"For that matter, what was our world like in 1926?"

The world of the 'Flying Cloud', our world, and worlds that might have been.

"For that matter, what was our world like in 1926?"

Postby peterh » Sat Jan 09, 2010 9:29 pm

Well, it wasn't called The Roaring Twenties fer nuttin'...

Great economic prosperity, starting in the USA, and, somewhere halfway along the decennium, reaching Europe (but not Germany, which was in severe economic and monetary trouble due to the war reparation payments and economic isolation, which would lead to the rise of Adolf Hitler). Industrialisation bloomed, consumerism was on the rise. Jazz flourished (and for good reason) :mrgreen: , and technology and its application soared (telephone lines, electrification, highways, radio are a few examples), which caused a huge change in people's life style, as well as important social changes.
In the US, it was also the era of the (alcohol) Prohibition, which boosted organised crime.

It all ended abruptly in 1929 when the stock market collapsed, starting off the Great Depression.


It's hard to say what would've happened if the Great War WOULD have ended the way it does in Everett's world. I just got back from reading The World of the Flying Cloud (which makes the above paragraph somewhat silly, because it appears that at least Paul knows what our world was like in 1926). It may be that the Weimar republic would never have brought Germany to its knees the way it happened in our world... which might have prevented the rise of the NSDAP (Hitler's political vehicle). Also, the Versailles Treaty never came about, and many people argue that it was the Versailles Treaty that helped spark off World War II. And it was World War II, and the way this was settled by Roosevelt, Stalin and Churchill, that created the Cold War and the Iron Curtain.

There is something that puzzles me, though:
In the document called "The World of the Flying Cloud", the table down below says that, in Everett's world:
"1917 Vladimir Lenin remains an obscure bookseller in Switzerland",
and in our world:
"The Germans smuggle Lenin into Russia in an attempt to disrupt the Imperial government. The results are somewhat more than they bargained for."
It is that last little sentence that implies that the October revolution never came about. After all, the introduction of Lenin did cause the October revolution to take place, and it did cause the new government to retreat from World War I, which was what the Germans did bargain for. This implies that the rise of Communism is not what they bargained for.

However, in the chapterette titled "The world after the war", it becomes clear that the October Revolution did take place in Everett's world after all!

Is there something I'm missing, or misinterpreting?

peter the verbose.
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Re: "For that matter, what was our world like in 1926?"

Postby PaulGazis » Sun Jan 10, 2010 4:58 pm

Hi Peter, In answer to your question about the October Revolution, you're quite right: it did take place in Everett's world as well as ours. But it took a slightly different course. The situation was as follows:

1) The Czar was deposed during the February Revolution much as he was in our world, since the Czarist government was thoroughly discredited by its performance in the War, lacked effective leadership, and its bureaucracy had become moribund -- after many years at NASA, I know all about moribund bureaucracies :)

2) Kerensky's Provisional Government was every bit as weak in Everett's world as it was in ours, because it had the same leaders and faced exactly the same challenges and problems, to which it had no additional solutions.

3) Just as in our world, growing civil unrest lead to the July Crisis, the Third Coalition, the Kornilov Mutiny, and a succession of provisional governments, each one weaker than the last. Finally, after a wave of nationwide violence and strikes in September and October, the Bolsheviks seized power, but with different leadership than they had in ours.

4) In our world, Lenin seems to have sat on his duff in Switzerland, selling books -- the early 20th Century equivalent of running a blog -- until the German's slipped him across the border to Petrograd in April. But in Everett's world, the War is over by then, and the Germans had other things on their mind, so this 'slipping across the border' process never happened. In our world, Trotsky seems to have made active attempts to get back to Russia, and he was still at it when he was deported from Spain to the US in December of 1916. But in Everett's world, the War was over by then, leaving him free to nip back home.

5) Because of the above, it was Trotsky rather than Lenin who the Congress of Soviets elected Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars in November of 1917. This worked out to Russia's advantage. Without the Lenin-Trotsky feud or the burden of an extra year of war, the Bolsheviks were a tad more benign, the nation was a tad more prosperous, and life was a tad less oppressive. What did all these tads add up to by 1926? This question may be answered as the story progresses.

Note that this does not change the fact that in our world, the Germans were somewhat dismayed by the results of their Lenin adventure. They had no way of knowing that the October Revolution would have happened anyway.

The other empire fated to fall was the Ottomans. It's difficult to see how they could have survived, and their collapse in Everett's world seems fairly non-controversial. Austria-Hungary is another matter. I assumed their empire would break up much as it did in our world, but Publius has offered cogent arguments that it might have survived in much the same form as it had before the War. Since His Majesty's Airship R505 is still in the Pacific, I've been able to beg the question for now, but there will come a time when it must be resolved. So what do you think? What would have happened to Austria-Hungary if the War had ended in November 1916? It's armies would still have been shattered by the Brusilov Offensive, but in Everett's world, Woodrow Wilson never called for the "freest opportunity to autonomous development" as one of his Fourteen Points.

