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Ser Meryn Frey

Only 1 million people in the North?

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In this episode Jon asked Tyrion how many people lived there (King's Landing), and Tyrion answered "one million". Then Jon said that that's more than the entire North's population.

First of all: before it was 500 000, according to Jaime. Has the population grown so much in 17 years?

Secondly: how is this possible? I know it's sparsely populated, but it's still huge. Shouldn't it be much more?

 

best regards

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Part of the sloppy world building and making the North a bit too big. Heck, making the entire Westeros too big and too sparsely populated. The "in universe" explanation are long tough winters, though that should promote creattion of industry and concentrating population a bit more (industry: If you mine coal, you can stay warmer. If you mine ores, you can control gold and build and sell weapons - in return for food. If you have too many young mouths to feed, send the boys overseas - establish mercenary companies and as a result have income going from there (and having seasoned veterans returning back).

Heck, with medieval technology the only bridge on Trident is the Twins? (and they are a castle, not a city - compare with, say, Regensburg or Prague). Moat Cailin in disrepair? While it would be the ideal toll collecting point? And so on...

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GRRM has only given a few firm numbers, but over in the book forums a bunch of people have tried to estimate the sizes of each realm from the info we do have in the books, SSMs, etc. Usually people start with Elio's estimates based on each region being able to support about 1% of its population as soldiers for an extended period (which gives 4M for the North in the books), but beyond that nobody can agree on anything, and especially for the North, where even the minimal information we have is conflicting.

And of course that's the books, not the show. In the books, we know that KL has just over 500K people (which must be pretty accurate because LF has just completed a refugee census for tax purposes), but in the show, it's 1M.

So, it's definitely possible that the North is, say, 2.5M in the books, but 0.9M in the show. That's not a massive difference.

And it's also possible that the North is actually well over 2M in the show, but Jon just doesn't know. London somehow managed to count over 125K citizens in the 14th century when they only had 80K, which is an error on almost the same scale, and that's just for a city, not a sprawling realm with multiple levels of feudal hierarchy in the way. (I'll bet nobody's ever tried to conduct a census of the mountain tribes or the crannogmen; I wouldn't be surprised if Roose Bolton fudges his numbers to change the tax rates; etc.)

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7 minutes ago, Runaway Penguin said:

Heck, with medieval technology the only bridge on Trident is the Twins? (and they are a castle, not a city - compare with, say, Regensburg or Prague). Moat Cailin in disrepair? While it would be the ideal toll collecting point? And so on...

Also, they've had that late-medieval technology for millennia. 17th century ships (minus cannon) share the oceans with 3rd century ships, and you see similar things with siege weapons and just about everything else.

A few years ago, I tried to fanwank up a way that this could make sense if there were some magical force keeping technology stagnant during Valyria's reign, but people shot holes in most of the details, so I think the only real explanation is that GRRM didn't think it through.

In fact, he said early on that part of the reason for using War-of-the-Roses England with a few specific changes was that he didn't want to get caught up in a whole bunch of world building that was irrelevant to his story. That obviously changed at some point—he clearly loves doing stuff like the pre-Fire and Ice novellas and WoIaF—but he'd already written himself into a few corners by then.

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9 minutes ago, Runaway Penguin said:

Heck, with medieval technology the only bridge on Trident is the Twins? (and they are a castle, not a city - compare with, say, Regensburg or Prague).

Do you have many people building on your property?  It would be something you'd probably put a stop to right?  Particularly if you had an army.  

If you were higher on the totem pole, like Frey's liege lord, you probably got a percentage of whatever tolls the Freys charged so you let it happen. 

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To cut a long story short, the Show made it up, and its nonsense. The North has multiple millions of people. Elio estimates 4m, but it is potentially even higher than that, considering that logistical challenges would mean the North raises a smaller percentage of its population to arms than the southron kingdoms do.

For the RPG game that George semi-officially endorsed, the entire Crownlands could raise 10,000-15,000 troops. The Crownlands includes King's Landing. The North, in turn, could raise 45,000 troops.

Martin has also directly confirmed that the North can raise as large an army as the Vale.

A good approach is to totally ignore any numbers quoted by the Show. They changed the Lannister army in the War of the Five Kings from 35,000 to 60,000. They made the Tyrells less numerous than the Lannisters. They have people and even whole armies teleporting seemingly instantly from one side of Westeros to the other, and generally they just don't have a good grasp on size, scale, timelines, army sizes and population numbers.

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Agreed with @Free Northman Reborn.

The North can muster about 45,000 troops. When you consider the relative infertility of their land, as well as the vast distances between settlements (since they seem to have an above-average level of small communes, rather than towns and only one city), it would take them a greater population to raise 45,000 than it would take the Vale. It's worth pointing out that the Vale is also specified as a fertile region.

The numbers are difficult to estimate, but since historical population and sociological studies is one of my specialities from my research that I do for work (#1 research tip: Don't do it, it takes too much time!), I would very loosely estimate the North's population as:

45,000 people multiplied by 100 as a loose baseline of how much they could support on a typical feudal food surplus.

Multiplied by 1.1, due to the infertility of their cold climate.

