Friday, August 7, 2020

Guest Post: Roswell UFO Recovered

This post first appeared on Today In Alternate History.

"It was not anything from this Earth, that I'm quite sure of... I was familiar with just about all materials used in aircraft and/or air travel. This was nothing like that...It could not have been." ~ RAAF Major Jesse Marcel

 July 8th, 1947 - Roswell Army Air Field (RAAF) public information officer Walter Haut issued a press release stating that personnel from the field's 509th Operations Group had recovered a "flying disc," which had crashed on a ranch near Roswell.

As reported by a foreman called William Brazel, the debris was spread over a wide area on the J.B. Foster ranch. A thorough investigation by the United States Army Air Force (USAAF) determined that the "flying disc" was an unmanned probe of extraterrestrial hardware. Although the individual components were vastly superior to human technology, the fundamental sub-system design was recognizable. The two notable exceptions were the "intelligent" exterior metal that looked like aluminum foil but had the startling ability to return to its original shape and also the anti-gravity sub-system.

But from a political perspective, the bigger concern was the crash site - being so close to the location of the atomic bomb program. Non-aligned members states of the United Nations claimed that American doomsday technology had irresponsibly drawn the interest of extraterrestrial threats to the human race. With the Cold War getting fully underway, there was even a cynical suggestion that the USAAF had intentionally shot down the probe. By international agreement, a UN team selected members from six countries (US, USSR, UK, Republic of China, South Africa, Iran, and Brazil) that represented all continents apart from Australia to meet in Roswell and inspect the probe. The team subsequently reported that based on the available information, the crash was due to malfunction rather than malicious intent.

The investigation restored good faith between nations while the extraterrestrial threat continued to focus minds and, to a surprising degree, create a new unity of purpose. The internationalization of the Roswell UFO Incident proved to be a significant step forward in human development. Mankind had orientated itself towards the opportunities and threats in outer space. Even though the USA, followed by USSR, were the first space-faring nations that landed men on the lunar surface it was decided to divide the moon into international zones. This arrangement was undertaken in a similar fashion that was later adopted for the Antarctica territory.

The two decades between Roswell and Apollo 11 were insufficient to fully take advantage of the technologies present in the craft. However, the emergence of microchips and anti-gravity technology would continue to be developed under the auspices of the United Nations. By the third decade of the twenty-first century, there were increasingly loud calls for a truly international space program that could exploit the Roswell technologies and take mankind forward more quickly. Cynics have suggested that a second alien crash is the breakthrough needed to force such a change.

Author's Note:

In reality, Roswell has been described as "the world's most famous, most exhaustively investigated, and most thoroughly debunked UFO claim."


Provine's Addendum:

Confirmation of an advanced alien civilization, although little more could be learned about it, made a radical impact on human culture. The adapted technology alone presented a world straight out of Jules Verne. Anti-gravity devices provided for flying cars, which experienced rough takeoffs in the 1970s with the Ford Flier models before the efforts of the DeLorean Motor Company showed how effective travel without roads could be. Flying cars were commonplace by the 1990s with microchip-driven safety features, while long-distance travel took place in luxurious airliners that arched into low orbit for fast intercontinental travel. Cold-fusion reactors emulating the UFO's power system generated clean energy that became the world's leading power source after the Oil Crisis of the 1970s left the petroleum industry as a shadow of its former self.

Beyond technology, many humans were shaken on a spiritual level. While churches re-envisioned their perception of Earth being a unique creation, New Age cults were built around the largely indecipherable symbols from the UFO. Fears of a coming alien assault through the 1950s directed the West and Communists to organize territorial disputes as old empires unwound, ending with the division of North and South China and the controlled de-colonization of French Indochina. The Iron Curtain would eventually rust out, leading to experiments with capitalism zones in Eastern Europe and Asia.