We need to get more people to weigh in on this one...
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Re: "For that matter, what was our world like in 1926?"

Postby Kona » Thu Jan 14, 2010 5:02 am

All speculative histories suffer from the impossibility of knowing how any tiny difference might cause exponential changes with time, much as the notorious “butterfly effect” causes hurricanes halfway around the world.

http://www.whatisdeepfried.com/2001/09/ ... -of-order/

Rather than a burdensome research chore, I find this knowledge liberating; since no one can definitively assert how we would find our world today, or even if any of us would exist to examine it, we are free to create whatever revised history we like. By all means, Paul, continue developing the world stage to suit your story!

btw, re: Viking attack on Bldg. 245? ROTFLMAO!
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Re: "For that matter, what was our world like in 1926?"

Postby Sintaqx » Thu Mar 04, 2010 12:25 am

Along the lines of alternate histories there is a fantastic series of novels written by Harry Turtledove collectively known as Timeline 191. Basically it begins with the question of 'What if the North had not discovered the Confederate Special Order 191", the order that detailed the Army of Northern Virginia's invasion in 1862. The "Great War" trilogy is quite interesting in it's departure from what happened during World War I in our timeline. The first two books of the "American Empire" trilogy parallel Captain Everett's timeline.
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Re: "For that matter, what was our world like in 1926?"

Postby Kona » Thu Mar 04, 2010 3:43 pm

I don’t think any of us realize by how thin a margin or at how many points history could have gone another direction. The outcomes of the American Revolution, our (mostly) successful Constitution, World War 2, and now apparently the Civil War, all hinged on remarkably small turning points; none were as assured as they now appear.

In my dotage, I’m having the devil of a time remembering where I saw a bit of military wisdom which said, in effect, that no matter how well both sides in a war plan their strategy, as soon as the shooting starts, nothing goes as expected. After that, the victory goes to whoever screws up the least.
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Re: "For that matter, what was our world like in 1926?"

Postby PaulGazis » Fri Mar 05, 2010 7:07 am

Harry Turtledove is indeed one of the masters of Alternate Histories. That's one of the reasons I chose such a comparatively minor point of difference -- the slightly earlier end to the Great War -- and restricted myself to a timespan of less than a decade. Since the world of the Flying Cloud is still fairly similar to ours in 1926, the story of Captain Everett and his crew becomes more in the nature of historical fiction, and I don't have to compete with fellows like him :)

I've come across two great collections of Alternate History by professional historians. Virtual History: Alternatives and Counterfactuals, edited by Niall Fergusson, is... I'm not sure what you'd call it... Alternate General History? It contains such provocative essays as, The Kaiser's European Union: What if Britain had 'stood aside' in 1914? and... think long and hard about this one... 1989 Without Gorbachev: What if Communism had not collapsed? The What If? series, the first volume of which was edited by Robert Cowey, is Alternate Military History. That first volume includes two nifty 'how the American Civil War could have turned out differently' essays. It also includes one quite plausible Early Armistice scenario, but they set this in early 1915, before Russia had suffered its terrible defeats of 1915-1916, so I couldn't make much use of it for the world of the Flying Cloud.
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Re: "For that matter, what was our world like in 1926?"

