Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by Thande, Sep 2, 2019.
Say that three times fast
Really I wanted to use Esperanto - that's one of the most Societist things from OTL - but that would obviously have been far too anachronistic to justify.
THANK YOU, Thande! The one thing I had against LTTW is that you had anachronisms into what, IMHO, was an implausibly late period.
Part #262: Indian Spring
“What do you mean, DESCARTES doesn’t like cur—I mean, Clerkenwell Uxbridge Rainham Rainham Yiewsley? He’s French, isn’t he? ... How did White Gate find the one Frenchman who doesn’t like curry? ... Fine, take him to the Refugiado steakhouse instead.”
–part of a transmission to or from the English Security Directorate base at Snowdrop House, Croydon, intercepted and decrypted by Thande Institute personnel
From: Motext Pages MS118A;F [retrieved 22/11/19].
Extraneous advertising has been left intact.
THE GREAT CIVILISATIONS INDEX PAGE
Welcome to the Motext index page for The Great Civilisations, Series IV: The Indian Subcontinent. (Information on the previous series, The Orient, The Nusantara and The Mediterranean, can be found on Motext Archive index page AR118A). The previous series are regularly repeated on Public Pulsefeed 3, on a two-year delay after the initial broadcast of that series on the HorizonStar MotoSub Service.
Thank you to all our viewers for continuing to push our reported ratings to record levels! To quote a Mote-letter we received from Mavis H, 32, from Chorley—let us hope that we are able to keep making new series of The Great Civilisations until we are able to make an event about the as-yet-nonexistent civilisation of Australia!
This series is presented by Dr Jemima Tibbetts, descendant of the great adventurer Edgar Tibbetts, and the University of Calcutta historian Prof Jagadish Bhattacharya. There will always be information that even these fine presenters cannot cover in an hour, so to go alongside the magnificent vistas of their travels through space and time, see the pages below for supplementary information.
MS118B Indusians, Aryans and Dravidians
MS118C From Alexander to Ashoka
MS118D Gupta, Bisnaga and Delhi
MS118E Moguls, Marathas, Europeans
MS118F The Retreat from Empire
MS118F The Retreat from Empire
As we’ve seen in previous programmes, the one common factor to Indian history is that the subcontinent, which seems simplistically on maps to be a natural choice to become a single empire, has proved surprisingly resistant to unification. That innocent triangle shape on the map hides many complexities and perils for the would-be conqueror. The great Indo-Gangetic Plain stretches from the fertile river valley of the Indus in the west, with its ancient civilisations, to the Ganges and Brahmaputra in the east. The Plain is hemmed in from the north by the great Himalaya mountains of Gorkhana and the Thar Desert, while to the south, numerous lesser mountain ranges carve up the rest of the subcontinent. The Vindhya Range and Balaghat Range form the northern and southern bounds of the great valley of the Godavari. Farther south still lies the Deccan Plateau and the two ranges of the Ghats, dividing the coastlines from the interior. The important point is that the region we may so dismissively called ‘India’ is almost predisposed towards division and diversity. BEIC Governor-General James Pulteney Howlett foreshadowed the precepts of later Diversitarian writers when he described the subcontinent as ‘that great rough gemstone with a thousand many-coloured facets...to cut and polish her would be to kill her magic’.
Few empires have managed to unite even most of this region for any length of time. We’ve already seen how the great conqueror Ashoka of the Mauryan Empire, on finally bringing the rival nation of Kalinga (modern Chola) under his control, became sickened at the bloodshed he had unleashed, and converted to Buddhism as a consequence. His empire collapsed after his death. The later Gupta Empire, although responsible for what many view as a golden age two centuries long, nonetheless failed to bring all of the south under its control. The original Moguls (also spelled Mughals) came closer, but still remained unable to subdue much of modern Bisnaga, at the southern tip of the Deccan Peninsula, even at their height under the great Shah Jahan.
