| Imperial Republic of Shireroth|
|Motto: Shireroth sumus. Tempus in parte nostrum est.|
|Anthem: The Benacian Beast|
|Largest city||Shirekeep, Ardashirshahr Allswell, Araxion, Citadel, Cortallia, Demonsfall, Echo, Glenfiddich, Mesior, Nee|
|Official language(s)||Præta (official), Istvanistani (administrative), Elw, Yardistani|
|- Adjective||Shirerithian, Shirithian|
|Government||Federative Constitutional Monarchy|
|- Kaiser of Shireroth||Kaiser Ayreon IV|
|- Steward||Duke of Calezi|
|National forum||Shirithian Forum|
|National animal||Benacian Megaloceros (the Benacian Beast)|
|National drink||Treesian Red|
The Imperial Republic of Shireroth, or simply Shireroth (Istvanistani: ['ʃaɪɻ.ɻɑθ]; Yardistani: Širo ['ʃi.rɔ]; Praeta: Sxiro) is a neo-feudal empire that has dominated the Benacian continent, as well as vast swathes of the globe at various intervals, for more than two hundred and fourteen years under the Norton calendar. It is, not withstanding its largely mythical history, by any reasonable standard the most ancient of the surviving states on Micras.
- 1 Government
- 2 Foreign relations
- 3 History
- 4 Culture
- 5 Economy
- 6 Demographics
- 7 Links
The Kaiser is the monarch of the Imperial Republic of Shireroth. Historically this position was autocratic, if not despotic in scope, but with successive constitutional reforms it became more akin to the traditional role of a constitutional monarch.
Originally, the Kaisers of Shireroth simply served as nothing more than warrior kings and politically leaders of the Realm. Their presence in folklore, myths and in religion only grew over time. The tale of Rrakanychan who was defeated by one of the early Kaisers (some sources mention Raynor I, but others depict one of his successors as the hero) is a primary example of the central role of the Kaisership in Cedrism. With the need to strengthen central authority, Kaisers often used religious customs and myths to unite the several ethnic groups under one banner.
While not holding any official religious position, the Kaiser was depicted as highest representative of the Gods (above the High Priests) and on some rare occasions dead Kaisers have even been considered to have achieved a strange kind of apotheosis. Kaiser Mog I became infamous for granting land to another nation and became God of Political Blunders while Raynor II made an attempt to - literally - catapult himself into godhood by constructing a huge catapult; an idiotic fable. Kaiser Gaelen IV made an attempt to expand the position of the Kaiser by establishing the Imperial Cult, which received little popularity outside of the Imperial Household.
Historically, the powers granted the Kaiser were limitless. The Kaiser was the fons honorum, granting all titles and holding all lands, granting them in fief. In practice however the Kaisers were heavily circumscribed in their ability to enjoy the vast powers nominally within their gift. With monotonous regularity, Kaisers were assassinated, deposed, or felt obliged to resign to avoid unspecified consequences. So deeply ingrained did this practice of deposition become that the average duration of a Kaiser's reign - about three years - became culturally ingrained. On the occasions where a Kaiser survived past the three year mark, awkward questions might be asked in the Landsraad and the first ominous rumblings of discontent could be heard out in the provinces.
The effect of this was to make many Kaisers into transient non-entities who spent their reigns balancing a myriad of threats, appeasing their overmighty subjects and trying to ward off the inevitable knife in the back. This brought constant change to the government, and was justified as ensuring that the Imperial Bloodlines continued to receive a fair opportunity to obtain the highest office in the land. The high turn over also paid lip service to the republican and meritocratic ideals of Shireroth's peculiar brand of governance. Over time the quality of the nobles who attained the Kaisership began to decline markedly - with each successive candidate becoming, seemingly, progressively more self-serving and or imbecilic. The reasons for this decline has been debated continually over the course of decades. For the most part the prevailing consensus is that as the powers of the Kaiser became increasingly curtailed by the stringency of the reformed Charter and the particularist tendencies of the Imperial States so the candidates who continued to be attracted to the role began to value the form over the substance of high office, beginning an inevitable march towards mediocrity.
In the year 1648 during the reign of Kaiseress Noor that tradition was done away with because it was no longer deemed suited to the modern age and ran contrary to the sacred interests of strong and stable leadership in a properly ordered, coordinated and harmonious Imperial Republic. In consequence thereof any Kaiser nowadays reigns for an indefinite term. The succession, furthermore, has become dynastic, with the grandson of Noor, Ayreon IV attaining the Golden Mango Throne during his minority. Thus, almost unprecedentedly, the reigning stewards of the early 1650s are also regents.
Following the promulgation of the Imperial Charter of 1654 the Kaiser ceded most his remaining executive powers to the Steward, who was henceforth to be elected by the Landsraad, and to the Imperial Advisory Council, which would handle the arrangements pertaining to any regency period during a Kaiser's minority. The Kaiser does however remain the font of honour and can dismiss the Steward at his pleasure, albeit at the risk that the Landsraad may vote the same Steward straight back into office.
Imperial Advisory Council & Ministries
Shireroth, with its long established empire and sphere of influence, is an active participant in the geopolitical and strategic affairs of Micras. It's level of engagement is demonstrated by its membership of the Micras Treaty Organisation and the Raspur Pact, as well as in the global reach of the ESB Group. At various times in its history an isolationist power, Shireroth has also been noted for its intense rivalries with Babkha, Jingdao, and Kalgachia. In the case of Jingdao the causes of the enduring conflict can be traced back to the loss of Kildare, to which Shireroth remained largely unreconciled until it had fully grown into its role as Benacian hegemon, which in turned served as the primary driver for tensions between the Imperial Republic and the Garden of Kalgachia.
It has not been entirely unheard of for diplomats whose letters of credential have been rejected or rescinded, for whatever reason, to be sacrificed to the daemonic tree firmly rooted in the grounds of Raynor's Keep. This is surprisingly less controversial than might otherwise be expected.
For a more in depth treatment of the various (mutually contradictory) histories of Shireroth, please peruse the Shirewiki.
The general tradition is that Shireroth was founded as a successor state to the enlightened and technologically advanced Empire of Khaz Modan (-1211bN to -0bN) which was brought to an end by a sudden and violent cataclysm brought on by dabbling in inter-dimensional research, which seldom ends well. In this instance the experimentation of the so-called mages established a connection between Micras and a pocket hell-dimension which allowed hostile entities to enter this plane of existence, whilst concurrently releasing a pulse of energy which destroyed the Empire's home island and plunged the western hemisphere into a dark age that was, not coincidentally, the First Era (circa 0 AN to circa 880 AN).
Shireroth rose from the ashes of the Khaz Modani Empire in the form of the Duchy of Brookshire that rose in Southern Benacia under the House of Raynor. After a successful conquest of Goldshire by Brookshire's proficient armies, the newly-gained territory was incorporated in union with Brookshire under the name Shireroth. The capital, Shirekeep, was established as a fortified position on the confluence of the Rivers Elwynn.
