Here I imagine possible ways in which history may have been different. I imagine changing one thing in the past, and then imagine how events would have unfolded differently. Of course there's no way to know what would have haapen, so this is merely a fun "what if". Usually, the farther in the past the change, the more different the world would be today. In worlds in which the change was in the remote past, I don't write it all the way to the present because it becomes to different to imagine. I try to make the point of difference as small as possible. I draw on little known facts from actual history. In the American Revolution, Benedict Arnold's plan was discovered only because two robbers were good samaritans. In the American Civil War, Britain really did amass troops in Canada, threatening to attack the Union, if two spies weren't released. In World War II, Hitler really did beg Franco of Spain to join the war on the side of the Axis powers, and Franco was on the verge of accepting. Tantalizing examples such as these invite the imagination. Some people may disagree with my conjectures on political grounds. For instance, fans of John F. Kennedy may disagree with my portrayal of him. However I have tried to base these in historical fact as much as possible, and you can agree or disagree as you wish, since there's no way to know.
1. In the Pre-Cambrian, there was an explosion of diversification. Within the Burgess Shale, which is from the Pre-Cambrian, there are dozens of species, most of which are so unique they would be placed in their own phylum. Among these are the hallucigenia, oenipinia, early arthropods, and pikia, an early chordate. The former two went extinct, and the latter two diversified. Let's say it was the other way around. Arthropods and chordates went extinct in the Pre-Cambrian, and hallucigenia and oenipinia diversified as much as chordates and arthropods did in our world.
2. The asteroid or comet that impacted the Yucatan peninsula 63 million years ago narrowly missed the Earth. Dinosaurs never went extinct. Dinosaurs continued to diversify. Today, for instance, there are thousands of species of tyrannosaur, many very different from each other. Today dinosaurs are as different from the way they were 63 million years ago, as at that time they were from 63 million years earlier. Mammels remain small shrew-like creatures.
3. Australopithicus africanus never went extinct. Later Homo sapiens used them for slave labor. In our world, the premise for enslaving people from Africa was that they were subhuman. The premise for the abolitionist movement was that they were the same as us. What if there really was a species above chimps but below us?
4. Homo sapiens existed for about 100,000 years before stumbling upon agriculture, only 10,000 years ago. What if we never stumbled upon agriculture, and remained stone age hunter-gatherers and horticulturists today?
5. Let's say the volcanic eruption that led to the fall of the Minoan civilization on Crete never took place. Let's say they evolved into something like Mycenaean civilization, but the Dark Age never took place. Then classical Greece would never come into existence. Western culture would be radically different. The origin of scientific thought would be delayed by millennia. Science in the west would remain steeped in mysticism as it did in the east in our world.
6. Julius Caesar survived the assassination attempt and had the conspirators executed. Realizing the opposition to him, he toned down the adulation towards him. He allied himself to Cicero. His crackdown on those against him reduced his reputation for compassion and forgiveness, which made people more likely to oppose him. He died of a heart attack in 16 B.C. Mark Anthony and Caesarion, Caesar's son by Cleopatra, became the next consuls, with Anthony being the senior figure. Anthony, following Caesar's model, goes to great lengths to maintain the Republic, or at least the illusion of it, much as Augustus would have done. Anthony keeps Cleopatra as a mistress, and assumes control of Egypt. He rules over a golden age. The Republic remains intact until 121 A.D. when consul Timaricus declares himself king. He's overthrown in a coup and Rome becomes a military dictatorship. Over the next several centuries, Rome conquers Parthia, and extends east as far as the Persian Gulf. Under a series of brilliant generals, Rome takes northern Europe, and extends as far east as the Danube. Finally in 267 A.D., Rome conquers Scotland. The empire is so large that they try to maintain control through oppressive military rule but this breeds rebellions. Then they try a different tactic, and try to maintain control by decentralizing power. This backfires, and in 310 A.D., the Roman Empire divides into three pieces. Christianity only spreads through the Eastern Empire, and never made it into Europe. From then on, Europeans viewed Christianity as a weird eastern thing, similar to how Europeans in our world viewed Islam. The few Christians in Europe suffered great prejudice. Waves of Germanic invasions caused the Middle Empire to fracture into dozens of kingdoms. The West and East remain intact.
