Arcanum 1780: A New World
The Kingdom Of New Britain
New Britain is a nation which comprises the former North American and Caribbean colonies of Great Britain, each colony becoming a Shire in the new Kingdom. It extends from Hudson and Nova Scotia in the North down the entire Eastern seaboard of North America to Jamaica and the other West Indies islands and includes one Shire on the South American mainland, British Honduras. The population of New Britain in 1780 is around 3.8 million.
When the Gomorrah Event destroyed the old world, the British colonies in North America were fortunate indeed that a great armada of ships had been collected in Jamaica for the next stage in what was known as the “War Of Jenkin’s Ear”, the attempt to take Cartagena De Indias, one of Spain’s principal gold-trading ports in their colony of New Granada. Aborted by the event, the build-up for the invasion saw a fleet of 185 ships, under Admiral Edward Vernon, carrying 10,000 British Army troops under General Wentworth and 4,000 American Colonial militia under Captain Lawrence Washington, gathered together in Jamaican ports along with a considerable store of weapons, ammunition and basic foodstuffs.
Vernon, a visionary and an able commander, immediately dispatched messages to Britain to ascertain the situation there, with instructions in particular to inform any Royal Naval ships that safe haven existed in Jamaica should Britain have come off badly in the cataclysm. With the bulk of his fleet, along with his troops and supplies, he then sailed for the mainland colonies, landing at Philadelphia. There he made contact with Lord Thomas Fairfax, the only British peer resident in the Americas at the time, and with the colonial governors. The Jamaican fleet’s supplies became the core of a ration system which got as many as possible through the Great Winter which followed the Event, while its troops formed the core of a combined Army/militia security force which headed off the worst bloodshed and panic which might have occurred. Fairfax and Vernon also enlisted several prominent colonists, including Lawrence Washington and the prominent scientist Benjamin Franklin as members of an Interim Emergency Council to advise the Governors of the colonies.
Franklin’s involvement in the nascent government was to prove extremely fortunate. His intellectual curiosity piqued by the way in which the laws of nature had been magically upended, he threw himself into study of the new phenomenon, making several key discoveries and beginning the process of encoding the new laws of magic which have enables New Britain to become the pre-eminent practitioner of techno-magic in the New World. In concert with the then Governor of Jamaica Edward Trelawny, Franklin also helped pen texts that paved the way for the abolition of slavery and organised the all-important Albany Parliament of 1754 which set up the constitutional monarchy of New Britain. In 1755 he was made Grand Wizard and Magister Of The Royal College for his services to the new Crown, positions he holds to this day.
New Britain, under King Henry IXth (The name Lord Fairfax took on accession to the throne) has prospered and grown into a major political force in the New World. The Royal Navy and its adjunct Royal Aerial Navy patrol the seas around and the skies over the kingdom from their bases in Jamaica and Boston, the industrial heartland of Pennsylvania provides an industrial base as good as anywhere in the world and the theumaturgic laboratories of Albany and New York continue to throw out new innovations to keep New Britain on the leading edge of magical technology.
That magi-tech advantage makes New Britain a target for espionage by the other nations of the New World, and its cosmopolitan nature means people from just about anywhere can manage to blend in to the populace. War with other nations is always an ever-present possibility, too – especially with New Spain, as the two nations have had several small conflicts, proxy wars and “incidents” over the years. The French colonies in North America are gone, reduced to the rump of the Free City of New Orleans and the now-British Shire of Quebec, simply because the French claimed a lot of land but didn’t have nearly enough manpower to hold it. Piracy and brigandage remain problems, out on the fringes of the kingdom’s reach. Finally, the Kingdom Of New Britain is committed to exploring the ruins of Europe – rescuing artworks and texts that have somehow managed to survive, but with a long-term aim of reclaiming the old homeland and perhaps even chunks of the European mainland too.
There is ample potential for intrigue and conflict at home too. King Henry IXth is old and childless. The succession is unclear. While most favor his cousin William’s son by his second marriage – William Henry Fairfax, Duke of Virginia – others favor General George Washington, Duke of Pennsylvannia, younger brother of the late Lawrence who married William Fairfax’s eldest daughter by his first marriage. The old King is expected to die within a year, and the rich and landed are all jockeying for position while trying to hedge their bets.