This unity proved to be extremely transient and the Second Era (878 – 1442) was dominated by warring states, who somewhat tenuously laid claim upon the bloodlines of the Kaisers of the preceding era, which vied for dominion over the course of the Red Elwynn between Shirekeep and Musica. An increasing reliance upon necromancy and daemons on the part of the houses as they struggled for paramountcy saw the society of the duchies of Brookshire and Goldshire progressively undermined until, after the diabolical pact of Kaiser John, those who remained were unable to maintain the sovereignty of eastern Benacia in the face of foreign colonists.
Shireroth's modern founding was in 1442 (the beginning of the Third Era). Foreign recognition of the Kaisership occurred later, in approximately 1462, with Erik Mortis becoming Kaiser Metzler I. The accurate record keeping in the Imperial Household began with Gaelen II in 1465, and all accession dates after that are taken to be authentic.
Having established dominance of the Benacian continent, the Kaisers of the House of Raynor eventually expanded their reach to Yardistan and Kildare. Despite further acquisitions, these initial territories constituted the core "Ancient Duchies" of Shireroth for many ages.
Although the Duchies frequently rebelled against the Kaiser and fought each other, their unity within Shireroth was maintained by an informal system of quality control wherein the succession of the Kaisership was passed through individuals with proven ability to rule (with occasional notorious exceptions) ensuring that their attitude toward Shireroth's restive fiefdoms, while often less than amiable, was neither harsh enough nor feeble enough to precipitate those territories' complete break from the government in Shirekeep.
Legitimacy rested upon descent from Kaiser Raynor I. After seventeen centuries, much of Western and Central Benacia, as well as a fair smattering of Babkhi and Kildari can claim this boon. Nonetheless the frequently rotating succession remained within the clutches of a dozen or so noble houses who jealously guarded their notoriously intermarried bloodlines. In spite of the the vigilance of the Imperial Republic's noble oligarchs there have been several "sanglorian" Kaisers in the modern era, alongside a half dozen inhuman Kaisers (whether revenants or aliens). As the Third Era wore on, things became progressively stranger, until a measure of sanity was restored by the confirmation of the dynastic succession in the hands of the House of Ayreon-Kalirion, itself being however troubled by some of its dynastic associations.
Shireroth in its present form began inauspiciously. The last Kaiser of the second era, John II, a greedy and unscrupulous ruler who had consorted with daemons to further his rule, had been overthrown by Kaiser Erik II and torn apart by the Shirekeep mob. Erik however proved to be a weak ruler who failed to control the populist forces he had unleashed. The so-called Direct Democracy Riots destabilised eastern Benacia, which was at that time under vassalage to Audentior. Erik's provisional government ended abruptly in the seventh month of 1444 when Audentior, tired of the anarchy, formally annexed Shireroth. Erik was allowed to keep his title and history records that his reign continued for another year.
He was succeeded by his son, the eccentric and irascible Kaiser Brrapa V, who in 1446 staged a successful attempt to break away from Audentior's crumbling colonial empire. The effort was perhaps not so successful however as the act of secession was followed immediately by annexation by the Flying Islands of Jasonia in the same year.
The chaos resumed with renewed vigour during the reign of Brrapa's grandson, Gaelen I, during which time Shireroth broke away from Jasonia (1451), found itself ensnared in the Amity Crisis (1451–1452) with its former colonial master, witnessed the final submission of Elwynn (1452), was ruled by Commonwealth of Benacia (1455–1458), embroiled in the Paramount War (1456), became a partner in the Hegemony of Alexandros (1458–1466) and part of the United Republic of Tymaria after 1461. It was a period during which many unstable and declining states sought to ward off collapse by voluntarily merging into ever larger, ever more diffuse, and ever more unwieldy, federations. The last and largest of these, Tymaria, spanned the globe like a colossus. It's federal structure and competing Atteran and Apollonian centres of power however meant that it was a giant with feet of clay.
Whilst the overarching empire spiralled into ever more doomed complexity, the office of Kaiser began to gain the attributes of an absolute monarchy under Kaiser Gaelen II, and recreated a small feudal system with two Duchies, Brookshire and Goldshire. The feudal system was expanded vastly to include a new level, Baron, and the Landsraad became a major organ of government. Shireroth soon became much more important than its subordinate status would indicate as Patrick Foley chose to bequeath the remnants of the UAS to it as the Duchy of Kildare. With a number of military-oriented types like Daniel K and Greg Russell. Shireroth would go on to gain De facto independence from Tymaria (1466) during the reign of Kaiser Mors I (1466–1468). In the year 1467 however Philip Locke set a fire amongst the papers of the government record office. Infamy and a significant lacuna ensued.
Formal secession from Tymaria was deferred until the reign of Kaiseress Viviantia I (1469–1470) and not long afterwards the states of Hyperborea, Yardistan, Jaris, and Akerbjorn fell under Shirerithian rule. It was perhaps unease at this rapid expansion which prompted Kaiser Mog (1472–1473) into his foolish attempt to cede Amity and Mirioth. His reward was deposition and death in the wake of Letifer's Revolt.
The Battle of Cimmeria (1477) is the conventional name given to a partially successful attempt to defend Shireroth against the depredations of a slightly unlikely group going by the name of Anarchy 21. Kaiser Raynor X, who had arrived late to the battle, then declared the day a national holiday, and rewarded its heroes. Robert Belci, a Crandishman, and Harvey Steffke, a Menelmacari, were given honorary citizenship and military awards. Stjepan Aracic, already an honorary citizen, was given double honorary citizenship. More substantially Jadie Mathematician was made the Duchess of Goldshire.
This system began to break down from the approximate time of Kaiser Letifer III (1512-1514 AN), wherein the old reliable noble houses faded from prominence and the Kaisership was passed to increasingly less competent and more self-interested individuals. The ensuing bitterness caused those elements of the old guard remaining to become cantankerous and lose the knack of wise rule themselves, culminating in the notorious House System; an enormous feudal reform which attempted to codify the chaotic situation by making the retention of one's land holdings essentially dependent on one's skill in political skullduggery. Naturally the ensuing mess produced victims, the foremost of whom being the disenfranchised population of Elwynn who responded by seizing control over the greater part of that territory and effecting a secession from Shireroth in 1567. Although this secession was temporary, it forever shattered the myth of Kaiserial infallibility and permanently damaged the unspoken belief in Shirerithian nationhood which had long bonded its many peoples in ways that government could not.
Shaken by the impotence of the Kaisership in maintaining Shirerithian harmony, the political current in Shireroth moved gently in favour of democratisation with the Shirerithian legislature, the Landsraad, ending its ancient nobles-only rule and opening membership to the entire citizenry in 1588. Opinion also moved toward insulating the provinces from the worst failures of Imperial policy by granting them substantial autonomy, in order to restore a sense of trust and wellbeing that would, in turn, keep Shireroth together. This culminated in the Lich Charter of 1595, promulgated by Kaiseress Mira Raynora Major, wherein Shireroth's territories were transformed into a series of autonomous Imperial States with profuse powers to determine their own affairs. This partial restoration of sanity contributed, among other things, to the reunification of Elwynn with Shireroth in 1600.