For a time, humanity became captivated with space. Travel with the alien anti-gravity technology was easy enough, and the U.S. and Soviet Union competed briefly with improved craft while captured German rocket scientists gave the Russians an early lead on flight control before the Americans' ion-drives dominated with speed. Expensive military outposts were established in orbit and on the Moon while expeditions send manned missions to Mars and three Jovian moons. As the observatories failed to return any further evidence of alien incursion and crop circles were revealed as hoaxes, however, budgets were cut thin to maintaining a few token research stations. Without any real economic incentive to colonize, space remained a novelty. Some have suggested renewed nuclear tests on the moon to attempt attracting another alien observation probe, but no one in leadership seems genuinely interested.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Guest Post: Tunguska UFO

This article originally appeared on Today In Alternate History.

On June 30, 1908, on this fateful day in alternate history, an alien spaceship crashed into the Tunguska River in the hills northwest of Lake Baikal. The extraterrestrial occupants were rescued and carried to safety by Evenki natives and Russian settlers.

The Russian Court was subsequently offered a single gift to repay the debt of gratitude. The aliens made a helpful suggestion based upon an observation of a point of interest made during their approach to Earth. Their sensors had taken remote measurements of a narrow strait of water separating two land-masses. This Bering Strait offered a rich opportunity for construction. Not only could human beings use this land crossing, but it would also provide an additional benefit of blocking the cold Pacific current from entering the Arctic. Over a few decades, this would warm the Russian north coast, bringing a new fertility that might accelerate the development of agriculture.

It was highly ironic then that the Alaskan territory across the Straits had been Russian America until the Seward Purchase which had occurred some forty years earlier. Had the Russians kept the land north of the Yukon River, then they would have gained the full benefits of a uniquely strategic territory. Of course such a windfall might well have triggered military aggression from the expansionist German Empire, so perhaps this Russian/American benefit sharing was just as well after all. As a consequence of the Seward Purchase , the Russians were obliged to negotiate with the United States. This was a fresh round of negotiations occurring only two years after President Theodore Roosevelt had played such a key role in settling the Russo-Japanese dispute in the Far East.

Serving in the final year of his second term, the show-boating "Bull Moose" was characteristically taken by the prospect of further bolstering his historic legacy. As a consequence of his impending departure from office, he was in the heady mood to agree to the land crossing. But he also proposed the building of two canals that would permit navigation. TR used the bully pit of the Presidency to demand that Congress finance the American Arctic shipping canal so the Great White Fleet could protect the Northwest Passage north of Canada and develop America's own shortcut from Europe to Asia in competition with the Russian Siberian coast route.

Once agreed to between USA/Russia, the causeway would be built on top of the dam. But European governments soon began to fear that the Bering Crossing would move the epicentre of the world to Asia. Tensions were still rising at the point when Archduke Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo. In a final act of benign intervention, the aliens helped to smooth over this gathering crisis before they departed for their home planet in July 1914.

Author's Note:

In reality, this is an fictionalized ASB account of the Tunguska Event although OTL the crossing actually was proposed by the Soviet Union in 1956.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Guest Post: Russian Hawaii

This article first appeared on Today In Alternate History.

July 19, 1817 - Schäffer establishes the short-lived Russian Kauai protectorate

"[To the USS Boston, I am] prepared to make an immediate attack upon this town, at 4 o'clock P.M. to-morrow, (Saturday) in the event of the demands now forwarded by me to the King of these Islands not being complied with by that time" ~ Captain Lord George Paulet on-board the HMS Carysfort.

A power struggle between two chieftains, Kamehameha and Kaumuai'i, was cynically exploited by a rogue and ambitious German surgeon called Georg Anton Schäffer. He led a mixed group of Russians and Aleuts, sent by the Russian-American Company (RAC) to expedite the return of the cargo of the wrecked ship Bering or, failing that, obtain compensation if the cargo had been stolen or destroyed. There were strict boundaries to his mission as well as other obstacles caused by the local ascension crisis that was going on when he arrived. Fortunately, Schäffer was fully aware of the two main threats to the success of his mission - that the locals had superior armed forces and the United States had significant interest in the islands. As a direct consequence of these factors, there was absolutely no realistic prospect that he could really distinguish himself by seizing the whole of Hawaii for the RAC.

