Friday, October 30, 2015

AltHistory Scenario #14: What if George Washington Dies at Valley Forge?

I'm going to be trying to make these a bit shorter, mostly because I plan on participating in NaNoWriMo (if you don't know what it is, Google!), and that means I may not have a lot of time for the blog. I intend to keep working on it, but just a heads up.

And yeah, I know, it's late. Having a full time job, along with working on the family farm and helping the family can be tough to balance sometimes.

Yeah... this really isn't happening for me right now >_>

Anyway! Let's get going.

Point of Divergence

Not really going to bother with an explanation, because by now almost everyone ever should know who George Washington is, being the Father of America and all. So what if the First President of the United States died in January 1778 at the Continental Army camp of Valley Forge, say of disease or everyone's favorite early modern illness, Dysentery.

Though, to be fair, most of the paintings of him make it look like he is trying to hold it in...
Immediate Consequences

With the death of Washington, the cause begins to falter. More and more troops begin to mutiny, there is a conflict between several leaders like Horatio Gates, Nathanael Greene, and Benedict Arnold, who both sought to replace Washington as Commander-in-Chief, the Continental Congress became more and more divided and prone to debate and bickering, especially as news of more and more defeats came in. Gates' tenure as C-in-C resulted in defeat after defeat trying to stand up to British troops, and less than a year after being appointed, he was replaced by Greene, who advocated for more "Fabian tactics," which, while more successful in dividing the British and inflicting minor victories, seemed to only be delaying the war without any hope for a full scale victory. The French, though they had just signed an alliance with Thomas Jefferson to support the cause of American independence, are now more reluctant to actually intervene into the war, and instead only supply limited weapons and supplies.

By 1780, the British had used the faltering of the Patriot's cause to their advantage. Benedict Arnold, passed over for promotion as in OTL, once again betray's the Americans, though instead of turning over a fort he himself just slips across the lines and joins the British. This blow pretty much doomed the rebel cause, and by 1782, after a last ditch offensive at Saratoga, The Continental Congress officially surrendered. Nathanael Greene, however, retreats to the South with several hundred supporters and continues a guerrilla war for years, and required British troops to be stationed in the South until 1789, a year after Greene died.

Nathanael Greene, one of those early Americans with names that no one 240 years later can get right.

With the American Uprising over, the British Parliament put together a "carrot and stick" policy to bring the colonies in line. The taxes that lead to the revolt are reduced, but the main leaders of the revolt are arrested and put on trial in England, with many of them either imprisoned, executed, or exiled from America. However, over the years new taxes would be proposed for the colonies, especially when war broke out in Europe again, with the rise of a Corsican soldier...

Before anyone says anything: Yes, I still think Napoleon, or some other soldier, would rise to power even without a successful American Revolution. The Kingdom of France had a lot more problems than just going into debt aiding some revolutionaries across the ocean. Famine, political corruption and incompetence would still be there, so it will just be something different than calling the Estates General that will set in motion the French Revolution.

Say this one started over the right to wear white pants.
Later Consequences

Mostly during this ATL's Napoleonic Wars, say... 1812, a new revolt against the British would break out, especially when taxes are raised to pay for the very expensive war. This time, with British attention divided, early victories could lead to London deciding to go for a more diplomatic route, and offer some form of limited government to different colonies. I'd say this would be like an early dominion on the lines of Canada, just without forcing every colony into one government. However, the British would maintain control over foreign affairs, including those with the Native Americans. While settlers would want to push west, the British are reluctant to anger the Natives, so eventually an Indian Confederacy would be established, mostly around the Great Lakes (OTL Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Ontario, as the later would still be sparsely inhabited since there was no Loyalist migration from the 13 Colonies north to Ontario. Quebec and Newfoundland, along with other colonies would also get a psuedo-dominion status, and by the mid 1800s,

And then... what's that? Ummmm... Oh. Yeah. This is starting to turn into my What if the American Revolution Never Happened scenario, isn't it? A slightly smaller British Empire with North America under the grip in a series of balkanized American states. So I'll just stop here. Because I'm going to be going over the same things most likely, so I'm not going to waste time going on about it again...

Yeah, just admit that you didn't read all of that either.

There are very few historians, and just as few alternate historians, who will publicly state that they support the "Great Man" Theory of history.

However, in like almost everything I do, I have a nuanced view. I believe that every event in history was not the result of one person deciding to do something. Some things, like the Fall of the Roman Empire, the Renaissance, the Industrial Revolution, and many, many others have multiple causes and reasons. However, there are cases where one person did make a difference. While there is the debate that if Hitler never existed, there wouldn't be a World War 2, I believe that if Hitler never was born or never came to power, another "great man" would have lead Germany, and WWII would have been very different. Heck, maybe another dictator would have been willing to have just reformed Germany, build up the military, and leave it there. Maybe a democrat would have been able to lead the masses to make a more forgiving, more balanced, less racist Germany. (Hitler was not a literal great man, but for the sake of this argument...). So I partially believe the Great Man theory, but I don't fully believe it.

"You mean to tell me that I'm wrong and my opinion is worthless? Well then. Thanks for that insight."

To me, George Washington was one of those Great Men. He was asked to lead the ill-equipped, ill-trained, ill-fed troops of a rebellion that was always on the verge of being destroyed or fall apart, and led them from defeat to victory, victory to defeat. When he finally lead the armies to victory, he was named the nation's first President, and set many of the standards still adhered to today. Washington always presented a calm, stoic appearance that would serve him well as both a general and a politician. If he wasn't there, if someone else less capable or less respected filled those roles, the United States of America as we know it today would never have existed.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

AltHistory Scenario #13: What if Nazi Germany Didn't Attack the USSR?

Well, about time I did this. An alternate history focused on something that happened in World War Two! You'd have thought I would have done this already. Then again, I was going to try to do theme months, but that will be later.

Besides, who doesn't love a scenario set in one of the longest, bloodiest and most widespread wars in history? So let's focus on two of the biggest powers involved, the Third Reich of Adolf Hitler and the Worker's Paradise that was the Soviet Union.
Who knew the gulags and Five Year Plans could be so much fun?

Big thanks to Joe Biscotti on Facebook for suggesting this idea!

Point of Divergence

About the only way I can prevent Germany from launching an attack on the USSR is to remove Hitler, as he was the one person, despite the advice of his generals, who ordered preparations made for Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the USSR. So we just have to kill Hitler sometime between the end of the Battle of Britain in October 1940 and the start of Operation Barbarossa in June 1941. So... I dunno. Let's just say sometime in January 1941 Hitler is in a car crash. Or a time traveler showed up and erased him from history. Really, anything could work. I'm not that picky right now, as Hitler isn't the main point of the scenario.

Immediate Consequences

Hitler is removed from the scene, and a power struggle emerges in the Nazi high command between the usual gang; Herman Goering, Joseph Goebbels, Heinrich Himmler, maybe a cabal of generals. At this point in time I would think that Goering would have the best chance of becoming the Fuhrer, though I think something like a triumvirate, with Goering the public face, Goebbels the guy in charge of day-to-day stuff, and Himmler the muscle to make sure they all stay in power. It isn't perfect, and eventually issues would arise, but for now we will leave it here.

Just dealing with two parties is usually a problem... huh America?

