Why the Chinese play cricket: 1870-1899 (an Imperial Federation timeline)

Introduction
The Pax Imperialis (The Peace of the Emperor). Or why the Chinese play cricket
(For my beloved daughter Kwaryn)

This one of those "the sun never sets" British Empire timelines. However what comes out at the end will very definitely not be the British Empire. Neither is it the Indian Empire nor any other Empire. It's a defuse global federation called the Imperial Commonwealth. This Commonwealth grows to become the world's leading power, with a distributed economy spread over five continents. However while its global nature is its greatest strength, it is also its greatest weakness. Though it has immense power, it is extremely hard for it to focus its power.

All the critical core information required to understand this timeline is contained in a limited number of posts. I refer to these as Chapters. These contain the story of the timeline as a sequence of events. These are all threadmarked in sequential order, I try to wait at least 24 hours between posting updates to allow time for people to comment. For anyone coming in "late," I always update each entry if I make alterations. So all you need to do is simply follow the bouncing ball through the threadmarks to get a grip on the timeline. The Chapters start with the seventh threadmark. This post and the five index posts come first. HOWEVER, various circumstances mean, that seventh threadmark is physically directly below this post. So if you want to skip the indexes and dive right in, just read to the bottom of this and hey presto, the first Chapter should be right there. Also to help keep perspective all monetary values mentioned include a conversion to pounds sterling in 1900 in curly braces after the number. For those who wish to put the values in modern terms, one pound sterling in 1900 is very roughly worth 145 US dollars in 2022.

Scattered through thread there are also other posts which expand on the raw information in these Chapters. These are design notes, lists of abbreviations used, data relating to alliances, navies, military affairs etc I regard as important. These are all indexed in the next five threadmarks, but I'll also link to them here.

- Maps and Graphics
- Design Notes
- Stories
- Naval Matters
- Military Matters
- Abbreviations and other terms

You may notice an index for stories. I always intended for this timeline to be a setting for storytelling. So they're exactly what it says on the box, pieces of fiction set in this timeline. One proviso, there are no guarantees I'll ever get round to writing any, but I've included the index just in case. I'll mention, if anyone else ever feels the urge to use the setting as a backdrop for their own writing, PLEASE FEEL FREE, I would love it in fact. Most of my own writing is set in shared universes and I feel they are so much richer than a single person's work. I'd also love to turn this into a shared universe, just have no idea how to go about it, or if anybody would be interested.

This is the fourth iteration of this timeline. I hadn't updated it here for two years but I didn't stop working on it. However I'd done a LOT more research over those two years and was no longer happy with it, especially the pre 20th century portion and the First Great War. Plus it was too much of a britwank in my opinion, so that needed to change as well. I originally posted this in the after 1900 forum since most of it is set post 1900. However this time I'm starting here. I'm planning on continuing it in the post 1900 forum when I hit 1900 (maybe, I'll see when I get there).

The point of divergence is Gladstone's Landlord and Tenant (Ireland) Act isn't diluted. This brings forward the split between the radical and Whig factions in the Liberal party, increasing the pace of reform. However the butterflies spread fairly quickly and start to reach outside the bounds of the Empire in odd ways. However significant changes don't start to show up until the 20th century. Throughout the timeline I use the term Britain to refer to the United Kingdom, it's just easier to type. When I need to refer to one or more of the specific Home Nations, I use England, Ireland, Scotland, Ulster (the OTL Northern Ireland) and Wales.

There are a lot of abbreviations and terms which may be hard to keep track of, certainly FAR too many to remember. I periodically post an updated list of them and index it. So if you run across an abbreviation or term you don't understand, all you have to do is look it up. The same applies to alliances. This is a multi polar world and it can be hard to keep track of whose allied with whom. Also past about 1920, do not assume ANYTHING is like the OTL. The timeline changes slowly, but it changes beyond all recognition. Some very important points to remember. NOTE: These are all based on the third iteration of the timeline, I'm hoping this one goes differently. So, while I think all of these will apply to this iteration, I could be wrong.

