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Alternate History

Widget - A Steampunk Reality

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As the British Empire reached its golden era during the Victorian age, the occasional delusional historian believed that Britain could continue its expansion and take over the whole world. Though it slowly collapsed in the twentieth century, a few were still convinced that Britain would forever be the world's greatest power. In Widget these historians were all but correct. From its early days of expansion, modern, cutting-edge ideas would drive the island nation to success upon success all across the world, and would one day unite the entire globe (almost) under its monarchy. The result was an industrial, experimental, cobbled empire, known humorously, and rather inappropriately, as 'Widget'.

Quite a few things needed to have changed to make this work. But the major PoDs are:

  • The failure of the American Independence Revolution, and a much more Pro-British spirit across the empire (and the world)
  • A vast series of successful military reforms in Britain in the build up to the Crimean War.
  • A slight increase in the flexibility of the laws of physics.
  • The slow transition of power back from British Parliament to the Monarchy.
  • Overall, a far larger and more organized British army, and more successful industrialization and commercialization in the mid nineteenth century.
  • Because of increased industrialization, a much greater demand for people to use industrial technology rather than modern, 'liberalist' trash.
  • An increase in the class divide, suffrage only for the richest, leading to extreme conservatism in Britain.
  • Finally the fact that the vast majority of people were just slightly insane.

It was this combination of factors which led both to continued British expansion over the world, and the growth of industrial rather than progressive technology, leading to a Global Steampunk System.

Major Events Timeline

1768 - In response to political arrest in the British North American colonies, a huge force is dispatched to quell the resistance. Following a highly elaborate propaganda campaign and military presence, any possible revolution is averted.

1832 - First Suffrage Act fails to pass through Parliament. The closing class divide slowly begins to widen again.

1839-42 - First Opium war between Britain and China; China is defeated drastically, and Britain begins to seize Chinese territory.

1854-8 - Crimean War. British troops, with Ottoman and some French support, seize Moscow in 1858. Britain declares the Russian Empire as a part of Britain's. What follows is the slow but successful assimilation of Russian territory into Britain, following repeated attacks by disorganized Russian rebels.

1861 - Prince Albert dies unexpectedly, and Victoria rapidly collapses. She enters a period of mourning, and disappears from the public eye. She continues to neglect her duties, and gradually as she gives more powers to the Guilds, earns the title 'Shadow Queen'.

1864 - Queen Victoria forms the Guilds, an extensive network of non-elected 'experts' who act on most of Victoria's powers in her place. Considering the Queen herself had few powers remaining at this time, the first Guilds had very little significance in day-to-day affairs, but after a series of major successes, were rapidly transferred more powers to avoid constant intervention by the Government.

1868 - Parliament agrees to move more power from the House of Commons to the Guilds, to counterbalance the flawed election system.

1873 - Guilds assume control of the Judiciary from the House of Lords, but other powers from that house are retained. Further powers are moved from the Commons to the Guilds, and from the Cabinet as well. The powers are effectively controlled by the Monarch, but because of Queen Victoria's reclusive tendencies, she takes very little action herself, instead allowing the Guilds free reign over the empire.

1901 - Victoria dies at age 81. Her son Edward takes the throne, but the Monarch is now seen as totally redundant. He maintains the name Hanover, as it was believed an official change of house would shatter the image altogether. Many call for the Monarchy to be scrapped, but it is maintained as an image.

1912 - Mexico invades British North America. British begin a long counterattack.

1914-1917 - First European War. Germany and Austro-Hungary are victorious and begin dividing Europe among these powers.

1915 - After Britain has grown complacent in assuming loyalty from its territories, the Observers Guild is stunned by a vast series of revolutions across Russia. With the majority of troops deployed in North America, Britain is largely incapable of mounting a resistance. But no secure Government in Russia manages to gain authority and clashes continue between Democrats and Communists.

1916 - Japanese invasion of Russia, taking advantage of the chaos and occupying swathes of territory in eastern Russia.

1916 - Bolsheviks gain power in western Russia, and attempt to retake the East by force. However, by 1917 the disorganized Russian army has been almost wiped out by a ruthless Japanese counterattack in the Far East.