What of the Europeans, those brash conquerors from beyond the seas who, elsewhere in the world, thought nothing of casting ancient empires into the flames and arrogantly drawing straight lines through the middle of ancestral boundaries? If anyone could unite India as a single, enduring entity, surely it would be them. Yet the men of Europe, above all else, desired wealth; and that, not simplifying the map, was their driving impulse. Like their Roman ancestors, they established trading posts on the coastlines of India; unlike those ancestors, they were in a position to take advantage of the declining power of native empires. The original Moguls had decayed since the reign of Aurangzeb and would eventually be displaced by the Afghan Durrani dynasty, who also proceeded to destroy the power of the Hindu Maratha Empire at the Third Battle of Panipat. The Durranis themselves would suffer from infighting, of course. The Nizam of Haidarabad, originally a viceregal role appointed by the Mogul Emperor, gradually became ruler of an independent empire, as did the Nawab of Bengal and the Nawab of Arcot (among others). Mysore, a southern Hindu kingdom which had broken away from the original Bisnaga Empire, also asserted its independence and power.
These were only the largest of the crucial states, of which there were many. Germany’s Holy Roman Empire has been named a ‘cartographer’s nightmare’, but even it pales into comparison beside India, in almost any era of history. Like the HRE, India’s complexity stems from the fact that there is no firm dividing line between battles between independent states and struggles between competing dynasties in one state. Historians struggle to find narratives, when hindsight suggests one such dispute should be seen through the first lens and another through the second—but this may stem from later, unconnected acts of chance which saw borders redrawn.
Into this chaotic mess, as we saw in episode 4, European trading companies jammed in their metaphorical crowbars and began opening cracks to reach India’s wealth. The British began in Calcutta, Bombay (acquired from Portugal in 1661) and Madras, the latter being lost to France after the Second War of Supremacy. France’s victory, added to her existing outpost in Pondicherry, led to growing French control over what we would now call Bisnaga, including the subordination of Mysore. Britain was largely restricted to Bengal and her neighbours, taking more direct control after the betrayal of Nawab Siraj-ud-Daulah during the Third War of Supremacy. Portugal, based out of the old colonial capital of Goa redoubled her colonial efforts after the Lisbon earthquake of the mid-eighteenth century. Through a series of conflicts, the Portuguese managed to assert a leading position of influence within the remnant of the Maratha Confederacy, with a puppet Peshwa based out of Poona. The small Danish Asiatic Company retained Calicut in modern Bisnaga and a few other outposts, while the Dutch controlled South Malabar (sometimes leasing Calicut as well from the Danes/Scandinavians) and most of Ceylon, save for the defiant native Kingdom of Kandy.
The Europeans fought one another for Indian trade, but ultimately no power was able to rise to dominate the whole of India. Following the French Revolution, backed by Mysore, Britain’s Governor-General Pitt formed an accord with his French counterpart Rochambeau to suppress the rebellion. This led to the formation of the India Board, which—with some hiccups along the way—served to form a framework to stabilise southern India for trade for the next few decades.
Even at the peak of Europeans’ power in India, the northern reaches of the subcontinent remained out of their grasp. The Neo-Mogul Empire, arisen from the eastern fragment of the old Afghan Durrani Empire, enjoyed a brief revival of power. The crucial Indo-Gangetic Plain with its huge population, today mostly united within the Commonwealth of Panchala, was at that time divided between British-backed Oudh [Awadh], Portuguese-backed dominions of the powerful Maratha Scindia and Holkar families, and the Neo-Moguls themselves, including their capital of Delhi. The Neo-Moguls also ruled Rajputana (whose borders were somewhat different to that of the modern state), parts of Punjab, and Sindh, today part of Kalat. The Gorkhas also served to put up an effective barrier to British expansion. Europeans did conduct some trade with these two native empires, but it was always on equal terms. By contrast, when Haidarabad—hemmed in from all sides by European-backed powers—caused trouble, its Nizam had an ‘unaccountable riding accident’ and was replaced with his more pliable son.
A number of factors served to bring this comfortable situation to an end. Britain’s power declined at the expense of the Empire of North America, which became a more dominant (but less hands-on) force in the government of Bengal. France’s changes of government following the retirement of Bonaparte tended to result in a confused and erratic policy, though France remained the pre-eminent European power within India. Portuguese power eventually collapsed in a meaningful sense with the Panico de ’46 and the Portuguese Revolution. The Dutch Republic ceased to exist after the Popular Wars, with Ceylon instead being one of the few success stories for the Belgian Ostend Company as it attempted to roll up the old Dutch empire.
