I have been researching online, but most of the results I receive are how to rebuild a modern country after a war. Many of their suggestions I can't see carrying over well to a more Medieval-type setting, so I was hoping I might get more ideas here?

The fantasy country I'm working with is small and surrounded on all sides by larger countries. However, it's also surrounded by mountains and water in such a way that to actually attack it would take a lot of time and expense for very little reward. It was basically left alone until a very valuable gemstone was found in abundance in the mines there, at which point attacking it became worth all the trouble in the world.

Basically the ruling family was executed, the land was forcibly annexed by another country, and the people were either enslaved or impoverished but either way became second class citizens in their own country. Because of the difficulty of travel, those who were given positions of power in the newly annexed kingdom had little to no oversight from higher authorities back home, and they mismanaged the country badly, growing rich while allowing infrastructure to collapse and people to starve.

The country was eventually taken back through a combination of magic, monsters (who are wild cards as they are akin to wild animals but much more vicious--they are a weapon that hurts both sides), ruthlessness, popular uprisings, and some serious psychological warfare. There is a new king in place now, but the mess he has on his hands is huge.

It's been around two decades since the kingdom was first taken over. It's been long enough for an entire generation to have grown to adulthood with no schooling/apprenticeships and in some cases, never knowing the taste of freedom, while other generations have had the majority of their lives spent that way. Culture has also been lost, as they were forced to conform to the ways of the invaders. Farms and lands had been wrested from locals and given to foreign "settlers," which has left deep animosity and conflicts of interest. Crime is as rampant as you'd imagine, and bad roads, bridges, and other infrastructure make reassembling trade routes or any other movement difficult (as do the monsters roaming the wild).

And I'm sure there are issues I'm not thinking of.

Food hasn't been mentioned because crops were grown, just distributed so foreign invaders got first pick and hoarded much. Mostly that would be a matter of fair redistribution of the stores already in place, which is it's own unique issue.

What I'm looking for is anything I missed in the way of problems, as well as ideas on what general order rebuilding should take place. Crops, roads, government rebuilding, crime fighting, disputes, all of them are immediate issues but tackling them all at the same time would be impossible. I know education can wait a few years, but getting healers to everyone who needs them might not. Rebuilding culture, too, how would that be accomplished in a place where everything travels exactly the speed of a galloping horse, and not much faster?

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    $\begingroup$ 20 years is not long enough to lose culture. Check history of Ireland under the British rule for real-life examples of oppressed culture. $\endgroup$
    – Olga
    Commented Nov 2, 2017 at 3:37
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    $\begingroup$ Good to know. I was thinking more a situation like Native American children, who had their culture "educated" out of them fairly swiftly. The older generation would still recall it, but younger ones might not, and might even prefer what they grew up with, causing a rift. $\endgroup$
    – Firelocke
    Commented Nov 2, 2017 at 3:48
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    $\begingroup$ I think that when we are talking about destroying the culture time scales of less then a century do not matter much. Even black slaves retained some of their culture despite being completely removed from their countries and families. In your scenario more than half of the entire population remembers old ways. Moreover, they are free to restore them. There will be a cultural change, obviously. But you shouldn’t expect a complete replacement of original culture with the one of conquerors. It doesn’t work this way. $\endgroup$
    – Olga
    Commented Nov 2, 2017 at 3:53
  • $\begingroup$ I did not get into specific logistical issues because that would be novel rather than an answer--but I touched on historical reference points that might be helpful. Like the other commenters, I don't think 20 years is long enough--go at LEAST 2 or 3 generations. Maybe their grandparents or great grands/very very old folks recall the time before and pass down the stories. That doesn't mean there were not uprisings in between if they managed it that badly. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 2, 2017 at 4:35
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    $\begingroup$ "the land was conscripted" People are conscripted, land is annexed. $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    Commented Nov 2, 2017 at 14:42

6 Answers 6


Here are some other issues to think about. I am assuming that your occupation forces used scorched earth tactics during submission of rebellions and before leaving the country. Otherwise, your country will not be as ruined as you depict. I also assume that your new ruler is benevolent and rather enlightened.


Religion was a very important aspect of life in medieval Europe. Churches and priests played a significant role in society. One of the bloodiest times in European history is the Reformation period! We can talk a lot about bad things associated with religion and especially Christianity, but the church was also a force acting on behalf of the general population.

