View Full Version : Speculative History


DingBat
Feb 20, 2002, 10:43 AM
Everyone likes to play "what if" (I love these types of mind exercises"). I'd like to propose a scenario:


What if the American Revolution had not occured?


The premise is that the War of Independence did not occur and the colonies remained under the control of Britain.

I can think of the following events/questions/ramifications:

1) Would the French Revolution have played out the same way without the American example?

2) Would the Napoleonic wars have been affected had Britain not had the distraction of the War of 1812?

3) Would Germany have dared to challenge the hegemony of the British Empire prior to WW1 if that empire had included the resources of the greater american colonies?

4) Would WW1 still have played out the same way? If Germany had avoided the play for empire and avoided threatening Britain, would Britain have joined in a defence pact with France? Would Britain have avoided WW1 altogether? Would Germany have been able to defeat France alone?

I think the WW1 scenario is very interesting. Britain, traditionally, had little interest in continental politics and would possibly have even less interest with it's large, american colonies to keep it busy. A WW1 without British involvement could have been possible.

Comments? Let's play. :)

/bruce

DingBat
Feb 20, 2002, 10:47 AM
Another idea:

When Britain abolished slavery, this would mean that this would apply to the colonies as well.

Would the southern colonies still resist? Would there still be a rebellion, this time by the southern colonies against the northern colonies and Britain? Or would the colonies have been able to avoid the agony of the civil war?

/bruce

knowltok2
Feb 20, 2002, 11:21 AM
Interesting thoughts. One question I think you are forgetting to ask is if America would have been as industrially developed without independence? Also, what about the Louisiana purchase? Mexican American War, etc? before getting to WWI I think there are severl questions that would have to be nailed down first.

Harry Turtledove and Richard Dryfus (The actor) wrote a book called The Two Georges about this subject. I couldn't get into it, which is strange for me since I like Turtledove's other stuff, so I can't tell you much about it.

Jimcat
Feb 20, 2002, 11:59 AM
Well, this is a fun alternate history, and not explored nearly as often as the boring old "What if the Confederacy had won the War Between the States" and "What if the Nazis had won WWII".

Of course, if you make the assumption that the American Revolution never occurred, you need to ask the follow-up question: WHY didn't it occur? Different political leaders in the Thirteen Colonies who inspired the people to Empire rather than Independence? A short rebellion that was quickly crushed? Different policies in London towards the Colonies, so that the resentment against the mother country never occurred? Start with any one of these premises and you could get greatly divergent futures.

I suspect that the French Revolution would have occurred in any case, and that the ideas of "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity" would have been raised in France regardless of any preceding American revolution or lack thereof. Jefferson, Franklin, Paine, and their contemporaries were actually inspired in their anti-monarchist sentiments by French political philosophy. In fact, one possible outcome is that the Amercian Revolution occurs a few decades later, inspired by the French!

But let's stick to the "no American Revolution" timelines for now. The Marquis de Lafayette would have had a larger role to play in France, since he wasn't fighting the British in North America. It wouldn't take too much of a stretch to imagine Lafayette becoming the head of the French state after the beheading of the royals and much turmoil... perhaps with a certain upstart Corsican as his Marshal-in-Chief. Then again, one could also imagine both Lafayette and Bonaparte being killed in the Revolutionary chaos, and someone entirely different in charge of France.

For the sake of argument, let's assume that Napoleon or someone like him initiates a period of European conquest in the early 1800's. The American colonies would have provided some help to Britain on their side of the pond, but they were hardly developed enough to be a major military force in Europe. I can't see boatloads of North American soldiers going over to fight in France. I can, however, see the colonials fighting for Britain in the Caribbean and Louisiana Territory.

After the pseudo-Napoleonic wars concluded, the North Americans would probably start making noises about independence, or at least self-government. And perhaps by this time, the King and Parliament would see the wisdom of granting the colonies their own rule without a violent split. Perhaps a North American Parliament would convene in Philadelphia or New York by 1820.

As for the slavery issue, I imagine that both Britain and the northern colonies would have little tolerance for it, and that slavery would be abolished much sooner. The southern colonies would really have little recourse, and in any case, there were a lot fewer slaves in the 1820's than the 1860's. Emancipation would cause some friction, and the blacks would probably experience as much social and economic hardship in this world as in ours. In the long run, the racial issues of North America would be about the same.

