Jump to content
The Coconut God

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

Recommended Posts

Posted (edited)
Quote

 

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.

 

It's the Wall. So on all the original maps, the Wall is a straight line starting from quite high up on the Milkwater and cutting due east to the sea. On the LoIaF maps, the Wall extends and curves significantly further south and west along the Gorge, making the Wall longer (and thus the scale on the map smaller).

From your comments it sounds like it might be better to disregard this curve - although supported in the text as early as ASoS - and stick with the original placement of the line on the original maps. In this case, the line from the sea to the river measures at 348 pixels, and the north-south dimension of the Seven Kingdoms is 3,482 pixels, or about exactly 10 times as long (hence Westeros back to 3,000 miles, or just under).

ETA: And yes, if you keep the distance at 348 pixels and move it close to the coast, you can get Deepwood Motte to a place that works. It's a fair bit further east than on the maps (on the bay east of the peninsula pointing at Bear Island rather than south of the peninsula itself), but it works pretty well.

Edited by Werthead

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you all for the interesting points you brought up. I finally managed to process and write down some new ideas.

My argument so far has been that from the ground up, looking strictly at infrastructure and human interactions, the population doesn't seem to be anywhere as high as 40 million. Aside from calculations based on settlements, ground level recruitment and administration, the books are littered with pieces of anecdotal evidence that point towards low population density and high recruitment rates.

After reading the latest comments, I decided to take a closer look at surface area as well, to see just how big the discrepancies are. I'm kind of surprised by the results...

First of all, George claimed that Westeros is the size of South America, but later came back to this, specifying that this also includes the Canada-sized area north of the Wall (please correct me if I'm wrong).

South America has an area of 17,84 million km2, while Canada is 9,985 million km2. That would leave the Seven Kingdoms a surface area of 7,855 million km2 (or a little over 3 million square miles). This lines up pretty well with the 4.828 km (3.000 miles) north-south length of the continent. If you block out a rectangle around it and do a quick area calculation, it's going to be roughly 10 million km2; substract all the parts that are covered by ocean, and it's probably going to be close to the initial result.

Europe has a surface area of 10,18 km2, so the Seven Kingdoms are a bit smaller, 77% the size of Europe. Not sure why (maybe because Ran is so intimidating!), but I used to think they were supposed to be larger, or at the very least the same size. So when people were reluctant to go much lower than those 40 million, I used to think that was because 40 million already meant a significant drop from the 56-70 million of medieval Europe. But that's not really the case!

If we compare it to the 56 million of the early middle ages, 77% means 43 million, so the dreaded estimate is almost on the dot from the start.

If we compare it to the 70 million of the 1300s, 77% of that is 53,9 million, so the 40 million figure lags a bit behind, but if we consider that Dorne and the North are both sparsely populated due to their respective climates, and that the two of them combined are much larger than the colder areas of Europe, you can explain the difference on geography alone. If we bring the demography of these two kingdoms into the equation for the early middle ages comparison, 40 million is actually too high.

So those of you advocating for this number pretty much want the Seven Kingdoms to have exactly the same population density as medieval Europe in the 1300s, geographical differences considered. Isn't that quaint?

Well, I don't think that's a sound positions at all. There are several key differences between the Seven Kingdoms and Europe that either demand or justify a considerably smaller population:

1. In spite of some high medieval and even Renaissance affectations here and there, the complexity of the administrative system is nowhere near that of Europe in the 1300s. It is a very rudimentary lord-to-vassal feudal structure, with no added bureaucracy and a relatively short authority chain, reminiscent of the early medieval period at best.

2. Urbanization level is low compared to Europe, in spite of two of the five existing cities being very large. It seems that a single port city is enough to service each of the major regions on the continent (with King's Landing presumably servicing three). In land there are no cities at all, and few towns worth mentioning, a sign that the economy is not strong enough to support them and that there isn't a high enough demographic pressure for people to move out of the villages and converge towards larger settlements.

3. Characters constantly travel through uncultivated, uninhabited or sparsely populated lands even south of the Neck (Brienne being the greatest example), indicating a low population density overall.

