Of Rajahs and Hornbills: A timeline of Brooke Sarawak

Not to add more work, but what's going on with Madagascar in this timeline?
Madagascar is a French stronghold, though not for long. The Franco-Hova Wars occurred just as IOTL, and the island's monarchy is abolished though most of the princely families are still around. Despite repeated invasion attempts by the Cape Colony and Natal, Madagascar is protected by a small Franco-Italian naval squadron that still has enough bite to keep British forces on their toes.

On land, the French governor-general has convinced many Malagasy locals to oppose the British, arguing how their arrival would set in place the discriminatory administrative system already at play across the Cape and Natal (while conveniently white-washing French discrimination elsewhere). As a result, many locals are less than forthcoming to the British Expeditionary Forces.
Lil' update since it has been two months since my last post here. The latest installment (the 1906 global roundup) is currently being written, but a combination of COVID fatigue, new distractions, and the challenge of summarizing the complexity of an entire planet - and one that has entire swathes of continents + oceans at war - has caused a large amount of Writer's Aversion on my part. Oops.

The next update will be coming soon, that I promise. Until then, may your 2021 kick the ass out of 2020. ✨
Don't worry, we'll wait.

Sorry yall, don't mean to necro. But imagine my surprise when I found out a movie was in the works (possibly finished). It's like the power of our collective fandom brought this all to life.

Hope you're all safe.


Sorry yall, don't mean to necro. But imagine my surprise when I found out a movie was in the works (possibly finished). It's like the power of our collective fandom brought this all to life.
Ah! That film has been brought here a few times over years. While I'm sure the directors and producers have been working on it without knowledge of this thread at all (I believe a movie proposal was made by Hollywood as early as the 1920s), it is amusing to consider them eying this thread for clues. From the internet, the flick is supposed to be released in 2021, though who knows if this will be the case with the current pandemic.

I just hope it won't be insensitive or uncontroversial, but given the subject matter, that's a near certainty. 😒

In other news, the next installment is about half-done, though there is some struggle with certain sections. In a nutshell, we're taking a summary-view of a Great-War world.
1906 summary: part 1 / 2
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Charlie MacDonald, Strange States, Weird Wars, and Bizzare Borders, (weirdworld.postr.com, 2014)

Before we start with the politics and oddities and cursory summaries of 1906, let me first take you to one date.

April 18. San Francisco.

In the dawn hours of the morning at 5:12 a.m, the streets beneath the city began to rumble. At first, it seemed like any other small tremor – such events have been surprisingly common in the preceding years – but soon quickly grew into a 42-second roil that lifted streets, broke gas pipes, and tore down brick walls like crumbled cake. Residents who managed to escape into the streets then faced a new crisis as flammable wood and materials combusted from the wreckage, turning downtown San Francisco and her multiple neighbourhoods into a roaring inferno. From the skyscrapers that towered over the streets to the packed boarding-houses of Chinatown, over 80% of San Francisco was utterly destroyed in the upheaval and firestorm, crushing and suffocating thousands.

But following the disaster, a new malignancy began to spread amongst the survivors. The cramped, chaotic conditions of the local refugee camps created enormous loads of trash and refuse, leading to an explosion of rats in uncountable numbers. Soon, residents began to suffer pains and fevers, leading to large boils which swell across their bodies. In weeks, thousands lay sick and the few morgues that survived soon ran out of space for corpses. Slipping through the Great War’s East Asian theatre, jumping off from Hawaii and slipping into the city just before the quake, Yersinia Pestis has made it across the Pacific Ocean. The Third Bubonic Pandemic has arrived to the United States. [1]

Oh yeah, had anyone mentioned how throughout the 19th century, rats in southern China still harboured the bubonic plague in their bodies? Because that happened! There were sporadic outbreaks in the Qing Empire throughout the 19th century until, due to certain persecutions against Christian minorities, the rats and their fleas (with bubonic plague attached) began to follow the crowds. By 1905, conditions in the refugee-overcrowded coastal cities were ripe for a pandemic [2], which was exactly what happened during the Great War – honestly, it was just a matter of time before an infected rat or person hitched a ride on an oceanic transport, bound for the U.S.A.

The resulting spread across the Western seaboard, mass panic, boycotts, racist attacks, corruption amongst officials, and eventual sanitation measures could fill an entire book by itself, but there’s one thing I’d like to highlight: on September 18, five months to the day of the quake, Senator Kylan Andrews of Missouri made a speech on the floor of the Senate chamber, shouting “I do not see the reason in taking an open hand in the war raging in Europe, when we are facing catastrophes on our own soil!”

Basically, why should the U.S.A smash into the Great War when Bad Stuff keeps happening at home?

Thing is, a lot of U.S residents agreed with that. While many immigrant Americans wanted Washington D.C. to intervene (preferably for their own countries) many old-time existing local? citizens saw the global conflict as one that they were better-off not participating. And why should they? Plenty saw the Great War as nothing more but a dirty spat between empires that just wanted a piece of world power. The Irish community of New York was particularly bitter towards helping Britain in any way (fair enough) while many Protestant church leaders sought a pacifistic solution than just barging in with guns (um, maybe not that). The chaos of 1906 just added more reasons to the pile, with common consensus falling towards “Not before sorting out our own crap.”

This is really really important in so many ways, because outside of America (and the Caribbean, where the U.S commercial/ military power is keeping all the colonial islands calm…ish) the Great War was becoming more and more, uh, bloodier...