Luckily, manipulation was
Schäffer's stock in trade. To strengthen his hand, imperial aid was obtained by greatly exaggerating the commercial opportunity to the Russian Court. When it was subsequently discovered that the cargo had been seized by Kaumualii, he deftly negotiated the transfer of a share of the local whaling rights and sandalwood trade to the RAC in exchange for firearms to defeat Kamehameha. But when Kaumualii mysteriously died and the company gradually expanded operations, it became increasingly clear that Schäffer had pulled off quite an impressive feat. His quixotic plot had actually managed to establish a de facto Russian protectorate over the island of Kauai.

The RAC fleet comprised just nine ships and the remainder were the small warships engaged in the routine circumnavigation trips conducted to provide sailing experience. Despite their pathetic lack of sailing power, it was a sufficient naval footprint to establish a small Russian port on Kauai. Further Russian investment in the Far East would follow , but the protectorate continued to remain acutely vulnerable due to its remote location and distance from the Russian Empire.

Tension also arose with the British Empire over the North Sandwich Islands where Captain Cook had perished. The threat of British occupation was becoming increasingly inevitable and, to avoid this eventuality, the Russian Kauai protectorate was seized by the United States. This wanton act of aggression brought the Americans into the Crimean War despite the conflicts of interest with the British. The military action was succeeded by a further conflict in the late nineteenth century as the USA forced the Russian Empire out of the Pacific and then off the North American continent.

The Russian Premier Count Witte despaired that "[the] insane [Tsarist] regime was a tangle of cowardice, blindness, craftiness, and stupidity." The rotten Russian Empire finally collapsed in 1905 after disastrously losing a conflict with the Japanese. A new republic arose that allied itself with Anglo-France. The consequences of seemingly minor regional conflicts had been learnt the hard way by all three Great Powers, and they wisely avoided entanglement in the Austro-Serbian War of 1914.

Author's Note from Wikipedia:

In reality, mounting resistance of Native Hawaiians and American traders forced Schäffer to admit defeat and leave Hawaii before his triumphant reports from Kauai reached the Russian court. The Hawaiian spectacular, as it was called by contemporary Russians, became a significant financial blunder for the company.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Guest Post: Zheng He Rescues Byzantium

This article first appeared at Today in Alternate History.

"The voyages of the great Chinese fleet were missions of exploration and commerce. They were not enterprises of conquest. No yearning for domination obliged Zheng to scorn or condemn what he found. What was not admirable was at least worthy of curiosity. And from trip to trip, the imperial library in Beijing continued growing until it held four thousand books that collected the wisdom of the world. At the time, the king of Portugal had six books." ~ Eduardo Galeano

In 1433, after an epic journey around the Cape of Good Hope and through the Strait of Gibraltar, the huge expeditionary fleet of Admiral Zheng He finally reached the continental boundary between Europe and Asia. Safe passage through the Mediterranean Sea was guaranteed by the Venetian Navy on the basis of a long-standing peaceful invitation to the Chinese Emperor made centuries before by Marco Polo. Exhausted by the Ottoman onslaught that had led to the military disaster at the Siege of Thessalonica, Venice did not have much choice.

To prevent the navy bottle-necking the Bosporus, the Admiral was forced to send ahead some smaller Fuchuan warships to complete the journey to Byzantium. Zheng He had spent three decades commanding seven expeditions through Indonesia, India, Arabia, and the east coast of Africa. Nevertheless his voyage to Byzantium, at the climax of his career, would be truly historic. This was largely because of good timing - his arrival was warmly welcomed by John VIII Palaiologos. Facing an existential crisis, the Byzantine Emperor was desperately in need of aid from any source in order to continue a losing fight against the resurgent Ottomans. The Chinese were potential saviors, even though their influence would lead to yet another major religion, Buddhism, becoming a part of the already complicated Byzantine social dynamic.

