Chapter 1 - The Struggle For Identity
1419 - Liguria opens for business. France signs a number of alliances with its Francophonic neighbors and declares war upon England before the latter can secure alliances. Unfortunately, Savoy is not an ally of France and is not at war. To France, Savoy is a little nation with a second-rate duke, but to Genoa, Savoy is a huge neighbor with armies that could be in Liguria in a few days. I cement a royal marriage with Savoy to stay alive.
1420 - The centres of trade are all filled, and Genoa is leading the pack. Both Venice and Liguria CoTs are largely in our hands, and the CoT in Alexandria is showing a Genoa monopoly. It will be a while before anyone starts trading on the African shore en masse, and we will use that fact to make money.
1421 - Castille, Portugal and Aragon declare war upon Grenada and its Muslim allies. England brings a few allies into the war with France. The west is busy. Poland and Lithuania begin terrorizing eastern Europe, and the small nation of Pskov is beating upon its larger neighbors the Teutons and Novgorod. How they do it is beyond me, but they capture two territories.
1423 - War in southern Italian penninsula! The alliance of Naples and Albania attacks the Papal States. Joining the States are Sienna, Tuscany and Genoa's neighbor - Modena. Modena sends all its troops to the front, leaving the nation unprotected. Genoa joins the alliance with Naples and Albania, and sacks Modena. Within a year, Modena is in Genoa's hands. Genoa annexes Modena and signs a separate peace with the Papal States. Naples and Albania are too busy with the war to exact a proper revenge, and stability returns to Liguria. The only problem is that the annexation of Modena angered all Catholic nations. Relations between Genoa and the rest of Catholic Europe are in ruins. Repairs are needed.
1424 - Disaster! The great Doge Tommaso de Campofregoso dies and gets replaced by an idiot. Somehow, the level of mental stability of a merchant named Franchesco Maria Visconti escaped the general assembly, and they name him the new Dodge. Visconti is a complete incompetent in all the arenas, with absolutely no redeming qualities. It takes only a few months for this to come out into the public light, and by then it's too late. The merchants of Liguria are now worried about the future trade of Genoa. To make matters worse, Visconti is a cousin of the Duke of Lombardia (also named Visconti), who is a brilliant strategist. Treason is suspected. Almost as if on cue, Lombardia attacks Savoy and sacks the country. They settle, giving Savoy's region of Piemonte to Lombardia. Lombardia now encompasses Genoa from the north and west, and has its first port. It begins military buildup.
1424-1428 - It turns out that Visconti has one useful quality. He has a special talent for signing royal marriages. No one seems to refuse him. To mend its relations with the rest of the Catholic world, prominent Ligurian families marry their daughters and sons into monarchies of Europe. Lombardia (for safety), Naples and Albania (who are still maintaining their alliance with Genoa), Castile, Aragon, and eventually even France, Sweden and England. Relations begin a slow but steady return to normal. It will be many years, however, till Genoa is called anyone's friend.
Everything else, however, plummets tragically. Visconti manages to put research to a near halt, through his tragic management of it. Genoa's trade declines rapidly, to a point where it disappears from the Venice market. Merchant after merchant fails to enter any centre of trade, and the costs for the attempts are higher than normal, bringing back almost no returns. By some generous act of God, however, Venice is attacked by Austria and their Germanic allies, and looses a province. The war hits Venice hard, and destroys its trade as well. Venice looses complete control of its centre of trade. There is hope.
The Black Sea provinces of Kaffa and Kerch are declared expendable. Every effort will be made to make their populations happy and revolt free, as they contribute to the overall economy, but Genoa does not have resources to keep them from enemy hands, should someone wish to conquer. They will be given up in war, if need be, after all logical means of defense are exhausted. To prolong their stay in Ligurian hands, Genoa signs a royal marriage with Georgia, one of the powers in that region. This is all that can be done. Now it's time to pray that the Golden Horde is too busy with wars in Asia.