Unfortunately the Imperial State system depended on a certain level of good faith on the part of the Imperial States toward the Kaiser's government in Shirekeep, as those bonds which were no longer maintained by the Kaiser's power came to depend on the voluntary co-operation of the Imperial States with each other and with the Kaiser. The inability of the Kaiser to deal with the excessive self-interest of Imperial States was explosively demonstrated with the surprise secession of Kildare in 1617. What Elwynn began in demoting the vaunted myth of the Shirerithian Kaisership, Kildare all but finished.
In the aftermath of the loss of Kildare to Jingdao, and the failure of the Neridia colony on Istvanistan, large swathes of the population in Lichbrook and southern Goldshire had resolved that suffering what they perceived as constant disruption by other Imperial States, only to be collectively punished for those states' purported excesses by what they saw as reductions of their own political autonomy, was proof of their systematic expulsion from the Shirerithian political process. Through this contorted reasoning the dissidents had come to the conclusion that the Kaisers of Shireroth could no longer make any demand upon their fealty. Rather than risk battle on the field of honour or in the Landsraad for possession of their ancestral lands, these traitors instead preferred the stratagem of stealth, stealing away in the night and following the smugglers routes and Lach trails leading towards lawless Ashkenatzim lands of the west, wherein they would found Minarboria.
The years of blood
The Imperial Republic, long dissatisfied by the federal system became ensnared in a series of interconnected conflicts beginning in 1635 AN and finally coming to a conclusion in the year 1644 with the entry of Kaiseress Noor into Shirekeep. The prime cause of the conflict was the unbalanced relationship between a weakened Imperial Government and the over-mighty imperial states, of which Elwynn was the prime offender.
The wars began with the so-called River War (1635), an unsuccessful attempt by hard-line Cedrists and Elwynnese ultra-nationalists to mount a quick decapitation strike on the Monarchy of Elwynn which was led by Princess Margana, the daughter of Kaiser Brrapa VII and sponsored by the patricians of Shirekeep and the Court within Raynor's Keep.
In spite of being well resourced and brutally executed, the attempted takeover of Elwynn by a combination of a coup and 'hybrid warfare' failed spectacularly and rebounded upon the heads of the plotters. Not only were they unsuccessful in their efforts to exterminate the Royal Family of Elwynn but the war ended with the King's father entering Shirekeep as a conqueror.
It was said by some that Brrapa VII was conveniently ill at the start of the war and conveniently dead at its end.
One of the notable aspects of the war, which effectively lasted for two months at most, was the rate at which stockpiles of modern hi-tech guided munitions and missiles were rapidly depleted. The Imperial Shirerithian Air Forces (ISAF) had expended its reserves of cruise missiles within the first week of the conflict and was still trying to acquire and adapt ship launched missiles from the Imperial Shirerithian Navy (which had remained neutral in the conflict) by the time the war ended. Similarly the UDF had been caught short and taken by surprise by the war and was still trying to reactivate the Southron Barrage programme by the war's end. The UDF had also run its stockpiles of medium-range anti-aircraft missiles down to the point of exhaustion during the Battle of Echo. The decision of the Imperialists to hold back their remaining air assets, particularly the UCAVs, after the shocking losses of that engagement proved to be the hinge point that turned what might have been a mere setback into the decisive victory that ensured the survival of the Elwynnese Union and its eventual victory.
By the final weeks of the war even the supplies of unguided 'dumb' bombs were being run down to the point that the Arandur of Alalehzamin and Utasia was obliged to establish workshops to produce crude unguided rockets in order to keep up the rate of fire on the defenders of Shirekeep and the ISAF was giving serious consideration to adapting its remaining UCAV force to drop re-purposed canisters packed with high-explosives.
This experience subsequently informed the strategic and operational doctrines of both the UDF and the reformed (i.e. purged) Imperial Forces in that the technologically sophisticated weapons systems began to be viewed as an exquisitely crafted and expensive blade of tremendous penetrating power that nonetheless blunted quickly through frequent use. For this reason it began to be felt that what was required was a second line of sufficient mass and firepower that would be less sophisticated, and for therefore more affordable, that could get the job done - through blunt object trauma if need be - once the enemy's own, exquisitely wrought, first line of defences had been sufficiently burnt through to provide an opening.
The desire to test this new theory against a representation of an avowedly unconventional opposing force gave rise to the series of military exercises known as Operation Long Haul and all the attendant controversies that ensued when neighbouring Minarboria became thoroughly alarmed.
The Anarchy of Angularis (1635-1640) was a five year period of disorder in which Elw ultra-nationalists and other separatist, anti-monarchist and anti-imperialist groups waged a low level insurgency, gradually extending their influence throughout the Vale of Angularis. These forces were violently suppressed by Elwynnese and Imperial Forces under the overall direction of the Arandur of Alalehzamin and Utasia in the Campaign of 1639, considered by some to be amongst one of the bloodiest episodes in modern Benacian history, second only to the Green Mortality of 1605 in the reign of Kaiser Aiomide, although this record was subsequently overtaken the calamities of the 1650s.
Martial Law in Goldshire (1639) was declared after the assassination of the Goldshirean and Elwynnese Princes Arn and Rostam Ayreon-Kalirion by parties unknown in the year 1639. This being the third such attempt on a member of the Ayreon-Kalirion bloodline in which poison was administered in a secure environment, suspicion quickly turned to the Leonid Guard whose duty was to protect the family of the Emira of Sathrati. This latest failing proved to be final straw and the Royal Government of Goldshire, administered by the ESB-Jörmungandr Group, declared martial law and instigated a purge of suspect individuals and organisations within the Kingdom. That this poisoning was part of a wider conspiracy was proved when the secretive Assayers successfully, albeit temporarily, countermanded the martial law decree.
After two days of confusion, Queen Noor was able to reassert her authority and reinstated the martial law decree - adding to it the proscription of the now openly treacherous Assayers. The Assayers, more formally the Chamber of Assay of the Avakair Mint and Bullion Depository, had a fearsome reputation for being able to instil psychological terror and also a capacity for actual acts of terror, including abduction, torture and assassination, in pursuit of its relentless drive to try and maintain standards of purity in the 'gold standard' Erb and a ruthless determination to destroy any threats to that self same purity. This put them on an inevitable collision course with the ESB-Jörmungandr Group which has, no less ruthlessly, sought to promote its fiat currency - the Teldrin Thaler - throughout the river ports of the the Red Elwynn and beyond.
