What if, as was commonly believed in Europe's medieval era, magic was not just a superstition and in fact had existed all along?
History of magic
Although the ability to perform magic lasted probably from some of the earliest human-like species, a lack of brain power meant that most bearers simply could not harness the magic for their own use, and those that could often caused explosive and sometimes dangerous results. Because of this, no official name was ever given to this early era, which lasted for most of the stone age. However, towards the end (and mainly by chance) of the age, bearers realised they had a limited ability to foresee the future. Divination, or 'fortune telling' grew in popularity as a small business and by 5000 BCE had several thousand active businesses. For this reason, the age became known as the Divination Era.
Divination Era (7500 - 500 BCE)
Although the beginning of this era is largely disputed (and often passionately argued upon by more pedantic scientists) it is believed to have lasted around seven thousand years, beginning in the late stone age and ending following the establishment of the Roman Republic (see below).
Like scientific advances at the time, it progressed slowly. Many of its users actually had very little skill in predicting futures of any kind. Through the middle of this era, the other Branches of magic began to develop, particularly Enchantment and Elemental magic.
Militarization Era (500 BCE - 400 CE)
Again, the boundaries of this era are disputed, although remain probably more fixed than the previous era. It began when the Romans began to expand throughout Europe, creating the Roman Empire, and threatening the existence of divinators across the continent. The civilized emperors saw this type of crude magic as inferior and barbaric and sought to quash it from their empire. This caused many of the early sorcerors to go into hiding.
However, with what later became known as the Neapolis Demonstration in 127 CE, when a group of Elementals lashed out using magic against the Empire, the current emperor Hadrian recognized the potential usage of magic as a weapon. These sorcerors (and indeed were the first group of magic bearers to be given this name) had been secretly developing the first Elemental magic for use as weapons. Hadrian, instead of punishing these sorcerors, immediately recruited them to work for him, and began his search for other magic bearers with whom to build his army.
As time went on, various emperors attempted to use magic in different ways, and different types of magic. Enhancement was commonly practised, and used to make soldiers stronger or faster. Telekinesis, originating from east in Siberia and Mongolia, moved swiftly into Europe. And the practise of Enchanting is believed to have started in Rome itself. Certainly, the first Enchanters were of great use to the Emperors.
However, this prosperous Empire could not last. Barbarians that the Romans had tried to destroy now fought back, bringing with them the fall of the Western Empire. The eastern Byzantines continued to thrive leaving the west in turmoil. This was because magic was once again in decline - sorcerors were the chief target of assassinations and used too sparingly by emperors. By 400 CE, Elemental magic was almost unheard of, Enhancement and Enchantment were mostly confined to the Byzantine empire and in Western Europe, magic and its practice took a turn for the worst.
Establishment Era(400 - 1066 CE)
The Roman Empire, which had held most of Europe together and had united many different aspects of magic, was now gone. Any powerful elementals had been snatched away to be used as a military power before they could pass on their wisdom. So, as the Western nations struggled to form together and assert themselves, magic took a fairly similar turn. Old lines of Divinators stepped back into the limelight. Initially, though, this was purely prophecies and weak predictions. The type of Divination known as Psychic magic was first practised in Francia (modern day France) around 600 CE which involved mind reading, incredible memory skills and occasionally (bizarrely) communication with animals, although this magic was not widespread for another six hundred years. But with no other magic to turn to, Necropolitan magic became practised in what later became Prussia and Scandinavia, spreading slowly eastward and reaching Israel by the end of the Era. Necromancers were not liked, and the branch of magic struggled. It was the cause of many large-scale conflicts in western Europe at the time.
Meanwhile, further east, magic thrived, particularly telekinesis across Asia. The Byzantines were the first political organization to attempt to 'teach' magic, but were largely unsuccessful. Despite this, the number of Elementals grew to more than five thousand by the end of the eighth century.
Across the world, magic grew in new ways. Pre - Colombian giants, such as the Inca or Mayans, began to incorporate magic into their way of life, practising branches that died out around the end of the fifteenth century. The only branch that survived past there was Necropolitan magic, which was practised in North and South America and what became Australia. In fact, this branch of magic and its users were worshipped by others and it was believed to be divine. There are traces that Divination magic (at its most primitive level) also existed in South America towards the end of the Establishment era.
The Era ended with the growth of France when they invaded Britain in 1066. France, a pioneer of magical development was now expanded its frontiers. Commonplace now was Elemental magic, which had grown from the Byzantine civilization, Enhancement and Enchantment, which were considered a kind of pair, and telekinesis, which had moved in from the east.