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Issac McNamara, The Great War: An Overview, (Cambridge University Press; 1999)

…In actually, the peacefulness of the Caribbean was nothing but a lie, based on popular misconception. There were naval battles and attempted landings on Guadeloupe, Martinique, Monserrat, and Trinidad by British and French naval forces, which only dropped due to lack of support. Jamaica even had a scare in April 1906 when a burning French cargo vessel strayed too close to shore and spooked local residents. In this, the actions of the United States and especially the Danish West Indies could not be overstated in keeping the region at a comparative peace. As unlikely a man as ever, the frantic diplomacy of the pacifistic governor-general Noah Christensen created a measure of understanding amongst the Caribbean planters, arguing how political conflicts abroad could lead to social unrest among black labourers back home. The threat of a Haiti-like situation was enough to cool almost all passions, regardless of nationality.

But elsewhere, the Great War still raged. By the end of 1906, there was little hope for a quick conflict that so many believed just the previous year. Far more than anytime else, 1906 saw the Great War attain its scope to include massive swaths of continents and oceans. The Sahel theatre of Africa alone, from Timbuktu to Kismayo, stretched for over 5,300 kilometres in length – more than the average length of the contiguous United States of America, east-to-west (around ~4,000 kilometres). In the Pacific Ocean, the range of hit-and-run attacks from Australasia to South America covered nearly the entire surface area of Mars! [3]

No wonder then that the term ‘Great War’ become truly embedded in this time after it had been coined by the journalists of New York City in the previous year. The scope of the conflict was so vast that some of the earliest innovations in wireless broadcasts were primarily done simply to transmit information between the diverse battlefronts to military commands. So great was its reach that the price of raw goods such as rubber and coal increased fourfold across every industrial market. So expansive were the nations, governments, and figures involved that their interactions even created ‘spin-off’ conflicts; one need only look at the British-protected Kingdom of Benin in West Africa, whose capital saw 3 days of street-fighting in late August due to a combination of high food prices and a spat between Sokoto goods-runners and local Christian converts.

Such tangential conflicts were much less known by the international press, yet they exerted their own pull in shaping the Great War and its aftermath; In Central Asia, a combination of British machinations, decades-long discontent, and Russian recruitment of local men created a mass-revolt that was derogatively called (among Russians) the Basmachi – from an Uzbek term for bandits. Though the imperial government tried to stamp them out, the Basmachi quickly made their homes in the remote deserts and mountains of Russian Turkestan, killing Russian settlers and raiding their settlements. Inevitably, the latter brutally responded in kind. From the Aral Sea to the Tian Shan Mountains, a dirty war began to rage.

Another pivotal-yet-unrecognized spark was the Hushi Incident, which took place in the reaches of Mongolia in Qing China. The soaring popularity of religious brotherhoods like the Crimson Swords led the way to a rise in many heterodox sects and societies all across the empire with the Mongolian borderlands being especially prone to such influence. Decades of ethnic Han settlement has led to simmering tensions as new arrivals clashed with traditional Mongol bannermen over lands and resources. With the focus of Peking oriented towards countering the Japanese in Manchuria, the Yellow Sea, and the Korean Peninsula, the imperial court was far from attentive to news of massacres brought by martial brotherhoods over plague hysteria in the frontier city of Hushi [4]. In fact, news of the troubles were received with a few platitudes and inexperienced officers chucked there to keep the peace. However, the local Mongolian population saw this as another sign of how the Qing government has neglected them, a process long in the making as a result of the empire’s modernization policies…

Also tangentially, political battles similarly flowed alongside military conflicts, such as the complicated reactions to and against the War in British India. While much of the growing Indian National Congress supported the Empire in exchange for political reforms and future Home Rule, there were also a number of notables whom were disgusted at the subcontinent being dragged into a global conflagration without the input (or decisions) of local Indians. The debates of this period were marked with heated diatribes in meeting halls across Calcutta, Madras, and Bombay over the inclusion of Indian troops and supplies into British war plans. As 1906 went to a close and more local men were sent-off to ever farther corners of the world, these debates would spiral into the first calls for civil disobedience.

Such conflicts – either born from the imperial alliances or as a reaction to the global conflict – were many and myriad, spreading the Great War to the far corners of the world and affecting the belligerent empires in ways unimagined...

1906 Part 1 of 1 - Russian troops in Central Asia.jpg

A propagandistic painting of Imperial Russian soldiers attacking a Basmachi-occupied fort in Russian Turkestan, circa 1906.

…As the hopes of a quick victory died to one of long attrition, many major belligerents began to search for an exit plan. A multi-year long conflict was far from the norm in European politics, and the standard military doctrines of the time were built for a quick campaign that, at most, would last up to a year. Few in Great Britain, France, Italy, Austria-Hungary, Russia, or the Sublime Porte ever imagined a military conflict that would last dozens of months, or a war that would require the cannibalization of entire economies.

As the year dragged on and casualty counts continued spiralling, speculation began to build on whether the might of the Patras Pact could settle the war in their favour or at least battle their opponents to a draw. Though disparate, the combined industrial and human resources of France, Greece, Italy, Serbia, and Russia were undeniably impressive, encompassing some of the most innovative, productive, and war-capable polities on the planet. France, despite being trounced by Germany in 1870, still retained one of the best militaries in Europe and considerable financial might. Russia in particular saw a reorganization of economic planning and a sharp rise in total employment from an influx of women into the industrial workforce (albeit due to the excessive need for men in the military).