1430 - The economy is exhausted, the control of the Liguria market is lost, and research is at a standstill, while Visconti rages in power. Royal marriages keep Genoa secure, but the budget is showing smaller and smaller numbers each year. Optimists proclaim hope. After all, the budget may be diminishing with each year, but it is still more considerable than that of any other country. Military maintenance is low, and navy upkeep is reasonable. And what's more, the rate of inflation is at a nice, round 0. No minting has ever been attempted. The market in Alexandria still has four Genoese merchants in it, due to very low competition. And Venice is in ruins after the war with Austria.
Despite these nice overtones, the impending sense of doom looms over the Ligurian merchants. It has been years since Visconti managed to get more than one merchant a centre of trade, and at home the Swiss and Lombard traders are now ruling supreme. German is heard more and more in the home markets. The budget will run out eventually, and minting will have to begin. There seems to be no way to stop the diminishing treasury, and the yearly income is not enough to cover the yearly expenses. The level of research is better than in all nations in Europe, but it is only a matter of time till the situation is reversed. The Naples alliance, of which Genoa is part of, is weakening with each month. Naples itself is ripe for conquest, and Albaina is hit with several wars in the Balkans.
To make matters worse, Portugal and Span begin setting their first colonies in central Africa. It's no secret, the future lies in colonizing. Genoa must get a share of the colonial expansion, but has no explorers and knows of no lands to colonize. Portugal and Spain do, but Visconti's diplomatic savvy of a rhinocerous and the strained relations with those two countries (despite royal marriages) make the Iberians laugh at any proposition to exchange discoveries. Genoa is cut off from first colonial expansions. Something has to change.
1432-1433 - Miraculously, salvation is in sight! Tuscany gets involved in the war with Byzantium. Byzantium sends troops to Italy and within less than a year, Tuscany is Byzantium's vassal, ordered to leave the Italic Alliance led by Papal States. In a few months, Byzantium is devoured by the expanding Ottoman Empire, and Tuscany is left alone, with no protection. Precisely this month, Genoa issues a short-term loan to Tuscany with a hope that it will never get repaid. It doesn't! Genoa gains a Casus Beli against Tuscany, and attacks this rich and prosperous province with hope to vassalize it to gain some of its lofty income. Nobody comes to Tuscany's help, and soon it is in Genoa's hands. But here, greed prevails. Instead of vassalizing, the traders of Genoa talk Visconti into annexing the nation. It gets done, at another hit to foreign relations, but at an incredible outlook for future prosperity. There was no other choice.
1434 - A very good year! The vinnyards of Tuscany proved to be every bit the salvation they promised to be. Yearly income increases handsomely and the budget starts expanding. Inflation is still at a flat 0, and suddenly there is money for everything. What's more important, Visconti dies in December, and no one sheds a tear. His unwillingness to abdicate when he had the chance made him a dark figure in Ligurian history.
1435 - Dodge Isnardo Guarco is elected in January, but dies a few months later. He is replaced by Tommaso de Campofregoso, the son of the late Dodge Campofregoso before Visconti. He is a mediocre diplomat, but is of sound financial and military mind. Genoa gets to work. With the steady influx of money into economy and the research again at full force due to better management, its time to reclaim the lost centres of trade. Miraculously, Alexandria is still in Ligurian control, and soon new merchants start pouring into other Mediterranean centres. The recently opened centre in Constantinopole is avoided, but its presence makes Genoa very happy, as it cuts away a chunk of trade from Venice. The CoT in Portugal has grown in wealth significantly, which means that Portugal and Spain are colonizing well. The competition in the Venice CoT is insane, and Venice falls into another war with Austria and looses control over it. Genoa decides to trade in Liguria and Portugal. To stay ahead, trade alliances with the stronger trading nations are made. Helvetia, Lombardia, Mantua, Portugal and Provence all enter what is now known as the Mediterranean Trade Alliance. The separate trade alliance with the Mameluks in Alexandria is in existance for a long time now, and with great results.