Faced by such a dangerous and unpredictable foe, and concerned about wavering morale amongst the Goldshire Regulars, the Royal Government, on the 11th of Araroqpinu 1639, invoked its right under the Martial Code of Shireroth to seek the assistance of Imperial Forces. The Imperial Government had already taken steps to order Leonid Guards based overseas to return to ESB run rendition facilities in Goldshire and Zy-Rodun. Now, with an official invitation, it could act with full force. The situation led inevitably to full blown civil war (1639-1643).
The civil war ended with the Armistice of Airle (Reire the 15th of Nomeziooqu, 1643), the terms of which surprisingly generous, by Shirerithian standards. Rebel leaders were castrated and sent to monasteries. Golems, alchemical artefacts and Gnostic grimoires meanwhile were be destroyed. Beyond this there was a prohibition on reprisals. Imperial Constabulary assumed responsibility for peacekeeping in Goldshire while the crimes of the rebels, as well as of pro-government militias were to be investigated equally by judicially appointed inquisitors.
The civil war saw a revival in the ancient Cedrist religion as well as the reintroduction of various practices such as gladiatorial combat, human sacrifice and the mass enslavement of displaced persons. The various factions on both sides sought to make the war pay for itself by resorting to the plunder of the opposing sides territory. Criminality also dramatically increased with the Mercaja side especially resorting to drugs smuggling, extortion, racketeering and the fraudulent transmutation of base metals into gold and silver in order to fund its operations.
Officially the Royal Government of Goldshire acknowledged 43,770 fatalities as a consequence of the civil war. It has however been suggested that these figures were deliberately underplayed to avoid causing embarrassment to the Alexandrian government during the negotiations leading up to the formation of the Sxiro-Alexandrian-Natopian Entente.
An estimate contained in a report by the ESB Group suggested a death-toll of 8,431,770, several orders of magnitude greater than the official tally. The reason for the disparity laid in the omission from official statistics of the victims of chemical weapons attacks carried out by the Imperial Forces and the death-toll from clean-up operations in Lunaris after the collapse of the organised rebellion. The report and its authors were suppressed and pulped by the Jaysh al-Sathrati on the orders of Queen Noor.
Holwinn and Lunaris felt the effects of the war disproportionately, with advance and retreat of first the Jaysh al-Sathrati and then the Army of the Golden Dawn which caught the civilian populations of those two counties in a desperate maelstrom of violent reprisal, where civilians were targeted as much as, if not more often than, the opposing combatants. 25% of the Lunatic population was killed or died of communicable diseases during the conflict whilst a staggering 41% of the population of the County of Holwinn perished as collateral damage after the Technomaezji unleashed its full arsenal of chemical and biological munitions in an attempt to halt the rebel advance towards Cabbagefall.
It was the scale of this slaughter which convinced Kaiser Dominus to initiate war-crimes trials against the guilty parties of both sides in the civil war. A matter of some embarrassment considering the support that the Imperial Government and the ESB Group had lavished on Queen Noor's private army. By the end of the war however the Jaysh was a broken force, discredited both morally and militarily.
1644, the Year of the Four Kaisers, was a tumultuous moment in Shirerithian History which saw the deposition and murder of Kaiser Dominus, and the emergence of three claimants to the Golden Mango Throne.
The next cycle of wars that began with the Struggle for the South (1649–1651), a series of inter-related disputes and conflicts following the Elwynnese confiscation of Mishalan and the collapse, demotion and or dissolution of the Lich Realms of Lichbrook and Minarboria, ending the dominion of the dead over the lands of southern Benacia. The disputes saw an increase in anti-Elwynnese sentiment and the first semblance of opposition to the Ayreon-Kalirion dynastic succession to the Mango Throne.
The Struggle ended with the restoration of Mishalan, the establishment of the Domain of Malarboria and finally the Auspicious Occasion of 1651. This decree marked the beginning of a systemic purge of Storrish influence in the Imperial Republic. More specifically the expulsion of the House of Ettlingar Freyu and the Church of the Froyalanish Ancient Ways from the Elwynnese Union resulted from a double coup in Shirekeep and Eliria which brought to an abrupt end the Froyalanish hegemony over the Imperial Republic that had begun with the abdication of Prince Jonathan Ayreon-Kalirion in 1623 and the River War of 1635.
King Noah disputed the legality of his expulsion but failed to gain any measure of popular support at home or abroad, with the sole exception of the then Emperor of Natopia, Zakyyr. A complete rupture in the Sxiro-Natopian alliance was averted but Noah remained Natopian foreign minister for a time longer, prompting some awkwardness.
The speed of the collapse of Elwynnese resistance, combined with the success of the Imperial Government in delivering a fait accompli had brought the Auspicious Occasion to a swift and decisive conclusion, greatly limiting the destruction and loss of life endured by the Elwynnese. This contrasted strikingly with previous Imperial interventions in Dietsland, Goldshire, Lichbrook, Minarboria, Puritania and Voltrue over the course of the previous sixteen years.
On the Elwynnese side, the centralising of decision making powers into the hands of the King and his court had meant that once Noah was isolated and unable to maintain open communications the once formidable array of forces at his disposal gave a poor account of themselves, in marked contrast to their performance during the Year of the Four Kaisers seven years previously. The selection and advancement of officers noted for their loyalty to the Crown and love of pomp and pageantry over their professional ability had degraded the quality of command and control and led to a loss of the capacity for displays of individual initiative.
The Imperial Forces meanwhile had continued to expand, rearm and professionalise following the defeats endured in the River War and the Year of the Four Kaisers. The Imperial Army was performing at near the peak of operational readiness it had achieved during an abortive war scare with Jingdao in 1647, and its officers were highly motivated to gain revenge for the slights they had endured from the Elwynnese over the years.
The Imperial Forces were, to be sure, still bedevilled by the perennial problems of a creaking and sclerotic logistics chain as well as a command structure of bewildering complexity. Nonetheless the matter was resolved before these issues could make a decisive negative impact.
The Imperial Marshals had finally proved themselves with their involvement in the capture of Krull Palace. Unfettered by the constraints of the Martial Code they had been free to move assets into the city under the guise of rotating personnel out of the Imperial Legations, without the level of domestic surveillance that Imperial Forces transiting Elwynnese territory routinely had to endure.
Debate continues as to whether the establishment of a new period of dynastic rule constitutes a fourth era. In the past, using a discredited historiography and calendar, as many as seven eras were postulated. However, following the Auspicious Occasion, a more rational approach to historical research has taken hold and the process of investigating and verifying the reigns of the Kaisers of the early era, and indeed the nature of their rule, is ongoing.
One of the most notable attributes of the aftermath of the Auspicious Occasion was the systematic repudiation and destruction of much of what had previously been considered integral to Vanic and Froyalanish iconography. In many regards the Royal Government was obliged to legislate to keep up with the popular anger and the tearing down of Vanic monuments.
The smashing and destruction of the "viking helmet crowns" prominently displayed on all royal crests, proved to be an especially popular pastime amongst the masses.