The capitol of the Western Empire was Barcelona. The culture and language of the Western Empire was Catalan. King Louie built a fierce military that defended its borders and kept it intact. The Iberian peninsula, Gaul, and Britain remained part of the Catalan Empire. They had trade with the East and became quite prosperous. In 1307, two sons of the king fought over succession, and several oppressed peoples took that opportunity to rebel. By 1357, the Catalan Empire had shrunk to the Iberian peninsula. Gaul and Britain had seized independence. Britain and France fought a long war with each other. Then they fought together against the tiny Germanic kingdoms of what used to make up the Middle Empire, considered primitive since they don't speak Catalan. In 1450, the Christian kingdom in the Middle East was conquered by the Monguls. This cut off the trade routes to India. The Catalan Empire sent ships around Africa to India. Eventually, the Catalans sailed across the Atlantic and discovered America. They founded a city on Cuba called Louipolis after their ancient hero Louie the Bald. In the process of sailing around South America, they ran into the Antartic peninsula, and founded another city there called New Barcelona. Britain and France established colonies in New Catalan, and since the Catalans were at war with the Mongul Empire, they couldn't prevent it.
7. In the 9th Century, a Viking ship on its way to Vinland enters into a skirmish with a Saxon ship. A Saxon sailor is captured. Not wishing to change their plans, they take him with them to the Americas. While there, he escapes and lives among the eskimos for several years. Then he finds a sympathetic Viking captain willing to take him back to England. He goes to King Edgar and tells him his story. Edgar sends a Saxon ship along the same route which returns and confirms the man's account. Edgar then establishes a Saxon colony in the New World. The existence of America becomes common knowledge among educated people in Europe. Of course there exists much misinformation. Some believe it contains mythical beasts such as unicorns. There are stories of a mythical Christian kingdom in the New World. Some believe that King Arthur rules there. Some believe that it contains the Garden of Eden, somehow preserved in this unfallen place. Some consider it a demonic realm. Later William the Conqueror, whose New World curiosities include a live moose, builds an impressive Norman motte-and-bailey castle in New Brunswick, which he calls New Normandy. Since you can only reach America by sailing far to the north, England had a monopoly and attacked all foreign ships attempting the passage. England fought wars with Scotland, Ireland, and France over rights to sail north of the Shepard Islands. In 1211, the inhabitants of the walled city of Edgarton and New Normandy Castle tried to exert to much influence from England. As a result, England cut off supplies until they conformed. They couldn't last long without supplies. Several Indian tribes formed an alliance and overran the invaders. By 1225, they were gone. The local Indians were entraced by mounted knights in full armour with lances, and they prominent in Indian folkbelief and mythology for centuries. With the English monopoly gone, many countries tried to explore the New World. There was a continual Viking presense, but the Europeans did not return to the New World in force until the English expedition in 1450.
8. In our world, for most of history, Eastern Civilization was technologically superior to Western Civilization. The Europeans were explorers while the Chinese were not. The Europeans spread their culture all over the world. Eventually, Western Civilization became human civilization, and Eastern Civilization was absorbed into it. Let's say that it was the other way around. The Chinese were explorers while the Europeans were not. The Chinese colonized North and South America, Australia, Africa, and Siberia. They imposed their culture upon people all over the world. In 1500, there were two million Chinese living in America. Eventually, they came to Europe, and told the Europeans that they were inferior. The Europeans became an island of non-Chinese culture in the world. They wanted to maintain their unique culture but their isolation became increasingly disadvantageous. Eventually, the Europeans were assimulated into Eastern Civilizations. Europeans began to wear traditional Chinese clothing. Eventually Chinese colonies all over the world gained their independance, and put their own unique spin on Chinese culture.