Multiplied by 1.05 due to known frequent raiding on their coastal regions by the Iron Islands (this was a very common cause for losing surpluses).

EDIT: Those are additive multiplications, so the baseline is multiplied by 1.15, not each figure in turn.

That would give a population of about 5.1 to 5.2 million (I only go to 2 significant figures).

 

As an aside, when I used the novels within my study once for the fun of it, I also did an ethnic study.

Typical conquests usually leave less than 10% of an Indigenous population alive due to disease and migration over time. Migration also occurs between different regions. For instance, since the North speaks Andal, not the Old Tongue, for the most part then it is clear that there have been great Andal migrations into their population.

The Brackens and Blackwoods boast "First Men" blood, as do areas of Dorne, who are mostly Rhoynish. However, there's no indication that the Rhoyner moved far beyond the coast in the same way the Andals did.

So, as a rough guide whose full data I can't be bothered writing out in full, I estimated the ethnic mix of Westeros to be:

80% Andal 17% First Men 2% Rhoynar (they don't add to 100 as I've rounded to only 2 significant figures).

That's in a population of what I estimated as about 36 million.

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12 minutes ago, Yukle said:

Agreed with @Free Northman Reborn.

The North can muster about 45,000 troops. When you consider the relative infertility of their land, as well as the vast distances between settlements (since they seem to have an above-average level of small communes, rather than towns and only one city), it would take them a greater population to raise 45,000 than it would take the Vale. It's worth pointing out that the Vale is also specified as a fertile region.

The numbers are difficult to estimate, but since historical population and sociological studies is one of my specialities from my research that I do for work (#1 research tip: Don't do it, it takes too much time!), I would very loosely estimate the North's population as:

45,000 people multiplied by 100 as a loose baseline of how much they could support on a typical feudal food surplus.

Multiplied by 1.1, due to the infertility of their cold climate.

Multiplied by 1.05 due to known frequent raiding on their coastal regions by the Iron Islands (this was a very common cause for losing surpluses).

EDIT: Those are additive multiplications, so the baseline is multiplied by 1.15, not each figure in turn.

That would give a population of about 5.1 to 5.2 million (I only go to 2 significant figures).

 

As an aside, when I used the novels within my study once for the fun of it, I also did an ethnic study.

Typical conquests usually leave less than 10% of an Indigenous population alive due to disease and migration over time. Migration also occurs between different regions. For instance, since the North speaks Andal, not the Old Tongue, for the most part then it is clear that there have been great Andal migrations into their population.

The Brackens and Blackwoods boast "First Men" blood, as do areas of Dorne, who are mostly Rhoynish. However, there's no indication that the Rhoyner moved far beyond the coast in the same way the Andals did.

So, as a rough guide whose full data I can't be bothered writing out in full, I estimated the ethnic mix of Westeros to be:

80% Andal 17% First Men 2% Rhoynar (they don't add to 100 as I've rounded to only 2 significant figures).

That's in a population of what I estimated as about 36 million.

Wow, thanks for the very elaborated answer!

15 hours ago, falcotron said:

GRRM has only given a few firm numbers, but over in the book forums a bunch of people have tried to estimate the sizes of each realm from the info we do have in the books, SSMs, etc. Usually people start with Elio's estimates based on each region being able to support about 1% of its population as soldiers for an extended period (which gives 4M for the North in the books), but beyond that nobody can agree on anything, and especially for the North, where even the minimal information we have is conflicting.

And of course that's the books, not the show. In the books, we know that KL has just over 500K people (which must be pretty accurate because LF has just completed a refugee census for tax purposes), but in the show, it's 1M.

So, it's definitely possible that the North is, say, 2.5M in the books, but 0.9M in the show. That's not a massive difference.

And it's also possible that the North is actually well over 2M in the show, but Jon just doesn't know. London somehow managed to count over 125K citizens in the 14th century when they only had 80K, which is an error on almost the same scale, and that's just for a city, not a sprawling realm with multiple levels of feudal hierarchy in the way. (I'll bet nobody's ever tried to conduct a census of the mountain tribes or the crannogmen; I wouldn't be surprised if Roose Bolton fudges his numbers to change the tax rates; etc.)

Err .... 2.5 M vs 0.9 M is a huge difference. 2.5 is more than 150 % more than 0.9.

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1 hour ago, Yukle said:

Agreed with @Free Northman Reborn.

The North can muster about 45,000 troops. When you consider the relative infertility of their land, as well as the vast distances between settlements (since they seem to have an above-average level of small communes, rather than towns and only one city), it would take them a greater population to raise 45,000 than it would take the Vale. It's worth pointing out that the Vale is also specified as a fertile region.

The numbers are difficult to estimate, but since historical population and sociological studies is one of my specialities from my research that I do for work (#1 research tip: Don't do it, it takes too much time!), I would very loosely estimate the North's population as:

45,000 people multiplied by 100 as a loose baseline of how much they could support on a typical feudal food surplus.

Multiplied by 1.1, due to the infertility of their cold climate.

Multiplied by 1.05 due to known frequent raiding on their coastal regions by the Iron Islands (this was a very common cause for losing surpluses).

