?Gentlemen, the Chamberlain has asked me to talk give you a brief treatise on the issue of salt in Anuire. You are surely all aware of what salt is, but might be less initiated on its importance for noble, warrior, clergy and commoner alike.
When and where the first salt was produced in Anuire is debated by the scholars to this day. It is known that the Andu tribes that came to the coasts of Cerilia already knew of several techniques of how to purify usable salt from brine and seawater. Considering the lack of maritime heritage amongst these first settlers, it is not unlikely that the main source was the evaporation of water brine springs using fires fueled by the ample forests covering these lands.
Based on the production centers we know today, it is quite likely that the first production for sale was somewhere along the lower reaches of the Maesil River. In what are now southern Alamie and Tuornen, and to a certain extent in north-eastern Avanil, there are a number of brine springs that is of high enough salt content to make production possible. Their commercial production has long since stopped due to the lack of wood, but they are still used by the local farms as a source of salt for their herds.
The production of salt using wooden fires is perhaps one of the least efficient methods we know of today, and as such the output from any such ventures must have been very limited. As the number of settlers arriving from the old continent increased, so would the demand for salt. Making the situation worse would be the gradually diminishing supply of forest surrounding the usable brine springs, making the situation even more difficult. At some stage the capacity for producing salt by fire would be outstripped by demand, and a change to more efficient methods must have followed.
It is my belief that the first settlers to arrive in what is now Brosengae quickly discovered how to gain salt from the sea. The tidal flats along the eastern coast of the peninsula have enough sun and are sheltered from to much rain from the west due to the Seamist Mountains, and are thus an ideal place for the gathering of salt. In the early days the people here most likely gathered the salt crystallizing on the beaches and in the tidal swamps during the summer. Some locals continue this practice to this day, but the quality is poor and the yield is not enough for any sort of commerce.
The technique used in Brosengae today, and in almost all major salt works now, is the evaporation in artificial ponds. The system relies on the sun and wind to evaporate the water, just like the natural process, gradually increasing their salt content until salt crystals settle at the bottom of the pond. It can then be raked out at regular intervals and dried in the sun before it is packed in barrels for shipping of to others parts of Anuire. This system has a much greater output than the use of fires for boiling brine, and also at a much lower cost as it requires little in the way of materials or manpower.
It should be noted that the salt produced by evaporating seawater often is of lower quality than the salt obtained from boiling brine. Part of the problem here is the mixing of clay with the salt during the raking process in the artificial ponds. This usually gives a gray or almost black salt, but sometimes it can come out as slightly reddish or even with a green tint. This salt also comes out significantly coarser than salt from boiling, as the salt grains have a much longer time to grow. Interestingly enough it is this gray and coarse salt that is most sought after for the preserving of fish and hides. This whiter, and purer, salt of smaller grains is more popular for the consumption at the table or for cooking food.
The main uses of the salt produced are not, like most people believe, for the consumption as table salt for the people living in Anuire. By far the greatest part of the salt produced for commercial sale goes to the salting and preserving of the fish we all eat. Without the possibility of preserving fish from the seasonal catches, it would be impossible for the vast majority of the Anuirean population to ever see, and much less eat, any fish during their lifetime. Only properly salted and dried fish is capable of surviving the journey from the fisheries to the markets and to the table of commoner and noble alike.
The amount of salt used in the salting fish cannot be overstated. An unknown duchess of Brosengae has been quoted with saying ?Without my salt Anuire would starve.? While this was certainly meant as a boast or an attempt at intimidating the imperial court, it is not so far from the truth. Even in a normal year with the abundant harvests one sees on the south coast there is a huge fleet of ships, small and large, sailing from as far as the Taelshore down to the ports of Aerele and Ilien. In times of drought or famine the number of ships increase, but the prices still goes up due to the starving masses needing food.
