I sense a potential succession crisis once the Spanish king dies...

(The current king is this guy right? If so, he lasted until 1855 OTL...)

Wait, could this explain why the Viceroyalty of South America is (1) an independent sovereign state and (2) considered its own power by the 20th century? The king's existing son holding on over there while "his" daughter is able to take control of metropolitan Spain? Hmmm...
Yep. I suppose there's no point hiding it—this is indeed the plan.
5 pregnancies by the age of 21! Poor Maria
It's much worse than that. Six pregnancies in five years, two more before that, and one living child to show for it.
Interlude: December 23, 1839 (7)
Central Europe and the Balkans
Let’s start with the war.

After the second day at Silistre, the battle turned into a siege of the island. This lasted for most of a month, until the Russians were so low on food, ammunition, and other supplies that they had no choice but to surrender. The problem the French and Austrians had was that there was no place to put a hundred thousand POWs, except to leave them where they were. Which was a very bad place. Russian soldiers were dying by the thousands of the usual diseases—Nikolai himself died of dysentery in July, shortly before the surrender—and if the Danube flooded they would surely drown to the last man.

There was no way to do a prisoner swap, because Russia didn’t have nearly enough prisoners, and nobody on the allied side trusted Russia to honor the parole of half their army. So Radetzky quietly began allowing prisoners to escape, by dribs and drabs with nothing but what they could carry, and make their way back into Russia before winter. When the numbers were down to about fifty thousand, Radetzky took them west into proper purpose-built POW camps.

Meanwhile, the front moved an astonishing distance over the summer. King Ludovic liberated Wallachia and captured General Perovsky. His brother rolled up the army attacking the Carpathians and defeated Suvorov, with a little help from von Haynau and von Mensdorff-Pouilly[1], the Austrian generals who’d been holding the Carpathians against the Russians all this time. Radetzky is currently wintering in Odessa[2] while his army builds up defenses along the Dniester in anticipation of next year’s counterattack.

The French and British contingent of this army has been greatly reduced—and as for the Italians, the Dniester isn’t as deep as the Danube, and only the smaller Italian gunboats can navigate it. Also, the hills on the west bank of the river offer good defensive positions, so despite the crucial role the Italians played at Silistre, their help might no longer be needed. Saxony, Bavaria, Baden, and Württemberg are sending regiments to support the Austrians, which will partly make up for the smaller British and French presence. We’ll talk more about these states later, but all of them are taking advantage of this conflict to give some of their army units experience in modern warfare.

So unless things change radically next year, Russia will be the big loser of this war and Austria will be the big winner. The Sudzollverein has already expanded to include Serbia, and King Ludovic plans to bring Moldavia into it as well—and to expand Moldavia to include Bessarabia[3]. This will expand the customs union’s presence on the Black Sea, which will have the side effect of making it even more of a priority for Metternich to maintain good relations with Bosnia-Rumelia and Turkey (meaning the Cairene Empire).

There’ll be another, very small new member as well. One of the few lasting effects of the Congress of Vienna was the establishment of the Free City of Kraków, a city-state sandwiched between Austria, Prussia, and Russia. It was so small that its university[4] was empowered to send representatives to its assembly, but it was a republic and its language of government was Polish. After the fall of the Duchy of Warsaw, this was all that remained of the dream of an independent Poland. This year, tired of Polish rebels hiding out in Kraków, Russia threatened it with invasion. Prussia didn’t want to get involved, so Austria placed it under their protection. The one rule is that Polish rebels won’t be using it as a base of operations. They’ll be traveling to Rijeka, Zadar, or Split and boarding a ship for either France or somewhere in the New World.

If any one person is in charge of the Austrian Empire these days, it’s Emperor Ferdinand’s uncle, Archduke Louis. Mostly he makes speeches as needed (rarely—it’s called the Secret State Conference for a reason) and rubber-stamps the decisions of Metternich and Kolowrat. Metternich is still feeling smug about having outlived Talleyrand, but he has his hands full keeping track of Austria’s allies, especially the ones who have been Austria’s enemies before and probably will be again—not to mention watching for any sign of sedition or secession within the empire.