This would turn out to be good and bad for Nazi Germany. First of all, and perhaps one of the biggest changes, with Hitler out of the way, the Generals would have more free reign to fight any future battles as they see fit. But that's one of the few positives. Germany was still fighting the United Kingdom, and Winston Churchill would not be interested in making peace, despite the removal of Hitler. Goering might be pushing for more resources for the Luftwaffe to try to start the Second Battle of Britain, while Rommel would be demanding more resources to fight in North Africa (German troops would still be sent in February 1941), and Italy would still be trying to show off (and fail hopelessly, as per OTL), meaning even more stuff the Nazi's would have to do. Infighting that Hitler had not only tolerated but pushed for in a demented Social-Darwinist theory would only be worse with three major figures leading Germany at once. Under Hitler there were four major branches of the military that didn't cooperate, four economic departments, two intelligence services that never worked together, two high commands that were in charge of conflicting battlefields, and five atomic bomb projects. Now, imagine in Goering managed to get a few more things for the Luftwaffe, Himmler added a few more responsibilities to the SS, and Goebbels just started a few other things... the mess Nazi Germany could have been in would be even greater.

So, what about the USSR? Well they might be in a bit better shape, but not by much. After all, noted all around terrible person Joseph Stalin is still in the big office in the Kremlin. And while he knew the Soviet war machine was in terrible shape after killing off most of the capable officers of the military and the humiliating fight against little Finland (though he would never admit to being the cause of it), Stalin would see the disorganization of Nazi Germany, which he still had a non-aggression pact signed with (It wasn't an alliance, it was just a deal not to attack each other), which would give him a lot more breathing room to build up his military: more T-34 tanks, more bombers, more fighters. Maybe send a few thousand more dissidents to Siberia. But by early 1942 Stalin might be in a much stronger position that Nazi Germany, dealing with those stubborn Brits. And if Hitler could break a non-aggression pact, why can't Stalin?

"Now all of you... go die already."
So in May 1942, instead of German tanks heading east a year before, Soviet tanks are heading west, attacking Germany when at it's weakest.

The Soviet-Nazi War

The Soviets will have immediate successes, mostly because Germany had vastly divided forces over an entire continent: troops in Western Europe to suppress the French and defend from England, forces in North Africa to try to take Egypt and whatever other forest fires Italy started in the Balkans. However, German troops manage a fighting retreat, and by the time the Soviets reach Warsaw, they are already dealing with stretched supply lines and stiffening German resistance. A brief halt is ordered, but soon Soviet troops are reaching the pre-Poland Invasion wars of Germany, and panic sets in. 

As it turns out, being invaded by a foreign nation makes former enemies work together, and Nazi Germany is no exception. Churchill, delighted to see two former allies now fighting each other, is now willing to sign a ceasefire with Nazi Germany, if just so that they could destroy each other. The difficulties of the Triumvirate are set aside for now, and the process of defeating the USSR comes to a head. Organizations are streamlined, the General Staff given their orders, and the economy goes into Total War mode. 

C'mon, I easily defeated the Gauls. I can take on Russia!
But it would take time for Germany to recover from the blow, especially as Russian troops drive through Romania and Hungary, cutting Germany off from it's major oil supply. Attempts at bombing Russian supply centers are hampered by the lack of long range Luftwaffe bombers and fighters that can reach the factories that turn out those tanks. And it's not like Germany can pull out all the troops from Western Europe and North Africa to fight at home, in case those English bastards start the war again.

By the fall of 1942, any further Soviet progress has been stalled, and now Germany is on limited counter-offensive mode. Soviet forces tenaciously defend the lines they established, but are slowly pushed back with high casualties. A new Soviet attack in the January 1943, this time headed straight for Berlin, smashes through the German lines. However, Germany is more prepared now, and manages to halt the offensive 50 miles from the German capital. A pincer movement designed by recalled General Rommel (I didn't say the generals had to stay where they were, they could still be moved around) inflicts a crushing defeat on the Soviet Army there, capturing hundreds of thousands of Soviet prisoners. However, the war continues as Nazi troops push east, and Soviet troops try to push west, neither side strong enough to force the other to give up. A sneak attack on Vladivostok by Japanese troops puts Russia on a two front war, but the cold and Russian tenacity prevent the Japanese from making huge gains. (They won't attack the US, at least not yet, as it wouldn't be likely that Germany would be able to distract American attention in this TL).

Just give them cheap hamburgers and a bunch of flags. They won't care anymore!

By 1944 or 1945, Nazi Germany would be nearly at the end of their resources, even after pushing the Soviet Union out of their former territory and into Ukraine would mean that German manpower would be nearly at the breaking point. Russia would be in a better position economically, but with the quick attack Stalin wanted to knock out the Nazi's failing, several generals, among them General Zhukov , praised as a Hero of the People just months before, would be getting a bit agitated that a war was started against a nation with the better army. When word reaches the NKVD of the possible public enemy and an attempt to capture Zhukov is defeated by troops loyal to the General, a full blown resistance movement against Stalin takes place. A quick armored dash by Zhukov to Moscow from the front line (made possible when Zhukov negotiates a secret ceasefire with Rommel) and a bloody fight to secure the Kremlin ensue. Stalin, surprised at the speed of Zhukov's rebellion, is captured before he can flee, but is shot while being lead to captivity by a soldier furious at having his family taken away for no reason. Zhukov has himself declared Acting Premier of the Soviet Union, and asks for peace with Nazi Germany, which the exhausted Nazi's accept.

Later Consequences

Nazi Germany's economy is in shambles, the USSR is struggling to reform and come to terms with the Stalin era (and the loss of the Ukraine, Baltic States, their chunk of Poland and Belorussia as German puppet states), Britain is unbowed and slowly returns to it's traditional pastime of Empire Administration, Japan gets a few chunks of land in Siberia and a puppet state in China to boss around, and the US remains out of the war blissfully unaware (or not interested) in what just happened. While Japan would eventually attack the US in the Philippines and Pearl Harbor in the late 1950s, inflicting a huge defeat that snapped American out of it's isolation, that's still a decade in the future. Atomic weapons are eventually discovered, but a landmark deal in 1962 (signed in Cuba, of all places) officially bans their use in war.

...FFS North Korea! You still would try to get them, wouldn't you?
The Nazi Triumvirate finally collapses in 1947 with the death of Goering (officially as a heart attack, in reality a morphine overdose), and soon Himmler and Goebbels struggle to find who will take over sole control. However, the SS eventually is the trump card, and Goebbels is forced out of office, and into exile in the United Kingdom. The Third Reich becomes a strange hybrid of police state, military-industrial complex and neo-pagan ritualists. The Jews, after unofficial pogroms and hatred during and after the Soviet Invasion, are all sent out of Germany, many settling in Libya, Somalia, Madagascar and other African territories of the British and Italians, who are able to keep their land mostly because no one else wanted it.

A five way power struggle comes to a head in the 1970s: The US, UK and USSR (which has finally begun to reform into a something like modern China) versus Nazi Germany and Japan. The Third World War quickly spirals out of control, with Nazi Germany and Japan both launching surprise attacks on the USSR, which brings the US and UK into the war. One atomic bomb launched by Germany on Leningrad shocks the world, and soon nuclear weapons becomes part of this war, though usually only on a tactical level. By 1975, after four years of war, Nazi Europe is invaded on the west and east, and Berlin captured by a very pissed off Russia. Japan would be a tougher nut to crack, with the resources of China at their disposal. By 1977, with Russian forces pushing through China and the US and UK hop-scotching their way across the Pacific and finally landing on the Home Islands, Japan sues for peace. Tens of millions of soldiers and civilians had died, including many in the Western US by a Japanese biological weapon, and the rebuilding of the world would take a long time...

