Look to the West Volume IX: The Electric Circus


Important update

RIP Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Out of respect for the mourning period I will not be posting updates to this or any of my writing projects until it is concluded.

God Save King Charles III.


Part #302: For the Wings of a Dove


Audiences across the Empire well know the thrills of THE DRAKESLAND WAGGON TRAIL! But if you’re not a member of one of the lucky families who battle it out weekly in simulated challenges under the watchful eye of DOCTOR TYPHOID (Lesley Tyrrell), worry not!

Now, in the new game from ALPHA STUDIOS (“McClintock Vs Bedford Boxing Arena”, “Diamondball League ’18”, “Iason and the Golden Fleece”), the hardships and triumphs of our ancestors’ voyage across a continent come to your home ypologist! Hunt to feed your family! Fight off Tortolian raids!


Available for Davis XT-2C and 2E; Broadman P3 and compatibles; Jacquard Playcade (with authorised Ameritech ‘Paravid’ adaptor); prices start at Ī39.9.9

– Advertising poster seen on Braxton Street, Fredericksburg, ENA.
Photographed and transcribed by Dr David Wostyn, October 2020


(Dr Wostyn’s note)

We happened on this lecture quite by chance, but it proved to show surprising insight into some events in the early part of the ‘Electric Circus’ period which we had wanted to pin down. Although it’s meant to be a public-facing lecture about the travels of a female pilot in the era and was given by an air force veteran, she clearly also had a background in political history and put in more detail than one would expect. Unfortunately, the second half of the recording was damaged (mutters) after Sergeant Mumby spilled Bovril on the recorder (normal voice) but I will enclose the entire file, and hopefully the computer boys and girls at headquarters might be able to reconstruct it for later.


Recorded lecture on “Bea M’Naughten: The Myth and the Legend” by Captain Deborah Vine (IAF, retd.), recorded October 10th, 2020—

If I were to go out on the street right now, and grab someone out of the crowd and demand they tell me about Bea M’Naughten – well, I’d probably be arrested. (Laughter) But anyway, what’d they tell me? That she was the great Irish pilot, the aviatrix, the Aviatrix, with a capital letter. Top role models for little girls, like me when I was growing up. Then they’ll tell you that she was the first person to fly around the world, or something like that. The first person to fly around the world non-stop, I heard at a school recently – not from the kids, from the teacher! If I’m still around to give this talk in a decade or two’s time, I bet she’ll be the first person to have flown to the moon! (Laughter)

You don’t need me to tell you how much damage Califilms do to our youth with their…flexible approach to history. You hear about it in the papers all the time. But the worst part about a case like this is…Bea M’Naughten was a great woman, a great pioneer, and yes, a great Aviatrix. It was fully right and good that she inspired me when I was a girl. I just wish I’d been inspired by what she actually did, not what some screenwriter thought would sound like a good story. Isn’t it more impressive that she had a career of decades going on multiple long aero voyages to many places, not just some flying tour like she was trying to emulate the Great Racers? Isn’t it more inspiring that she usually led a crew of six, being a great leader, not just a great pilot? But no, let’s try to cram her whole life into an hour and a half and save on paying some walk-on actresses.

Sorry. Enough ranting about Califilms. Enough of the myth. Let me tell you about the legend. The real legend.

Beatrice Maginnis, as she was born, was – er – born in 1902 in Downpatrick in County Down. Her family were…eccentric, as you can tell by the fact that they were Protestants but gave her a rather Catholic Christian name. Her mother, Elizabeth, was a seamstress, while her father William was something of a minor celebrity. Theoretically an innkeeper, he eventually gained fame as one of Ireland’s premier chefs, despite affecting an implacable rustic image when queried about his cooking. When wealthy travellers would show up to the King’s Arms and plead for a menu, Willy Maginnis would scratch his head and mutter something about perhaps having a bit of mutton left in the pantry, as though reluctantly feeding a pair of vagrants lost in a storm. He would then proceed to serve up a meal that would make the harshest of food critics cry tears of joy. The Chappe-Cugnot Marque Guide to Ireland famously referred to him as ‘an idiot savant’, apparently not understanding the Irish sense of humour.[1]

Beatrice grew up to be a proud Ulsterwoman and at the vanguard of Cytherean progress in the north of Ireland. While her generation would frequently be dismissed as ‘Flippants’,[2] she was one of many young women who sought education and employment, with the approval of her parents. She learned to drive steam mobiles and worked for a while as a metercab driver, at a time when female-driven cabs were popular with female passengers concerned about the large number of ‘dubious [male] characters’ given cabs due to the labour shortage of the time.[3] Her future husband Desmond M’Naughten was one such male driver and they met, ironically, as part of a labour dispute negotiation between their companies’ respective unions.

Like many women of the time, it seemed as though Beatrice’s early individualism would not survive her marriage, with society expecting her to revert to the role of a housewife. Indeed, she gave up her job and the couple had one child, a son named Terry, in 1921 – shortly before the outbreak of the Black Twenties conflict. Desmond was then conscripted by the Royal Irish Army as an experienced NCO. In his absence, Beatrice – again like many women – rose to the opportunity and once again began acting of her own initiative. As well as driving again for the war effort, she also helped organise charity events, and unionised female factory workers who were being paid less than the conscripted men they had replaced. Her activities were sufficiently impactful that she was described as a ‘damn nuisance’ by the crusty old Whig-Tory MP for Gorey, Daniel Ram.[4]

But then, of course, tragedy struck in 1924 with the so-called Black Homecoming. Irish troops like Desmond, withdrawn from the European conflict, carried the first wave of the plague home with them. Beatrice’s story, on the face of it, was that of so many others. Not only did Desmond succumb to the plague not long after his return, but he or another spread it to Beatrice’s family. In the space of weeks she lost not only her husband, but her father, mother, and son. She was alone.

It was a set of circumstances that would have crushed so many people, and did – and no fault of theirs. But Beatrice, it turned out, was made of something special. She had already made an impact on Ireland. Now, she buried her pain by turning her energies to a new dream. Years before the war and the pandemic were over, she rekindled a dream which, she said later, she had held since the first time she saw an aerodrome in flight. She would become a pilot.

The film bios, which devote so much time (justifiably, I admit) to the Cytherean angle of Beatrice’s struggle for acceptance from a masculine-dominated society, are remarkably quiet on the topic of how, precisely, she learned to fly. At most, it is dealt with in a quick montage. The primary reason for this is that this period of Beatrice’s life remains one of hot debate. No-one paid much attention to her at the time, and when questioned about it in hindsight, she gave several contradictory stories. It is likely that she was trying to protect the identity of those who trained her, who were likely personnel of the Royal Ardians stationed at a nearby aerofort.[5]

Though Ireland had withdrawn from the war in all but name, her small number of aerodromes remained useful as a means of transporting doctors and urgent medical supplies as the Government grappled with the plague. With pilots in short supply thanks to that same plague, the Ardians unofficially, without authorisation, trained civilian volunteers to help manage the aerofleet. Mostly, these civilians were only used to fly dromes on short logistical flights, freeing up more experienced pilots for the primary missions.

Beatrice, it was exposed much later, was not the only woman to be trained in this role. However, she appears to be the only one who publicly opposed the Government, now led by Michael O’Gorman, shutting down the programme when news leaked out. Undaunted by having her simple, lumbering Monteagle Colm-2 two-decker taken away, she began seeking new worlds to conquer.[6]

In the immediate postwar years of 1927-8, she travelled to England. Her diaries record some of the tumultuous events of those times. England was typical of the belligerents in the Black Twenties in that her people were keen to demand recognition and reward for their years of sacrifice during war and plague. Unlike many other countries, though, there remained little in the way of political goals to focus on. England already had universal suffrage and free elections, and at least the upper house of her Parliament, the House of Knights, was elected by pure Cookeite American Percentage Representation. There would be little call for further reform of the lower House of Burgesses until multi-party elections exposed the problems associated with the ‘first-past-the-post’ plurality voting system used there.