Education Era (1066 - 1492)
It was in these years that some of the great European modern day powers began to grow in culture and sophistication, particularly in Britain, France and Prussia (modern day Germany). The era lasted until Columbus launched his first expedition into the Americas, a huge discovery that taught people all over the world new types of magic.
During the education era, the way magic was thought about was challenged to its most basic level. For the first time, people without magical abilities studied it to improve their own knowledge for personal gain. A small group of scholars in Austria, despite not having any magical abilities, became internationally renouned and sought out for their knowledge with magic.
But more grew than just knowledge. European sorcerors had taken Psychic magic to a new level, and mind reading became a huge achievement of the age. Sorcerors looked for new ways to make themselves more powerful, and in 1447 British sorcerors wrote the Casting Book, a monumental guide to all known types of magic, excluding Necropolitan, and formed the basis of modern Praecontatiology.
With Europe's exploration of Africa they began to incorporate new branches of magic into their society. Necropolitan magic spread uncontrollably through sorcerors who longed to restore loved ones to life, ultimately causing far more pain and suffering. Elemental magic was widely considered the most powerful of all, (perhaps why it was given so much attention in the Casting Book) and Elementals were sought after for their knowledge and power. Enchantment and Enhancement briefly came under the one banner of 'Development' magic.
Colonization Era (1492 - 1760)
Undisputedly the greatest era for magic. As the world became more linked together, Sorcery and magic thrived and prospered. Development magic dissolved into its individual counterparts, Telekinesis and Elementalism grew and Psychic knowledge broke beyond the boundaries of secrecy far earlier. With the development of the printing press magic became an unstoppable force. Police forces, or similar, were always equipped with some form of magic to deal with magic criminals. At its peak, in 1730, approximately 1 in 3 people had some kind of magical abilities.
But this attention wasn't all positive. Despite crime stopping forces having magic, Necromancers, Elementals and powerful Telekinesists ran riot. Unstoppable gangs tore through the streets and could only be stopped by other, equally powerful and violent contestors. Although a situation this bad was never reached in Western Europe, this chaos hit hard on many countries in Asia and American colonies, badly halting their progress.
Firearms came into popular use during this time, as well. This was a major step as they were widely considered to be more advanced and effective than most kinds of magic. Despite best attempts to challenge their capabilities by sorcerors, firearms gradually became standard weaponry for use against magic, and they were very effective.
Industrial Era (1760 - 1840)
Pioneered by Britain, the world began to industrialize. Machines came into use where magic had stood before. Over a course of around sixty years magic was gradually replaced, and as a result declined significantly.
In 1808, Constantinople (the Magical capitol of the world and had retained its Byzantine name after Ottoman capture to preserve its legacy) declared that magic was seriously under threat and needed desperate measures. Because the American colonies in particular had suffered from magic, and they had not begun to industrialize anywhere near as much as the rest of the world, Constantinople declared that the newly formed United States of America (following the declaration of independence in 1776) would become a nation dedicated to magic. This was taken swiftly by the Government of that nation and they moved swiftly to counter industrialization and promote magic. Among other things, possession of any firearm was strictly illegal and crime was dealt with merely by training their officers to a much higher skill in magic.
So, by 1820, the world had taken a very different turn. Magic was largely extinct in Western Europe, as many sorcerors had immigrated to the US for safety. Napoleon Bonaparte, on his European campaign, was the first to ban magic in his country and sought to eliminate it from Europe. Although many bearers fled to Britain, they were slowly discouraged there as well. The US became one of the only safe havens in the world for practisers of magic.
The Ottoman Empire still promoted magic but even Constantinople was collapsing as the Capitol. Desperate to preserve magic, it was abandoned in 1831 and some of the world's greatest sorcerors fled to Washington, which was announced to be the new capitol.
In Asia, the birthplace of gunpowder and firearms, magic was slowly eliminated. Further south, in Indonesia and New South Wales (Australia) magic was not forgotten, but it was no longer dominant. South America even began to reject it in order to incorporate modern European schemes.
First Decline of Magic (1840 -1914)
By 1840 magic was all but forgotten in many places around the world. France in particular took a strong dislike to magic (in fact it had been banned nearly a century earlier) and Britain and newly formed Germany also followed by banning it (claiming that it decreased productivity and was a defiance against their states). This started a trend that swept across Europe and around the world. Magic was now largely unpopular. In 1861, Constantinople was declared obsolete as a Magical Capitol by the Ottoman Empire and was renamed to Istanbul.
By 1880, the US realised that by accepting magic they had unwittingly set to alienate themselves from a fast growing world. Although in many ways magic was more useful than technology, many basic living standards that far poorer countries had magic could not provide for, and the US no longer had the money to pay for better standards. Nevertheless, Washington had all but been taken over as the Magical Capitol and the US Government could do little to change things. So, it was a great surprise to the world that in 1896, the US declared itself bankrupt.