4. The unnatural seasons of Westeros throw a wrench in how large a population the land can actually support. Those five years of French summers in the Reach are followed by five years of winter in which crops can't be planted anymore. This isn't really the same as having regular seasons. Either more pressure needs to be put on the land during the years of summer, resulting in lower average yields, as per my thesis in the OP, or mortality increases during the long years of winter, culling populations, or both. For any region other than the Reach, this problem only gets worse.

5. The frequent large scale wars would also keep the population in check, either directly or through their impact on agriculture.

All these being said, I really don't think 14 million should be seen as "impossible". It represents 35% of a population in line with 1300s' Europe and 44% of a population in line with early medieval Europe. A steep difference perhaps, but far from absurd, all things considered. Going for a compromise of 20 to 25 million, accounting for army sizes of 1,6-2% , should be more than acceptable to any of you (I still think 25 million is bordering on too high, but I would begrudgingly take it).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)

 

Quote

2. Urbanization level is low compared to Europe, in spite of two of the five existing cities being very large. It seems that a single port city is enough to service each of the major regions on the continent (with King's Landing presumably servicing three). In land there are no cities at all, and few towns worth mentioning, a sign that the economy is not strong enough to support them and that there isn't a high enough demographic pressure for people to move out of the villages and converge towards larger settlements.

This is ignoring the point made previously, that Westeros has many more "cities by medieval standards" than the five "big ones." Those are merely the five which are called cities by Westerosi standards (i.e. having a Royal Charter). There are many, many other "towns" which would comfortably be cities by medieval standards. Still not as many as there should be, but George is also comfortable sticking new big towns on the map in new books when their existence is hitherto completely unknown (like Stoney Sept in ASoS and Weeping Town in ADWD), so the true number of these urban areas remains unknown.

The point on ports is also curious. The Riverlands is serviced by multiple listed ports (Maidenpool, Saltpans and Seagard), as is the Reach (on the Shield Islands, the Arbor, Oldtown and along the Mander) and there are small fishing villages and minor ports along the shores of many of the regions. The Iron Islands have tons of ports. Only Dorne and the Stormlands are specifically noted as having a shore which is very rocky in places, limiting the number of ports (and even Dorne has several, through Sunspear, Ghaston Grey, Starfall and probably more on the north coast, and the Stormlands has several through the Weeping Town, Storm's End, Tarth, Estermont and more).

Quote

5. The frequent large scale wars would also keep the population in check, either directly or through their impact on agriculture.

Large-scale wars in Westeros have been relatively rare in the past 300 years, particularly when compared to the real medieval period when Europe very rarely went more than a few months, if not years, without some kind of war flaring up somewhere. Westeros has only known warfare since the end of the Conquest in the following periods (not counted are wars which were fought on non-Westerosi soil, such as the Stepstones, and where civilian casualties were negligible, such as the Defiance of Duskendale):

4-13 AC: First Dornish War

37 AC: Second Dornish War

41-48 AC: Faith Militant Uprising

61 AC: Third Dornish War

83 AC: Fourth Dornish War

129-131 AC: Dance of Dragons

157-161 AC: Conquest of Dorne

196 AC: First Blackfyre Rebellion

219 AC: Third Blackfyre Rebellion

233 AC: Peake Uprising

236 AC: Fourth Blackfyre Rebellion

261 AC: Reyne-Tarbeck Revolt

282-283 AC: Robert's Rebellion

289 AC: Greyjoy Rebellion

298-300 AC: War of the Five Kings

That's less than 36 years of conflict in 300 years; the other 264 allowed for continuous peaceful growth, aside from during the more severe winters and during several plagues. A lot of these were also low-impact wars where the devastation was very highly localised. The impact on long-term population growth is negligible, as can be seen by the population of Westeros more than doubling during the reign of King Jaehaerys alone.

Indeed, the centralised authority, the lack of wide-scale military conflict for the overwhelming majority of this period, the much greater security of food supply (the Reach alone could probably feed all of Westeros by itself if push came to shove and they had better food storage and transportation) and the superior medical knowledge of the maesters compared to the real medieval period should all have encouraged explosive population growth at a higher rate than the corresponding real historical period. If anything, the population of Westeros should realistically be higher than Europe in the corresponding period, not significantly lower.