Zheng He was himself born of a Muslim family, and his voyage was one of exploration rather than conquest, but even so his arrival was hugely consequential. With a military alliance affirmed, Zheng He's fleet, featuring numerous ships larger and more heavily armed than any Europe or the Middle East had ever seen, made short work of the Ottoman fleet that had dominated the Bosporus. Suddenly cut off from supply, sultan Murad II's tremendous advance through the Balkans came to a halt. In a series of battles behind enemy lines that would have impressed Hannibal himself, Murad held onto his position until his death in a decisive defeat at the hands of an army of the Serbian-Hungarian alliance. Murad's son Ahmed was placed on the throne, followed by Alaeddin, and ultimately Mehmed II as a series of early deaths plagued the household. Mehmed would cut his leadership teeth battling the Timurid Empire in the east, expanding the Ottoman Empire far into the Middle East as he gained the epithet "Conqueror."

In addition to tipping the balance in the favor of Byzantium, Zheng He brought with him applied science and technology that would transform the fortunes of the vulnerable Byzantine Empire at its weakest moment. Most significant of all the fortifications of the capital city would be dramatically improved by the time of the succession to Constantine XI in 1448. The Ottomans had missed their chance and decided never to return in another siege attempt. Instead, their conquests stretched from Persia all the way down the eastern coast of Africa to the Great Zimbabwe.

The wealth and power of Zheng He's fleet would have a massive effect on Byzantium, which would become the industrial center of the world by the dawn of the eighteenth century. Steam-driven ships brought in textiles and other raw materials, then exported manufactured goods back to ports as far away as China and the Americas. The Byzantine Empire dominated the region, serving as a perfect balance between Christian and Muslim influences with a booming multi-faith population.

Author's note: In reality Zheng He died in 1433 in Calicut, India. By then, China's expeditions had started to go out of fashion with the emperor as policies turned back toward isolationist Confucian ideals. Soon the size of ships was legally restricted to prevent reckless gambling on oversea ventures.

Provine's coda:
With the Balkan states coming into their own, Byzantium found itself in a new world.The city, now a shadow of its former empire that once spread across the Mediterranean world, was precariously balanced between Orthodox Christians to the west, Catholic Christians in the north, and Muslims to the east. Papal influence in the region waned since the promised rescue by the Holy Roman Empire was delivered instead by non-Christian Zheng He. Fortunately, the Byzantine emperors knew something everyone could believe in: money.

Word soon spread about the development in Germany of a printing press that could produce 3,600 pages in the same day a scribe could write 40, which the inventor Guttenberg planned to use to sell mass-produced Bibles. Religious implications aside, the Byzantines were far undermanned and an increase in production like that was much needed. The city was already a center of engineering: even hundreds of years before, ambassadors were greeted by mechanical birds singing artificial songs and a throne that could rise thirty feet in the air on hydraulic pumps. If engineers could make machines to sing, why not to do practical things? Encouraged by an imperial bounty, designers from all over the world, including the Chinese on the lengthy route around Africa, flooded the city with machines that could automatically spin, weave, and sew textiles into completed garments. The same happened with pottery, furniture, paper, practically anything that could be manufactured. Factories powered by pneumatic and hydraulic engines lined the landscape, and Byzantium earned a new nickname as "the World's Factory" as raw materials flowed in and goods flowed out.

Other nations hurried to catch up, such as the popes working to modernize Rome, the states of Germany building an iron-based trade network, and the Ottomans rebuilding the Pharaoh's Canal to shorten the travel time by boat to the Far East. China, too, felt the effects of closer east-west relations. Rather than following Confucian ideals toward closing off the nation, new models of Confucian thought drove the emperor to expand Chinese influence into "untamed" regions that they felt could benefit from their teaching. In an impressive feat of international agreement build a railway linking Byzantium with Beijing.

While the proximity meant potential for wealth, Byzantium long knew the significance of industrial espionage. A millennium before, Nestorian monks had smuggled silkworms in hollowed-out walking staffs and ended China's monopoly on silk production. The Byzantines greedily guarded their industrial secrets and built up a city guard that kept a careful eye on anyone who knew even parts of how machines worked. Witch hunts routinely broke out, leading to executions of engineers, such as that of famed designer Leonardo da Vinci when he refused to give up the codes embedded in his sketchbooks.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

458 - Biological Warfare Counters the Huna

The expansive Gupta Empire ruled for hundreds of years over northern India, stretching from the mouth of the Ganges River in the Bay of Bengal to the Indus River pouring into the Arabian Sea. Successive generations of rulers such as Chandragupta and Samudragupta added substantial territory to their influence as well as securing important trade routes that funded the flourishing empire. In the middle fifth century, however, invasion from the north seemed it would break apart imperial rule.