For now, England’s issues were more associated with the fact that her constitution remained shaky after the upheavals and compromises of the Third Glorious Revolution. She had spent the last two decades as a de facto one-party state, with influence coalescing around the vague ‘Royalist’ group, later known as the Anglian Party, and opposition remaining disunited and confused. The elderly King Frederick III, who turned seventy-three in the same year that he mourned his estranged brother George, remained popular, as did his heir Prince Edward, the Prince of Wales. There seemed no place for opposition. It was only with the struggles of the Black Twenties that true opposition parties began to coalesce. Despite the moderate leadership of Charles Grey, the Anglians increasingly became associated with the doradist side of politics. Ultimately, the broad front could not be maintained as the Government were faced with hard choices, and frequently chose those which cushioned the rich at the expense of the poor.

Beatrice actually met her friend Evelyn Pace at a rally for one of the two main opposition parties, Francis Beckworth’s Trade Union Alliance, in 1928. Beckworth, a former member of the cobrist wing of the Anglians, had made his name in Parliament opposing internment of Russian civilians in the early part of the war.[7] Now, he deliberately sought to make a new proletarian party that did not draw upon the tainted legacy of Populism or the Mankind Party, one which represented trade unionists – hence the name – and used sea-green rather than purple as its colour. As the Anglians moved towards doradism, the rights of trade unions had been increasingly curtailed, with war and plague providing convenient excuses, and Beckworth capitalised on public discontent with long hours and pay cuts. He kept his powder dry while the popular Grey remained President, having won another term (albeit with reduced numbers and a now-organised opposition) at the delayed postwar election of 1926. However, when Grey chose to retire in 1928, returning to a Cincinnatian exile with his beloved wife Amy to Howick House, Beckworth sensed weakness from his more doradist, less charismatic successor Thomas Howard.

The rally attended by Beatrice and Evelyn Pace had been a precursor to the calling of the great 1928 Strike Wave, which paralysed Howard’s government and emboldened both the TUA and the other opposition party, Stuart Lightfoot’s Democratic Party. Howard courted controversy over his use of the Gendarmery or ‘redcoats’ in suppression of striking miners, and called an early general election on the theme of ‘Who Rules England?’ appealing to the people to support the elected Parliament over the supposedly ‘reckless’ trade unionists. He would not get the answer he desired, with much of the public abandoning the Anglian Party. However, vote-splitting and the plurality voting system meant that the Anglians still won a parliamentary majority in the Burgesses, albeit a narrow one, based on only about 35% of the nationwide popular vote. Conversely, in the APR-elected Knights, they lost their former majority. This result began a national conversation about voting reform, but in the short term, the Anglians elected to remove Howard in favour of Finance Secretary Frederick Osborne.

No sooner had a Frederick entered Downing House than another Frederick left St James’ Palace. King Frederick III died at the age of seventy-five, was mourned by the nation, and led to a brief constitutional scare. Some feared that the new American government would decide to press Emperor Augustus’ claim now that the ‘usurper’ was gone, seeking a victory to make up for the loss of Carolina to the Societists. But in the end, the recognition and coronation of Edward VII went without a hitch. Beatrice was a witness to all of this, yet typically of her, she writes only sparingly of it in her diaries. She was more interested in using the mourning for the King as a distraction while she sought to acquire an aerodrome – by hook or by crook.

Evelyn had worked as a mechanic during the war, and knew that the Royal Aero Force was quite willing to get rid of some of its more obsolete dromes as it turned to the increasing dominance of single-deckers. This probably saved Beatrice from plotting a heist, which she seemed fully capable of doing. The two grew very close friends as they scoured the country for a drome, then for replacement parts after obtaining a damaged Vulcan Angel that had been used to reconnoiter Belgian positions during the early part of the war. Indeed, Beatrice and Evelyn’s friendship was such that a number of modern biopics tiresomely decide to imply they were sapphics, apparently unaware that they are repeating what was an unpleasant rumour spread by jealous counter-Cytherean male pilots and others at the time.

Evelyn would be only the first of Beatrice’s all-female team, who supported her as ground crew and travelled with her on her later, longer aero voyages. She would meet the next, Jacquette Charasse, when she travelled to France with Evelyn and the Angel, as the country had more liberal laws about civilians flying aerocraft. Like England, France was also undergoing upheavals, with a parliamentary opposition that was scenting blood. Unlike England, France did not yet have universal suffrage, with over ten percent of men and at least thirty percent of women still disenfranchised.[8] Also unlike England, in France the opposition was led by a woman – the famous Madame Héloïse Mercier, née Rouvier.

This interested Beatrice enough that she paid a little more attention, and records her experience of France’s political drama in between conscientious notes about sprockets and steering gear. France can be considered the exemplar of the early Electric Circus period political phenomenon that George Spencer-Churchill the Younger called ‘bloc breaking’. During the war, democratic and semi-democratic countries had often formed American Coalition governments, seeking to build a national consensus between cobrists and doradists.[9] Meanwhile, those who opposed the continuation of the war had gradually fallen away from those coalitions, but they might be from any part of the political spectrum. While they could temporarily cooperate on foreign policy goals, their alliance was one of strange bedfellows. War policy also seemed sufficiently important to the remaining coalition loyalists that they would rather stay together than risk fighting a two-front war against the anti-war breakaways and their own erstwhile allies.

The result was that new party systems formed, which often bore little resemblance to the neatly ordered ideological blocs of the previous generation. France was a perfect example. At the end of the Black Twenties conflict in 1926, France was ruled by a combined coalition government of Diamantines, Moderates (or Verts) and neo-Jacobin Noirs. [10] Throughout the war, oppositionists had fallen away, mostly from the Diamantines. After the Changarnier Lectelgram affair in 1925, former Foreign Minister Vincent Pichereau would become the most prominent of these defections, and quickly rose to lead the anti-war cobrist opposition. The Verts’ youth organisation, the Emerald League, which spoke for many embattled young men in the trenches, elected to collaborate with Pichereau – a move led by Roger Marin. These combined discontents would fight the postwar election under what incumbent Prime Minister Bertrand Cazeneuve dismissively called the ‘Rubis coupon’. The Noir party also split into an opposition Jet faction. Most importantly, though Cazeneuve did not see the bloodbath coming, Mme Mercier, then Foreign Ministress, did. As a former Vert herself, she was uniquely placed to appeal to Verts with her own combined coupon, which eventually became the Parti saphir or Sapphire Party.[11] As in England, the delayed general election was held at the end of the war, in 1926. With help from Alain Orliac, the later Sapphires secured sufficient votes to become the second largest party in the Grand-Parlement after the Rubis, with the non-coupon Cazeneuve-loyalist Moderates crushed to third place and the two Noir factions nearly wiping each other out.

Cazeneuve would call Mercier a betrayer for the rest of his life, but France’s politics had changed irrevocably. By the time Beatrice arrived in 1928, things were unrecognisable. The Grand-Parlement was now dominated by two broad-front parties, both of which included factions derived from the former cobrist and doradist parties, and which divided themselves based on their ancestral attitudes to the war rather than any kind of ideological consistency. The elderly Duc de Berry, Dictateur during the war years, had been installed as King of Greater Poland by a strongarmed Election Sejm, safely removing him from the French political landscape. Though Pichereau was a competent politician, the shaky Rubis alliance was falling apart under its own contradictions, struggling to cope with new challenges such as the renewed rise of Pérousien and Bisnagi nationalism. His majority collapsed in 1929, and the Sapphires were swept to power. Héloïse Mercier had been France’s first Foreign Ministress; now she would be her first Prime Ministress.