1) The Imperial Commonwealth (abbreviated CW throughout the timeline) is a vastly different state from the OTL British Empire. It has a totally different geopolitical outlook, focusing on the Far East not Europe. Its involvement in Europe is primarily to keep the European powers from interfering in the east, keeping them focused on Europe. It also abandons traditional imperialism, instead using soft power to create client states.

2) The relative power of the CW and US is basically reversed. By 1940 the CW economy is twice the size of the US.

3) By the mid 30s India has a modern industrialised economy and has thoroughly been integrated in the CW political structure.

4) Italy is also a very different place. By the 40s it has the fourth largest economy in the world and possesses one of the most efficient militaries.

5) Poland is also quite different. Not only does it include all of OTL Poland but all of Galicia, Silesia and half of East Prussia. It also received considerable CW investment in the 30s to build up as credible rival for the Franco-Russian Entente.

Constructive criticism is VERY welcome. This timeline has a lot of personal importance to me. I want it to be the best it can. I've even enlisted the help of one my clients who happens to be a history professor specialising in the late Victorian and Edwardian period (he was surprised but very happy to help lol).

So while I really love people telling me what I'm doing right. Feeds my ego no end and keeps me writing this. What I really want is people to tell me what I'm doing wrong, to rip it to shreds, point out my mistakes and where things don't make sense. I will listen and incorporate suggestions. So thank you for both the good and bad.

But if you think something can be done better, is poorly thought out, horrendously wrong or just plain sucks, please say so. I've been called more nasty names than you can probably imagine, I'm no delicate flower. But please also say why. I will listen.

I should point out while I am developing this as a serious timeline. I also keep in mind its use as an RPG setting and a setting for my writing. Hence the oddities such as airships, dual battalion British cavalry regiments, gyrodynes and domesticated zebras. These are intended never to move beyond novelties. The number of airships in this timeline is economically completely unsustainable, but well, what's an alternate history if you don't have airships? There will not be regiments of zebra cavalry. Gyrodynes however will achieve some limited military use in special forces operations, such as is suitable for RPGs. These things will exist on the fringes where they have no real effect on the timeline. Basically they're colour text to give a “We're not in Kansas any more” effect.

Also I mention this is the fourth iteration of the Timeline. The first two iterations I think are utter crap, I'm a little embarrassed by them actually. The third is okay, I've used it as a setting for thabletop RPGs and it is fun. But it also had some serious issues hence this fourth version. However you want to see the development of the TL, here are the first three attempts
Iteration One
Iteration Two
Iteration Three
 
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1870-1871: One small step
~1870-1871: One tiny step

15th February 1870: British Prime Minister William Gladstone presents his Landlord and Tenant (Ireland) Bill to parliament. The bill, heavily influenced by the radical faction of the Liberal Party, extends the 'Ulster Custom' of guaranteeing tenants compensation from landlords for any improvements made to land, to all tenancies in Ireland. More importantly, the bill provides governments loans form tenants to purchase their land, along with protection from excessive rents.

17th February 1870: The Elementary Education Bill is introduced to Parliament. The bill, drafted by William Forster, would require all local body authorities in England and Wales to set up an education board to provide schools for elementary education within their territory. However the bill does not make such education free or compulsory, though it does provide provision for local school boards to pay the fees for 'needy' children. The last provision also covers the fees for children in church schools, outside local board's control.

March 1870: Radical Liberal MP for Birmingham, George Dixon, introduces an amendment to the Elementary Education Bill requiring education in local board schools to be non-religious and removing the provision for local boards to pay the fees of children attending church schools. Gladstone makes the rejection of this amendment a matter of confidence. As a result the amendment is withdrawn.

March 1870: With demand for rubber growing dramatically in Europe, US entrepreneur George Church proposes a railway in the Amazon jungle to improve access to the rubber producing regions. The railway will be completed in 1879, allowing for far greater extraction to meet the European demand for rubber.