Did anyone bring a shovel? A broom? A Roomba?

Once again, I let the USSR get off lightly by overthrowing Stalin. Man, I seem to do that a lot. I guess I just really don't like him. Can you blame me?

But the big thing I want to point out is that in the 1940s, having only just captured most of Europe and with a very inefficient economy and political system, and the micro-manager that was Adolf Hitler screwing things up, Germany just wasn't in a position to deal with both the UK and the USSR at the same time. Nazi Germany could have dealt with England alone had they had a plan, and they might have been able to stand toe-to-toe with the USSR for a long period of time, However, I think World War Two, and Total War as a theory in general, also shows something else: the nation that was attacked, if they could withstand the air, land and sea attacks that drag them in (the Battle of Britain for the UK, Barbarossa for the USSR, and Pearl Harbor for the US), would be fully unified to engage the enemy. The nation that launched the attack, if not able to mount a quick defeat like the Battle of France, Poland, or the Low Countries and Norway, will be dragged into a war of attrition that they cannot win.

So, I think that if Nazi Germany, due to some reason wasn't able to attack the USSR, and instead the USSR attacked it, I think you would see a reverse Eastern Front: Germany recovering from a surprise attack and pushing east in a bloody slog. But that can only happen if Germany only has to deal with the USSR, and not the UK, and especially not the USA as well.

....damnit, shouldn't have said that...

Friday, October 23, 2015

Flash AH Scenarios #1

Experimenting time again!

I want to try something a bit different today. Instead of one really long article on one Alternate History, I'll just write a couple shorter AH scenarios in one post. Because, well, TL;DR is a thing, as much as I don't like it.  I decided to take a few suggestions from Facebook, but if you have any ideas, leave comments on here, Facebook, Twitter or send me an email.

Anyway, here we go!

What if Alaska Remains Russian?

From Matt "Mitro" Mitrovich, the author of the Alternate History Weekly Update, comes this idea. And as you know, I'm a sucker for Russian Alternate Histories...

So, POD: William Seward is unable to purchase Alaska (Alyeska) from the Russian Empire due to opposition in Congress to "Seward's Icebox," so the huge landmass remains part of Czar Alexander II's lands, despite the fears that the British would seize it in any future war. For the next few decades, little changes except some minor colonization efforts to establish trading posts, until gold is discovered in the 1890s. Fearing an influx of Americans and British Canadians to tear away this suddenly very valuable colony, the Czar heavily restricts access to Alyeska, only allowing Russian subjects to prospect for gold. A few Americans and Canadians would still make the trek, but the hostile reception, brutal weather, native attacks, and discovery of gold in nearby Yukon make Alyeska less attractive. Raids by Japanese ships in the Russo-Japanese War is a rude wake up call to the very rich colony, and revolts against Nicholas II require armed troops to put down. In World War One, Alyeska provides troops to the Russian cause, and while the regiments from Alyeska are highly respected, they are unable to majorly turn the tide of the war.

With the Russian Revolutions, Alyeska is divided between Whites and Reds, and the British, using Canadian troops, temporarily occupy New Archangel (OTL Sitka) and Alyeskagrad (OTL Anchorage), before war weariness force them out. Eventually the Communists come to power in Russia and in Alyeska, which is upgraded to become a full fledged Soviet Socialist Republic. Stalin's brutal industrialization hit Alyeska hard due to the demands of raw materials and gold to pay from foreign supplies unavailable in the USSR, as did the need to station troops in Alyeska to combat possible American and British aggression. In World War II, Alyeska was a major stopping point for American and Canadian ships providing Lend-Lease to the USSR, and Alyeska provided troops to fight on the Eastern Front.

After the war, Alyeska became a major battle ground of the Cold War. With a stepping stone straight into North America and the United States, Alyeska became a major military outpost, with bombers, tanks, and tens of thousands of infantry ready to sweep into Yukon and British Columbia in an instant. The Alyeskan Missile Crisis nearly lead to nuclear war in 1962, but negotiations managed to resolve the issue by the removal of nuclear missiles from Alyeska. The discovery of oil gave a huge boost to the faltering Soviet Economy of the 1970s and 1980s, and once again made Alyeska the most valuable Russian territory. However, it wasn't enough to prevent the collapse of the USSR, and in 1991, Alyeska went independent, establishing a capitalist society and building very close ties to a relieved US. While not a fully democratic nation due to the long Russian and Soviet legacy, Alyeska is one of wealthiest of the former Russian states, and secrets are still emerging, such as the covered up sinking of a Soviet Oil Tanker in 1989 that caused huge amounts of damage to the coast and shore line.

What if Cortés Failed to Conquer the Aztecs?

Well just take these people up to this tower... and kill them so
the sun will still rise tomorrow. Got it? 
Esarhaddon Asshur on Facebook asked what would happen if Hernán Cortés' attempts to gain indigenous allies to overthrow the Aztecs failed. Well, here's the answer.

With the death of Cortés and his men, mostly due to his lack of desire to make any sort of alliance with the natives, even those oppressed by the Aztecs themselves, the Governor of Cuba refused to allow any more expeditions to the mainland, seeing it as a waste of time. Smallpox then swept through the Aztec Empire and the rest of the Americas, killing almost 90% of the native population, by the time that the Spanish tried to invade Mexico again, the Aztecs had begun to adapt, mostly thanks to the capture of several Spanish soldiers who were not sacrificed, but instead allowed to spread European technology and ideas among the Aztecs. By 1600, with the worst of the Smallpox over, the Aztecs had begun to modernize their empire. In one last reform, the aging emperor of the Aztecs allowed himself to be sacrificed to the Gods, the last human sacrifice allowed by the Empire. From then on, non-human sacrifice was conducted, the blood debt considered repaid.

When the Spanish tried to invade Mexico again, they came up against a people who, while speaking a different language and with a different culture, had weapons similar to the Spanish, and new tactics that lead to yet another bloody defeat. After this, the Spanish would simply try to trade with the growing and expanding Aztec Empire, which was pushing north to the OLT Rio Grande River, and south to Panama. An uneasy peace would exist for years, and it was only in the 1670s that another major war broke out, this time with the Aztecs allied with the British against the long time enemies in Iberia.

The Aztecs would continue to go from strength to strength, but by the 1720s, the Aztec Empire was crumbling. Vast distances with few roads and communications, the depletion of gold mines that was used to pay for European technology, and the resentment of dozens of tribes, and a constant schism over the end of human sacrifice eventually lead to a brutal civil war. The Spanish once again tried to sway the outcome, but eventually the entire Empire fractured into quarreling states, with a few European outposts on the coasts. It wouldn't be until the 1800s that a unification movement, inspired by the American and French Revolutions would take place. While this unified Mexico as a mostly democratic nation, Mexico's economy and politics would continue to be unstable. Today Mexico is a popular tourist destination, but the ongoing American occupation of Northern Mexico in response to terrorist attacks on Texas and California in the 1980s is a source of unrest and anger that is just threatening to burst open.

What if King Henry VII of England Sponsors Christopher Columbus?

The smirk of a man that found, colonized, and killed most of
America... makes you want to punch him, no?
The last scenario I'm going to write about today is from Andy Dowless, once again on Facebook, about a slightly different colonization of the New World.