A recurring question for Beatrice’s biographers is just how much she herself influenced this result in France. France was a land of aeronauts, of pioneers of the air, ever since the Montgolfier brothers had hoisted their balloons aloft. This tradition was reflected in the country’s rather lax laws that allowed aerocraft to be operated by amateurs and civilians; while these had been tightened during the war, it had been an easy win for a ‘return to normality’ for Pichereau to reverse this. Postwar France was full of discharged pilots of the Royal Aerostatic Corps, now unwilling to return to humdrum jobs after their years of peril and adventure. With surplus aerodromes also reasonably easy to obtain, these pilots turned to stunt flying at provincial fairs, events which saw an explosion in the heady postwar years. Despite ineffectual attempts by the authorities to crack down, crowds would be wowed as pilots fought mock dogfights, played musical instruments or performed other stunts in the air, or even emerged from their aerodrome to ‘walk the wings’. These aerofétards became an icon of their age, and the French term has become the usual one even in other countries, many of whom saw the practice spread there.

Naturally, Beatrice felt that what the French could do, she could do better. Jacquette Charasse was a like-minded Frenchwoman whose brother had been a pilot before an injury. Together, they flew the Angel at the Paris Technological Expo of 1929, only weeks before the election. Exposed as women mid-flight (not as…frontally as some bios would suggest!) they were briefly arrested, only to be released as Cythereans marched on the police station in question. Certainly, Beatrice and Jacquette’s adventures provided Mme Mercier with a high-profile illustration in her vocal and charismatic attacks on the continuing inequality women were faced with, which helped rally the female electorate to oppose the Rubis. But it would be misleading, and rather insulting to her, to imply this was the only string to Mercier’s bow.

As for Beatrice, her own ambitions still had a long way to be satisfied. After the controversy of the Paris arrest, she, Jacquette and Evelyn crossed the border from France into the new Grand Duchy of Luxemburg. Grand Duke Maximilian had been forced to sign a treaty that effectively neutralised his remnant of the former Belgium and severely limited its armed forces, reducing it to part of a buffer between France and Germany. It transpired that the wording of this treaty had been a little unwise on one point – it specified that Luxemburg was forbidden from training any men to pilot war aerodromes. While recent members of the House of Wittelsbach had sometimes been known for prejudice against women, they had also famously (or infamously) exploited that attitude from others, as in the adventures of the Duchess of Brabant’s Girls.[12] Maximilian was more pragmatic than his namesake, and invited Beatrice to develop an all-female aero training school at Sint Hubert.[13]

Beatrice might have fame but, of course, she was still early in her career and lacked experience. While she was the figurehead of the Sint Hubert Luchtmacht Academie, much of the real work was done by the (male) veterans of the now-disbanded Royal Belgian Aero Force, who were forbidden from flying themselves but developed inventive methods to train their female charges on the ground.[14] Though ground aero simulators had been developed during the Black Twenties, it was here that they were brought to their most sophisticated state before the advent of surfinal ypologetics.[15] In reality, Beatrice almost certainly benefited more herself from training than any she bestowed upon Maximilian’s female pilots – but the myth is important too, for this was another part of the critical ‘Cytherean moment’ at the beginning of the Second Interbellum. At this stage in her life, Beatrice’s achievements were more symbolic, but symbols change the world as much as concrete reality does.

While in Luxemburg, Beatrice recruited another member of her group, Floortje Sterckx, a pilot candidate who washed out of training but became a valued member of her travelling ground crew. After the Academie had become self-sustaining, Beatrice left in 1931. She performed at Luftfest Frankfurt ’32, which the capital of the German state of Grand Hesse organised. This was one of the first legitimate aero shows with government backing of the period, rather than happening unofficially and away from the eyes of the authorities. (As an aside, it’s important to note that aero shows had existed way back in the nineteenth century with balloons, steerables and early aerodromes; it’s since aerodromes became such feared weapons of war that governments had cracked down on civilian demonstrations, but now they were giving up).

Again, as always there was a political agenda to how Beatrice was hosted, used and portrayed. Like other countries, Germany was still going through a period of postwar turmoil. The royal family had come out of the Black Twenties as an increasingly unpopular institution, at least on the federal level. Not only was Bundeskaiser Anton disliked for consistently misreading public opinion during the war, but his more popular son Moritz had died of the plague. The heir apparent (and current King of High Saxony) was now the unpopular and infamous dilettante grandson, Christian Augustus. These factors had damaged the link between the royals and the Treuliga party in the Bundesdiet, which had formerly been both the main doradist party and effectively the royal mouthpiece. A Hochrad-led government under Wolfgang Ruddel had led the country through the nightmare of the Black Twenties, but certainly not without controversy. Discontent, over the unequal suffering of classes in the icy trenches of the Oder Bridgehead and the plague hospitals alike, meant that increasing numbers of working-class voters abandoned the Hochrads for their Niederrad coalition partners.[16] The divided Treuliga failed to win the contentious 1926 election, but Ruddel was replaced by a Niederrad Bundeskanzler from egalitarian Grand Hesse, Uwe Fischer.

By the time Beatrice arrived, the atmosphere in Germany was charged. The aristocracy and business both feared the reforming Fischer government, many seeking to oppose its policies through the state diets rather than in the Bundesdiet. The Treuliga finally fragmented into a two parts. The first was a smaller continuing Treuliga faction led by Matthias von Below, which continued to vocally support the Bundeskaiser. (It is, perhaps, significant that they had to find a Billungian nobleman to lead it, as the High Saxon nobility were growing increasingly discontented with Christian Augustus). The second, larger fragment was the Vereinspartei, led by Gerhard von Nostitz, a relative of the famous Unification War hero, who had begun to quietly criticise the monarchy during the war.[17] Though not openly republican, the Vereinspartei firmly expressed a message that they presented their own ideas, not merely acting as the Bundeskaiser’s mouthpiece. Among the more unusual of those ideas was their argument that Germany’s federal system had weakened her response to the war and plague, advocating a more centralised and unitary form of government. As I said before, this was unusual, because most aristocrats tended to use German federalism against the Radicals.

Though von Nostitz himself was not like this, the Vereinspartei also tended to be associated with young fanatics who took inspiration from Italy’s authoritarian and patriarchal Romulan movement. The Grand Hessians inviting Beatrice to perform was therefore not only a celebration of Cytherean values, but a pointed attack on the Vereinspartei street gangs who were destabilising politics. Unsurprisingly, the show was followed by Areian riots in which Beatrice and her comrades escaped by – of course – air. These riots which gave the Radical government an excuse to institute new police powers and crack down on the gangs. A portion of the old Hochrads, led by Fritz von Ziege’s son Bernd, broke away in opposition to this policy, arguing it could just as easily be used to suppress cobrist groups when they were out of power. Bernd von Ziege formed the Freie Radikalen (Freierad) party as a voice for liberal views.

Beatrice finally returned to Ireland in late 1931 as a celebrity, with Dermot Higgins’ NRA government being unable to suppress her even if they had wanted to – in fact many among the party celebrated her achievements. 1932 would see the first of the long-distance flights that would really make her name. Really though, this one was a modest hop that was noteworthy only because it was the first time a woman had performed it, merely a flight from Dublin to Anglesey. Nonetheless, Beatrice drew crowds, and her fundraiser allowed her to finally purchase a longer-range aerodrome, a French-built Laporte Pélican-3 heavy seadrome which she named the Merganser.[18] Seadromes had become popular during the First Interbellum, and would continue to be used throughout the Second in some parts of the world. However, their key advantage was that they allowed a pilot to land on water and dock at a seaport like a boat when no aeroport was available – and, while that was still true in many lands, many more had been carpeted with concrete aeroforts during the Black Twenties, some of which were now surplus to requirements and available for civilian use.[19]

Beatrice’s choice of a seadrome reveals her ambitions, even from that early stage, to venture far beyond what her neighbours back in Downpatrick might call ‘civilised lands’. She herself was more open-minded. She didn’t have to travel far from Europe to prove it, either. Later in 1932 she would take the Merganser on her maiden voyage, travelling to England, then France (now securely under Mme Mercier’s government). Some wondered if she would defy the loudly public ban which the Romulans had placed on her by travelling to Italy, but instead she stunned public opinion even more. She would cross the Bay of Biscay and become a high-profile witness to the events taking place in the Iberian Peninsula...