1919 - Japanese invasion of North China. Remaining Chinese territories are divided between Britain, Japan and Germany.

1920 - Nationalism in the Austro-Hungarian Empire brings its Government to a collapse, after a rapid series of revolutions in Vienna and Budapest.

1926 - A huge economic recession, which will later be termed the 'Great Depression', begins in North America and spreads across the British empire and elsewhere.

1933 - National Socialist Party, led by an Adolf Hitler, come to power in Germany as German Empire looks to be on the brink of collapse. By 1936 the German Empire is one of the strongest and most economically secure nations in the world.

1938 - An impressive German army advances on Poland. Understanding that without resistance the Germans could rapidly sweep through Europe, and realising that the British Empire has no interest in European affairs, Communist Russia declares war against Germany, sparking the Second European War. The German Army, consisting of ethnic German, French, and Belgian troops, holds off the Russians in the east while rapidly expanding across eastern Europe. By 1941 Germany controls, in addition to territories gained in the First European War, Austria, Hungary, Poland, and much of eastern and south-eastern Europe.

1951 - German Empire forms the European Alliance, becomes the economic powerhouse in its centre, and encourages all other European nations to join. Spain and Italy, among others, do so.

1958 - European Alliance is strengthened, and Germany demands considerably more funds as it looks to unite all of Europe under a collective Government. Spain, Italy and most other states agree to prevent retaliation, a move that further enhances German power.

1965 - An unstable Germany, headed by an unpredictable Chancellor, calls for all members of the European Alliance to unite under a single Government, and threatens nuclear retaliation to those who decline. With little choice Spain, Italy and most of Eastern Europe join the reformed European State (ES).

1967 - ES demands that Scandinavia, a persistent resistance to ES's calls for annexation, be assimilated into itself under the ES government. Britain, which has strong relationships with Sweden and Denmark, threatens military action if ES does not withdraw its demands. Neither side backs down and in 1968 European State conducts a land invasion of Denmark, provoking a declaration of war from the British Empire, a conflict which would become known as the First Empire War. ES's confidence in its own military power and integrity was largely overstated, and by this time vast proportions of the British Empire were highly developed colonies with strong armies of their own. In late 1968 Britain conducted a trio of attacks, one in Denmark, one in North-West France - the Normandy Beaches - and one in south east Europe, aiming to seize a number of crucial diplomatic locations and force a surrender. Both Empires took a great deal of bombing, and suffered severe damage to their infrastructure over the course of the war, and also faced vast economic costs for such an undertaking. However the British were ultimately successful, capturing Paris in mid-1969, driving European troops out of Denmark by 1970, securing Kiev in early 1970, and forcing a European surrender as the British shut down a number of essential trade routes throughout the continent just as Denmark-based troops neared the European capital Berlin. The subsequent treaty signed at the end of the war confirmed British control over Denmark, paved the way for further annexation of the rest of Scandinavia, and gave Britain control over a number of key locations within Europe as a decisive advantage should war break out again.

Politics

As of 1901.

The two main authorities in the Empire are Parliament and the Guilds. In terms of the division of duties, Parliament is the legislature, responsible for passing new acts, while the Guilds tend to act as the Executive, acting on laws already in existence. Before the creation and development of the Guilds the Prime Minister and his Cabinet mainly acted as the Executive, and still possess many of these powers, but are now mainly tasked with creating new laws while the Guilds are free to act on them. Officially, the Prime Minister's inheriting of the royal powers gives him a veto over the Guilds when necessary, but the latter of these is such a vast, complex network of organizations that it would be near impossible for it to be independently and neutrally scrutinized. As such, the Guilds are largely allowed free reign, one explanation for the rapid growth of the Royal Observers Guild.

Although in Statute Law, the monarch possesses every power that the Guilds do, by convention the monarch has no reasonable standing within British politics and certainly would not consulted for decision that did not relate directly to the monarchy itself. In fact, an intervention by the current King, Edward VII, would be considered thoroughly improper. The duties of the king reside solely in foreign relations, meeting foreign ambassadors and dignitaries, and helping to maintain the flourishing, united image of the British empire.

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