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Miscellaneous Civilopedia Entries!

Discussion in '[MAC+WIN] Civ4 - History Rewritten' started by Simon_Jester, Jun 13, 2018.

  1. Simon_Jester

    Simon_Jester Chieftain

    May 13, 2011

    Opium is the dried sap obtained from the opium poppy. The poppy (also and in some ways more accurately known as the breadseed poppy for its edible seeds) was most likely native to the eastern Mediterranean, but prehistoric human activity has spread the flower so widely that it is difficult to tell; the plant has escaped cultivation and become naturalized into the wild in many regions. The opium poppy is prized because its sap contains the alkaloid drug morphine, a potent euphoric which can in turn be processed into a variety of other, still more powerful 'opioid' drugs such as codeine and oxycodone.

    Opioids have a number of medical uses, chiefly pain relief, though they have significant side effects. Evidence of opium use stretches back to prehistoric times, when it was common in the Mediterranean world and in regions stretching east to and through India. It was used in rituals and ceremonies, and also as an anesthetic by ancient surgeons. Raw opium remained in use in this latter role through the medieval era, in both Christian and Islamic civilization.

    Opium's effects, such as suppressing coughs and causing constipation, were useful in treating a variety of serious diseases in an era when most other medicines available were actively poisonous substances. This secured opium's role in medical science into modern times, finally supplanted by laudanum and later by morphine- that is, by the refined or chemically treated product of the opium poppy rather than the raw sap of the plant.

    The dark side of this medicinal use is that the euphoria from opioids is both psychologically and physically addictive. Throughout history, millions have fallen prey to opiate addiction, often drugged into insensibility or driven to crime by the need to get their next fix of the powerful drugs. This has become all the more pernicious with the rise of more potent ways of consuming the drug, beginning with the smoking of opium in the 18th century China (a development which ultimately drove China to war with Britain repeatedly in an attempt to stop the drug trade). The threat has evolved further in the 20th century with the rise of artificial opium derivatives such as heroin, which have become major contributors to socioeconomic blight, with millions of addicts throughout the developed world.


    Hemp is a term for the plant Cannabis sativa, which has been cultivated by humans towards two radically different ends.

    On the one hand, hemp contains the psychoactive chemical THC, and THC-rich strains of hemp known as 'marijuana' can be smoked as a recreational euphoric drug that is illegal in many countries.

    On the other hand, hemp is also a valuable source of oils, edible seeds, and especially fibers. In Europe, hemp was one of the best naturally occuring materials for rope-making and heavy canvas fabric- indeed, the word 'canvas' derives from the name 'cannabis.'

    Use of hemp in both roles dates back to prehistoric time, as the plant is ubiquitous throughout much of the Old World of Europe and the Eastern Hemisphere.


    The word 'shellfish' is a collective term for a variety of edible marine life, particularly invertebrates with exoskeletons. Contrary to the name, no 'shellfish' is a true fish. Shellfish come from a variety of biological categories, including molluscs, crustaceans, and infrequently echinoderms such as the sea urchin.

    The main categories of shellfish are shelled crustaceans (such as lobsters, crayfish, crabs, and shrimp), often caught using traps, and sessile shelled molluscs (such as oysters and clams), which are typically harvested directly off of the rocks to which they attach themselves. Shellfish provided highly dependable harvests of seafood for many ancient societies, as demonstrated by the massive piles of discarded shells found in ancient garbage dumps uncovered by archaeologists. They continue to be caught and consumed eagerly today.


    Bitumen, otherwise known as asphalt, is an extremely sticky, semi-solid form of petroleum. It can be made artificially from petroleum, or harvested naturally from existing deposits, typically formed by the fossilized, heat and pressure-treated remains of prehistoric microorganisms such as diatoms. Bitumen can be found in naturally occurring lakes or pits (such as the famous La Brea tar pits of California in the United States), or in certain kinds of sandstone (in which form it is known as 'tar sands' or 'oil sands')

    Today, its primary use is as a construction material, providing a versatile, waterproof surface for roofing and (most famously) street pavements. It was used by the ancients as a form of cement and adhesive, to provide a watertight seal on the wooden hulls of ships, and in other capacities as a waterproofing agent. The Native Americans likewise used bitumen as an adhesive, and interestingly in some cases used its smoke as a mosquito repellent. It was also used as an embalming agent for the ancient Egyptians to mummify their dead. In the Far East, bitumen was 'cooked' down into a thermoplastic material suitable for artwork or carving.
    Xyth likes this.
  2. Simon_Jester

    Simon_Jester Chieftain

    May 13, 2011

    Academia is a collective term for two groups. One is the body of teachers and other educational personnel whose work is aimed at the promulgation of knowledge, especially advanced knowledge. The other is the body of scholars whose work is aimed at the attainment of 'pure' knowledge- that is, knowledge sought for reasons other than immediate practical benefit. This includes an extremely diverse array of scientists, historians, philosophers, and experts in almost every field of human study.