For example, monasteries in England before Henry VIII's reforms in addition to their religious functions also served as public hospitals, shelters, soup kitchens, etc. Once they were dissolved and their lands were taken away beggars and paupers flooded streets of many cities and towns. The church was no less important in Ireland. In fact, many contemporary public schools in the country are still under the patronage of the Catholic church since this is how they started. Urban legends also say that Irish Catholic priests for centuries were active members of the resistance to the British rule.

If your country has some kind of an organised religion it is impossible for them not to participate. Its priests will automatically be figures of authority. It is also likely that the church will actively pursue stability and rebuilding. The reasons can be anything from altruism to basic greed (stability results in more riches). The church can also solve the problem of healers, especially if it recruits the magicians.

Religion is also a perfect unifying force. It can help to keep the country together and prevent it from descending into a multitude of fractured and warring mini-states size of a hamlet. The church can also legitimise and validate a new ruler. Not to mention, that it is by definition a propaganda machine with many willing and enthuasistic workers.



After 20 years of foreign rule, the age distribution may change. I would suspect that you will experience the thinning of able-bodied people of fertile age. Especially if the country was rebelling often. You might also have a lot of orphans.

This will lead to the shortage of workers everywhere. Women, children, and elderly can take over in some industries (like crafts and trade), but the country will experience problems in areas requiring physical force. On the bright side, it might speed up innovation.

The monasteries will be indispensable for taking care of orphans, invalids, and old people who cannot work. Alternatively, you can use the concept of workhouses, which would also supply some cheap labour.

A shortage of workers will trigger social changes. You can choose between Western Europe (abolishment of serfdom) and Eastern Europe (strengthening of the feudal system and its institutions). You can read about these strategies in history after the Black Death.

Sex ratio

Your country might also experience skewed sex ratio in fertile cohorts. If a lot of young, strong men died in rebellions and the war for independence, there will be more women. If it is your case, you might find interesting the situation in Rwanda after the 1994 genocide. It is not your time period. But it is a great demonstration of changes in gender roles and society after a civil war that led to drastic changes in sex ratios.

Psychological problems

I believe that medieval people were much more resilient psychologically than modern people. Unlike us, they dealt with death, violence, and brutality on a daily basis. Still, you can expect much higher rates of PTSD and rape victims than normally. You will also have to deal with unwanted babies that were conceived during rape. The situation would become worse if they are biracial. This can work as a part of a plot as well.


As I said in comments, 20 years is not a long enough time to change the culture since you have a lot of people who are part of the original culture. Moreover, since you do not have mass communications, news travel at a horse speed and new fads and fashions with a wagon speed (which is even lower than a person on foot) there is no risk that the original culture will be replaced with the one of the occupying nation.

Nonetheless, some changes will occur due to changes in power and exposure to other cultures. It is up to you how to weave these influences in your story. I would expect a rise in isolationism and nationalism at least in the first several years while the country is rebuilding. However, a strong and enlightened leader might prefer to open the country and increase international participation and exchange. It's your choice.


The very first thing you need to be aware of is:

People Power Medieval economies and agrarian societies have to have people in order to harvest. This is essential.

You also have to realize that serfdom, no matter who it was under, was a lot like slavery, but not quite. Education was never on top of anyone's list during this time.

Now, I know you haven't turned up much in your searches, but there actually WAS an apocalypse of sorts during medieval times.

It was called The Black Plague.

This situation wasn't exactly the same as yours, but it is a model you might want to look at.

Prior to the Black Plague, many people never travelled more than 30 miles from their home, living and working in an area generationally under a noble family.

Then, the Black Plague struck.

Suddenly, many noble families were dead. And when harvest time came, there weren't enough serfs to gather the crops.

Infrastructure as they knew it was collapsing. Smart nobles that were alive knew that they had to get more people to gather their harvest. So they enticed serfs to come and work for them. Serfs from other places and the surrounding areas.

This lead to a more mobile population, where the power, the negotiating power had shifted to ::gasp:: the poorer.

I think that the Renaissance never would have blossomed so quickly without this. See this awesome link for how a breakdown of society and less people can actually lead to growth.

In my opinion, this isn't necessarily about rebuilding things as they were--it's about a total shift in values. A rise in the merchant class--not nobles, but those who see the opportunity, and seize it.

I would start a banking system in this country, have non-noble but wealthy folk from other countries come in, marry into nobility and begin building a power base. Because the answer to ALL of your problems, and I do mean all, is a matter of money. Organization will come with that, as will education, and a restructuring of society.

