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The Coconut God

Of army sizes and agriculture: a rebuttal of Westeros's 40 million population estimate

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On 8/28/2019 at 7:35 AM, Lord Varys said:

The fact that there are ruins and wilderness in even as crowded a place as the Riverlands and the Reach (nobody has cut down Wat's Wood to plant crops there) strongly indicates that population can still grow - and that the people were not yet able to cut down the forests to cultivate the land.

Just a quick comment, but medieval socities would often intentionally cultivate forests, and most forests in medieval england especially were heavily managed for building materials and firewood.  A forest wouldn't just be cut down for agiculture purposes, because it was either communally owned, or owned by the local Lord.  There would be forest workers keeping people from taking too much or the wrong trees.  And of course hunting would be restricted to the owner.

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@Werthead

It would be up to George to add substance to his long feudal hierarchy down to the five friends. In a sense, TSS does that, but the hierarchy there is not long. We have King Daeron II > Lord Leo Tyrell > Lord X Rowan > Lady Rohanne Webber > hypothetical landed knights sworn to Coldmoat (Ser Eustace would be a landed knight sworn directly to Goldengrove).

That is not that long a hierarchy.

There is also the fact of historically developed feudal framework to be considered. Those were originally Seven Kingdoms, and before that even more. Different kingdoms and regions would have had different feudal hierarchies, different ways to organize themselves, etc., and this feudal tapestry was never unified (the laws were, but the feudal stuff was confirmed as it were by Aegon I and his successors).

This means there certainly can be regions were there is a strict feudal hierarchy with a lot of levels down to 'the five friends' and another region where the feudal hierarchy is less complicated and much flatter. And we have examples for this - for instance, the Northern clansmen are sworn directly to Winterfell, there are no lords or proper petty lords between them. The same would go for landed knights sworn directly to House Targaryen in the Crownlands and the Narrow Sea (Dragonstonian petty nobility) or the people from Crackclaw Point.

Another hint in that direction is the fact that Tullys are set apart from the other great houses insofar as the military strength and wealth is concerned - the lands they directly control are smaller than those of their own bannermen. If this is significant - and Gyldayn says it is - this means the lands the Starks, Tyrells, Lannisters, Arryns, etc. control directly are larger than those of their most powerful bannermen. Which I interpret as there being vast tracts of land in the North, the Vale, the West, etc. which are more or less directly under the control of the ruling houses, in the sense that there are lands (like those of the clansmen in the North, say) which are handed out directly to peasants and landed knights, circumventing a long feudal hierarchy for those domains.

Because if 'the Stark lands' or 'the Tyrell lands' were basically controlled by those houses through their (most) powerful bannermen then there wouldn't be any difference between the Tullys and the others insofar as power is concerned. But there is.

Insofar as the numbers of lords are concerned I certainly agree with you that there must be a lot more than have been mentioned, especially in those regions we have not visited yet but not only there. But it seems we know at least all the significant (i.e. really great) houses in the North and the Riverlands - and perhaps also those of Dorne and the Iron Islands. In the West, the Vale (FaB gave us the completely unknown Craynes as a significant house in the Vale), and the Stormlands there is still significant potential for additions. On lesser levels there are, of course, many voids that can be filled (FaB also made it clear that there are landed knights with their own domains on Driftmark and Dragonstone).

The fact that FaB constantly mentions known castles, towns, and houses reinforces the fact that we basically know most of the really significant houses by now. If the main series had, say, given us only half or two thirds of the most significant houses then one would expect that a history covering nearly 150 years would have at least mentioned the missing half/third. Pretty telling in this regard are the places Jaehaerys I visited during his many progresses or the places Aegon III was supposed to visit during the cancelled progress - there were no new castles/houses among those.

There are some such - the Stauntons spring to mind, and to a lesser degree even the Masseys and the Velaryons and Celtigars - but not all that many.

7 hours ago, The Coconut God said:

@Lord Varys

Excellent comment overall.

The only (admittedly dodgy) explanation I can think of for not having winter supplies in King's Landing is a fear that such large quantities of food in a single place run the risk of being ruined by the higher concentration of pests, contamination from sewage, cellars flooding due to the city being located between a river and the sea, etc.

Ser Tyland Lannister built some storehouses - even if the great kings of the past had overlooked something as vital as this (completely unlikely) then they would have been there after the Dance. And it makes no sense for the capital of the Seven Kingdoms to not have their own winter provisions. The Red Keep itself should have massive food stores beneath the castle to help ensure the king and his court get enough food should there be a food shortage in winter.