Quote

All these being said, I really don't think 14 million should be seen as "impossible". It represents 35% of a population in line with 1300s' Europe and 44% of a population in line with early medieval Europe. A steep difference perhaps, but far from absurd, all things considered. Going for a compromise of 20 to 25 million, accounting for army sizes of 1,6-2% , should be more than acceptable to any of you (I still think 25 million is bordering on too high, but I would begrudgingly take it).

Whilst charitable of you, it should be noted that Ran's original projections are enshrined in a semi-canonical source (the P&P RPGs) and George has accepted them as being correct to the understanding of the maesters of Westeros, which is not the same thing as being 100% accurate in all particulars (hence the success of the Dornish deception of their strength), but nevertheless means that the 40 million figure, within a reasonable variance (say 35 to 50 million), is in line with George's thinking, at least until or unless he decides to change it.

Edited by Werthead

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Regarding the proportions of Westeros...The shape of the continent is the same as England. It's just upside down. Are there any graphic artists out there that could enlarge Westeros (or England turned upside down) over the top of South America, and then make measurements? I used to work in this field, but I don't feel like paying to reactivate Creative Suite just to play around with this! 

The Coconut God made a good point about the low population density in two of the largest areas: the North, and Dorne, and I still have my doubts about the size of the Reach which would affect density calculations, thus the appeal for anyone game enough to play around in PhotoShop with the map.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
48 minutes ago, Feather Crystal said:

Regarding the proportions of Westeros...The shape of the continent is the same as England. It's just upside down. Are there any graphic artists out there that could enlarge Westeros (or England turned upside down) over the top of South America, and then make measurements? I used to work in this field, but I don't feel like paying to reactivate Creative Suite just to play around with this! 

But how would that help or bring new information? I always took Martin's comment on Westeros being much bigger than England and roughly the size of South America to mean simply that Westeros is much, much bigger than England. After all, South America is more than 100 times bigger than England, and my understanding is that he was just using the comparison as a way to give readers an idea on the difference in size between Westeros and England. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
6 minutes ago, kissdbyfire said:

But how would that help or bring new information? I always took Martin's comment on Westeros being much bigger than England and roughly the size of South America to mean simply that Westeros is much, much bigger than England. After all, South America is more than 100 times bigger than England, and my understanding is that he was just using the comparison as a way to give readers an idea on the difference in size between Westeros and England. 

It would be easier to measure to scale.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 minutes ago, Feather Crystal said:

It would be easier to measure to scale.

It would. And then what?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
32 minutes ago, Feather Crystal said:

It would be easier to measure to scale.

We have a scale already.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 8/28/2019 at 6:33 PM, Feather Crystal said:

Westeros's shape is England upside down, however I seem to recall reading somewhere that its supposed to be larger - like the size of South America.

George himself has said a few times recently during Q&A at the cons in Europe that he started with Ireland upside down. But yeah, the size of SA.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@Werthead

This notion that we can convert Westeros's towns into "cities by medieval standards" is disingenuous, just like your previous insistence to lump in lesser lords together with the more important bannermen.

I am ok with more towns existing than appear on the maps, and George revealing some of them, especially in areas we haven't seen before (although, as we are nearing the end of the story, he can only reveal so many – and by the way, I counted both Stoney Sept and Weeping Town), but within reason.

Actual cities, just like major lords, can't be added out of the blue, because it would take too much suspension of disbelief to deal with the fact that they were never mentioned before in the wealth of AsoIaF literature. For example, large walled town in the Riverlands would have served as places of refuge for the peasants, points of strategic interest to attack or defend, prizes to share among the victors. Likewise, if there were any important settlements along Brienne's journey other than Duskendale and Maidenpool, she would have stopped there to ask about Sansa.

And it's not like we're talking about two or three, or even five cities. George would have to produce at least 20 of them out of nowhere to align with European numbers, as well as hundreds upon hundreds of towns. That's so much "suspension of disbelief" you can read it on a roentgen meter.

