Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Anyway, I'll briefly describe yet another real-life parallel universe, one in which Brazil keeps its hold on Cayenne and French Guiana - and where there are no historical changes anywhere else in South America. Firstly, in that case, the area is an additional Brazilian state known simply as Guiana, with the capital being Caiena. (The other French-sounding names get transformed into their Portuguese counterparts, too - e.g. Kourou becomes Curu.) The legal system there has some French elements left over from its pre-Brazilian days along with Portuguese law. Plus, there was no French-Brazilian dispute over Amapa (between Guiana and the Amazon Delta).
Another feature of that parallel universe is that the French didn't place any penal colonies near Caiena from the 1800s onwards (though they did in the late 1700s) like in this universe - Devil's Island comes most prominently to mind. Instead, New Caledonia (in the South Pacific northeast of Australia) saw an increase in French penal colony activity relative to our universe, so that the functions of Devil's Island took place in New Caledonia. Prisoners like Alfred Dreyfus (of the Dreyfus Affair from the late 19th century) were shipped to New Caledonia.
One other major difference between that universe and ours is that the French didn't relocate their main space centre to Curu (not far from Devil's Island and Caiena) in the 1960s after their withdrawal from Algeria (where the French had their previous space centre). After having considered many equatorial locations around the world, taking into account factors like political stability and the infrastructure as well as geography, the French decided to place the spaceport near Darwin, northern Australia. Just as the Guiana Space Centre became all of Europe's main spaceport in our universe, so too the Darwin Space Centre went on to be Europe's main space centre in the universe with the Brazilian-controlled Guiana.
There is also a slight difference in the distribution of country calling codes (exemplified by the United States and Canada having +1). In our universe, French Guiana has +594 as the country code. Take away that in the parallel universe under discussion, and we get Paraguay with +594 instead, along with Guadeloupe at +595, Suriname at +596, Uruguay at +597, the former Netherlands Antilles (except Aruba) at +598, Martinique at +599, and Aruba at +590. (Bolivia keeps +591, Guyana keeps +592, and Ecuador keeps +593.)
Monday, August 02, 2010
Either one of two points of divergence would do the trick. The first one is that in 1806, the Dutch defeat the British near Cape Town, and the second one is that in 1814, the British hand the Cape back to the Dutch (except the strategically-important Simon's Town - not far from Cape Town). I think the second one is much more likely, given that in 1806 (and I'm sure in 1795 as well), the Dutch forces were weak and not numerous compared to the British. Either way, the Cape Colony is kept under Dutch control as a result.
The Cape Colony keeps on expanding slowly, and undergoes numerous wars with the native tribes like the Xhosa. At the same time, the Cape Colony attracts migrants first mainly from the Netherlands, and then also from Germany, Scandinavia, and elsewhere. Meanwhile, the
Trekboers would start making their migrations on a small scale for the time being, given their distrust towards authority. These would ultimately bring them to the Orange Free State and the Transvaal. This would be sort of like the Wild West in America.
In terms of territorial organization, it seems more likely that the Cape Colony eventually gets dominion-like status from the Netherlands (cf. Canada or Australia). In that case, the Trekboer areas in the OFS and Transvaal just might split off from the Cape Colony in rebellion. During all this time, the British establish a colony in Natal (and what we know as Durban is known here as Port Natal), along with Simon's Town.
When diamonds are discovered in and around Kimberley, the Cape Colony and any of the possible Boer republics claim the diamond areas, which ultimately are awarded to the Cape Colony. The Witwatersrand gold goes to the Transvaal (or to the Cape Colony, depending on the scenario). These discoveries are made 20-30 years later than OTL because of the
delay in Trekker migrations. Both of these discoveries attract many migrants from the Netherlands and elsewhere.
The Portuguese, meanwhile, claim the area between present-day Angola and Mozambique - and hence colonize our world's Rhodesia and probably also Nyasaland, while the Germans colonize Namibia until World War I as in our world.
If the Cape Colony itself was awarded a dominion-like status, and the Boer republics split off, I see all these eventually federating into one country - and Natal would totally be its own country. Botswana, Lesotho, and Swaziland would remain their own countries.
