Warhammer 40k an in depth analysis: Part 1, IoM, part 3, Dark age of techonology

A continued view on the technologies of the Imperium of mankinds technology.

The Warhammer 40k franchise is at it’s core based in the tradition of science fiction, as a result, technology and science are essential themes to the narrative. Technology and discussions of scientific discoveries being a cornerstone in much of modern as well as classic science-fiction.

As with earlier parts, we are going to discuss these phenomenons through the lense of the Imperium of mankind, the allegory for humanity within the Warhammer universe.

We will later discuss how science and technology is presented in the franchise as a whole. For now what you need to know is that within the universe there exists a source sometimes referred as magic and sometimes referred as psychic powers, and the line between this power and technology is often highly blurred.  It is with this setting in mind that we will discuss the technology of the IoM. (Hill 2016)

The imperium of mankind is described as stagnant and in constant regression. Much of their technological advancement is lost to time, and what small slivers of technology that remains ar seen with fear and suspicion.  Especially any form of artificial inteligense is strictly forbidden. In the core Codex for the faction Astra Militarium  (Hill 2016) is this described as a result of superstitious and conservative ways of the Adeptus Mechanicus, a religious order tasked with taking care of, and researching what technological wonders humanity still has left conducts their operations. Were one to read closer tough, further texts discuss a war between man and armies of an artificial intelligence, that was the true reason for the outlawing of many technologies. (Hill 2016) This is just one example of how the Warhammer 40k francies uses unreliable narrators and conflicting narratives is used to create a fuller universe as well as a sense of mystery and intrigue. With unreliable narrator I am referring to an “in universe” narrator, this narrator can be implicit or explicit, who presents a wholly or partly false picture of the events in the narrative. Note that I will in this instance use the unreliable narrator to describe an implied ever present narrator, rather than a specific narrators with a specific point of view.

In the Imperium of Mankind is human component used to compensate for the missing advanced computing power. One example of these are in the service droids known as “servitors”.


Source: http://warhammer40k.wikia.com/wiki/Servitor

This is an example of a mindless worker droid used universally within the IoM, they do everything from help navigate star ships to harvest crops. Some of the more advanced functioning once are wired directly in to larger Machines. These lobotomized humans are used as a loophole to keep using the technology that originally used artificial intelligence.


Source: https://1d4chan.org/wiki/Servitor

As you can tell from these two pictures are these Servitors as varied in use as they are in design. The Imperium also uses so called “servo skulls”, human skulls adorned with technological components capable of carrying out simple tasks. (Hill 2016).

These mashine/human creations helps further the atmosphere of stagnation and backwardness, as well as adding a element of body horror to aesthetic, individuals being quite literally being added to the machines that make up the various establishments.

Scrolls, quills and papyrus is a common visual elements of the Imperium of Mankind, as well as candles and other form of primitive forms of lighting. These elements is often paired with highly technologically advanced elements such as robots, lasers, advanced prosthetics or huge spaceships. This apparent disparity is what we are going to discuss in the remainder of this text.

Source: http://warhammer40k.wikia.com/wiki/Adeptus_Administratum

Many of the visual cues, such as skulls and scrolls can also be prevalently seen in Games Workshops other tabletop series Warhammer Fantasy (Cruddace 2011). Skulls and scrolls are a particularly common theme. As both franchise are owned and produced by the same company, it’s understandable that some visual elements carry over, and in fact this stars a trend of mixing sci fi tropes with elements form their Fantasy series. Candles and parchments makes us think to medieval dark ages. This leads us to how the “knowledge creators and preservers” are depicted. By this I mean, individuals that is responsible for creating, distribution and curating knowledge. There are the above mentioned adeptus mechanicus, but also what Hills (2016) text call “scribes” or (adeptus administratum). Both departments taking their names from latin, or “high gothic”. Adeptus being able to be translated to “overtaken” or “obtained (adeptus) and mechanicus and administratum being, engineer and administrator respectively. These titles would suggest that the individuals has been “overtaken” by their profession. Above do we see member of the administrarium, as you can see is he dressed in a robe much like a western monk. All these elements brings together a very archaic and feeling of stagnation. If we tie these elements with what we discussed in the earlier chapter will we start to get a notion of what kind of place the Imperium of mankind truly is.

Next time to follow up on the same theme, we will take a closer look at the Adeptus mechanicus and discuss more deeply how the 40k franchise uses dramatic irony to produces a sense of dread and horror.