April 1870: A captive breeding program is begun aimed at domesticating the Grévy's Zebra.

June 1870: As an attempt at compromise between the radical and moderate factions within the Liberal Party, an amendment to the Elementary Education Bill proposed by Liberal MP William Cowper-Temple is adopted by the cabinet. This amendment requires any religious education in board schools to be non-denominational.

June 1870: Radical Liberal MP John Bright introduces another amendment to the Elementary Education Bill again attempting to remove the provision for local boards to pay the fees of children attending church schools. Despite opposition from Gladstone, the amendment is narrowly passed by parliament after radical activists such as self made Birmingham businessman Joseph Chamberlain successfully pack the house for the vote.

July 1870: William Forster is appointed as Colonial Secretary. He pursues a program actively advocating for the formation of an Imperial Federation of Britain and it's Dominions.

July 1870: After years of growing tensions between the Second French Empire and the Prussian controlled North German Confederation, Prussian Chancellor Otto von Bismark, releases a modified summary of a telegram from Prussian King Wilhelm in an attempt to provoke the French into war. The telegram concerns Wilhelm's response to the French ambassador presenting a demand regarding a potential Hohenzollern candidate for the Spanish throne. The telegram is edited to give the impression Wilhelm was being insulting toward the ambassador. It causes massive outrage with the French public when published, having the desired effect of provoking Emperor Napoleon III to declare war.

July 1870: Gladstone's Landlord and Tenant (Ireland) Act is finally passed. Despite attempts by Conservatives to restrict its effect, it passes House of Commons basically without modification. However the Conservative dominated House of Lords alter the wording in the rent protection section from 'excessive rents' to 'exorbitant rents,' effectively rendering the section ineffective.

August 1870: The Elementary Education Act is passed, introducing a structured system of state education in England and Wales. This, and the earlier Landlords and Tenants (Ireland) Act polarises the Liberal Party between the radical and moderate Whig factions. An additional effect of the act is to accelerate the decline of the Welsh language as the act requires the sole use of the English language in schools. The act brings businessman Joseph Chamberlain to public attention for the first time.

September 1870: The Prussians decisively defeat the French Army at the Battle of Sedan, all but guaranteeing victory in the war. However while Emperor Napoleon III is captured and the Empire overthrown, the Provisional Government of the newly proclaimed Third French Republic totally refuses to contemplate any peace settlement which includes ceding Metropolitan French territorial. A feature of this second phase of the war are the Francs-tireurs. Irregular French volunteers, they operate without uniform, conducting a guerilla war against Prussian forces. The Francs-tireurs have an impact out of all proportion to their numbers or actual effect. Their activities terrify the Prussians, effectively paralysing entire units. They create outrage among the Prussian army and wider German public as murders and bandits. Captured Francs-tireurs are summarily executed and brutal reprisals launched against the nearest French town or village in response to their attacks, resulting in many civilians being murdered. This creates a lasting legacy of enmity between the French and Germans.

November 1870: The remaining independent states in Southern Germany join the war against France alongside Prussia.

January 1871: King Wilhelm of Prussia is proclaimed Emperor of Germany in Versailles.

January 1871: The British and US government agree to attempt to settle a number of outstanding grievances over fishing rights, the Canadian border and outstanding issues from the American Civil War. A joint commission is established to resolve these disputes, meeting in Washington. The British delegation is headed by Colonial Secretary Forster and includes Canadian Prime Minister John MacDonald, recognising Canada's status a partner rather than colony. The US delegation is headed by Secretary of State Hamilton Fish. However the bulk of the commission consists of respected Jurists from Britain and The US. The negotiations initially proceed well, but become deadlocked over the US claims for damage over the Confederate raider Alabama, built in Britain and Canadian demands for compensation due to the post Civil War Fenian Raids launched from the US in 1866 and new raids currently ongoing. Fish is adamant the raids should not be included in any settlement. However Forster, mindful of Canadian sensibilities due to his belief in an Imperial Federation, refuses to discuss the Alabama Claims unless the Fenian Raids are also Included.