Wednesday, November 04, 2009
One of the most important consequences of a Persian repulse of the Arabs is that Zoroastrianism and Nestorian Christianity would be much more widespread religions than is the case today. Persia would have had a Zoroastrian majority for a long time at first, but more and more people would have converted to Christianity given that the Persians became tired of fundamentalist Sassanid Zoroastrianism, as well as for other reasons. Either the Sassanid dynasty would have converted to Christianity, or there would have arisen a new and Christian dynasty - both of these possibilities taking place around 750 CE. Iran would have a Nestorian majority today with a 5-10% Zoroastrian minority as well as other minorities (including Muslims along the Persian Gulf coast and around Ahvaz), much in the same way that Egypt is majority Muslim but has a 5-10% Coptic Christian minority.
Central Asia would be largely Nestorian, with some pockets of Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, and other religions. The Turks convert to Nestorian Christianity rather than Islam; hence, assuming that the Turks still carry out their conquests, countries like Turkey, Bosnia, and Albania would have Nestorian majorities. At the same time, much of Afghanistan and Pakistan (as well as Bangladesh maybe) would be Buddhist.
Also, I am assuming that Arabia, the Near East, and North Africa remain Muslim. In that case, there would still be Sunnis and Shias, but there would be many more Ibadi Muslims too. Finally, I'm assuming that the Mongols are conquering just like they actually did.
Of course, there are still plenty of questions to ask and details to iron out, but hopefully this should represent a first portrait of an un-Islamic Iran from the 7th century and long-term consequences around the world.
Monday, December 01, 2008
The topic consists of points of divergences (PODs) of various kinds that result in the different parallel universes that I have described in general in past blog posts. Some PODs exist in the context of alternate histories (e.g. battle victories), but many others are the everyday decisions (or, for that matter, life-altering ones) which people make literally every second. Yet other PODs derive from accidents or other (potentially) life-threatening situations, and PODs can also spring from any one of various moves in games or sports. Concerning the latter, they say that sports are like a peace-time war anyway!
I have already highlighted a few alternate histories, also known as counterfactual histories, in many of my previous blog posts. They range from the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka not being assassinated in 1959 - thereby butterflying away the eventual civil war between the Sinhalese and the Tamils - to Southern Rhodesia joining the Union of South Africa in 1923, forestalling later problems with apartheid, the post-2000 Zimbabwean crisis, etc. Of course, my website on British Argentina and Uruguay (http://www.britishargentina.com) is of the same alternate historical variety. What these all share is some POD for subsequent events to take place differently in each of the parallel universes than in our own universe. (I am especially interested in alternate histories with happy outcomes, as opposed to, say, if the Nazis win World War II.) These make by far the most interesting outcomes to PODs, for me anyway.
Another class of PODs transpires every single second as countless billions of people (not to mention a whole host of other creatures) make decisions big and small on what to do next. As an example, I may be talking about my friend and what I would do with him. When I talk to him on the telephone and we exchange “hi, how are you?”, I might then have the choice of asking him, as the first thing, “Could I hang out with you today?” or “Tell me about your day so far.” If I choose the former in this universe, I might choose the latter in another universe, and I can make a difference in the conversation but generally not more than that.
A bigger decision that I could make is whether on given day I could go to a travel-gear store (to buy accessories for some future trip) or just stay at home. If I choose to shop for travel gear in this universe, and maybe buy some travel accessories, I might elect to stay home in another universe. Then, that parallel universe would be different in that I don’t end up buying the travel gear like in this universe.
Finally, an example of a life-altering decision could be what university to attend after high school. In my case, I was looking for a reputable university, with a large enough Jewish community and a geography department, that wasn’t too far from where I’m from (Montreal). For the final three choices, I had McGill (in Montreal), Johns Hopkins (in Baltimore), and Rutgers (in New Jersey). I ended up choosing Rutgers, in this universe anyway. In another universe, I chose Johns Hopkins; in yet another, McGill. My subsequent life in each of those other universes became different from the one that I knew, because I would take different courses, meet different professors and university-mates, and more generally experience life differently because of the individual environments of Baltimore or Montreal relative to the New Jersey and New York metropolitan area.
