By 5250AD the Colonial Council system had completely broken down. Dome cities had stopped growing. Civic society had stratified into a grindingly poor underclass and a fabulously wealthy élite. Corruption had destroyed the checks and balances of the system. Government at a global level became completely dominated by the domes élite nobility. Everywhere, corruption and nepotism were the norm. In some cities the underclass became so disenfranchised that chattel slavery became openly condoned.
The aquatic communities fared far better. They slowly freed themselves from the domination of the Council, and spread across the globe in free-moving waves. Control of the floating cities fluctuated between nomads and the sub-surface aristocrats.
Although the sub-surface domes had economics and technology on their side, they were crippled by corruption. The nomads had weight of numbers on their side. Vicious little wars sprang up across the planet. Nomad bands fought the domes and each other for control of the raft-towns. It became customary for warbands to sell captured prisoners as slaves to the domes noble rulers.
Eventually, loose coalitions of dome nobles and nomad tribes began to coalesce into fairly permanent alliances. Population growth continued apace; the largest cities grew vast.
Alliance proved to be a better strategy than conflict. By 5400AD the three biggest alliances controlled 80% of the worlds cities, and they were building more. Urban population growth at last began to outpace that of the nomads. The new cities were organised along the same lines as the raft-towns. Guilds and local councils were in charge. More and more government was democratic.
The old autocracies slowly began to reform. By 5450AD the majority of slaves had been quietly manumitted. The emancipation of Sansterres slaves was a slow process. Even today there is a small residual population of chattel slaves.
5492AD saw the foundation of the World Court. The Court was charged with adjudicating differences between the new civilised states.
5535AD The Belter Threat
Sansterre was completely untouched by Serendip Belts attempt to cow the Clusters. The water world was governed by 3 large formal Alliances and a patchwork of smaller political groupings. Dome cities now contained the majority of the population, most of whom lived under free and liberal régimes. Some smaller states were (and still are) ruled by aristocrats, many of whom retain a small population of slaves.