Quote

@Werthead

No, there is a hierarchy of the nobility in Westeros, even though they're all called lords and it can get a bit confusing.

You make a correct point in pointing out that it is insane to assume that a guy in a castle can rule giant tracts of lands the size of the Glover or Karstark lands without a proper bureaucracy, but it is certainly possible that there are many levels in the feudal hierarchy beneath those big fish we have not yet met.

This whole thing also connects to the whole question of the status of most of the smallfolk. I had a discussion with @Ran some time ago about how free the peasants are. There are yeomen mentioned in the Riverlands (in TMK) so it is clear there free peasantry at least in that region (and that sort of fits well with influential and wealthy smallfolk like the Heddles) but the way our good Ser Eustace treats his smallfolk (and, sadly, also the way George portrays them) strongly indicate these particular smallfolk are closer to serfs than to free peasants.

How beholden are the various groups of smallfolk to military service? And to whom are free peasants who hold their lands directly from the great lord of the region (presumably a lot of smallfolk in those regions directly controlled by Winterfell, Highgarden, Casterly Rock/Lannisport, etc.) actually beholden? Presumably the lords of those regions directly, not indirectly through a succession of landed knights, petty lords, etc. And how differ your obligations to the landed knight of your region in comparison to your lord (who is the only one who can sit in judgment over you) and in comparison to military service (the latter was, in real world history, not a privilege the landlord could demand of his tenant).

7 hours ago, Free Northman Reborn said:

I note again. In Westeros it should be MORE difficult to raise armies than in the real medieval Europe, due to the larger distances over which the mobilization has to occur. Not LESS difficult. That distance penalty is removed when you only have to gather men from the three villages around your keep, as in the case of Ser Eustace.

The raising as such shouldn't be a problem if it is done the way Ser Eustace does. If there are, in the end, always men like Ser Eustace at the lowest feudal tier then it would be remarkably easy for them to raise those men, wouldn't it?

Getting a Northern army to Dorne would still be a logistical nightmare, of course, but the raising of the troops as such shouldn't difficult. And it is clear that Ser Eustace does not demand that only 1% of his able-bodied peasants show.

As for the winter ravens:

Here the issue should be number of white ravens the Citadel actually can feed and maintain - which might actually be lower than the total number of maesters in service of lords and landed knights. Then one imagines that 300 *important* castles, cities, and towns would be chosen.

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14 minutes ago, argonak said:

Just a quick comment, but medieval socities would often intentionally cultivate forests, and most forests in medieval england especially were heavily managed for building materials and firewood.  A forest wouldn't just be cut down for agiculture purposes, because it was either communally owned, or owned by the local Lord.  There would be forest workers keeping people from taking too much or the wrong trees.  And of course hunting would be restricted to the owner.

Sure, but if the raw demand for more cultivated land would demand the cutting down of forests it would be done - as it was done to the primeval forest of Westeros in the past when the First Men took the land from the Children.

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2 minutes ago, Lord Varys said:

As for the winter ravens:

Here the issue should be number of white ravens the Citadel actually can feed and maintain - which might actually be lower than the total number of maesters in service of lords and landed knights. Then one imagines that 300 *important* castles, cities, and towns would be chosen.

One also imagines it is redundant to send a raven to two castles five (or even thirty) miles apart, you'd send them to the more important locations and let the information disseminate outwards.

 

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16 minutes ago, Werthead said:

This is not helped by the various maps sticking Deepwood Motte in the wrong place (it should be 15 miles from the sea, some of the maps stick it a hundred miles or more inland).

On my current Westeros over-map project (which puts the Known World map on a 10,000-pixel-wide image), the length of the enlarged Wall (from Lands of Ice and Fire), Westwatch to Eastwatch, is approximately 393 pixels. However, if you follow the Wall in detail (every curve and wriggle), it's more like 410 pixels, and we don't know what counts as the 300 mile figure. The distance from Deepwood's real position to Winterfell is 398 pixels. However, the north-south distance from Castle Black to the southernmost point on the Dornish shore is 3,482 pixels, which means the 3,000 mile figure will have to be reconsidered.

If we average 400 pixels = 300 miles, then the total length of the Seven Kingdoms becomes 2,611.5 miles, which is a significant shift from the previous figure (we lose 400 miles).

This also makes the total width of the South of Westeros as about 1,263 miles (1,684 pixels) which does match the figure given in AFFC (400 leagues) a lot better.