Another rich source of PODs is, unfortunately, the myriad of life-threatening incidents that present themselves, like accidents, violent crimes, terrorist attacks, severe weather, and fires. Such situations, especially accidents of various kinds that result in injuries or deaths, bother me greatly especially when comparing such PODs to those for the alternate histories. Anyway, a good example could be the crash of TWA flight 800 in July 1996, in which everybody aboard was killed. On that flight, there was somebody who missed that flight, and as a result lived to tell the tale. The point is, in some parallel universe or another, that person did take the flight, and perished. Yet another parallel universe unfolded in which that TWA flight did not crash, and reached its destination without incident. The POD in this last case would be a catastrophic malfunction (or lack thereof).
The last major set of PODs involves the games and sports that people play. Just like with histories, everyday decisions, accidents, and the like, games and sports involve infinite sets of all possible outcomes - no matter how small. In fact, many sports and games are especially noteworthy for all the strategies that players use, or else sheer luck. For example, if I am playing Trivial Pursuit, if I roll the dice and I have three, I must think of which tile to land on from the tile that my game piece is on now. I then have a choice of whether to land on a history question or one on nature. If I end up moving my game piece to the history question in this universe, in another universe, my game piece ends up on the nature question. Another example of a POD in this category is a soccer match; for example, between England and Germany. Sundry factors will determine whether it’s England or Germany that wins, and any of these are different in various parallel universes than in our universe. In some of these universes (like perhaps ours), England wins; in others, Germany wins.
The point of mentioning all the above PODs is that there is such a diversity (and infinity) of parallel universe-forming PODs, some of which get along with each other but many more clash with one another. The categories I have outlined in this post are independent of one another; they are too different to compare one with the other. That’s not even covering all the various possible categories of parallel universes out there, including myriads of those that have more (or fewer) spatial and/or temporal dimensions than us, or different mathematical constants.
PODs come in all shapes and sizes; many PODs can be truly small-scale (involving only one person to a few people), while some others can be enormous in scope, and yet others in between. The small scale PODs include most of those connected to everyday decisions, small-scale incidents, and games and small-scale sports. Bigger in scale are local and regional alternate histories, major sport matches, and many major incidents (such as jet plane crashes). The largest PODs of all involve alternate histories on a continental or world-wide scale; those have the most far-reaching consequences. See the list below:
small scale: Brooklyn remains a separate city from Manhattan to this day.
medium scale: The British keep Cuba after 1763.
big scale: The US South wins the Civil War in the 1860s.
small scale: I decide to order coffee at the café, as opposed to tea like in this universe.
medium scale: I decide to go to an art supply store next week, instead of today like in this universe.
big scale: I decide to become a professor, and not an urban planner like in this universe.
small scale: Due to fatigue, I sleep on the wheel on a highway and get into an accident with severe injuries, and not avoid such an accident like in this universe.
medium scale: In a hurricane, all the people living in a neighbourhood (e.g. in Houston, Texas) ignore warnings to evacuate and many get killed, versus just a few in this universe.
big scale: Bill Clinton beefs up air security in the late 1990s, thereby preventing the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington that took place in this universe.
small scale: In a game of solitaire, I unearth a card saying 3 instead of a card saying 7 like here, with different eventual outcomes for the game.
medium scale: In the 13th season of the Amazing Race (a reality TV program), in the second Russian leg of the race, a guy named Dallas does not lose his wallet and passport. Thus, he and his mother are still in the race (unlike here).
big scale: West Germany wins the World Cup of soccer over Argentina in 1986, and not the other way around like here.
Monday, March 24, 2008
In the various newsgroups, I realized that the best way to ensure both scenarios was with the whites in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) voting in a 1922 referendum for joining the Union of South Africa. (In our world, the majority of Southern Rhodesian whites voted to become a self-governing colony.)