February 1871: After the fall of Paris, an armistice is signed bringing an end to the fighting in the Franco-Prussian War.

February 1871: Tsar Alexander II of Russia gifts the Zoological Society of London with three male and seven female of wild Tarpans. Francis Russell, heir to the Duchy of Bedford offers Woburn Abbey as a home for the herd.

March 1871: Radical left wing revolutionaries declare the formation of a people's Commune along anarchist principles, rejecting the authority of the French government and seizing control of Paris.

April 1871: Under pressure from the increasingly influential radical faction in his party, Gladstone openly expresses the British government's opposition to any French territorial losses without the approval of the local population in the wake of their defeat by Prussia in the House. While this declaration will have little effect on the eventual treaty ending the war, it does lead to considerable hostility toward Britain from the new German Empire.

May 1871: The Treaty of Frankfurt is signed ending the Franco-Prussian War. France is forced to cede Alsace-Lorraine and pay an unprecedented indemnity of five billion gold francs {£204,317,897}. German troops are to remain on French soil until the indemnity is paid. The Treaty also formally establishes the German Empire, combining the independent Southern German states with the North German Confederation

May 1871: After tense and difficult negotiations, the Treaty of Washington is signed settling many of the disputes between Britain, Canada and the US. Most matters have been settled easily. A joint US Canadian Fisheries Commission is to be established to regulate the Halifax fisheries and the US will make an annual payment of $500,000 {£95,306} directly to Canada for twenty years, in return US vessels will be granted access to Canadian waters. The Vancouver border dispute is to be sent for arbitration. Despite this apparent goodwill, the issues of the Alabama Claims and Fenian Raids proved far more difficult to resolve. Eventually, while admitting no liability, the US agrees to pay the Canadian government $2,000,000 {£381,224} as 'assistance' in repairing the damage done in the Raids and act to prevent its citizen participating in any future such raids. In return the British agree to also send the Alabama Claims for arbitration. The initial proposal for Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany as arbiter is rejected by the British due to the possibility of hostility generated by Gladstone's statement regarding Alsace-Lorraine in the wake of the Franco-Prussian War. King Christian IX of Denmark is selected as an alternative. Canadian public opposition to the Treaty is high due to US access to their fishing grounds and the token level of compensation for the Fenian Raids. However, it is assuaged to a large degree by a supposedly unrelated British loan to finance the construction of a Trans-Canadian railway. Despite disquiet, the otherwise generally favourable outcome of the Treaty does much to strengthen pro Imperial feeling in Canada.

May 1871: French troops brutally crush the Paris Commune, with many of it's leaders being summary executed, This finally restores peace to France in the aftermath of the war. Despite the Commune's failure, it will encourage the growth of the far left in Europe and be a factor in it's radicalisation.

June 1871: Since the early the 1860s, Europeans have been settling in Fiji, often obtaining land fraudulently or through violence, This has been greatly eased by the lack of effective government in the Islands. In an effort to control the situation a group of European settlers and Fijian chiefs form the Kingdom of Fiji, with prominent chief Ratu Seru Epenise Cakobau as King. The new Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy with a bicameral legislative body, though Europeans effectively control this body. Over the next year, courts, police and taxation will be established.

June 1871: The Trade Union Act is passed, legalising trade unions in Britain for the first time. Due to pressure from radical Liberals, the associated Criminal Law Amendment Bill, which would have made peaceful picketing illegal is dropped. However the radicals are unable to get the Masters and Servants Acts, which criminalised breaches of contract by workers repealed.

November 1871: In the wake of the French defeat by Prussia, British Secretary of State for War, Edward Cardwell begins pushing to expand his ongoing reforms to the British army. These reforms have been vigorously opposed by the Duke of Cambridge, commander in chief of the British army. Nevertheless, Cardwell achieves a major success by abolishing the purchase of commissions in the army, resulting in a significant increase in efficiency.
 