The sudden fall of the House of Ettlingar Freyu threw into sharp reverse the expansionist policy pursued by Elwynn hitherto. Instead, under the terms of an agreement brokered in Eliria, Elwynnese territory was ceded to the Kingdom of Goldshire, the Dominion of Malarboria and the Imperial Republic itself - so as to form new Imperial Dominions.
The much reduced Elwynn would subsequently go on to cast off the last vestiges of monarchical rule and refound itself as a constitutional republic.
Between 1636 and 1655, between the Wars of the Dark Orchid, the Auspicious Occasion, the Alexandrian Flu, famine, emigration, and the War of Lost Brothers the population of Shireroth fell by 21% to 556 million.
The Sxiro-Jingdaoese Confrontation, reinvigorated by the War of Lost Brothers, had become an all consuming international phenomenon, whose reverberations were felt upon every continent. Particularly badly affected was the nascent Florian Republic, whose dreams of great power status were cruelly dashed by an alternating succession of Shirerithian, Jingdaoese, and Natopian occupations of all or part of the country.
More seriously for Shireroth was the challenge posed by the comparatively young yet economically powerful realm of Passio-Corum which, via the influence it enjoyed on the USSO, seemed poised to rewrite the world economic order in its own favour. Although autarchic Shireroth was insulated from the worst of these economic shocks by its Benacian energy and mineral reserves and the free trade arrangements with allied and neutral states such as Natopia, Constancia, Caputia, and Raspur, the long term challenge posed by Passio-Corum was long-term and structural. In the words of the then Steward, Waldemar Zinkgraven, "where Jingbuism is a disease of the skin, the Cult of Superabundance is a disease of the heart".
This gave the War of Lost Brothers an ideological edge that went some way towards explaining its duration and its bitterness.
Up until 1654 Imperial propaganda had portrayed recent Benacian history as a procession of victories against federalists, monarchists, separatists, particularists, and schismatics, extending the sway of the Golden Mango Throne over two thirds of the Benacian continent.
By the end of this period however the Imperial Republic was increasingly butting up against the hard limits of its ability to project power beyond the bounds of its recently grasped borders. The former Minarborian Empire proved to be a graveyard for Imperial armies and expeditions, the cost of containing its rogue flora and fauna bordering upon the prohibitive, constraining Shirekeep to recognise, tolerate, and even occasionally cooperate with the recalcitrant and schismatic Kalgachi, who successfully clung to their mountain fastness and the rumoured chthonic realms beneath.
Similarly the strained relationship with Jingdao, having snapped and unleashed the global war of unprecedented scale, ferocity, and duration, settled once more into stalemate with little yielded in the way of a decision for all the cost endured in terms of the blood and treasure squandered during four years of conflict.
Most egregiously the so-called "Enterprise of Keltia", a cynical attempt to plunder an entire continent, had degenerated into a wretched debacle or piracy, libertinage, and fratricidal infighting that saw the invasion fleet fall apart before it had even finished assembling in the Warring Isles. The much anticipated clash of arms with Nova England was in the end an exchange of missiles and a cycle of reciprocal raiding, scarcely distinguished from the Keltian Cod War which had preceded it.
The debacle sealed the fate of Steward Burgrave Zinkgraven, the architect of the aggressive policy in the west, and precluded his even contemplating standing for re-election. Zinkgraven's misfortune was to have been born into the provincial - Batavian - gentry. Without the protection of a distinguished bloodline or a connection to the great houses there was no shelter to be had when the military and corporate patrons of his regime withdrew their favour. Ultimately he was reduced to a peripheral figure, sheltering with the Sea-Reavers who were his creatures, feuding with unpaid Babkhi mercenaries, and skulking in the Warring Isles, contriving every means short of open defiance to avoid heeding the summons to return to Shirekeep and account for his actions.
Yet for all this Shireroth emerged from the ordeal with its sovereignty enhanced, its alliances in-tact, and its trading networks expanded. This being in contrast to a Jingdao wracked by internal dissent and dependent upon the economic muscle of the Pallisican states to keep it on its feet.
Benacia's "graveyard of empires"
The aftermath of the war proved to be a difficult time for all the great powers, and this was as true in Shireroth as it was elsewhere in the world. With Zinkgraven cut lose to the wind, the appetite for overseas adventures amongst the Imperial Republic's ruling elites rapidly drained away. Yet they found that the war had left its mark upon Benacia also. The great battles of annihilation fought in the Shirerithian and Jingdaoese portions of the old Batavia had upended the status quo which had existed in that part of the world since the Auspicious Occasion. Batavians, joined by deserters from both armies, had formed into columns of unhappy myriads in flight eastwards away from the senseless destruction which tore through the heartland of that former kingdom. Blundering in their desperation to escape the horrors of war, these refugees rushed headlong into the no less diverting terrors that awaited in the treacherous landscape where nature itself had been warped by a perverted science into new and hideous forms of lethality.
Shireroth and Kalgachia, the long time hegemons of the Inner Benacian ungoverned spaces, found that they were no-longer alone in the exercise of dominion. Kasterburg was the first to arise - its character, determined by its Montford founder, was conservative and militaristic. Whilst jealous of its sovereignty, there was kinship enough for a treaty of friendship and cooperation to be agreed upon. The Batavians who followed Vryheer Baerdemans were another matter. The suspected taint of the Jing laid heavy upon him and his, but while they skirmished ineffectually with the Yehudi of Nackholm, no-one paid them much mind.
This changed as a steadily strengthening Kasterburg reached out to Kalgachia and together coordinated the advance of their forces to establish a land corridor with mutually agreed upon frontiers. Kasterburg gained access to a new inland market whilst Kalgachia ended, for the moment, its waking nightmare of encirclement by Shireroth.
It would have been pleasant to record that Shireroth reacted to this modest initiative on the part of its junior neighbours with equanimity. It did not. Instead the legions mustered, the gravimetric tanks wobbled improbably skywards, and the relentless bomber formations made sortie after sortie to level any and every structure that gave even the least hint of being man-made. For the free peoples of Inner Benacia, the wretched survivors of Minarboria's fall, this was the end - extermination or slavery beckoned. Yet even as the armoured fists of an Imperial Republic gripped by one of its periodic fits of hubris pounded down upon Highbloom, Nackholm, and Stonetree, the free peoples - Yehudi, Laqi, Tellian, and Mishalanski - found with what might have been their dying breath, the will to fight on. At Stonetree they made their stand. Stood before a ruined mausoleum, known to posterity simply as the Dolmen, they swore their pact to restore peace to their lands or perish in the attempt. It was perhaps their fortune to be facing Lywallers, reluctant conscripts to a cause not of their own chosing, rather than the blood-inured Imperials of the regular army, but it was a closest run thing, and the siege lasted into the fifth day when the first contingents of Yehudi fighters arrived on the heights overlooking the ruined and beleaguered city. Their arrival had been completely unexpected, the concurrent assault upon Nackholm was meant to have transfixed them to await their deaths besides their own hearths whilst the cordon of Kalgachi and Kasterburger garrisons ought to have arrest their progress eastwards. Yet here they were, and their arrival threw the exhausted Lywallers into confusion and rout. The fight went out of the besiegers and their flight southwards was a massacre that ended only when the vengeful pursuing Laqi ran up against the blocking detachments of marshals thoughtfully put in place to deal with deserters.
