Tradition drives the engine of prosperity in Devera’s ancient agricultural heartland. Deep, healthy soil, ground from the highlands over glaciated millennia and lavishly deposited over vast plains whose heights seldom rise more than a few hundred feet above sea level, support thriving grasslands that have been cultivated with meticulous care and preserved longer than any surviving written record. The gift of Kameron’s greatness lay in its soil, and the blessing of abundant harvests have been the legacy of farming families for ten thousand generations–far longer than any other single nation can boast.
Governments rise and fall, but the land endures, cradling civilization in its nurturing embrace. Surrounded by tall mountains, vast wetlands and sea which prevented expansion into new territory, agriculture has long dominated the economy in this region. Its farmlands, orchards, groves and gardens produce a huge surplus that is easily and quickly transported on an extensive network of rivers and canals.
In Kameron’s early days, when huge ungulate herds grazed upon the grasslands, nomadic hunter / gatherers formed loose alliances with other tribes in order to protect their territories from occupation by rival clans. These agreements became the basis from which all governance in this great nation formed. Eventually, the people in this region formed local councils that grew into a system of government that featured quasi-independent warlords, with strong, personal armies, who governed their own territories with impunity. This decentralization of power, coupled with the expansive territory over which these lords ruled, made the imposition of authority from Kameron City, the nation’s capital, tenuous under the best of circumstances. No one seated on the throne in Kameron City could long alienate the warlords, whose authority to raise levies and protect their own interests virtually guaranteed that any policy change originating in the capital city could be effectively ignored locally.
The impact of this system might have been economically stagnating, were it not for the cultural mind set of Kameron’s people. One of the primal religious beliefs in Kameron concerns the principle of individual responsibility for one’s own destiny. This mind set is manifest in a strong desire to solve problems locally, which led to an extremely diverse, decentralized system for producing goods and services; utilizing resources derived in a much more sustainable manner from the local environment than had ever been the case among most neighboring nations.
This system also strongly influenced settlement patterns. Each region developed towns and cities along its periphery. The exchange of resources, agricultural commodities and manufactured goods occurs along rail and barge lines that wind through privately owned lands; in effect, isolating every region, but also connecting them to all the others. Over the centuries, these networks became dense and laden with surplus production, enabling very profitable trade with inland nation states whose severe climates often limited their ability to grow food and energy crops.
By demanding a small margin of profit from excess production, and by setting local policies that optimized land and resource usage, most warlords grew exceedingly wealthy. This enabled many of them to buy out other land owners in order to increase their holdings. Effective resource managers then invested their profits back into the land base in order to further expand crop yields and commerce.
This manorial system also resulted in a form of slavery. Peasants, who were permitted to occupy their land but not to own it, essentially became the property of the lords who controlled each territory. Their pay usually consisted of sufficient food from the manor to sustain a family, along with a stipend from which they were forced to maintain their own homes and pay quarterly rent. In most cases, the rents were simply deducted from shares otherwise belonging to the tenant farmers and factory workers, as were tools, furniture and any other household supplies purchased through the manor house. The net effect of this system created perpetual dependence on the landlord. No one indentured to the land owner could leave his territory, and thus, even though slavery had long been outlawed in Kameron, the practice persisted.
However, a few means of escape remained for young male citizens who had not yet amassed any debt. An able bodied young man might join either his local warlord’s army, one of the national armies, or flee to Kameron City. Because law could be effectively enforced in the nation’s capital, any male citizen who arrived there could not be coerced into returning home; unless he stood trial and was subsequently convicted of debt fraud, a very difficult charge to prove in Kameron’s court system. Although this practice amounted to voluntary exile, so many young men sought this route that the lands immediately surrounding Kameron City became inundated with sprawling, fetid shanty towns, overflowing with refuse, trash and crime.
In order to preserve the population base, females were forbidden unescorted travel on trains, barges, carriage and horseback. Bounty hunters and slave traders preyed upon any who dared flee their homes, until a lively industry emerged to capture runaway girls and either return them home, or sell them into prostitution.
Despite the corruption and contrast between wealthy, land-owning and poor, land-bound citizens, Kameron’s deep, fertile soil ensured a much more pleasant existence for its people than could be claimed by most of the nations huddled along its lengthy border. These other countries came to depend upon the surplus of Kameron’s agricultural production to feed their own people, and for this reason, low level warfare with neighboring states has been nearly continual for over five hundred years.