Jump to content

Population of Westeros


Alden Rothack
 Share

Recommended Posts

I was wondering why many people like Ran favour an exceptional low population of 40 Million for the Seven Kingdoms when based on the size and fertile nature of the Reach and the Riverlnds they could easily have more than that on their own, 40 million also gives it a population density lower than 12th century Scotland which isn't compatible with the fertile lands seen in the south.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

You can do the math on Iron Islands as well. We are given ratios of how many people/families are fisher folk among the iron islanders and know that Iron Islands only have around 400 ships. These two are the least populous regions.

 

But the easy (and honestly, true) answer to most of this stuff is GRRM is notoriously bad with numbers. Army numbers, economy, travel distances, height of structures, you name it.

Edited by Corvo the Crow
Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, Craving Peaches said:

I thought it was based on the assumption that army size = 1% of total population for each region, which was from some medieval statistic or something. But I may not be remembering correctly

Exactly. Some dubious statistic about a momentary time in parts of western europe. Sufficed to say I was never impressed. (iirc imperial china was closer to 5, and while grrm totally gets inspiration from western history I see lots of china in westeros as well)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

That rule of thumb was only one method that led to that number. I used two other methods based on demographic information and how medieval historians estimate populations and they broadly agreed with one another. In fact, Lyman Stone (an actual demographer) ran through the numbers, concluded the population was somewhere between 25 to 50 million, and after narrowing it down yet further came up with three estimates... one of which happened to be 34.5 million, which is within 15% of my figure (which was always rough and I always said it was probably +/- a few million).

I found that funny because he starts by shitting on the 1% rule of thumb ("very silly readers"!) and then all his much more rigorous methods ... more or less agrees with it. 

George isn't a demographer. He's not a historian. But I suspect he's read about that 1% rule of thumb, and has applied it. Everything follows from there. (There's other issues with Stone's understanding of Westeros, admittedly, but the matrix he makes of demographic possibilities remains quite plausible.)

Edited by Ran
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've read Stones take on the issue and its very interesting it does however have some problems related to the lack of understanding you mentioned which make the conclusions unsound. For example suggesting that there are only 1.5 million urban dwellers and calculating from there to get about 40 million, on the other hand in the books there are also certainly at least that many just in the cities with far more in the towns

It doesn't hold together and it doesn't match the descriptions of the southron kingdoms.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 hours ago, Alden Rothack said:

I've read Stones take on the issue and its very interesting it does however have some problems related to the lack of understanding you mentioned which make the conclusions unsound. For example suggesting that there are only 1.5 million urban dwellers and calculating from there to get about 40 million, on the other hand in the books there are also certainly at least that many just in the cities with far more in the towns

It doesn't hold together and it doesn't match the descriptions of the southron kingdoms.

There are nowhere near 1.5 million people in the cities of Westeros. KL having a population of "half a million" is only temporary 

Quote

Half a million people stink more than three hundred, you'll find. Do you smell the gold cloaks? There are near five thousand of them. My father's own sworn swords must account for another twenty thousand. And then there are the roses. Roses smell so sweet, don't they? Especially when there are so many of them. Fifty, sixty, seventy thousand roses, in the city or camped outside it, I can't really say how many are left, but there's more than I care to count, anyway."

70-90.000 alone comes from soldiers. there will be thousands of camp followers as well.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don't really mind the figure of 40 million that much. I didn't see the continent as that densely populated. There are supposedly only 5 cities after all, and while there are some market towns I wouldn't think they held more than ~10,000 people otherwise they would probably be considered cities rather than towns. There are quite a few sections of the book where characters travel for days and see barely anyone, save perhaps a few tiny villages. The North and Dorne and the Stormlands don't seem very densely populated at all. The population of the Riverlands is constantly being reduced by all the wars. The Vale of Arryn and the Westerlands are quite hilly so even though they could be fertile they would probably support less people proportionally than the Reach which seems quite flat.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

40 m gives a population density of 18 per square mile, which seems too low to me.

England had 30 per square mile in 1086, 100 in 1340, 50 in 1400.

Army sizes can help, but in the absence of the kind of military bureaucracy that Rome or China possessed, it ought not be possible to field more than about 25,000 men (plus camp followers) in any one place, as they would starve.

Army sizes are actually more realistic in The Dance of the Dragons than in The War of the Five Kings.  

Link to comment
Share on other sites

There are at least that many city dwellers in the five cities, towns might not be that big but there are a lot of them and some (Duskendale, Barrowton, The Arbour etc) which are cities in all but name, one every twenty miles would give you thousands of them and there are villages everywhere.