Arriving in OTL Nova Scotia in 1492, Columbus believes at first that he found China or India, but the cold weather, suspicious natives, and lack of any kind of cities (and gold, as the natives had no gold jewellery) quickly changes his tune. However, he realizes that it would be a great land to settle, due to the abundant fish, trees, and arable land. He spends a couple of weeks mapping the coast line, before finding a massive harbor, which he names Henrytown (OTL Halifax).

With this news, he hurries back to England in the spring of 1493 with some samples of trees, lots of cod and a few natives (all but three dying on route), and tells the court of King Henry VII of an unspoiled land, great fishing, massive trees, and a few inhabitants that know nothing of Christianity. He's certain he has found a new land, and sought to establish a colony at the harbour he found. King Henry VII at first isn't impressed, but with Columbus' constant lobbying, eventually the exasperated King agrees, sending Columbus back to this Terra Nova to settle in the name of "God, the King, and England."

The colonization of Terra Nova is very slow, even as native tribes are wiped out by smallpox (everyone's favourite contagious disease) which leaves even larger areas to colonize. The Spanish and French, hearing of this new land, but not of any gold or riches, pretty much ignore the discovery, and continue their European wars. Columbus settles down as the governor of his new Colony, slowly expanding outward, exploring the coastline, and eventually finding Newfoundland, OTL Montreal, and south to Long Island and OTL New York City. Only the lack of colonists prevent Columbus from establishing more colonies, much to his disappointment. Columbus died in 1506 in Henrytown, a respected governor of the Colony named Canada, the explorer who found a new land (though, yes, the Vikings found it before...). While the entire Atlantic coastline of OTL North and South America was mapped by 1550, colonization in Central and Southern America was a lot slower than up north, mostly restricted to trading. This allowed groups like the Aztecs and Inca to gain more advanced technology like swords, armor, horses, and even small ships, as well as the ever present Smallpox, spurring a huge cultural, economic, and political revolution the totally changed how Mesoamerican nations interacted.

Over 150 years of lacklustre colonization in North America then takes place, with a couple boatloads of adventurers, the poor, and religious refuges coming every few years. All this changes in the 1650s. The English Civil War breaks out, and soon hundreds of people are seeking to flee England, wishing to find a place free from war. The stories of wealth and gold in Aztec and Inca territory finally encourage the Spanish, French, Portuguese, Swedish and Dutch to try to colonize their chunk of Terra Nova, but most of the hastily assembled invasions and arrogant colonists are destroyed by the equally advanced Natives, allied with England. The native tribes in Northern Terra Nova also begin to adapt, and soon all of Terra Nova in a huge collection of independent tribes and empires, with a few European colonies which are eclipsed in size, wealth and population by Canada, stretching from the capital of Henryton as far south as OTL Virginia, east to the Great Lakes, and north to Labrador.

In other words...
Sorry about that.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Editorial: The Results of Alternate History Elections

Yesterday was Election Night in Canada. Well, it will be yesterday when this is published, as I'm writing this on Monday. Yay for future writing!

Anyway, even though Justin Trudeau of the Liberal Party lead a Red Sweep of the Election (and I added this as soon as I heard the CBC Projection), I'm not here to talk about the actual election, as shocking as the release of the results were. Instead, I want to spend a few minutes talking about elections in Alternate History, or rather, the different outcomes that can come out of it. Mostly because, as a politics geek that also does alternate history, I try my best to put together the actual elections in my timelines, and I want to see other people do it as well.

But here is the list of the elections that you usually see in Alternate History scenarios...

And select which of the following points you like most!

1: The "Meh, Same as OTL" Elections

These are the ones where someone doesn't even bother rewriting history, unless it's just to place a different name in place of the different candidates. If feeling really ambitious, sometimes the colours of the parties on the nice big map is reversed as well, just to confuse everyone. There are a lot of first time alternate histories that devolve into this, though hints of it can be seen in bigger works. 

This is usually a sign that the Alternate Historian just doesn't give a damn about politics, but wants to flesh out their world. Maybe they are more focused on the culture, wars, or sports of their TL, which is fine. But the problem is, they are just copy-pasting the results for Wikipedia without understanding why it happened, and giving few answers as too why. And, as my first year politics professor at University told me, everything is political. Why one movie is banned while another one is allowed to be shown? Politics. Why a nation, or a coalition of nations decides to bomb and invade another? Politics. And why does one team have a brand new sports stadium, or is moved to another city? Once again, politics.

"Everything is Art. Everything is Politics." -Thomas Mann

If it's a "secret history," then it makes sense. Of course, that's not what I talk about in this blog, it's alternate history. Even taking the butterfly effect into account or not, there will be some different outcomes in elections if things go differently. Could Abraham Lincoln have won a second term if Atlanta wasn't captured just a few weeks before? Would Dwight Eisenhower be able to be nominated, much less win the presidency, if he wasn't the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe? Could Winston Churchill be named Prime Minister if the UK never entered World War Two? In all these cases, I feel the answer is no. So, just take a few minutes, do a little of research on Wikipedia, and try to make the Political leader in charge at least be somewhat realistic, or at least try to tie it into the timeline better.

2: The "Straw Man/Mary Sue" Elections

Basically this is when the elected official that is the primary focus of the work either leads the country into disaster or into a golden age based on their policies, and is pretty much used by the author in order to show how their preferred or opposing candidate would run the nation. This is usually two sides of the same coin, and almost always devolves into political bias, and it's pretty easy to tell the author's bias. An Independent in 2000 on the AltHistory Wiki is an example, as well as A World of Laughter, A World of Tears where Walt Disney is elected President of the US when Eisenhower isn't able to run in 1956. Believe me, it really does not end well. The West Wing might be a TV example, though not to the same degree as their other ones mentioned here.

Though, Aaron Sorkin has pretty much made this a liberal fantasy. According to every conservative person ever.

I'll be honest, I hate these kinds of elections/politics in alternate history, even though some of these, World of Laughter especially, are very well written. It's just how implausible most of them are, where the recently elected official, usually the President of the US, is able to put into practice all of the stuff he wants to do soon in office, the Congress passes it all, and the repercussions are either leading the country to total ruin, a new tyrannical dystopia, or starting a new utopia of whatever colour stripe the author is.

If anyone follows American politics, especially of the last 15 years, it should be pretty clear that it just can't happen like that. President Obama managed to get the Affordable Healthcare Act through Congress before a massive Tea Party inspired backlash managed to put the Republican party in control the House of Representatives and the Senate. Ever since then political gridlock has held the government in the US hostage. It's fair to say that if a very liberal Democrat got into office, no matter real life or alternate history, that the Republicans could mount similar tactics to what has happened today, and vice versa. And it's really rare where political programs not only work as advertised, but even better. For all the great things the New Deal did, most of them actually really didn't do much in the long run besides immediate relief, and many were struck down by the Supreme Court or Democrats that thought Roosevelt was going to far.

The wheelchair told him to do it.
3. The "Nazi Party" Election

This is a very extreme form of the election I mentioned above, and basically it involves a party with a few questionable policies but a charismatic and forceful leader taking advantage of a political or economic crisis to not only run in an election, but win. This would then be followed by dismantling democracy, jailing dissidents, pushing propaganda on the rest of the populace (along with a brutal secret police) and plotting how to glorify the nation, or have it catch up with a competitor.