(Dr Wostyn’s note)

Unfortunately the uncorrupted recording ends there. I hope you will be able to make something of the rest, but in the meantime, we have more recordings to send you shortly. If the good sergeant can keep his unspeakable meat products away from these...

[1] See Part #266 in Volume VII for more on the Chappe-Cugnot Marque, which is similar to OTL’s Michelin stars.

[2] She would actually be a tad young to be described as a Flippant if born in 1902.

[3] In many places, though not necessarily Ireland, this often refers to veterans of the Pandoric War psychologically affected by their experiences.

[4] In practice by this point the Whig-Tories had been absorbed into the Gold Party (Paírtí Óir) but the label did stick around for particularly old-fashioned MPs such as Ram.

[5] I.e. air base, the term being used a little anachronistically here. ‘Royal Ardians’ is a nickname for the Royal Irish Air Force, ‘ardian’ meaning ‘bird chief’ in Gaelic; in OTL it was proposed, but not accepted, as a rank in the then-new Royal Air Force.

[6] The Monteagle Colm-2 is roughly equivalent to OTL’s Vickers Vernon, and is a licensed copy of the English-built Astra Pigeon freight drome with a slightly different Irish CorkCorp engine.

[7] See Part #278 in Volume VIII.

[8] Note how this compares to the figures quoted in Part #229 of Volume VI; French suffrage was already somewhat liberalised by the Diamantine governments after the withdrawal of the IEF from South America. This also refers specifically to the Grand-Parlement, with the Parlements-Provincial having enjoyed universal suffrage for years before the Pandoric War.

[9] Recall that ‘American Coalition’ is the term often used in TTL to mean grand coalition or national crisis government, due the practice being associated with the ENA during the antebellum years in which the presence of the Carolinian Whigs essentially forced the Liberals and Supremacists to cohabit.

[10] Technically, of course, the Noirs are paleo-Jacobin rather than neo-Jacobin…

[11] See Part #297 in Volume VIII.

[12] As previously mentioned, the significance of the ‘Duchess of Brabant’s Girls’ (a series of female spies and sleeper agents raised by the Duchess from youth to be fanatically loyal to the former King Maximilian IV and the state) tends to be exaggerated by pop culture in TTL, a few high-profile cases obscuring their real level of impact.

[13] Not the OTL village in the Dutch province of North Brabant, but a Flemish-isation of the OTL Walloon town of Saint-Hubert/Sint-Houbert, following racial purging after the Route des Larmes.

[14] The lecturer is switching back and forth between Dutch and English terms here; ‘Luchtmacht’ is the Dutch or Flemish term (in both OTL and TTL) for air force.

[15] Electronic computers. Similarly, in OTL quite sophisticated simulators were developed in the Second World War, despite working through purely mechanical means.

[16] These parties are not as well-defined as this makes it sound. Both Hochrads and Niederrads represent factions that are part of a broader Radical Bloc or Cobrist Bloc. The difference is that Hochrads or High Radicals tend to be of more aristocratic and middle-class who pursue cobrist (left-wing) goals from a paternal perspective, believing they are the best course for the nation, whereas Niederrads or Low Radicals are of working-class extraction themselves and have more ‘skin in the game’.

[17] See Part #284 in Volume VIII.

[18] Terminology in TTL does not strictly distinguish between what we would call seaplanes (planes that land on water using pontoons, but their fuselage is out of the water) and the larger flying-boats (planes whose fuselage is shaped like a ship’s hull and is immersed in the water when they land). Both are referred to as seadromes, with the ‘heavy’ qualifier being the only hint that this is a flying-boat.

[19] This, in WW2, is what killed the flying-boat in OTL (especially the famous ‘Empire’ flying-boat routes). Things are more drawn-out in TTL because, although the Black Twenties conflict was global, it was not to the same extent that WW2 was, so there are still plenty of areas without former military air bases turned airports where flying-boats still make sense – for now.


Gone Fishin'
If the Romulans are an analogue of Italian Fascism, do they fit into the emerging diversitarian framework or will they be viewed like Salazar's Portugual or Francoist spain in the years after WW2, isolated initially?

Also without France there are still 7 colonial powers: Italy, England, Scandinavia, Russia, China, Corea and Oman.
With Russia 'out' eventually due to the Sunrise war
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European electoral politics when there's a whole divided Africa facing down the Black Menace and suspiciously-African-looking-Indian-elephant (a jape, I assure you) flagged Bisnaga yet to be born?!? Thande, you tease!

But in all seriousness, while this section has started with the two kinds of update I generally like the least (science/tech update and Euro-centric individual update), it does show how well fleshed out and "real" LTTW is, compared to the vast, if not near entire, majority of alternate history out there. And for that, bravo sir.

Finally, while I'm sure it's on the list, any ideas when we can see the map of the post-Black Twenties world? I believe it was @Beatriz who did a version that you had commented was close (and if not them, my apologies!), but would be curious for more.

I ws rereading volume 5 and I came about an interesting comment by a user named teg predicting tge outcome of tye black twenties in North America. I just found it interesting how accurate this way
I think what makes this timeline so special compared to others is that it examines the implications of a world that's completely different from ours. People call things differently, they interpret things differently, and they even use technology that while similar to OTL, doesn't work the way you are familiarized with it.
Yeah, it really is its own world and it takes a while to assimilate all the stuff he's even saying because of the vocabulary at least for me. It's like culture shock embedded in fiction, going to a different place and time and seeing all the things that should realistically be different be different, and not just things but concepts. You need broad general knowledge of things to even get a lot of it. You have to be very not retarded to design such a complete world, big ups to the author.
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Yeah, it really is its own world and it takes a while to assimilate all the stuff he's even saying because of the vocabulary at least for me. It's like culture shock embedded in fiction, going to a different place and time and seeing all the things that should realistically be different be different, and not just things but concepts. You need broad general knowledge of things to even get a lot of it. You have to be very not retarded to design such a complete world, big ups to the author.

Oh HELL no.

DO NOT even consider repeating this.


Part #303: Chaos With Chinese Characteristics







Read more on Motext page 42K-112!

Paid for by the American Friends of Annamese Freedom, fully authorised and registered campaign group, registration number AF10/86210

– Political poster seen on Gooch Street, Fredericksburg, ENA.
Photographed and transcribed by Dr David Wostyn, October 2020


(Dr Wostyn’s note)

Of course, I make no apologies for selecting my particular area of interest for the next lecture recording we have digitised. In this timeline, China certainly has a larger cultural impact on the western world than what we are familiar with, yet I would say it still remains neglected in relation to its vast population and history. Furthermore, our recent focus has been on largely European (and, I suppose, American or ‘Novamundine’ as they say here) descriptions of the Black Twenties period. But China, as we saw, played a crucial role in the outbreak of that conflict and the following plague. After the beginnings of the plague pandemic, our descriptions of China – and its neighbour Siam – were few and far between. It is high time we remedy that, and I have just the lecture…


Recorded lecture on “The Modern History of China, Part 3” by Dr Ambrose Renfrew and Dx Xu Jingyi, recorded October 16th, 2020—

It had seemed that the 1920s dawned auspiciously for the Chinese Empire, if I can be forgiven a rather stereotypical word choice. (Laughter) To recap, following the death of Xuanming the Great in 1905, his son succeeded to the throne as the Huifu Emperor. At the time, people both inside China and beyond it wondered how he could possibly live up to the example that his father had set.

