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Friday, 30 January 2015

An Alternate History Scenario for every Country (Part 1)

Alternate History is a fascinating subject and I thought about the ultimate alternate history event for the blog. Then I saw a video by the AlternateHistoryHub on YouTube, (which I strongly advise watching for fans of alternate history), when he did 50 Scenarios for 50 States; a quick scenario for each US state. Then I thought why not go one step bigger? A scenario for every country. Over the next few weeks I'll be doing a quick alternate history scenario for every country recognized by the UN so all 193 member states and the only non-member state to be recognized, (the Vatican). Some I might turn into fully fledged scenarios and the scenario for each country will be fortnightly so i can find the best scenarios but now we must dive right in...

UK- The Spanish Armada is not destroyed.
In 1588 the Spanish King Philip II created an armada consisting of 22 galleons and 108 armed merchant vessels. Instead of destroying the Armada at Plymouth it went around Scotland to find a new landing point where it was hounded by the English and bad weather before the English managed to destroy the fleet. In this scenario the Spanish Armada attacks the English at Plymouth destroying the English navy and the Spanish land on the English coast. Fueled on by crushing the Protestant heretics of England the Spanish take London, locks Queen Elizabeth I in the Tower of London and then knocks out the Scottish, also Protestant, and arrests King James of Scotland. Philip installs his daughter Isabela Clara Eugenia as Governor of the new Britannia Governate consisting of the Kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland while the future king Philip III replaces her as Governor of Spanish Netherlands. For the next few years Spanish troops remain in Britain putting down the almost constant rebellions against Spanish rule, mostly in England and Scotland, while the Spanish Inquisition comes to Britain.
Gif from
Sorry I couldn't resist it. The Spanish place Catholics in charge of key posts across Britain as they close down Protestant churches. Spanish becomes the language of the court as the rebellions dissipate. When Philip II dies and Philip III takes the throne tensions flare once more as economic problems makes him tax the British more as well as him trying to impose Spanish customs, culture and language on the commoners as he did in Portugal. When Portugal rises in revolt so does the Scottish and English who declare independence and makes James VI of Scotland's eldest son Henry the first king of a united Britain.

France- The Legislative Assembly Survives
During the French Revolution a constitutional monarchy was briefly formed called the Legislative Assembly with the King as Head of State and a elected assembly consisting of pro-monarchy Feuillants, liberal Girondins and radical revolutionary Jacobins. It failed for multiple reasons including the king refusing to reduce his power, attacks against the Church upsetting pious peasants and economic troubles upsetting urban workers and agricultural peasants. It failed, a republic declared and Louis XVI lost his head. In this scenario the Assembly writes out the power of the King to veto proposed items and the Assembly is less zealous in taking Church land which strengthens the authority of the Assembly. Maximilien Robespierre manages to weave his way into Chancellorship and he makes King Louis XVI reach out to Austria and stop war from destroying the fledgling constitutional monarchy. They also reach out to Britain due to the similar government styles. The largely left-wing Assembly allows tax reductions on the peasants and welfare systems for the urban poor as the last residues of serfdom is abolished. No Revolutionary Wars take place and France remains a constitutional monarchy with three main parties: the conservative Feuillants, liberal Girondins and socialist Jacobins as the Assembly goes into the 19th Century. To this day France has a constitutional monarchy but history would be dramatically changed with no Napoleon rising to power.

Russia- The August Coup succeeds.
In the August of 1991 a group of Soviet generals and high ranking KGB Officers tried to lead a coup to overthrow Mikhail Gorbachev after his reform policies had lead to the collapse of communism and former USSR states declaring sovereignty. The coup failed and the leaders were arrested, (later freed), except for Boris Pugo who killed himself. In this scenario the Soviet generals and KGB eliminates Boris Yeltsin who led the counter-coup in Moscow and the leader of the coup, Gennady Yanayev, is made Soviet Premier and Minister of Defense Dmitry Yazov is made Part Secretary. Gorbachev is put under house arrest in Crimea and members of Gorbachev's party are sent to low level positions in Soviet Central Asia or sent to camps in Siberia. The new Soviet leadership quickly puts down independence movements around the USSR from Russia to the Baltics and dissidents are quickly arrested. Anti-communist movements in Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Poland and other Soviet satellites are put down by the Red Army to condemnation from the West. The USSR rebuilds its ties with China, also facing pro-democracy dissidents, as the Iron Curtain turns in on itself. The USSR lasts into the 21st Century with it employing similar tactics to China by using a smoothwall to block internet access from Western websites like YouTube, Facebook and Google. Less eager to open itself to Western trade than China the USSR creates a protectionist policy with its puppets and uses its time to crack on possible foreign influences that leak over the border.