In the parallel universe where Southern Rhodesia joined South Africa (which I will call Greater South Africa World or GSAW), the proportion of the white population of South Africa that was English-speaking increased automatically, since Southern Rhodesia’s whites were overwhelmingly Anglophone. That way, Southern Rhodesia (officially the Province of Rhodesia, and usually called just Rhodesia) became South Africa’s fifth province. (Until 1922, the Union of South Africa had consisted of just Cape Province, Natal, Orange Free State, and Transvaal.) This meant a lesser proportion of Afrikaners than in our universe’s South Africa. Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland (now Zambia and Malawi, respectively) became British protectorates in 1924, just like in this world. Also the same as in our world, South West Africa (now Namibia) became a mandated territory of South Africa but was treated as a province of South Africa. As for Bechuanaland (now Botswana), Basutoland (now Lesotho), and Swaziland, they eventually became tribal territories within the Union of South Africa, and remain so today.
Despite not as high a percentage of Afrikaners as in our own universe, James B.M. Hertzog won the elections in 1924, given that Jan Smuts (the previous prime minister) suffered in the polls due to a miners’ strike a couple of years earlier. Hertzog was able to designate Afrikaans as an official language alongside English, and to make a new, Dutch-type flag (the Prinsvlag). Whereas in our universe the Prinsvlag’s centre consists of a small British flag that is sideways in between the flags of Transvaal and the Orange Free State, in GSAW, the British Union Jack is more prominent in the centre and is right side up. A decade later, in 1933, Hertzog formed a coalition with Smuts and Smuts became the Prime Minister, with Hertzog becoming the Deputy Prime Minister. Hertzog stepped down as prime minister a couple of years after that (versus 1939 in this universe).
During World War II, South Africa in GSAW was an Ally even more than here, and participated more in the battles in Africa and elsewhere alongside the British, Australians, etc. This led to earlier victories against the Axis, and freed up forces from India, Australia, and New Zealand to fight against the Japanese in the Pacific Front more effectively.
In the crucial 1948 elections in South Africa, thanks in large part to the English-speaking and pro-British populations in Rhodesia as well as Natal and elsewhere, Jan Smuts (of the United Party) won the vote, against the National Party. Since Smuts was not a draconian racist, he did not lead South Africa to apartheid the way the National Party did in this world. Even so, he and his successors maintained the racial segregation that had always existed between the blacks and whites, even while gradually lessening it over the years (just like in the American South). Radical Afrikaner racism (i.e. apartheid) became more and more of a fringe movement. Because of the more liberal politics under Smuts and his ilk, South Africa admitted more European immigrants after World War II in GSAW than in our universe; these same immigrants in our universe went to Australia, Canada, or the United States. Due to all this, the protests by the non-whites (e.g. Sharpesville), along with the reactions of the security forces, were not as violent as the apartheid we have known of here, and the process of racial integration was quicker. From the 1950s to the 1970s, blacks gained more and more civil rights along with the franchise. The tribal territories of Botswana, Lesotho, and Swaziland, as well as black reserves (cf. “bantustans” in our world) won the right for their blacks to get control over local affairs in the 1960s.
After Jan Smuts died in 1950, Jacobus G.N. Strauss (also of the United Party) took over as Prime Minister. In 1956, yet another United Party member, David P. de Villiers Graaff, became Prime Minister; ten years later, also on a United Party ticket, Ian Smith from Rhodesia took over that post. In 1974, Colin Eglin from the more liberal Progressive Party became Prime Minister, and was instrumental in ending white minority rule six years later. Democracy was also quicker to making inroads in South Africa and neighbouring countries, and the various black African nationalist movements have been gentler than in our world.
A giant step towards majority rule in South Africa was taken in 1980, when Nelson Mandela was elected to be the first black Prime Minister of South Africa. After a couple of years of negotiations in the late 1970s, the white minority government was ready to hand over power to blacks, especially since they were clamouring for it for the previous 2-3 decades. This was the first time that non-whites could vote in South Africa without restrictions. At the same time, South Africa became a republic with a non-executive President as head of state and a Prime Minister as head of government. (South Africa, in GSAW, had still been a Commonwealth realm right up until the end of white rule.) Nelson Mandela remained Prime Minister until Robert Mugabe took over in 1985, who in turn reigned until Thabo Mbeki was elected in 1995. South Africa switched to an executive presidency on January 1, 1988.