Xuanming’s reign occupied the years of the Long Peace, which in East Asian terms comes between the end of the Second Sino-Siamese War in 1871, and the outbreak of the Pandoric War in 1896. This period is almost synonymous with what is called the Weixin or Reform period, in which Xuanming and his allies, such as Wu Mengchao, sought to modernise many aspects of Chinese society and industry.[1] China – or, I should say, then, merely Feng China – had shown its superiority over the fading northern remnant of the Beiqing, but had received a rude awakening from the modernising Siamese Empire. Feng Chinese forces had lost the naval battle of Qiongzhou Strait, as well as land battles against Siam which resulted in Siam regaining lands in Tonkin at the peace treaty. Emperor Xuanming’s challenge had been to ensure that Feng China did not merely outstrip the Beiqing, but the Siamese – and stand up to Europeans and Novamundines too. This was not only achieved, but benefits of industrialisation trickled down to the common people, who obtained the use of China’s Optel network (while Lectel was reserved for government use) and whose literacy increased as education was reformed and modernised.

Under Xuanming, China also built a remarkable, but nowadays rather controversial, legacy: imperial expansion over the Himalayas into northern India. The establishment of Jushina, today’s Panchala, as a Chinese vassal state is an act that has left echoes down history to today.[2]

The great irony of Xuanming’s tenure as Emperor was that he is sometimes seen, especially by outsiders, as being defined by the two wars at the start and end of his reign – but he was undoubtedly most active during the period in between. It was his patient peacetime modernisation which led China to reap the benefits during the Pandoric War, which there is usually described through its two component conflicts involving China – the Third Sino-Siamese War and the War of Chinese Reunification. Not only did Chinese forces defeat Siam on land and sea this time and gain practically all of Tonkin as Jiaozhi Province, but when Russia desperately forced the Beiqing to join the war to shore up their position against the Americans, China took the opportunity to swiftly reconquer the rotten husk of the Beiqing regime. After almost a century of division following the Three Emperors’ War, China was finally reunified.

As Ambrose said, that was a lot for the Huifu Emperor to live up to when he came to the throne, and yet he did. Like his father, he faced a great number of challenges as soon as he ascended to power. China suffered floods and famines in 1908, and with the removal of the Beiqing as a common enemy, there was much division among political theorists and scholars about what direction the state should take.

In the aftermath of the war, Huaqiao people – overseas Chinese – began to return. Some of them had never lived in China and only barely spoke Chinese, as a second language. Some returned because they saw opportunities in the new reunited China, but many also came because of catastrophe in their united homelands, especially as chaos and then Societism spread across the Nusantara. These people were an unexpected and unpredictable element, a new spice in the bubbling stewpot of Chinese society, which was already reeling from the emergence of the Flippant youth subculture also seen elsewhere.[3]

As in Europe, common people were also beginning to assert their voice anew, with technology and new kinds of urban civilisation meaning that they were no longer cut off from the corridors of power. There remained a profound difference, which has still not entirely vanished today, between the cities and the countryside in China. Frequently, organised poor urban workers might start to gain a voice, while to the rural peasant, the only difference between him and his ancestors was that he could pay to borrow a coal-fired steam tractor for a day to supplement his water buffalo. This wasn’t always true, of course, and some influential figures – especially artists and musicians – did escape the monotony of rural agriculture to leave their mark on China. But they did so by going to the cities.

That’s right, Jingyi. Well, if the New School Confucian conservatives and isolationists had thought Xuanming was radical, they would be appalled anew by Huifu. One of his boldest reforms was to rotate the capital city between Hanjing, Nanjing, Beijing and Xi’an every six months, a way of appeasing interests that had grown resentful about power being concentrated in the south.

In time, there would be a counter-reaction against that as well, with the people of Hanjing and its surrounding provinces reviving and celebrating their Nanyue heritage, rather than regarding themselves as the true heirs of Han culture, as they had during the years of division. But that still lay in the future.

Yes. Huifu’s other major reform was the creation of the One Hundred and Eight Mandators, a demarchic random sampling of people across Chinese society. This was his attempt to plot a third way between traditional Chinese conservative ideas and those advocating European-style democracy. Most Chinese schools of thought agreed with the concept of the ‘Mandate of Heaven’, that an Emperor could lose his divine mandate and that this was expressed through natural disasters as well as popular revolts. The philosophy of the Mandators was to suggest a kind of early warning system for such a loss, which would allow misconceived policy to be rethought before it was too late.

Xi Juzheng, Huifu’s ally and one of the architects of the system, explicitly compared it to the famous seismograph of Zhang Heng.[4] Just as a bronze dragon on the device might drop a ball into the mouth of a toad to indicate the direction and strength of an earthquake, discontent from a peasant reacting to a proposed policy in the Palace of the 108 could suggest the cause of a potential revolt before it broke out.

Yes. Huifu appears to have seen it as more of a symbolic rubber-stamp originally, but responded to noble complaints by forcing nobles to be part of the assembly as well. The selection was, at first, genuinely randomised. Peasant Mandators would usually be bribed to agree with state policy ninety-nine percent of the time, at least publicly, but in private might voice concerns that would be fed back to the mandarins. Their families would be exempted from taxes and subsidised for the duration of the year they served, ensuring they did not suffer from the loss of a working man. Such largesse also helped endear the Emperor across the nation in a new and concrete way, even though being selected as a Mandator was not always seen as a positive.

Huifu had also continued his father’s push for industrialisation and the construction of railways, roads, modernised canals, and other arteries for communication and transport. China’s ‘natural’ economic place in the world had always been near the top, but the empire had suffered under years of Qing decline and division, falling behind Europe’s Industrial Revolution. Now, China’s economy swelled, with some of that prosperity trickling down to the common people, especially in the large cities.

And again, more controversially, some partly attribute this influx of wealth to the mass theft of gold and jewels from Jihadi-burnt Hindu temples in Jushina by Chinese adventurers. Regardless, China’s status as an economic powerhouse was proved by the Panic of 1917. This global recession was partly kicked off when Chinese troops controversially intervened in Corea, putting down a public revolt against King Geongjong by those angry about the imprisonment of reformist politician Lee Chang-jung.[5] Overnight, China had changed the balance of power in the region, effectively booting the Russians out of their seat of influence over Corea and even the corporate possessions of Corean businessmen in Yapon and the International Guntoor Authority. The market shock from this sudden shift, coupled to the Kingdom of Guatemala defaulting on her war debt payments, destroyed the shaky remnant of the pre-Pandoric War ‘Antwerp System’ and spent the world spiralling into recession.

Though there was some economic fallout in China itself, overall the strong and largely self-sufficient Chinese economy weathered the crisis well, with state-backed Chinese business consortia acting to bail out foreign corporate entities on the verge of collapse. This saw China gaining additional influence in the Liaodong and Formosan Republics, as well as in the former ‘Senhor Oliveira’s Company’ (now renamed the Concan Confederacy) in India, and beyond. At a time when other powerful economies such as Russia, France and the ENA were using bailouts to gain influence, China was asserting her seat at the top table of world affairs.

So in the year 1919, China had a restive population coupled to a reforming Emperor, a sense of growing power tempered by a feeling that the job remained unfinished. The remaining flies in the ointment, from a nationalist perspective, was that Russia still occupied parts of Manchuria that had formerly been nominally part of their Beiqing puppet state; that the Liaodong and Formosan Republics remained formally independent; and that a further war with Siam, influenced by the Red Sash Brigade revanchists, seemed inevitable and inescapable.

