It very much does in French, hence my confusion.
Also re:sentience, The fungi in the Reach are very much that, as exemplified by the Hybras catastrophe .
It’s a mix of the two. The Reach seems to be a result of both, given that there’s a fair number of independent settlers you can take at Port Prosper, but the initial colonization effort was funded by London, as exemplified by the Windward’s Company’s involvment.
I was of this opinion as well before I actually reached Albion - as in, the region. It becomes much more interesting from there, once you get into the inner affairs of the British Empire. Basically - from what I gathered - their issue is basically that, aside from being Victorian Britain, they have no real idea what they are actually doing. They have harnessed some very powerful things - they control time, they have the Clockwork sun - and they are only now starting to understand that perhaps dealing with that was a terrible idea. So they try to grasp whatever they can control before the inevitable cosmic shitstorm arrives - and it will come, as exemplified by (heavy spoilers) the final run of the Truth ambition, showing that the Judgments are at war, and the Clockwork sun is going the way of the Dawn Machine. I think, deep down, that Albion is both in awe at what happens to them and completely afraid at what they’re discovering. And then oh boy - Eleutheria happens too. . Albion appears confident, yet is deeply anxious, and perpetuates the ways of the past, because it is the only thing they know how to do.
And in any way I’m supporting the Liberation of Night : if we’re gonna mess up the world, let’s do it in style at least.
Also, Failbetter, I love you, really, but to the questlines that make you lose stats : go hug a space cactus.