 

With regards to wars: I can concede that war probably can't be used as a good explanation for Westeros having a lower population than Europe, although I will note that most of the Westerosi wars George mentioned are large scale. There may have been any numbers of small scale confrontations between bannermen (Blackwoods and Brackens always being at each other throats), lesser lords and clans that aren't mentioned on that list.

 

With regards to the population "doubling": I don't know what the exact text is, but the wiki mentions the population "north of Dorne", which could be refering to parts of the Reach, the Stormlands and the Crownlands themselves. This could be explained to a great degree to migration, people coming from other regions of Westeros to settle in or closer to the capital.

The prospect of the population of an entire continent doubling in quasi-medieval times is preposterous. Even if it comes directly from George's book, I would contest its validity and chalk it as a mistake made by the maesters.

To offer you a comparison, the population of medieval Europe never grew more than 16% per century, and even then some migrations were involved. The world population only achieved 100% growth in 50 years in the 1900s, particularly between 1930s and 1980s. Jaehaerys would have had to introduce some insane levels of medical advancements and maybe even started a whole campaign to encourage high natality rates, and the strain on the agricultural infrastructure to actually provide for such a large and sudden population increase must have been enormous. Can't help but ask myself what stopped the trend and where are those advancements now. If Jaeherys achieved 40 million, maybe we should be at 600 million by now?!

Then again, if the population doubled simply due to 50 years of peace, that would mean wars have an insane impact on the population, wouldn't you think?

No, let's just say that George (or rather the maesters) simply flubbed the math on this one, and counted localized migration as actual growth.

@Feather Crystal

I actually think the 7,8 million km2 is pretty accurate, if we accept the length of the Wall.

One thing we can do to understand how the population is distributed over that area is to use the army sizes not for absolute estimates, but as indicators of demographic distribution.

The North has 40.000 soldiers out of 400.000 total, so they would have 10% of the population of Westeros. Dorne and the Iron Isles are also roughly 10% together, so the let's say "central" or "fertile" part of Westeros, covering a surface of roughly 4 million km2, would hold 80% (or 75% at a minimum) of whatever total population we estimate. The Reach alone would have 25%.

It's important to note that even within this region, some areas are sparsely populated. I mentioned Cracklaw Point already, then there are the Mountains of the Moon, the Kingswood and the Rainwood (these two forests cover about 1/3 of the Stormlands according to the maps), the Dornish Marches, the God's Eye and the rugged hills around the Westerlands, all of which limit settlement and agriculture to a greater or lesser degree (though I suppose the God's Eye allows fishing). On top of that, there are the smaller forests we don't know about. It's unspecified to what degree they cover the land.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, kissdbyfire said:

It would. And then what?

My main point of contention is that Werthead claims the Reach is twice the size of France. I seriously doubt that.

3 hours ago, Werthead said:

We have a scale already.

I would like a more accurate calculation for the Reach. Your assertion that it's twice the size of France seems like a miscalculation to me. It looks to be the same size or a bit smaller than France. 

You claim the Reach is 480,000 square miles, but the largest central portion of it appears to be only 97,200 square miles. That's a significant difference. The area I measured lies within an unequal rectangle with lines drawn from Ashford to Red Lake, to inside the mountain range near the Blackwater, across the plain to the next mountain range, and back south to Ashford. Are you sure you're not being overly generous in awarding territory to the Reach.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 minutes ago, Feather Crystal said:

My main point of contention is that Werthead claims the Reach is twice the size of France. I seriously doubt that.

And how would an enlarged map of England upside down over a map of South America help you with that? 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)
15 minutes ago, kissdbyfire said:

And how would an enlarged map of England upside down over a map of South America help you with that? 

Actually, it would need to be England with Ireland upside down underneath it.

Because we know how far across France is. (572 miles)

We know how long the Wall is. (300 miles)

You make an overlay of Westeros over South America, measure it out in inches, and create a key. If the Wall is 2.5 inches, then you can calculate the various distances of the Reach. I've already attempted to measure the Reach this way using the map from The Lands of Ice and Fire, but there were come comments about the scale. Also, I don't want to mark up my copy of the map. I'd like to trace out the shape of the Reach by checking each city and holdfast to make sure their allegiance is to the Reach or to somewhere else like the Westerlands, Dorne, Crownlands, or the Stormlands.