That work has been greatly complicated by constitutional reform in the empire. In some provinces (Transylvania, Galicia and Lodomeria, Dalmatia, Voivodina) the authorities aren’t bothering. Then there’s the various military frontiers, which were formed when Austria bordered the strong and scary Ottoman Empire, and which now mainly serve to block bandits coming out of Serbia or Bosnia-Rumelia. Those are still strictly controlled by the Army. (They might be able to retire the Transylvanian military frontier if the countries on the other side, Moldavia and Wallachia, stay friendly.) Tyrol, Salzburg, Illyria, Moravia, Austrian Silesia, and Upper and Lower Austria all have similar constitutions which put most of the real power in the hands of the Austrian crown. They differ on things like which languages and religions are official and how much scope is given to those that aren’t.

But then there’s Hungary and Bohemia. In Hungary, people like István Széchenyi, Miklós Wesselényi, Ferenc Kölcsey, Lajos Kossuth, and Mihály Táncsics[5] are stepping up in the Diet. The constitution they’ve written puts Hungary about where Britain was fifty years ago, which is still pretty darn radical by Austrian standards. The Emperor can veto legislation, and can dissolve it, but that immediately leads to a new election. You have to be fairly well off to have the vote, but even with that there is at least some representation for Croats, Slovaks, and Romanians in the Diet.

Even more radical is Bohemia, where the Diet has used this to put itself more or less in charge. They can override the Emperor’s vetoes with a 60% majority, and he has no authority to dissolve them. Metternich thought it was so hilarious what the convention in Thessalonica did to Sultan Husein, swearing loyalty to him while basically giving themselves veto power over his decrees. He’s not laughing anymore.

And then there’s the other states of the Sudzollverein, where Austria has influence but not control. Saxony was a constitutional monarchy with a working parliament even before Friedrich August II became king three years ago, and he’s been expanding freedoms there—and Saxony is not only an important part of the Sudzollverein, but one that could theoretically go over to the Nordzollverein if they thought they could get a better deal.

Eight years ago, Grand Duke Leopold of Baden allowed amendments to the constitution his father granted. His people now have as much freedom and representation as the people of Hanover. This made the Badeners very happy. Not so happy was King William of Württemberg, who has the example of his little brother King Paul of Greece to see what happens when a king isn’t master of his own kingdom. (He’s also not happy that his oldest son, also named William[6], has picked up some of the same radical ideas about freedom while studying in Oxford. It’s some consolation that he’s also picked up the affections of Amelia, Princess Royal of the United Kingdom, with whom he shares a birthday.) The grand duke’s decision was also a thorn in the side of Prussia, because Prussia has that little crescent-shaped exclave of land that’s mostly tucked inside Württemberg but borders Baden on the south. And of course Metternich himself was unhappy.

But Leopold had a trump card in arguing with these people—in any war with France, Baden would be Austria’s first line of defense. “To guard your western border,” he wrote to Metternich, “you need free, proud German men. You need men who will never allow the French to do to their home what they did to Mainz and Rhenish Bavaria.” The only response Metternich could think of was that he’s been reading Radetzky’s reports, and while Austria’s army has improved a lot since the war with Italy, they’re not ready to take on France just yet. If it came to it, Austria would be more likely to end up fighting in Bavaria than Baden. That wasn’t an argument he wanted to make. (The one bit of good news is that they’ve made so little progress on rebuilding their navy that retooling for screw propulsion won’t slow them down any further.)

Speaking of Bavaria, that kingdom has been one of the bright spots of the customs union. They’re industrializing almost as fast as Hanover and the Rhineland. Bavaria’s railroad grid is the most extensive in the Sudzollverein. (Although all their grids are still in the early stages. It will take some years for the railroads to meet, and for the engineers building them to wish they’d agreed beforehand on a single track gauge.)

