavist Norwegians undertake great missionary efforts at converting the Sami; they translate the Bible into Sami and build schools for the Sami. Although generally considered a narrow-minded society today, Norwegians of this period were among the explorers of Arctic Europe and Siberia.
- Religious radicalisation in the 12th century was not limited to Norway, though:
- In response to the persecution of followers of the Germanic cult in Norway and Norwegian attacks on Sweden, the Swedish government expels all Olavists from Älvsborg and bans the Olavist creed. The Celtic church is half-heartedly tolerated, as Sweden sets an increased emphasis on the official Germanic cult.
- In Venedia, the rural population, led by the priests of Rethra, who have broken their alliance with the leadership of Vineta, radicalise the formerly tolerant Slavic cult. After the breakaway of the Baltic tribes, Slavic cult and Slavic nationalism form a dangerous synthesis aimed against the multicultural, multiethnic and religiously increasingly relaxed city of Vineta.
- In Denmark, Saxony, Burgundy and the Geatic petty kingdoms, Things are reformed and administration is modernised, too. Everywhere, professionally trained, and elected centurions and generals lead tax-financed and halfway-decently equipped yeomen armies, instead of noble yarls or earls having hirds.
- The Gregorian church, and with it the countries of Lasika, Iberia, Armenia, Albania, the Chasar Khaganate, and eleven chiefdoms decide to use the Sassano-Indian numerals and the new Persian decimal weights. The Assyrian Republic follows them a few years later.
Nations of Asia
- Permian explorers travel across the vast woodlands and subarctic tundra of Northern Asia, meeting hundreds of peoples. Their search for the (hitherto merely theorised) North Pole finally succeeds.
- Great Perm attacks Suvar "on behalf of the suppressed Chanti, Mansi and Mari" and conquers the Pecheneg Khaganate, which is incorporated into the federation, whose relatively modern laws are applied to these Easternmost lands, too, now. (The former Pecheneg elites later are the forefathers of the present-day Great Permian ethnic group of the "Chuvashs".) Great Perm also claims a great deal of territory to the North of this land, sparsely inhabited by indigenous groups, but does little to enforce its control there.
- Sui discovers OTL Alaska and establishes control over its coastline. Further explorations, first contacts and a few outposts are established as far South as Tlingit Aanu.
- Sui puts down a rebellion of Mazdako-Tengrist Mongyols and Tatars and conducts a punitive campaign against their instigators and supporters farther in the West. Fleeing, the Naimans, Khereid et al. bring their creed and ideology to Siberian and Turkic people farther in the West and North.
- Sui annexes Dsungaria and most of the tribes of the former Uyghur Khaganate. The Kyrgyz and Kimak Khaganates make peace with each other and unite against the threat of Sui expansion.
- Sui converts its vassal kingdoms / müangs from Dali to Oc Eo into five imperial provinces and eliminates their local autonomy. Underground resistance forms.
- Sui finally defeats the navy of an Indian-led alliance in Nusantara (OTL Indonesia and Malaysia) and conquers a vast thalassocracy, including Java, Borneo and the Tagalog islands (OTL Philippines). Now, Sui also controls the spice trade.
Nations of Africa
- Aksumite explorers, missionaries and colonisers penetrate the jungles in Africa`s heartland, which is populated by indigenous hunters and gatherers. The continent is fully cartographed by the end of the century, and Aksum has claimed large new territories, although only few Aksumite missions are successfully established in the jungle.
- Habeshan, Cushitic and Biyomaal Aksumites settle in the Empire`s lands inhabited by the Maba and other Nilotic tribes West of the Nile. Unlike earlier attempts at Christianising Aksum`s Black South, the colonisation stabilises Aksum`s control over these territories, but also leads to armed uprisings and protracted bloody conflict.
- Gao-based cooperatives and syndicates operate to a greater and greater extent among the Yoruba and in other West Coast states, too, as the Gao Federation imposes the opening of these markets. Gao traders make a fortune exporting Yoruba-grown yams to Europe, after the isolation of progesteron from yams has been discovered there and the use of progesteron both in aiding gestation AND, socially more importantly, as a contraceptive has been established.
- The Kingdom of Luba forms. It establishes intense relations with the Roman and Celtic Insadinsera colonies, acquiring new technologies and investments into the infrastructure of a quickly expanding Luba Empire, which stretches Northward to the Kongo River.
- The Gao Alliance races against Aksum to establish missions and outposts in the jungle inhabited mostly by pygmies. After military confrontations between the Gao Alliiance, Aksum and Luba, an agreement is found in 1192: the territory South of the Kongo is Luba`s sphere of influence, the territory West of the Ubangi Gao`s and East of the Ubangi Aksum`s.
- After the Watu Empire falls apart, the Great Lakes kingdoms of Burundi, Ankole and Kyamutwara are restored. South of them and of the Kirinyaga Alliance lies the Swahili-dominated rest of the Watu Empire. At the Northern shore of Lake Maravi, the Chewa establish an independent republic, which engages in frequent warfare against the Maravi, who are a part of the Watu Empire. Their Southern neighbours revert to the political system inspired by South and South-East Asian examples (e.g. müang). After Mapungubwe has been destroyed during the conquest by the Watu Empire, Zimbabwe assumes the dominant role among them. Khoikhoi and San populations still live in remote parts of this region, off the rivers, mines, and manufacturing, farming and herding areas.
- Romans, Celts, Norwegians, Aksumite, Sabaeans, Persians, various Indian federations and Sui China dot the coasts of Africa with trading outposts and small naval bases - almost always with the consent of local kingdoms, empires, republics or secret societies, who receive rent payments and military support against their neighbours in exchange. Because of their engagement in inner-African conflicts, the Ostrogothic syndicates, who have already been present in the region for centuries, are the only ones in a position to trade with everyone. The Liberians, after changing their policy from aggressive colonisation to (more subtly aggressive) free trade policies and a recognition of the sovereignty of their neighbour states, begin to copy the Ostrogoths` winning strategy.