The further one gets from 1776, the fuzzier the possibilities get. The WWI question is an interesting one, but who's to say that the Great War would even start in 1914? The roots of that war go all the way back to Napoleon, and indirectly the American Revolution, so the laws of chaos tell us that you can't possibly predict WWI if you change the course of human events in the American Revolution.

Here are some important things to consider, though. First, losing the American colonies shifted Britain's focus to India. That, in turn, made Africa a necessary part of its colonial policy, if only to protect the sea routes to India. If North America had remained British territory, then many of the people who went to India or Africa in our world may have instead gone to America. What would have become of India? Perhaps France and Russia would have played out the "Great Game" in South and Central Asia. This would have delighted Bismarck, or whoever stepped in to fill his shoes. Germany would seek to dominate Central Europe and the Balkans, playing France off against Russia. Africa might become a French preserve simply because no one else wanted it badly enough. There would be no "Monroe Doctrine", and the relatively well-developed South American nations might have become the scene of investments and rivalry between European powers. The Panama Canal might have been built a lot earlier, by British interests seeking an easier route to Australia and the Pacific.

Quite an interesting world picture. I haven't got the time or the imagination to develop it further, but anyone else is welcome to take a shot at it.

Stefan Haertel
Feb 20, 2002, 01:53 PM
Although I doubt the sense of these games, playing them can be fun (to a certain extent).
But there's some sort of philosophical part in this.
What if... in the American revolutionary war, some British soldier got killed who would have gone on to change the world, forever? We cannot know.
Let's say George Smith from Halifax served the British army in the (totally made up) 3d division of the 4th infantry batallion in the battle of... Yorktown. He got a direct shot in the head and died immediately.
What if he hadn't had died?
After serving the army for several years, he returned to Halifax and later went into politics, getting elected for Prime minister in either Canada or the UK... whatever. Or, at some point he got promoted to a high military rank and led a british expedition corps in India, went on to conquer Afghanistan and parts of Persia, etc.
We can never know, because the slightest thing happening could have had massive impact. That is why playing such games as "what if's" is a very hard thing to do.

DingBat
Feb 20, 2002, 02:01 PM
Well, obviously you have to control the bounds of the discussion or anything is possible.

However, part of studying history is examining the impact of an event on the times. For example, we spend a lot of time considering what the impact of WW1 was. It's not that far a step to begin to consider what might have been different had some variables been changed.

I've got a few books where respected historians indulge in speculative history. The entire thread on "Most important wars/battles" is speculative since, to evaluate the impact of a war or battle, you have to imagine what the result would be had the outcome been different.

/bruce

DingBat
Feb 20, 2002, 02:04 PM
Originally posted by Jimcat
Here are some important things to consider, though. First, losing the American colonies shifted Britain's focus to India. That, in turn, made Africa a necessary part of its colonial policy, if only to protect the sea routes to India. If North America had remained British territory, then many of the people who went to India or Africa in our world may have instead gone to America. What would have become of India?

Didn't the British first become involved in India because the French were there? It's possible that the British would still prosecute their war with the French in India, but that the american colonies would be the "Jewel in the Crown" instead.

/bruce

Hitro
Feb 20, 2002, 07:44 PM
Originally posted by DingBat
However, part of studying history is examining the impact of an event on the times. For example, we spend a lot of time considering what the impact of WW1 was. It's not that far a step to begin to consider what might have been different had some variables been changed.

I think the variable you mentioned, the American Revolution, is rather a constant considering WWI. In other words, I don't think that WWI aas we know it would have happened at all if the British would have been able to break the colonist's resistance. Therefore the whole European history would have been changed in a very significant way. The French Revolution would most likely have taken place sooner or later anyway (to answer question 1) but the British Empire would have had much more power than it really had. That would have influenced the Napoleonic Wars if Napoleon would have existed the way he did at all. It would definetely have influenced the distribution of power in the world and in particular Europe. That means everything as many years later as WWI wouldn't have happened.

allhailIndia
Feb 20, 2002, 09:40 PM
I dont think the French revolution would have been greatly influenced by the absence of the American revolution.
But the beauty of speculative history comes out in games like Civilization:cool: .