But there were also weaknesses. War production in Italy and Greece was hampered by the lack of comparative material resources, despite receiving massive loans from French and Italian banks. Serbia was in an even worse spot, as their being surrounded by enemies forced Belgrade to be dependent on a neutral Romania that did not hesitate to place a high price for refined petroleum and necessary imports. Above all, every member of the Patras Pact suffered from a bitter spiral to devote more and more resources to war production, thus depriving their citizenry of basic goods and services. Foodstuffs, coal, steel, petroleum, and other raw materials were increasingly diverted from commercial use, leading to the first reports of acute food and fuel shortages in France, Italy, and Russia in 1906.

The Four Powers – Britain, Germany, Austria-Hungary, and the Ottomans – were similarly placed in a tight bind. Most of their economies had to be rerouted to war production and the transfer of resources left bitterer tastes in many mouths, especially as 1906 went on. To speak nothing of a smaller tax base, both Vienna and Kostantiniyye instituted unpopular new taxes to fund their war efforts, with the former government even asking for German loans to continue being financially solvent. German manpower shortages were also being felt as many factories began to run dry of skilled workers, leading to a few firms reluctantly calling for women or foreign labour be trained to replace the shortfall.

But for all this, their burden was less felt as, when compared to the Patras Pact, their tapped resources and manpower were impossibly vast. By sheer weight alone, the British Empire provided more wealth, manpower, and raw materials to support herself and her neighbours than the entire Patras Pact combined (save for Russia); Canadian grain and metals funnelled into the British Isles along with troops while Australia saw a shipbuilding boom that would not abate until far into the 20th century. India provided soldiers and steel with the help of the industrialist Jamsetji Tata [5], and Malaya exported the entire planet’s tin supply.

The other partners were similarly resourceful. Despite material shortages, German and Austro-Hungarian industry mushroomed thanks to British and German capital, with the Kriegsmarine of both empires cooperating in supply runs across the oceans to the dominions and colonies. Further south, new roads and railheads were constructed across the Ottoman heartlands to facilitate faster transportation of men, materials, and food to and from the frontlines. And in one of the luckiest discoveries for the petroleum industry, the search for raw crude led geologists to the spectacular discovery of the Mosul, Tawke, and Peshkabir oilfields in September, paving the way for the empire’s petroleum era…

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The first penetrated oil gush photographed near the village of Zakho, in the Ottoman Zagros mountains, in September 3rd 1906.


Well, here goes nothing. After months of inaction and quarantine-induced doldrums, I have finally managed to push forward the world of Rajahs and Hornbills. I have said that wars aren’t tasteful territory for me, and current world events have sapped my enthusiasm to write this particular piece (plague, why...) so this update and the next are more akin to summaries of the world rather than detailed examinations of the major alliances involved in the Great War.

The first part of the installment are based on two real-life events that occurred in history, the Third Bubonic Plague Pandemic of the late 19th - early 20th centuries, and the 1906 earthquake of San Francisco.

1. The city of San Francisco was hit with the bubonic plague by 1900 from rats and infected immigrants that travelled from China and Hawaii. Despite this discovery by medical practitioners, the city authorities and the governor of California, Henry Gage, rubbished news of the disease for as much as two years before admitting to the problem. Here, the shifting timescales of climate and population movement in TTL meant that the Third Bubonic Pandemic occurred later in China and arrived to the United States at the worst possible time.

2. Anyone who hasn’t read post #1141 may need a refresher. The movement of Chinese Christians to coastal cities created a housing problem that led to ghettos and overcrowding, perfect conditions for a disease to jump the species barrier.

3. The surface area of Mars is around 144,798,500 square kilometres (55,907,000 square miles). The entire Pacific Ocean covers 165,250,000 square kilometres (63,800,000 square miles). Just try and wrap your head around that.

4. Hushi = modern-day Hohhot.

5. Jamsetji Tata was born in 1839, just before the Brookes arrived to Sarawak and the POD. As such, his industrious life is little changed from OTL with the exception of breaking into wartime industry – no less as a result of his illness in Germany being averted.
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The war is becoming very fractal - I suspect that even after peace has been made in the "main" conflict, many separate peaces will have to be made in the subsidiary conflicts. As we've seen, the people of Borneo are finding that out already.
The war is becoming very fractal - I suspect that even after peace has been made in the "main" conflict, many separate peaces will have to be made in the subsidiary conflicts. As we've seen, the people of Borneo are finding that out already.
The residue of the Great War will definitely plague the world for years to come, bubonic pun notwithstanding.

The main conflicts between the alliances have created knock-on effects or exacerbated tensions in unexpected places, but few contemporaries understood this due to the sheer complexity of such effects - and the major theatres in Europe taking the media spotlight. Once the main fighting dies down, though, the European powers will definitely realize how much the world had changed from the Great War, for better or worse.
Almost the entire world is caught up in this war, and it's getting worse. I've a feeling that while the official war might be shorter, the casualty count will be comparable to the OTL World War I.
Almost the entire world is caught up in this war, and it's getting worse. I've a feeling that while the official war might be shorter, the casualty count will be comparable to the OTL World War I.
Indeed. Due to the greater resources, manpower, and logistics of the Four Powers (albeit latent), the Great War may end sooner than the WWI timeframe of 4 years. The death toll, though, might be as comparable as more regions of the world are actively involved in the conflict with more people in those fronts taking part. And this is not to mention the multiple spin-off conflicts and mini-wars caused in the wake - like the tribal wars in Borneo or Indochina's War of The Insane; these conflicts, if left unchecked, could burn far longer than the main war itself.