9. Let's say the Mayan civilization never collapsed but continued to advance during the 700 years between when they fell in our world and when the Europeans arrived. The Maya conquered the Aztecs and Inca. When Columbus arrived, the Mayan Empire was analogous to the Roman Empire, and covered all of Mexico and Central America, stretching as far north as California, and as far south as Chile. They had a hundred teeming cities with streets laid in a grid pattern. They had huge aquaducts and amphitheaters. They had public libraries in every city. They had perfected the arch and dome. The Spanish were impressed but nonetheless wanted to rule them. The Spanish declared war on the Mayan Empire. One one hand, the Spanish had artillery and firearms, and some of the tribes under Mayan rule revolted. On the other hand, the Spanish had to bring their entire army and all of their equipment across the Atlantic. The Mayan army was much larger and much more organized than, say, the Aztec military in our world, and thus the Spanish would have needed a much larger force to defeat them. They needed a continual supply of ammunition and gunpowder. Ultimately, the Spanish couldn't bring and supply and army large enough to conquer the Maya.
The French king Francois I took a different approach and signed a treaty with the Mayan Emperor Tlaloc. With French backing and weapons, the Maya were even more difficult to defeat. Eventually, the Spanish controlled the eastern part of South America, the Maya controlled the west coast of South America, Central America, Mexico, and the west coast of the United States, and the French controlled east coast of the United States and most of Canada. Later the British fought the French and gained control of the east coast of the United States. The borders shifted in various ways as the European powers fought against each other. All of the European powers fought the Mayan Empire, which shrank as a result, but they couldn't defeat it since the Maya could easily buy guns with the enormous amounts of gold they possessed. During the American Revolution, the Maya sided with the Americans out of generally anti-European sentiment. The Maya had slavery and sold slaves to Britain, France, Spain, and the United States. Eventually, slavery was abolished everywhere in the world except the Mayan Empire and the United States. Finally, the Mayan ended slavery leaving the U.S. as the last hold out. Ironically, the Maya became resentful of that their countrymen were being enslaved by the U.S. even thought they had sold them to them in the first place. Almost no slaves were brought to Africa. Today blacks in the New World are almost nonexistent. There were many efforts by many people to convert the Maya to Christianity but these were generally unsuccessful. The Maya did abolish human sacrifice. However, simply because they were not Christian, they were viewed as savages at best and diabolical at worst. Therefore the strong Mayan support for the abolitionist movement in the U.S. actually hurt the abolitionist movement. Despite prejudice against Mayans, the U.S. readily accepted troops and weapons from the Maya during the Civil War. By this time, of course, the Maya had their own factories. Since the Maya helped the Americans win both the Revolution and the Civil War, there were good relations for a time between the U.S. and the Maya. Unfortunately, the U.S. was intent on expanding westward, and California was part of the Mayan Empire. Discovery of gold in California, increased American resolve to acquire it. The American-Mayan War (1870-1895) cost 400,000 lives and ended in a truce. The Maya retained control of California, and the Americans had to settle for the rest of the American southwest, and Oregan, which gave them access to the Pacific. Washington was owned by France.
Throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, Mayan culture was all the rage in Europe and America. The estates of the British and French aristocracy were filled with Mayan artifacts. Mayan athletic games were popular, although they no longer involved human sacrifice. Exaggerated Mayan costumes were the official garb of burlesque and vaudeville. The Maya were a proud people and insulted by all of this. Many Mayans were deeply upset at Western influences upon their culture, and particularly that Christianity was beginning to take root in the 1890's. The Maya blamed Britain and France much more than Germany. For this reason, the Mayans sided with Germany in World War I. Britain and France agreed to a humiliating treaty and had to pay horrible reparations. The U.S. never entered the war. The Britias and French Empires were divided up between Germany and the Maya. However, neither had expirence with global empires, and most of the colonies revolted and seized independence. The Mayan Empire did control India until 1965. Without the defeat of World War I, the Nazis never came to power in Germany. Indeed it remained a monarchy. World War II, as we know it, never happened, although in the 1940's, Britain attacked Germany to try to regain lost territory and lost pride.