For Shireroth the defeat was a humiliation, coming at the same time as fresh international condemnation of their reckless aggression, it seemed as though the perennial project of subjugating all of Benacia was set for yet another of its periodic pauses.
The surviving members of the so-called Free Communes, scarcely believing their luck, found that, after the storm had broken about their heads, they held field. It was now for them to decide upon what to do with their unexpected gain. To allow the land to revert to its native anarchy would put at risk all that they had, by such momentous sacrifice, sought to gain. Instead, recalling their pact before the dolmen, they swore solemn oaths to govern wisely and collectively. As improbable as it might have seemed a new polity was born. It was not alone.
Espying the main chance, Vryheer Baerdemans gathered the paltry forces available to him - a scant militia backed by farmsteaders and cattle drovers - and set out on a brisk night march for Nackholm. With the Yehudi self-defence groups either exterminated by the Shirerithian onslaught or drawn eastwards to the famous battle at Stonetree, Nackholm had been denuded of defenders. Threading his way between legionary pickets, Baerdemans and his followers, stole into the bombed out ruins of northern Nackholm virtually unopposed and therein raised their banner and proclaimed in the ruins the founding of a new capital and the establishment of a new nation. When Shirekeep belatedly realised what was afoot their fury was unbounded - but it was almost too late. In spite of seven days and seven nights of aerial bombardment the blue and orange banner remained firmly nailed to the shattered casemate of the Yabotinsky Fortress.
The Octavian Interlude
From the reign of Kaiser Dominus to the fall of Waldemar Zinkgraven, the Imperial Forces had enjoyed an almost unlimited independence and freedom of action, becoming almost a state within a state. Following the carnage of the 1654-1657 War and the ebbing of territorial expansion the latitude afforded to the militarist factions and their ideological fellow travellers by the Imperial Court began to become more circumscribed. In spite of dominating the Folksraad, the N&H Party and its Imperial Republican Party allies were unable to prevent the noble houses in the Landsraad from aligning to install the Count-Palatine of Kezan as Steward for a second term.
Collapse of the Reformist movement
With the death of the Steward in a terrorist outrage, followed not long afterwards by the unexplained disappearance of the Imperial Mother from public life, the Humanist and Reformist camps in the Landsraad appeared to be poised once more for a renewal of civil war as the year 1663 drew towards its close.
The election of the Duke of Calezi, a pragmatic reformer with a power base in the comparatively liberal state of Brookshire, as Steward helped to stabilise this affair before matters degenerated further. The Prince of Modan and the Simrani-Kalirion faction, preoccupied with establishing their rule over the former domain of Malarboria, were not interested in a destabilising conflict with Kezan - which in turn had silently made its point to its opponents. An atmosphere of relative calm was restored in the Landsraad and the measures proposed by the moderate Minister Jahanbani to improve and regularise the conditions of various categories of unfree persons enjoyed a measure of cross-party and cross-faction support.
For the reformist diehards however, it appeared that a pattern had been established whereby the deep state, which leftists increasing came to refer to as a stratocracy, continued to exercise an effective veto over any attempt to change the fundamentally illiberal and inegalitarian character of the Imperial Republic, as such continuing to participate in the political processes of a regressive and repressive regime would only serve to burnish it with a patina of legitimacy that it ill deserved.
Shireroth has been a multi-ethnic state for its entire existence and, since the decline of Cedrism in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, has also become multi-confessional.
Heaven laughs at us with contempt, whilst we labour in the dust and suffer through life in the name of their glory.—Anon., "Common Shirerithian Sayings"
Neofeudalism is a term used to describe the phenomena of collectivist-oligarchic rule that emerged in the Imperial Republic following the Auspicious Occasion of 1651, effectively replacing the fractious federative system of governance, where constitutional checks and balances were maintained by the entrenchment of the rights of states, with a new synthesis of familial, corporate and military power directed by numerous diffuse boards of control centrally coordinated by the Imperial Advisory Council, whose powers were further entrenched at the expense of those formerly held by the Kaiser, following the revision and reissue of the Charter in 1653.
As neofeudalism became more entrenched during the administration of Burgrave Zinkgraven the key ministries of state were handed to corporations to hold "in-commission". These corporations were in turn primarily owned by the surviving members of the ancient noble houses and the more recently ennobled minor gentry, the so-called untitled lords, to whom the privileges of citizenship, the prospect of a seat on the Landsraad for instance, accrued. This process made citizens stakeholders in the state but also held out to denizens the prospect of advancement through service as technocrats in the institutions of state and the corporate bodies.
The fate of the denizen is also instructive of the nature of the neofeudal society. Although elevation through service was an avenue of advancement for the able, those who, for whatever reason, were unable to sustain themselves through their own endeavour could voluntarily subordinate themselves by a declaration of submission whereby the denizen would become His Majesty's Loyal Subject and receive guaranteed protection and employment, whether from the state directly or through a noble house or corporation at the cost of surrendering theoretical liberty. Such a submission was by no means dishonourable, indeed all recruits to the ranks of the Imperial Forces by their nature became His Majesty's Loyal Subjects and gain status subsequently through promotion through the ranks.
By contrast Community Service Workers did indeed endure the conditions commonly associated with Old Feudalism. Originally the condemned survivors of the Storish community in Shireroth, the male population was viciously and systematically castrated (testing certain theories about the regenerative potential of so-called Vanakarls) and assigned to expropriate their guilt through labour in the mines, factories, farms and lumber yards of Benacia whilst the females of breeding age were distributed as comfort women throughout the armed forces. By these means, and through emigration and natural wastage, the storish population was systematically reduced over time, with active measures targeted against them scheduled to endure until the year 1752 AN. The perforce ethnically mixed off-spring of Community Service Workers were typically removed from the mother at birth, aside from their dubious ancestral culture, the vanafolk were assessed as possessing many genetically desirable traits, and made wards of the Kaiser. Male offspring in the first two generations would be castrated and returned to the Community Service Programme, females of desirable qualities would be adopted into noble households, and the remainder would be raised and educated at the expense of the state with the expectation that they would redeem the cost of their upkeep through work in various public institutions.
The origins of Shirerithian militarism can be traced as far back as the Jaris War (1503–1508 AN) but that conflict was most notable for the failure of the Shirerithian feudal host to effectively mobilise and exercise efficient command and control over the disparate yet quantitatively superior force which mustered to the banners to oppose the Babkhan-led Grand Commonwealth forces.