    The two groups are often closely associated in much of the world, as the institutions funded to pursue pure research and scholarship are often expected to 'pay back' to the community by providing education- thus the typical university professor's balance between teaching courses and performing research.

    Academia, as a distinct profession separate from the clergy and members of the elite who happened to use their leisure time to pursue knowledge, have emerged at various points throughout history, but the prevailing class of academics in 21st century global society trace back much of their intellectual lineage to post-Renaissance Europe. As the network of medieval universities expanded and existing scholars began innovating in attempts to surpass their classical Greco-Roman forebears, they separated themselves from religious institutions and began to pursue what we now call the sciences and the humanities as self-contained entities. In particular, moveable type printing proved revolutionary in allowing scholars to exchange long printed manuscripts and compile widely available reference texts with much greater ease. This permitted the rise of a larger, more unified educated class that could benefit better from one another's work.

    The presence of a scholarly class is a strong indicator of the overall level of education and technological attainment within a modern civilization. The knowledge preserved, expanded, and promulgated within advanced universities and other institutions of higher learning is one of the cornerstones of advanced technology and complex societies.


    Astrology is the belief that the future can be divined or predicted by observing the movements of celestial bodies.

    Since the nature of the various bodies seen in the night sky was entirely mysterious to the ancients, many if not all civilizations developed their own mythos regarding the origin of these strange lights, their nature and purpose, and how they held significance for humanity. Peoples identified the stars as parts of larger, imagined 'constellations' that connected the dots of light into recognizable objects, which in turn might represent gods, heroes, commonplace objects, or beasts both real and fantastic. The sun, moon, and planets were frequently associated symbolically (or literally) with gods or other supernatural forces.

    Meanwhile, many objective patterns of movement in the sky were readily apparent to a dedicated observer. Most obviously this included the rise and setting of the stars, the apparent shift of constellations around the sky as the seasons came and went, the anomalous movement of the planets 'relative to the fixed stars,' and of course the ever-changing phases of the moon. All these things could be seen and predicted in advance. At the same time, other phenomena, such as comets and eclipses, seemed entirely capricious and unpredictable.

    All of these readily observable realities could be interpreted through the lens of a given culture's rituals and beliefs, to make claims about underlying spiritual realities. If a star symbolizing fertility was in a place of prominence, it might be a fortuitous time for crops to be planted, or children to be born or conceived. If a planet symbolically associated with war was in a constellation that represented the same, war might be imminent. Or, in an example of 'self-fulfilling prophecy,' a neighboring community might decide the gods would smile upon a war, and choose to start one themselves!

    This led to an increasingly elaborate effort to interpret the heavens, including the construction of dedicated 'observatories' such as Stonehenge, the codification of the movements of celestial bodies to the uttermost limits of what the naked eye could observe with simple intstruments, and even the creation of some of the earliest mechanical clocks and mechanisms to project the movement of the heavens forward into the future to predict future developments.
    Xyth likes this.
  3. Simon_Jester

    Simon_Jester Chieftain

    May 13, 2011

    Combined arms is a term for the practice of having multiple types of combatants ('arms') coordinate during battle. In this way, the various arms can cover for each other's weaknesses and maximally exploit each other's strengths.

    Combined arms practice has existed throughout history, but some of the most intricate coordination in premodern Western history took place during the rise of gunpowder weapons. Early firearms were unwieldy, slow to load, and left the user almost defenseless in hand to hand combat. Thus, it was necessary for wielders of pistols, muskets, and cannons to coordinate with wielders of lances and swords, in both infantry, cavalry, and artillery combat. As the gunpowder era continued, this coordination grew more synchronized and disciplined, with occasional radical changes when a particular part of the weapons mix underwent innovation.

    However, instances of combined arms can be found elsewhere throughout history. Ancient Greek phalanxes coordinated with lightly armed skirmishers who used javelins at long range. Modern armies routinely use artillery to support infantry, infantry to screen armored fighting vehicles, and armored vehicles to act as spearheads to break into enemy defenses. Modern warships and aircraft routinely coordinate multiple types of combatants, as do armies cooperating with fleets and air forces, and so on. No one type of combat force can ever be fully effective against a prepared, competent defender without the support of other types.


    The internal combustion engine burns (typically) oil-based fuels inside an engine to drive pistons, turbines, or other mechanisms that in turn power rotary motion. This is distinct from external combustion engines that use a fire outside the working machinery to heat up a working fluid (typically water, thus 'steam engine').

    For an internal combustion engine to function, it must be precisely maintained and machined so as to confine the nearly explosive fires that power it, and to trigger these abrupt burns of fuel in a carefully regulated, orderly manner. As a result, widespread adoption of the internal combustion engine did not take place until roughly a century after the initial rise of steam power. However, internal combustion engines soon took over many applications. They could provide greater power density, driving larger machines more forcefully using a smaller engine, and often using more versatile fuels. External combustion remained in use mainly for large stationary facilities such as power plants, where the weight of the engine is irrelevant.