I call it this because this is exactly how Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party came to power in Germany. And in alternate history I have no problem with this kind of scenario, but only if it's done right. Harry Turtledove's Timeline 191 series did this for the Confederate States of America, with Jake Featherstone and his fascists, racist Liberty Party winning the elections to not only the Presidency by the CS Congress. So, while some of the things felt a bit suspicious (like trying to get the Supreme Court to vote itself irelevent... what?) over all it's a fairly good example. I still have to see if maybe Turtledove's Joe Steele, which is still sitting on my bookshelf unread as I write this, handles it just as well.

Oh this will be a nice book. I'm sure of it...
But in many circumstances how it comes about is complete baloney. The background to such an event has to make sense: economic disaster, a resentful nation with a humiliating peace treaty, and/or a political gridlock and division that makes the other problems even worse when no one can deal with it. It's not possible for a nation that has a strong democratic tradition, with a respected constitution and government structure, when everything is going alright (well, mostly alright; nothing is perfect after all) to then suddenly allow a dictator to come to power, even if legally through elections. It's only in the most desperate moments: a losing war, an even worse Great Depression, a general feeling of misery and anger, that allows demagogues to come to power.

4. The "Screw the Smaller Elections, Just the President Matters" Election

This is the one where the writer just doesn't give a crap about the hundreds of congresspeople, Members of Parliament, or whatever title is given to the representatives of the people that are voted. No, the only vote that's important is the guy at the top: the President, the Prime Minister, the Big Cheese. After all, that's the guy that get's the nuclear briefcase, the big house, and the ability to basically shut down all TV stations to just say hi.

"My fellow Americans... how are you? Why won't you call? Don't you still love me???"
These AH's focus on the Head of Government (or Head of State) as the primary source of power in a nation. While some nations might be like that (*coughPutincough*), most democracies try to balance it out between the Legislative, Executive and Judicial branch, preventing one person from dominating the government.

This is different from the previous point I made, mostly in that while the nation may still be democratic, but the writer only focuses on the top leader. I can see why some people would do this, but I think it's also important that, even if the focus is on the leader of the party, that at least the numbers of the representatives who will be elected and have to work with the President.

5. The "I've Done My Homework" Election

Theses are really hard to pull off, and usually you will only see these take place in made up nations, not real ones. When working on one like this, the big colorful maps with all the ridings, electoral districts, or Electoral College votes plotted out, the math done, and believable candidates with platforms that make sense, politicking, debates, etc. etc...

After all, no one would ever believe it if you did something like this in fiction...
The only problem with these ones is how hard they can be to put together. First, in an alternate history, maybe populations have shifted, or new states or provinces are there, and others aren't. But a very dedicated, map fanatic Alternate historian will go so far as to make their own electoral maps, election rules, and run the election. Of course, if the rules are changed they could make it easier on themselves and do away with the maps all together, and instead focus on proportional representation or other forms of voting. Because, let's face it, saying a party got 35% of the vote is easier than making up hundreds names, numbers and candidates, all for one alternate history.

As much as I like these AH Elections, I still want to see an actual story, not just focused on the election. You could make 338 articles on every riding in Canada, or the 650 some in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom... but we only have so much time and energy.

6. The "Elections? What Are Elections?" Election

1984 writ large. It's not just Oceania that doesn't have a democracy, but every nation in the world. It could come in different flavors: communism, fascism, military dictatorship, technocracy. Basically elections aren't even necessary, and will most likely never be held, or restricted to only certain people. Frankly, this is just a story driven one, as even North Korea has to stage elections, though it's a "everyone will vote for the one candidate or you will be shot" kind. You will not see these in real life, no matter who brutal the dictatorship.

Seriously? You don't even try Big Brother? Wow...
This has just been a short look at some of the different ways elections are handled in Alternate Histories. While each of the ways mentioned above have their place, in most places I want more Number 5 kinds, but those are pretty tough to make, so even just a Number 4 would be okay... Number 3 and 6 if they fit into the story. I really, really want 1 and 2 to be completely done away with, but it will be hard to remove those.

At least we have elections to determine this!

Friday, October 16, 2015

AltHistory Scenario #12: What if Winston Churchill Died in the Boer War?

Ahhh, good old Sir Winston Churchill, the saviour of democracy (and the British Empire) in World War Two, a witty public speaker, and also a pretty good writer of history. Sure, he was the guy that had the brilliant idea of sending troops to Gallipoli, and also advocated for the arrest or even execution of Mahatma Gandhi, and also to keep millions of people under undemocratic colonial governments... but, you know, no one is perfect.

However, Churchill first came to public attention during the Boer War, one of those imperial scuffles that fill the history books, where the people in charge and the people living in an area not only are different but don't see eye to eye, and eventually just leads to armed conflict. Churchill was a war correspondent there, after serving in the Sudan and India, and was captured as a Prisoner of War when the armoured train he was riding in was ambushed. What if, instead, he was killed in that ambush?
Nothing like saying "This is pretty darn important" than having machine guns on a train.

Point of Divergence

Well... I think already mentioned how I wanted to change history this time. If you didn't get it, read the previous paragraph again.

Immediate Consequences

Churchill was a national hero when he returned from South Africa, and used it to get elected to the House of Commons, which he would sit in for the next sixty some years, on both Liberal and Conservative benches, in and out of power, and Prime Minister twice. The effects of the lack Churchill's presence wouldn't be felt until 1910, and the constitutional crisis of the period that eventually lead to the "People's Budget" of 1910 and the Parliament Act of 1911.  In both cases, Churchill supported and actively argued for the passage of both acts, but I feel that at this point he wasn't the deciding factor, so both would still be passed.

The next change would be 1911, when Churchill was made the First Lord of the Admiralty. Immediately he advocated that the coal fired ships of the Royal Navy, namely the big battleships, be converted to oil power, which was mostly achieved by 1913. Without Churchill to push for this reform, despite the approval of admirals like the famously argumentative and reform minded "Jackie" Fisher, it could take a longer period of time for oil to be adopted. This had the side effect where the British government wouldn't invest in the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, which, in the complicated history of business mergers and breakups, would eventually become British Petroleum, aka BP.

So, Gulf Coast residents, blame Winston Churchill for Deepwater Horizon!

In World War One, Churchill was still the First Lord, and pushed for the invasion of Gallipoli to capture Constantinople and force the Ottoman Empire from the war. Without Churchill to propose it, I wouldn't think that the British and French would try for an invasion of the Dardanelles, which also lead to the popular rise of an Ottoman solider who would later become known as Ataturk, the first President of a democratic Turkey...

Another thing Churchill got the Admiralty to investigate was "landships," to be used to break the stalemate of World War One. Without Churchill, the development of the tanks that helped the Allies win World War One wouldn't be developed until later, (they first arrived on the battlefield in 1916) and possibly still be in their infant stages in the next one.

World War One's result would not be much different, despite the lack of tanks, the possibility that the German navy could have been more successful against the still coal-fired Dreadnoughts of the British, but without the distraction of the Gallipoli campaign. So, in the end it would be a wash.

So... yay?

Later Consequences

However, World War Two is where Churchill's influence is most felt, and the area that will really be changed without Winston. As the PM of Britain in it's darkest hour, he was able to rally the British and prepare them for a long, bloody war. After the Fall of Poland, France, Norway, and the Low Countries. The Royal Navy would have been able to hold it's own, but with the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force from Dunkirk, made possible when Hitler called a halt to the attack, the British people's desire for peace would come to the forefront.

A few more months of Phoney War, with limited air foray's by both forces to at least make it look like something was happening, but by August 1940, less than a year after the war started, a negotiated peace between Nazi Germany and the United Kingdom would take place. France was reformed, minus Alsace-Lorraine and some other land and shorn of it's colonies to be given to Germany, and Germany would pay the British for damages caused to British and Imperial forces in the war. The War in the West was over by Christmas.

