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Nose to the Grindstone [Oct. 16th, 2008|10:38 pm]
[Current Mood |accomplished]

5005 words today.


Another very intense passage.   Sore hand.  Ibuprofen tonight and tomorrow.   But pushing for that last bit gets me up to an average of 4000/day, so I have only 4000 tomorrow.  And can take Saturday off.

Today also involved some more interesting research.   Trying to establish what reasonable ratios of value would be for some common items/commodities in this world.  Paks didn't deal with it--she was a private.  Captains and kings, however, must consider the economics of war (unless they're Bush, who expected it to magically fund itself, but I'm trying not to get into that...)   So the relative value of, for instance, a barrel of ale and a sack of grain--and of particular grains (wheat, spelt, oats, rye, barley...) , a live cow, a beef carcass, a cowhide...and so on and so on.

And there's coinage.   Rate of exchange on coinage.  Who gets to mint coins and how coinage can be debased...is a Pler Vonja nata worth the same as a Sorellin nata or a Cortes Cilwan nata?  Fascinating to me--centuries ago, long-haul merchants were advised to carry a set of dies for the different places they traveled and re-stamp their coinage to the local coinage because it was always considered more valuable.  You just put your gold whatever (livre, real, piaster, crown, sous or whatever it was) into your die, whacked it with a hammer (I guess) and hoped the result would fool the locals into thinking it was local.  I wonder if archaeologists can tell. 

I doubt this would work with modern coins.  


(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2008-10-17 02:22 pm (UTC)

Re: coinage

Of course they have scales...but scales are insufficient. That gives you weight but not composition--Archimedes' principle, which was recognized and used early on as a way to detect adulterated metals. Besides, most large-money transactions are handled by bankers (this is later in relative history, more late-medieval/early Renaissance Italian) and bankers issue letters of credit respected by other banks (for a commission of course) in their circle of acquaintance. The Guild League cities have an agreement on how much to charge customers for bank transfers, so at least you know, when you want to draw on pay received in Vonja while traveling through Foss, how much cut the bankers will take. Our of the Guild League areas, the surcharge can be much higher. (Such details are indeed historical, in this case based on actual transactions in the 11th to 14th century. One difference in these books is that I'm not using any historical coinage--different universe, different words.)

In the post-war situation, several typical economic conditions prevail, exacerbated by the intent of one surviving ruler to gain power over others rather than promote a return to peaceful and profitable trade. It's not profitable enough for him, he thinks. So in addition to the war-caused population decline (now on the rebound), loss of productive farmland, shortage of labor, rise in prices, etc., there's an attempt to damage the economy of a perceived enemy for political gain. What's important for a mercenary company to know is that their bankers may refuse part of a payment made by their employers...that bad money is circulating...that the cost of doing business is higher than it was three years ago...etc.

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[User Picture]From: touchstone
2008-10-17 02:39 pm (UTC)
I was working on something a while back where I had this sort of question (relative value of commodities at different times in history). The book I ended up taking cues from was a gaming sourcebook, but it seemed to have at least enough research behind it to be plausible:


Or give me an address and I can mail you my copy; I'm pretty much done with it.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2008-10-17 03:13 pm (UTC)
Thanks, but I have good historical sources already. One advantage of having a degree in history and a long-time interest in it is shelves full of material--all I have to do is refresh my memory (though that gets a bit trickier as time goes on) and then decide how it fits into this particular story universe...what makes sense to the story. And then refrain from imposing all my research on the reader (infodump type 1.) I'd really love to include a discussion of the trading of grain futures in Aarenis and Tsaia, but that has little to do with the plot and a lot to do with having finally worked out the harvest times for four or five different grains in *those* climates (as opposed to our world) and thus the timing of the speculation and the probable payment to farmers.

What takes the most time is figuring out how to map known historical facts and processes onto a different reality, within the constraints of the story. I did this back in the beginning, before and while writing the original Paks books, and it's all down in notebooks...that I can't find. So I'm having to re=invent it, this time making sure it doesn't violate what I invented before. I sure wish those notebooks would show themselves.

It's especially tricky because what shows in the Paks books is only the tip of the iceberg--only that one person's observations, not the thinking that went into creating the world she inhabits. You could get to how much Paks was paid the first time she drew pay by several different initial assumptions...but it's those initial assumptions that create a specific (not general) economy for that fictional universe...and for these books to be seamless with those books, I have to be working from the same initial assumptions (or very close to them.) That's why I need those old notebooks--they laid out the initial assumptions. Moreover, in the intervening 25 years, I've continued to study, so I now know stuff I didn't know back then (didn't own Braudel's wonderful compendia back then.)
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[User Picture]From: touchstone
2008-10-17 03:32 pm (UTC)
Okay, color me embarrassed :) I'd forgotten that your academic background was in history. I'm fascinated by this stuff, but I don't have much access to primary sources for things like grain prices in 1280.

How did you factor in the fantastic elements of the setting into the economy? What impact do kuakgan blessings on the fields have on harvest yield, and so forth? On the whole, the use of magic in the world didn't strike me as widespread enough to have a serious impact on the economy, but it's not something that really comes up as part of the story.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2008-10-17 08:03 pm (UTC)
That takes way too many words to explain right now, esp. with LJ's ridiculous 4300 character (not even word) limit on comments.

In brief, every magic system in the books has its own rules and limitations. Paks was aware of only part of it (the wizard's potion that healed her, the other wizard's spells of truthtelling and the illusions) because that wasn't her main interest. The Paks books show relatively little of the economic substrate; the Gird books show more. These books, since the POV characters are for the most part rulers, must show more. Rulers have to "get" economics in a way that peasants and peddlers and soldiers don't. (Those can, but they can survive without it. As present situations show, when those in power don't get it, everyone suffers.)

One important effect of the amount of magic use is the delay of some forms of technology (e.g., no firearms, when other technologies have progressed to the same level at which Europeans began to develop them.) Both technology and effective magic solve problems and make some things easier (cooking food, for instance) but they affect one another. If you have a magic carpet, you don't need a mechanical personal transport. OTOH, if you have a train, you don't need several hundred magic carpets.

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