    Internal combustion technology made possible the advent of both airplanes and automobiles (including other land vehicles of similar nature such as trucks and tanks)


    Geography comes from the Greek for 'Earth-writing.' It refers to the study of the landforms and terrain of the Earth's surface, and the mapping of same. Maps and books describing various travel routes have existed since ancient times, but the study of geography and its sister field cartography (map-making) experienced a vast boost with the advent of compasses, sextants, and other increasingly precise tools of navigation on the sea. This came likewise with advances in surveying equipment on the land, making it possible to accurately measure distances, altitudes, and curvatures throughout the world, creating ever more precise and descriptive maps.

    Advances in geography have been a boon to navigation and commerce of all sorts, and have made travel vastly safer and more reliable than in the distant past.


    Inheritance is the act of receiving an item that once belonged to another person who, having died, has left the item to oneself.

    The concept of inheritance is closely tied up with the concept of ownership; nothing can be inherited in a society where nothing can be owned. In historical societies it has been particularly relevant in the context of the right to make use of land, and the right to control capital in the form of wealth and the means to produce goods. Differing rules regarding inheritance can vastly complicate or simplify the process of ensuring that capital and land are used in an orderly and effective manner when their owners die.

    At the local level they have great ramifications for craftsmanship and food production; at the national level, every hereditary aristocracy known to history has gone to war over questions of inheritance, when titles to great tracts of land were at stake.
    Xyth likes this.
  4. Simon_Jester

    Simon_Jester Chieftain

    May 13, 2011

    “A map does not just chart, it unlocks and formulates meaning; it forms bridges between here and there, between disparate ideas that we did not know were previously connected.” -Reif Larsen

    “To put a city in a book, to put the world on one sheet of paper -- maps are the most condensed humanized spaces of all...They make the landscape fit indoors, make us masters of sights we can't see and spaces we can't cover.” -Robert Harbison

    “Maps gave them control over their surroundings, for the first time ever. It showed how to get from one place to another. It sounds simple now, but a thousand years ago it would have been an incredible feat of imagination and imagery. All maps are drawn as though looking down. From a bird's point of view. From their god's point of view. Imagine being the first person to think of that. To be able to wrap their minds around a perspective they'd never seen. And then draw it.” -Louise Penny



    The judiciary is the collective body responsible for interpretation of the law, and its application to the cases of individual citizens, institutions, the interactions between them.

    While all large-scale civilizations had some kind of collectively recognized institutions with judicial functions, the idea of a judiciary that exercised its judgment separately, distinct from other exercises of state power, is somewhat newer. For instance, in imperial China the judicial function remained associated with the same magistrates who administered land in the name of the central government. By contrast, after the rise of Islam, in the Middle East and the Islamic world the judicial function typically became separated from the direct rule of the state. This came about because much of civil society was governed by Islamic law, which was adjudicated by Muslim qadis, not by the secular laws of a monarch and his agents.

    In Europe, the idea of a separate judiciary began to gain more ground during the medieval period. Over time this became associated with enforcement bodies (ancestral to modern police forces) and lawmaking bodies (ancestral to modern legislatures). A judiciary is by nature a bureaucratic system, in which the power dynamics mostly involve the interaction of various impersonal rules, offices, and authority.

    As with any bureaucratized structure, an organized judiciary requires an educated population and a firmly codified body of law. The judges must normally be very strict in their adherence to the wording of the law, with the goal of making the law transparent and predictable to the citizenry, rather than depending mainly on the whim or caprice of the judge. Historically this ideal has often not been met, with judges becoming corrupt, unpredictable, or prone to ruling for personal reasons; this generally results in a rapid decline of public trust in the judiciary and a general breakdown of public law.


    "Safe. Clean. Too cheap to meter." -Unknown

    "A nuclear power reactor is just a fancy way of boiling water." -Leslie Dewan


    Stretching back to pre-civilized, nomadic times, human societies have always had culture. In the absence of written records, this culture was expressed primarily through speech, and through tales passed down orally from one person to another over generations of time. Ancient societies prized oratory, wordplay, and sung or spoken poetry highly for these reasons.

    Guardians of oral tradition played core roles in society, propagating the stories that bound peoples together, giving them a sense of collective identity, and of their place in the larger world. Much of what we now identify as art and religion flows out of these early, even primordial, collections of the spoken word. Some of the oldest and most profound myths and legends known to humanity started out as oral traditions of a preliterate or largely nonliterate culture. The Iliad, the Epic of Gilgamesh, the earliest parts of the Old Testament, and many other such tales came about in this way, before becoming preserved by the advent of writing.


    Particle physics is the study of the ultimate, smallest and most fundamental building blocks of matter, indivisible entities known as 'particles.' This field split off from other investigations in chemistry (originally a study of atoms which were then thought indivisible) and physics (through the study of radiation) when it became clear that atoms were subject to decay, due to changes among even smaller particles that made them up.