Meanwhile, in Europe, nations were on the brink of a war on a scale not seen before. Many nations boasted weapons far stronger than if they had not abandoned magic. The US had always supported the Triple Entente of Britain, France and Russia, but it was no longer economically viable for the US to engage in any European war.
In 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated. The greatest war in the history of the world, which would later be known as the First World War, was begun.
The First World War and the Fall of Washington (1914 - 1938)
Europe spent the next nine years in turmoil. The US, who had previously pledged to assist Britain, France and Russia, had only an army of magicians and sorcerors. This force were vastly primitive to modern firearms, and so, despite their claims and ambitions, the US were unable to intervene in World War One.
Initially, the Triple Entente managed to gain a lead over their opponents, Germany and Austro - Hungary. However, a revolution in Russia in 1917 forced them to pull out of the war. Britain and France called abroad for help, to the US, Australia and even as far as China and Japan, but no country had the money or any motive to join a stalemate war. It carried on for far too long, with nations desperately scavenging for soldiers and supplies. No nation would surrender, because each nation knew that surrender would ruin them.
Eventually, in 1923, a Russia reformed as the USSR sought to expand its borders into Europe. It rejoined the war boasting more troops and money than any of the warring nations and rapidly invaded Germany and Austro Hungary , joining them to its growing empire. The USSR was an incredibly powerful force, undoubtedly the greatest in the world. But it had underestimed its German captives, and in ending the war had suffered more casualties than was necessary.
Meanwhile, in the US, the people were beginning to recognise the reason for their demise. Magic was blamed for the terrible living conditions and lack of money and the people sought to overthrow it. In 1926, thousands stormed the capitol in what became known as the Washington Revolution. Merely two years later, magic was forced out of the city, and by 1934 it was almost gone from the nation. Most prominant sorcerors fled, but there was nowhere to go. Most scattered and changed their identity. At last, the US was free of magic and began to reform rapidly. Driven by the urge to develop and a longing to grow stronger than even the USSR, it developed incredibly quickly.
From 1923 to 1935, Central and Western Europe fell under a recession - the 'Great Depression' following the First World War. The USSR expanded into Asia, into China and the Korean Peninsula. Globally, Russia, the world's only superpower, became hated, building a particular rivalry with the US.
Across the west, nations drew their plans. War was coming, but the sides would not be the same as before. An authoritative figure named Winston Churchill came to power in Britain, urging nations of the west to stop the USSR before they became too powerful. Germany reformed and grew to new strengths under the reign of a soldier named Adolf Hitler, supported by Mussolini in Italy, both of which had declared their hatred for communism. Their methods were frowned upon by Britain and France, but they had other matters to consider. The US militarized and grew, beginning to rival the USSR in military strength.
In 1938, the USSR moved their troops into neutral Poland. This act of violence was strongly condemned by the Western Alliance of Britain, France, Germany, Italy and the US, who were also supported by Germany's ally Japan and the victimised China, and these nations unanimously declared war on the USSR.
The Second World War and the collapse of communism and fascism (1938 - 1943)
The USSR moved decisively into Europe. It partly immobilized Germany and constructed an empire for itself, which it held for around two years. Then, the Western Treaty countered. Britain, France, Germany, and Italy moved in from the west, relaeasing Germany and removing Soviet forces from other nearby countries. The US and Japan attacked from the East, plowing straight into the heart of the Soviet defence. In 1942, the USSR surrendered.
The consequences were catastrophic, but not just for them. Hitler, who had tried to expand his fascist reign over Europe, had lost most of his army to Russia. In 1943 he committed suicide. Mussolini, Hitler's ally, fled Italy just two weeks later. Japan, watched by the US, made no action to protect Germany.
In Europe and Asia, communism fell. Hitler and his fascist regime failed to gain headway in Europe, although in the words of Winston Churchill 'a fine enemy he would have made, were it not for all those Russians'. Even the US prospered.
The legalization and re-growth of magic (1943 - present)
Although magic will probably never grow to the immense point that it reached in the 1700s, many efforts were made to avoid its complete extinction. The study of magic was an incredibly popular subject and continues to be so today.
Centuries after it was abandoned, Turkish authorities announced that Istanbul would be reselected as the Magical Capitol of the world, and, in 1995, hundreds of sorcerors who had been in hiding arrived in the city. The US, Britain, Germany and many other European countries (not France) lifted their ban on the practise of magic. Although it is still largely illegalized around the world, efforts are being made to preserve it and make sure that it is still a part of society in the future. But not as a weapon - that was still very much illegal, and may be so for many years.