Cruddace.R (2011). The Empire. Games Workshop. Lenton, Nothingham.

Hill, J.D. (2016). Astra militarum. Games Workshop. Lenton, Nothingham.

Adeptus. (2017, June 27). In Wikipedia. Retrieved June 3, 2015, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self_care

Warhammer 40k an in depth analysis: Part 1, Imperium of Mankind: part 1, Manifest destiny.

This begins a series of looks into the vast number of topics concerning humanity in the 40k universe. We start with the Imperium of mankind (IoM), for a number of reasons, firstly they represent humanity, and is as a result easiest to explain without further context, Secondly the IoM is, at least to some degree a part of in what happens in the rest of the narrative, and as a result, The IoM has by far the most material written about it.

These first chapters will be dedicated to a broad overview of the IoM, as well as to contrast it with some potential real world concepts. In the first part will we discuss how we can find similarities between the IoM and Colonial Great Britain, more specifically their colonialism and nationalism. The Imperium of Mankind can be seen as a glorification as well as a stark criticism of imperialism and colonialism. 1

The Imperium is described in their related texts as the “universe sole and rightful ruler” .J.D. (2016) The Imperium of Mankind’s is presented as being ruled by an absent ruler (Se IoM: 6 The God Emperor), in his place is an unimaginable large governmental body of scribes, bureaucrats, rule makers and statesmen. This organisation, just like Colonial Britain is centrally controlled. In the case of the IoM this entity is known as the High Lords of Terra (Hill 2016). This can be compared to the central rule of the British control of their colonies. In reality the rule was in fact quite localized due to distance between Britain and her colonies. Greater decisions, and of course the restitution of profits was left to the ruler “at home”. This is true of the IoM as well, only on a mind bogglingly large scale. Despite these long distances and independent rule, these planets and spaces stations under mankind’s control, still expected to pay large amount of taxes as well as to stay true to the “true Imperial values”. This again, can be linked to how great Britain ruled their colonies (Pennycook 1998).

To further cement the allegory to the British colonies are the rulers of Imperial planets named “planetary governors”, not unlike the title colonial governor given to the rulers of British colonies.

It is said that said that amongst all of the colonial powers, Britain was most eager to spread their culture to their colonies (Pennycook 1998). For example they stared cricket leagues in several of their colonies, and it’s said that while Germans built railroads, Brits made horse racing tracks. Likewise does the IoM bring their creed, customs and religion to each planet they “liberate”, like with the colonial counterparts, some cultures and people encountered became what was called “sanctioned aliens”, many others were destroyed (Hill 2016).  For example the British used the implementation of cricket to strengthen their hold of their colonies and form a feeling of unification. (Kulkarni, Tapas.)

This leads us in the the most controversial and difficult topic of this comparison, how the EoM sees “the other” and how it compares to their real life contemporaries.

The British Empire as well as the other colonial powers has a well documented and bloody history with what they saw as “the local savages”, as mentioned before the “best” outcome usually to become a sanctioned alien to one of these powers, slaves in costume if not in name, always the “lesser”. But to understand how the British colonial power saw the other, we must first discuss how it saw itself. The British empire is always described as the cultivated one, the intelligent, mature and masculine. In comparison the “other” is seen as lesser, savage, childish and feminine (Pennycook, A. 1998). As you can see, does the British empire need others to define itself as superior.

The Imperium of Mankind is the same ideology, expanded on a galactic scale, and against not just humans, but different sentient species as well. The IoM has several “others” to use to distinguish itself with, alien species, “heretics” and mutants are always something that the IoM can identify itself as “better” then. The virtuous do differ slightly between the two, but some values, such as strength, civilisation, and purity, seems to exists within both values. Other species being “pacified” or exterminated to the last individual, all in the name of the survival of the Empire of Mankind (Hill 2016).

Lastly I will discuss how these two colonial powers justify their conquests and exterminations. Part of the strategy of colonial England was to paint the colonization effort as a great adventure, where great men went on journeys of grand discoveries, slaying monsters, and (hopefully for the rulers), died som heroic death somewhere. The actual reasons can more concisely be narrowed down to economical and political reasons, as well as a need to “educate and help” the local population (Pennycook, A. 1998). In the Warhammer universe there is a similar comparison to the wanderlust in the “rogue traders”, that will be explored in a later chapter.  The Imperium of Mankind is on the other hand described as to follow a sort of “divine plan”. It was their the will of their Immortal God Emperor that humanity would rule the stars. And as their god commands, so shall it be. In other word, a literal form of divine destiny (Hill. 2016).