    Over the course of the 1900s, particle physics evolved rapidly, with new theories overtaking old ones every twenty to forty years. A consensus was finally reached in the 1960s and '70s with the rise of the 'Standard Model,' which describes all matter as the product of interactions among four fundamental forces and a specified set of fundamental particles. All known microscopic phenomena can be explained in terms of the Standard Model, which is itself an elaboration and extension of quantum mechanics and quantum field theory. This theory has been extensively verified through testing in particle accelerators which, by colliding subatomic particles at prodigious speeds, can generate the necessary energy to create and measure the precise parameters of the particles described by the Standard Model.

    However, the Standard Model does not adequately explain certain puzzling questions that came to light in the late 20th century. It does not explain or even speculate upon the nature of the 'dark matter' and 'dark energy' that invisible make up something like 95% of the total mass of our universe. And it does not properly interface with Einstein's general theory of relativity, which very accurately describes the *large scale* structure of the universe. And it does not explain certain anomalous particle properties, such as the fact that the ghostly neutrino particle has more than zero mass, when the Standard Model would predict it to be weightless.

    While the Standard Model provides us with an excellent basis for our understanding of the universe, and intimate knowledge of the basic nature of matter, there is clearly more to be discovered.
    Xyth likes this.
  5. Simon_Jester

    Simon_Jester Chieftain

    May 13, 2011
    Hm. Techs that need doing...

    Property, Sociology, Supermaterials (also needs a quote), Tourism, Urban Planning... Huh, you know I could SWEAR I did some of those back in the day.
  6. Simon_Jester

    Simon_Jester Chieftain

    May 13, 2011
    ...Huh. Looks like I didn't. Well, let's get some Tenets done.


    Animism is the belief that divinity resides within the spirits of objects, places, and concepts. This ties easily into the natural tendency of humans to anthropomorphize the nonhuman parts of their world.

    While generally regarded as a primitive superstition by adherents of more abstract faiths, animism provides a rich and intimate sense of contact between the mundane world and the supernatural. When every person, every place, every kind of creature, and every situation has its tutelary spirit or guardian demigod, one never stands truly alone beneath the uncaring heavens.

    Animistic religions tend to feature extensive rituals devoted to localized places and specified times, and are readily syncretized with most other religious beliefs. Animist concepts often persist in other kinds of religion, with festivals and customs being remembered or repurposed, with the spirits of places and concepts persisting as angels or other minor supernatural beings, or with the tendency to refer to objects as if they were persons (e.g. the European custom of referring to ships as 'she' or occasionally 'he').


    Polytheism is the belief in a group of multiple deities, typically part of a hierarchy with some being greater in power and importance, while others are lesser. These deities are categorically 'above' any other class of supernatural being recognized by the religion, and tend to be among the oldest and most primordial figures found in the religion's mythos.

    In a typical polytheistic religion, each deity is responsible for, and has power over, certain aspects of the world and human life. These aspects may be deep primordial concepts such as 'creation' and 'destruction,' or comparatively simple yet sacred things like 'home' and 'the harvest.' The gods of a polytheistic religion are rarely unambiguously good or evil; most are capable of benevolence, mischief, or active malice depending upon their mood. They are invoked and propitiated through ritual, and form the central figures of a body of mythology.


    Pantheism is the belief that everything is divine, that reality and divinity are identical, and that all existing things are parts of a larger, abstract godhead. Rather than seeing godhood as an anthropomorphic entity with a distinct personality and will, pantheistic religions believe that the greatest supernatural forces in the universe can only be understood in terms of the universe itself.To separate them from the universe, even conceptually, is to lessen them. While the religion may allow for the existence of lesser supernatural creatures, there is still the concept that "all is one" on a fundamental level.

    Pantheistic concept of divinity transcend the normal categories of existence, negating or rejecting the distinctions between matter and spirit, between mind and non-mind, between living and unliving substance, between humans and nature, as well as the barriers and binaries created by gender, ethnicity, and social status. Many traditional religions can be seen as containing pantheistic elements, along with polytheistic and animistic ones. Tales of legendary champions, demigods, demons and mythical beasts often coexist with the idea that the greatest forces driving our world are too large to be conceptualized thusly. It is a recurring concept throughout many, if not all, the world's religions.


    Monotheism is the belief that there is one, and only one, being truly worthy of being called "God." Any other supernatural beings that exist, according to a monotheist, are so much lesser by comparison that it would be blasphemy against the real God to identify them as 'gods' in their own right. They may be subordinate entities that serve God, or malevolent demons that seek to resist or defy God, but they are not 'gods.' God is personified, has a distinctive will, personality, and intellect, and has such absolute power that for all intents and purposes, God can be said to command all things, to order all things, and to govern the fate of all reality. Nothing, to a monotheist, is or can ever be like God, except God.

    The stark monotheism of Christianity and Islam finds its roots in Judaism, hence the collective reference to all three religions as the 'Abrahamic' faiths. Judaism is defined by its adherence to the deity YHWH (whose full name is not to be written out) in the face of numerous foreign influences and millennia of persecution- because no God can ever be like God. Christianity emerged as a messianic movement within Judaism, focused around the person of a prophet who claimed to be the savior promised within Judaism. Over time, Christianity spread through and somewhat beyond the borders of the then-dominant Roman Empire, rejecting and gradually supplanting the many 'pagan' religions found in its sphere of influence, and eventually suppressing them by force.

