Short Excerpts from Historical Notes, by Kathleen Jones (Hyrnek Publishers, London), a pamphlet supplied to all incoming MPs in the new People's Parliament.
Magic in History
Despite all our efforts, friends, magic is inescapable. Look into the past: world history consists of a long line of cultures rising to prominence under the influence of magic. This sequence began in Mesopotamia 3,000 years ago and continues to London in the present day. Each culture waxes to greatness, thrives for a time, then falls.
Prominent magical empires of the past include: (the list is not exhaustive)
MESOPOTAMIA: 3000 BC – 1000 BC
EGYPT: 3000 BC – 500 BC
ATLANTIS: c. 1500 BC
ISRAEL: c. 1000 BC
CHINA: (Zhou Dynasty) c. 10th C BC – 7th C BC
MEDIA/PERSIA: c. 500 BC – 1st C AD
ROME: 1st C BC – 4th C AD
BYZANTIUM: at its height 9th – 12th C AD
CHINA: (Song Dynasty) 10th – 13th C
GREAT ZIMBABWE: 11th – 15th C
AZTEC: 15th – 16th C
PRAGUE (Holy Roman Empire): 15th – 19th C
LONDON: 19th – 21st C
Magicians exist in all countries at all times. But some environments are more fruitful than others, and at any given time there is usually one place above all where magic flourishes. The power of magicians is closely tied to the power of cities; they throng to states that are economically or militarily strongest. A 'gravitational pull' develops – magicians from far afield are drawn to where the action is. A good example is late-Renaissance Prague, when magicians such as John Dee of England travelled to work at the Emperor Rudolf's court.
Not all magical empires function in the same way. Sometimes, as with Prague (where the Holy Roman Emperor did not work magic) the magicians remain loyal to a nominal ruler. At other times, the magicians may overthrow the secular rulers (as happened sporadically in Egypt, or in Media, 540 BC, when the magi took control).
Regimes where magicians are officially in charge tend to be very bureaucratic. This was the case in Rome, and has been the case here, now, in London. Where they remained a separate 'advisory' caste (such as in Egypt or Prague), magic acquired a more mystical, almost religious tone.
Despite such differences, the empires shown above were all dependant on magical power. All had early periods of consolidation, followed by aggressive, expansionist phases. All ended with periods of decadence and unrest. Foreign states began to exert pressure; magicians became lax with soft living; natural resilience grew among the people. Sooner or later, each empire decayed, its place to be taken in due course by another elsewhere in the world.
Shamanistic societies, such as the Native Americans, also had powerful magicians, but did not build cities or empires. Their histories are longer and more difficult to trace.
Recent British History
In medieval times, Britain was ruled by kings. The monarchy survived up to the Civil War (1640s), when King Charles was beheaded. His debauched son, also named Charles, attempted to flee to France with the surviving court magicians, but their jollyboat was intercepted by a Parliamentarian vessel and sunk with all hands.
Prior to this, magicians had been prominent at the English court, although they never occupied positions of real power. Elizabeth's time had seen much interest in alchemy and astrology. Dr Dee, among others, entertained the Queen; he was viewed with a mixture of awe, amusement and suspicion. In Europe, by contrast, this was the time of the great Renaissance magi: the Holy Roman Empire was growing in strength and Rudolf was summoning magicians from far afield. In Italy, a brief city-based magical rivalry flourished, but the dynasties warred amongst each other and the peninsula was taken by Prague.
The English Civil War saw the Royalists crushed, and with them the last surviving court magicians. The triumphant Puritans sought to eradicate all magic. Survivors fled to Prague. For a long time our nation saw only hedge-magicians and cheap-jack wonderworkers. Centuries passed. At length the Commoner's Parliament, threatened at all times by the great empires on the continent, began to seek magical advisors; their power was strictly limited, but slowly the magicians' influence grew.
Meanwhile, Britain had poured much energy into non-magical industry and seafaring. By the early 19th Century, it had won a fair amount of overseas territory through trade and war, and had begun to industrialise. In many respects it was more advanced than the rest of Europe, where the Holy Roman Empire was now weary and decadent. Not having magicians was a distinct advantage for Britain – since other skills had had the opportunity to flourish. The Commoner's Parliament nevertheless still feared attack from Prague (not without reason: a century earlier, an invading Imperial fleet had been destroyed by a natural storm) and they turned increasingly for help to the prominent magician William Gladstone.
Gladstone perceived the weakness of Prague and was eager to take advantage. Frustrated by the continual dithering of Parliament, he acted. In 1867, in the so-called Night of the Long Counsel, he demanded Parliament hand over control to him. Debate raged into the early hours; finally, growing white with fury, Gladstone summoned demons to remove the most vociferous of his opponents. The remainder went into hasty exile. Within months, Gladstone led an army into Europe. The Holy Roman Empire was crumbling from within. Prague was taken in 1868, and Britain was the new power.
A new non-elected 'parliament' of magicians was formed and Gladstone busied himself setting up a strong bureaucracy to support it. Britain became a police state. For more than 130 years, his repressive system worked effectively, but at last began to stagnate. Industry, once a British strong point, had not progressed, owing to the magicians' efforts to restrict commoner's education and to their extreme conservatism. Other nations began to gain advantage. Worse, the Empire was large and militarily over-stretched. Finally the American Wars and the Makepeace Conspiracies secured the regime's downfall.
And now commoners are once again at Westminster! We must take advantage of this opportunity! Magic cannot be ignored, but we must no longer rely on it. We must renew our democracy and our failing industry. It is a great challenge, but one that we cannot shirk. Together, we must advance unafraid into the modern age!