That status quo would suffer two remarkable blows separated by a few years. In 1919 itself, successful French negotiation managed to defuse tensions between China and Siam, returning part of Tonkin to Siam in return for Siamese recognition of the rest remaining China’s Jiaozhi Province, and China flexing her economic muscles to Siam’s benefit. This was the Treaty of Guiling. With mutual mistrust declining, new trade links were built, which would yield a terrible, unintentional harvest as they linked certain parts of the remote Yunnan Province to the rest of the world.[6]

But we’ll get to that. France was also building alliances with the ENA and others, seeking to contain an expansionist Russia. What the French had not expected was that China, led diplomatically by Foreign Minister Ding Guoyang, Duke of Cao, had other ideas. The victory against the Beiqing in the Pandoric War, coupled to the Russians being pushed out of their position of influence in Corea, had severely tipped the balance of odds in terms of any future Russo-Chinese war. Tsar Paul was enough of a realist to realise that Russia could not possibly hope to fight China as well as the ENA and the French-led European alliance. Thus, just as France had bought Siamese neutrality against China to try to persuade China to attack Russia, Russia bought Chinese neutrality against themselves. Most of the disputed Manchurian territories were ceded to China, and Russia recognised China’s immediate annexation of the Liadong and Formosan Republics, finally returning long-lost territory to the metropole.[7]

France, the only other world power that would normally be in a position to protest, could of course scarcely do so, as she found herself dragged into what was then called the ‘Khivan War’ with a rather smaller alliance than she had thought she had. And so China secured several long-running policy goals in the matter of a handful of years, without going to battle – not with a shout, but with a sigh. If France had been the ‘Vulture’ of the Pandoric War, using her strength to remain neutral and then exploit the chaos of the postwar situation as a strong and fresh arbiter among exhausted rivals, it seemed that this title would now pass to China. The so-called Celestial Empire had gone from being the divided playground of European trade to a nation that bestrode the world like a giant.[8]

With these popular achievements, one might assume that the rule of the Huifu Emperor, and of the Feng Dynasty system, was now assured. But history is not so predictable.

Certainly, as Jingyi said earlier, China faced a number of challenges that could not be entirely brushed over by economic strength and foreign policy triumphalism – the return of many Huaqiao from the diaspora, the urban-rural divide, the continuing divisions over political ideology and questions of religious tolerance.

But the biggest factor was, of course, one which no-one saw coming. That self-same peace, those increased trade links between China and Siam, would open up the formerly isolated province of Yunnan and allow its people and goods to be traded far afield. It’s believed that the bubonic plague, known today in China as shu-yi, the Rat-sickness, had existed in natural reservoirs in Yunnan for years, perhaps even centuries. There are recorded cases of plague in Yunnan going back many years before the outbreak of the Third Plague Pandemic across the world. In 1805, shortly before his death from an earlier plague outbreak, Xu Wenxing wrote a despairing poem about it, ‘The Ballad of Dying Rats’ which begins thusly:

“Rats die to the left, to the right!
Folk would sooner see a tiger than a dying rat
For days after the rats fall
Folk join them, crumbling like a a besieged wall.
Never count the number
Of those who die before sunset!”[9]

Much like Europeans of the same era, just because the Chinese people were aware of the connection between dying rats and a plague outbreak did not mean they knew how the plague was transmitted. At the time that Xu lived, the Chinese still viewed mass disease as an act of divine judgement; in their cosmology, the Jade Emperor’s celestial government had a Ministry of Epidemics which would unleash plagues in response to sin and complacency from the people. That was a model which, in broad strokes, many mediaeval Europeans would concur with. In the age of the Enlightenment, such ideas seemed to be swept away – but Europeans were no closer to deducing the origins of diseases. Scientifically-minded savants in both Europe and China remained firmly convinced of the miasma theory of disease, albeit formulated in slightly different ways. Xu’s poem refers to ‘plague ghosts stealing souls’ as an agent of disease, not the dead rats themselves, which are seen purely as a warning and omen. Even when European doctors had suggested rats as a disease vector, many dismissed it as a cause compared to the eating of contaminated food (which can be a real cause of the plague, but in reality an extremely rare one).[10]

So plague was not known by the name shu-yi until the Black Twenties themselves, when both European and Chinese – and Novamundine – scientists finally began to unlock the secrets of how so many had died in the preceding centuries.

The first wave of the plague in China, in early 1923 by the Gregorian calendar, was by far the worst, with as many as a million deaths – the figures are disputed. This was because the seemingly minor initial outbreaks were spread across the nation, along with neighbouring Siam, by people travelling for Lunar New Year celebrations.[11] Though the rest of the Old World and the Novamund were both eventually ravaged by the plague in their turn, there was at least the fact that it burned relatively slowly across them and generally allowed some time to prepare, Ireland’s Black Homecoming aside. China, by contrast, was hit hard and all at once, in every major city and much of the countryside as well. Though China was not distracted by involvement in a global war, the nature of this first wave meant that doctors and civil servants were frequently overwhelmed.

It is still disputed in Chinese academia when the concept of quarantine first began in China. Those arguing from a Diversitarian point of view like to bring up that sufferers from earlier epidemics were told to ‘isolate’ in monasteries many hundreds of years ago, but it’s not clear whether it was recognised that it was the isolation that was preventing the disease spreading. Of course, the more obvious reason to send a patient to a monastery was because of the understanding that disease was a divine punishment for sin! Modern notions of quarantine probably did not enter China until the opening of the Feng south to Western ideas at the start of the nineteenth century.[12]

This is not to say that Western ideas of quarantine at the time were necessarily very sophisticated. The name stems from the Venetian word meaning ‘forty’, as the first quarantine – during the Black Death or the Second Plague Pandemic – was imposed on visitors to that city, sending them to an island for forty days before they were permitted to enter. Europeans’ use of quarantine was evidence-based, but not grounded in any useful scientific theory. The one advantage of the incorrect miasma theory of disease was that the same kind of isolation measures aimed at a fictional ‘bad air’ disease agent should also keep out the actual pathogens – at least, if rats and fleas could not get into the isolation zone.

Nonetheless, by the time of the first plague wave in 1923, the concept of quarantine was sufficiently well-established in China that the Huifu Emperor’s government imposed a strict quarantine between all major cities to try to slow the spread. This was of limited effectiveness at first, as the plague had largely already been spread by the Lunar New Year journeys, but did help keep individual cities plague-free once the wave had peaked and burned out there. Though faced with some mutual prejudice against each others’ work, Chinese and European (and later Novamundine) scientists did pool their resources to try to find more modern ways to fight the disease outbreak. The animalcule pathogen was identified by the Meridian Refugiado scientist in the Philippines, Miguel García, and was thus dubbed García pestis or G. pestis for short.[13] The role of rats and fleas was identified by teams working in France, Russia and China almost simultaneously, though all three faced scepticism from their colleagues at first.

Having ascertained how the disease was spread, the Huifu Emperor’s government now turned to combative measures rather than just merely control. China’s chemical industry had grown over the years, especially after the collapse of the UPSA cut off certain imports. It was now turned to the production of Vienna Green and other chemical pesticides used to kill off both rats and fleas alike.[14] After a plague vaccine was developed by Siamese scientists in 1925 (following an earlier breakthrough by the Societists), a deal was struck between China and Siam: the Siamese would share their secrets in return for China’s vast factories turning out the vaccine in huge quantities for export, as well as supplying more Vienna Green. Later, Chinese scientists also independently reverse-engineered the formula for the American rat poison Birline, whose patent was jealously guarded but which had already been stolen by Guinean agents.[15]

With vast resources, weapons with which to fight the human foe, and no distraction from war involvement, it seemed as though China was well placed to deal with the epidemic. However, it transpired that the plague would be a bigger challenge for the Huifu Emperor’s government than any expected. It also dramatically exposed the inequalities and inhomogeneities within the Chinese state, peeling back the superficial triumphs of the Feng Dynasty and revealing that there could be a rotten core within.

