Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Real history into game events

Looking through the actual history of the world we live in is more likely to pay dividends for ideas to incorporate into your fantasy world than any amount of reading of other fantasy novels.  As an example for today, I give you the history of Nice with regards to the Italian Risorgimiento.

Giusseppe Garibaldi
Giusseppe Garibaldi, the hero of the Italian Unification, was actually a Nizzardo Italian.  He very strongly pushed for inclusion of Nice in the United Italy, but the Italians ceded Nice to France (from the Kingdom of Piedmont/Sardinia) in exchange for their support.  The Niçard language is a bit difficult to classify; it's not clear if it's a "northern Italian" language, similar to Monagesque, Ligurian or Piedmontese, or an Occitan dialect.  Clearly it's got major input from both.  There's a school of thought that the Occitan (and subsequent French) influence has grown considerably since the ceding of the city to France.

In fact, Giulio Vignoli wrote that nearly a third of the population of Nice either fled or was forced to move from Nice across the border into Italy, and that France subsequently encouraged neighboring Provençal settlers to move into the area, thus changing the language dynamic almost overnight.  Today, the Niçard dialect (whether it be a Ligurian or Occitan language, it's a dialect influenced heavily by the other, either way) is clearly "wandering" closer to French.  Occitan itself is a fading language, as are most of the north Italian languages, who enjoy no official capacity from the Italian government.  Piedmontese wasn't even successful in being declared one of the official languages of the Olympic Games in Torino--even though Torino is the center of the Piedmontese language!

A number of Italians were very unhappy about the disposition of Nice, in particularly Nizzardo Italians (as you can imagine, since they were either handed off to a foreign country or displaced).  For a time, irredentism revanchism was a popular conceit amongst them, as well as Italian nationalists in general.  Today, I don't believe that to be a major force, but there is an effort to preseve the Niçard language, and to use the "classical orthography" which is much less "frenchified" than the alternative.

In actuality, this irredentism is a bit curious; Nice has frequently been on both sides of the "italian" and French borders--I put Italian in lower case and quotes because much of that time predates the foundation of the nation of Italy, of course.  From the fall of the Roman Empire until 1388--with the exception of about half a century of independence as a maritime city-state, Nice was part of of the County of Provence, which was, of course, part of the kingdom of the Merovingian and later Carolingian Frankish kings.  Thus, it's history after being a Roman holding was primarily always French, up into the late-middle Middle Ages.

From 1388 until 1860--with the exception of the time from 1792-1814 when it was again ruled by the French following the successes of Napolean (himself an "Italian" from Corsica, which was also a French possession) the Savoy's ruled Nice as part of their Kingdom of Sardinia, which was the core around which the Italian Unification was achieved.  Like I said, it was famously traded to France for their support against the meddling of Austria, and the ceding of the Lombardy to the newly uniting Italy.  Of course, this didn't change the nature of the people, language or culture of the area.  Up until the French and Italian (and Spanish--this happened there too) attempts to stamp out the various regional languages within their borders, much of the countryside around Nice would have been part of a much larger Liguirian community of speakers, who's dialects gradually converged into Provençal to the west and northwest, and into Piedmontese to the north, and Emiliagno to the east.  Nice would have been merely an important population blip, with a regional dialect that may have contested with Genoese as the most important Ligurian dialectal center.

How to use this in fantasy?  Well, I'm a bit of a nut for linguistic topics, but linguistics often underlies a population's sense of identity.  The notion of people being forced to leave, or voluntarily leaving their homes due to a sense of nationalism, patriotism, and identity with one rather than another state, the notion of seething irredentism or revanchism leading to riots, exodus, or other political games--this would be something that any fantasy RPG should be glad to incorporate.  The notion that all inhabitants of all places just sit quietly, happy with their situation all the time, is not one that history itself suggests is likely.  Plus, that kind of intrigue is much more exciting (to me, at least) then finding a hole in the ground with monsters in it.

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