Deviating a bit. Stephen Hawking in his book "A brief history of Time" writes about the presence of infintie parallel universes. Here they may be a similar Earth with a similar history and only minor differences. However, the events on Earth are considered a high probability event, (which means that Monica Lewinsky will be an issue ion other universes as well;) ), however there are a small percentage of universes where history has taken a radical course. Dinosaurs would still rule the world, the Persians conquered the Greeks, Romans conquered India, etc., these universes would be interesting to visit for a Civfanatic:cool:

knowltok2
Feb 21, 2002, 07:50 AM
I choose to believe that if there are alternate universes that regarding the issue of Monica Lewinsky, it is ours that falls into that small minority with the radical course. ;) :lol:

As far as differences, if the Birtish had kept the colonies, there wouldn't have been anyone to buy Loiusiana from the French for $15 million in 1803. Not sure what effect that would have had, but it certainly wouldn't have helped Napoleon. It would be more likely that the colonies would have taken that land for Britain by force.

amadeus
Feb 21, 2002, 01:54 PM
Originally posted by DingBat
Everyone likes to play "what if" (I love these types of mind exercises"). I'd like to propose a scenario:

What if the American Revolution had not occured?


Simple. It wouldn't have. The colonists were fed up with the crap that the British were giving them, and would defend themselves from British invasion.

From a strategic point-of-view, the Americans had the advantage of being the defender, so they did not have to cross an ocean, they had quick access to materials, a better understanding of the terrain, and being able to get news across in a relatively short time in comparison to the Brits.

VoodooAce
Feb 21, 2002, 04:00 PM
Originally posted by rmsharpe


Simple. It wouldn't have. The colonists were fed up with the crap that the British were giving them, and would defend themselves from British invasion.

From a strategic point-of-view, the Americans had the advantage of being the defender, so they did not have to cross an ocean, they had quick access to materials, a better understanding of the terrain, and being able to get news across in a relatively short time in comparison to the Brits.

The question was, though, 'WHAT IF it didn't happen.

As posed by following posters, it could have NOT happened for any number of reasons.

Remember, it wasn't as though there was this huge ground swell of emotion to dump the crown.

The course chosen by the crown brought about their own loss. Conservatives refused to budge. Rather they insisted on ratcheting up the pressure. Rather than compromise with us, they passed even harsher laws. A few concessions here and there and war could have been averted, or at least delayed.

There were a lot of fence sitters that were kind of pro-Revolution yet still felt a strong loyalty to the crown.

Fact is, early on, many if not most just wanted to force the crown into a compromise. Even at the outbreak of hostilities, there were many that felt that THAT should be our goal. Then came the Declaration of Independence, which actually left a lot of people :eek: i.e, shocked.

VoodooAce
Feb 21, 2002, 04:15 PM
Although, after further review, RM, you are right in that it had to be inevitable.

When you think about it, how long could the England really have kept ahold of us?

Maybe a good way to look at it is we were merely insolent pre-teens that ran away from home. We would have eventually left once we 'grew up' anyway.

I can't picture still being a colony even as early as the mid-19th century.....but who knows....

knowltok2
Feb 22, 2002, 07:38 AM
Originally posted by VoodooAce
Although, after further review, RM, you are right in that it had to be inevitable.

When you think about it, how long could the England really have kept ahold of us?

Maybe a good way to look at it is we were merely insolent pre-teens that ran away from home. We would have eventually left once we 'grew up' anyway.

I can't picture still being a colony even as early as the mid-19th century.....but who knows....

Impossible to know for sure, but a restructuring of the British government to allow for inclusion of colonies as full members in the Empire might have done it. The British took the view that Americans were second class citizens, if citizens at all. They then reacted with the strict measures that you mentioned. The US likely would have broken off eventually had the British just been neutral and mildly patronizing. But what if the British had made active efforts to promote unity and cohesion in their Empire? equality with the British in all things including parliment, military command, rights, etc.