USA- Franklin Roosevelt is assassinated in 1933

 In 1933 incumbent President Franklin Roosevelt was almost assassinated by Giuseppe Zangara who missed because of a wobbly chair that he had to stand on to get a look at Roosevelt, (he was quite short and couldn't see over the hat of the woman in front of him). In this scenario one of his shots hits Roosevelt in the heart who then dies of his injuries. Vice President John Nance Garner then becomes President but unlike Roosevelt he is not in favor of the New Deal policies so he never passes any acts creating the Alphabet Agencies. Without a New Deal the USA does not recover from the Depression and labor and civil rights is set back many years without the intervention of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. Garner would also react more violently against strikes sending in federal troops to disperse strikes no matter if they were peaceful or violent. With the Democrats doing nothing to solve the worsening Depression the Republicans win the 1936 election but their policies of rugged individualism would be just as useless as that of the Democrats. The USA becomes more isolationist and ignores the rise of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. As war breaks out in Europe and Asia isolationist USA does not pass the Lend-Lease Act to help the British and do not place embargoes on Japan. With no embargoes Japan does not bomb Pearl Harbor so the USA does not enter the Second World War. When the war ends the USA's economy slowly recovers but it is now a secondary power in a three way cold war between the British Empire, the USSR and the Japanese Empire.

China- The Tumu Crisis never happens
In 1449 the Mongols made another invasion of Ming China which resulted in the Zhengtong Emperor being captured by the Mongols leading to his later reign to be filled with battles to stop a coup and China turning to isolationism. In this scenario the Mongols don't invade so no Tumu Crisis happens. With the Mongols not an issue, (also meaning that the Great Wall is never built), the Emperor can manage to crush the revolts against his rule in Annam. The Ming Empire then expands its borders invading Korea and what is now Manchuria and Tibet before turning on the Mongols, crushing them in the 1560s. The Ming Chinese manages to beat back pirates from Japan as well as establishing a bigger and better port on Formosa which allows Ming explorers to discover Hawaii and California, eventually sending colonists. When Europeans start to arrive the Ming Dynasty shows that it is a force to be reckoned with and Europeans leave China alone to instead focus on Southern Indochina, (the North being under Chinese rule), but the Chinese using gold reserves from California buy guns from the Europeans. With more land the Ming does not suffer as bad from the Little Ice Age which destroyed crops but millions still starve which permanently weakens the Ming dynasty. However it does not collapse as the Manchus, (who overthrew them), remain under their rule and the economy does not falter as when Spain ceased Pacific silver trade gold from California stopped inflation. However by the 1800s the Ming's strengthen starts to fade from European intervention and in the 1890s a revolution takes place establishing a republic.

Vatican City- The Nazis occupy the Vatican
When Germany invaded Italy to push back the Allies Hitler considered invading the Vatican to deal with the Pope who offered a beacon of resistance to German Catholics. Leading Nazis however convinced him that this was a bad idea. In this scenario Hitler orders an invasion of the Vatican when the German army occupies Rome. SS officers arrest the Pope and his Cardinals who are taken to a concentration camp and duly executed. Word of this quickly leaks out and revolts spread across the Catholic areas in Germany as well as the Catholic nations of France, Poland and Italy. Although Hitler manages to have the German insurgents put down Italian and French partisans oust the Germans from their nation and with two nations on the Allies side on Germany's doorstep the war ends sooner in Europe. After the war the former Vatican is made apart of post-war Italy with a new Pope being elected by high ranking Bishops, possibly the Bishop of Munster who publicly criticized Hitler. Following the war however the strength of the Catholic Church is severely weakened.

Japan- The Meiji Restoration never happens
 In 1868 the United States helped overthrow the Tokugawa Shogunate and allow Japan to have an Emperor once more which spelled the end of feudal Japan and samurai but the start of the industrialization of Japan until it became the economic power of today. In this scenario the Tokugawa Shogunate manages to fend of the US and the monarchists. The almost Emperor Meiji is forced to commit Hara-Kiri, (honorable suicide), and the samurai put down monarchists. Throughout the rest of the 19th century Japan remains an agrarian, feudal society dominated by the daimyo, (regional warlords), under the rule of the Tokugawa Shogun. Japan bars foreigners from entering the nation which leads to intense xenophobia against people of different cultures. With no restoration Japan does not industrialize and its isolationism stops any attempts to form a Japanese Empire so there would be no invasion of Taiwan, Korea and China. After the First World War fighting in the seas nearby Japan makes the Shogun slowly open the country to foreign powers as well as modernize the country. However this is a slow process hindered by the local power of the daimyo and by the 1970s Japan imports its first cars and becomes the manufacturing capital of the world with the industrializing country eager for foreign investment allowing companies to open factories.

Democratic Republic of the Congo- Belgium builds infrastructure there
When the Belgians took over the Congo from King Leopold their rule was fairer but they largely neglected the people, choosing instead to mine it for resources. In this scenario they do something as simple as build dams, bridges, schools, power-lines and roads. All of this allows a middle class to emerge in the colony and schools allows there to be enough education to in turn allow for higher education. This would thus allow for future politicians, doctors, teachers and professionals. When the Belgians withdraw from their African colony the new new government manages to more diplomatically solve the secessionist crisis with the provinces of Katanga and South Kasai. With also a clear government hierarchy Joseph Mobutu would be unable to lead a coup which allows the DRC to remain a clear, democratic country. The DRC starts to build further dams, bridges and other projects which allows the country to become richer and the less prominent military rule stops the ethnic killings as refugees from the Rwandan Genocide flee into the DRC. Today it would be a rapidly developing country with a stable government.