The divide in China was threefold: north versus south, rich versus poor, and urban versus rural. The places which fought the plague most effectively were the southern cities, especially the seaports. They had been Feng for longest, they had been exposed to European ideas enough to be comfortable with many of them (notably leading to modern sanitation and sewer systems) and they felt the most visceral yet knowing loyalty to the Emperor and the state. Ambrose, if you could bring up the map…

The capital of Hanjing, despite having many poorer suburbs, managed to eliminate the plague for the first time as early as mid-1924. Other southern coastal cities such as Fuzhou, Shantou, Quanzhou and Xiamen (or Amoy) were generally also successful in their counter-plague efforts. Things were more mixed in cities like Nanjing (or Jiangning), Wuchang, Anqing, Luoyang and Kaifeng. Chengdu, despite being less modernised than some of those cities, generally managed to control the plague well due to a combination of quarantines and somewhat reckless use of Vienna Green. Guiyang’s response was generally good on paper, but sheer geographic proximity to Yunnan (and the new roads and rail links) made it difficult for the local government to stay on top of the situation before a new group of disease vectors could arrive.

The real problems arose further north. Despite being one of the four capitals, Beijing’s modernisation was only, what is that word you use Ambrose? Scattershot. Yes. It was incomplete, and the local administration was only one generation removed from the corrupt and ineffectual Beiqing rule. Do not misunderstand, the Huifu Emperor and the Feng government had worked hard to try to bring it up to date, but inevitably not everything could be prioritised at once. For example, there was a modern sewer system, but the workers operating it were not always sufficiently well educated to understand the importance of it to the spread of disease. Things were even worse in cities like Taiyuan, Tianjin and Baoding, where there had been less incentive to modernise without the Emperor in town. Undoubtedly the worst city was Yingkou in the former Liaodong Republic, whose local population had been viewed as a source of labour, and otherwise some inconvenient background noise, by generations of French, Corean, Russian and other foreign traders seeking influence there.

The geographical divide was exacerbated by social class and education, or lack thereof. Most southerners understood that quarantine, spraying with Vienna Green and Birline, and getting vaccinated were things everyone needed to do in order to halt the spread of the plague. Northerners, by contrast, typically viewed them as purely performative acts which one might do to pay lip service if the Emperor’s representative was watching – but otherwise, why not sell the canister of Vienna Green on the black market and use the money to go drinking in an illegal bar?

This is a stereotype, as there were many ignorant and slapdash southerners (as some newspapers of the time highlight) and some conscientious and intelligent northerners, such as the great public health advocate Wang Beiling. However, this impression was the root cause of increasing division and resentment within China. The southern cities would repeatedly eradicate the plague and open up, only to face a new outbreak as people from plague-stricken northern cities entered. Internal passports had been introduced, but the endemic corruption in parts of the former Beiqing north meant that there was always someone ready to forge one.

Even when the troops were sent in to a northern city to enforce the vaccination programme, the uneducated rural peasantry – even in parts of the south – could be relied upon to spread the plague regardless. To them, plague was still very much a divine punishment and one which could only be dealt with through ritualistic prayer and offerings to Guan Yu, the God of Plague, or the Bodhisattva Guanyin, Goddess of Mercy.[16] Ironically, Guan Yu’s cult had formerly been especially popular in the southern Guandong Province, but this association with the ignorant northern peasantry sent this into decline. Indeed, it was at this time that the romantic revival of the pre-Han Nanyue identity, specifically distinguishing the southern coast from the rest of China, first began to emerge.

This southern frustration led to much of the unity which the Feng had built now beginning to crumble at the edges. Huifu’s son Zhuling, the recognised Crown Prince among his four surviving sons, had built much of his career on attempting to reintegrate the Beiqing lands into the crown. Now he worked all the harder to try to combat both the destructive ignorance and corruption of the northerners, and the resentful prejudice which the southerners directed at them. Zhuling resorted to a strikingly modern public health campaign which borrowed imagery from more traditional sources. Stories of an everyman protagonist who is shown horrific images of plague by Guanyin, who warns him to follow public health procedures rather than to pray to her, and to keep a cat to hunt rats, portrayed as an agent of heaven. For the illiterate, images of the Bodhisattva carrying a large vaccination syringe or Vienna Green canister began to appear.[17]

Another son of the Emperor who rose to particular prominence at this time was Prince Zhuzhong. More stolid and less ambitious than his brother Zhuling, Zhuzhong had served in the Imperial Army as a commander during the Pandoric War. Though young and inexperienced, he lacked the destructive arrogance and paranoid insecurity that many nobles thrust into such a position, in many nations, had felt. Zhuzhong was more than willing to defer to the advice of his mentor General (later Marshal) Liang Dezhao, and in time could step into his shoes as a capable leader in his own right.

Zhuzhong lacked political ambition and got on well with his brother, though the two disagreed on the former Beiqing northern territories. Unlike Zhuling’s compassion for the northerners, Zhuzhong had acquired a low opinion of them when he had served in the conquest of the north – especially compared to the Siamese (and the Annamese in particular) whom he respected as worthy adversaries. Zhuzhong believed the only way to rule the north was with an iron fist, that the only thing these backward, Manchu-ridden peasants would respect was force alone, and that anything more would only service the endemic corruption in the region. Some, reading stories of those sewer workers selling their Vienna Green canisters for a pittance and then spreading the plague when they were bitten by fleas, muttered that he might be right. However, Zhuzhong loyally supported his brother and father in public and never declared any such opinion in the political sphere. His views became known only through leaked letters, for he was stationed far away for most of the plague years.

From 1878 onwards, with the defeat of Tibet and Nepal, Feng China had begun pushing her influence into the northern Indian plain.[18] Remember we talked about it last time? Jushinajieluo – or just Jushina – that’s modern Panchala – came under Chinese control, and so did Delhi in time. Actually most Chinese people would say they built the Panchali state out of disparate parts and Panchala merely inherited it – but the Panchalis would disagree, as is their Diversitarian right. (Slightly nervous laughter)

Since 1890, the Tripitaka Tours Company had been bringing Chinese Buddhist pilgrims along the same route that Xuanzang had trod over a thousand years before, as immortalised – with embellishments! – by Wu Cheng’en in Journey to the West. At first, the local people (we can’t really call them Panchalis back then) welcomed Chinese rule as an island of stability after the chaos and destruction unleashed by the Great Jihad and the anarchy of its aftermath. By the 1920s, though, China had been ruling and taxing the area for almost forty years, and public resentment was starting to grow. It wouldn’t really kick off until the Thirties, but many of the Hindu spiritual fathers of the Panchali independence movement were already beginning to make themselves heard. Anyway, Prince Zhuzhong was commander of the Chinese armies of the region, which kept the peace and guarded Jushina and Delhi’s borders from encroachment by the Russians, the Bengalis, or bandits. He is generally seen as having a good understanding of the area and its culture, though again, some Panchalis would disagree. He was also known for his interest in the Kongjun, the Chinese Aero Force, which had fallen behind rivals such as Siam’s in the early twentieth century due to Xuanming Emperor’s disinterest in flight after the death of his friend Wu Mengchao in an experimental aerocraft.

As Europeans had long ago observed, the plague was no respecter of persons. Though the poor, the northern and the rural might be most at risk, the plague continued to strike among the wealthy, the southern and the urban – and, for that matter, the noble. In 1928, at a time when the plague had been almost eliminated from Europe and North America, it continued to burn at a low level in China thanks to the the north and the countryside serving as a reservoir from which it could return to strike the cities. The Huifu Emperor’s answer was simply more and more hair-trigger use of quarantine, which began to build resentment among southerners and city dwellers – and everyone, really. But 1928 was also the year when the plague slew Xi Juzheng, the Old School Confucian scholar and great friend of the Emperor, whose ideas had formed the framework for his iconic reforms such as the rotating capital city and the 108 Mandators.[19] Xi converted to Christianity on his deathbed, but many had whispered that he was a secret Christian for years, not least for his pushing for the tolerance of Christian missionaries.

