Thursday, 27 September 2012

Alternate timelines as a way of learning history

When i was a youngling, i found history utterly boring.  That has now completely changed, possibly because i've lived through a lot more of it, but of course i'm not so much a history man as a philosophy man (and also a bit of an art poseur, though that's not immediately obvious).  One thing i'm not is the science guy, which really surprises people, but i'm really not.

Anyway, here's today's vid:



This is about one of my alternate histories, the so-called "Caroline Timeline", which is here:

http://althistory.wikia.com/wiki/Caroline_Era

The basic idea behind this is that most people feel things are just chugging along nicely until they reach a certain age, after which they gradually, or maybe suddenly, become an affront to the natural order of things and must be stopped.  For Gen-Xers such as myself, this happened with hindsight in about 1979.  The possibly illusory Post-War Consensus suddenly lurched out of kilter and history went in a completely different direction than most of us were expecting.  Keynesianism died, the Berlin Wall fell down, fundamentalism became more important and a horrible plague started killing homosexual men.  On the plus side, we didn't all get wiped out in a nuclear holocaust, a fact which surprises me even today.  Looking back on history and examining this more closely, it's clear that the seeds of this swerve are buried back in the mists of history and have maybe always been there but not necessarily apparent until recently.  Hence the Caroline Timeline.

The Caroline Timeline is my attempt to imagine where we'd be today if the trends apparent from 1945-79 had continued.  Some of the events are actually close calls in real time.  For instance, the "Curse of Tippecanoe" is the tendency for US presidents to die in office every twenty years.  Ronald Reagan was the first president not to die, although an assassination attempt was made against him.  Similarly, Pope John Paul II was almost assassinated but survived.  On the other hand, both Lord Louis Mountbatten and John Lennon were killed violently.  These events are "hair triggers" which had major consequences and the world today would've been different had they gone the other way.  Moreover, the real events are all improbable.  In the Caroline Timeline, they did go the other way.

Another aspect of the Caroline Timeline is that the "bonding energy" between spouses is slightly stronger.  To be less flippant and obscurantist, two divorces which happened in real history didn't happen over there, and as a result Punk Rock and Labour's Militant Tendency didn't happen.

Another major difference, and quite a contentious one, is that Moore's Law does not operate in the Caroline Timeline.  In 1820, in the real world, Augustus de Morgan was discovered at the age of fourteen in 1820 copying diagrams from Euclid's Geometry and went on to become a mathematician and logician, making innovations which eventually led to the machine i'm typing this on, the one you might be reading it on and the pipes connecting them.  Without the discoveries he made, these might not be impossible but they would be bloody massive and prohibitively expensive.  The reason this is contentious is that it stretches credulity to suppose that someone wouldn't have stumbled across them sooner or later.  It also depends on the idea that Moore's Law is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

As it happens, i have another althist here:

http://althistory.wikia.com/wiki/Forward_and_Backward

In this one, technology is more advanced and politics closer to feudalism because James II of England had only one child and James Watt went to school at the age of six.  It's a nasty place and you wouldn't want to go there.

Both of these have stories based on them too.

However, the point i want to make is that this is a way of learning history which captivates the imagination and leads to debate.  As such, i would strongly recommend it as an approach to history