As far as political freedom goes, there was kind of a dustup in the Munich parliament last year over the question of freedom of religion. Catholicism is the state religion of Bavaria, but the religious freedom of Protestants is guaranteed by the constitution. An ultra-Catholic party won a majority in the parliament and started trying to amend the constitution to take away the protections of Protestants. This angered King William of Württemberg almost as much as Baden’s freedom—not that he objects to religious repression, he just has a different take on who should be repressing whom—but Austria was okay with it. So was the king of Bavaria, right up until the ultra-Catholics called upon him to abandon his mistresses.

Big mistake. You do not get between King Ludwig and the ladies. He immediately dismissed Parliament and called for a new election, in which a more moderate government took office.

Wallachia has a rather conservative constitution, but Moldavia has no constitution at all. The closer those two kingdoms get together, the more awkward that will make things.

In Bosnia-Rumelia news, Macedonia has its own flag, flying just underneath the green-and-gold Gradascevician banner[7]. It’s a pentacolor representing the five millets—crimson for the Greeks[8], gold for the Orthodox Slavs, white for the Catholics, green for the Muslims, and indigo for the Jews[9].
Macedonia flag.png

It’s a simple flag for a complicated place. In the Sultan’s Council[10], as on the flag, the millets have equal representation. In Parliament, the population has closer to equal representation, which means the Greeks and Slavs are much the two largest groups. For Aspirant Elmar in the French quartermaster’s office, it’s an interesting introduction to how politics work.

Sultan Husein is feeling good about the future. He’s lost a province—Thessaly—but he never got much revenue from there anyway. The Turks and other Muslims who might be dissatisfied with how he’s doing things or ambitious to replace him have been reminded how much they need him. The Bulgarians are a lot more uppity than they used to be, but they’re not mad at him personally. The Macedonians were never particularly obedient to begin with—now they’ve just put it in writing. And he’s actually getting more revenue out of that province than he did before. He’s starting to think he might actually get to die in bed. After that, the Gradascevician Empire will be in God’s hands—but then, when was it ever not?

King Pavlos would be mildly offended by the comparison, but he’s in a similar spot. If anything, the addition of Thessaly has strengthened his position in what is technically his kingdom—the various families who actually control the rest of Greece don’t have much sway there.

Finally, there’s Albania. Sultan Vehid didn’t plan on becoming a reformer, but Gjakova changed everything. He lost an important battle because of gjakmarrja, the tradition of blood feuds his little country is notorious for. Worse, the feud that cost him the battle is still going on, and the Luani family is winning because General Enver Luani can draw upon loyal soldiers from the Army as well as his own family. The Zefi family are fleeing Albania to join the Rabat refugees[11] in Alexandria. That’s not a new thing—Albanians in Egypt have done well for themselves before, Muhammad Ali himself being the most obvious example—but it doesn’t help him build his sultanate.

The problem is, he can’t just declare a state monopoly on the use of force and tell his people to knock it off. However weird and horrible it might look to the rest of the world, they regard gjakmarrja as not just a right under the kanun, but an essential component of their duty to protect themselves and their families. The state and its agents can’t be everywhere, after all, and you never know when somebody might come after you.

But here’s the thing—nobody’s actually written down the kanun yet.[12] There’s nothing stopping Vehid from writing down his own version, which expands on his grandfather’s work of creating courts (kuvendets, or men’s assemblies) in which empowered representatives of the various families can hash things out, demanding money, marriages, or the punishment of specific murderers. The idea is to give everyone an option besides whipping out their swords. Turning clans into responsible legal entities wouldn’t work in most places, but Albania isn’t most places.