    Islam is somewhat less directly descended from Judaism and Christianity while acknowledging their legacy, and likewise spread very successfully, with a somewhat different balance of organized force and systematic persuasion. Islam spread through many regions Christianity never reached, as well as largely supplanting it in much of the formerly Roman Middle East and North Africa.

    Christianity and Islam have been two of the pre-eminent forces in shaping the world as we know it today, and are powerful testaments to the ability of monotheism to motivate human beings to great heights of cultural and military triumph.


    Ethicism refers to religions that are primarily a code of ethics, rather than a list of deities. The core tenets of the religion are best described in terms of how they believe people ought to treat one another and how they ought to live, not in terms of how to fulfill the will of the gods or the spirits.

    Examples include many Eastern 'religions' such as Taoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism. Confucianism in particular is less of a religion than a legal code and secular philosophy- indeed, almost entirely secular, and yet it has developed its own folkways and rituals. Buddhism is a code of moral values and ideas deemed likely to lead to enlightenment by its founder, the Buddha- who is revered as a god by some Buddhists, but whose ideas are best thought of as an Earthly philosophy. Taoism, similarly, is an 'ascended' philosophical worldview based around the teachings of Lao Tsu and an aggregation of supernatural concepts drawn from Chinese folkways.

    In each case, a clearly defined and in many ways enlightening philosophy about the human condition serves as an 'umbrella' under which a large body of sects and scholarly traditions can pursue their own forms of enlightenment through means both secular and supernatural, ranging from martial arts practice to alchemy, and from meditation on the inner self to the invocation of magical creatures.

    There are few or no analogous 'religions' found in Western civilization; the prevailing philosophies that tend to emerge either integrate themselves into an existing religion and become explicitly theological, or separate themselves from all religion and become firmly humanistic.
    Xyth likes this.
  7. Leoreth

    Leoreth That's rough buddy Moderator

    Aug 23, 2009
    Fire Nation
    Since I adopted the Supermaterials tech from HR, I'm using this quote:

    "The matter lies before the eyes of all; everybody sees it, touches it, loves it, but knows it not." - Lucas Jennis, The Hermetic Library

    Its original context is alchemy, so it's kind of figurative and esoteric with respect to modern supermaterials, but you probably won't find an evocative quote about something that is still a subject of active research.
    Simon_Jester and BasilBerylium like this.
  8. Simon_Jester

    Simon_Jester Chieftain

    May 13, 2011

    Property is the concept that objects, areas of land, ideas, creatures, or even people can in some sense 'belong' to a specific person, who has the right to make decisions regarding what is or is not done with that thing. This concept does not exist in all hunter-gatherer societies, but does in many to at least some degree. However, it is far more characteristic of sedentary societies, where the supply of goods is no longer limited to what the population can carry on their backs. This makes the accumulation of surplus, and the labor-intensive construction of infrastructure, possible. As a result, the question of who owns and controls the surplus and the infrastructure is brought firmly into the fore.

    Codification of what individuals can and cannot do with property, whether it is to be taxed or redistributed, and exactly what rights individuals have over owned things as opposed to the interests of the community are among the pivotal features of law in civil society.


    Sociology is the scientific study of human society. This field of study emerged in the 19th century and came into its own in the 20th, with continuous refinement and a great proliferation of differing schools of thought.

    Some sociologists seek to catalog and analyze different cultures, comparing them to understand what makes human beings function, and how disparate cultures can be compared and brought together. Others seek to model and predict change within a single society, or to identify subcultures within that society and learn about their ways, distinctive traits, and unusual needs.

    Perhaps the single most influential of the early sociologists was Karl Marx, whose analysis of society in purely economic and materialist terms led him to propound a theory of history as class warfare that gave rise to the political movement known as 'communism.' For better or for worse, the effects have been world-altering; different opinions on how society can or should function can be among the greatest drivers of change... and of conflict.
    Xyth likes this.
  9. Simon_Jester

    Simon_Jester Chieftain

    May 13, 2011

    Strictly, a 'colony' is a small, newly founded community created at a distant location by a larger community. This may involve settling previously uninhabited land, or driving away the existing inhabitants, depending on the disposition and attitude of the colonists.

    Colonization projects in the European 'Age of Discovery' and in subsequent eras tend to rely less on ambitious nomadic settlers, and more on organized, funded projects to create new communities. This typically allows for a higher level of infrastructure in the early stages of settlement of new lands, in addition to making the colonists somewhat better able to defend themselves against hostility.


    A 'laborer' is, simply, a person who performs work- effectively synonymous with 'worker' though with different connotations.

    Modern industry makes possible a variety of civil engineering operations utterly impossible to the ancients. Powered construction equipment such as bulldozers and steam shovels, along with explosives and more advanced engineering, enabled 19th and 20th century laborers to make their mark upon the Earth, literally moving mountains where necessary. This permitted the creation of far more capable and flexible road and rail infrastructure, and the faster, more comprehensive construction of other forms of infrastructure.