Mexico- Hernan Cortes is executed by the Aztecs.
In our timeline the Spanish Conquistador Hernan Cortes took the Aztec Emperor Moctezuma hostage who was then killed. Cortes then marched on the capital of the Aztec Empire Tenochtitlan and brought Spanish rule to Mexico. Moctezuma had thought he was the Aztec God Quetzalcoatl as his arrival matched what the myths said about the God's return. In this scenario after Moctezuma questions Cortes about him being Quetzalcoatl in human form and finding he knows nothing of the Aztec religion he calls Cortes and his men blasphemers. He then sacrifices the Conquistador and his men to Quetzalcoatl by cutting out their hearts. The Spanish King Charles V would not seek vengeance with Cortes ignoring his orders not to go hunt for El Dorado. Thus the Spanish never conquer modern day Mexico and the Aztec traditions of sacrifices deters Christian missionaries and European explorers from conquering the region. The Aztec Empire lasts for years after with it trading with the British, Spanish and French. Huge gold reserves allows the Aztecs to buy huge amounts of goods from Europeans allowing them to adopt new farming techniques such as buying cattle to plow fields. Soon the Aztecs start exporting more crops such as maize, tobacco and cocoa which they soon dominate the market in. By the 19th Century the Aztecs start abandoning some customs deemed barbaric by Europeans such as sacrifices in order for trade to continue although in more rural areas this practice would still continue today. Groups such as the Maya conquered by the Aztecs would seek civil rights now and Native Americans across both Americas would view the Aztecs as a symbol of their old rights.

Saudi Arabia- Juhayman al-Otaybi leads an extremist revolt
In the last months of 1979 a sect of extremist Wahhabi Muslims called al-Ikhwan seized the Grand Mosque in Mecca. The leader of the extremists, Juhayman al-Otaybi, wanted Mohammed Abdullah al-Qahtani to be the Mahdi, (redeemer of Islam), and for the Saudi people to overthrow the royal family. The group was stopped, al-Otaybi and his followers executed but the Saudi government had to adopt a more stricter Wahhabization of Saudi society to prevent other revolts. In this scenario the Saudi National Guard sides with al-Ikhwan and leads a coup overthrowing King Khalid who is then executed. The royal family flees abroad to the UAE, USA or Pakistan as Mohammed Abdullah al-Qahtani is declared the Mahdi, although this is rejected by all other Muslim countries, while al-Otaybi is made his Head of Government. What follows would be similar to what happened in Iran where the US embassy is put under siege and US businesses are vandalized. The new elite would then expel all non-Muslims, Shias and possibly any non-Wahhabi Sunni Muslims. Saudi Arabia would then place an embargo on the US which deepens the economic crisis. The extreme elite would then bar any non-Wahhabi Muslims from entering the country during Hajj which eventually would cause an economic recession in the country. Al-Otaybi would fund extremists like Osama Bin Laden to fight in Afghanistan as the nation declares war on Iran during the Iran-Iraq War. The war would end with a stalemate in 1992, (Iraq backing out in 1989 to invade Kuwait to replenish its diminished resources two years later). Bin Laden would make his home nation of Saudi Arabia as al-Qaeda's base until 9/11 and the US led coalition invades Saudi Arabia, (Bin Laden would then flee to Afghanistan). Al-Qaeda terrorists would then attack US forces as they create a constitutional monarchy with Abdullah returning from exile to be King. Fortunately though after the fall and execution of al-Otaybi and al-Qahtani by the new Saudi government to deter al-Qaeda non-Wahhabi Muslims would allow to make the pilgrimage to Mecca for the first time in over two decades.

Next fortnight I'll be doing scenarios including North Korea annexing the South, Grenada revolting against the US invasion and Spanish Republicans winning the Civil War to just name a few! If you have any ideas of your own just tell me and I'll try and out them in.

Friday, 23 January 2015

The Birth of English Democracy

This illustration shows the signing of the Magna Carta.
On the 20th January 2015 marked the 750th anniversary of England's first Parliament which was celebrated by the BBC with Democracy Day. This year also marks the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta where without the Magna Carta the first Parliament could not have happened. Thanks to these two events just fifty years apart England, and later the United Kingdom, managed to become the fully fledged democracy that it is today. Let us start with the Magna Carta, the manuscript that created British democracy.
Background to the Magna Carta being signed- The story of the Magna Carta lies with King John III, fans of Robin Hood would recognize him as the king in the adaptations. King John became King after his brother Richard I, (Richard the Lionheart), and inherited a weak economy after his brother spent a great chunk of the treasury on crusades and paying his own ransom. English Kings also had to make sure barons were on their side if they wanted to raise taxes and the best way to do this was through military victories abroad. John however made a major blunder and lost his land in northern France in 1204 which upset the barons which he inflamed matters further by raising taxes without consulting the barons. He also upset the Pope by meddling in Church affairs which infuriated the Pope who closed churches in 1207 and excommunicated John in 1209. With England being Catholic and the Pope holding more authority in the eyes of the people than monarchs this made matters worse. By 1214 John had to give massive concessions to the Catholic Church to re-communicate him, he lost trying to retake northern France and barons refused to let him raise taxes.