[1] Prince-Consort Leopold’s brother-in-law, if you’re interested.
[2] Standard 19th-century spelling of Odesa. Please don’t read anything into it.
[3] Which we know as Moldova.
[4] The Jagiellonian University
[5] This is how they’re known in Vienna. In Hungary, their given names come after their surnames.
[6] Born in January of 1817, more or less in place of OTL’s Princess Marie, who became Countess of Neipperg on her marriage.
[7] The flag of the Eyalet of Bosnia.
[8] The flag of Greece is the same as IOTL, except that the blue has been replaced by the dark red of (depending on whom you ask) Byzantium or Württemberg.
[9] Wool and indigo dye were important industries for the Thessalonica Jewish community.
[10] A sort of combination Senate and Cabinet.
[11] More about them in a future update.
[12] IOTL the first written version was in 1872.
Might be missing something, but how are places like Bohemia getting more liberal constitutions with the Austrian monarchy not wanting them to have more liberal constitutions?
Might be missing something, but how are places like Bohemia getting more liberal constitutions with the Austrian monarchy not wanting them to have more liberal constitutions?
The monarchy doesn't feel like they're in a position to crack down on Bohemia in the middle of a major war, especially since Bohemia is a major source of troops and weapons. This is one of those situations where the people in charge recognize the need for reform, try to have a little reform that they can manage, and things start getting (from their point of view) out of hand.
Trying to connect the dots on Aristism given what we know.

So Carlyle and Fitzhugh are huge influences and yet it seems to become biggest in the Catholic, Hispanophone world?
So unless things change radically next year, Russia will be the big loser of this war and Austria will be the big winner.


Another good update, to be sure. Seems like the war has really shaken things up by a lot and Europe's map has been rewritten... again. Can really see a lot of major changes kicking in across a wide variety of fields with science, politics and society undergoing upheavals. Be fun to see what happens next.
Interlude: December 23, 1839 (8)
After a fairly successful twenty years, Russia finds itself in a very bad way. The Tsar’s dominions expanded through the Caucasus to bring Baku, Yerevan, and Trebizond into the empire. Serfdom has been diminished, literacy increased. Any record of Russian history that stopped at the end of 1835 would say the later years of Tsar Alexander’s rule were marked by success.

But now the Russian army has suffered its worst defeat in centuries. Nancy wasn’t this bad. Borodino wasn’t this bad. An army of over 400,000 was basically scattered to the winds.

The soldiers who were in that army are not all dead—in fact, the great majority of them aren’t. Some of them have turned to banditry in the Pripyat marshes. Some of them are roaming Russia trying to find their way home. And some of them are such gluttons for punishment, or so afraid of being punished for desertion, that they’re trying to find a Russian army base so they can report for duty again.

The tsar himself is still alive. Alexander Pavlovich has outlived all his younger brothers—Konstantin was killed in an ambush outside Radom a few weeks ago, and Mikhail died last year of tuberculosis which he caught, ironically enough, at a health resort in Baden-Baden back in ’37[1]. But Alexander himself is not doing so well, physically or mentally. He’s just lucid enough to cling to power like grim death, not lucid enough to reflect that it might be time for him to step aside in favor of his nephew Konstantin Konstantinovich.

As for Konstantin, he’s waiting with the patience of someone much older than his nineteen years. He knows he’s of age and next in line for the throne, as Alexander has no living, legitimate offspring. He is still in mourning for his father, and promising vengeance upon the Polish bandits who murdered him. The news of his father’s death interrupted his honeymoon with his wife, Dorothea of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.

Konstantin is a big fan of his uncle’s work, and in fact is of the opinion that it hasn’t been going nearly far enough—an opinion which has been confirmed by Silistre. He might not even be old enough to remember the French invasion, but he is a great student of history. He’s learned of battles in the previous century in which Russians fought and bested the armies of other powers as equals—not by drowning them in overwhelming numbers or letting them penetrate deep into Mother Russia and then screwing up their logistics, but by fighting them on their own ground and winning. He knows about the battles of Kay and Kunersdorf in 1759, and the campaigns of Suvorov—the real General Alexander Suvorov, not the namesake grandson cooling his heels in an Austrian POW camp. He’s fond of saying, “If Suvorov had lived another fifteen years, Napoleon would never have seen Moscow.”

And yet it seems like, in this century, if Russia wants to fight anybody important[2] and win, they need a numerical advantage of three, four, five to one. Why should that be? The average Russian soldier is every bit as strong and enduring as any other soldier in the world. He can march as far and shoot as straight. As for brains, Russian soldiers pride themselves on smekalka—cleverness and creativity, especially when deceiving superiors and improvising solutions to the problems imposed by leadership.