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By the way, if anyone can think of a better name for the breakaway whig liberals than the Free Trade Party, I'd really appreciate it.
 
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As always I left something out sigh. This is required for the next five years.

November 1874: Forster, along with Colonial Secretary Edward Stanley form the Imperial Federation League to advance the concept of a union between Britain and it's Dominions. The league is cross-party including Conservative MPs such as Edward Stanthorpe alongside Liberals such as Lord Rosebery. It also includes public figures such as businessman Joseph Chamberlain, poet Lord Tennyson, and academic John Steeley. The league rapidly gains support, with chapters being established in the Dominions within a few years.

=McUpdate=
 
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By the way, if anyone can think of a better name for the breakaway whig liberals than the Free Trade Party, I'd really appreciate it.
Liberalisation Party perhaps, also I might I make recommendation for when we get to the alliance section if that is staying the same call the alliance the Imperial Commonwealth something different and distinct as last time I think it was called the commonwealth and it got confusing if you just meant the CW or other parts of the alliance.
 
Liberalisation Party perhaps, also I might I make recommendation for when we get to the alliance section if that is staying the same call the alliance the Imperial Commonwealth something different and distinct as last time I think it was called the commonwealth and it got confusing if you just meant the CW or other parts of the alliance.
The whole Second Great War section is one of the parts I'm most unhappy with. It's where the britwank really smacks you in the face. The alliances need to be redone, there's no way the virtually all of Latin America could have fallen into the CW sphere without provoking a war much sooner for example.

I actually used the third iteration as the basis for an online RPG during my break. I got some players from the US and Japan. Their interpretation of setting was quite illuminating. Played a big part in my re examination of the TL. How they played their characters lead me to totally re-evaluate it's nature, especially regarding the Pacific League's actions and policies.
 
Very interesting. One quibble:

Reparations, surely?
Lmao. Oh dear, yes. I blaim my dyslexia. Though technically, they weren't reparations, they were and indemnity. I've changed it to

May 1873: The Vienna stock market crashes, triggering the first wave of the Long Depression. The crash will rapidly spread to Germany, causing the collapse of an investment bubble created in the wake of the French war indemnity.

=McUpdate=
 
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Very interesting. One quibble:

Reparations, surely?
One of the things I read up about during my break was the Long Depression. Now I look at it, I've not explained it anywhere near enough. So

September 1873:The demonetisation of silver in the US, following a similar move by Germany in 1871, leads to a collapse in the price of silver. Coupled with major losses in the Chicago fire of 1871 and Boston fire of 1672, leaded to a financial crisis in the US. Jay Cooke & Co, one of the major US banks is unable to market a large bond issue, resulting in it's collapse. This collapse sets of a cascade of bank failures leading to the New York stock market crashing. There has been massive speculative investment in the US following the Civil War, primarily in railways. Thus the effect of this collapse on the US economy is devastating, with the global flow on effects significantly increasing the impact of the Long Depression.

=McUpdate=
 
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One of the things about the earlier iterations was that if a significant event happened pretty much unaltered from the OTL, I usally just made a brief note of it without going into any detail. However in this iteration I'm already finding that going into greater depth about these events helps understand the TL far better. If the event doesn't significantly effect the TL, I'll probably still keep it brief though. For example the Franco-Prussian War has virtually no impact. The only thing it changes is the Vancouver border dispute is resolved in Canada's favour rather than the US. All this does is give a minor push in Canada toward the Imp Fed. However, the Paris Commune does have a significant impact on the TL later, so worth a little more detail.

May 1871: French troops brutally crush the Paris Commune, with many of it's leasers being summary executed, This finally restores peace to France in the aftermath of the war. Despite the Commune's failure, it will encourage the growth of the far left in Europe and be a factor in it's radicalsation.

=McUpdate=
 
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Probably 1870. Minor typos, no big deal. I really enjoyed the last version of this. I hope you are doing well
Thank you. I really am dyslexic, and despite my best efforts these kind of errors crop up in every single entry I make. So I honestly do appreciate people making me aware of them.