    Throughout history, certain individuals have achieved phenomenal renown in the arts. This includes the authorship of legendary texts, the creation of magnificent visual media such as paintings, sculptures, and cinema, the production of eloquent speeches, poems, and songs, and a variety of other forms of art. Truly great artists can create works that will define and characterize the cultural products of a civilization through entire generations of time or across entire regions. Often, it will be the great art of a civilization, and only that art, which permits future peoples to even begin to understand the nature, struggles, and aspirations of their ancestors.


    No field of human endeavour has more obvious potential to bring about revolutionary improvement in the human condition than medicine. Consequently, those responsible for the greatest medical discoveries, and for the promulgation of same, are among the most influential individuals of our time. Billions of those now living would be dead of infectious disease, if not for the pioneering work of individuals like Semmelweis and Pasteur, and for the work performed on curing and preventing such diseases by figures such as Jenner, Salk, and Fleming. These "great doctors" have almost incalculable impact on humanity, though in an indirect way.


    Many of the world's most marvelous construction projects and feats of civil engineering are associated with remarkable individuals. People with outstanding force and drive, the ability to organize labor and equipment, and a vision to build that which lesser minds deem impossible, can change the shape of the land and open new paths where none existed before.


    Trade is the lifeblood of most civilizations, and its most skilled practitioners are vital to the flow of that lifeblood. 'Merchant princes' have been famous for bringing home the wealth of exotic foreign lands since ancient times; in the modern era influential business leaders tend to stay closer to home, but still have vast influence and ability to shape the development of society.


    Most of the great pivotal discoveries in the history of science are associated with one or more remarkable minds. In fairness, it is likely that things such as the theory of gravity and of evolution, the rise of quantum theory and cellular biology, would have happened without figures like Newton, Darwin, Einstein, and Hooke. But the manner in which these discoveries were made very clearly pivoted on the personalities involved, and it is impossible to say whether these secrets of our world could have been discovered so quickly, had they been illuminated by lesser lights.


    A truly great spy or spymaster often disappears into history as a relative unknown- because one of the hallmarks of success as a spy is that no one ever realizes just what was done, or how. However, throughout history there have been changes brought about through espionage. Assassins striking down kings, infiltrators moving ahead of an army to inform the commanders of the foe's activity, and political agents creating unrest and chaos within an enemy land, all hae the potential to alter the course of history.


    Nearly every prominent religion, and even most successful cults, are associated with one or more prophetic figures whose leadership and proselytizing hold the group together. It is these 'prophets' who codify the beliefs of the religion, have the potential to change or reform its nature, and who act as intermediaries between the mortal and the divine in the eyes of the people. Holy men and women have been a part of human society since prehistoric times, and will likely cause change and upheaval for so long as humans continue to honor the supernatural forces they perceive around themselves.


    The mark of military greatness is to lead armies to victory while minimizing the loss in soldiers' lives and the cost in time and resources to complete a campaign. Some generals triumph mainly by inspiring their troops; others are cerebral, analytical types that identify an enemy's weaknesses and pounce upon them, crippling the foe. Still others succeed through sheer, legendary stubbornness and grit, for one of the most precious virtues of generalship is the ability to remain resolute and effective even when there is chaos and disaster on the horizon.
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  10. Simon_Jester

    Simon_Jester Chieftain

    May 13, 2011

    The advent of the self-propelled torpedo in the mid-19th century utterly revolutionized sea warfare. While torpedoes were quite large, they were small enough to fit on a relatively lightweight vessel. And even a relatively small torpedo warhead, detonating underwater against the side of a ship's hull, could cripple or sink even the largest, most powerful and heavily armored warship.

    Throughout history, small boats had never been a credible direct threat to large ships in battle. Soldiers from the smaller craft could not easily board the taller, larger one. Cannon or other ballistic weapons mounted on a boat simply could not have the size and bulk required to do meaningful damage ot a heavily-built oceangoing ship. But a torpedo was an entirely different matter. A boat of a few hundred tons could carry torpedoes, and with them, could sink the mightiest battleship if only it could get into range.

    This gave rise to the 'torpedo boat,' a dedicated attack craft intended to carry torpedoes and no other armament of significant force. The boats were equipped with the fastest available engines, so as to evade enemy light armament and strike from the most advantageous angles. Their small size made them less than seaworthy, suited mainly for coastal operations, but it also allowed them to pass through waters a larger ship could not dare. Ships began honoring the threat immediately, for risk of being blown to bits by the torpedo's high explosive payload. Greater and greater armament of quick-firing guns that could react to a small, fast-moving boat became commonplace. Guns were designed for longer and longer ranges, to avoid the threat of one's own heavy capital ships being easily lured into range of the enemy fleet's torpedo craft. And tactics were adapted to avoid allowing large ships to be vulnerable, by keeping them further away from shore, radically altering concepts such as blockading and shore bombardment.