Let's face it, this picture is one of the better tourist pictures taken in France in the past 100 some years.

However, this only dealt with Europe, at least as far as the British are concerned. In May, without having to rescue Mussolini from being trounced by the British in Egypt and Greece, Hitler would unleash his Blitzkrieg on the Soviet Union. With another month of prime campaigning weather on the Steppes, German armies would reach Moscow before it snows, killing Joseph Stalin in the desperate battle to try to hold the Germans back. With the Swastika over Moscow and Stalin dead, the Soviet Union completely fractures. A new Civil War between Stalin loyalists, supporters of the recently deceased Trotsky, monarchists, republicans, anarchists and fascists would all rise up and try to claim their own chunk of Russia. Germany, despite it's intentions of just claiming the land for their own use, would be dragged into this increasingly bloody battle, which would slowly wear down their strength, but not enough to collapse the Third Reich.

By mid-1941, relations between Japan, the UK and the US were falling, and with a surprise attack on Hong Kong and Pearl Harbor respectfully in December, both powers were dragged into war with Japan. Continued reverses, Japanese surprise attacks, difficult relations between the US (Roosevelt would be voted out in 1940, since there was no war in Europe for him to prepare America for) and the British would mean that the two powerful nations would spend more time squabbling than planning a combined strategy to defeat Japan. By 1944, war exhaustion in both Britain and the UK would lead to both nations finally making peace with a more powerful Japan. The world was finally back at peace, and in a totally different shape than before.

Somehow Japan always seems to come out of WWII Alternate History's pretty unscathed... Lucky bastards.

The British Empire would continue to survive, minus a few colonies in the Pacific (Australia and New Zealand would still be independent of the Japanese, but fear of a new invasion means both nations are heavily armed), and eventually India and the African colonies would be given Dominion status in a reformed Commonwealth, mostly because the British were still powerful enough to maintain military presence in the Colonies, but desire to cut costs would be the big reason that would happen. The Royal Navy still rules the waves, though mostly in the Eastern Atlantic.

As for the rest of the world, the United States would return to isolationism, not wanting to get dragged into another war with Japan, and sure as hell not Germany. Japan would be quite content with their Co-Prosperity Sphere, and soon would become a major economic power to rival their military success. Japan, the US and the UK all eye each other warily, still expecting a big war someday.

It will most likely break out because of THIS misunderstanding...

Germany, on the other hand, wouldn't be so lucky. While at the peak of their power after 1945, including detonating the first atomic bomb in occupied Ukraine in 1949 (the US got the bomb in 1950, the UK in 1954, and Japan by 1958), the exile of the "Jewish problem" to Madagascar and the German colonies in Southern Africa, and presiding over the occupation and subjection of all of Europe the death of Adolf Hitler (officially a heart attack, unofficially some syphilitic disease) by 1955 would result in the entire structure collapsing. Brutal struggles between Goering, Goebbels, Himmler, Rommel and other big name Nazi's would see the Third Reich be broken up into rival fiefdoms, armed with tanks, atom bombs and conscript armies. For years this Civil War would continue until an uneasy peace is made in 1962. The Nazi Empire is reunified under Erwin Rommel as the other big wigs die, some from suspicious causes, who makes it slightly more democratic, somewhat more stable, and significantly less insane. Russia is still a chaotic, anarchic mess that no one wants to deal with, and Latin America just switches between one Banana Republic dictator to another, just so long as American business interests are left alone.

Because why deal with the complicated cultural, political, historical, and linguistic differences of a huge chunk of the world when you can just ignore it?

By 1970, the Four Atomic Powers are now in a Cold War, much as Churchill had said would happen in 1946 when speaking in the US of the Iron Curtain. While proxy wars on the periphery of the major power's sphere of influences would continue, the Cold War still continues today.


For all his faults (and there are quite a few), I still believe that Winston Churchill is one of the most important men in world history, if just because he had a good strategic vision of how to win World War Two, if a flawed tactical expertise as Dardanelles, Crete and Italy showed. He was a brilliant speaker, a great writer, and did what he thought was best of the British people. If that meant a little self promotion, allowing the Empire to fracture, or working with his hated enemies in Soviet Russia, so be it.

Winston Churchill, 90 years of quotes and witty combacks that will last forever.

Without Churchill to rally the British people in May 1940, it's fair to say that the world would be in a lot darker place than it is now. It's a testament that, even when Britain was mostly alone, with the colonies thousands of miles away and months, if not years, away from supplying the homeland, the US still staunchly isolationist and facing down the greatest evil of modern times, Churchill would stand up in the House of Commons, and say that Britain, protected by the few of the RAF, would fight on the beaches and landing fields, never surrender. He rallied a people that just months before were willing to give in to Hitler's demands

If you think words have no meaning, look no further than Churchill

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

AltHistory Scenario #11: What if the Roman Empire Never Fell?

Ooooh, this is a popular one. What if one of the largest contiguous empire's in all of history, home to great art (stolen from the Greeks), great literature (also stolen from the Greeks), military prowess (later taken from the Germans and Gauls and other barbarians) and vast wealth (taken from everyone not Roman) didn't finally fall in 467 AD when some Goths just got rid of the last Western Roman Emperor and the long, messy and very violent process of building the nation-state we know today began. To many people, seeing the stability, power and prestige of the Roman Empire, and all the chaos that came after it fell, it's fair to imagine what would happen had it survived. So that's what I'm going to do today!

However, I'll be honest, this could be one of the most implausible scenarios I've ever devised, and the reasons will be clear by the time I get down to the "Conclusion" part of the article at the end. Also, unlike usual, I may not do a lot of explaining, as this article is already late, and Wikipedia is a couple clicks away... so let's get going!

I'm already late, so let's not take any more time! Move, move, move!

Point of Divergence

First, as all Roman AH scenarios point out, this is if the whole Roman Empire didn't fall. Technically, the Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire, and that lasted up until the 15th century when the Turks finally captured Constantinople, so, yeah...

There are several points in the history of the Empire where I could start from. Maybe Augustus' son survived, or maybe Constantine didn't divide the Empire into East and West, or maybe Caligula was a better emperor... but you know what, I'm not going to do any of it. Let's make it a bit more interesting, and instead, after the death of Augustus before he could name a heir, the Senate, which had been mostly sidelined under the first Emperor, decided to assert itself to say that only they could choose the First Citizen, or Principes, of the Empire. While the army, the aristocracy and the plebeians would all have their own candidate at different times, the Senate would be the decider.

Uhhhh... no, not him.

Immediate Consequences

For a while, this may not be as easy to put into practice as many would think. Maybe an emperor would decide that his son, no matter how smart or dumb he was, would be perfect to take over, no matter what the Senate says. Or maybe an army fighting the Germans would think their general would be better than some politician that never left Italy as the big cheese. Eventually, possibly after a civil war or two, it would be confirmed that the Senate was in charge of choosing the Emperor.

It's fair to say that if the Senate was in charge of naming the Emperor, the Emperor may end up mostly coming from the senatorial classes more often than not. However, I feel that that in this case, a psudeo-papal election style government system would be established, but could also mean that the Emperor would be more an administrator over time, rather than a primarily military officer, priest or judge, with these roles eventually devolved over the years to other senatorially elected positions.