The two main producers of salt that allow such a huge trade to occur are Brosengae and Mieres. They have the necessary coastal flats combined with a climate characterized by abundant sunshine and little rain. In Brosengae this is limited to the eastern coast of the island, which is both protected from the rain and destructive storms coming from the Miere Rhuann. The economy in Mieres has after unknown generations become wholly dependent on this salt trade as the main source of revenue. If the production or export of salt were to cease for some reason it would certainly lead to the bankruptcy of many a Brosengan noble and merchant.
In Mieres the production of salt occurs at various places along the entire coast. While the eastern coast certain has a more favourable climate for the production of salt, the coastline here resembles more the cliffs on the northern side of the Strait of Aerele. On the north coast there are many tidal flats and salt marshes to be found, and these have slowly become developed as the demand for salt has increased over the last few centuries.
The main difference between the salt production in Mieres and Brosengae lies in how it is organized. In Brosengae all the major salt works are owned by the Brosen Royal Guild, who hires men to work the salt ponds for them. This gives them a considerable direct power over the salt production, but has also required an immense investment in evaporation ponds and equipment. If they were to be damaged due to war or some other disaster it would be for the guild to carry the whole burden of rebuilding them.
In Mieres it is more a free mans job to rake salt. Here it is not uncommon for families or small communities to set up some artificial ponds and make salt. This salt is then bought by the Strait of Aerele Shipping guild. Due to the economic control the guild has in Mieres it has gained a monopoly on buying the locally produced salt, and is thus able to fix the price artificially low to ensure a competitive price against the Brosen salt, while still making a significant profit. While some have called for an abolishment of this unfair monopoly, it must be noted that even at low prices the salt-rakers of Mieres are some of the wealthiest peasant in Anuire.
There are other places in Anuire where salt is produced, but their production is not nearly as substantial as the produce of Mieres and Brosengae and is mainly produced for the local market. In the Eastern Marches there are salt works in Osoerde. The coastline here has many places suitable for production, but the weather does not allow production for more than the driest part of the summer. There is also some production in Coeranys, but the coastline here is not suitable in most places. One of the main sources of salt in this region is from the Khinasi lands on the eastern side of the Gulf of Coeranys. Binsada have a significant production, and every year there are dhows braving the pirates of the Harrowmarsh bringing salt to Calrie at a much lower price than what can be bought in Ilien or Seaward.
In the Heartlands the main source of salt comes from boiling brine. As mentioned earlier, this relies on a huge supply of firewood, a resource that has slowly been disappearing in Anuire for the last few centuries. There are still some works in operation throughout Mhoried and northern Alamie, but again these only manage to meet the most basic local demands. For the production of salted meet and for preserving hides and furs there is a considerable salt trade up the Maesil. Only in Cariele is there still a thriving salt industry based on boiling brine, but all of this is used in the significant fur trade.
On the West Coast and further north the production of salt is even more limited. People boiling brine here as well, but this small-holding based craft produces not nearly enough to support any significant export oriented industry. It is the fisheries here that are the main target of the flourishing Anuirean salt trade, salt is exported from the coast all the way into the northernmost Rjurik lands. In return the merchants bring salted fish, cured meat and preserved furs for the huge Anuirean market.
In total it can be said that it is the salt that holds the Anuirean economy together. If the salt trade were to be disrupted, it would not only result in the economy as a whole breaking down, but it would also cause widespread hunger and famine.?
Lord Shiese, Trade advisor of the Chamberlain, from a lecture on the importance of trade in Anuire held in the Imperial Cairn, ca 1510HC.
The importance of salt in the Anuirean economy. This is very much taken from the book "Salt: A World History" by Mark Kulansky. For those interested in history and economy it is a very good read.
Posted on br.net by Even Sørgjerd a.k.a. Heretic a.k.a. Don E.
Wikified by AndrewTall
, 10-09-2008 at 11:27 AM|
Last edited by , 10-23-2011 at 12:09 PM
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