But, of course, these all pale into comparison beside the Great Jihad. Faruq Kalam, the Mahdi, led his fanatical supporters—including many foreign fighters from as far afield as North Africa and the Philippines—in a great holy war against the Europeans and Christians of southern India. At least, that is how it started; as with many such endeavours, it soon became an excuse to rape, loot and plunder, with fellow Muslims just as viable targets as infidels. The Mahdi began by theoretically toppling the Neo-Mogul Empire, but Nadir Shah II seized power, made gestures of ‘purification’ and turned the mujahideen to the south. Undoubtedly Nadir spared his own people much suffering, though historians and archaeologists are less than willing to forgive him for some of those gestures. It remains a great tragedy that, for example, we only know the Taj Mahal, the great mausoleum of Shah Jahan’s queen Mumtaz Mahal, through sketches made by earlier travellers (and some jewels ‘liberated’ from its ruins by Liam Wesley).
The Mahdi’s army of mujahideen left a vast and confusing list of atrocities in their wake. Lucknow and Bombay would take decades to be rebuilt in their former glory. Haidarabad, which overthrew its Nizam in a revolution only vaguely connected with the Mahdi, would in turn clash with his forces and ultimately not survive as an independent nation. As late as the 1870s, some spoke of a coherent Neo-Mogul Empire surviving in the north. But as jihadi armies returned home and did not cease their pillaging activities, European maps of the 1880s leave an uncomfortable white gap in the Indo-Gangetic Plain that more evoked unexplored areas of Africa or the Arctic. Some compared it to Bavaria or Portugal at their worst, when civilisation was cut off from any news of what was happening there. This popularly became known as the ‘Aryan Void’, thanks to some intrepid European and native ethnographers and archaeologists who risked the wrath of the jihadi murderers by looking for Indusian and Aryan artefacts before the iconoclasts could find and destroy them.
Like the final stages of the Thirty Years’ War in Germany two centuries earlier, it is hard to exaggerate the endless misery that the Mahdi’s fanaticism had wrought on India. He had also created a power vacuum, which was exploited not so much by the exhausted old colonial powers of France, Britain and Portugal—the latter two now more or less subsumed by the ENA and UPSA respectively—but by new ones. The former Portuguese/Maratha territories became ‘Senhor Oliveira’s Company,’ a subsidiary of PAWC, which also rebuilt Bombay (abandoned by the British). A Meridian government attempt to take direct control in 1884 was rebuffed, an important symbolic moment showing the increasing power of the UPSA’s corporations. In 1896, during the Pandoric War, the company would effectively be signed over to the neutral French in order to prevent its conquest by Anglo-American forces, one of the great victories of the ‘French Vulture’. However, French control would prove to be weak, with distractions from France’s commitments elsewhere.
Meanwhile, the smashed remnants of Haidarabad, Berar and Bundelhand were combined with the formerly British-administered Circars and Guntoor itself to form the International Guntoor Region. While non-Meridian traders had operated within ‘Senhor Oliveira’s Company’, it was here where the New Imperialists really hit their stride. Initially run largely by French and Anglo-American traders, the incredibly corrupt and exploitative IGR (exposed by Voroshilov’s investigative journalism in 1889) was a perfect opportunity for the ambitious and unscrupulous across the world. No longer did small or newly-unified countries need to stake their own claims; the companies of nations like Scandinavia, Spain, Italy and Belgium could operate in this international territory. Germans did not participate to the same extent due to the arrogant Bundeskaiser’s proclamations of separate colonial ambitions (which amounted to almost nothing but a drain on the treasury in the end). However, Europeans also no longer saw the need to work on behalf of their governments. Plenty of Germans, unaccountably not being attracted to Chancellor Wittenberg’s glorious colonial empires of Puntland and New Guinea, operated as private traders instead. So too did many Danubians and others.