Something the Canadian Senate wishes would happen right now...

However, the Emperor could still formulate policy, and without having to worry (too much) about soldiers and generals marching on Rome, a more aggressive expansion policy in Germania would take place, pushing the border of the Empire from the Rhine to the Elbe, bringing a huge area that in our history was the breading ground of the "barbarians" that helped bring down the Empire. Further expansion in any direction would be harder, with the Picts in Scotland, the icey mountains of Scandinavia, the vast open stretches of steppe and prairie in Poland and Ukraine, the Persians in Iran, and the Sahara desert in Africa all effectively blocking Roman influence to where it is.

The next major challenge to the position of the Roman Empire would be the rise of Christianity, and the growing movement to replace the polytheistic religion of Rome with the One True God of Christianity (and Judaism, though that might be overlooked). For a while, Roman leaders and the Senate would be hostile to this new religion that threatened there power base, but by 300 AD the issue would be more or less resolved, most likely with Christianity being accepted as a major religion, but not the official religion of the Empire. Since the Emperor was no longer the Pontifix Maximus as Augustus had been (and made the position of Emperor and Pontefix Maximus one and the same), the Emperor himself would not be beholden to defend the religion of Rome.

Or just give the job to Francis. He seems to know what he's doing.

Later Consequences

With the majority of the Roman Empire secure, shorter borders to defend, and a fairly stable government, it's not hard to see Rome lasting a bit longer than in our timeline. However, I don't think Rome would become a world spanning colossus as you see in many timelines (Superpowers on the Alt History Wikia comes to mind). Eventually, by the 400 AD, there would be troubles. the Sucilds in Persia would begin to pose a serious threat, as would the Huns roaring off the Central Asian steepe. The military, primarily an infantry force for hundreds of years, would be slow to adapt to the swifter, more destructive horse archer tactics of the Huns.

With the raiding in profitable areas of Germanica and the Black Sea, and a major break out threatening the wealthy center of Constantinople (not the main capital, but a major city and administrative region nevertheless), what would be OTL Berlin (Berlinicus? I don't know...), and Rome itself could lead to crisis and revolt, and the outbreak of new civil wars between different governors, generals, and the central government in Rome. Chunks of the Empire, such as Germania, Britannia, Egypt, Anatolia, and Spain, would break off as their own "empires," with their own senate and electoral system, pushing Roman borders back to Italy, Gaul, North Africa, the Balkans and Greece. While not all these nations would survive, many would remain unified and independent for decades, if not centuries, which would spur an earlier nationalist movement based on the old "successor empires" of the Roman Empire.

And maybe only a slight uptick in the number of people stabbed on the floor of the Senate. Who knows?

The next hundred years would be a story of decline, failed attempts to reclaim the broken off areas, and trying to repair the damage from the Huns. By 600 AD, much needed reforms will have taken place, and the now smaller Roman Empire is in a much better position. Any talk to reclaiming the full breadth of the Empire is just that, talk. The Emperor and Senate in Rome, which had taken a beating (and now had walls around it for the first time since the days of the Punic Wars) is still strong within the Empire, and with a reformed military, able to hold their own against the successor states, maybe even claiming more land back in time. Christianity would also be a major factor in the Empire at this time, with different people claiming they represent the true wishes of Jesus and God, leading to more strife that some divisive emperors would try to use to their advantage to pit one group against another, the naive Emperors try to ignore it, and the smart/lucky/uninterested would just let the church sort it out. In the end, there would be no one-unified church, instead several larger sects set up in places like London, Constantinople, Rome, Barcelona, and Berlin.

The process of reform, prosperity, crisis, fall, and rebuilding would take place multiple times over the next few hundred years. North Africa, along with the successor Egypt, would fall to the Islamic Arab armies in the mid 700s, and Gaul would eventually break away in the 900s. After the new millennium, Greece and the Balkans would also begin to leave the Empire, leaving just Italy for Rome. This would still be the wealthiest part of the empire, as most of the trade and goods went through Italy to go anywhere else, and a formerly farm driven economy would be replaced with a more mercantile, manufacturing economy. Think Venice, just over the whole boot of Italy and not a little swampy inlet in the north.

Because who thought building a city on the water was a good idea?

Many different modifications to the government would have taken place by now: centralization, de-centralization, more provinces, fewer provinces, more senators, less senators. But the main theme is that the Roman Empire was willing to reform when it needed to most, and would continue to do that. In the 1200s, as Crusade fever swept Europe, reformed Roman Armies, now focused more on heavily armored knights and a powerful navy, would lead the way more times than not. From the sands of the Levant to the hills of Spain to the Nile, new Roman Legions would march again, though not as conquerers (most of the time) but Warriors of the Cross (maybe).

After the Black Death, Italy would be severely underpopulated, as were many of the successor states of the old Empire, though many had now been reformed into nations like France, Germany, and Spain. While battles would take place between these nations, for the most part they were more likely to work with each other than anything else, the higher elites maintaining Latin as one of two or more languages many of these elites would speak. Latin would remain the main language of diplomacy and trade in Europe right until almost the present. After the set back of the Black Death, the economies of these nations would slowly recover.

After of course all the bodies are gotten rid of. Even those not quite dead.

Culture would also take a different path. Without a "Dark Age" to stunt the continuation of classical learning, art and literature, culture might develop both quicker and slower at the same time. Experimentation with ideas and technology from the past would be frowned upon, especially when they had proven their worth over the centuries, but by the 1200s, a Renaissance would emerge. This would be different, and not as a "rebirth" of ancient cultures, but new experimentation, sciences and arts would appear, similar to the Age of Reason OTL. The Leonardo da Vinci's and Rembrandt's, along with Newton's and Galileo's,  would appear sooner than later. Roman Italy would be the prime location for this to happen, as in OTL, due to the wealth and trade the peninsula has, as well as being home of where most of the surviving. Eventually democracy would come, and the Senate would become an elected body, much like the Assembly's that had been used 2000 years before in the old Republic.

After that... well, I don't know. Colonization of the New World would most likely not involve Italy to any great degree, like in OTL. The Industrial Revolution may not start in Italy either, as places like Germany, Britain, and Anatolia would be in a better position resource wise. By the modern era, Roman Italy would be a Middle Power, still wealthy, a tourist hotspot, with a moderate navy to control the central Mediterranean, and a weaker army and air force. However, the Emperor is still elected by the vote in the Senate, and the majority of people still speak Latin.

Thanks for giving that away, you stultus. 


Yeah, this is really one of the more implausible AH's I've done, but also perhaps the most realistic version of "What if the Roman Empire never fell?" I just can't think of a feasible scenario where the Roman Empire can last, well, forever. The government was unstable, the taxes got to high, Christianity destroyed the old religion but never fully replaced it, the barbarians were at the gates, the wealthiest part of the Empire broke away, there was lead in the water pipes.

This article really skims over a lot, and a few things I missed. Feudalism may or may not happen (possibly, but only when the big Empire starts crumbling), and my version of the Renaissance may never happen, and I just used the modern names of places because I didn't have my history text book handy.


So this brings me to my feeling of Empire's: while they are strong at one point, they eventually have to fall. There has never been a case where an Empire, after reaching it's apex, holding onto that position until the present. The Roman, Chinese, Mongol, Spanish, French, and British Empires, and all the other smaller ones, they all rose, stayed at the top for a while, then collapsed, either through war, disease, strife, reform or, in the case of the French and British, the cost became too much.