    Torpedo boats achieved few victories in the half-century before the oceangoing 'destroyer' began to make them obsolete, and few more before the rise of air power and quick-firing radar-guided guns finished the job. However, every navy in the world had to constantly act with the utmost awareness of the threat they presented, and the mere possibility of a torpedo boat squadron's presence was enough to render certain kinds of naval operations impossible.
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  11. Simon_Jester

    Simon_Jester Chieftain

    May 13, 2011

    Aramco, officially known as the Saudi Arabian Oil Company, owns and operates most of the tremendous oil and natural gas fields of Saudi Arabia. With oil being perhaps the single most valued resource in the world, and the Saudi oil fields being the largest known, this grants them tremendous economic leverage. The corporation has a market value of between 14 and 21 trillion dollars, making it the most-valued corporation in the modern world. It also has some of the largest revenues and profits of any corporation.

    Aramco's history reaches back to the post-World War One oil boom in the Middle East, as various British, American, and other foreign interests sought to build up oil extraction infrastructure in the oil-rich Persian Gulf. In the aftermath of World War Two, the royal House of Saud gradually gained influence over, and profit-sharing with, the corporation, threatening to nationalize it if they were not allowed to share the wealth being extracted from their land by corporations such as Aramco.

    Today, Aramco operates numerous refineries and wells within Saudi Arabia, and has interests in refineries and oil exploration elsewhere around the world.


    The Barilla Group is a large corporate conglomerate centered in Italy. It is the world's leading manufacturer of pasta, and also a maker of baked goods within Italy, where the group is headquartered. The Barilla Group has numerous production plants in Europe and the United States, employs over eight thousand people, and has a combined asset valuation of over three billion euros.


    Bayer is a German pharmaceutical company with assets valued at around 75 billion euros. Founded in 1863 as a manufacturer of dyes in Barmen, Germany, the company grew prosperous in large part due to the then-revolutionary array of organic compounds that could be synthesized from coal tar. The coal tar industry may be seen as an early precursor to the 20th century petrochemical industry in this regard.

    Relatively early, Bayer made its first foray into pharmaceuticals with a modification of the salicylic acid found in willow bark, a common folk remedy for pain relief. The new compound, acetylsalicylic acid, was enough of a mouthful that Bayer devised a new brand-name for their medication: "aspirin." Aspirin was a booming success that helped Bayer rise to prominence, though the company eventually lost its trademark rights to the name 'aspirin' in much of the world. Bayer continued to work at the cutting edge of pharmaceutical research, sometimes with problematic results such as when researchers attempting to develop an improved version of the painkiller morphine created and named the drug known as heroin.

    However, most of Bayer's product line proved far less troublesome, and the corporation continued to flourish, developing revolutionary antibacterial and anti-epileptic drugs, joining the German chemical conglomerate IG Farben. IG Farben was heavily involved in the Holocaust during World War Two, including manufacturing poison gas for the concentration camps, and running lethal medical experiments on prisoners. After the war, the victorious Allies broke up IG Farben back into component companies, of which Bayer was one, although over time Bayer has divested itself of its Nazi past.

    Bayer has established itself as a steadily growing name in the pharmaceutical industry in the postwar world, and has spread into other fields. This mainly involves agriculture and pesticide manufacture, along with the recent acquisition of the US seed producer Monsanto.
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  12. Simon_Jester

    Simon_Jester Chieftain

    May 13, 2011

    Bombay Dyeing is a prominent Indian textile corporation. Founded in India in 1879, the company continues to manufacture dyes and fabric to this day.

    [Sorry, Xyth, but I honestly can't find much unambiguous information on this one in a timely manner]


    De Beers is an international corporation famous for its extensive interests in the diamond industry. Founded in 1888 by British magnate and imperialist Cecil Rhodes, the company is named for the Afrikaaner farmers on whose land the first South African diamonds were discovered, triggering the diamond rush of 1869. De Beers bought up the mining claims of numerous small operators, consolidating and rapidly taking control of the entire South African diamond supply. This enabled Rhodes to negotiate prices with European jewelers and establish a powerful monopoly and keep diamond prices high through control of supply, a policy De Beers has done its best to uphold ever since.

    The Boer Wars of 1898-1902 were a difficult time for the British company, and Rhodes maneuvered both to support the British military victory, and to force the British to prioritize saving his diamond mines over other strategic military targets. While competition in the production of diamonds increased in the early 1900s, De Beers was once again able to consolidate its hold during World War One, securing 90% of the world's diamond production. From the 1920s through 1957 the company was controlled by Ernest Oppenheimer, a controversial business leader who maintained this monopoly and is accused of deliberately restricting the Allies' access to industrial diamonds during World War Two. The company has played a mixed role in the human rights issues and conflicts of Africa since the end of the colonial era.