Most of what people think of as Medieval is actually Renaissance. You're talking about higher education as though it's a thing in Medieval times--and while there were universities developing, at this time, it's the Renaissance that really put it in full swing. See my answer to this question in which I cover how those developed in our world.

Now, as far as a cultural take-over, 20 years is not enough time for that to happen. But, if you want to look at a model where a society "bounced back" after invaders, look no further than the Roman Empire--specifically in England.

The kind of thing you are talking about, where the leaders installed were far from home, and did not have oversight, and eventually either became part of the population, or went back home or were just beaten out--here's a wiki link as to how that went down. Granted, this was before the Medieval period, but it's worth it for you to study.

Here's snippet:

In 407 Constantine took charge of the remaining troops in Britain, led them across the Channel into Gaul, rallied support there, and attempted to set himself up as Western Roman Emperor.[20] Honorius' loyalist forces south of the Alps were preoccupied with fending off the Visigoths and were unable to put down the rebellion swiftly, giving Constantine the opportunity to extend his new empire to include Spain.[24][25]

In 409 Constantine's control of his empire fell apart. Part of his military forces were in Spain, making them unavailable for action in Gaul, and some of those in Gaul were swayed against him by loyalist Roman generals. The Germans living west of the Rhine River rose against him, perhaps encouraged by Roman loyalists,[26][27] and those living east of the river crossed into Gaul.[28] Britain, now without any troops for protection and having suffered particularly severe Saxon raids in 408 and 409, viewed the situation in Gaul with renewed alarm. Perhaps feeling they had no hope of relief under Constantine, both the Romano-Britons and some of the Gauls expelled Constantine's magistrates in 409 or 410.[29][30][31] The Byzantine historian Zosimus (fl. 490's – 510's) directly blamed Constantine for the expulsion, saying that he had allowed the Saxons to raid, and that the Britons and Gauls were reduced to such straits that they revolted from the Roman Empire, rejected Roman law, reverted to their native customs, and armed themselves to ensure their own safety.

As you can see, the Empire had other problems, so they didn't want to waste the resources. Do use this as a research starting point as well. I think it would be helpful to you, even though it was earlier. This bbc link talks about the cultural shift and how Roman customs did still hang on post-expulsion.

The timeline was especially interesting, which is why I don't think that 20 years is going to work--the Romans were there for hundreds of years, were way more organized than your invaders--and the people of Britain STILL had their own culture--mainly because it was always the furthest outpost of the empire and it was isolated by water (where yours is isolated differently).

This upheaval did lead to a time of legendary heroes, so there is that!

  • $\begingroup$ Banking wouldn’t develop without already existing and flourishing trade. There is a reason for precursors to contemporary banking to develop in Florence, Venice, and Genoa. They were one of the most powerful merchant cities at the time. $\endgroup$
    – Olga
    Commented Nov 2, 2017 at 4:01
  • $\begingroup$ @Olga True, I am saying that this society should be moving TOWARDS this as a goal for restructuring. The merchants and trade have to move in as part of this. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 2, 2017 at 4:04
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    $\begingroup$ @Olga Banking may not naturally develop without a strong base of trade but it could be engineered. Some group with funds and a desire to develop trade could invest in kick-starting trade. Their motivations could be totally self interest based or not. But banking can still happen. $\endgroup$
    – Leezard
    Commented Nov 2, 2017 at 4:08
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    $\begingroup$ The serfs discovered there was money elsewhere and started to move around. So vagrancy laws were introduced to keep them in their place. People power didn't come easily. $\endgroup$
    – Separatrix
    Commented Nov 2, 2017 at 12:41
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    $\begingroup$ @Olga The isolation would be an issue but the motivations of these angel investors would be key to the situation. Also, are the gemstones that made it worth while to invade be part of those motivations? If they aren't gone after 20 years, then yeah, I think that would do a great deal to pull money in with hopes of getting so much more out. $\endgroup$
    – Leezard
    Commented Nov 2, 2017 at 19:57

Hmm ... the interesting thing about medieval-type countries (talking Europe here) is that they tended not to be terribly centralized at the best of times. Holy Roman Empire, I'm looking at you. This caused all kinds of inefficiency, but there's one key factor here which will work in your favor:

There was self-sufficiency at several levels

Villages were fairly self-sufficient; starting with food production, they would tack on various crafts and minor industries they could support. Trade tended to be local (or local-ish), usually in the ambit of the nearby city. What they couldn't trade for, they'd improvise, or simply do without.

Cities were more tied in to other communities; first, the surrounding constellation of villages, secondly other cities via trade. Note that in this period most long-distance trade was for luxuries, which can be done without.


