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Thread: What If...? An Alternative History of the World

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    What If...? An Alternative History of the World

    What If...? An alternative history of the world
    What if the dinosaurs had survived? Or Hitler won in 1945? Or the aeroplane had been invented 1,000 years earlier? Would there even be life on earth if the moon had failed to form? Science fiction writer Stephen Baxter canvasses the possibilities.

    4.5 billion years ago: The Moon never formed

    Life on Earth is very different; that is, if there's any life at all

    The young Earth was wrapped in a blanket of cloud. Through a hierarchy of impacts, cloud particles gathered into whizzing asteroid-like bodies. The collisions were spectacular; Earth's final visitor was the size of Mars. Where the planets touched, a ring of fire formed, shattering the surface of both. Liquid rock gushed into space, and a glowing ring coalesced in orbit. Our Moon was born. Without it, and the gradual slowing of the tides, Earth's day would be about eight hours. The air would be rich in oxygen but laden with carbon dioxide. Given the fast rotation, there would be violent winds andno trees. Animals would need strength, armour, low profilesand would have fast metabolisms. The Moon stabilised Earth's rotation. Moonless Earth would have dramatic climate shifts - droughts, floods and ice ages.

    65 million years ago: The dinosaur extinction does not happen

    Earth is spared collision with asteroid

    Sixty-five million years ago, the dinosaurs still ruled land and sea, as they had for more than 100 million years. Then a comet or asteroid struck our planet, wiping out 60 to 80 per cent of all species. Earth was unlucky to have been hit so late in its evolution. With no impact, the climate would have continued to evolve, species to rise and fall. Intelligence could have arisen, among birds or mammals, so they relied on brains rather than brute strength. One day, something similar to humans might have faced something like the dinosaurs. But we were hit and, although dinosaurs succumbed, some rat-like mammals dug themselves into the ash and survived.

    476: Rome never falls

    A Roman industrial revolution drives a unifying empire

    Did Rome have to fall? After military defeats, the emperors tried to establish "natural boundaries", such as the Rhine and Hadrian's Wall, thus halting the empire's growth and economic development. They were technologically advanced and came close to the invention of steam engines. But such things were treated only as toys, and the chance of a Roman industrial revolutionwas lost.

    If Rome had survived it might have fought off Islam where Byzantium failed, and handled the Mongols better than their medieval successors. In the Americas they wouldn't have practiced genocide as the British did, but assimilated, in the Roman way. In Europe, united in empire, there would be no feudalism, no chivalry - no parliaments - and no Great Britain.

    875: Flight discovered 1,000 years early

    Medieval Muslims use aircraft to conquer Europe

    Just seven decades after the Prophet's death, Islamic armies swept across north Africa, and from 711AD conquered Spain. Abbas Qasim Ibn Firnas was a Cordoban scholar who, aged 70, built a flying machine. The old man glided off a mountain. His machine lacked a tail; he landed hard, hurting his back. But if he had succeeded, the Moors could have harnessed their edge in technology to wage war on western Europe. Rapid expansion would, most likely, have extinguished western Christendom. And in a Moorish London, blond Saxon children would have learned the revelation of Mohamed.

    1348: The Black Death is averted

    Lives are saved, but at what cost to freedom?

    In the 14th century, the Black Death came out of the heart of Asia. It affected all of Europe within a few years. In cities such as London, half the population died. It was monstrous, but the plague had first appeared in Europe in Roman times, so populations had some resistance. In all, just (just!) a third of Europeans were killed by the Black Death. Compare that to 95 per cent of native North Americans killed during the European conquests by measles, smallpox and plague - diseases to which they had no prior exposure. But could the Black Death have been averted? Arabic doctors had an understanding of hygiene, for example, far in advance of western European medicine. What if the Death had been stopped or diluted?

    In the emptied world after the Death, the feudal systems came under strain. Suddenly there were too few folk to do the work; a bad lord could not keep employees. Prices changed as the population drop meant there was more than enough food. There were revolts as the rulers tried to regain control. The relationship of rulers to ruled was transformed, and the slow opening-up of the medieval world began. Our modern freedoms came out of the vast charnel house that was the Black Death.