The Magna Carta- In 1215 25 barons met with king John at Runnymede near the baron's base of Staines and the King's fortress of Windsor Castle on the 10th June, 1215. The barons drafted a charter which would lay down the basic foundations of modern day democracies. This included the separation of state and Church, that everyone could have access to the court regardless of wealth, forbade the King from issuing unreasonable taxes and laws as well as forbidding that any freeman not to be imprisoned or punished without previously going through a legal system. John left his royal seal at the bottom of the document, (he didn't actually sign it but his seal was quite literally the seal of approval), and the document was called the 'Articles of the Barons' and later the Great Charter or the Magna Carta.
The King's seal
The First Baron's War and subsequent Charters- However the settlement lasted only six months where John refused to accept the Magna Carta. English kings ruled through an idea called 'the Divine Right' where God had chosen them to rule where John believed that the Magna Carta usurped this right. Also the Magna Carta forbade the King from approaching the Pope from nullifying laws that he disliked which John did by getting Pope Innocent III to denounce the Magna Carta as John did not willingly sign the bill. This caused a civil war called the First Baron's War where England's barons sided with either the King or the original rebel barons. The war lasted until 1217 where another Magna Carta called the magna carta libertatum or the 'Greater Charter of Liberties' was signed but both treaties soon became known as the Magna Carta. Following the 1217 treaty two other Magna Cartas were signed, one in 1225 and one in 1297, which slowly changed the English laws and allowed more liberty for the people. For example the original Magna Carta says 'freeman' when the laws such as freedom to a trial was set out which indicates that serfs, women and Jews were discounted but the subsequent Magna Cartas changed it to 'no man' so previous people discounted from the original like serfs, Jews and women could now be given a right to a fair trial, no unusual taxation etc. The different Magna Cartas, although many laws have changed since they were first written, make up the British Constitution so unlike the US Constitution the British is not written in one document that has amendments but simply entirely new treaties.
Simon de Montfort: the origin of Parliament
Simon de Montfort and the first Parliament- The next turning point for British democracy happened with the Earl of Leicester, Simon de Montford. It started with King Henry III, (John's son), ironically wanting more taxes to fund foreign exploits, in Sicily instead of France this time though. The barons however were fearful of Henry following his father's footsteps so tried to use the Magna Carta and an uprising to keep the king in check starting the Second Barons' War. Simon de Montford became the rebel leader and after defeating the king and his son at the Battle of Lewes was made the unofficial king of England but de Montford's hold was tenuous. He then decided to put the Magna Carta in action in an event which would change the history of England. de Montford organised a Parliament to be held on the 20th January, 1265 and would last until mid-March where barons, county knights and burgesses from major towns could represent their area. This marked the first step towards the modern day Parliament democracy system we have today in Britain, (although Scotland did have a Parliament since 1235 although it took until 1292 to become a major factor in Scottish life), and it expanded what the Magna Carta had tried to set out. Although far from a true democracy but rather a proto-democracy which set the standard for the future Parliament. Although de Montfort was killed in the Battle of Evesham later that year king Henry and his son Edward would continue with the Parliament at the same place where de Montford held his Parliament. This place was Westminster Palace and it was dubbed 'The House of Commons'. As Professor David Carpenter described de Montford's Parliament which inspired the trend: "We can't say for certain that the House of Commons wouldn't have evolved without Montfort's contribution, but he certainly accelerated its development." Without de Montford Parliament could have come about centuries later than it did.

The aftermath of de Montford and the Magna Carta- Both events of the 13th Century helped set a wave which would influence the full development of not just English but British democracy. The Magna Carta and growth of Parliament in strength led to the arguments between King Charles I and Parliament during the 17th Century where Parliament used the Magna Carta to challenge the King when he tried to deny Parliament's right. The fact that England had a Parliament coupled with the strength of the Scottish Parliament, (who was much more willing to deny the Scottish King compared to the English Parliament), could have helped make the union between Scotland and England much more easier which helped strengthen democracy in Great Britain. Extracts from the Magna Carta were used in the Declaration of Independence and notice how the Founding Founders criticized George III instead of the House of Commons. Napoleon who usurped attempts to make a liberal France called de Montford 'one of the greatest Englishmen', (de Montford was actually French ironically), and Nelson Mandela even quoted the Magna Carta during his 1964 trial speech! After all these years what was set out by the Magna Carta and Simon de Montford has led to the current system used in Britain; a thriving democratic, constitutional monarchy. It has allowed anyone to become Prime Minister including this man:
Thanks for reading and the next few posts I'll be doing a quickfire alternate history scenario that will range from realistic to slightly unrealistic. However I will be doing one scenario for every country so please any scenarios that you would want to see for a country. It could be anything from Japan never seeing the Meiji Restoration to de Montford becoming the actual King of England! Please leave any suggestions that you want.

Friday, 16 January 2015

What If: The Confederacy won the Civil War?