Postby asgaard aardvaark » Tue Mar 30, 2010 12:30 am

* * WARNING * *
Long Discourse Follows

Being a lifelong “history geek” I love the concept of alternate histories and have spent nearly 50 years considering the “What Ifs” that such studies entail. Seeking the answers to the almost endless questions, I have formed numerous theories of my own, each involving multiple questions of its own, as the timelines branch and branch again in an infinite pattern. These theories I have expounded endlessly, bending the ears of anyone unfortunate enough to come within range. Now it’s your turn.
First of all, is the question of the Russians. You consider that Lenin never left Switzerland, but the revolution occurred anyway. If so, then the Bolsheviks would, most likely, have been led by Leon Trotsky. If they had gained ascendancy, the geopolitical picture in Europe--if not in the world--would have been different. Trotsky believed, in essence, that “revolution is inevitable so, hey--lets get the ball rolling by exporting ours.”
That brings up the next question of what would Stalin have been doing at the time? In our present timeline, The former bank robber rode in on Lenin’s coattails but could he have found another path to satisfying his ambitions? Had he gained control, he would have spent his time And effort consolidating his power and launching his “five year programs” rather than spreading the revolution.
With the war over in 1916 and with the demobilizations that most likely would have followed, along with the need for well guarded borders, would there have been an intervention, especially without the spectical of the revolution--or a White army to support? That foreign invasion is a major factor, which cemented the xenophobic mood that prevailed throughout the early years of the Soviet rule.
At any rate, would the provisional Krensky government have fallen at all? One of the main (if not the main) weaknesses of the Menshevik party was their wish to continue the war. It is not unreasonable to believe that, with the war over, had a few compromises been made with the Bolsheviks, they might well have been able to “win the hearts and minds” of the Russian people, thus avoiding the bloody revolution altogether.
The Russians had no airships of their own, and seemed to have little interest in them. However, Igor Sikorski had begun his first helicopter experiments in 1910, before developing the “Balshoi Balt’sky” four engine airliner in 1913. Were he to have stayed in Russia and continued his experiments, perhaps the world would have seen a new way of heavier than air flying. Given the insular mood of the Russians, aviation in Russia might well have gone in an entirely different direction from the rest of the world--who knows?
The attitude of the United States is an interesting point on which to speculate. The sinking of Lusitania pushed the nation towards an anti-German mood, and stirred them into taking on a long look into their own military preparedness. The Navy was already deep into an ambitious expansion program, begun by President Theodore Roosevelt and, though unbalanced, their fleet was the third largest in the world by 1916 and rapidly overtaking that of Germany, who was number two. This expansion would have continued after the war and would have led to a “weapons race” between the US and Great Britain, mostly because the US could and the British believed that they must keep on building. After all, The US felt they needed the “Two Ocean Navy and the British still tried to maintain their “Two Power Policy”. This was a race that was within the US manufacturing capability but that the British could not long afford to continue. However, the growth of the US navy was not really directed towards European conflicts but towards the Pacific. The rise of Japan as an industrial power alarmed US policy makers with the prospect of a rival in the Pacific Ocean, long considered to be an “American lake”. Most speculation on events in that region take the belief that a confrontation between the two powers was inevitable. For A good alternate history of the era, I suggest reading “1931 The Great Pacific War”, By Hector C. Bywater Written in 1925 and re-published by “Applewood Press” in the 1990s (I can't find a new copywrite date on my issue). I highly recommend it for anyone doing alternate histories of the Pacific Ocean Area during the time between the (real) end of WWI and the mid 1930s.
The United States began the WWI era with no airships and, post war, tried in a lackadaisical manner, to play catch up by building their own force around a Zeppelin they got as “war booty”, the LZ 126, which became the USS Los Angeles. Led by Adm. Moffitt, the service expanded as well as an tight-fisted congress allowed and began to experiment with “Lighter than air aircraft carriers”, but all in all, their efforts were hampered by the “Battleship Admirals”, who still controlled fleet policy. Overall, the US seemed to be less than enthusiastic about the lighter than air concept and never produced any commercial airships and only limited military construction--even though their tactical situation did warrant it.
Germany might not have won the war, but neither did they loose it. It is highly likely that their expansionist mood would not have been curtailed and they would have sought some means by which they could obtain more colonies, especially in South America, where they began to exert a strong commercial influence. An interesting speculation along these lines can be found in “Avalanche Press’s” War game “War Plan Black” which follows a German attempt to gain a foothold in the Caribbean Sea area and the US reaction. Also, with the German love to “Stir the pot” I wonder if Herr Zimmerman would have sent his infamous telegram anyway.
The big wild card in the deck would be Japan. They had a treaty with Great Britain and did assist the allies, but most of that was for the spoils they might gain. Having successfully fought the “Sino-Japanese war” in 1894 and the Russo-Japanese war in 1905-06, they had tasted blood and wanted to show that they were the dominant power in Asia. Watched over by a wary British force, they captured the German colony of Tisngtao, China in Nov.1914, their main contribution to the war.
Outwardly polite, the Japanese were highly suspicious of any western presence in their supposed "sphere of influence” and were preparing war plans of their own. US troops working along with the Japanese in Siberia during the intervention saw several signs of thinly cloaked hostitity. The Japanese kept their political and military cards close to their chests as they planned to establish their own hegemony in China and elsewhere in the western Pacific.
Another big question would be the state of the German Pacific colonies in the Marshal and Mariana Islands. If the Germans still held them, would the Japanese seize them and present the act to the world as a "fait accompli”? With the German High Seas fleet halfway around the world, would (or could) they do anything about it, especially in knowledge of the logistical hardships of Admiral Rostisvensky in 1906 and with the British Grand Fleet watching? If nothing else, Japan would probably have sent out a “fishing fleet” to reconnoiter all of the possible military objectives.
For that matter, would there have been a League of Nations as provided for in Woodrow Wilson’s “Fourteen Points”, the grounds upon which an armistice would most likely have been based?
This all leads to some highly productive speculations on the part of old history geeks such as myself, but I think I will leave off for the time being. It’s time to lubricate the overheated mental gears after all of this thinking. Bye all (for now). ;)
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Re: "For that matter, what was our world like in 1926?"