10. In the American Revolution, the messanger sent by Benedict Arnold avoids being captured by robbers, and succeeds in getting the message to the British. With this information, the British succeed in gaining control of West Point. Once the British have this strategic position, it becomes very difficult for the colonists to win. The war drags on, and the average person, who suffers greatly during the war, loses their resolve to keep fighting. George Washington is captured, and hanged in 1789. Other revolutionaries flee to the west to avoid capture. Benjamin Franklin flees to France. He initially supports the French Revolution but then speaks out against the violence. He narrowly avoids being killed by his fellow revolutionaries, and escapes ironically, to England, where he spends the rest of his life in the Tower of London. The British success in stamping out the Colonial Rebellion has a chilling effect on the French revolutionaries. People feel that it's not possible to throw off the shackles of tyranny. Therefore the Revolution has very little pretension of having anything to do with freedom or democracy. The average person is far less supportive of the revolutionaries. Ironically, this helps the pro-democracy movement in Britain, since the Reign of Terror was not thought of as an example of what happens when you have democracy. The Americans are not satisified with British rule. However the British kept a large standing army in America to thwart future rebellons. There are rebellions against British rule in 1827 and 1851, which were both crushed. Slavery, of course, ended in America in 1833 along with the rest of the British Empire. The British colonies are far less economically successful than the United States would have been, so there is far less immigration to America. America has a much smaller population than in our world. Germany attacks the American colonies during World War I since they're part of the British Empire. World War I is fought to a stand still. Germany gains control of large sections of Russia and France, and of course has to pay no reparations. Therefore the economic crisis in Germany is far less severe, and the Nazis never come to power. The American colonies vote for independence in a national referendum in 1963, and is granted it. The western part of the United States is part of Mexico.
11. During the American Civil War, in 1861, in Cuba, northerner Charles Welles stops the British steamer Trent and captures two southerners James Mason and John Slidell. The British are outraged that a British ship was stopped. Britain threatens war if the men aren't released. British troops mass in Canada. Lincoln is on the verge of releasing them, but he's under strong pressure not to, so he doesn't. About 11,000 British troops invade the United States from Canada. Frantic attempts at diplomacy fail. The North has to fight a war on two fronts simultaneously. The North begins fighting at least as large war with Britain as it is with the South. The South is greatly invigorated by this turn of events. The number of Northerners killed sets a new standard in the history of warfare. In the face of such horrific desctruction, including that of Northern cities previously untouched by war, northern civilians begin to care remarkably little about preserving the Union which was nothing more than an abstract. People start clamoring for peace at all cost. In the election of 1864, General George McClellan advocates signing a treaty with the South. McClellan very narrowly defeats Lincoln. He signs peace treaties with both the Confederacy and Britain. Both the Union and the Confederacy had been devastated by the war, and the recovery is long and painful. The retention of slavery in the Confederacy into the 20th Century becomes a source of shame for the human species. Eventually, under the economic pressure of a world embargo, the Confederacy outlaws slavery in 1931. However, it continued to exist unofficially. In later decades, there ware some reforms but the Confederacy continues a system of insitutionalized racial oppression today. Today, the Confederacy is very similar to South Africa.