For some reason I always had a North-South distance of 2700 miles in my head. Not sure if that was based on my original attempt to use a ruler in one of my actual book copies to measure the number of Wall lengths that fit between Castle Black and Dorne. Seems like it came to around 9 and not 10.

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Posted (edited)

Stressing the "land mass does not equal population density" again... just take a look at this electoral map from the last Presidential election. Note how many more states are red and the number of electoral judges per state. The number coincides with population density. Red states such as Texas, Montana, and Wyoming are huge in area, but very low in population. Now note Nebraska, Kansas, and Iowa. Those three states (and Minnesota) have huge tracts of farmland. This is where the big grain farmers live - fields of corn, soybeans, and wheat, but very few people.

Edited by Feather Crystal

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1 hour ago, Free Northman Reborn said:

The Reach is more fertile than France and about twice France’s size. And has a city much larger than medieval Paris. And yet you want to give it as little as a tenth of France’s medieval population density?

I think the answer is yes. I'm convinced, too.

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1 minute ago, Feather Crystal said:

Stressing the "land mass = population density" again... just take a look at this electoral map from the last Presidential election. Note how many more states are red and the number of electoral judges per state. The number coincides with population density. Red states such as Texas, Montana, and Wyoming are huge in area, but very low in population. Now note Nebraska, Kansas, and Iowa. Those three states (and Minnesota) have huge tracts of farmland. This is where the big grain farmers live - fields of corn, soybeans, and wheat, but very few people.

Medieval societies were agrarian. The more food a land could produce the more people it had. That’s why the Reach is the most populous of the Seven Kingdoms.

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8 minutes ago, Free Northman Reborn said:

Medieval societies were agrarian. The more food a land could produce the more people it had. That’s why the Reach is the most populous of the Seven Kingdoms.

I doubt it's twice the size of France. According to the Land's map it doesn't look much wider than 300 miles. France is close to 600 miles. 

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14 minutes ago, Feather Crystal said:

I doubt it's twice the size of France. According to the Land's map it doesn't look much wider than 300 miles. France is close to 600 miles. 

The Reach is 1,200 miles across on its longest axis (from the headwaters of the Mander to the Arbor). From the ocean to the borders of the Stormlands it is around 800 miles at its widest and 600 miles from the Red Mountains to the Blackwater Rush, with a significant southerly extension west of the Red Mountains.

Without the islands and the southward extension, the Reach is 480,000 square miles, compared to France's 247,000 square miles. With those extensions, it'll be quite a bit more. So yes, certainly in the ballpark of being twice the size of France.

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It's worth noting that these are issues with the LoIaF map, which did not exist when George wrote most of the series. Up to its release, he used his own map for all measurements. 

 

I know they now George is likely to use the LoIaF map for his measurements, but I'm pretty sure he won't make retroactive adjustments to past texts to align with the new map.

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Posted (edited)
38 minutes ago, Ran said:

It's worth noting that these are issues with the LoIaF map, which did not exist when George wrote most of the series. Up to its release, he used his own map for all measurements. 

I know they now George is likely to use the LoIaF map for his measurements, but I'm pretty sure he won't make retroactive adjustments to past texts to align with the new map.

I don't think it's really an issue. Looking at the LoIaF map, it backs up the width given in AFFC and it also re-confirms the Deepwood-Winterfell distance, and is compatible with the length of the Wall. The only issue is changing somewhat the total length of Westeros, but given that George never gave the 3,000 mile distance at all in the books, it is not particularly germane.

It just means recalculating some fan distances for things, but tbh anything that makes Westeros somewhat smaller without going overboard is fine by me.

Edited by Werthead

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Werthead said:

The Reach is 1,200 miles across on its longest axis (from the headwaters of the Mander to the Arbor). From the ocean to the borders of the Stormlands it is around 800 miles at its widest and 600 miles from the Red Mountains to the Blackwater Rush, with a significant southerly extension west of the Red Mountains.

Without the islands and the southward extension, the Reach is 480,000 square miles, compared to France's 247,000 square miles. With those extensions, it'll be quite a bit more. So yes, certainly in the ballpark of being twice the size of France.

Headwaters to the Arbor? Are you counting the Redwyne Straight in your calculations? My methods may be overly simplistic, but I'm using a ruler with the Wall as my key (2.5 in = 300 miles). Diagonally, the Sunset Sea to the Blackwater Rush is the longest continental stretch of the Reach - 7.5 inches or 900 miles.