South Africa in GSAW had a population of 51, 584,000 as of January 1, 1993, making it the 24th most populous country in the world. Its area is 2,240,496 square kilometers (or 865,098 square miles); that makes South Africa the 13th biggest country or dependency in the world, and the 4th biggest in Africa. In 1998, South Africa’s per capita income was $5600 US in real exchange terms, and $12,000 US in terms of purchasing power parity (versus half of each of these figures in this universe). That makes South Africa far and away the wealthiest country on the African continent. The crime rate is pretty high, but not as high as in our universe; even a place like Johannesburg isn’t so dangerous in GSAW like it is here. Basic demographic indicators like birth rates, infant mortality, and life expectancy are better off in GSAW than here. Also, there is not quite as much corruption and clinging to power in South Africa as in its neighbours or in the South Africa we know of. For example, in GSAW, there is none of the hyperinflation, famine, or repression that Zimbabwe has been famous for in our universe since the year 2000, because it is a part of a greater and wealthier South Africa in the GSAW universe. Thus concludes an abbreviated tour of the South(ern) Africa of the parallel universe where Southern Rhodesia’s white voters in 1922 decided to join South Africa!
Sunday, December 30, 2007
I would say that this is not quite so. True, there is only one God in Judaism for the entire cosmos, and so there cannot be multiple gods, one for each individual universe. On the other hand, though, parallel universes ARE compatible with what God has in mind for all humanity and all His other creations. The reason for the compatibility is because God knows in advance all the possible outcomes of a given action or event. As various medieval Jewish commentators like Gersonides (Levi ben Gershom) and Abraham ibn Daud (and some later Jewish ones too) explain, the only thing that God doesn't know is what choice people (or the weather) will make in their decisions. This concept of free will goes a long way in justifying the existence of non-fictional parallel universes, because God is fully aware of all the possibilities arising out of a single event where people have to choose one way or another. As the Ethics of the Fathers (3:15) says, "Everything is foreseen, yet free will is given". For many intents and purposes, this eliminates one single predestination per event, where the outcome thereof has to be decided one way or another. For more on that matter, consult the Wikipedia article on the Jewish view on free will. For more general views, and this is by no means just a Jewish concept, see the article in general.
One can very much apply all of the above to alternate history as set in parallel universes. Just to give one example, let's talk about the US presidential election in 2000, between George W. Bush and Al Gore. Gore won the popular vote, but the electoral college had a narrow majority for Bush in the end. In this case, God was fully aware of the possibilities of Gore winning and of Bush winning. What God didn't know, and what the American people decided for themselves, was who the majority voted for in each universe. In some universes, then, God left it up to the United States to ultimately choose Bush (just like in this one); in other universes, the United States chose Gore, and the rest was history in those other universes. Therefore, it's not the case that George W. Bush was predestined to win the American presidency in 2000 in every single universe. In short, God (through free will) has let the creation of parallel universes all throughout history happen.
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
I first thought of that idea late in 2001; at the time, I envisaged all of Brazil being taken over (bit by bit) by the Dutch once they had a firm foothold in the northeast in the mid-17th century. By the early 1800s, the British would conquer Brazil from the Dutch just like they did in South Africa at that time. (In that same scenario, I thought of South Africa being settled by the Portuguese and being part of the Portuguese empire until the mid- to late-20th century.) I was having Brazil be a major First World power on par with the US. Alas, that particular scenario didn't survive scrutiny, and I reduced that to the northern half of Brazil becoming Dutch in the mid-1600s and British later on. Of course, that scenario has had far-reaching consequences in that parallel universe, which I like to call Jan Maurits World (JMW) in honour of the popular Dutch governor Jan Maurits who had led the New Holland colony in northeast Brazil in the 1630s and early 1640s. So, here it is...
Just like in this world, the Dutch (through the Dutch West India Company, or WIC) established a foothold in much of the Brazilian northeast starting in 1630 to take the sugar cane plantations from the Portuguese, and founded or renamed cities. There was Mauritsstad, for instance - right by Recife. That perhaps had the best sugar cane plantations in the region. Other places included Frederiksstad (where Paraiba or Joao Pessoa is located now), Fort Schoonenburgh (present-day Fortaleza), and Fort Oranje (present-day Itamaraca, just north of Recife). The POD (or point of departure) comes during the Dutch struggle to capture Salvador (aka Bahia) in 1638, then the capital of colonial Portuguese Brazil. In this universe, the Portuguese defeated the Dutch in Salvador, but in JMW, the Dutch defeated the Portuguese there. As a result, the Dutch were more able to secure their New Holland colony in Brazil against the Portuguese. And so began more complete WIC control over north Brazil.