One of the most favorite scenarios of Alternate History is if the Confederate States of America won the American Civil War. It is so popular that one of my favorite science-fiction authors, Harry Turtledove, has wrote two books, (one establishing a franchise), about a Southern victory. How though could the South win the war? In our timeline the North had better weaponry such as the Springfield rifle, better communication with more telegraph poles, better railroads which allowed troops to be better supplied and a more industrialized economy which put it at an advantage over the agricultural, mostly rural economy of the South. However there is one way the South could have won.
In this scenario the Battle of Antietam never takes place
  How the South wins- When writing his alternate history scenarios Harry Turtledove did a lot of research and his point of divergence in his novel How Few Remain is the most likely one. On September 9th, 1862 the leader of the Confederate Army Robert E. Lee drew up Special Order 191 which would detail the Confederacy's invasion of Maryland but these plans managed to get into the hands of the Union after they had been misplaced. General George McClellan received these plans and used it to intercept Lee and push the Confederacy back at the Battle of Antietam. Like in Turtledove's novel this would be the best point of divergence so the Confederacy in the scenario does not lose the plans. Robert Lee manages to push into Maryland and an unaware McClellan is forced the take the Army of Potomac into Pennsylvania. The unprepared Union army fights Lee at Philadelphia where the unprepared Army of Potomac is scattered and McClellan killed. During 1963 the Confederacy makes gains in the North with them winning the Battle of Gettysburg allowing Lee to invade New York state to hopefully occupy Manhattan. Throughout the Civil War the Union blockaded Southern ports so occupying a major coastal city like New York could alleviate some of the blockade by distracting the US Navy. However the blockade and poor railroads stops Lee from taking the state and city. Meanwhile Lincoln passes the Emancipation Proclamation in an effort to curry favor with European powers like Britain and France who were against slavery as well as incite slaves in the South to rise up against their masters. Lincoln encourages freedman fleeing North as well as Northern African-Americans to join the army as in the West he forms the Division of Kentucky under newly promoted Ulysses S. Grant to help combat the approaching Confederacy. However the last remnants of the Union army in the East are bolstered around Maryland to try and push back the Confederacy to stop them from taking Washington D.C. They only succeed through superior weaponry, poor supplies going to the Confederates and a surge of volunteers from Northern and Southern African-Americans. However things soon take a turn for the worse through these two nations...

Throughout the Civil War Napoleon III expressed interest in invading to aid the Confederates so he could have a free reign in Mexico but only wanted to intervene if the British did so. Britain in fact almost did declare war on the Union in 1861 during the Trent Affair when US Captain Charles Wilkes intercepted HMS Trent which was carrying Confederate diplomats. Only through the actions of Lincoln was war averted. With Confederate gains it would be easy for another set of diplomats to be intercepted en route by a Union ship and with Lincoln distracted by the Confederates on his doorstep Britain belatedly declares war on the Union. After the Emancipation Proclamation many in Britain thought the US was doing the right thing as Lincoln ensured that the war was about slavery so British abolitionists would be up in arms. Nevertheless Britain invades New England from Canada and Napoleon III quickly declares war on the Union. Under the tutelage of Britain and France the South's railroads and telegraph poles are improved allowing better communication and supply distribution. With the blockades destroyed by an Anglo-French navy bombardment and the Northern armies falling under the two European powers invading the North only sees victories under guerrilla style tactics from General Grant. In 1864 the Confederates enter Washington and Lincoln capitulates. The CSA then received official independence.
A new nation in the Americas
After the war- Following the war abolitionists in France and Britain cause the two powers to cut ties with the CSA. Kentucky secedes from the Union with it largely being a slave state but Missouri remains part of the Union with slavery making a much smaller part of the economy there and Grant's forces remaining on Missouri soil which stops any chance of it seceding. Oklahoma is also annexed by the CSA and in later years as Confederates move West any Native Americans in the nation are forced to move there in a large reservation where they quickly lose any rights that they once had. Lincoln becomes a hated man in the North for losing the war and with him losing Kentucky and Oklahoma he does not run for a second term. For the Republicans John C. Frémont runs as President with Charles Sumner as his Vice President and opposing him for the Democrats George H. Pendelton with Governor Thomas H. Seymour of Connecticut as his Vice President. Anti-South feelings would allow Frémont to become the next President as Pendelton's hatred to racial integration would make him be accused of Southern sympathy. Meanwhile in the South Jefferson Davis, (the CSA President), would be hailed as a hero for ensuring Southern sovereignty but he would have many problems to face. The Confederacy had massive inflation in the war for printing off so much money and although in this scenario this inflation would be marginally reduced thanks to input from the British and French it would still make the economy suffer. While trying someway to pay the many Confederate soldiers he would face another problem: slaves. The Emancipation Proclamation and disorientation from Union armies, especially along the border states, would cause massive slave rebellions which are only put down after Davis allows them to move North or are ruthlessly put down by more extreme generals such as the ruthless Nathan Bedford Forrest who formed the Ku Klux Klan in our timeline. Curiously Forrest would not form the KKK as it was formed to undermine Reconstruction; a policy that doesn't happen in this timeline.