    1441: Chinese explorers discover America

    The New World is found, 50 years before Columbus

    At the time of the 15th-century early Ming Dynasty, the Chinese - who led the world in printing, gunpowder and navigation - went exploring. A Muslim eunuch from the Yunnan Province, called Zheng He, assembled a great exploratory navy. The first westward expedition, seeking new trading relationships, set off in 1405 (15 years ahead of the first great Portuguese voyages of discovery). The Chinese vessels were "treasure ships", the biggest 400ft long and weighing 1,500 tons - decades ahead of anything in the west. His first expedition, which reached India, comprised 62 vessels carrying 28,000 men. In all, Zheng He made seven westward voyages, bringing home exotic novelties and striking terror and awe wherever he landed.

    Zheng He could have beaten Columbus to the Americas but went home because of politics. The eunuch's voyages were seen as a threat by the Confucian scholars who ran the imperial bureaucracy. In 1436 the Confucians convinced the Emperor that China didn't need to deal with barbarian lands.

    1945: Germany wins World War II

    With their V2 rocket technology the Nazis are the first to conquer space


    After Allied bombing, there isn't much left to see of Peenemünde, on Germany's Baltic coast. But this was the world's first rocket station. Here Wernher von Braun developed the V2 ballistic missile, which was the ancestor of both the US and Russian space programmes. And this place is the hinge of one of the most tantalising what-ifs of all. Hitler might have won the Second World War if Britain had settled for a truce after the fall of France in 1940, if he hadn't made the catastrophic decision to invade Russia or if the Nazis had developed an atomic bomb before America. This could have seen Peenemünde become a spaceport. By 1945, von Braun's plans were well developed - especially the A10 (in the Germans' jargon, the V2 was the A4). With a large first-stage booster and a winged V-2 mounted on top, it was comparable to the Atlas rocket that launched John Glenninto orbit in 1962. Von Braun led the Apollo programme which reached the Moon in 1969. With Nazi money the Germans might have got there earlier. They could have set up a lunar missile base for attacks against America, a plan floated by the US during the Cold War.

    1962: The Cuban missile crisis blows up

    World War III erupts; tens of millions die in Britain

    In October 1962, the Cold War almost got very hot indeed. The Soviet Union was losing the arms race. The Russians had an overwhelming number of troops in central Europe but only 300 unreliable long-range missiles. The US had 5,000 nuclear weapons it could have deployed against Soviet targets. Premier Khrushchev saw that if he could plant bases for short-range missiles on the island of Cuba, where there was a friendly Communist government, he could even up the playing field at a stroke. Saturday 27 October, 'Black Saturday', was the most dangerous time of all. An American spy plane was shot down by the Cubans and the US Navy forced a Russian submarine to the surface.

    Communications were poor and there was a danger of soldiers on the ground opening fire on their own initiative. World war was a gunshot away. What if that fateful trigger had been pulled? The bombs would have fallen on Sunday 28 October 1962, at 8am in Britain - 3am in Washington - the most difficult time to respond. The first targets would have been military. Civilian, economic and industrial targets - the cities - would have been next.By mid-November Britain would be dark and cold. Epidemics of cholera, typhoid and dysentery would hit. Reconstruction, rescue and corpse disposal would be attempted, with the workers paid in food. Looters would be shot. December would have seen the peak of deaths from radiation sickness. In all, between 17 and 38 million in Britain would die from the blast, the fallout or the cold. By 1967, between four and eight million people would have been scraping for survival.

    1986: Nasa carries on to Mars

    Nasa uses the Moon as a stepping stone to the Red Planet

    The millions who watched Apollo 11's first lunar landing in 1969 had lived through an extraordinary expansion in spaceflight capabilities. We had no reason to believe it wasn't going to carry on. In 1969 Nasa put forward ambitious proposals for its post-Apollo future. The Space Shuttle would have been just one element, with a space station, lunar bases, nuclear rockets and expeditions to Mars in the 1980s to follow. Technically, it could have been done. But the Earth's only natural satellite was already a grave disappointment. If water had been found, the Moon would be a filling station outside Earth's savage gravity field. And in 1965 the first fly-by of Mars by Mariner 4 showed an arid, airless, cratered world. Suddenly, there was nowhere worth going. And the political will vanished. Nasa's crewed space programme came close to being shut down altogether. President Nixon allowed one element of it, the Space Shuttle, to survive - a bus with nowhere to go. Crewed missions to Mars would have brought benefits, through the necessary build-up of expertise in orbital assembly and long-duration missions.