For the greater part of its history the Imperial Republic was noted for the fractiousness and rebelliousness of its nobility, and this even extended to the forces which the Imperial Government mustered in its own defence - to the extent that the Kaiser's own bodyguard became famous for its indiscipline and laxity occasioning the assassination of at least one Kaiser. For the greater part of the 16th Century, with the sole exception of the Imperial Navy, the quality and quantity of the Imperial Forces diminished appreciably over time as the old feudal structure gave way to a federal system where the emergent states had primary responsibility under the martial code for their own defence and security. Working in the Ministry of Military Affairs was consequently seen as a thankless and unrewarding task, frequently left to the most debased and inadequate functionaries available - including a blatant Jing double-agent and a dysfunctional revenant. Even the more than usually competent Balârak Âlaion would eventually succumb to insanity (and brassicosis) and perish miserably in an attempt to seize the Imperial throne.
What changed this situation was, after the loss of Kildare in 1617 and the humiliation of defeat at the hands of an over-mighty vassal in 1635, a growing movement to recover the diminished primacy of the metropolis over the provinces and to restore the Imperial Republic's position as a great power.
Beginning with the ministry of Thorgils Tarjeisson in 1636, a succession of MoMAs oversaw a period of massive expansion and rearmament in the Imperial Forces, the Martial Code was amended to establish an Imperial Army - ending the Kaiser's dependence upon state militias - and from 1646 onward the annual defence budget accounted for 40% of government expenditure. With this colossal expansion, defence contractors such as the ESB Group, Red Bear LLC, and RAS, achieved incomes that would have been unimaginable a decade earlier. Suitably engorged, these companies had no incentive to relinquish the teat of government expenditure and quickly came to an understanding with the political movements most sympathetic to their world view. In this manner a military-industrial complex was born that has sometimes been observed to be acting almost independently of the governing structures to which it was nominally subordinate. Between the Sxiro-Jingdaoese Confrontation and the Benacian Reconquest there continues to be no end to the justifications which can be found for continuing military expenditure at eye-watering levels, for the frontier will never be so secure that the occasion will never call for a punitive expedition. Taxation and Imperial highhandedness continues also to generate resentments amongst the populace, particularly amongst denizens (the limited franchise free populace who make up almost three quarters of the Shirerithian population), driving in turn a seemingly never ending cycle of provincial rebellion and societal unrest which the Imperial Forces seem to gamely regard as training opportunities during the lulls in the external cycle of great power warfare.
Main Article: Economy of Shireroth
In 1652 AN, the totality of all viable communications technologies operated within the Imperial Republic were consolidated into a single intranet based electronic system, the Benacian Data Network, a successor to the earlier Elwnet operated by the Elwynnese state dating back to the independence era. As such there are no domestic television services in the regularly understood sense of the term, no interface permitting connection to any wider global communications network, and the only radio stations in operation exist primarily for the purpose of broadcasting propaganda and electromagnetic interference into neighbouring states. In consequence the radio and microwave regions of the electromagnetic spectrum in the Benacian continent remain overwhelmingly the preserve of the Shirerithian Imperial Government and its favoured corporate partners, reserved for their use accordingly.
Both electronic and physical communication systems are under the control of the Imperial Postal Service. Residents and visitors to Shireroth must apply for a licence to send and receive correspondence.
Imperial Highways and Roads
It has often been said in jest that the condition of the roads in the Imperial Republic were what gave the greatest impetus to the discovery and commercialisation of gravimetric levitation.
The roads of Shireroth are generally considered to be poor in quality and maintenance, particularly the further away from the Eastern Benacian Core (Eliria-Ardashirshahr-Shirekeep-Musica) one goes. Such inter-state routes as do exist are however maintained to a reasonable standard by the Imperial Highways Commission (IHC). For the most part the roads that fall below the purview of the IHC tend to become the responsibility of whichever tier of local government is least unwilling to pick up the cost. This has resulted in a patchwork of non-standard metalled and unmetalled roads, punctuated at irregular yet frequent intervals by tollposts operated by a myriad of authorities with ever shakier legal remits. Along the backwoods roads, maintenance - which consists often of a chain-gang of community servants heaping and pounding earth before laying a crude layer of gravel - is paid for by extortionate tolls levelled by almost literal robber barons.
The concept of an integrated railway network collapsed altogether following the disintegration of the Imperial Republic into quasi-independent states during the early 1600s.
There have been periodic talks concerning the revival of the eastern Benacian inter-city services, whilst Steward Dravot championed the construction of a Trans-Benacian Railway to link Shireroth's conquests in the far west to the Imperial Metropolis. These projects ultimately failed owing to a lack of investment.
In the early 1660s the Trans-Benacian Railway, or Transben as it is sometimes affectionately known, has become a project championed by the King of Goldshire. The project however became mired in a myriad of disputes about costs, destinations, the routes to be taken or avoided, and the technologies to be utilised. As if this was not a sufficient impediment to progress, the Imperial Government subsequently became bogged down in factional fighting between Humanist and Ayreonists that blossomed into a civil war in shire:Elwynn.
Localised rail networks may still exist where a local authority, government agency, or corporation acted of their own initiative. Standardising the gauges of these local railways will be a major headache when integration and expansion does finally occur. The art of the railway timetable has been largely lost on Benacia, and trains tend to operate as almost as convoys departing on a given day rather than a regularly scheduled service. The services, siege trains as they are some times known, comprised of passenger carriages and cargo wagons lashed together to an armoured train sporting some antique artillery piece, provided with an armed escort of Imperial Marshals and Cudgellers. The reasons for these armed escorts vary - in Western Benacia they serve to ward off Batavian guerrillas, whilst in Central Benacia the armoured trains are meant to afford some measure of scant protection against the unwanted advances of the invariably ravenous or lust-maddened Tee-als, Southern Benacia has experienced a revival in Laqi brigandry, whilst trains travelling into southern Elwynn frequently run afoul of the Babkhi proclivity for home-brewing nitroglycerine.
The most recent new railway construction occurred in Goldshire during the late 1650s as the King of Goldshire, famously paranoid, emptied the treasuries of his realm to build a vast anti-invasion defensive wall along the entirety of his coastline. This major engineering feet, requiring the services of millions of his subjects, necessitated the construction of a series of railway lines running parallel to the course of the defensive barriers for the purposes of shipping construction materials, personnel, and stores, along its entire length.
Airports (aerodromes) are few, mostly reserved for citizens and visiting foreigners, the main example of which being Shirekeep-Foley Aerodrome, the main air hub for Shirekeep and the primary international airport in the Imperial Republic. Rather more common are the airship and gravship terminals (Lufthavens) which form the primary inter-city connection service in Eastern Benacia, based around the Goldshire-centric network maintained by Ryker Airships. Gravship services connect neutral Senya with the Imperial States of Elwynn and Goldshire. Following the end of the latest global conflict there is at last potential scope to contemplate reviving regular scheduled air services to destinations in Natopia, Constancia, Caputia, & Hoenn.