Edited by Feather Crystal

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, sweetsunray said:

George himself has said a few times recently during Q&A at the cons in Europe that he started with Ireland upside down. But yeah, the size of SA.

It actually looks like both England and Ireland upside down.

https://images.app.goo.gl/kbyymX2WDwGhsGFC6

Edited by Feather Crystal

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I would ignore the South America thing. The area is not really right, and in any case, a good part of the continent extends off of any maps.

The actual area of Westeros is more like Europe, less Russia. People have made maps laying Westeros at a diagonal to sort of fit Europe.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

Quote

 

This notion that we can convert Westeros's towns into "cities by medieval standards" is disingenuous, just like your previous insistence to lump in lesser lords together with the more important bannermen.

 

How so?

A city in the medieval period - or now for that matter - does not need to have hundreds of thousands of people. That was actually incredibly unusual. London's population in 1300 was only 80,000, which would make it considerably smaller than Lannisport, and less than twice the size of Gulltown. Most medieval "cities" had populations in the thousands or low tens of thousands. Winchester, an important medieval city and the former capital of England, doesn't seem to have ever risen much above 10-12,000 in the entire medieval period.

There are plenty of towns in this ballpark in Westeros, most appearing some time after it began (Stony Sept not being mentioned or discussed once in the 1,500+ pages of AGoT and ACoK before suddenly popping onto the map in ASoS; Weeping Town suddenly materialising in ADWD, 3,500 pages into the series, even after GRRM flatly said in interviews that the Stormlands has no port city or town).

I agree that 20+ of them showing up in later books is unlikely, but the issue is addressed by another one: that many settlements listed as "castles" on the maps are actually small-to-middling urban centres. We see this in the Reach: Ashford has a town surrounding it, Bitterbridge has a town surrounding it, Tumbleton is a town that appears to have grown out from a central castle (Barrowton as well from the look of it) and so on. Seagard appears to be the same (with the castle overlooking a moderately-sized port town). Sunspear's surrounding town is so big it's flat-out called a city.

I agree that there is a high and somewhat Stilton-smelling scent of retcon to this, but undercutting his early "there's only five cities in Westeros" statement without actively contradicting it is George has been doing for some considerable time, the same with the long periods of history and other elements.

Quote

 

With regards to wars: I can concede that war probably can't be used as a good explanation for Westeros having a lower population than Europe, although I will note that most of the Westerosi wars George mentioned are large scale. There may have been any numbers of small scale confrontations between bannermen (Blackwoods and Brackens always being at each other throats), lesser lords and clans that aren't mentioned on that list.

 

In terms of truly large-scale wars, I think only the Faith Militant Uprising, the Young Dragon's War and the Dance count as ones that incurred heavy civilian casualties and large-scale destruction of farmland before the War of the Five Kings. The First Dornish War was long, but given the Dornish prospensity for vanishing into the desert, doesn't seem to have been that bloody. The First Blackfyre Rebellion is difficult to judge, as we only hear about the one really big battle.

 

Quote

 

With regards to the population "doubling": I don't know what the exact text is, but the wiki mentions the population "north of Dorne", which could be refering to parts of the Reach, the Stormlands and the Crownlands themselves. This could be explained to a great degree to migration, people coming from other regions of Westeros to settle in or closer to the capital.

 

The text in Fire and Blood states that the entire population of Westeros north of Dorne doubled during the 60-year reign of the Conciliator. Personally I agree this feels a bit much, and would have been happier if it had been during the time frame of the book (the first 130 or so years of the Targaryen reign).

Note that during the Conquest, the Reach and the Westerlands combined can muster 55,000 men, whilst by the time of the War of the Five Kings combined they can muster ~150,000, so regardless of other factors, it appears that the population of the Seven Kingdoms has almost trebled in the 300 years since the Conquest.