EDIT: Those are additive multiplications, so the baseline is multiplied by 1.15, not each figure in turn.

That would give a population of about 5.1 to 5.2 million (I only go to 2 significant figures).

 

As an aside, when I used the novels within my study once for the fun of it, I also did an ethnic study.

Typical conquests usually leave less than 10% of an Indigenous population alive due to disease and migration over time. Migration also occurs between different regions. For instance, since the North speaks Andal, not the Old Tongue, for the most part then it is clear that there have been great Andal migrations into their population.

The Brackens and Blackwoods boast "First Men" blood, as do areas of Dorne, who are mostly Rhoynish. However, there's no indication that the Rhoyner moved far beyond the coast in the same way the Andals did.

So, as a rough guide whose full data I can't be bothered writing out in full, I estimated the ethnic mix of Westeros to be:

80% Andal 17% First Men 2% Rhoynar (they don't add to 100 as I've rounded to only 2 significant figures).

That's in a population of what I estimated as about 36 million.

Very interesting. I thoroughly enjoyed your post. Never seen it analyzed quite like that before.

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One of the things tht bothered me the most about this last episode.

The North must have around 4-5 million people living in it.

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2 minutes ago, Dragonslack said:

Wildlings included?

Massive war losses included?

Swamps and frost deserts included?

Wildlings number about 100k.

Northern war losses amounted to 16k of Robb's 20k men in the Riverlands, and if you really want to aim high, maybe another 4k in the North,

There are no frost deserts in the North. In fact, there are no frost deserts for about 500 miles North of the Wall either, until you get to the northern edge of the Haunted Forest.

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23 hours ago, Lurid Jester said:

Do you have many people building on your property?  It would be something you'd probably put a stop to right?  Particularly if you had an army.  

If you were higher on the totem pole, like Frey's liege lord, you probably got a percentage of whatever tolls the Freys charged so you let it happen. 

That is not how it worked in the Medieval times. That is not how it would work for sane lords of Trident. Any liege lord would want to break monopoly. Heck, the Targaryens at the least would. Build a bridge at Riverrun. Build a bridge downstream around the Ruby ford to enhance the existing trade route. 

And why would you do this? Because every ford would anyway have a sizable town. Sizable town with extra privileges from the liege lord and not likely tied to one noble family - and such city would easily be a force to be reckoned with and liege lord would not like to screw them up for the sake of... Well, for the sake of his potential rival. That is why cities got often Royal privileges (or were even founded by the Crown, often against wishes of local nobility). Since the Tullys saw the Freys as dangerous upstarts and kinda rivals, it would be only logical to try to undercut them - and would be pretty easy to get the Iron Throne on their side by promising to pay part of tolls there. Heck, most market towns would invest in building bridges (toll bridges) primarily in the city (as cities were usually built on streams) and then on approaches - and good ruler would support that as that would pit cities against feudals for his benefit AND would bring him tolls and even rapid movement of his army.

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2 hours ago, Free Northman Reborn said:

Wildlings number about 100k.

When I extrapolated their size, it was really hard. But there are precedents from ancient history about calculating an entire civilisation's size. The Suebi people of ancient Germania tried to emigrate an entire civilisation at the same time, for instance.

Generally the very old don't move with the rest of the population, and there are always those who refuse to budge (for a variety of reasons) as well as those who can't move easily, or get lost.

Assuming that "100,000" is an accurate baseline, not a stab in the dark (which is unlikely), but assuming it is, then the Free Folk would likely number about 120,000. Of those, you would expect between 1/4 to 1/3 not to survive the migration, and 20,000 or so would never have left (in this instance, you would assume they are now not only dead, but undead).

 

Maybe I'll do a write-up summarising my estimates.

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4 hours ago, Dragonslack said:

Wildlings included?

Massive war losses included?

Swamps and frost deserts included?

Wildlings, yes, war losses no, swamps and frost yes.

War's biggest impact during such period was usually the aftermath. Having food reserves used up to feed soldiers, as well as the fact that food was often burnt as a war technique means that the years following a war are when the main deaths usually happen.

There's no real-life equivalent to this because winters in Westeros can last more than one year. A winter following a war would generally lead to famine which could cost as much as 5% of the population, which would often continue to happen for the next few years as the ability to once again produce a surplus is slowly rebuilt. Since you cannot replenish your food reserves until the next summer's harvest season, I don't know how Westeros can survive any war.

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By the way, IMO, Martin actually fucked up with his numbers here. Westeros must have a population of around 40-45 million people, which is half of what Europe had before the Black Death.

Westeros is, at least, 3 times larger than Europe. So Westeros population density must be insanely low, and almost impossible.

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Well it falls under the same folder as having Dothraki a credible military force :)Rule of cool. Martin himself admitted he just shot the dimensions of the wall off the hip, not thinking about the implications... Which is how we got a 700 feet tall obstacle (which btw would have drastically influenced the climate in the Gift). Same goes for distances. On the other hand the nitty gritty of cities and roads... Is so boring :) 

Heck even the long winters are iffy. Have a winter lasting for a year in the North and saving up the last harvest would not help you.

 

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