There has been some debate as to whether Shireroth's infamous gravtanks, approaching nearly 25 years in service in some instances, might be disarmed and retired into the business of hauling cargo. Such proposals run up against the famed reluctance of the Imperial Forces to relinquish any even vaguely serviceable equipment until the very moment that it literally falls apart.
The traditional port of disembarkation for foreigners is the free-port of Musica in Brookshire. Chartered river services, either to the airship terminal at Meisor or alternatively along the full length of the Red Elwynn, are the most efficient method of reaching the capital from there. In general, riverine and coastal shipping services are a cost efficient method of moving between the major cities.
The land borders of the Imperial Republic remain closed and under quarantine. The only exceptions are the international borders with Tellia (including the Tellian Mandate) and the Sxiro-Kalgachi Designated Exchanges Point on the common frontier. Unpleasant consequences attend upon those attempting to enter Shireroth overland from the ungoverned spaces of inner Benacia.
After smugglers, the most persistent violators of the Imperial Republic's strict border regime are the Voortrekkers, Batavians moving out of Imperial territory into the ungoverned spaces. Although generally tolerated, politely but firmly turned around by the Imperial Marshals if caught in the act of staging an illegal crossing, since relations or at the very least dialogue was established with Kasterburg and the Batavian national movement, the foolhardly Voortrekkers who had passed through the territory of the Military Government of Westpoint in an effort to reach the Fort Ermingander pocket were made a severe example of after their presence was discovered.
Education and academia
No formal universal education system exists in the Imperial Republic, leaving education to be the responsibility of the Imperial States, Imperial Dominions, local governments, guilds, private institutions and charitable enterprises. The level of provision, and the adequacy of education provided, can vary dramatically from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, depending on the capacity and initiative of the myriad of governing entities in the Imperial Republic's sprawling neo-feudal edifice.
In the year 1663 it was been estimated that there were 215.5 million Shirerithians between the ages of 5 and 15 (approximately 38% of the population) undergoing or expected to undergo an education.
- Apprenticeships: 109.2 million
- Not in Education, Employment or Training: 50 million
- Charitable/Religious Schools: 26.9 million
- Local Authority Schools: 15.7 million
- Guild Schools: 9.2 million
- Military & Community Service Schools: 4.50 million
The various apprenticeship schemes operated in Shireroth vary in scale from employment with the local village baker or cobbler all the way up to the National Service scheme in Goldshire, reputedly the largest apprenticeship programme in Benacia if not in all of Micras, which combines five years of military service (ages 17–22) and rigorous schooling in Praeta, the revived language of empire and faith without which societal and career advancement in the modern Imperial Republic is increasingly impossible.
Although packs of feral urchins had been one of the great plagues of Benacia for centuries, the realisation that up to fifty million children were avoiding schooling, apprenticeships, or labour altogether, constituted a great scandal, shocking to National-Humanists and Reformists alike. Proposals for the establishment of a continent wide network of Foundation Schools, paid for by a poll tax levied upon denizens, were swiftly advanced to the Imperial Advisory Council in the 11th month of 1663.
Paradoxically, Shireroth was well served with an abundant, perhaps almost excessive, number of universities, including a great number established in Elwynn. Alongside the Elwynnese institutions the Metzler University in shire:Shirekeep and the University of Goldshire in Wendor are the foremost, although the Imperial Academy and the Royal University of Chryste are also considered to be rising institutions. It has been said by some that the comparative vibrancy of Shirerithian higher education owed more to the vanity of its rulers, and their desire for honorary degrees, than to their farsightedness or philanthropic spirit.
In spite of once being home to reputable academic institutions, the cities of Nackholm, Sansabury and &zeter, are presently without universities on account of the disasters which befell Inner Benacia during its recent history. In spite of this, the ruins continue to attract teams of academics in their scores, and it is likely that these congregations of enquiring minds, combined with a dollop of state and corporate patronage, may yet lead to a revival of academia in what is now the State of Modan.
Literacy rates vary dramatically according to class, race, and gender, but by the barest universal measurement - being able to write their own name and recite from text a verse in praise of the Kaiser - 77% of male denizens, along with 69% of their female counterparts, are defined as "literate" by the Ministry of the Interior.
The Shirerithian population is distributed unevenly into the following categories: 1% citizens, 82% denizens, 9% in loyal subjecthood, and 11% in community servitude.
By subdivision these are distributed as follows:
|Subdivision||Jurisdiction||Citizens||Denizens||Loyal Subjects||Community Servitors||TOTAL|
|Cimmeria with Illumination||ELW||76,863||9,877,991||0||0||9,954,854|
|Mil Gov Oleslaad||MGO||2,167||336,137||17,280||5,291,074||5,646,658|
|Mil Gov Westpoint||MGW||9,037||981,238||51,842||4,718,037||5,760,154|
|Musica with Delta||BRK||88,242||8,019,187||817,010||1,402,026||10,326,465|
|Z and Azarea||BRK||4,017||340,999||610,100||410,175||1,365,291|
It should be noted that Shireroth, unusually for an industrialised empire, manages to combine the advantages of a high birth rate with a high mortality rate, particularly amongst the lower orders. Its system of governance, which limits the democratic rights of the majority of the population to participation in the lower tiers of local government and voting for the largely powerless Folksraad, avoids the welfare trap which liberal democratic societies are so often prone to falling into. There are those who would maintain that this situation, which in many other societies might be regarded as calamitous, is setting the scene for an outbreak of revolutionary violence. Sages however note that "where people toil from sunrise to sunset for a bare living, they nurse no grievances and dream no dreams". In spite of there being almost always an uprising or rebellion ongoing somewhere in Shireroth, the conditions for a revolutionary upheaval remains unfulfilled so long as the military, backed by the nobility and corporations united in self-interest, remains overwhelmingly powerful.
The Shirerithian societal model is driven by a low marriage age - the age of majority is 15 years, and a high rate of fertility within marriage. The burden of caring for the elderly, particularly those who lack the means to pay for their own upkeep, falls primarily on families, religious communities, and those local governments which feel inclined or obliged to make provision. Provision for the elderly can vary from dedicated care homes to workhouses where the decrepit earn their daily bread and tea through picking strands of hemp and other menial tasks. A study of a cohort of denizens taken in 1662 on the island of Amity showed that out of 100 boys born in 1600 AN, 85 survived to 22, 74 to 32, 58 to 42, 47 to 52 and 36 to 62. For girls the corresponding percentages were 73, 54, 47, 39 and 28.
Aside from the notorious situation in Shirekeep during the decades following the "Green Mortality" of 1602, most urban population centres have benefited from the introduction of modern or at least quasi-modern sanitation systems over the course of the 17th Century. For this reason, cholera and typhoid fever, the curses of Benacia during the 15th and 16th Centuries, have largely abated.