 

Quote

 

You claim the Reach is 480,000 square miles, but the largest central portion of it appears to be only 97,200 square miles. That's a significant difference. The area I measured lies within an unequal rectangle with lines drawn from Ashford to Red Lake, to inside the mountain range near the Blackwater, across the plain to the next mountain range, and back south to Ashford. Are you sure you're not being overly generous in awarding territory to the Reach.

 

Using a painting programme and counting the pixels inside the Reach and applying the Wall as a scale bar confirms the internal size.

So by selecting the entire mainland portion of the Reach (note: does not include the Arbor or the Shield Islands), we can see that this region contains 536,502 pixels. On this scale 348 pixels = 300 miles, so the dividing factor is 1.16. This accounts for 462,501 square miles, so a bit less than 480,000 but in the same general ballpark.

ETA: A quick check shows that the Arbor adds another 5,000 square miles and the Shield Islands another 1,000 as well.

Quote

 

I would ignore the South America thing. The area is not really right, and in any case, a good part of the continent extends off of any maps.

 The actual area of Westeros is more like Europe, less Russia. People have made maps laying Westeros at a diagonal to sort of fit Europe.

We kind of made the South America thing work, but it required a pretty large, late-game retcon (the lands beyond the Wall being the size of Canada). But I agree that George always meant "the length of" back in the day rather than "the area of," as that never made sense in that context.

If TWoW has a full map of the lands beyond the Wall (going beyond the ASoS one) we can revisit that point later on :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
23 minutes ago, Werthead said:

We see this in the Reach: Ashford has a town surrounding it, Bitterbridge has a town surrounding it, Tumbleton is a town that appears to have grown out from a central castle (Barrowton as well from the look of it) and so on. Seagard appears to be the same (with the castle overlooking a moderately-sized port town). Sunspear's surrounding town is so big it's flat-out called a city.

Also Cuy and Grassy Vale in the Reach and Vaith in Dorne. FFG art for the Hellholt depicts a town as well. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 minute ago, Nittanian said:

Also Cuy and Grassy Vale in the Reach and Vaith in Dorne. FFG art for the Hellholt depicts a town as well. 

The Cuy/Sunhouse thing, yep.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, The Coconut God said:

I am ok with more towns existing than appear on the maps, and George revealing some of them, especially in areas we haven't seen before (although, as we are nearing the end of the story, he can only reveal so many – and by the way, I counted both Stoney Sept and Weeping Town), but within reason.

Actual cities, just like major lords, can't be added out of the blue, because it would take too much suspension of disbelief to deal with the fact that they were never mentioned before in the wealth of AsoIaF literature. For example, large walled town in the Riverlands would have served as places of refuge for the peasants, points of strategic interest to attack or defend, prizes to share among the victors. Likewise, if there were any important settlements along Brienne's journey other than Duskendale and Maidenpool, she would have stopped there to ask about Sansa.

You are right there for the Riverlands insofar as the surroundings of the routes of the POVs travelling there are concerned. But not so much insofar as the unknown regions of the Riverlands are concerned.

And definitely insofar as the regions of the Westerlands, the Vale, and, especially, the Reach are concerned. There could be many large towns in those regions we have yet to learn about.

And while I agree that there is a point where it becomes ridiculous to introduce new important players and population centers in this way, this point is still very far away for the more unknown regions. I mean, George did a pretty good job introducing both the Hightowers (in AFfC) and the Dustins (in ADwD) as really powerful players. For the Reach he could easily enough introduce so much as a dozen reasonably powerful houses controlling pretty large towns without this being difficult to swallow.

4 hours ago, The Coconut God said:

With regards to wars: I can concede that war probably can't be used as a good explanation for Westeros having a lower population than Europe, although I will note that most of the Westerosi wars George mentioned are large scale. There may have been any numbers of small scale confrontations between bannermen (Blackwoods and Brackens always being at each other throats), lesser lords and clans that aren't mentioned on that list.

 

The wars seem to be jokes insofar as losses of lives are concerned. The allegedly brutal Dance essentially caused on casualties in the North, the Vale, and the Stormlands, and was mainly fought in the Crownlands, the Riverlands, and parts of the Reach (the Westerlands were only affected in the coastal regions).