What was transformational was the fact that, for the first time, non-European traders were coming to India. The Kingdom of Corea is often highlighted as an exemplar, due to the fact that King Geongjong established a formal Corean East India Company in 1885 on coming to the throne. However, Corean traders had been operating independently in the IGR for much longer, reflecting a shift in the newest generation of Silhak political theorists to look farther afield in order to resist Russian influence on the kingdom. While Geongjong’s actions increased Corean involvement in the IGR, they were in some ways a recognition of an existing status quo. Corea was not the only Asian nation to become involved, either, with some Siamese traders active there too (though regarded with considerable suspicion by the Anglo-Americans due to their historical clashes with Burma). A few Mauré traders are also recorded. Indeed, to name all the nationalities that participated in the IGR would take an episode in itself. There are even disputed records of traders from the Cherokee Empire operating there, to add even more confusion to the historical use of the term ‘Indian’!
These nations, or people of those nationalities, arrived by sea to exploit the weakened nations of India. But what of those powers which need not cross the ocean to reach India?
To the east, China, which had already subdued Tibet and Gorkhana by 1878, pushed her influence into northern India for the remainder of the century. After a brief attempt to restore the old kingdom of Oudh under the Sinicised name ‘Awude’, Chinese military forces and adventurers instead established a state called ‘Jushinajieluo’ (usually contracted to ‘Jushina’ in western sources), named after the Chinese rendering of Kushinagore / Kushinagar, the legendary site of the Buddha’s death. As Kushinagar was only a small town, bestowing its name to a hugely populous state (even after the Mujahideen’s deprivations) was a telling sign that its role was to provide a tourist destination for Chinese Buddhist pilgrims. Chinese colonialism in India frequently focused on this point, although trade was also important. Both factors led to improved transport links (which would ultimately form the basis of the casus belli of the Pandoric War, due to border disputes over Siam involving new railways). By the time of that outbreak of war, China had even gained influence over Delhi, reduced to its own small state by the decades of miserable conflict following the Jihad. The Delhi state also included the ancient city of Agra, which had been particularly badly damaged by the Jihad and took even longer to recover than Lucknow or Bombay.
To the west, Persia expanded her own influence. Earlier in the century, she had taken advantage of the collapse of the West Durrani Empire to push her frontiers to Herat and Nishapur, and to gain suzerainty over Kalat. Gujarat and Rajputana would both fall under Persian control in the aftermath of the Jihad. Only the ungovernability of much of the mountainous Afghan lands prevented the Persians from pushing their influence deeper into India. The former Maratha territories of Malwa and Indore formed an ‘inlet’ of the white Aryan Void on European maps, due to the fact that they were squeezed between the farthest extent of Persian and Chinese influence, respectively, yet the Europeans could not agree on who was to exploit them. The result is that they often fell victim to individual adventurers who found even the IGR too regulated.
To the north, finally, lay Russia and her Tartar vassals. The Tsar and the RLPC had generally taken the view (influenced by experience in Lithuania, and arguably the reverse in Yapon) that attempting to control the Tartar realms directly was likely to be more trouble than it was worth. Instead, unequal treaties were signed with the remnant of the once-great Kazakh Khaganate, as well as Khiva, Bukhara, Balkh and Samarkand. While Russian attempts to push influence into the Afghan lands met with little more success than the Persians’, the Russians did control the Khyber Pass and were able to exert increasing influence into the northern Indo-Gangetic Plain. The degree of Russian influence was not widely noted by European or Novamundine powers at this point, and was regarded with shock when it became public in the years immediately following the Pandoric War. Spies had underestimated Russia’s penetration of India because much of the detailed decisions were taken near-independently by a Russian government operation in Samarkand, not dissimilar to how the RLPC operated in the Orient and North America. Though it helped Russia in the short run, this method would store up problems for later on.
It transpired that Russia had set up allies in the battered north of the Indo-Gangetic Plain, including the Afghan state of Kafiristan (which saw any non-Muslim power as a natural ally), the Sikh Empire (which had successfully resisted the Jihad at a great price) and Kashmir, formerly ruled by the Sikhs but now having broke away. These three states would eventually become the modern, fractious Republic of Pendzhab.
It has been said by some historians that India foreshadowed the twentieth century, that India’s great diversity contained, like a chrysanthemum, all the complexity of the world reflected in a macrocosm. This observation is often taken as a crass, simplistic description—that as the Aryan Void shrank and vanished between the expansions of Persia, Russia and China, a key clash of the Black Twenties would emerge. But precisely which clash of the possible ones between the three empires took place would prove crucial, the hints for which required knowledge of lands far away and how Peter V had viewed Russia’s recognition of Emperor Weili.