In conclusion can we se several ties between the fictional Imperium of Mankind and the real colonial powers, and Britain in particular. This chapter has been but a small taste of our further discussion in order to familiarize the reader with my arguments and the topics we will discuss, we will return to the IoM later in our discussion topic. Next chapter will dive into how the Imperium itself is described and the military forces that serves it.

1 My choice to compare the IoM with just the great Brittian is becouse the franchise creators Games Workshop is based in Great Britain, they use a lot of inspiration from their homeland in their work. Something that will only become more apparent as we move forward.


Hill, J.D. (2016). Astra militarum. Games Workshop. Lenton, Nothingham.

Kulkarni, Tapas. Deliberate export. Retrieved 2017-11- 19 from https://spreadofcricket.weebly.com/sources.html

Pennycook, A. (1998). English and the discourses of colonialism [Elektronisk resurs]. London: Routledge.

Warhammer 40k an in depth analysis: Part 1, IoM, part 2, A Gothic future

To be able to talk about the aesthetics of the Imperium of Mankind, we must first discuss how the narrative of the Warhammer 40.000 franchise is presented. This narrative is presented in a series of levels. I will break down these narratives in the following structure:

1, rulebooks and expansions

2 Codexes

3 Novels

4 “Out of house” productions such as movies, card games, promotional materials etc.

The largest reason for this division is that it gives a much more flexible approach to analyzing the different parts, as well as helping with the problem that some layers are considered more “canon” than others.  Canon is here used to mean “what is real or true within the limitations of a fictional work”.

In this part we will focus on the second and third level of the narrative structure. More specifically the way that the Imperium of mankind is presented visually both in writing and illustrations with in the Codex and accompanying novels.

The decision to base this analysis solely on only these two levels is partly because partly because I believe most readers comes in comes in contact with, as well as being the most consistent when it comes to tone and theme. These levels are also under the tightest control of Games Workshop

As the title suggests, I will in this text compare the visual aspects of the Imperium of Mankind to that of the Gothic aesthetic movement. Now, a disclaimer before continuing, my knowledge in this field is limited, so I apologize in advance for any errors that may occur.

In this chapter we will primary discuss the architecture, starships as well as war machines, and how they help to set a certain tone within the narrative, but first of all I would like to draw a parallel between the term Gothic, and the term for the two common human languages of the IoM, this being high and low gothic. High gothic being represented by a tongue and cheek take on latin is presented as the language of the rich and learned. Low Gothic on the other hand is represented as English, and is the tongue of the commoner and uneducated (Hill, J.D 2016). Here we can se a clear nod to the gothic movement.

Before we begin t discuss the visual aspect of the IoM will I define what I mean with the term gothic architecture. I will base my definition of the book Gothic architecture  (Banner, R. 1961) In this text he outlines the history of the style, as well as a series of defining features.These features includes spires, a prominent buttresses and a focus on verticality and scale in the design. He architecture in many parts mimicked that of medieval fortresses. High gothic focused on creating architecture meant to make the viewer feel small. (Branner 1961) Branner ends his book by describing the Gothic architectural movement in the following manner:

“Gothic was the final expression of the medieval world, of the concepts of a mystical cosmos and a transcendental universal religion” (Banner 1961)

Keep this description in mind as you continue to read this series. This definition will become quite striking when we have a large picture of how the Imperium of man is being presented. First we will take a quick look at some buildings of the Imperium of man.

source: http://warhammer40k.wikia.com/wiki/Imperial_Palace?file=Imperial_Palace_Terra2.jpg

As you can see of the picture above, are many of the aforementioned details such as large, spires,  prominent buttresses as well as an overall fortress-like design.


Source: warhammer40k.wikia.com/wiki/Battlefleet_Scarus

These designs can also be seen on many of the Imperiums larger space ships. These ships also included spires and buttresses, but also a notion of scale and a sense of a “large then life” impression. This pattern can also be seen on many of the Imperiums war machines such as the Imperial Titan, (a terrifyingly large walking gun platforms used by some powerful Imperial officials), and the Imperiums more extravagant tanks.