Casualties thus are limited to the armed forces and whatever civillians suffered in the sacks and due to the foraging, etc. of the armies. That's not that much by comparison.

What should really cause major casualties in the Seven Kingdoms are plagues and winters - the Dance in combination with the subsequent winter and the Winter Fever could easily enough killed a third or half of the population of the Seven Kingdoms.

The Great Spring Sickness killed a lot of people in the Realm, aside from the Dornishmen and the people of the Vale (especially in the cities). Those are things that have to be considered.

Relative strength of the Vale and Dorne increased tremendously between THK and TSS simply because the other regions lost many men to the plague whereas the Vale and Dorne preserved their strength.

Static numbers don't cover that.

4 hours ago, The Coconut God said:

With regards to the population "doubling": I don't know what the exact text is, but the wiki mentions the population "north of Dorne", which could be refering to parts of the Reach, the Stormlands and the Crownlands themselves. This could be explained to a great degree to migration, people coming from other regions of Westeros to settle in or closer to the capital.

During the reign of Jaehaerys I the population north of Dorne doubled, and the population of the five cities quadrupled.

This likely didn't affect all places equally - the Crownlands would have profited the most (essentially no people there before the Conquest, compared to it being the central hub of trade in all of Westeros a hundred years later). Real peaks can be seen with the prosperity of places like Spicetown and Hull on Driftmark under the aegis of the Sea Snake.

The Riverlands and the Reach and the West and the Stormlands should also have profited to various degrees - even the Vale, although there most such growth should have involved Gulltown and adjacent regions, just as growth in the North would have involved mostly the White Harbor region, since those would have been the places who could have really prospered due to the better trading conditions in the Seven Kingdoms.

Migration would play a great role in the fast growth of KL (and later the Velaryon towns) but not in the actual growth of the population. Central administration greatly reduced the number of wars while also helping with the Seven Kingdoms as a whole being much better able to deal with the challenges of winter.

3 hours ago, Werthead said:

I agree that 20+ of them showing up in later books is unlikely, but the issue is addressed by another one: that many settlements listed as "castles" on the maps are actually small-to-middling urban centres. We see this in the Reach: Ashford has a town surrounding it, Bitterbridge has a town surrounding it, Tumbleton is a town that appears to have grown out from a central castle (Barrowton as well from the look of it) and so on. Seagard appears to be the same (with the castle overlooking a moderately-sized port town). Sunspear's surrounding town is so big it's flat-out called a city.

FaB makes it clear that both Bitterbridge and Tumbleton are (or were during the Dance, in the case of Tumbleton) pretty large towns. We know that thousands (plural) supposedly died while trying to swin through the Mander during First Tumbleton (while the dragons were burning the town).

And Bitterbridge really is described as one would imagine a pretty big town in the HRE. Its ancient stone bridge across the Mander evokes places like Regensburg: (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stone_Bridge_(Regensburg))

Those kind of places tend to be pretty large. And there is little reason to believe that there are not many similar places in the Reach. We have yet to see Highgarden but it seems out of the question that there must be large market towns nearby beyond the gardens and mazes and parks surrounding the castle.

3 hours ago, Werthead said:

Note that during the Conquest, the Reach and the Westerlands combined can muster 55,000 men, whilst by the time of the War of the Five Kings combined they can muster ~150,000, so regardless of other factors, it appears that the population of the Seven Kingdoms has almost trebled in the 300 years since the Conquest.

It is good to see that people finally start to think along those lines. But we cannot really be sure that the numbers continued to increase after the Dance. The winter and Winter Fever would have had a devastating effect, as would have the Great Spring Sickness later. We don't know how many tragedies the Westerosi suffered in-between the Dance and the War of the Five Kings.

There is no reason to believe the curve went steadily up.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The rule of thumb is that a city has 20.000 inhabitants or more. A village has less than 1.000, a regular town has between 1.000 and 10.000 and a large town between 10.000 and 20.000.  "Market towns" are on the low end of urban settlements, probably around 1.000-2.000, since, like the name suggests, they are simply places where people from several villages meet to trade.

