Paul von Hindenburg Oskar of Prussia

What If Germany Had Won the First World War?

Many a what-if has been written about a German victory in World War II. Alternate histories of a German victory in World War I are less popular, but they exist. Indeed, people started thinking about the consequences of a German victory during the war itself and feared it might give way to a German empire spanning nearly the whole of Europe.

Here is a look at some of the maps that were produced to show a German victory in what was at the time called simply “the Great War”. Continue reading “What If Germany Had Won the First World War?”

Low Countries map

What If Belgium and the Netherlands Had Remained One Country?

450 years ago this year, the Dutch Revolt against the Catholic king of Spain started. For eighty years, the largely Protestant provinces of the Netherlands fought for their independence. They got it in 1648, when the Peace of Münster (part of the Peace of Westphalia) recognized the Northern Netherlands as an independent republic.

But the largely Catholic South remained Spanish until 1714, when it became Austrian. It was briefly joined with the Netherlands after the defeat of Napoleon, but by then the two had grown apart culturally, economically and linguistically. Belgium seceded from the Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1830.

This separation was not preordained. In 1581, Brabant (which is now split between Belgium and the Netherlands), Flanders as well as Mechelen had joined the Northern provinces in their declaration of independence, the Act of Abjuration. But they were quickly reconquered by Spanish forces. Antwerp and Brussels had been the centers of economic and political life in the Low Countries. They too fell under Spanish rule. The North continued as a republic, centered on Amsterdam.

What if the rebels had succeeded in holding the South? What could a United Netherlands have looked like? Continue reading “What If Belgium and the Netherlands Had Remained One Country?”

A Very British Coup

A Very British Coup
A Very British Coup

In 1988, Channel 4 adapted Chris Mullin’s 1982 novel A Very British Coup for television. Although the country was well in the middle of the Thatcher boom at the time, the three-part miniseries harkened back to the 1970s and early 80s and its post-industrial gloom.

Under the last Labour government before Margaret Thatcher came to power, Britain had been plagued by strikes and energy blackouts, culminating in the humiliation of the world’s former superpower requiring a bailout from the IMF.

In Mullin’s story, it wasn’t Thatcher who won the election but the socialist Harry Perkins. The character is loosely based on Tony Benn, the real-world leader of the Labour left.

Perkins (played in the miniseries by Ray McAnally) is determined to make good on his election promises: (re)nationalizing industries, breaking up big media, withdrawing from NATO and scrapping Britain’s nuclear deterrent. His program spooks the British establishment. Spymasters, business tycoons and career civil servants conspire to bring Perkins down. Continue reading “A Very British Coup”

Marek Hlavaty artwork

The Art of Marek Hlavaty

Marek Hlavaty is an artist from Slovakia. Some of his artworks are set in a dieselpunk world where the Nazis have defeated Great Britain and the Soviet Union and continue to fight against the United States with their ally, Japan.

In one picture, we see a German interceptor preparing to take off from an airbase in Iceland. In another, Nazis land in the jungle of Amazonia and are mistaken for gods by the natives. Continue reading “The Art of Marek Hlavaty”

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The Day of the Jackal

The Day of the Jackal
The Day of the Jackal

When French president Charles de Gaulle agreed to Algerian self-determination in 1961, his right-wing supporters were outraged. They had returned the general to power only three years earlier so he could put down the bloody uprising in France’s most prized colony. Some of the pieds-noirs, the Algerian French, and their sympathizers in the army banded together in the paramilitary Organisation de l’armée secrète (OAS) to stop the independence process with assassinations and bombings.

The Day of the Jackal, based on Frederick Forsyth’s novel of the same name, fictionalizes the group’s plots against De Gaulle. Continue reading “The Day of the Jackal”

Anglo-American war map

The Anglo-American Pacific War That Wasn’t

Before the rise of Adolf Hitler in Europe, American military strategists seriously considered the possibility they might do war with Britain in the Pacific.

During the 1920s and early 30s, a Joint Planning Committee (the precursor to the Joint Chiefs of Staff) developed a series of color-coded war plans. “Plan Red” prepared for a conflict with the British Empire, then the world’s declining but still premier military and political power. Continue reading “The Anglo-American Pacific War That Wasn’t”