Really, the question shouldn't be "What if the Roman Empire never fell," but "How can the Roman Empire never fall?"

Friday, October 9, 2015

Editorial: A Look Back at My First AH Timeline, "French Trafalgar, British Waterloo"

Way, way, way back when I started in Alternate history back in High School (okay, it was only seven years ago, but still!), I started a timeline at the Alternate History Wikia called French Trafalgar, British Waterloo (also known as FTBW), which since then has had over 230 pages in the category that fleshes out the world that I created. It also is a featured alternate history on the Wikia, and won several Sterling Awards, and is still considered my pride and joy.

That said, looking back on it now, having finished a Bachelor of Arts in History and English, I realize that there are some problems with it, mostly due to it being my first alternate history, and some things that I didn't realize when I started. So, I decided to go over it, and pick out a few things...

Because if there is something I like doing, it's going over my old stuff to see all the bugs and terrible things I did back then,

1. Better POD

As the title suggests, the Battle of Trafalgar is the major tipping point, where the French Navy defeats the Royal Navy under Admiral Horatio Nelson. Trafalgar is such a big part of British lore, and the fact that from 1805 until 1945, the British Navy was recognized to rule the waves of the world, and built a massive empire based on that control of the seas. So, if Trafalgar turned out different, it should have been a huge blow to the British, right?

After a few years of research on the Napoleonic Wars, I'm starting to think that no, it most likely wouldn't have been the point when Napoleon could have won the war. For one thing, when Trafalgar was taking place in October 1805, Napoleon had already turned his army to Central Europe, defeating the Austrians at the Battle of Ulm. So it wasn't possible for Napoleon to take advantage of the temporary set back of the Royal Navy to invade England. Not to mention that the fleet Nelson had was only a small part of the larger navy, and there would be more than enough ships to still prevent the French from invading.

Even though, really, you could wipe out all those ships with a match.

The problem is that I don't know if there would have been many better chances for the Napoleonic Wars to change. Maybe if the Treaty of Amiens had lasted longer, allowed Napoleon a chance to build up a navy or ensure that the rest of Europe wouldn't rise up, then possibly Trafalgar could have been decisive. Possibly the only way that Napoleon could have won the war was just keep winning battles of whatever coalition the British paid to rise up, and keep his attention focused on Western Europe. No occupation of Spain (leading to the Peninsular War), no invasion of Russia in 1812, no trying to replace every monarch in Europe with a Bonaparte. Maybe then the British could tire from the war, and eventually make peace. But knowing the British, that would be a tall order. They hadn't let a little thing like Hitler taking all of Europe to stop them from giving in (though that was more Churchill's speech making and bull dog will than anything else), so could enough costly defeats convince the British to give in? That's a good question, and possibly a better POD in the long run.

2. Too Much Focus on Big Name People

At the very beginning of the TL, the name Marshal Micheal Ney pops up. A lot. Back then, that name was one of the first besides Napoleon that I knew on the French side of the war, so I basically made him the man that would make the world change to what I wanted it to be: a large, stable French Empire surviving to the modern day. I did that a lot, and it's quite clear throughout the entire TL, in all the lists I made of major Presidents, Prime Ministers, famous people. Always big names in our history, just with a different job title. President Tom Hanks anyone?

"Life is like the US Presidency... you just never know what you are going to get. HANKS 2016!"

There is only one "major" fictional person I added, and it was the third Emperor of the Napoleonic Empire, the son of Napoleon II, who in OTL died at the age of 18, having never married, had kids, or even spoken French. So I made a new one, but then killed him off when he was younger to then go back to "real" people, namely the IRL Napoleon III, the nephew of the first. However, I did use the Butterfly effect to a degree, as I usually changed the years when born and died from their IRL dates. I'm not a lazy alternate historian. Just... a bit distracted.

I know why I didn't do that much: I wanted pictures of people to put beside the names, espeically of Emperors and Kings and Presidents. But I really should have been more willing to make more fictional people. I went half way to this later when I started digging deep into the lists of MPs in Britain to pick the man who would be the Dictator of a National Socialist UK in my alternate World War 2, in this case John Beckett, a British Labor and Fascist leader. Most important to me: he had a picture. In future alternate histories on the Wikia (if I get around to working on them...) I'd be more willing to try to use more fictional people, if at least based on IRL people.

But there are people you just have to mention. Like this guy.. uhh... what's his name again?

3. Short and Sweet Country/People/Event Profiles

The thing that pains me the most when I look at FTBW is all the red links that still exist. I want to go back and flesh out all those points that at the time I thought would be important: battles, treaties, big names, etc. etc. And I've done alright at some of them, especially the wars, but there are also so many articles I started that consist of an infobox I copy-pasted from the previous nation, with a few edits, and a "WIP" notice on top, if I even remembered that. Oh, and categories. If I didn't do them, the chief admin and editor Lordganon would swoop in and do it for me. I still think he mutters "Oh God damnit" every time I forget a category. Oops. Sorry.

However, after I did that, I moved on to the next one, and then never came back to flesh it out. Many of those pages have been WIPs for years at this point, mostly just waiting for me to come back to fill it out. But I wanted to make each one a big, definitive history of that nation in my universe. Every. Single. One. Now I realize it makes sense to do it for the French Empire, the United States, and Russia, but not for Switzerland, Hispaniola, or Mozambique. So if and when I do go back, that is most likely what I will do. Just make a short, sweet, and simple history of each nation.

Because everyone wants to know the history of the country with the AK-47 on the flag.

The same goes for the people. Every US President on my list has an article, just no information besides the infobox. I should try to at least work on a brief synopsis of their life.

4. Trying to Get Other People to Help

This is perhaps one of the more recent problems I've had. I go on the chat for the Wikia, I get a few people go "OMG, TB SHOWED UP!" and then some people say "I really liked your FTBW timeline." At that point I'm both proud and excited. Then I ask if they would be interested in helping out. Usually it's a yes, especially when they know more of a certain subject than I know, like sports, movies, Asian and African history. But then nothing ever happens. And I get sad.

I should know better by now. FTBW is not 1983: Doomsday, a collaborative timeline that has been worked on by hundreds of people over the years. FTBW is my timeline, the one that helped develop me as an alternate historian. I shouldn't be looking or begging for help. I should just work on it, and stop trying to get other people to help me. I won't turn down anyone asking if they can submit something, but I shouldn't be soliciting people to help me.

Yes, I should listen to the actor that everyone thinks ruined Indiana Jones and Transformers!

5. Actually Go Back And Work On It

The previous point leads into this one: the fact that since 2012, I really haven't done more than add an article here, add a picture there. The timeline kind of stops dead in 2011, so there is over four years I need to add on to make it current.

The problem is that my interests seem to change on a dime. For a while I was working on other projects on the Wikia like my Choose Your Own Alternate History, projects off the Wikia like my Fallout Fanfic, school, family, work, video games... so many things that want my attention. So things like FTBW, which I still really enjoy, just get's shunted down the list. I have notes everywhere in books of ideas I wanted to add into FTBW, but most of them are still there, waiting for me to do something.

Someday, I plan to go back. Maybe not a full time thing like when I was in High School, but maybe something where I add a post a day. Edit the first pages to make it sound better. Standardize the maps. Flesh out the culture and the world I created. Someday, maybe in the future, I might even go and write short stories based on the universe I created. It's an idea I've toyed with for a long time now, and something that I may eventually do. But I want to finish FTBW. Someday.

I'll think of a funny caption tomorrow.