The Union is immeasurably weakened by the loss of the South. It established that states have the right to secede from the Union. At various times, there are secessionist movements in New England, the Midwest, and California. There is also a similar movement in Texas, which the Confederate goverment opposes, which is particularly ironic since the Confederacy supposedly fought a war to establish that states do have the right to secede. The economies of both the North and South are very slow to recover from the war. In the late 19th Century, with massive unemployment and hyperinflation, immigrants have no desire to come to America. The surrender is a crushing blow to the American ego. Fifty years later they remain a humiliated and dispirited people. In World War I, the Allies have no great wish for the Union to enter the war. They don't seem to be in a position to help anyone. World War I drags on until 1925. The Russians had dropped out of the war in 1917, surrendering large sections of western Russia to Germany. Germany could then focus on the western front. By 1925, Germany occupies all of France. There are rebellions throughout all of German occupied territory, and the Germans are eager to end the war. A treaty unsatisfactory to everyone is signed in 1925. There is relative peace until 1950, when the Soviet Union tries to retake the land it had lost. At this time, the Free French are waging open guerrilla warfare against their German overlords. Some of them engage in terrorism against civilians. In 1952, the Soviets drop an atomic bomb on Berlin. The Germans retaliate by dropping atomic bombs on Moscow and Leningrad. However, when stories come out about the effects of the bombs, which have never been used before, it is so unbelievable, that the current Kaiser, much weaker than his father, is genuinely frightened by the weapon. He enters into peace negotiations with both the Soviets and Free French, and ultimately, in the 1960's, withdraws from both France and the region that used to be Russia. Germany retains other occupied land.
12. In November 1917, the Bolsheviks were unable to overthrow the liberal government headed by Alexander Kerensky. Shortly after the failed coup attempt, the likelihood of the Bolsheviks ever coming to power decreased further. The primary grievance people had against the government was that they refused to end the war. However, shortly thereafter the Germans surrendered and the war ended anyway. The Bolsheviks wouldn't go away however. The peasants had supported the Revolution assuming that something would be done about the extreme inequities of wealth. However, after the Revolution, the country was still controlled by the aristocracy, and the leaders hadn't the slightest inclination of altering the situation. There was genuine popular support for the Bolsheviks, and for that reason Kerensky suspended parliamentary elections, for fear the Bolsheviks might come to power. This in turn, greatly strengthened the Bolsheviks, cementing the popular perception that the liberal government was against democracy and against the people. In 1920, Lenin declared that the only way the people could claim the country was through violence, and embarked on a campaign of terrorism. This caused the government to become increasingly militant. In the late 1920's, many revolutionaries said that the government had gone to far in trying to stop the Communists, and that they had lost sight of what they had been fighting for. In 1929, the liberal leaders replaced Kerensky with Akmehov who vowed to protect the people from violence while protecting human rights. Unfortunately, this prooved impossible. He decided that the only way to protect the people was to get rid of the Communists once and for all. Each time there was a bombing by Communists, the crackdown against Communists was increased to a new level. Anyone who was suspected or accused of supporting the Communists was dragged out of his home in the middle of the night and shot by an elite guard of secret police created for that purpose.
All of this only increased support for the Communists. While fewer people would admit to supporting Lenin, more people did. Lenin himself always stayed one step ahead of the police. The Communists developed an effective bombing campaign, targeting those connected with the government. This situation persisted throughout the 1930's. In World War II, Lenin made a secret pact with Hitler. Despite the fact that their ideologies were supposedly opposites, the two men were quite similar. The Communists would destroy the Russian government from the inside, and the Germans would destroy it from the outside. The Germans would let Lenin be the nominal ruler of Russia, in exchange for territory and "protection". In the process of carrying out this plan, the Communists sabotaged military facilities, and engaged in sabotage and espionage for the Germans. Akmehov suspected the Nazi-Communist alliance and went after the Communists with almost paranoid brutality, killing as many Russians as Stalin in our world. However, the Russian people turned against the Communists who they now saw as responsible for the death of Russian boys at the front, and for making a pact with the Devil. As much as they detested Akmehov's regime, the Russian people didn't want to lose the war. With their popular support evaporating, the Communists became increasingly desperate. Lenin managed to have Akmehov assassinated in 1943. Lenin tried to seize power with the help of a general named Gromkov. However the military did not support them, and another general named Kuryachev had them executed. Kuryachev then seized control himself and became a military dictator. All traces of the previous government were erased. Without either their leader or popular support, the Communists became a non-issue. Russia remains a military dictatorship today, although there were some preliminary reforms in the 1980's.