Some attribute public discontent and conspiracising to this revelation about the architect of Huifu’s years in power. However, there were many other causes, most obviously resentment about the continuing plague-control measures, with no apparent end in sight. Just when China needed a charismatic leader, Huifu withdrew from society and fell sick. Though not entirely clear, it seems this was not the plague, but simply fatigue and depression from the loss of his friend and the stressful years of leading China through the dark times. To add to Xi’s death, Prince Zhuling had also fallen gravely ill with the plague, contracting it while on one of his missions to educate the northern provinces about plague control.

In this power vacuum, Foreign Minister Ding Guoyang, architect of China’s successful play of France against Russia at the start of the war, became the most powerful man in the government. However, the Duke of Cao soon found himself faced with an impossible dilemma. In February 1929, after falling into a feverish coma that most doctors thought could end only in death, Prince Zhuling made a full recovery from his near-fatal brush with the plague. However, the consequences were unexpected and drastic. Zhuling had been nursed back to help by volunteers from the north, some of whom had loudly and publicly prayed to Guan Yu and used traditional Chinese medicine. It remains hotly debated among scholars whether Zhuling was actually driven mad through brain damage during the coma, or whether he was cognisant but simply had a radical change of heart. Regardless, Zhuling now began to publicly insist that he had been wrong to propose ‘western barbarian’ sanitation, vaccination and disinfection, and advocated a return to core Chinese values and traditional cures. In June 1929, following one set of off-the-cuff remarks, a mob of peasants marched into Kaifeng and burned down a vaccination clinic, killing more than a dozen doctors and nurses. It did not help that Vienna Green actually was highly toxic to humans if misused, of course, and much misinformation about it and the vaccines spread almost as fast as the plague itself.

Foreign Minister Ding was alarmed and, after ascertaining that Zhuling could not be diverted from his new self-destructive course, strongly encouraged Huifu to change his chosen successor. However, the Emperor remained in apathetic decline and could not be persuaded to care. Ding entered into communication with Zhuzhong in Lekenao – sorry, Lucknow – using the same Photel transmissions that Zhuling, consumed by Sutcliffist fury, now wanted to ban. Sometimes he, or his supporters, even claimed that Photel masts caused the plague and burned them down! Ding’s motivation in talking to Zhuzhong was to hope that the prince could persuade either his brother to change heart or his father to care. Both proved futile in the event.

Matters came to a head in October 1929 when it was time for the capital to move to Beijing. Although the capital rotation had been cancelled and slowed during parts of the plague years, Huifu had been keen to restart it at soon as possible. However, Beijing was undergoing yet another plague outbreak, Zhuling’s destructive new rhetoric having undone much of the good he had previously achieved there. Ding ordered the process delayed until the plague had died down. Perhaps this was the final straw for the Emperor, who passed away in November at the age of sixty-two. Again, tensions mounted when a suitably grand funeral celebration and parade was scaled back due to the continuing plague risks, which the northern and southern cities blamed on each other. More mobs attacked either medical and sanitation facilities on one side, or temples to Guan Yu and Guanyin on the other. Tensions had risen to their highest since China was a divided land.

Ding and the Feng courtiers used every procedural trick they could to delay Zhuling formally coming to the throne, citing the paused rotation, the need to retrieve the tablet with Huifu’s chosen successor formally recorded, and so on. The reason for this delay became swiftly apparent in January 1930, shortly before Lunar New Year, when Zhuzhong arrived in Chengdu with the large and capable army usually stationed in Jushina, together with many Indian auxiliary troops. From Chengdu, Zhuzhong marched eastwards. Conflict seemed inevitable, with Zhuling in Beijing, Ding in Hanjing, most of the court in Xi’an where the rotation was meant to have arrived at, and Marshal Huang Mengjin mobilising his own Southern Marches army in Guiling. Open warfare had not broken out, though banditry ravaged the countryside as elements of the plague-weakened Feng state began to disintegrate. All factions began to descend on Xi’an and the court, hoping to gain legitimacy.

Using his beloved aerocraft to head there ahead of the bulk of his army, Zhuzhong arrived there first. There, lacking the men under arms to enforce his will by main force, he took a different tack. Instead, he turned to Photel and issued a speech that was circulated across the whole of China. It was immortalised years later by that song from Yu and Me – you know the one I mean! – yes – “Are We Really Going To Do This”. Well, he phrased it a bit more diplomatically than Miss Jia and her translator put it, but the core of the song is basically correct to the speech.

Zhuzhong said that the very act of impending civil war was itself the loss of the Mandate of Heaven, and thus no man alive could claim the mantle of the emperor, including himself. Rather than cost lives to fight it out, as their ancestors had, they should embrace Huifu’s innovation and use the representative body that stood for the Mandate as a whole. Chinese society would be changed forever by this speech.

For Zhuzhong called upon the 108 Mandators to elect an Emperor…

[1] See Part #263 in Volume VII.

[2] See Part #262 in Volume VII.

[3] As said in Part #263 in Volume VII, Huaqiao people were already emigrating to Feng China before the Pandoric War, although the war and its aftermath did accelerate the process.

[4] This device, properly called the Houfeng Didong Yi, dated from the second century AD, but is only known through indirect reports and later replicas.

[5] See Part #270 in Volume VII.

[6] See Part #275 in Volume VII.

[7] See Part #276 in Volume VIII.

[8] Obviously, from the perspective of OTL, it would difficult to classify China at any point of TTL as being a ‘divided playground of European trade’, but this illustrates how differently the goalposts have been set. Our China’s 19th century history, presented as a fictional story, would probably be received by the people of TTL as an unsubtle piece of racist European wish-fulfilment propaganda that unrealistically ‘lowered’ the great civilisation of China to the level of ‘backward, infighting natives’ that some other parts of the world were seen as at the time.

[9] This is closely based on an OTL poem of the same title written by Shi Daonan in 1800.

[10] The latter controversy also happened in Europe during the OTL Third Plague Pandemic.

[11] See Part #285 in Volume VIII.

[12] In OTL organised, Chinese-run quarantine institutions were first set up in China in the 1870s, after disease-control measures had been imposed on treaty ports by Western colonial powers.

[13] See Part #281 in Volume VIII.

[14] See Part #294 in Volume VIII.

[15] See Part #293 in Volume VIII.

[16] Strictly, Guan Yu (who was a general and warlord in the Three Kingdoms period before he was deified) is primarily the god of war, and secondarily of wealth, but eventually added plague to his portfolio.

[17] A very similar strategy was used in OTL by the Qing dynasty to tackle a septicaemic plague outbreak in 1910. The response was praised at the time, but the dynasty would be toppled not long afterwards.

[18] See Part #218 in Volume V.

[19] See Part #264 in Volume VII.

Well. This is all horribly familiar. But it's pretty in tune with how people act in these situations across time and space.


Gone Fishin'
Zhuling doesn't have a chance, the assembly isn't representative enough. If I were him I'd bow out early and build a party of opposition. Get em in the next cycle. It's an awkward fit for his millenarian rioter supporters but if the SA can learn to put up posters and work security at rallies, so can they.

A note on Panchala-- the power of song. The Great Jihad banned music and killed musicians, reconstructing "classical" canons (anything pre-Jihad) has likely required much dedication in the generations since. And really, the catechism that introduces most regular people to "Hinduism" is usually music-- it is the first, and probably most emotionally resonant, experience with general "scriptures" but also the particular teachings of your sect or school which might be more important. Great missionaries and sect founders are often credited with poetic and musical compositions. That work is imperiled by Chinese/Corean popular/Buddhist music (pentatonic scales sound nice, now throw in the Western instruments). However, a "battle of the bands" might be allowed where a riot may not, you could disrupt a Chinese occasion by loudly playing your own music from nearby, goading them to come arrest you on a holy day; destroying vinyls and smashing zithers instead of assassinations; a "concert" may provide cover for a political rally-- and from the promulgation of strict aesthetic canons, a more total vision of how people ought to live can be built.
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