A certain young supply officer and interpreter in the French Army could tell Konstantin that the problem he’s looking for is most likely systemic, built into the structure and established habits of the army and the nation as a whole. A certain wandering preacher who mostly wanders Kyantine with occasional visits to Freedmansville, Jericho, and anywhere else he won’t attract the attention of an angry mob would tell him something similar, but would phrase it very differently; he would describe the various collective bad habits and failures of coordination as malevolent entities, beasts not made of flesh yet somehow alive, demons that dwell not within people but between them.

But Konstantin hasn’t met any of these people, and won’t. The people he’s met are his family’s military advisors, who keep trying to tell him that none of this matters as long as Russia can still call upon those overwhelming numbers that fought at Leipzig and Nancy. If worst comes to worst, they can always do the whole let-them-invade thing which worked so well against Napoleon, and Charles XII before him. Konstantin isn’t listening to these old fools. Their overwhelming numbers got overwhelmed at Silistre, and by Westerners fighting in defense of Muslims and Jews, no less.

And the worst part? Russians out on the frontier are being kidnapped by raiders out of Khiva and sold as slaves in Central Asia. This is something that really puts his teeth on edge, especially since the soldiers who should be protecting them are in shallow graves on the banks of the Danube, in POW camps, wandering aimlessly around western Russia, fighting rebels in Poland, marching around Finland so nobody gets any ideas, marching around the Caucasus so nobody gets any ideas, guarding supply convoys to Persia, or fighting alongside Ali Mirza in Persia. Even the Russian army can be overextended. Konstantin feels like he’s the only one who understands or cares about any of this.

And he thinks he has the solution. The underperformance in the Russian army must have its roots in some sort of moral failing that pervades the whole of society. Too much vodka, not enough education. Too much sin, not enough faith. Alexander tried to overcome this problem, but he’s old and got distracted by the war. It will take a young, energetic, committed Tsar to bring about true spiritual reform.

What do the Russian people think of all this? Nobody’s asked them. Even republics don’t have opinion polls yet, and Russia is no republic. And at this point the phrase “the Russian people” is being applied to a lot of people who would be bitterly offended if you called them Russian to their faces.

One of these people is a student at the Imperial Academy of Arts in Saint Petersburg. He is both a painter and a writer, and just about the best in his class in both fields—in fact, the money from the sale of his artwork was enough to buy out his serfdom contract. His name is Taras Hryhorovych Shevchenko, and at this time of year Saint Petersburg is just a little colder and somewhat snowier than the Ukrainian steppe which is his home.

Shevchenko is working on an epic poem about a rebellion by brave Ukrainians against Polish rule[3]. This is likely to be controversial not just because he’s writing the poem in Ukrainian rather than Russian, but because the rebellion in question was crushed not by Poles but by Russians on the order of Catherine the Great. The Academy is technically independent of the Ministry for Spiritual Reform and Popular Enlightenment, but they know they won’t stay that way for very long if they start putting out subversive content.

And if Shevchenko’s work isn’t subversive, he’ll be very disappointed. He’s in touch with enough people back home to know exactly what they think of the Ministry and its insistence on foisting its own clerical appointees in Ukraine over the wishes of the locals. It’s starting to remind him of what the Polish nobility used to do. The fact that the Austrians are wintering in a Ukrainian city while the Russian army is doing its best impression of a decapitated chicken doesn’t help inspire respect for the Tsar’s authority.

Just to let the Academy know who they’re dealing with, Shevchenko has already written a laudatory poem about Alexander Pushkin in exile in Russian America. (Again, sometimes it’s your heroes who should never meet you. Pushkin, who was sent more than halfway around the world for his criticism of the tsar, wouldn’t care to hear the same criticisms coming from some ex-serf who cares more about the Ukrainian people than the glory of the empire.)

North Africa and the Middle East
First, the good news. Tunisia has a new bey, Ahmad I, who took office in 1838[4]. He’s got lots of ideas for modernizing his country, but not a lot to work with. The biggest Tunisian exports are grain and olive oil, both of which are also produced by Italy, which doesn’t want its own farmers undercut—and Italy is still very much in charge here. The rebellions in the Barbary colonies are not enjoying enough success to inspire Ahmad to do likewise.