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    What if...?

    These are interesting speculations and, for the most part, quite reasonable deductions. However, they are not the only plausible scenarios which could be derived from the same assumptions.

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    Hm those are interesting scenarios I'm thankful that they did not happen.

    I also agree with what Egil said once again lol.
    What does not kill me, makes me stronger- Friedrich Nietzsche Twilight of the Idols 1888

    It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong- Voltaire

    Government can easily exist without laws, but law cannot exist without government- Bertrand Russell

    Abortion is advocated only by persons who have themselves been born- Ronald Reagan

    America had often been discovered before Columbus, but it had always been hushed up- Oscar Wilde

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    What if...?

    There are so many broad topics here that it is impossible to reply to all of them in a reasonable length of time. Some of the inferences are so valid as to be nearly inescapable.

    If the Moon had not formed, the "anorthosite event" in the preCambrian would not have occurred. Whether that is significant is debatable. On a rapidly rotating Earth, tectonic activity would have been much more intense than it has been. The circadian cycle would be much faster than it is.

    If the dinosaurs had survived, there would be no eclogical niche for larger mammals. Given the dinosaurs' lack of intelligence or any need for it, it is unlikely that any creatures to whom intelligence was of survival advantage would have evolved. It's one thing to compete with cave bears, quite another to compete with carnivorous dinosaurs.

    If Christian Rome hadn't fallen, it would have had to root out heathen throughout the known world. Perhaps, Islam would never have arisen. The Moors would never have ruled Spain, and the Romans would have filled the role of Spain in carrying the Cross with fire and sword to the rest of the world.

    If the divided Roman Empire had been re-united, either by force or by accomodation, which form of Christianity would have prevailed ? Eastern or Western ? Early in the Empire, Byzantine Christianity prevailed. If it continued to do so, The Holy City would have been Byzantium, not Rome.

    Feudalism would have arisen earlier in Europe, inasmuch as feudal titles already existed under the Byzantine Empire. Orthodox Russia, with the might of the Empire behind it, might well have come to dominate western Europe.

    Human beings aren't strong enough to fly. This is why Leonardo da Vinci's ornithopter wouldn't fly, nor would the 11th century Muslim aircraft have flown successfully, tail or no tail. The Muslims have never had any real grasp of technology. Why do you think they still irrigate their fields with shadoofs ?
    It is most unlikely that they would ever have developed a prime mover capable of powering a heavier-than air flying machine. The impact of the invention would have been nil.

    The invention and adoption of gunpowder was probably far more subversive of feudalism than the Black Death. Gunpowder dethroned the aristocratic knight. Any oaf could fire an arquebus and put a large lead ball through the heart of an armored knight whom he could never have faced with a spear, sword, or lance. Suddenly, one did not need to be a 'high-born" knight trained for years in the art of combat to slay a knight.

    The lord swore to defend his vassals in return for their loyalty and service. When he began to need THEM to defend HIM, serious doubt was cast upon his importance in the overall scheme of things. Once he became vulnerable to any clod who could pull a trigger, feudalism was doomed.

    The Chinese had a strange (to us) attitude toward colonies. A colony had to be supported by the Imperial government. It was a liability, not an asset. The more colonies established or the more lands added to the Empire, the greater the burden upon the Imperial treasury. Zheng He's discoveries represented a threat to the economic stability of the Empire.

    There were two powers in Imperial China: the Confucians (who were obsessed with being the power behind the throne, a goal which K'ung Fu-Tze never attained in his lifetime) and the eunuchs who really were the power behind the throne.

    Hence, the Confucians HATED eunuchs. When the Confucians were in power, any accomplishmen by a Eunuch was minimized or even condemned. The eunuch, Zheng He was imprisoned after his voyage of discovery. It could not have been otherwise. If he had discovered the Americas, and he may well have, this would be yet another burden upon the Imperial treasury. The discovery of the New World would have been suppressed or forgotten.

    Had the Germans won World War II in Europe , it is quite possible that they would have avoided an expensive confrontation with the US (and talked Japan into not rocking the boat). Hitler was obsessive and paranoid, but he was also very intelligent. If the conflict in Europe had been resolved by a peace treaty with England (and there was much support in England for just that), Hitler might well have attempted to negotiate a non-aggression pact with the United states. Isolationism in the US created, in the late 1930's a favorable climate of opinion for such a treaty.