The thirteen states set up a system that steadily diminished their influence when they passed the NW ordinance. What if Britain had done the same type of thing?

sgrig
Feb 23, 2002, 07:45 PM
This is what I think would happen had the American Revolution not occured, supposing that nothing dramatically different happens in what is called Napoleonic Wars in our universe. It is very difficult to predict what could happen in the long run, so I'll just set my imagination loose...

For sure, Britain would be much more powerful than it really was. I think it would keep expanding in India because already by mid-18th c Britain had a strong foothold on the subcontinent and I don't see anyone claiming that from Britain.

Correct me if I'm wrong (I'm not a specialist in US history) but I think that the US got the stimulus for industrial development because after independence they had to cater for themselves, being isolated from Britain, the world's number one industrial power at the time. In this alternative world, this would not happen, so the industrial development in America would be much slower. Also because America wouldn't be a 'free' country, there would be fewer immigrants from Europe to America in 19th century. So by the second half of 19th century, I think India would still be the 'Jewel of the Empire'.

It is also not clear what Latin and South American countries would do had the American revolution not occured. But let's suppose that they gain independence in the same way as in the real world.

Then it could be interesting to see what's happening to Mexico. Without a strong, free USA, Mexico could expand into what is now western USA, possibly attracting immigrants from Europe in the same way as USA did in real world, I'm not sure.

It is also interesting to see British-Mexican wars, with all other European supporting Mexico in hope to limit Britain's massive power...

At some point in late 19th century, Britain would find it very difficult to maintain such a huge world empire, with everyone try get a piece of that. So maybe a world war could occur earlier, say in 1870's, with the other major powers allying against Britain, with the British Empire being too large and heavy weight to defend itself. So in such a war, Britain could lose quite a few of its colonies.

Let's see what the world could look like by 1900 say.

Africa mainly dominated by France, with German influence here and there. Middle east and Balkans still controlled by the Ottoman Empire, central Asia controlled by Russia. India probably semi-independent.

Australia probably still dominated by Britain, as its too far away for any major power to get to it.

Interesting things happen in America. I think there could be something like the US stetching from the East Coast to the mid-West, with a French protectorate to its south, and a large Mexico controlling all of west America. I'm not sure what could happen to Canada...But in any case America would be less developed far more sparsely populated than it was in our universe, due to smaller number of immigrants.

I also wonder what could happen to Alaska if there was no US. Russia would probably still keep it, and later on it could be a staging area for battling with the British for influence in Canada...

Well, I certainly did set my fantasy loose!!

According to my thoughts, the world would've been terribly different if not for American Revolution. One thing is certain i think - North America would have far less weight on the world stage than it did in our world. Maybe it would have same weight as South America... But Europe would be far more important than it had really been, with a larger population due to less emigration and less competion from the 'New World'.

I wish it would be possible to play this scenario in Civ3!!!

allhailIndia
Feb 24, 2002, 07:56 AM
Originally posted by sgrig
So by the second half of 19th century, I think India would still be the 'Jewel of the Empire'.


I doubt it, the first Indian Sepoy Mutiny had nothing to do with the American revolution. Also there would have been a struggle for Independence and it might have been successfully earlier because of the constant war Britain might have been negaged in with Mexico;) . So right about now, India might have had an economy larger than China and a much larger population as well.

sgrig
Feb 24, 2002, 08:01 AM
Originally posted by allhailIndia

I doubt it, the first Indian Sepoy Mutiny had nothing to do with the American revolution. Also there would have been a struggle for Independence and it might have been successfully earlier because of the constant war Britain might have been negaged in with Mexico;) . So right about now, India might have had an economy larger than China and a much larger population as well.

Possibly... In any case I think it would be much harder to Britain to hold the empire together. It would either be taken piece by piece by other European powers, or as you are suggesting by independence movements which Britain would have difficulty controlling.

Ironically, it seems to me that if not for American Revolution, the British Empire would not last as long as it really did.

EdwardTking
Mar 04, 2002, 05:50 PM
What if the American Revolution had not occured?

Very Difficult:

Perhaps:

(1) The British would have emigrated to USA in larger numbers.

Australia and New Zealand would probably have gone to the
Dutcgh and Danes instead.

(2) With 280 m in USA area now and 60 m in Britain; the political
power of the empire would be in America.