One of the few benefits of being a conquered nation is you don’t have to spend much on your army and navy. Ahmad can concentrate on building more schools, and on investing state funds in a textile mill at Teburba[5]. For once, Italy doesn’t have a problem with this—Italy’s own textile industry is known for quality rather than quantity, and could use a little more quantity.

To the west, Portugal and Spain (more Spain than Portugal) are winning the war in Morocco. Since Carlos gained the throne, Spain has just lost another war and another colony, and he’s determined that Luzon will be the last one they lose. Portugal has most of its small navy committed to the strip of coast they’ve named Tangeria—and now that they’ve sacked the rebel-held city of Rabat (now Rebate), they’re free to chase the rebels as far into the hills as they dare.

The sack was… a sack. They’re always ugly. The good news is that most of the civilians were able to flee beforehand. This was the work of two people—Muhammad Ali, sultan of the Cairene Empire, and Judah Touro, an American philanthropist living in New York. These two could both see what was coming, and over the course of late ’38 and early ’39, they collaborated as closely as two people can who live in separate hemispheres in the age before quick transoceanic communication. Between them, they were able to charter enough ships to get most of the refugees to Alexandria, Jaffa, and Beirut, although several thousand Jews went to America instead. Credit also belongs to John Tyler, who managed to talk Portugal into not interfering with this work despite having been famously undercut by his own president in the matter of the Lamar-Quitman expedition.

Abd al-Qadir himself has retreated to the interior of Orania, where the forever war is looking less and less like a war. Unlike in Algeria, the British aren’t settling the land and driving people out of their homes, they’re just… buying things. Wine and gum arabic and mohair and olives and other fruit, most of which comes from the coastal strip that they control. And considering that they’re the only buyers, they’re offering decent prices for all this stuff.

Abd al-Qadir is not a stupid man. He can see what Dupuis is trying to do—turn this colony into a place where the people have a stake in international trade, and therefore despise piracy as much as the British do. He actually likes this idea in the abstract, but to his way of thinking, independence from London must come first. Muhammad Ali is still quietly sending small caravans across the desert, equipped with just enough powder and shot to keep a very low-level fight going.

The Sultan of the Cairene Empire is not too displeased with the state of the realm. Trade is picking up again. The first locally-built steamboats are going up and down the Nile, the Tigris and the Euphrates. True, Persia is now closed to his empire—the proxy war there continues to drag on. Oman and Yemen are allies rather than vassals—and honestly, the same could be said of many of the peoples of the Sahara that are technically his subjects. The little Somali states on the Horn of Africa are not even allies, and would happily call on Britain or France for help if he tried to vassalize them. But now that Sennar and Ethiopia are conquered, the empire can expand in a direction the Europeans aren’t paying attention to—further up the Nile as far as Lake Ukerewe[6].

Sub-Saharan Africa
In West Africa, even an insect can change the balance of power. There are some species of insect that are already doing this.

Eldana saccharina, the African sugarcane borer, is a parasitic moth that attacks a variety of different crops, including of course sugarcane. It doesn’t completely destroy it, but it greatly reduces yield. An outbreak of it in Pays-Crou is literally eating into the profits of the sugar planters. Those who are most dependent on this crop are the hardest hit. Least dependent are the Crou panning for alluvial gold in the rivers of recently-conquered western Pays-Crou, or in the hills taken from the Baoulé.

Until recently an aristocracy was forming, and coming to dominate the Crou Assembly, but the appearance of newly rich chiefs and successful warlords is disrupting that. This in turn makes it very hard to present a unified front to the Compagnie de Commerce Africaine, especially with so many Crou converting to Catholicism to gain favor with the CCA. And there’s a new distraction—raids out of the north from Futa Jallon. Compared to what’s happening further east, they’re not much, but they’ve moved the Crou Assembly to cooperate with the inland state of Kaabu and the British colony of Sierra Leone.