The next half of the 1906 roundup is close to complete, and may be uploaded in the next few days. So many tangents, too little time... ;)
1906 summary: part 2 / 2
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Charlie MacDonald, Strange States, Weird Wars, and Bizzare Borders, (weirdworld.postr.com, 2014)

…Oh, should I mention that a whoooole lot more tangential stuff happened in 1906 that would impact the world in decades to come?


Well strap yourselves in for a ride! I’m about to tell you anyway! My site, my rules.

Fair warning beforehand that I am not omniscient nor all-encyclopaedic, and therefore unable to cram every single stinking point, trend, incident, or brouhaha that happened across the planet in 1906. There’s also a lot of conflicting reports on some incidents, so their summaries may not hit the gold-standard mark of accuracy, alright? Please be nice to my comments section.

(Also, now that I’ve finished this, there’s a surprising trend of migration going on with all these points. Huh.)


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The FREAKING BUBONIC PLAGUE [1]: Hi my name is Yersinia Pestis, and I enjoy suffering!

That would be my impression of the bubonic plague, and I’m sure a lot of folks across Eastern Asia felt the same. In November 1905, the first reported case of the disease was reported in Hong Kong, though the plague had probably been around for months beforehand as rats (and people) travelled all across Qing China and beyond. Given the war in the north and the need for resources across colonial Southeast Asia, good ol’ Yersinia didn’t exactly stay put. By January 1906, suspicious cases began popping up in Manila, Saigon, and Singapore. In February, local transmissions popped up in the villages around Calcutta and Rangoon. By April, Makkah and Madinah reported an increase in dead pilgrims that got sick incredibly quickly. Across the world, the United States fell into a panic from the horror that was San Francisco. Yersinia grew too big to be controlled.

And what Yersinia does to the infected was brutal. Chills, fevers, and even seizures were reported as early symptoms, and this is before the infamous boils on the body took shape! Patients were described as “vomiting blood and having dead limbs” (from a source in Isfahan, Qajar Iran) before their organs eventually collapsed. Little Yersinia also mutated along the way, spreading more easily from person to person and staying low for longer before causing symptoms, which caused nightmarish scenes of people trying to wall-off infected neighbourhoods in India and Iran.

Needless to say, the plague caused some panic. And given that India is now providing much needed troops for the British in… practically everywhere, a few rats and fleas (or infected staff) began to hop aboard and sail away… and away… and away…

Chile and nitrates: Tip-toeingly neutral and ludicrously rich, Chile could very well tie with the Spanish Philippines for ‘lucky place that exploited the Great War to ridiculous gain’. In particular, the Great War brought more and more pressure on the national government to extract more nitrates from the Atacama Desert to feed demands for the manufacture of munitions and explosives. In short, everyone who’s fighting needs nitrates to blow each other up. And Chile has the largest deposits on earth.

This extraction was done partly through mining investments – no telling out where the money comes from, shhh! – But by also attracting (or just straight-up forcefully contracting) workers from neighbouring Peru and Bolivia to do the dirty work. Since European immigration was kinda thin for the moment, Chile signed just about anyone who was cheap and willing to immigrate to the Atacama. Even some Chinese workers were shipped as labour from America and East Asia, which must have made them an interesting sight at the desert seaport of Antofagasta.

As you can imagine, many of these workers were lowly-paid and suffered horrible abuse in the mines and factories out in the desert flats. As time went on, resentment brewed as Chile began prioritizing exports to the Four Powers alliance – Argentina’s mistake in the Falklands last year spooked Santiago to secretly favour Britain, despite constant pressure from French diplomats and spies. When 1907 dawned, there were Marxist and socialist whispers across the country on just how bad things got there, and both Peru and Bolivia eyed the Chilean Atacama with envious eyes.

However, I should note that France – cut-off from the precious nitrates as her navy and merchant marine started to buckle – began to conduct secret experiments on artificial nitre production. Gee, I wonder if this will eventually herald the end of South America’s nitrate boom! Also, I must also note that some of those ships docking in Antofagasta carried certain humans and small passengers which then carried an even smaller bacterium, a certain wee organism named Yersinia


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African troops in Europe: Another case of migration, though this time for replacing dead troops. The first year of the Great War saw Algerian and Senegalese Spahis and Tirailleurs (light skirmishers / colonial troopers) going about in Africa to serve French interests, but the German declaration of war turned this upside down. To show that France was no pushover and was a united polity across continents (and manpower losses in the Franco-German border being disturbingly high), battalion after battalion of conscripts from North and West Africa were literally shipped into Alsace-Lorraine to shore up frontline defences. [2]

The Germans, noticing this, tried to show how they are a united and powerful empire by adding-in their own African forces, though war shenanigans in East Africa prevented them from doing so until November 1906… and then after that, Patras predominance in the Mediterranean meant that troops had to side-track by landing in neutral Romania or the British Isles… and travelling the boats or railways to Austria-Hungary and Germany proper…

But after that, Sahelian and Nilotic Schutztruppe battalions finally faced their West African counterparts! To, err, fight for the very countries that colonialized them… this is actually a bit awkward. A few educated troops would later write and tell positively of their experiences, though these same people were often hand-picked by the authorities as proof of the ‘civilizing mission’ of European colonialism, so their words should be taken with some grain of salt. Later oral investigations eventually showed that – like British Indian troops elsewhere – many African soldiers had very complicated feelings over it all.