Around the world and 1867- In Mexico meanwhile Napoleon III sends troops to put down the rebellion led by Benito Juarez and to prop up the French backed Mexican Empire under Maximilian I. Maximilian is properly restored to his restored throne, something which did not happen in our timeline when US President Andrew Johnson told the French to leave in 1865 and Juarez executed Maximilian. When Napoleon is overthrown in 1871 by the invading Germans Maximilian has no choice but to enact land reforms and make a constitutional monarchy that lasts today but Mexico's legacy of liberal and occasional socialist fighters that captured the hearts of many Western fans never comes into being thanks to this. Wanting extra money Maximilian also allows Confederates to fund the construction of a railroad but that will come later. In India famines cause marginally less damage as the British trading with the CSA stops Britain turning land in India into cotton farms so there would be slightly more land for crops. In 1867 Davis would step down from being President.In the CSA Presidents would serve for one term which would last for seven years. Robert Lee would be made the new CSA President with Alexander Stephens, Davis' Vice President, acting as Lee's Vice President. Lee would have almost won a land slide victory if not for one thing: a new party being formed. Fire-eaters, (Southern politicians vocally in favor of seceding from the Union), under Robert Rhett would run against Lee as Lee was surprisingly not in full favor of slavery. Lee joined the CSA not because he wanted to keep slavery but because of patriotism to his state, Virginia. This letter to his wife dated December 27th, 1856 expressed his views:
... In this enlightened age, there are few I believe, but what will acknowledge, that slavery as an institution, is a moral & political evil in any Country. It is useless to expatiate on its disadvantages. I think it however a greater evil to the white man than to the black race, & while my feelings are strongly enlisted in behalf of the latter, my sympathies are more strong for the former. The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially & physically. The painful discipline they are undergoing, is necessary for their instruction as a race, & I hope will prepare & lead them to better things. How long their subjugation may be necessary is known & ordered by a wise Merciful Providence.
From this Lee must have disagreed with slavery but was not for abolishing it; seeing it as a necessary evil. Nevertheless Lee's legacy of a war hero would allow him to rise to the position of President of the Confederate States of America.
 A Question on Slavery- In the North the Thirteenth Amendment which made slavery unconstitutional would be passed in 1866 by Frémont although just barely. Democrat opposition to the Thirteenth Amendment would hinder its passage but with them easily being denounced as Southern sympathizers and the need to win friends in Europe would prompt its passage. With slavery abolished in the border states the US government would pass more acts to protect the rights of the Freedmen. In the South Lee would also pass laws to slowly remove slavery; his battles against armed Freedmen could likely influence his idea to emancipate them slowly. Lee would try and pass acts allowing Southern African-Americans more rights but the Southern Congress and Supreme Court would block most. The way the CSA's constitution was made though allowed certain parts of an act to be passed so some minor benefits could come about. This may include allowing African-Americans to be illiterate, something illegal during the Civil War, but most likely it would have to be segregated education and then only for Freedmen. Quite possibly laws would be passed allowing Freedmen to buy family members freedom and removing a law which forbade the hiding of slaves who had escaped from their masters. When Lee dies of a stroke in 1870 Alexander Stephens becomes President. Stephens loyalty to Lee and his once friendship with Lincoln would ensure that the laws passed, (the Bobbie Owls Laws), would remain in place but he would not pass any further laws. Speaking of Lincoln after leaving office he would return to his old profession of being a lawyer and dying of a heart attack in anonymity in 1879.

1870s onward- During the 1870s the US would build a Trans-Continental Railroad stretching from New York, through Illinois, through Nevada and into California. The CSA combats this by making their own going from Richmond, (the CSA Capital), through Texas and after negotiations with Emperor Maximilian going through Chihuahua and Sonora. The US one becomes much more successful however with gold being found in California starting a Gold Rush and the US Gilded Era. Confederates try and emigrate to the US West but come into conflict with US, (or Yankee), workers. Riots would break out between the two groups as old conflicts rear their ugly head. As US federal troops are sent to put down Confederate, (or Dixie), rioters the CSA calls out against this. Eventually any Dixies in the West are forced into slums or have to return home. Civil rights grow in the North as slaves escape to the more industrialized areas where they slowly start to become more accepted into society although segregation and occasional race riots come though this which do not abate until the 1920s. The CSA economy falls though. There was an international ban of the overseas slave trade so the CSA had to resort to selling slaves born in its border, the South in the 1850s and 1860s also saw this problem. The rising cost in slaves makes cotton and tobacco farmers come into conflict with each other and the last of raw materials like iron make the agricultural South a less appealing trading partner compared to the North. Boll weevils take massive tolls on the Southern crops. Abolitionists in Europe also stops powers like Britain, France and Germany from trading with the CSA. When word travels South of movements like the Harlem Renaissance slaver uprisings put the fragile economy on edge and the CSA has to abandon the gold standard. The North however is still down some area. Reduced US influence stops the Alaska Purchase and Alaska remains a Russian colony in the Americas and Hawaii becomes a British protectorate, (similar to in our timeline during the 1840s).

The end of the CSA- In one futile attempt to remain in power the CSA in the 1890s goes to war against Spain after a Confederate ship is destroyed in Guantanamo. The Confederate-Spanish War reaches a stalemate and ends in 1895 with Cuba and Puerto Rico declaring independence under the watchful eye of Britain and the USA under McKinely. With a failing economy the CSA has not choice but to abandon slavery in 1896. This causes the rise of many white supremacist groups to ensure that the Freedmen are kept down. After McKinely's assassination President Theodore Roosevelt offers the CSA a chance to join the USA. After years of debate in 1905 a referendum is held and two years later the CSA joins the USA.