Postby Kona » Tue Mar 30, 2010 7:58 pm

A well researched and thought out discourse, AA, for all its length. I learned much from it. Regarding the Zimmerman telegram, it’s instructive that, among the Mexican president’s staff’s reasons for recommending against alliance with Germany was NOT included “Because the US is a long-term ally, and one doesn’t betray allies.” Our uneasy relationship with our border neighbor has deep roots.
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Re: "For that matter, what was our world like in 1926?"

Postby PaulGazis » Thu Apr 01, 2010 6:50 am

That's a superb analysis, AA! And I may well take advantage of it as the story progresses, for I appreciate input from experts.

As I'm sure you've noticed, I made several ad hoc decision about the world of the Flying Cloud. One involves airship development, which progresses as fast it plausibly could. With more money available, the US and Britain make a major commitment to this technology instead than half-hearted experiments they pursued in our world, France launches successors to the Dixmunde -- which would have been a copy of German ships rather than a war reparation -- and other nations follow their lead, with varying degrees of success. Another big one was the role of America, which becomes the land of Calvin Coolidge ("The business of America is business!") rather than Teddy Roosevelt. These may or may not have been the most likely outcomes of a 1916 Armistice, but they were certainly possible.

Other decisions, like having Japan be forced to hand back Tsing Tao and Germany's Pacific colonies under the terms of the Armistice or having Frederick Urquhart retire a few months early as Administrator of Australia's Northern Territory, were made for the sake of the plot. And I must confess that some, such as having Zimmerman get hit by a bus in September 1916 so that von Kuhlman could take over as Secretary for Foreign Affairs, may have involved a few beers. But even here, I tried to stick to things that were plausible. Germany did, after all, have buses, and a busy man, preoccupied with thoughts of Mexico, might well have neglected to look both ways before he stepped onto the street :)

But one reason I set this story in the Roaring Twenties was to avoid decisions of this sort. The original 80,000-word draft set in 1934 (which I'm tempted to finish as a novel) was most definitely an alternate history. But in 1926, history hasn't had much of a chance to diverge, so the story can be closer to historical fiction. In particular, many of the men who shook our world in the 1930s, most notably Hitler and Stalin, will not have appeared on the public stage. Some may follow the same careers they did in our world. Others may languish in obscurity or appear in unexpected places. But it's tricky keeping track of all these fellows, so I appreciate every bit of input I can get. Thanks!

One big question is Austria-Hungary. They've lost most of the Balkans -- a development for which they are profoundly grateful -- but working out some of the rest has been a bit of a challenge. What do you think might have happened to Franz Kafkaland if the Great War had ended two years early?
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Re: "For that matter, what was our world like in 1926?"

Postby miles » Thu Apr 08, 2010 4:08 am

For the last 50 years, In our world, Strategic Arms Limitation Treaties concern themselves with limits to nuclear arms.

Back in the '20s, in our world, Arms Limitation Treaties concerned themselves with Battleship tonnage. Back then everybody knew that Battleships were the ultimate projection of power. The bigger the better. Of course, the development of high explosives coupled with cheap, fast planes as a delivery system changed everyones thinking.

But, the world of the R505 is a very different place. High explosives, even nukes, won't destabilize strategic thinking without a cheap, accurate delivery system. In the absence of planes, the best delivery system of this era is artillery. I expect that their world's military planning is 99% where are the big guns and 1% how to clean up after the big guns have finished talking.

In the next decade, I would expect their military advances to progress along the lines of:
- How do we get bigger guns than our enemys?
- How do we most effectively utilize our really big guns?
- How do we protect really big guns?
- How do we attack really big guns?

There is no way an airship can effectively threaten a battleship or a hardened ground position except by providing targetting info. Battles between Battleships or against shore targets are bound to be very long distance, probably over the horizon, conflicts. A battleship would need several airships in attendance to provide spotting info and to drive off enemy spotters.

Heck, the R505 world might even develop battleship classes beyond the dreadnought. Perhaps some kind of Behemoth or Kracken class ship that can lob locomotive sized shells 50 to 100 miles inland.

On the other hand, an airship is a very effective deterrent to submarines. If you have a mature airship technology, it is hard to see how the use of submarines could get a foothold.

I would also anticipate the rapid development of mobile artillery and tanks. Nothing like being armored and highly mobile when you are being targetted by enemy artillery.

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