No, those historians have a subtler meaning in mind. Look to the attitudes of the French. When Britain ceased to exist and President Faulkner privatised Bengal to pay for his Social Americanism programmes, France became not only the pre-eminent European or Novamundine power in India, but almost the only one left to still exert any kind of direct control, not working via corporate interests. The response of the French, both their government and through the FEIC’s minority control of the increasingly less relevant India Board, indeed captured a neat macrocosm of the failures of the established powers in the 1900s and 1910s. At this time, the Combine was sending traders to India, exploiting the fact that the French had decided to throw the ‘Concan Confederacy’ (formerly Senhor Oliveira’s Company) open to international trade like the IGR. The French became very suspicious of these traders. This might be seen as understandable—after all, French forces had been clashing with the Combine’s Celatores not long before. However, the French persisted in seeing the Societists as just the UPSA under a different government, and their suspicion centred on the idea that these traders would seek to regain ‘their country’s’ former influence over the Concan region. Because of this, the FEIC placed heavy restrictions on Societists (or rather, those from the former UPSA) trading in Concan.
But it was all a deception, a work by Alfarus’ subordinate Mardinus Delfinus. While all eyes were on Concan, it was in the old IGR, left with a power vacuum by the fortune of the Pandoric War, already so corrupted by pre-Societist forces of internationalism, that the armies of the Threefold Eye went to work...
 No relation to the OTL astronomer by that name, usually known as J. C. Bhattacharya.
 ‘Indusians’ is the slightly awkward term used in TTL for the Indus Valley Civilisation. This is also called the Harappan civilisation in OTL, but that is just because the first site happened to be excavated near a place called Harappa, and the happenstance of TTL archaeology will naturally be different.
 Bisnaga is the Portuguese rendering of Vijayanagara, a Hindu-dominated southern Indian empire of the fourteenth to sixteenth century. It is also used in TTL to describe an architectural style and was revived as the name for a post-colonial state.
 I.e. Nepal. The term ‘Nepal’ being used for the whole country in OTL relates to details of its unification which are different in TTL. ‘Gorkhana’ is a western back-formation from Gorkha or Gorkhali.
 A name used for a nation in the present day of TTL—one of those really questionably-chosen post-colonial names, as the nation in question isn’t even that close to the historical centre of the Chola dynasty. ‘Orissa’ (now spelled Odisha in OTL) would have been less confusing, but as always, politics plays a role.
 Unlike OTL, of course. The fact that India was never united as a colonial venture has coloured historiography in TTL to presume that a disunited India is its default state.
 Technically Wesley had got them in Bengal from a Neo-Mogul soldier who had originally taken them—see Part #213.
 See Part #222.
 See Part #229.
 This is a bit of an exaggeration to say the least, but saying ‘more of them came and more under government authority’ doesn’t sound as good in a documentary!
 The term used in English translation. In Corea it was known as Cheonchuk Sangin (India Traders), using the Corean form of the ancestral Chinese name for India, Tianzhu (from ‘Hindu’ or ‘Indus’ via Persian) and a word for traders or business.
 In the form of the Anxi Army under Hao Xingjian and Martin Hiedler, only retroactively proclaimed an official Imperial mission, which is rather brushed over here—see Part #218.
 Samarkand was ruled by Bukhara and abandoned in the mid-eighteenth century, but in TTL a Turkmen dynasty took over the city and created an independent, Russian-backed state. Balkh is the centre of a state which controls the northern part of OTL Afghanistan.
 Based on a Russian transliteration of ‘Punjab’. As with some of the other post-colonial names, this isn’t a very accurate name, taking in territories well outside historical Punjab and not all of historical Punjab itself.
 This isn’t a very fair description of what actually happened.
Note: I did previously use the name Nepal, which I now know isn't really justifiable, so I'm going to retcon that.
Rajputana is a bit iffy as well, but I can't come up with an alternative name.
Are the security people just arguing about food?
What about Rajasthan? Alternatively, Gujaradesa/Gujaradesh/Gujaratra, to be different?
Rajasthan is the most obvious name, even with a POD this far back. Alternatively you could name it after its capital, for something more boring.