    De Beers continues to hold a dominant position in extraction of South African diamonds, if not to the same extent as historically; a considerable fraction of the ownership has moved out of the hands of the Oppenheimer dynasty to other corporate owners and the Botswanan government. De Beers reported over six billion dollars in revenue in the 2016 fiscal year.
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  13. Simon_Jester

    Simon_Jester Chieftain

    May 13, 2011

    Several companies by this name were founded in different European nations in the 1600s and 1700s, with the intent of expanding trade between Europe and the 'Far East' portions of Asia: India, the region known as the 'Indies' including the southeasternmost part of Asia and islands off the coast, and the Pacific coast of Asia including China. The most successful East India companies were the Dutch and (by far) the British East India Companies, the latter of which rose to total power over India, effectively owning the subcontinent for much of a century. However, the French, Portuguese, Danes, Swedes, and Austrians all formed companies of their own, meeting with varying degrees of success.

    The origins of East India companies flowed out of simple commercial and logistical realities. These regions contained a wide variety of goods that were precious and unfamiliar in Europe, which could be sold at a prodigious profit. However, such trade could be hazardous for would-be European merchant princes, due to the limited technology of the time and the relatively powerful, well-equipped nations that ruled the region (already equipped with steel and in many cases gunpowder, in contrast to the relatively low-tech natives of the Americas). Any one merchant or ship captain could face total ruin if things went wrong, incentivizing commercial interests to band together. This gave them the ability to insure one another's voyages, and to bargain from a stronger collective position when dealing with prominent rulers such as the Mughal emperors in India.

    For many decades the companies remained focused on trade, but as the Mughals in India declined in power, the British and French East India Companies began recruiting armies of local 'sepoy' troops and clashing directly for control of territory, beginning with the Carnatic Wars of the mid-1700s that left the British company in control of the wealthy region of Bengal. The British East India Company milked Bengal for all that it was worth and rapidly began expanding its power; by the end of the Napoleonic Wars the Company had a private army of hundreds of thousands and near-total dominion over India. Exploitation of the Indian economy was ruthless and in many cases led to unnecessary faines and a forcible suppression of industrial infrastructure, as the Company sought to maximize production of cash crops and other luxuries to ship home to Britain, while creating in India the largest possible market for British manufactured goods.

    Similar dynamics were in play in the 'Indies,' the islands to the east, which were soon dominated mainly by the Dutch East India Company. The particulars were different due to the more diverse, fragmented culture and politics of the East Indies, but the outcome was the same- colonial domination, with corporate authority as the mechanism.

    The reign of such large private companies finally ended as European governments stepped in to 'restore order' in the wake of revolts against corporate authority, in particular in India. The Company proved helpless to suppress the 1855 'Indian Mutiny' of sepoy troops outraged at Company disrespect for their religious practices, along with other provocations. In the aftermath, the British established the 'Raj,' a direct administration of India in the name of Queen Victoria of Britain, who afterwards adopted the title 'Empress of India.' It was this process more than any other that truly catapulted Britain to imperial power up into and through the early 1900s, with the powerful early corporation that brought the British Empire to its peak fading into the mists of history.


    General Mills is an American-based multinational corporation that manufactures foodstuffs, most famously including cereal grains. Founded in 1856 to operate a series of grain mills in the Mississippi river valley, General Mills gradually expanded and bought out other companies to reach its present prodigious size, with assets valued at roughly 21 billion dollars.

    General MIlls makes many of the most popular breakfast cereals in America, and owns numerous brands such as Betty Crocker, Pillsbury, and Haagen-Dazs ice cream.


    The Hudson's Bay Company was chartered in 1670 in England, where it began life as a fur-trading company. This was intended to subvert and outflank the French monopoly on fur trade in the St. Lawrence river valley, the French being owners of the colony in Canada at the time. By sailing around the Arctic coast of Canada during the summer months, English traders could reach Hudson's Bay and easily make contact with native fur trappers that the French, based on the St. Lawrence and the Great Lakes, had no easy way of reaching and little influence with.

    The French succeeded in capturing most of the Hudson's Bay outposts in the early 1700s during the wars of Louis XIV, but were eventually coerced into returning them as part of the peace settlement at the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. The company remained a powerful commercial concern up through the rest of the 1700s, all the more so after the British successfully conquered Canada from the French .in the 1760s, during the Seven Years' War. With Canadian colonial administration now organized on the British model, the company faced competition from corporations created within Canada, and independent traders, that it could not lawfully fight against in all the ways it had fought the French.

    Through a combination of mergers and able management, the Hudson's Bay Company retained a pre-eminent position in the Canadian fur trade, also spreading out influence into the west coast of North America in what is now California, Oregon, and Washington State. However, this could not go on. The 'Wild West' atmosphere of the era was declining as American and Canadian settlers pushed agriculture further west and their respective national governments gained power and control in the region at the expense of both the native American tribes and the corporate factors.

    To survive, the company would have to diversify, which it began to do in the late 19th century, founding a series of department stores and retain brand chains which the Hudson Bay Company continues to operate to this day. The Hudson Bay Company is unique among the various European trading ventures founded during the Age of Discovery in that it has outlasted all its rivals and competitors for the trade it once held, and continues to exist as a major corporation in the modern era. Today, the company holds assets worth over twelve billion Canadian dollars, and reports over five billion Canadian dollars of revenue.
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