Decades of Darkness is an alternate history. This genre explores what might have happened if a historical event had turned out differently. The actual event which changes is called the point of departure, or POD for short. For example, common alternate histories explore questions such as what might have happened if the Nazis had launched Operation Sealion, or what would have happened if Lee had won at Gettysburg. (The answers to those two questions turn out to be: the Nazis would have suffered a humiliating defeat, and not enough for the South to win the war). You can found out more about alternate history here.
In the Decades of Darkness, the point of departure is the early death of President Thomas Jefferson while still in office in 1809. At this time in our history, the New England states were seething over the Embargo Act, a restriction on commerce which had been intended to stop American interests from being violated by Britain and France. The Embargo Act, however, mostly had the effect of bankrupting New England merchants. In our history (called our timeline or OTL for short), Jefferson finally conceded the repeal of the Embargo Act, which took the edge off the New England secessionist movement. While it would reappear later during the War of 1812, it never really recovered its momentum.
But in this alternate history, Jefferson dies and his successors keep up the Embargo Act for a while longer. This leads to the secession of New England, supported by the United Kingdom, and to a civil war where New England gains its independence. There is now a rump-United States where the slaveholding states hold the power, and a small but wealthy and heavily industrialised Republic of New England which follows its own path of development. The Decades of Darkness traces the history of these two nations, and the rest of the world, as it takes a very different path to the events of our history.
Decades of Darkness was originally sent as a series of posts to the Usenet newsgroup soc.history.what-if. You can reach this group via a newsreader, or online through Google Groups. Decades of Darkness is also posted here here, as part of the alternatehistory.com discussion forums. The latest posts always go to soc.history-what-if and alternatehistory.com first, and get added here a few days later.
This webpage covers the events of the timeline up until the end of the main timeline in 1933. There will be an additional series of posts, called "Tales of the Decades of Darkness" which will flesh out some more details and background of the time. This timeline also forms the background for some alternate history novels, the first of which is in progress.
Comments about this timeline are welcome; you can send them to soc.history.what-if, or email them to me at email@example.com.
Hope you enjoy it,
(This website last updated 8 June 2011).
P.S. This website is also being used to host the main documents and maps for another timeline I'm working on, called Lands of Red and Gold.