What happened to the next most obvious name for an independent Orissa, “Utkala” or “Utkal”? Something similar?
I don't get it. Could someone explain?
Ask Ghana and Benin.
Just like Thande to keep everybody wondering what code-names like "Gold Dolphin" could mean for a good ten posts, when it's actually just an Indian restaurant.
Ghana is named as such because it’s a nation which was arbitrarily unified by European powers - not really relevant for Orissa, unified by language and ethnicity for a long time. Benin was originally named Dahomey, but renamed because that name was associated with only one of its many ethnicities. I suppose that’s relevant for Orissa, but such logic would not disqualify the name “Utkal”. I suppose it is possible to create a situation where “Utkal” is too strongly associated with the Oriya ethnicity.
I think OTL with "e-mail" wins the naming contest.
Is this the first time we're hearing about this? Because... wow.
I think a map of India would be useful right about now. Anyone?
Was he a short, hirsute man with a fierce temper and some... distinctive bladed weapons?
Did he call everyone "bub"?
James Howlett is Wolverine's real name.
I guess ole' Sniktbub found himself in India than Japan in this timeline...
Probable modern borders of Timeline L India. I doubt Rajputana extends that far west but I didn't know what that Persian vassal was called. Panchala apparently includes the Holkar and Scindia domains so Madhya Pradesh goes to them.
"Chola" is halfway justifiable in that all the coast of the IGR was conquered at one point by Kulotthunga Chola, and that half of Orissa/Utkal seems to be in Bengal. The Guntoor Region is more heavily Telugu than Oriya, and Chhatisgarh is thrown in too. Still, even Gondwana might be a better pick... though Chola's borders are probably not that close to Guntoor's anyways, if there'll be a Societist phase first. Maybe even Golconda and/or Gondwana, as a Bosnia and Herzegovina analogue?
Delhi is left independent because the UP/Madhya area is supposedly only "mostly" unified by Panchala, the city got off well from the Jihad, and... well, India's Muslims need somewhere to live and I doubt that more than a select few are welcome anywhere else.
EDIT: Colonizers getting to pick Anglicization schemes makes me a little angery, but I suppose it's a feature of OTL too (doubt anyone was calling northern Vietnam "Tonkin" before the French started) but at least Panchala (of which "Jushina" is likely the nucleus) had the will to resist it.
You ever see those giant prints of American Gothic with the faces cut out so you can put your own face in there and take a picture? I figured it would be interesting for anti-Societist propaganda to lean really hard on dehumanization ("they don't even have separate identities, they'll assimilate the America you love and turn it into just another Zone") so I just replaced the faces with Threefold Eyes and slapped a Societist slogan from Part V on there. I like how spooky the pitchfork ended up being.
While these weekly posts always make Monday mornings at work more enjoyable, been waiting for an update on the Aryan Void for quite some time. Definitely tantalizing hints here:
- Russian and Chinese languages in India now fully confirmed; I imagine the Black Twenties will see Persia and Russia finally duking it out over Central Asia and India, with the latter coming out on top
- Also, does this mean a Persia-Feng alliance? Once can hope...
- But for *Corean...we generally seem to assume that Societists showing up somewhere means it ends up in the Combine, but wonder if the Coreans end up taking over the IGL following a failed Societist move on the territory
- "Pendzhab"...well, that's a hideous sounding country, if nothing else
- Given the association with France and India, I do wonder if the hint in Part 200 didn't mention French for the same reason that no one would be surprised to hear about Spanish in South America OTL, i.e. because they've been there forever
On the one hand, this is clearly Best Ending... but at least the Societists would improve working conditions.
Kinda crazy how similar the IGR is to the Meridian Corporatocracy, even if only one has to deal with "foreign" megacorps they're both just as unaccountable to the people... Societist propaganda probably wouldn't even have to be that dishonest, they can straight up say "we've been in your place before; help us help you out of it."
One would think the Mentians would already have a presence in the IGR, but I guess the various companies' private police sniff Reds out pretty quickly. Again, Societism is aided by its novelty.
And if the Combine is supporting operations as far away as India, I'm guessing that the conflict in the Cape Republic worked out for them? If not, I guess we'll be seeing just how much the theory of Zonal interdependence works in reality...
Separate names with a comma.