What’s happening further east is the biggest war yet in West African history. The Fulani and their allies in the north are attacking all the states and statelets along the coast. They have the advantage of lots of cavalry and the relatively open savannah, which lets them concentrate their forces wherever they see fit.

First it was an assault on Danhome, Oyeau, and Benin headed by the Sokoto Caliphate, largest and strongest of the Fulani states. Benin, with its famous earthworks, was quickly able to repel the attack, and their Dutch sponsors gained a new respect for them (especially on seeing that kingdom’s extensive earthworks). Many of the mercenaries who helped the Dutch take Mindanao were veterans of this conflict. In fact, Benin was able to capture a couple of armies’ worth of Fulani, Kanuri, and Hausa prisoners, and made an under-the-table deal to sell them to slave traders bound for Suriname[7]. Danhome and Oyeau had a harder fight, and became more and more dependent on Portugal and France for fresh weapons and ammunition. The European traders are having more luck turning lead into gold than any alchemist ever did, and their missionaries are enjoying more and more access to the population.

This year the front has moved to Asantehene. Kwaku Dua has many traders visiting him, and so has more options. But the jihadis are relentless, and all his forces are committed. He doesn’t have time to pay attention to the spread of various forms of Christian churches among the poor and the slaves of his kingdom. Thus the irony—the jihad, which was intended to turn West Africa Islamic from the Sahara to the Gulf of Guinea, is instead bringing new opportunities for Christianity.

The greater irony is that the jihad is futile. The Fulani and their allies are never going to conquer West Africa for Islam. The coastal states have an ally in this fight which all the cavalry of the Sahel cannot overcome.

It’s the tsetse fly (Glossina spp.), which carries the microbe that causes acute nagana, or sleeping sickness. It kills horses dead.

Further south, since Brazil is gone and Tangeria is an unhappy strip of coastline, Portugal is trying to expand its control over Angola and Mozambique. Nothing much is happening in Mozambique, but a little east of the Portuguese ports in Angola is the Lunda empire, which is really more of a loose tribal confederation—one which is about to get a whole lot looser. The westernmost tribe, the Chokwe, are feeling ambitious and ready to grab a bigger share. And on the coast, the Portuguese are happy to trade guns for ivory and wax, and a few boatloads of slaves if they can get them past the Royal Navy. The Chokwe leaders are quite certain this deal will never come back to bite them in the ass.

Then there’s South Africa. A big chunk of the Afrikaner population have had enough of Lords Grey and Brougham giving them orders on things like slavery and not stealing land from Xhosa who’ve converted to Anglicanism. They’re packing up and trekking out of British-held territory, past the Sotho kingdom and into the highlands around the Vaal River (and incidentally north of the Zulu and Swazi kingdoms). The climate here is cooler and more suitable for European crops, and no one even knows about the gold yet.

[1] Grand Duke Mikhail suffered from poor health and often visited spas, but IOTL he lived to 1849.
[2] To his way of thinking, this does not include Turks or Persians, against whom Russians have been doing just fine.
[3] Sort of. It’s complicated. In the 18th century, Shevchenko’s part of Ukraine was part of the territory of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, but the PLC was basically a puppet of Russia. The short version of what happened next is that in 1768 a group of Polish nobles formed the Bar Confederation and rose up against the puppet government. Ukrainian Cossacks and peasant recruits who were tired of Polish nobles suppressing the Orthodox Church rebelled against the Bar Confederation. As the Malê could tell you at this point ITTL (and as slaves in the CSA could tell you IOTL) one person’s cool rebel can easily be another person’s vicious tyrant.
[4] A year later than OTL
[5] Tebourba IOTL
[6] Lake Victoria IOTL
[7] Bear in mind that the Sokoto Caliphate is very happy to enslave the prisoners it takes in this war. As for what sort of slaves these religious fanatics will make, that’s Suriname’s problem, not Benin’s.
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The U.S., because this mission was partly organized by Americans, and because they're trying to get away from war and Florida has been invaded very recently.

Considering the hints we've had about America's very near future, might have been better the other way around...