Imperial Imperator Titan

Source: http://warhammer40k.wikia.com/wiki/Titan


As many readers at this point by no doubt have noticed, is the prevalent use of religious iconography, more specifically to the Christian catholic faith. The connection between Warhammer 40k and the catholic faith, can partly be explained by the fact that the company responsible for it series is based in Great Britain, a land with a history of grand Catholic architecture. The connection to the catholic church also strengthens my reading, as the Gothic architecture is most popularly tied to catholic churches and other buildings. I will discuss faith and religion in the Warhammer 40k franchise in a later episode. Lastly I would like to draw the attention to how dark and imposing this architecture appears, with stark colors and, and I believe that the use of gothic architecture to create a tone of oppression and horror in the narrative. This is only a short introduction to this topic and next chapter we will continue to discuss this topic by taking a  look at the Imperiums clothes, technology and art.


Branner, R. (1961). Gothic architecture. New York: George Braziller.

Hill, J.D. (2016). Astra militarum. Games Workshop. Lenton, Nothingham.

This blog post is made as a form of comment under the this blog post is made as a form. I do not claim to own an of the pictures in this post. Al copywritern materials belongs to their respektive owners.

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Warhammer 40k an in depth analysis: Introduction

This series will contain an in depth analysis of the major concepts, factions and themes of the Warhammer 40k universe created by Games Workshop UK. We will start with analysing each faction, theme etc individually. Later we will  compare and contrast these different parts.

The goal of this series of texts is to try and legitimize the analysis and discussion of similar series. I also wish to spread intellectual discussion about the media you are passionate about.

Next time we will start our deep dive in to the The Empire of Mankind, the totalitarian and Gothic description of humanity in year 40.000.

Canon: an introduction

This article will serve as an introductory look in to the term Canon, and how we will use it moving forward.  The term canon is most commonly used to group a series of works together. Usually you discuss  one or two connections. The first is a real world, or para-textual connection such as the canon of an author. a country 1. The second is a fictional, or intertextual connections, like the Star Wars canon, or canon or non canon episodes of fresh prince of Bel Air.

In this series we will mostly focus on the second definition. This is not to say that the other definition is any way lesser of a form of analysis, but this will be what we mostly focus on. More specificity will we will focus on what in considered “true” within the framework of certain pieces of media. It’s equally important for any canonical study to look what isn’t included in a collection, as what is.

1 Culler, Jonathan D., Literary theory: a very short introduction, 2. ed., Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2011

The game: a definition

Several definitions of games exists within and without the academic world. With this text I will make the case for one of them. This definition goes as followed, “each games must have an implicit or explicit player”  Furthermore we will define the “player” as “Someone with implicit or explicit control over the actions in a game”.

An observant reader might have noticed that the two definitions is intertwined, there is a point to that we will come to later.  But first let’s break down these two definitions into smaller parts. Let’s begin with the definition of a game, this is a modification of a literary definition. “A text is a text if it has if it has an explicit or implicit reader”. The distinction between explicit and implicit reader is important. This way a text is not only a text if it would be to read, but also if it had the potential to be read. The same logic applies to or definition of a game. A game is still a game, even if no one ever plays it, as long as there is a possibility that someone could play it.

The next step is to define the player that is mentioned in our games definition. It’s important to define the term player for two reasons. First of, the term is not as directly obvious as that of a reader. Secondly, the term player is used in several different scenarios, wish leads to a need for further clarity to avoid confusion.

These definitions clear up two things, a game must not have been played, in order to be discussed or analysed as a game. Finally these definitions together means one very important thing. In order for a game to be considered a game in our discussion, it must have one thing. It must be possible for a player/person to take control over, in other words change something in the game. There must exist an deliberate interaction between the game and the player.

When we in the future will discuss games of any kind, from board games to video games to slot machines, this is the definition I will use.




Pop culture analysis: an introduction

This part of the blog will be dedicated to a critical discussion about popular culture. This is made in a hope of deepening the discussion about the subject and hopefully putting these texts in a broader context. I believe that we can learn much  about our time from the types of media we consume.

In this introduction I will describe what I mean with pop culture, and why I believe its worth studying.

With the term Pop culture or popular culture is in broad terms “bad media”. More specificity everything that inst considered “art” or “high culture”. Part of the mission with these texts are to disprove some of these myths about pop culture.

This segment will contain everything from discussion about theme, writing styles to analysation and discussion about specific works.