Aftermath- Great divisions appear in the USA with polarization between the economies and policies of the North and South which are greater than the ones seen today. The election of Southern Democrat Woodrow Wilson helps reduce some of this and the First World War helps bond together the new united nation. The unification of the USA causes an exodus of African-Americans North which causes widespread race riots and segregation while in the South Jim Crow Laws prop up. With civil rights leaders including Booker T. Washington and Ida B Wells born into slavery they cannot help progress the civil rights movement setting it back years and the NAACP is never formed. Lincoln is remembered as either a bumbler in the North or a despot in the South and his face is replaced on Mount Rushmore with another President such as Andrew Jackson while Roosevelt is seen as the man who reunited the nation. The USA would also be heavily more decentralized with people identifying themselves with their individual states instead of the government. Finally the Jim Crow Laws would remain well into the 1980s with Martin Luther King and Malcolm X being seen as the people who started the civil rights movement, (where William du Bois and Booker T. Washington are seen in this role on our timeline), instead of the ones who got civil rights and D.W.Griffiths The Birth of a Nation would not be a film glorifying the KKK but one glorifying the life of Jefferson Davis who would be still seen in the South as a hero.

Friday, 9 January 2015

Comics Explained: Ant Man

The trailer for Marvel's new film Ant Man was released recently so exactly who is the titular character? Marvel has said that Scott Lang is the titular character and that Dr Henry Pym was the previous Ant Man who is passing along the Ant Man persona to a new generation. Although both Lang and Pym are famous in the comic book world those who have not read the comics may not know who either are. Let's look first at how Ant Man began.
The origin of Ant Man- The person who made Ant Man first made his appearance in Tales to Astonish #27 but he wouldn't adopt the persona of Ant Man until Tales to Astonish #35. That person was Dr Hank, (Henry), Pym, (one of Stan Lee's own creations). Dr Pym was a biochemist who had discovered a new and unusual set of subatomic particles previously unknown to science which he calls Pym Particles. Using the Pym Particles he managed to created a serum to make things shrink and after testing it on a chair which shrank he decided to do the next logical step; test it on himself. Pym shrank to the size of an ant and after getting caught in honey when he fled into an ant hill he befriended the ants in there. Using his ant allies he manages to get to the serum and become full sized again where, convinced that it is dangerous, he pours it down the drain. Pym would not appear later until Tales to Astonish #35 where he decides that his serum was too great a discovery to destroy so he remade it but his encounter with the ants last time created an interest with the insects. Using his research he found that the ants communicated electronically through their antennas so he tried to make a helmet to communicate with them as well as making a costume to accompany it. The US government at this time gets Dr Pym to create a formula for an anti-radiation gas. However KGB agents, (this was released in September 1962 in the middle of the Cold War), try to steal the formula. Luckily Pym had created his costume and helmet just in time and he shrinks to ant size to escape the KGB. Finding that he has his full sized strength and that his helmet works he gets the ants to help him and the KGB agents are defeated. Thus started the career of Ant Man.
 Further Adventures- As Ant Man Pym went on a few adventures but the first major issue was Tales to Astonish #44. In this issue another scientist, Dr Vernon Van Dyne, approaches Pym to help him contact extraterrestrial life and his daughter, Janet Van Dyne, who was a prospective scientist becomes Pym's lab assistant. We also learn more about Pym's background in this issue where it was revealed that Pym had a wife called Maria Trovaya who was a Hungarian scientist and was kidnapped and supposedly killed by the secret police. Meanwhile the aliens, called the Kosmosians, under one called Pilai kills Dr Vernon Van Dyne. Janet and Pym work together to defeat the alien while at the same time battling their own attraction for each other. Pym uses the Pym Particles to graft wasp wings onto Janet's back that become visible when she shrinks and they defeat Pilai. Pym and Janet become partners as Ant Man and Wasp. After multiple adventures the Asgardian God of Mischief Loki decided to create a trap for his brother Thor by enraging the Hulk. Ant Man and Wasp arrived along with Thor and Iron Man who team up with the Hulk and defeat Loki. They formed a team: the Avengers. That was the first appearance of the Avengers in Avengers #1. More adventures ensued with Pym finding that he could reverse the Pym Particles to make him go to giant heights in Tales to Astonish #49 becoming Giant Man. He later changed his persona again to Goliath in Avengers #28. Each time he changed costumes again but over the years his affections for Janet grew and they started a relationship. Pym also gained a new assistant called Dr Bill Foster in Avengers #32 who later would use the Pym Particles to become Giant Man, something important as he was one of the first African-American superheros alongside Black Panther and Luke Cage. However travesty was to come around the corner.