The French and German public, to say the least, had similar complicated feelings on having these people in Europe. Racists didn’t like them, colonial apologists appreciated them, empire-believers loved them, and empire-haters hated them. In the end though, many locals did saw these troops as valuable for the war effort. Either way, the voices of the men themselves were rarely taken seriously, at least not before some of them wondered if they could stay on in Europe after the War…

Fijian and Maori troops in Europe: Meanwhile, the British too brought their own pieces of their Empire back home to fight, though some of the men were not what most expected. When the Four Powers alliance was sealed in the summer of ’06, the British sought to copy France and Germany in bringing scores of colonial battalions into the battlefronts of Europe. But as the ocean routes into the Suez Canal and past Madagascar were still dangerous, the only other way to get there was to; (1.) travel across the Pacific; (2.) train-ride through Canada; and (3.) chug across the Atlantic to the Isles.

Seeing that a Pacific round trip was the only way, and wanting to puff-up their imperial credentials, conscription offers were sent out to the colonies of Fiji and New Zealand to see if they were willing to test out the route. Of course, many native Fijians and Maori balked at joining what they thought of as, “a White Man’s War”. Still, a few hundred from either region did eventually travel across the Pacific and taking the Canadian-Atlantic route, ultimately joining with German lines in the scarred fields of Alsace-Lorraine and European Russia.

As again, public perception of them was mixed, though the Fijians and Maori were surprisingly seen in a better light among the press when compared to say, the Tirailleurs of French Africa. One German opinion piece noted, “Where ever they served, in East Prussia or in the west, these Melanesians and Polynesians won golden opinions for their superb physical build, their exemplary conduct, and the excellent work as attested by the commandants of the bases.” And this was really weird, considering the hoopla over African troops serving the frontlines. There was the usual platitudes of “racial inferiority” by some, but by and large the Fijians and Maori were far less demonized or politicized as some other colonial troops.

Positive association? People being impressed by their height and build? Almost every major positive press noted how tall they were. Did locals and military leaders saw them through rose-colored, masculine-tinted glasses? Probably yeah. As for themselves, their accounts of travelling were also complex and really defy colonialist armchair discourse of black and white worldviews… [3]


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Latin Americans in Congo: Another travelling of sorts was also taking shape across the Atlantic, though this one was not of soldiers. With the Great War being what it is, a lot of empires suddenly realized, “oh crap, we need so much more resources!”. Being a colonial part of a neutral nation, the Spanish Congo was all too happy to oblige, but it also didn’t want to get another round of bad press after what happened back in the 1890’s [4].

The solution: scores upon scores of poor labourers from Latin America! They shall take a trip to Africa on debt contracts, and pay them up by breaking their backs in the rubber plantations and mines! No need to exploit the local Congolese!

This system was already being put into place by 1901 after all the international hoopla over native abuses, but the outbreak of global war actually accelerated the trend as rubber barons and mining magnates sought to extract ores and cultivate Amazonian rubber trees whilst simultaneously chop-off local rubber vines as quickly as possible. Thousands – and then tens of thousands – of poor labourers from Venezuela, Colombia, and the Dominican Republic were enticed into debt-fuelled labour contracts and then flung into dangerous Atlantic-traversing ship routes. And given how the Atlantic was chocked full with commerce raiders from either side, I hope they all had iron pants for when a belligerent warship aims their cannons at them (It was a miracle Spain and Latin America stayed neutral at all!).

Arriving in the colonial capital of San Sebastian, these workers would be whisked into a back-breaking life of paying their debt on the mines and plantations of the colony’s corporations. However, if you are able to pay off your financial burden without dying, you are now eligible to resettle in the most tropical heart of Africa! And yes, you can either bring your family from home or snatch a local Congolese girl for your liking if she accepts (hope you enjoy the colonial and local backlash from this, though).

But until then, GET TO WORK. And if you’re wondering “Wait, wouldn’t this slowly but inevitably alter the social, political, economic, and cultural demographic of the most abused colony in Africa?” Why, yes… yes it is…

Southeast / East Asian nationalists in Japan: Perhaps one of the more consequential of 1906’s hidden developments, and possibly of the entire Great War at that. This particular year saw the publishing of a certain magazine by a certain publishing house in Tokyo. The contents? Translated articles and columns from Chinese, Korean, Indochinese, and Filipino nationalists all espousing for a free Asia. The name of the publication was simple, yet striking: Ajia no Hoshii – The Star of Asia.

For the more internationalist-minded Japanese folks, the magazine is another product of the idea of Pan-Asianism: the idea that Asia should be governed of Asians, by Asians, for Asians, free of Western interference. However, those who have read regional history has also learned how Japan is a bit… insistent… on pushing this sort of thing [5]. Already, several Korean and Chinese nationalists holed up in Tokyo were holding second thoughts on the whole shebang, and not just because Japanese funds are going into the Korean hoopla and destabilizing China. 1906 is also the year where the kokuryūkai – an ultranationalist Japanese group, became a public topic due to an article in a broadsheet newspaper that was published on June 15th. Allegedly written by someone within the group, the article espouses how the Pan-Asian movement is just a smokescreen for the Japanese Empire’s imperial ambitions.