Skandagupta, who came to the throne as the lesser son of Kumaragupta after a forceful seizure of power in about 455, sought to defend his lands from the Huna, also known as Alchon Huns or White Huns, whose migratory conquests marched south from Central Asia. The Huna had gained political recognition by the Sassanid Empire to the west, guarding each other’s flanks while the Sassanids fought Byzantines in the Middle East and the Huna sought to expand. Skandagupta used the heavy cavalry, supported by war elephants and infantry, that had brought together the Gupta Empire to drive away the Huna incursion. It was obvious, however, that Skandagupta’s victory would only be temporary as the Huna were a quickly growing power.

Pondering the issue, Skandagupta looked out over his empire, which was often presented as the most advanced in the world. Analytical texts such as Kama Sutra had studied aspects of the human experience that many considered beyond understanding, Jainist mathematicians had defined principles of infinity, and creators had synthesized the logic of warfare into the game that the world would come to know as chess. No problem should be beyond their collective minds, so Skandagupta put out an edict that whoever discovered the best solution would be given a great reward. Numerous designs for innovative weapons and techniques flooded the palace at Pataliputra. Skandagupta’s choice was one that had been a part of human strategy for centuries: biological warfare.

The strength of the Huna rested in their herds, particularly their warhorses. Gathering sick horses from outbreaks in corners of the empire of diseases such as equine influenza and glanders, the imperial guard smuggled them into the northwest to be sold, allowed to be stolen, or simply let go to blend in with the Huna’s own. One strategy even had horses the guise of an Ashvamedha sacrifice in which soldiers would protect a horse as it wandered freely through the empire for one year, proving the stability of the imperial rule. Proving to be much less expensive than keeping up a large army to deter Huna invasion, Skandagupta and his descendants repeatedly introduced waves of plagues among the horsemen, devastating their herds and base of their economy.

In generations to come, however, the Guptas felt the consequences of the plagues as they often spread back into the empire from the west. Horse populations dropped, and the empire found itself with a dire shortage of beasts of burden. Attempts were made to expand the use of elephants and even camels, but elephants took a long time to propagate and camels did not do well in more humid climates. In about 500, Skandagupta’s great-grandson Budhagupta followed his ancestor’s example to appeal for ideas to resolve the burden issue.

By then, the Gupta Empire had grown by leaps in its science. Aryabhata had summarized Indian knowledge of mathematics and astronomy into one great work and clarified the place-value system that implied the existence of a “zero.” While he supported a geocentric model of the universe, he did show the Earth was round and rotated on an axis with the moon using reflected sunlight. Art and architecture had thrived with the imperial households increasingly supporting Buddhism with new temples. Numerous scholars focused their attention on contagions to better understand how to protect local horse herds. After reviewing complex schemes for mass canal systems and improved designs for carts, Budhagupta approved an engine that mimicked the power of a horse by steam from a boiler. Steadily steam engines came into use with iron soon replacing early brass models.

While the first steam engines were used to pull carts, soon the devices were being used in stationary form at mills. Religious objection to using forests for fuel were met with increased mining of the empire’s extensive coal resources. Demand for iron drove Gupta conquests southward into the kingdoms of the Vakatakas, beginning a new era of expansion for the empire. As the economic middle classes grew throughout the caste system, the newly rich patronized engineers and scholars, especially when their discoveries in chemistry or physics could make money. Varahamihira furthered geometry and trigonometry and define reflection and refraction in optics, leading to the development of lenses that soon allowed for telescopy, microscopy, and photography.

The Gupta Empire lasted approximately three hundred years before its satellite provinces in Southeast Asia broke into smaller states and revolution changed the imperial structure for more representation. By then, the technology and culture of India had spread widely, and, even in a different political form, northern India remained the scientific and economic center of the world. Indian steamships circumnavigated Africa to Europe and reached as far as Japan and New Zealand, establishing colonies for trade all along their paths. Buddhism, the imperially supported religion above others, spread along with the economic wealth, creating a complex mixture of versions of related religions throughout the world. Buddhism grew further under the Indian-influenced Song dynasty in China, where scholar-bureaucrats continued the Guptan practice of encouraging technological development and launched expeditions to map the western hemisphere.