Downfall of Pym- Hank Pym was neglected mentally by his father when he was a child and the one person who encouraged his intellect and creativity, his grandmother, died when he young. This traumatic event at a young age and pent up emotions to his father started to lead to mental problems when he started using Pym Particles. Pym started to develop schizophrenia which started to become worse and worse. His erratic behavior that sometimes started to turn violent started to put him at odds with his fellow Avengers and Janet. This culminated in Avengers #59 when Pym had a full mental breakdown and lost his memory declaring himself to be Yellowjacket, (pictured above), that he had murdered Hank Pym and he proposed to Janet. Only Janet realized that it was Hank and said yes despite the other Avengers not knowing who he was. After the ceremony was interrupted by a minor villain group, (the Circus of Crime), Pym remembered his real identity, defeated the group and married Janet. Their marriage started to crumble years later after Captain America decided to court martial Pym after he had attacked and almost killed an enemy who had surrendered, (a magician called Elfqueen). In Avengers #213 during the proceedings Pym tried to create another artificial lifeforms that only he could defeat and Janet tried to convince him not to make it. Although the artist and writers didn't intend Pym to purposefully hit Janet but rather by accident nevertheless Pym's fragile mental state had resulted in violence against his wife. Shortly after their marriage ended. However his greatest mistake happened years before...
After a battle with Dragon Man, an artificial dragon fabricant, Hank Pym decided to copy it but create something greater. Dragon Man was a controlled brute but Pym wanted to create actual intelligence. Something that could think and feel. Using his own brain patterns he created artificial intelligence and named it. It was Ultron. Ultron however rebelled and wiped his memory so Hank forgot all about the life he had created. Ultron however didn't disappear. He rebuilt himself and in Avengers #54 in a disguise came to attack the Avengers and his 'father'. Although the Avengers managed to fend Ultron off he continued to return in more and more powerful upgrades. The only good that came from Ultron was the creation of the Avengers member Vision and for good reason. When Pym used his brain patterns to create Ultron the darker parts of his mind was transferred over to Ultron. Of all emotions Ultron inherited the most darkest: hate, anger, avarice and megalomania. Ultron viewed himself greater than all other and despised organisms for he thought that they were hindered by emotions despite the fact he had emotions himself. Ultron is my favorite Marvel villain because he is literally the dark manifestation of Hank Pym. Pym is the kindness and friendliness and Ultron is hatred. I could write an entire post on Ultron but now to talk about the actual star of Ant Man.
Scott Lang- Lang first appeared in Avengers #181 as electronics expert who had to resort to stealing to help his wife and daughter, (although he was not the main center of the story of that issue). After a prison sentence he worked at Stark Industries which brought him in contact with Hank Pym. When his daughter Cassie was diagnosed with a threatening congenital heart problem the only person who could help her, Dr Erica Sondheim, was captured. Resorting to theft again he stole the Ant Man helmet and costume and rescued her allowing Cassie Lang to get the much needed surgery. Although Lang was intending to return the helmet and costume Pym knew he had stole the paraphernalia. Pym noticed that he had stole the costume for good so made him the new Ant Man. Lang was not made an Avengers member but he often worked alongside them as well as Wasp fighting many enemies including Absorbing Man and Titania. When Reed Richards, (Mr Fantastic), went missing he even joined the Fantastic Four until he returned. After the psychic being Onslaught caused the disappearance of the Avengers, Fantastic Four and Dr Doom he became one of the lead members of the Heroes for Hire and continued his adventures when they returned. He even found time for love in the Alias series where he started a relationship with the vigilante Jessica Jones, Jewel, but this proved to be unfounded when she left to be a private investigator and started a relationship with Luke Cage. After helping the Avengers defeat Kang the Conqueror he was admitted into the Avengers.
Avengers and after- Despite being an Avenger he did not get along well with fellow Avenger Jack of Harts, a half human being with massive energy bursts. This animosity continued until Jack of Harts committed suicide saving Cassie Lang from a child murderer as he was tired of going to an isolated cell to contain his powers which were growing out of control. However everything went wrong in Avengers Disassembled. Scarlet Witch had lost control of her reality bending powers as her mind started to collapse and during this mental breakdown her manifestations targeted her former friends. A zombie version of Jack of Hearts created by Scarlet Witch tried to warn Lang of danger before blowing up killing Lang and destroying half the Avengers Mansion. Lang's death however inspired his daughter to use Pym Particles to join the Young Adventures under the name Stature. Pym meanwhile helped with the New Avengers but was replaced by a Skrull sleeper agent and his memory modified to have Pym's memories. In the Civil War story arc where superheroes went to war with each other over whether to sign their secret identities over to the government Cassie joined the anti-registration forces under Captain America while Pym joined the pro-registration forces under Iron Man. When Bill Foster, who joined the anti-registration forces, was killed by a clone of Thor made by Tony Stark Pym went into depression after the death of his friend and had to take pills. Ironically Hulkling captured Pym and impersonated him until the end of the war, (a half-Skrull impersonating a Skrull impersonating Hank Pym). When the Skrull sleeper agents woke during the Secret Invasion so did the Skrull impersonating Pym but the Skrull was killed. Wasp sacrificed herself during the battle and in memory of his deceased lover he took the persona Wasp. Meanwhile the Young Avengers traveled through time thanks to Scarlet Witch and Cassie ended up saving her father's life but tragedy struck again when Dr Doom killed her. With Lang wanting revenge on Doom he joined the Future Foundation.

There was the history of the two main Ant Men. I hope you enjoyed and please suggest any more Comic Explained posts that you want.