Breaking the Reach into sections I measured an irregular quadrilateral marking straight lines from Ashford to Red Lake (360 miles), Red Lake to the Blackwater (420 miles), the plain that runs along the Blackwater between the two mountainous areas (180 miles, and the Blackwater back to Ashford (360 miles).

I then divided that area into two rectangles. I'm sure someone more savvy than me at this will correct me, but one triangle was 360 x 420 x 420. Using the 360 as the base, the height of the triangle is also 360. 360 x 360 = 129,600, divide that amount by 2 and that one section is 64,800 square miles. The other triangle is smaller - 420 x 180 x 360. 180 would be the base and 360 is the height again. 180 x 360 = 64,800, divide that by 2 and the smaller triangle is 32,400 square miles. Add them together and the middle area of the Reach is 97,200 square miles.

 

Edited by Feather Crystal

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1 hour ago, Feather Crystal said:

Stressing the "land mass does not equal population density" again... just take a look at this electoral map from the last Presidential election. Note how many more states are red and the number of electoral judges per state. The number coincides with population density. Red states such as Texas, Montana, and Wyoming are huge in area, but very low in population. Now note Nebraska, Kansas, and Iowa. Those three states (and Minnesota) have huge tracts of farmland. This is where the big grain farmers live - fields of corn, soybeans, and wheat, but very few people.

In medieval societies it does. Today we can get away with food being grown dozens, hundreds or thousands of miles away due to transportation technology. But in medieval societies, unless you had a big river and farmland spread over it, you had to use food to get food to the city. Which limited the amount of usable farmland - and meant that cities were usually on/close to river/sea shore.

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3 minutes ago, Aldarion said:

In medieval societies it does. Today we can get away with food being grown dozens, hundreds or thousands of miles away due to transportation technology. But in medieval societies, unless you had a big river and farmland spread over it, you had to use food to get food to the city. Which limited the amount of usable farmland - and meant that cities were usually on/close to river/sea shore.

I understand that it takes more manpower to work farmlands and orchards in the Reach than modern farming does today, but right now I'm debating the size of the Reach in comparison to France, and then trying to make a guess-timation of the population. Just because the area is large doesn't necessarily mean that it has the density of medieval France. It could be less dense and more like medieval England. It's kind of a fun subject to think about, and I tend to agree more with the poster of this thread than those that are at the other end of the scale.

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Posted (edited)

@Werthead

 

The Deepwood Motte issue -- and I know this is a tangent -- is because on George's original map, which all the others are based, Deepwood has never actually changed position despite in ADwD his deciding to place it much nearer the coast. So the "100 leagues" figure from ADwD is based on the position on the map, near as I can tell (I get it as being about 290 miles, to be more specific) ... whereas the "5 leagues from the coast" is a change George made to make Asha's effort to escape more plausible, but he's never actually moved it on his map. (Yes, I've got George's original working map as it stood post-ADwD.) I think it just needs to move northeastward to maintain that 100 league distance while being 5 leagues from the coast.

What I can say is that if I use one of the most precise figures we have -- Tumbleton to KL as 60 leagues, per F&B, where George was possibly starting to use the LoIaF map -- to figure out things, on George's original map the distance from Castle Black to the south of Dorne is ~2900 miles, whereas as Wert says on the LoIaF map it's nearer to ~2750. I'm not strictly sure what happened to make that happen, but that's the situation near as I can tell.

 

 

Edited by Ran

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1 hour ago, Ran said:

Yes, I've got George's original working map as it stood post-ADwD.)

Is this something we can lay our mortal eyes on? Or will it blind the eyes of lowly peasants such as we and only those who are favored by Red Rahloo are worthy of seeing it in all it’s splendor?

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1 minute ago, Corvo the Crow said:

Is this something we can lay our mortal eyes on? Or will it blind the eyes of lowly peasants such as we and only those who are favored by Red Rahloo are worthy of seeing it in all it’s splendor?

Afraid it's nothing I can share in a public venue or a permanent way.  Ask me sometime if you see me at a con or something. :)

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9 minutes ago, Ran said:

Afraid it's nothing I can share in a public venue or a permanent way.  Ask me sometime if you see me at a con or something. :)

Ah! Can you at least tell if it has as of yet unknown locations?

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Just now, Corvo the Crow said:

Ah! Can you at least tell if it has as of yet unknown locations?

No. It does have four or five places where George crossed out a name for a castle or other location, in favor of something else, but that's about it. The crossed out names are quite illegible, so nothing interesting there. 

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