In reality, the Huna continued generational invasions of northern India going as far as Eran midway through the subcontinent. Conquerors such as Toramana and Mihirakula were seen as bitterly cruel, especially as Mihirakula’s beliefs in Shiva drove him to destroy temples and any recorded knowledge. Eventually the Guptas and their allies defeated the Huna, but by then the trade routes had been wrecked and the empire had been worn down.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Guest Post: Black Hand Overthrows Serbia, sowing seeds of July Crisis

This article first appeared on Today in Alternate History.

"You have made a mistake. We were all over the countryside and, without exception among the Serbian population, greeted in such a friendly manner, with such sincerity and unrestrained warmth that we are really happy about it," Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg playfully reprimanded a leading Croat politician who had begged them not to go to Sarajevo the following morning, June 27, 1914.

On May 30, 1914, Serbian army officers in the Black Hand organization overthrew the government of Prime Minister Nikola Pašič to push forward their agenda of uniting all Serbian-majority territories. Pašič had long been affiliated with the group, but his relationship had faltered due to bickering with the military about administration of new territories gained in the First and Second Balkan Wars. Pašič argued for democratic elections and ultimately dismissed the military administrator ahead of planned elections later in 1914. The Black Hand struck back, seizing all administrative power with the nod of of the king. This ill-fated coup was brought about by the rising tensions that were spreading across the Balkans region. Far from being an isolated event in Belgrade, it would have huge consequences and ultimately lead to the "July Crisis" of increasingly desperate diplomacy in Eastern Europe.

It was another step in the rising nationalism that had brought a new anti-Austrian king, Peter I, to the throne of Serbia a decade earlier. The Serbian emerging desire to expand their South Slav state of Serbs, Croats and Muslims had then been frustrated by the Austrian annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina during 1908. The Russian Empire put intense pressure on the Serbs to accept this imposed outcome to the Bosnian Crisis since Austria had supported Russia annexation of Bessarabia. Bulgaria and then Albania gained independence from the Ottoman Empire. Serbian army officers had been ready to make a positive move when the Balkan Wars of 1912-3 began, further weakening the Ottomans' centuries-long grip on the region. Serbia's strong military performance worked against them and kept Pašič in office with the support of powerful Russian sponsors even though Austria still led influence in the Balkans.

At the end of the conflict, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the Habsburg heir, was appointed Inspector-General of Imperial Forces. This meant that any subsequent action he took could be seen as an official act on behalf of the military. Worse still, it implied that his programme of change would be led (or even reinforced) by the military. Certainly, the Austrian Commander-in-Chief Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf believed that military intervention was necessary to prevent Serbia getting access to the ports on the Adriatic Sea.

As the Ottoman Empire declined, Russian-Austrian relations continued to deteriorate, and Serbians grew bolder. Given the impressive size of the sprawling Austro-Hungarian Empire, even the new government in Belgrade could not dare an aggressive move to occupy Bosnia-Herzegovina. Instead, they opted to win more public support broadcasting that Franz Ferdinand wanted to form a South Slav province of the empire and deny self-rule.

This identity-grab was his first move in an overarching plan to breathe new life into the empire and permit Habsburg domination of the southern Slavs to continue indefinitely. The archduke was a single-minded and determined individual who had married his Czech wife against the wishes of the emperor on the condition she could never become empress and their children could not ascend to the Habsburg throne. It might have been much wiser to wait until his succession to the eighty-four year old Emperor, his uncle Franz Josef, but Franz Ferdinand was not one to wait. For his southern aims, he unwisely planned a provocative state visit to Sarajevo on the anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo, a historic date in the Serbian calendar. The Habsburg Governor Oskar Potiorek needed the visit to be a success in order to demonstrate control over the new imperial province.