Your ravaged kingdom will have little islands of stability. Some isolated villages. Some towns or cities with their satellite villages. Trade will have suffered. The economy will be mostly local, and inefficient.


Your government needs to prioritize.

They have several key needs:

  • They need to re-establish government authority. This is probably the first thing to do. Meaning that bandits, separatists, and opportunists must be suppressed. Building an army sounds like a good step here.

  • Of course it's kind of hard to get around and do these vital errands if the roads are all washed out.

  • Soldiers and roads are expensive. Might be a good idea to start bringing some taxes in, yes?

  • In these terrible times the cash economy will have taken a hit; barter and in-kind payments will be rife. Time to get fair coinage being made again.

All the above has been necessary but a little ... heavy handed. The actual citizens haven't seen much benefit from all this work yet. If you want to keep morale up, the new government has to build some legitimacy or at least gratitude.

  • Some of this comes along with restoring order

  • Schools and public works might be in order here. Courts wouldn't be amiss; they'd've been sorely missed during the interregnum

  • (Oddly enough) Cultural events or sponsorships may help a lot... after all, the old culture has been suppressed; it'll help a lot with legitimacy if the government is loudly working to "bring back our heritage"

  • Trade will be another big win for your kingdom. People love their luxuries, and they really love being able to move their goods safely and with fewer internal barriers and tariffs

Okay, fine. Now what's the hidden gotcha?

Well ... the (surviving) communities have been getting by on their own. They did it on their own, without any help. They may be used to not paying taxes anymore (it's fun!). Odds are high that you've got local nobles, or city councils, or strongmen running the show in the various corners of the kingdom.

How are you going to bring them back in? You could try to suppress them ... all ... with that shiny new army. But that would be a heartbreaking task, and likely not even possible. It's likely you'll have to make some ... deals.

Like increased autonomy in exchange for allegiance.

Oh no, you've just re-invented feudalism!

This often happens after a collapse. In order to get things together compromises are made, and before long your nice, centralized kingdom has devolved into the HRE, with its idiosyncratic mishmash of polities, laws, tax-codes, and jurisdictions.

In Europe, it took bloody, agonizing centuries to come back from this. It took cannons, too, now that I think of it. Mister, you've got a long row to hoe here.

  • $\begingroup$ Each village was its own thing really--interconnected with others, out to about 3 days walk. Roads would often be maintained on a local level, not because a government said so, but because they wanted carts to be able to get to them. And the idea of a national identity--that's not very Medieval. Custom and culture was seen as local, not national. Great answer I would upvote it multiple times if I could. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 5, 2017 at 16:19
  • $\begingroup$ The Chinese also went through multiple cycles of this - basically towards the end of every major dynasty, and sometimes in between, for example during the An Lushan- rebellion. Reunification and reestablishment of central power was always a very messy affair, and likely only possible because the Central Plains had road networks since millennia, was mostly flat like a table and had less pesky mountain chains like the Alps. $\endgroup$
    – MauganRa
    Commented Sep 1, 2019 at 13:37

Hold on, You have made a gross misrepresentation of the 'medieval' period

The medieval period excelled in warfare economies, largely because they didn't concern themselves with their peoples prospects, only their immediate productivity.

Their form of government was a Feudal system. Here's how this worked: A ruler comes to power. In acquisition of this power, said ruler needed to gain the support of other powerful men, men who could organize, support and lead other men. After obtaining his power and defining his geographic territory he would carve off chunks of that territory and give it to those who demonstrated their loyalty and could more effectively manage that province. Managing of that province entailed making it productive: food, natural resources collection, crafting. They focused entirely on preparing for the next war because every war they had the chance to prove their loyalty and thus gain more land.

So they didn't fret over trivial things like who owned what before the takeover. Whenever a new line came to power ownership of everything was virtually reset.

They didn't care about the education of their people. Education was a personal endeavor to advance ones own position. Education was usually only accessible to the rich in order to improve their tactical abilities and management abilities of their territory.

There was absolutely none of this moppy-ness or modern concept of tolerance. You were either loyal to the king and his circle or you weren't in which case you were seen as a dissident and swiftly executed. So for these foreigners to retain any of their acquired land means they clearly bent the knee. There may be some resentment but no more than any man at the time would feel towards the ruling class.

IF a ruler made education accessible to the public it was purely as a means to curry favor of the public by allowing upward mobility. This is a radical concept for a medieval ruler.

There's very little difference between a monarchy and a dictatorship.