The Dutch were able to consolidate these gains by not only conquering new areas in northern Brazil, but also by conquering Portuguese posessions along much of the western coast of Africa, to capture more slaves. In terms of conquest campaigns in Africa, this world and JMW were the same. They took control of the Gold Coast (i.e. Ghana), Fernando Po, Annabon, Sao Tome, and Principe Islands, and Angola, among others. The difference between here and JMW, in particular for all but Ghana, is that these places were controlled by the Dutch for much longer (just like north Brazil itself). (The Cape of Good Hope was claimed by the Dutch East India Company starting in 1652, and that was a different enterprise than with the WIC.)
Meanwhile, southern Brazil remained Portuguese, and the capital was moved to Rio de Janeiro, a full century-and-a-half before this world. That part of Brazil is called Pindorama in JMW; northern Brazil is called Brazil.
The consequences in JMW were such that, besides longer-lasting control in northeast Brazil and parts of Africa, the WIC was a much stronger company than it was in this universe. As a result, it lasted as long as the Dutch East India Company, i.e. until the late 1700s. Also, Jews lived for a much longer continuous time frame in northeast Brazil than they did in this universe.
In the 1760s or 1770s, during one of the Anglo-Dutch Wars, the British captured that universe's version of Brazil, due to the rich sugar cane fields, and took over that area (stretching from what we know as Guyana all the way down to Bahia as well as in much of the Amazon Basin). It then evolved much like the Cape and South Africa did in general when the Cape was captured by the British in 1806, except in a more tropical setting. Actually, a cross between South Africa and the English-speaking Caribbean. A fair number of immigrants came flowing in, from Britain and throughout much of Europe and elsewhere, and cities such as Mauritsstad (renamed Mauricia), Fort Schoonenburg, and Salvador became prosperous and significant cities. These immigrants also included indentured servants in the mid- to late-19th century from India and, to a lesser extent, China. Today, the population of that Brazil (what we know of as northern Brazil plus the Guianas) is largely black or mixed black with whites or American Indians; the rest include a white minority of 20-40%, depending on where you're talking about, along with a significant Asian minority, American Indians, and other groups. Of the whites, some are English-speaking, and many others are of Dutch and/or Portuguese descent. The last group is known as Burghers or Brasilianers. Also, JMW's Brazil has a per capita income of US$3000 at current exchange rates. In these respects, that Brazil is much like South Africa, except with maybe less harsh of an apartheid.
The Republic of Pindorama, as the southern half of our universe's Brazil came to be known officially after independence in 1822, has been much the same as in our universe. An exception is that our Uruguay is permanently the State of Cisplatina in JMW, with the capital being Montevideu. This is because with the territory of the Portuguese being reduced, the Portuguese and then the Pindoramans would want to gain more territory, especially that which the Portuguese covet such as our Uruguay. Apart from that, there's roughly the same ethnic composition, per capita income, etc. In terms of per capita income, Brazil and Pindorama are in the same boat.
As for the WIC's African possessions, in Gold Coast, Dutch and English (and Scandinavian)traders controlled that area until the Dutch withdrew in 1874 (leaving Ghana a British crown colony), just like in this universe. Fernando Po and Annabon Islands, along with the African mainland around the Gulf of Guinea, were handed over from the Dutch to the Spanish in exchange for the Amazon Basin. Spanish Equatorial Guinea, as a result, proceeded much like in this universe. Since the Dutch conquest of Sao Tome and Principe, though, these islands have remained Dutch and have been known as Sint Thomas and Prins (and were not permanently taken over by the British at the turn of the 1800s). Angola also has remained Dutch all along in JMW since the Dutch conquests of the 1640s. Angola, and Sint Thomas and Prins, gained their independence from the Netherlands in the 1960s or 1970s.