    It is doubtful that any stable geopolitical situation would have resulted from this. Neville Chamberlin was surely wrong, as history has shown us, when he said that "Chancellor Hitler has no further territorial demands."

    If, however, we had ignored Hitler after negotiating a non-aggression pact with him, he might well eventually decide that Western Europe was enough to give Germany all the Lebensraum it needed.

    Since the 1920's, the Germans had devoted far more effort and research to rocketry than we. Left to his own devices in a Germany at peace with the US, Werner von Braun at Pennemünde, with the approval of the Führer, of course, could probably have developed space ships capable of spaceflight to the Moon long before 1969. He would probably have got the Führer's approval because it would have been such a. PR triumph for the Third Reich.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Egil Skallagrimsson
    It is doubtful that any stable geopolitical situation would have resulted from this. Neville Chamberlin was surely wrong, as history has shown us, when he said that "Chancellor Hitler has no further territorial demands."

    If, however, we had ignored Hitler after negotiating a non-aggression pact with him, he might well eventually decide that Western Europe was enough to give Germany all the Lebensraum it needed.
    Isn't it funny that when the same thing happens over here, it's romanticised and glorified as our Manifest Destiny, but when the Germans are involved it becomes racist expansionsism, and we (U.S.) must help defeat it!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ewergrin
    Isn't it funny that when the same thing happens over here, it's romanticised and glorified as our Manifest Destiny, but when the Germans are involved it becomes racist expansionsism, and we (U.S.) must help defeat it!
    I've sometimes wondered if Europe as a whole would be better off had Imperial Germany won the First World War. Then WWII (probably) would never had happened, saving the lives of millions of Europeans, Americans and Canadians. But who knows.

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    What if....?

    I think that Kaiser Wilhelm was amenable to a negotiated conditional peace with England and probably France, which, note, the Germans wanted no part of ruling after the Franco-Prussian War. It is quite likely that the Kaiser would have installed other members of the Hohenzollern family on the thrones of the conquered European monarchies, as Napoleon had done.

    Russia had already sued for peace and some sort of face-saving treaty could and probably would have been negotiated between Imperial Russia and Imperial Germany. The Germans might even have been able to suppress and prevent the Russian Revolution.

    Perhaps the most important effect of a German victory in the Great War would be a unified Germany. Before the War, there actually was no such thing. What we call Germany was a loosely allied congeries of independent , mostly feudal states: Prussia, Bavaria, Saxony, Thuringia, Rheinpfalz-Hessen, the Palatinate, etc. The successful outcome of the Great War would have consolidated these states under the hegemony of Prussia, and Elsaß-Lothringen would be German again.

    Kaiser Wilhelm was no such fool as to imagine that he could rule the United States at a distance, nor would he have been willing to tie up so much of Germany's assets in trying to. He would have negotiated a peace treaty involving future non-aggression and the payment of reparations.

    Though Teddy Roosevelt would have been furious, Wilson would probably have agreed to this while back-pedalling vigorously trying to reinterpret or repudiate some of his administration's more inflammatory remarks about the krauts.

    In the long run, however, I think that the new Prussian-dominated Reich would prove no more stable than the Soviet Union What event a half-century or so later would precipitate its disintegration, I would not venture to guess.

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    It might be outdated but for the dinosaur extinction see Dixon's odd book.

    Rome was not ethnically unified like Han China was, and was destined to take a beating during migration ages. Preserving Mare Nostrum would involve blocking the Arab expansion at least before they took Egypt. Rome looked inwards like China. In time Rome becomes the "sick man of Europe" like the Ottomans did in OTL. There is little drive for a Renaissance either, and even in the early medieval period, states like OTL Francia and Mercia are not minor tribes Rome could push around once someone fills that power vacuum. Though not impossible it gets tough for the Roman Empire to reclaim or maintain peripheries maybe even Gaul. With Islam stalled or butterflied away the S Med is the most secure region as the Sahara is a natural wall. Like the Italian city States and Barbary states, Roman sea power would rely on oared galleys and Rome would have no interest (or not very much) in expanding into the W Atlantic or Indian oceans. Probably the latter is slightly more likely than New World exploration. To Rome's immediate west are only the Guanches - hardly tempting. So unified Roman survival is a survival of increasing struggle, marginalisation of world affairs and eventual partition between more vigorous powers.