  • $\begingroup$ Yes. This. Since it was fantasy, I did not want to get too deep in, but the OP has a very modern viewpoint that they are starting from. The kind of organization he's assuming they formerly had just didn't exist in our Medieval times. That's why I was thinking they were talking more Renaissance or beyond. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 3, 2017 at 1:51

So, what you are writing is Silesia. Or Poland to have broader scope.
The Gem? Coal.
The time the country didn't existed? 123 years.
The type of destruction to the country? You have Three kingdoms to choose from: Russia who exploited territory and sold mining permission to anyone who was willing to pay, not exacting any laws apart from taxes and punishments. Also no invest in infrastructure (the examples of cities of Sosnowiec or Dąbrowa Górnicza as the pinnacles).
Austria with it very strict laws, treating everyone "semi-equally" as Austro-Hungarian already was consisting of mostly not Austrians.
And Prussia who tried to eradicate Polish language and culture by enforcing German language.

Also in almost every part the nobility that didn't swear loyalty or was participating in any uprising was bereft of any land, titles and money.

Cool places: Three Emperors' Corner a place when all three kingdoms where bound which each other.

Example of underdevelopment. You can impose partition map on the one below to see how different partitioned treated the lands. On the right Russia, upper left and right Prussia, lower left Austria and later Germany. Railroad maps

  • $\begingroup$ I love this map. It's like the early modern period version of that "world at night map" showing the difference between North and South Korea... $\endgroup$
    – akaioi
    Commented Nov 3, 2017 at 23:37

Don't confuse modern with medieval.

The Romans created national infrastructure that needed maintenance, but between their departure and the industrial revolution, such a concept was basic at best and even then highly localised.

The concept of "before" and "after" a war is slightly confused in this era. The period since WWII is the longest period of continued peace between the major powers of Europe in recorded history. We've had wars that lasted longer than the current peace.

A medieval war consisted of the great and good going off to fight the great and good of another country. The average peasant was not involved and life for them carried on much the same. Unless of course the battle took place on the little patch of land they called home.

On the whole, there's nothing to rebuild.

Castles were a nice idea, but during one of the Scottish rebellions the rebels realised it was better to demolish than hold them. Where is he? In the castle. Make sure he stays there.

Roads aren't really a thing outside the cities, dirt tracks at best, maybe a wide dirt track. Bridges are a novelty item, mostly you ford the river or take a boat.

People are starving. People starved all the time. The idea of large farms supplying the city is much later, the enclosure act created this concept in the UK and is also considered a trigger for the industrial revolution. Animals weren't removed from the cities until mid-industrial revolution period. Until then if you wanted milk you kept a cow/goat, even in the heart of the city.

No schooling. What's schooling anyway? Priests can read and write. The average peasant can't. Apprenticeships, such as they are, would probably carry on because the blacksmith needs a boy or two to assist him. As would be the case in many other trades.

Rampant crime? Normal people had nothing to steal. There isn't really space for rampant crime because it needs a middle class. People with both the goods to steal and the money to buy stolen goods.

The key to this is the peasants. They had a role, farming, mostly subsistence. The lords came and went but they didn't affect the population on the whole. In England they didn't even speak the same language as the population. They went off to war, and came back, or didn't, and life for the normal people went on unchanged. The peasants are the country, the economy, the food supply, and mostly war doesn't touch them.

  • $\begingroup$ Interesting idea, but no, big wars, even in medieval times, were devastating to the countries that had to suffer them. Russia, for example, grew and prospered in IX - XII centuries when there was relative peace, and was nearly destroyed later in XIII century. Period of raids and wars followed, and only in XVII century some lasting stability for achieved. $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Commented Nov 2, 2017 at 17:32
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    $\begingroup$ @Alexander, it could be argued that "prosperity" in this period only applies to what we'd now call the 1%. They are the ones who fight and the ones who suffer if a war does not go well. $\endgroup$
    – Separatrix
    Commented Nov 2, 2017 at 18:30
  • $\begingroup$ Prosperity can be reflected in population numbers. I haven't done research, but looks like anywhere there was a period of invasions, the population drops. $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Commented Nov 2, 2017 at 18:44
  • $\begingroup$ Russia could not "grow and prosper" in IX-XII centuries, because it did not exist back then. Yet-to-be Russia was exactly the opposite to growth and prosperity: a poor and technologically backward province of a larger empire and it was like that until XIV century. $\endgroup$
    – rs232
    Commented Jan 15, 2018 at 8:09

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