Naturally, there was a lot of “he said, she said” regarding the affair afterwards, but it did made some nationalists pause about just who is actually backing them for. But while a few Chinese and Korean folks pondered, the exiled Annamese, Tonkinese and Filipino literates were still convinced of Japan’s ability to give them a free homeland. Indeed, the Annamese prince Cường Để [6] even wrote so in the Star of Asia in a rebuttal to the anonymous expose of the kokuryūkai:

…These nationalists are just a minor figures in the Pan-Asia movement. By and large, the Asian brotherhood of free and equal nations is a just and fair cause, with no greater imperialist aims for the Japanese...


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Spratly Islands: Yet another thing that kinda went under everyone’s eyes during the year (at least to those in Europe)! The war shenanigans between the Kingdom of Sarawak and Italian Sabah were regionally titanic, and this caused a lot of frazzled nerves over in the Spanish Philippines. Pretty hard not to, as much of the local island chains between Borneo, Malaya, and Indochina were invaded by the Regia Marina, The Royal Navy, The Sarawakian navy and even the Austro-Hungarian Kreigsmarine!

Well, that final navy was just a single wee ship that got left behind in Borneo and just… hung around, but it still nabbed a tiny atoll somewhere in the whole mess! [7a.]

Nevertheless, the chaos of the oceans spooked a Manila that suddenly realized how easily some belligerent could have bottled-up oceanic commerce to and from their archipelago. No wonder then that the Philippine dominion government swiftly opened secret diplomatic talks between Kuching and Singapore once things settled down in 1906, arguing for a territorial settlement of the Spratly islands.

Given Sarawak’s issues regarding the chaos up in Sabah and the interior, and then the reconstruction, and with Rajah Clayton’s wedding whirlwind, it took a while before anyone actually sat down and hashed things out. In fact, the final ink in the Spratly Agreement wouldn’t be signed until 1908! Still, as early as this year, an informal agreement was made in which the dividing line was marked from a centerpoint between Banggi Island (Sarawak) and South Mangsee Island (Philippines). From there, the line cleaves due west; whatever atolls lay to the north shall the Philippine-owned, and vice versa for Sarawak in the south.

Also, due to certain propaganda-claiming shenanigans, Swallow Atoll was chucked to Austria-Hungary as a consolation prize [7b.]. All in all, quite the happy agreement!

Yap Island / Emma Eliza Coe: Okey, this part requires some unpacking. Once, there lived an Irish sea captain who later emigrated to the United States. This man – named David Dean O'Keefe – had a hot temper and some run-ins with the law. In 1872, he somehow sailed to the Pacific and by either sheer luck or design (Stranded? Marooned? Sailed?), ended up on Yap Island. In the Pacific Ocean. In a region that is technically under the Spanish Philippines.

There, he found two things that would make him rich. What were they?

Copra. And Yapese stone money.

For centuries, the local inhabitants of Yap have carved, transported, and beheld giant stone disks located across the island. Made from aragonite, they were incredibly valued, with ownership being transferred between peoples and chiefs in important ceremonies, acting akin to giant coins (though they are not currency in any western sense of the term, as any Yapese will tell you). O’Keefe saw this value, made some quick extrapolation, and thus made an offer to the Yapese: he could bring them to Palau and other islands to mine aragonite to make the stone disks, and in exchange, they would labor in copra-producing coconut plantations in the Mapia atoll, further south [8].

In short, he got cheap labour by manipulating local customs to his advantage. This, combined with selling copra to western markets, pretty much made him a wealthy king in all but name on Yap, complete with his own flag! He took two wives who bore him several sons and daughters, and settled into a life of jealously-guarded leisure. That is, until the Great War broke out [9].

Thankfully, Yap was too far away from any important oceanic places to be a target from the major alliances, but the copra trade did dry up. Seeing this, O'Keefe tried to cobble new ways of making money but none truly stuck, though he did found out from passing ships that a certain Queen of Kaiser-Wilhelmsland was angling for a marriage deal with the White Rajah of Sarawak [10]. Hearing of this women’s wealth and status (and her eventual failure in the Sarawak marriage mart) he thought “Eh, why not?” and so in December 1906, he himself sailed to Kokopo to try and make his own offer: his children and hers, together…

1906 part 2 of 2 - Yap_Stone_Money.jpg

I wonder if there were any stone wedding ring jokes made when they finally met?


Whew! That was a giant update to pull off. This part of the 1906 roundup was originally a part of the main update, but was later split-off due to the increasing inclusion of so much tangential stuff that – while relevant to the greater world of Rajahs and Hornbills – were too distinct to be just mentioned once and tossed aside. And as you can see, there’s a lot of stuff.

1. The name Yersinia Pestis was given to the plague bacterium in honour of one of the bacteriologists who discovered the pathogen, Alexandre Yersin. In TTL, he probably won’t be the one who’ll discover the bacterium, but the scientific name is so iconic that I shall (for a rare instance) make a handwave to the Butterfly Effect and use it anyway – the name could arise from a different scientist(s), but still kept the spelling.