1436 - With financial stability well on the way to reconstruction, the political stability needs to be reclaimed. Here, however, things look much worse. The Italic Alliance, led by the Papal States, now includes Siena, Mantua and Lombardia. It now attacks the weakened Naples and Albania, who call upon their ally - Genoa - for help. Genoa has no option but to refuse. It has no army capable of conquest in the northern Italy, and just going on the defensive would kill the economical reconstruction. Unknown to Genoa, this is precisely what Lombardia wants. The Italic Alliance besieges Naples, and since Albania doesn't own a single ship, it is unable to send a relief force. With the outcome just a matter of time, Lombardia signs a separate peace with Naples, leaving the other nations to finish it off, and then instantly marches its troops home... to the borders with Genoa. It is obvious what is to happen next. Genoa builds troops to defend against the impending attack from Lombardia, with full knowledge that it will be unable to face the entire Italic Alliance.
1437 - Lombardia finishes making its second army and moves it to the border with Liguria. At the precise same time, Dodge Campofregoso secretly sends diplomats to Rome. The tense 2 months that follow seem like an eternity. The two home armies - Liguria Army and Emilia Regiment are staring across the border at the equal size troops of Lombardy. The Papal States, Siena and Mantua have over 40 thousand men who are now finishing up with Naples. The Genoese fleet is out, but can do little from off shore.
And just when everything is about to errupt, a secret deal is made public. Genoa persuades the Pope to let it into the Italic Alliance! Two royal marriages (with Naples and Albania) are sacrificed, but the country is saved. Lombardia fumes in anger, and nearly challenges the Pope. Mantua and Siena do not seem to care. Lombardia is left out to dry... now an ALLY of its former proposed target - Genoa. There is a celebration in Liguria.
The Italic Alliance in mid 1437
1438 - Stability is regained. Inflation rate is still at 0, and treasury is expanding nicely. The centres of trade once again see Ligurian merchants rising in power, and the Mediterranean Trade Alliance welcomes Navarre into it, while shutting down Venice. Venice itself is still at war with Austria, and its trade suffers. It is, however, led by excellent Dodges, who are keeping the country's research up, but are unable to control its inflation.
Now a member of the Italic Alliance, Genoa has finally arrived. It is a rising trade nation protected by an alliance that unites all of Italy except for Venice and Naples. Europe is starting to centralize. Portugal, Castille and Aragon are drained after wars, but are in alliance against the Muslims... an alliance that so far is being supported by the gold from the centre of Spain, and by the expeditions to the New World. France has its own alliance with all the small Francophone nations, and is starting to annex them one by one. England is stronger than ever, with a navy that matches that of Genoa and Venice. In the centre of Europe, various northern Germanic states bicker and fight for each river shore, while Austria and its small southern Germanic neighbours formed another alliance. Poland and Lithuania rule the east, while Russian states bicker. Sweden challenges Denmark for the north, having taken most of the Scandinavian penninsula from it.
In the Mediterranean, Aragon owns most of the islands, including Sardinia and Sicily. They are left alone, unprotected after many wars, and the Ligurians are greedly looking at their wealth. Their navy could secure them for sure, but Genoa must first work on the relations with its allies, to ensure that it does not get stabbed in the back. After all, Lombardia is only tolerating our presence in the alliance, and the Pope is known to be a person of various moods.
The civilized world is divided between the Spanish (Castilians, Aragonese and their sympathizers Portugal), the French and its French Alliance, Austria and its Germanic allies, Poland-Lithuania, Sweden, and the Italic Alliance. Meanwhile, the Portugese and the Castilians send more expeditions to the New World where the future lies, and lately even Sweden and Morocco have been seen sending settlers. The Genoese traders watch this with greed and envy, knowing that they have been shut away from the exploration for now, and aware that their relations with the rest of the world will take some time to mend before they too can persuade someone to let them into the New World. But such was the price for claiming an identity and securing one's place.
The New World will have to wait, but Genoa has arrived.
Genoa at the end of 1438
Not shown are the cities of Kaffa and Kerch on the Black Sea