The current Shires of the Kingdom are: Hudson Bay, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Quebec, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, Connecticut, Massachusetts Bay, Maryland, South Carolina, New Hampshire, Virginia, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, East Florida, West Florida, The Bahamas, Barbados, British Honduras, Jamaica, Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago, the Windward Islands, and the Leeward Islands. Each is subdivided into Counties, each of which sends one representative to Parliament as a member of the Grand Council Of The Commons. The Crown appoints nobility as it wishes, although the convention is that each Shire may have one Earl (not all do, at present) as the ‘senior’ noble of the Shire. The Haudenosaunee Protectorate is a special case.
Resources of New Britain
With the destruction of Old Europe, the New World colonies were compelled to re-draw their economic structure. Their old markets for their tobacco, molasses, rum and cotton exports were gone – as were their sources of steel and iron, woolen goods and much else. The abolition of slavery changed the economic ground-rules yet again. Massive tobacco and cotton plantations could no longer make such huge profits when their laborers could no longer be compelled to work for free. The years after the Albany Parliament saw a meteoric rise in sharecropping, in which a landowner allows a tenant to use the land in return for a third share of the crops produced on the land, and in diversified small tenant farms where the landowner rented the land for a monetary rent and the tenant kept the whole crop, across the southern mainland and Caribbean Shires.
Flax for linen, indigo for dye and sheep for wool are as popular as cotton in the South, nowadays – and rice to feed the nation’s population even more so. The middle mainland colonies grow the lion’s share of the of the wheat, barley, beans, rye, oats and corn that the people eat. Fish and whale products come from the Atlantic coast, other fish from the warmer waters of the Caribbean. The northern farms produce potatoes, beans and some hardy grains but timber and furs remain the north’s greatest agricultural resource. Sugar cane is still a popular crop in the islands but so are bananas (while still green they are a starch food and can even be ground as flour) and plantains, yams, spices and grapes for wine. Every small farm will have a small orchard of some kind, either fruit or nuts suitable for the soil and climate. Mutton, chicken, beef and pork come from a myriad of small farms, supplemented by hunted game.
Many basic raw materials had to be sourced as well. The town of Dorset, Vermont is the source of much of the marble that decorates government buildings and the homes of the rich. Bog iron ore is mined in Virginia, Massachusetts and Maryland. At Salisbury in Connecticut, the first deep iron mine had been established in 1737, and others followed in eastern Pennsylvania, New York’s Adirondack region and northern New Jersey. Rich anthracite coal began to be mined in the Lackawanna Valley of north-east Pennsylvania and in West Virginia – supplementing the iron smelters’ appetite for coke burned from Northern timber. With its own rich sources of coal and steel, industry in New Britain had a firm footing. Gold in small but useful quantities comes from the Reed Farm mine in Virginia. Silver is mined alongside lead in New York and North Carolina. However, the bulk of the gold and silver used in New Britain is still sourced from New Spain – either as trade or seized from treasure ships before the Event. Copper and nickel come from small mines in Virginia, Vermont, Pennsylvania, Maryland and in particular New Jersey.
New Britain also has precious stones. Maine is famous for its gems – amethyst, aquamarine, topaz, garnet, citrine, quartz in various hues and several types of tourmaline are mined in the western hills of the Shire. North Carolina is maybe more famous, for the wild mountains of western North Carolina produces all that Maine does and also moonstones, emeralds and rubies in viable quantities for mining. Western Massachusetts also produces some tourmalines although the region is best known for the corundum aggregate known as emery, used as an abrasive in metalworking. The French city-state of New Orleans has deposits of opal and a petrified palm wood within its territories.
While New Britain is largely a Low Mana zone, pockets of higher mana exist. Even in most Low Mana areas, places where dust first was blown into thicker drifts before being covered by soil exist and can be Normal Mana. These are usually in mountain crevasses, wind-trap valleys or hollows and where rivers washed dust into a sandbank. The largest become opencast mines, sifting the soil for dust for the commercial market – the rest are often coveted as sites for Mages’ Guild buildings, mages’ homes and magical supply shops. Very rarely, larger crystals drift or are washed together and can form a very valuable High Mana spot.
Nowadays, New Britain’s economy is largely an internal one. However, it trades steel and iron goods, rice, coal, furs and cloth to New Spain, Natal, the closer parts of the French Empire and Brazil. It’s primary imports are luxury goods: gold and silver from New Spain, decorative hardwoods from Brazil, spices and silk from French India, ivory and gems from Natal.