- Among the Ostrogothic syndicates active on Africa`s West Coast, new ones with non-Greek names and Taino-Ostrogoth members, based on islands in the OTL Caribbean instead of Tauris, Melita or the Nesoi Porphyroi or Atlantikoi, appear.
- In Southern Africa, Zulu chiefdoms are restored after the power of Watu has waned.
Nations of Atlantis
Several stable, mixed Euro-Atlantic societies have established themselves in the 12th century:
- In the North, the Foederatio Wabanakiaci unites European settlers of mostly Celtic and Norse origin with Algonquin-speaking natives. Although it maintains privileged relations with the Celtic Empire and hosts Celtic naval bases and monasteries of the Celtic Church, it is still not part of the Empire. While the Algonquin have thus entered the Iron Age and learned several crafts from the settlers, both natives and settlers now begin to exploit the vast resources of their lands. Here, epidemics like the measles still kill large amounts of the native population and swell the ranks of those who, like the rebels who fled to the Haudenosaunee, oppose the presence of the Europeans and the social modernisation. Many settlers have become bilingual and know Algonquin - thus contributing to the development of a standard Algonquin language understood by all tribes. Throughout the 12th century, economic interaction and integration with the Algonquin tribes to the South of Wabankiacum intensifies, bringing knowledge, iron, horses, epidemics and conflicts between proponents and opponents of European-style changes to the Powhatan, Delaware etc. New settlers from overpopulated Europe arrive and increase the demographic majority of Wabanakiacians of European descent vs. those of Algonquin descent.
- Even further in the North, the handful of Celtic settlers on Polaris (OTL Greenland) has "gone native" during the interruption of contact with Europe in the 11th century and assimilated to the lifestyle of the Inuit, enriching the Inuit with fascinating stories of far-away lands and exciting things of which they have ceased to know where to find them or how to produce them.
- On the Taino islands, Taino and Ostrogoth have long since melted into a new culture, although a few Taino prefer to remain "pure blood" (especially because this brings profitable income from rent payments, but also for cultural and religious reasons) and new Ostrogoth arrivals also take a while to overcome their alienation. European epidemics only affect the pure-blood Taino here and reduce their number even more. Taino-Ostrogoth culture is much more a true blend: Jewish cult and traditions have become imbued with elements like ritual dances here, and a mixed language based on Greek, but with heavy Taino influences, has developed. Taino-Ostrogoths heavily engage in sea trade, both with Europe and with various civilizations and tribes across Atlantis and Caribia, and increasingly also with Liberia. In contrast to their European forefathers and fellows, they seldom sail the oceans without sufficient arms and cannons and have finally emancipated themselves from Roman military protection.
The other Atlantic peoples have been exposed to varying degrees to European influence. Rome`s two small, old colonies are joined by a third one, Colonia Christiana Pascagulensis in OTL Mississippi, founded by Lukianist emigrants.
In Southern Atlantis, new waves of a hemorrhagic fever and new ecological catastrophes as well as migrations from the North and continuous warfare among the city states have created an atmosphere of general pessimism and despair. In this context, two major forces slowly emerge: the "isolationists" led by the Nuu Davi of Tilantongo, who oppose all contact with the Europeans, vs. the "traders" led by Mayan city states (different ones at different times). Both alliances are multiethnic, but among the isolationists, there are many Nahua, while among the traders, there are many Maya.
Celtic and Roman explorers have come to know the Haudenosaunee, the various Sioux tribes and the Mississippi culture and mapped most of Atlantis East of the Rocky Mountains by the end of the century. From the East, horses as well as viruses and bacteria spread across the continent, disrupting the social fabric of many tribes.
The Ute, Athabascan, Salish, and other Taipyingyang coast cultures are still relatively untouched in the 12th century.
Nations of Caribia
- Taino-Ostrogoth sea merchants establish contacts with the Chimú, trading ironware, glassware and rum for silver, artefacts and chili peppers. Taino-Ostrogothic enterprises begin to employ larger and larger numbers of Chimú as wage labourers on high sea fishing boats.
- Taino-Ostrogoths later also established contacts with the Mapuche, trading horses for silverware.
- Both among the Chimú and the Mapuche, xenophobic sentiments arise after the contact with the Taino Ostrogothic sea merchants has brought them deathly influenza epidemics.
- Roman, Celtic, Sabaean, Liberian, Aksumite and even Persian sailors explore Caribia`s East coast and bring fatal epidemics to the natives, but also commencing trade with some native cultures (especially hallucinogenic drugs from Caribia became extremely popular in the Celtic and Roman Empire and were traded for glass and ironware.
Nations of Asambada Anutthara
Since Sui has gained control over Nusantara, the Indian colonies on the West Coast continue to be isolated. Sui expands naval bases on the East Coast. In 1189, a Chinese exploring mission discovers two large uninhabited islands with moderate climate and very fertile ground. They are named
which in a widely spoken Chinese variety has come to be pronounced Gengjiuyunguo (OTL New Zealand).
Nations of the Taipyingyang
Chinese explorers discover the islands of Yap, Kosrae, Pohnpei and many others, populated by elaborate stone age civlizations. They map the Western Pacific and sign treaties with the kings and chieftains of the islands concerning trade and free landing for Chinese civilian ships. They return to Chang`an with all sorts of fascinating artefacts and stories and start a true Taipyingyang frenzy among educated and simple Chinese alike. (Everybody dreams of living on a small tropical island of their own now...)