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?”

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”

Pereira and Luckman LAX Terminal design

Unbuilt Los Angeles

Los Angeles is a dieselpunk’s delight with its collection of Art Deco architecture, ranging from its famous City Hall to the Art Nouveau-ish Bullocks Wilshire to the iconic Eastern Columbia Building to the heavyset headquarters of the Los Angeles Times.

If it had been up to the following architects, though, the city would have been turned into a theme park of postwar, Atomic Age architecture as well. Continue reading “Unbuilt Los Angeles”

Nazi-occupied Europe map

Hitler’s Feared Invasion of the Middle East

In the spring of 1941, Nazi Germany controlled of all of Western Europe and the question was where Adolf Hitler would strike next? Would he finally attempt an invasion of Great Britain? Or would he move into the Middle East instead and grab the oilfields? (Few anticipated at the time he would break his nonaggression pact with the Soviet Union.)

Life magazine argued in March of that year that an invasion of the Middle East by way of North Africa was most likely. This would allow Hitler to avoid aggravating the United States on the one hand, which might get involved if Germany invaded England, and Turkey on the other, which had resisted German overtures for an alliance.

“The one little hitch is the open space of water between Italy and the African mainland,” the magazine wrote, otherwise known as the Mediterranean Sea. Continue reading “Hitler’s Feared Invasion of the Middle East”

Château Laurier Ottawa Canada

The Grandest of Canada’s Railway Hotels

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, Canada’s railway companies built grand hotels along the routes of the country’s burgeoning rail network. Many of these hotels were built in French château- and Scottish baronial-inspired styles, rich in dormers, towers and turrets.

When air travel started to compete with the railways in the second half of the twentieth century, many of the hotels struggled. Some were closed and torn down. The ones that survived are now national landmarks.

Let us take you on a tour of the grandest of Canada’s railway hotels. Continue reading “The Grandest of Canada’s Railway Hotels”

Washington DC nuclear attack illustration

Imagining World War III in 1945

As soon as the Second World War was over, military strategists started planning for the next one.

Life magazine reported in its November 19, 1945 edition that the head of the United States Air Force, General Henry H. Arnold, had warned that technologies developed during the last war — atomic bombs, ballistic missile, long-range bombers — could make possible “the ghastliest of all wars.”

The destruction caused by nuclear weapons would be so swift and terrible that a “war might well be decided in 36 hours.”

Life envisaged what such a war might look like. Continue reading “Imagining World War III in 1945”