    Without the internal combustion engine Moorish flight gets off to a bad start.

    China had no demographic need to colonise a New World and its Pax Sinica was essentially land bound and constituted an economic zone. For what its worth the Japanese at least discovered W N America independantly. Nothing much came of it. Or the explorations of N Australia as revealed by Chinese maps. People assume all cultures and governments would work like specific European states: but why? Besides the potential of the NW for Asian settlers was surely less obvious given the Cordillera down the Pacific coast of the NW. A Chinese or other Asian Americas probably depends upon rivalry with the Spanish or other Europeans and the Japanese - maybe Wakou pirates - would be the best bet.

    Flying to the Moon was too costly to bring benefits: why Mars except as a scientific curiosity?


    I thought this thought provoking.

    https://www.alternatehistory.com/for...-frame.409833/

    European supremacy as it happens was a bad idea - the New Imperialism of the Victorian period was a net loss - so if Europeans had no idea what they were doing, its no surprise only Japan and Ethiopia modernised properly. Give time a replay and it might be Bengal or Acre becomes a new Japan?


    There is a good discussion on West Hunter about the Barbary Pirates. Surely the Maghrebis could've adopted frigates and galleons instead of galleys and established a presence in the Caribbean. Morocco faces the ocean as do Spain and Portugal and she had as much reason as England to counter Spanish supremacy. Just odd they did not but Moroccans emulated the conquistadores by copying Spanish weapons and attempting to colonise the Sahel. Adopting ship building would have been more profitable. Had they reached somewhere such as Argentina they would find a climate suited to Moorish settlement.

    But Morocco never did try to colonise the W Atlantic. It makes less sense than the failure of China or Japan to colonise America or Australia.

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    Mein Glaube ist die Liebe zu meinem Volk. Juthunge's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Catterick View Post
    There is a good discussion on West Hunter about the Barbary Pirates. Surely the Maghrebis could've adopted frigates and galleons instead of galleys and established a presence in the Caribbean. Morocco faces the ocean as do Spain and Portugal and she had as much reason as England to counter Spanish supremacy. Just odd they did not but Moroccans emulated the conquistadores by copying Spanish weapons and attempting to colonise the Sahel. Adopting ship building would have been more profitable. Had they reached somewhere such as Argentina they would find a climate suited to Moorish settlement.

    But Morocco never did try to colonise the W Atlantic. It makes less sense than the failure of China or Japan to colonise America or Australia.
    Actually the Barbary Pirates were using both pure sailing ships and galleys. Otherwise they would have never reached the Azores, Ireland or even Iceland while relying on Mediterranean Galleys alone.
    With their initial galleys, they would have captured hundreds of Northern European ships, which were generally sailing ships, in the Mediterranean Sea.

    One also shouldn't forget, that many of the most Barbary corsairs were, in fact, European traitors. Especially Dutch- and Englishmen, whose nations were almost always at war with Spain and France, who were, in turn, the biggest victims of the corsairs. But very often they stayed forever, converted to Islam and become a menace even to their own nations.
    In any case they brought knowledge of northern shipbuilding with them, as well as their own ships. This happened at the very beginning of the corsair area.

    As for not colonising Southern America: They were leechers, not conquerors or settlers. They had merchant ships with their goods and potential slaves as prey right in front of them. Their whole economy was based on it, so they never saw the need to expand.
    I also doubt there was a population pressure similar to those encountered in European countries.

    Some interesting information in here: Corsairs in Iceland - Bernard Lewis
    Attached Images Attached Images
    And the day they sold us out, Our hearts grew cold
    'Cause we were never asked, No brother, we were told!
    What do they know of Europe, Who only Europe know?



    Ancient DNA: List of All Studies analyzing DNA of Ancient Tribes and Ethnicities(post-2010)


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    Senior Member Catterick's Avatar
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    But Morocco did emulate Iberian technology, however their gaze was across the Sahara. The desert ruined their armies and Morocco would have found more luck at sea. But, the desire to expand was clearly there; the early colonial disaster was demoralising for Moroccan ambitions just as Darien was for Scotland.

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