At the moment, I'm kind of in a writing frenzy. I look up from my keyboard occasionally and realise hours have gone passed without me noticing.
 
Now I am going back and re-examining the first entry, I've found a lot of places where things can be improved. I really should not have let my enthusiasm allow me to "rush to press " However, a few changes. Basically just better wording and more detailed explanation.

May 1872: In response to their defeat by the Prussians, the French begin an extensive program of reform in banking and education, coupled with massive investment in infrastructure and industry. This program is funded by heavy government borrowing, primarily from Britain and will transform the nation.

May 1873: The Vienna stock market crashes, triggering the first wave of the Long Depression. The crash will rapidly spread to Germany, causing the collapse of a speculative investment bubble in industry and transportation created in the wake of the the influx of capital due to the French war indemnity. The collapse results in substantial contraction the German economy and fall in industrial output, which spreads throughout most of Europe. However in Britain, the effects of the crash are muted, as experience with financial crises in the 1840s and 50s had prepared the British banking system for such events. As result, British industrial out does not decline, but rather stagnates.

September 1873: France repays its war indemnity to Germany two years early, adding to the ongoing deterioration of the German economy.

September 1873:The demonetisation of silver in the US, following a similar move by Germany in 1871, leads to a collapse in the price of silver. Coupled with major losses in the Chicago fire of 1871 and Boston fire of 1872, leaded to a financial crisis in the US. Jay Cooke & Co, one of the major US banks is unable to market a large bond issue, resulting in it's collapse. This collapse sets of a cascade of bank failures leading to the New York stock market crashing. There has been massive speculative investment in the US following the Civil War, primarily in railways. Thus the effect of this collapse on the US economy is devastating, with the global flow on effects significantly worsening the worldwide impact of the Long Depression.

=McUpdate=
 
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JamesG

Donor
October 1872: The arbitration committee established by King Christian of Denmark decides in favour of Canada in the Vancouver border dispute, choosing the Rosario Strait as the border.
I'm curious about this border. Does this mean that Canada gains San Juan, Orcas, and Lopez islands compared to OTL, and the border is otherwise the same (49th parallel)? I don't see that as in favour of Canada, but that's probably my pro-CW bias.
 
I'm curious about this border. Does this mean that Canada gains San Juan, Orcas, and Lopez islands compared to OTL, and the border is otherwise the same (49th parallel)? I don't see that as in favour of Canada, but that's probably my pro-CW bias.
Yes exactly, Canada gains the islands. And yes the nett practical effect of this is precisely zero. However, this is the border Canada wanted.

The treaty historically was deeply unpopular with the Canadian public. The real change is the US agrees to some form of compensation for the Fenian raids, albeit token (effectively paid for by a reduction in the amount the US paid to access Canadian fishing grounds, along with the removal of the British apology over the Alabama). Still not exactly popular in Canada, but more so than the OTL. The boundary dispute, it just a little extra sugar to make it slightly more palatable to the average Canadian.

Just realised, I've not mentioned the exact amounts of the US compensation for the Fenian raids. I'll add it in.
 

JamesG

Donor
Yes exactly, Canada gains the islands. And yes the nett practical effect of this is precisely zero. However, this is the border Canada wanted.

The treaty historically was deeply unpopular with the Canadian public. The real change is the US agrees to some form of compensation for the Fenian raids, albeit token (effectively paid for by a reduction in the amount the US paid to access Canadian fishing grounds, along with the removal of the British apology over the Alabama). Still not exactly popular in Canada, but more so than the OTL. The boundary dispute, it just a little extra sugar to make it slightly more palatable to the average Canadian.

Just realised, I've not mentioned the exact amounts of the US compensation for the Fenian raids. I'll add it in.
I've just done a little checking. In my head this was the Oregon Treaty, which obviously it wasn't. Carry on. I'm happy.
 
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