One ironic detail is that no one ever got around to killing Czar Nicholas II and his family, and they lived in very quiet seclusion throughout all of this.
13. Japan never bombed Pearl Harbor. The Japanese realized that there was no way they could defeat the United States so they didn't try. Therefore the U.S. didn't enter the war. Churchill tried to convince Roosevelt to get in the war, but he remained firm. In 1944, Britain attempted a D-Day operation without the U.S. but it was unsuccessful. In 1945, Germany attempted a full-scale amphibious invasion of Britain but it was also unsuccessful. The Soviets won a string of victories but the war in the east continued. With no one capable of winning but no one willing to surrender, the war dragged on. The war slowly ground on until 1950 when ten million people had died since 1945, and Britain and Germany were almost completely depleted of resources. Hitler, out of frustation, tried a different tactic. In 1939, Franco of Spain agreed to enter the war on the side of Germany on the condition that Spain be given north Africa. Hitler turned down this proposal as rediculous. In 1950, Hitler contacted Franco, and agreed to his original demand. The Spanish forces were enthusiastic and vigorous, in marked contrast to the paralytic exhaustion of the British and German troops. A combined force of German and Spanish armies mounted a full scale assault on Britain. The British were taken by surprise and this time, their defenses crumbled. Within a month, the Germans and Spanish captured London. Churchill used chemical weapons in a desperate attempt to save his nation. The Americans, shocked by the turn of events, made a belated attempt to defend Britain but it was to late. In 1951, Britain and Ireland were completely occupied by Germany and Spain.
Churchill was captured and then executed in a public ceremony in Berlin, which was broadcast on television. Hitler set up Edward VIII has a puppet ruler of Britain. The German people were invigorated and recieved a tremendous boost in morale. Hitler used the American attempt to defend Britain as an excuse to attack the United States. German and Spanish troops invaded Canada and Mexico, and proceeded to attack the United States from both the north and south. The pace of events was so fast, the U.S. barely had time to mount any defense at all. Major battles were fought on U.S. soil, and the Germans penetrated deep into the Midwest. At that time, a very minor German program was beginning to bare fruit. Since 1940, German scientists had been working on the atomic bomb. For over a decade, Germany was the only nation in the world working on it. In 1951, Germany produced a primitive fission device. They made two bombs. Without testing it, and without thinking it would work, the Germans dropped one on Manhattan. To their astonishment, New York City was taken off the map. The Americans were more astonished than anyone. No one had ever dreamed of the existence of the possibility of such a thing. They dropped the second bomb on Washington D.C. which was likewise vaporized. The President, Vice-President, and Speaker of the House, were all killed. In 1951, the Secretary of State Marvin Thompson officially surrendered to Germany. The Germans set up a puppet regime in the United States. Realizing that Stalin would fight forever no matter how many atomic bombs were dropped on the Soviet Union, and that it would be some time before another bomb was built, Hitler signed a cease fire with the Soviet Union. Hitler convinced most of the countries of Asia, Africa, and the Americas to recognize his authority, follow his commands, and allow German observers in their governments.
Anyone of Jewish ancestry anywhere in German controlled territory was killed. A huge extermination center was built near Paris, far larger than anything that existed during the war. A huge death camp was also set up in Texas. After Stalin died, Molotov became the leader of the Soviet Union. He had Soviet scientists working feverishly to devise an atomic bomb. They managed to keep it secret enough so the Germans never found out. To some extent, the Germans were blinded by their own sense of invincibility. Even though it had been ten years since the cease fire, Molotov felt that it was only a matter of time before Germany attacked the Soviet Union again. In 1963, Molotov dropped an atomic bomb on Warsaw. Hitler was outraged and ravaged the Soviet Union with hydrogen bombs. The destruction was unlike anything anyone could ever imagine. Over ten million people were killed within a few days. Molotov was killed, and the remaining Soviet government surrendered unconditionally to Hitler.