To give you an idea about a town's size, this is a map of Timișoara around 1700 (not medieval, but it should be close enough), when it had ~5.000 inhabitants. Some Westerosi towns would be larger than that (Duskendale for sure, Maidenpool a big maybe, Barrowton perhaps), but most of them probably wouldn't (Saltpans should be small, considering most of its people were killed by a band of outlaws, Mole's Town is basically a village, Fairmarket is supposedly modestly sized). For the opposite end. here's Paris in the 16th century, with a population of 150.000.

Medieval Europe had over 35 cities with a population higher than 20.000. Towns the size of Timișoara were too many to count. At 77% the size of Europe and having the same population density, Westeros should have 27 cities, so even if we add one settlement close to 20.000 in each of the kingdoms we haven't explored, we're still closer to 1/3 of Europe's numbers than to actual parity.

And I still fail to grasp why this parity with Europe is so important that it's worth casting aside creative integrity to preserve it. At the end of the day, it's a question of where you want to suspend disbelief: at the macro level, in regards to population density and military statistics, or at the micro level, when it comes to a believable administrative structure. Why is the macro more important than the micro when the story hinges so much more on the latter? Please answer this one simple question.

 

The population growth attributed to King Jaeherys's reign is simply ridiculous, and if it does indeed apply to all of Westeros, George should be encouraged to revise it. Barring that, we should treat it as an inaccuracy.

This growth is 15 times larger... 15!!!... than the average growth per 50 years in the Middle Ages, not counting the 14th century since it was affected by the plague. To reiterate... The average growth per 50 years in the non-plague periods of the Middle Ages was 6,5%. The growth rate for the 50 years of Jaeherys's reign – 100%! Suspend disbelief?! Suspend my balls!

And it would be equally absurd for the population to just stop growing after that... even accounting for plagues (the bubonic plague only caused a population decrease of 10% overall, and it lasted longer than the Winter Fever; the Spring Sickness is said to have only killed "tens of thousands", which is probably bad math again, but even if it's hundreds of thousands it wouldn't stall population growth too much). Even if the growth rate was halved after Jaeherys's death, we would be at 8 times the pre-conquest population right now...

And here's the sweet, sweet irony of it all. If we're saying that the Seven Kingdoms have 40 million inhabitants now because the population doubled or tripled after the Conquest... that means you are totally fine with 14-20 million people living in Westeros before the Targaryens. Wasn't the infrastructure back then still close enough to medieval Europe? Wasn't the Reach still as fertile as France? The Targaryens didn't bring any technological advancements, and the political system didn't change that much...

You could say that the unification reduced conflict and increased trade, but it's not like the Targaryens didn't have internal conflicts or that the kingdoms never traded with each other before (some connections surely existed, since the lords still used maesters, alliances were frequently formed and the kingdoms in the south shared a religion). If anything, pre-conquest Westeros was a lot more like medieval Europe, which was never united under a single empire.

Large population growths are... problematic in a world like ASoIaF, because important demographic fluctuations tend to produce societal changes, and here we are supposed to have a static political system, a feudal structure that's been lasting for thousands of years. This would be easier to accept if population levels were also relatively static.

Now, here's my interpretation of the growth during Jaeherys's reign. During his first years on the throne, a lot of people died of the shivers. Certainly not half, but a large number nonetheless, similar to Europe's bubonic plague, but in a much shorter time.

What I noticed while looking at medieval demography was that the growth rate was twice as big during the 50 years following the plague. The population dropped by 10% , and then rebounded in only half a century, a growth that would have taken 100 years previously (and after). This likely happened because the dead had left behind an already existing infrastructure waiting to be filled, and people would have had an easier time finding work, resources and space to support their families.

Something like this, in combination with Jaeherys's policies and the peace he offered, could account for a 15-20% growth rate instead of 6,5%. Certainly not 100% though, that's simply not feasible. This, in combination with a great migration towards urban centers encouraged by trade and Jaeherys's investment in them (certainly in King's Landing, he would have hired many workers to expand and improve the city), would have tricked maesters into believing the overall population doubled. Perhaps there is also a level of propaganda here, stressing on how great an already beloved king was. But in reality, the overall population would have stabilized relatively close to where it used to be prior to the epidemics.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×