2. The hypothesis that colonial troops were used as cannon fodder is a very controversial one, and in OTL there has been much spilled ink on whether France was intentional in pursuing such a doctrine during WWI when it bought hundreds of thousands of men from colonial Africa to the European frontlines. With this said, much of the contemporary public, French soldiers, and even some political leaders seemed to think so, as the arrival of African troops to a particular place was popularly interpreted as a sign of an imminent offensive. The International WWI Encyclopaedia has a great article breaking down the topic.

3. The Fijians and Maori did participate in WWI in OTL, and the Christchurch city library as well as the WWI Encyclopaedia have recorded their voyages to the front and their experiences in the frontlines, though the latter group has since received much more attention and study than the former.

4. See post #1067 for a refresher on Congolese exploitation and the international reactions to it.

5. For context, see post #1464 on how Japan arms revolutionary movements across Eastern Asia and inflame pro-republican uprisings under the cause of Pan-Asianism.

6. We have actually met prince Cường Để before, on post #1434. He was an anti-French Vietnamese nationalist who fled to Japan as the head of an Annamese and Tonkinese delegation, making out from Hanoi to continue his quest for a free Viet country.

7. [7a.] Why yes, I do still remember how the Kaiserin Elisabeth planted a flag on an island in post #1352, which is now shown to be Swallow Reef – currently administered by Malaysia as Pulau Layang-Layang [7b].

8. The Mapia atoll is an actual atoll that was once under the sovereignty of the Spanish Philippines, although due to a lapse in claims the atoll has since been a part of Indonesia.

9. There is so much more to David O’Keefe’s story that should be mentioned, but for lack of space. The Smithsonian and PastAndPresent have some great articles if you want to know more about the man and his time in Yap Island, turning it into his private kingdom.

10. Why yes, that is Emma Eliza Coe of who we met in post #1034. And yes, she was ultimately unsuccessful in getting a match between her children and those of the Sarawak Brookes, though her prospects were never high due to the Sarawak court’s aversion to her exploitative business empire, as seen in post #1922.
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Austria Hungary can into southeast Asian colonialism!

O'Keefe actually being taken seriously as a monarch anywhere seems really dubious though.
Another fantastic update.
I love all the little royal/not-quite royal/royal-ish families this TL is introducing me to.
Thank you! In a timeline where a family can go out and adventure their way to state-building, you can never too many kooky families who think they can do the same. :openedeyewink:

Austria Hungary can into southeast Asian colonialism!

O'Keefe actually being taken seriously as a monarch anywhere seems really dubious though.
Well, if you consider a tiny coral atoll smaller in land size than Vatican City to be colonialism - seriously, the actual island of Swallow Reef is just 6.2 hectares (15 acres) large XD. Austria-Hungary thought they could make some good PR with their lone gunship stranded in Southeast Asia, and now they are saddled with the tiniest colony in existence. If they can manage to hang to it though, future tourists from the Alps will now have a great snorkeling site for holidays.

As for O'Keefe, he definitely belongs in the Dubious Royals Club. The man may have built Yap Island into a kingdom in name, but he doesn't have actual royal blood (like Emma Coe), longstanding residency/protection (like the Clunies-Ross), or international clout from conquest (like the Brookes). The one thing O'Keefe has got, though, is a mind for business, so he knows which way to go when his fortunes begin to turn south. It should also be noted that some of the islands where O'Keefe made his mines and plantations - like the Mapia atoll - are so small and/or remote that many larger colonial powers literally cared less about them going off (or simply forgot, as Spain did with Kapingamarangi and Rongerik in the Pacific).

Well its going to take some time to digest all that.

Great job at showing how terrible things are.
A world at war is hell, and in many ways beyond mere fighting. If it helps, the main conflict may not last as long as WWI - though the after-effects may linger a long time afterwards.

EDIT: added some links, edited some mistakes, and changed some figures. You saw nothing!
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I really love how the imperial infrastructure is stretched to the breaking point, with all its consequences. We saw that in OTL too, but doing it here really illustrates the different world. As always, these back ends of empire generate interesting characters, and that was a good way of tying these events back in with the main narrative. The plague stuff is also a nice touch.
As for the reputation of asian troops, is it a white/asian thing, or (for the Maori), their already-famous reputation as warriors compared to obscure Africans, I wonder?
Great update!
I really love how the imperial infrastructure is stretched to the breaking point, with all its consequences. We saw that in OTL too, but doing it here really illustrates the different world.
"Oh no! My pretensions for military, economic, and political power are destroyed by the cold harsh reality of logistics, human nature, and structural limitations! Oh the ~humanity!"

I suspect there shall be a lot of excessive contemplation by everyone involved as to why the war didn't turn out like they hoped it did. 🤭

As always, these back ends of empire generate interesting characters, and that was a good way of tying these events back in with the main narrative.
The back-ends of empire are often where you find some of the most interesting characters, and it does speak to the nature of empire that some people would try to piggy-back imperial pretensions to establish their own mini-empires - be they adventurer-states or business fiefdoms.

One interesting point to consider is how connected were they to one another. In the case of people like Emma and O'Keefe, they are - to their dismay - more alike to each other than to, say, Sarawak.

The plague stuff is also a nice touch.
I often wonder why the Third Plague Pandemic is almost forgotten in modern pop-history. Certainly the Spanish Flu and WWI took most of the spotlight, but you'd think the return of the Bubonic bacterium in the 19th century would've made for some long-lasting cultural impact. Down in this TL, the plague shall be remembered veeeeery differently.