The Serbian government appealed to Nicholas Hartwig, the powerful Russian ambassador to Belgrade. He was reluctantly convinced that Franz Ferdinand's visit to Sarajevo was essentially an overstep that could soon lead to the proclamation of a South Slav province, a subjugation wholly unacceptable to the Russians. Their ambassador to Vienna Nikolay Nikolayevich Shebeko demanded that the visit be cancelled. The Archduke and his Czech wife ignored the demand, which was interpreted as over-lordship. Division arose among the South Slavs, some welcoming the tour while others spoke of rebellion.

This diplomatic dispute dominated the whole of July as Russia and Austria headed toward a Third Balkan War that Franz Ferdinand soon realized could be the end of both empires. It was tragic, since he had seen himself only proposing an imaginative solution to the restless struggle in the whole region. The rest of Europe watched on as the Balkans once again became embroiled in war, curious but unwilling to be any part of it.

Author's Note:

In reality, the Black Hand Society backed the Young Bosnians, a revolutionary movement that assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Guest Post: May 22, 1871 - Coalition Forces capture Paris

This article first appeared on Today in Alternate History.

"In the presence of the enemy, who will soon be outside Paris, we have just one thing to do; to retire from here with dignity" ~ Adolphe Thiers

In 1871, the surrender at Sedan was ordered by Emperor Napoleon III out of the need to save French lives. But unfortunately, the slaughter of his former subjects would continue long after the collapse of the Second Empire.

The main reason for this continuation tragedy was that the Prussian demand for the province of Alsace was politically unacceptable. This dispute undermined President-designate Adolphe Thiers' authority at a crucial time when he was seeking to form the Third Republic. Having defeated the Danes, Austrians and now the French, the rise of the German Empire was unstoppable but the acquisition of French territory was a step too far, it was intolerable. For the sake of France, Thiers was prepared to accept the loss of Alsace and even to make the Prussians the large payment demanded by Otto von Bismarck. This wasn't a deliberate choice, it was a dirty compromise, the indirect result of the unhelpful disengaged position of the British Government and also the fact that the victorious Prussian Army was camped outside of Paris while Bismarck awaited his Danegeld. However, in Paris the Communards considered themselves undefeated and swore to fight on. It was readily apparent to many that the Iron Chancellor's insistence had caused a national humiliation that fueled the flames of a terrible Civil War. This realization was made even though Parisians could not even agree on who was to blame - Napoleon III, Bismarck or Thiers. The truth was all three and British Prime Minister William Gladstone had his own share of responsibility in the tragedy that would follow.

The previous century had been an extended period of political tumult for France. Monarchist deputies wanted the return of Orléanist rule. Revolutionaries in Paris wanted to establish what Fredrich Engels would describe as a "dictatorship of the proletariat". The country was simply too divided to confront this new crisis. The ageing French statesman and historian Thiers was a veteran of the February Revolution of 1848 that had pitted Orléanists, Bonapartists, Republicans and radical Revolutionaries against each other in a microcosm of a century of struggle. Using the unique perspectives he had developed from this experience, Thiers had hoped to gain the support necessary to lift the Siege of Paris through negotiation. But he failed because Gladstone insisted upon British Neutrality. He fled and the government of National Defense was seated in Bordeaux. But meanwhile, Communards seized power in Paris and other big French cities such as Lyon and Marseilles. When the Paris Commune found common cause with the Versailles Troops, it was clear that the Third French Republic would fail.

The only military power that could subdue the Communards was the Prussian Army; however, the capture of Paris would be risky, dangerous and counter-productive. In the interests of French unity, Gladstone agreed to provide British regiments to serve in a Coalition Force that could re-establish the authority of the French government without directly intervening in the war itself. These Coalition Forces of the Third Republic, Prussia and Great Britain captured the members of the Committee of the Public Safety who was running the Paris Commune from the Hôtel de Ville.

The fall of Paris and the presence of British Foreign Minister Lord Glanville at the declaration of the German Empire were historic moments. Great Britain had been present at the formation of the Second German Reich and their alliance would be the cornerstone of European security over the course of the next century.

Author's Notes:

In reality, the Paris Commune was suppressed during "The Bloody Week" by the regular French Army.

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