 

I absolutely agree that the Reach is the densest populated and since its the second largest its also the most populated, its the fact that the description suggests a fertile densely populated country which suggests more than 12 million people live there, France managed nearly that at half the size after the Black Death and several famines killed half the population.

the reverse situation exists in the Iron Islands whre either they have over a 100 people per square mile or they manage to muster a lot more of them while building and maintainly a huge fleet and feeding everyone, this can be done (it was done by venice and genoa which had perhaps a million people btween them) but only by rich maritime empires (The Redwynes do exactly that)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, SeanF said:

40 m gives a population density of 18 per square mile, which seems too low to me.

England had 30 per square mile in 1086, 100 in 1340, 50 in 1400.

But Norway had a population density of 1,35 per square mile around 1200. And for Sweden it was barely 2.

Given that the North represents a huge part of the Westerosi territory, it seems to work fine.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

19 minutes ago, The hairy bear said:

But Norway had a population density of 1,35 per square mile around 1200. And for Sweden it was barely 2.

Given that the North represents a huge part of the Westerosi territory, it seems to work fine.

True, but the Reach is the size of modern Turkey, and extremely fertile.  It could easily sustain a population of 20 - 30 million on its own.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

28 minutes ago, The hairy bear said:

But Norway had a population density of 1,35 per square mile around 1200. And for Sweden it was barely 2.

Given that the North represents a huge part of the Westerosi territory, it seems to work fine.

The North isn't caparable, not only does the North have large populations as far north as Bear Island and Skagos there is agriculture as far north as the Valley of Thenn hundreds of miles north of the wall, the North is more like Scotland or Ireland, cold, wet and more capable of raising animals than food crops but not an ice covered wasteland like Norway (or Canada).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

3 hours ago, Alden Rothack said:

as far north as the Valley of Thenn hundreds of miles north of the wall,

The Thenns appear to live in a sheltered hot spring valley, hence their agriculture. Look at Craster for a better example of what passes for agriculture beyond the Wall (hard roots and tubers, some sort 

Much of the North is actually a wasteland. The barrowlands are largely empty, the Gift is greatly depopulated, the wolfswood the same, the mountains have hardy people but not many, the Neck is a giant swamp.

Then you have the rainwood in the stormlands, you've got the mountains that make up a large part of the Vale, you've got the mountains and deserts of Dorne -- a very large portion of Westeros has a reason to be better compared to things like the medieval Alps, Andalusia and Catalonia, and so on rather than to France.

And speaking of Andalusia... one of the anomalies in Europe is that Spain, especially its southern portions, has incredibly low density -- there are substantial 10 km^2 chunks that literally have no one living in them, more comparable to the situation in northern Scandinavia (or the North) than to their neighbors. One argument for why this is? An effect of the high levels of border struggles and warfare during the Middle Ages that is still felt today. Border regions of the Reach, the riverlands, the stormlands, and the westerlands may well still be relatively depressed compared to their interiors because of the legacy of pre- Targaryen near-constant warfare that was taking place between the regional powers.

 

 

Edited by Ran
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The Reach is France or at worst England (which reached the same population density by the 1400s) which managed to have a very high population density despite being famously rainy, having hostile neighbours on every side and quite a few mountains of its own

There is agriculture though, enough that someone like Craster can feed his household plus occasional guests, most farmers in England could do no more during autumn than that.

the Gift is empty because the people left, the western coast likewise, the other parts no worse than somewhere like Ireland which even today has huge chunks which are empty but for sheep and rocks.

As for near constanct warfare depopulating places the scottish and welsh marches among many others don't suggest thats true, border wars were the norm everywhere until well into the industrial age and none of them made that big a difference, Plagues on the other hand were the f£$%ing worst, Europe lost half to two thirds of the population in only a few years between the mid and late 14th century

Which might have happened prior to Dunk and Egg but you'd expect the population to rebound like it did in Europe

its unsatisfying

Link to comment
Share on other sites

28 minutes ago, Alden Rothack said:

The Reach is France or at worst England

The Reach is the Reach except it had massive regular wars with its neighbors and was subjected to regular raids from the Iron Islands until ~300 years ago. There's a vast featureless portion of it where we literally know nothing.

Quote

s for near constanct warfare depopulating places the scottish and welsh marches among many others don't suggest thats true,

It absolutely is true about Spain, for reasons that are not explained by climate or geography. There's no reason to think that the history of Scotland or Wales is any more relevant to the Reach than that of other areas that show different developments.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

51 minutes ago, Alden Rothack said:

he scottish and welsh marches among many others don't suggest thats true

But the borders of Scotland, the bits involved in tit-for-tat raids with the English on the other side, are not as densely populated as Edinburgh, other major cities and further away from the border with England. Same with the English border on the other side (although the harrowing of the North may also have an impact there). Even now, though no raiding has occurred for ages. The Scottish Borders are really empty compared to other areas of the country except for the Highlands and Islands.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...