As for the reputation of asian troops, is it a white/asian thing, or (for the Maori), their already-famous reputation as warriors compared to obscure Africans, I wonder?
That's a bit complicated, and I'm not sure if there's any complete answers.

Certainly in India's case, the 'Martial Races' theory was still held by the British and the histories of fallen empires would have lent credence to the reputation of soldiers from the subcontinent. As for the Maori and the Fijians, that's more unclear. Although many Maori didn't join WWI, they were already known by westerners as a fierce people with a strong emphasis on warriorhood (although the Maori conception of a warrior is different from the west). Even contemporary Maori MPs believed in the idea, as one Maori MP (Sir Maui Pomare) once said: "the galvanic current of battle stirred the warrior blood of ancestral chieftains in their veins, and they asked that they might be allowed to go to the firing line."

The Fijians are even less clear, as they weren't as famous as their New Zealand counterparts. I suspect there may have been some popular imagining of them as fierce cannibals by the western public (yuck) and some irrational transposing of Hawaiian cultural identity on the Fijians by contemporary Europeans, though I can't confirm this. In any case, while Indian, Fijian, and Maori troops weren't seen as equals on the battlefront, they were certainly more well-regarded by the public and less thought-off as cannon fodder like West Africans.
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Interlude: An Eclipse of Change (1907) New

At the border between Manchuria, Mongolia, and Imperial Russia, January 14, 1907

The metal frame of the telescope was ice-cold, yet Sergey Khokhlov knew how lucky he was.

Heaving up the barrel into its proper place, the young Manchu-Russian scientist quickly slipped in the pins and screws to secure the apparatus onto its tripod, fingers working quickly to avoid continuous contact with the chilly metal and the equally chilly air.

Inwardly, Sergey cursed for what felt like the thousandth time. By all accounts, he shouldn’t be here anyways. The total solar eclipse of Eurasia was supposed to bridge the disparate communities of Russia and her neighbors together, halting – at least for a time – all the bickering and fighting between the many peoples of the continent. The serendipity of the Orthodox New Year falling on the same day was supposed to add to the occasion; Sergey was even invited to attend a gathering in Samarkand as a representative of the scientific community from the Russian Far East, joining the friendly and truce-led affair that was joined by all the Basmachi, astronomers, astrologers, scholars, and religious men throughout all the vast steppes.

“Is it done?” The guard growled.

“In a moment.” Sergey huffed. From looking around, the other astronomers were just as sullen. We really shouldn’t be. It was a miracle of God that they were able to gain leave from Manchuria – what with the fighting with the Qing and the Japanese becoming ever more brutal. Far from the battlefields, the newly-arrived Russian army had effectively become the new rulers of the land, and several of Sergey’s childhood friends had already been conscripted to fight.

Thank God for the church.

“I need help with the screws!” A voice pierced the chilly air. A telescope had nearly detached from its tripod and its attendant is scrambling to hold the barrel upright.

“I’m coming, I’m coming!” And so it went on, with Sergey and his group helping along with preparations until the site was finally complete: a large tent for all of them to stay the night, a few miscellaneous structures for the guards, and the multiple telescopes all proudly pointing to the giant disc of light up above.

Looking at the time, Sergey barely had time to acknowledge how close they were to the eclipse’s start before a voice – Anatoly, Sergey thought – shouted to the others, “It’s starting! I think it’s starting!”

Immediately, the site was all a blur as everyone scrambled to open notebooks and jot measurements.

Looking up at the sky for a moment, Sergey suddenly remembered something… an old tale from his mother and father on such an event. They once told of how the moon blocking the fiery sun meant the Emperor’s Mandate of Heaven was in doubt, and especially if the event was unpredicted. If not prepared well in advance, an eclipse would cast supreme doubt on an emperor’s rulership.

I wonder…

The squeak of a nearby telescope’s barrel pulled him from the thought. Finalizing the angle of his device, Sergey pushed out all memories of his group’s hasty travel, of Manchuria and the Great War, of the portent and plague and the Qing armies and the Crimson Swords and the friends and family he left behind. This was what he wanted to see. This was what he came here for.

This may not be Samarkand, but at least we are here.




So… I’m back. Hi. Sorry for the wait. 😓

The eclipse in question is the total solar eclipse of January 14, 1907, which was seen across Russian Turkestan (modern-day Central Asia), Western China, the Mongolian steppe, and the Russian Far East. There is a tradition throughout history of truces or halts in fighting during eclipses and astronomical phenomena, which is why everyone with a telescope wanted to go on a train to Samarkand – the Basmachi in the countryside even declared a temporary truce for the occasion.

In fact, this very eclipse gives us the earliest colored photographs of Samarkand and Central Asia at all, as the chemist Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky travelled to the city to witness the eclipse first-hand.

Unfortunately, some didn’t make it in time and had to make do, like Sergey’s group.
Wonderful chapter. I'm glad this isn't dead. Hope you and yours are doing all right.
Thankfully, I'm fine and so are my close ones. But I won't deny that the pandemic and related issues (and internet-stuff) have sapped my motivation to write over the last few months.

There's also the the issue of the upcoming East Asia update being so complicated, it's been delaying progress overall. If you're all wondering why the next installment looks like someone decided to go "fuck it", and scribble without care, that is partly due to me finally snapping.

Don't bloat your TL, y'all.