"I could perhaps have been able to agree to become Napoleon’s ally: but when he attacked the country that had placed its fate in my hands, he could find in me no other than an opponent. The events that shook Europe and that gave her back her freedom are known. It is also known which part I played in that." -Karl XIV Johan
As the childless King Karl XIII of of Sweden progressed through old age, the Riksdag of the Estates scrambled to find an heir. Eventually, they settled on Jean Bernadotte, a brilliant French general and confidant of Napoléon. In 1810 he arrived in Stockholm, changed his name to Karl Johan, and was proclaimed both Crown Prince and Generalissimus of the Swedish Army. The public expected him to lead a reconquest of Finland, but Karl Johan reached the conclusion that an invasion of Finland would be ruinous. Instead, he developed a plot to invade Norway.
Point of Departure
In January 1812, OTL, Napoléon invaded the Swedish territories of Swedish Pomerania and Rügen, his rationale being that the Swedes were only halfhearted participants in his Continental System, refused to participate in his invasion of Russia, and might turn on him at any time. It was a ridiculous tactical blunder: by doing so, he inflamed the Swedish public against him and gave Karl Johan an excuse to align with Russia and Britain against Napoléon. He invaded Napoléon's ally, Denmark-Norway, and was able to secure control of Norway through the Treaty of Kiel with Denmark in 1814. A brief uprising in Norway was put down, especially after Karl Johan agreed to accept the Norwegian Constitution written by the rebels.
Every event in this timeline, however, ultimately flows from one seemingly small difference: Napoléon did not invade the Swedish territories.
With mounting political pressure to invade Finland, Karl Johan reluctantly decided to join in the invasion of Russia. His superb generalship and the chaotic state of the Russian army allowed the Swedes to take back not only almost all of Finland, but also the formerly Swedish lands of Estonia and Livonia, and even Courland, in a matter of months. But when Napoléon began to retreat from Moscow, he saw the writing on the wall, and sent envoys in secret to negotiate a peace with Russia. In exchange for the lands the Swedes had conquered, the Russians were given a substantial sum of money and, more importantly, an ally against Napoléon. In December, Sweden declared war on Napoléon.
But the Swedes dedicated most of their army to the fighting the French, and the invasion of Norway was thus somewhat haphazard. While they still overwhelmed the Dano-Norwegian troops and were able to force Denmark to cede the region, the rebellion under Prince Christian Frederik caught the Swedes by surprise. Karl Johan refused to accept the Norwegian Constitution, which only fueled the rebel cause, and forces loyal to Christian Frederik and the Constitution were able to hold on in the west of the country.
While all this was happening in Norway, the congress of Vienna opened. Britain was favourable to Norwegian independence, believing that giving Sweden control of the country would upset the balance of power far too much. Russia, meanwhile, wanted to create a large kingdom of Poland in personal union with Russia, in order to compensate for the loss of Finland and the Baltic regions. The British were opposed to this claim as well, but decided to accept it as the lesser of two evils. Territories had to be given to Prussia and Austria as well, in order to placate them for the loss of Polish land.
A sentiment within the Foreign Office that Britain had compromised to much at the Congress of Vienna and betrayed their principles heavily informed the British negotiating strategy in the Anglo-American convention of 1818. There, the British refused to give in to American demands to the Oregon territory, and through a combination of stubbornness, intimidation, and bribery secured British Sovereignty over the entire region in exchange for free trade and freedom of settlement.
By 1819, all factors where in place for the future - a future which would in 200 years see the Industrial Revolution, the Rise of Nationalism, the Imperial Federation of the British Empire, the Great War in eastern Europe, the Cold War between Democracy and Syndicalism, and the triumph of the North.
What, in the modern era, stands to differentiate this timeline from our own? Several things, including:
- Very different power structure. The United States was never involved in the Great War, and World War II never happened. Thus, the US remains largely isolationist in foreign policy, confining its influence to the Western Hemisphere; it relates to the rest of the globe primarily through trade. The unquestioned global hegemon is the United Kingdom of the British Empire, a pluricontinental superstate with unchallenged naval power. The UK's closest allies, the members of the North Sea Treaty Organisation (namely Germany, Denmark-Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg) are generally considered the economic hub of Europe, though military lightweights. Italy, France, Spain, Austria-Hungary, and the other former Syndicalist powers are still economically backward, and the dismantling of their war machines after the Cold War leaves them in a particularly vulnerable state. The Russian Empire is large, but a miasma of corruption and economic mismanagement precludes it from being considered one of the Great Powers. Economically and militarily, Japan is the most important nation-state in Asia, but it takes its foreign policy cues from the United States and tends to be uninterested in events outside its own sphere of influence. It leads the melodramatically named Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, an economic trading bloc consisting of itself as well as China, Korea, Taiwan, and the Philippines; trade is skewed heavily toward the other GEACPS members.
- Differing political norms. Monarchy is much more prevalent than in OTL, as is federalism. Even more notable is the differing social attitude. Because the Northern Powers were fighting the Cold War against the right, not the left, counterculture is very right-wing. Leftist Bohemia exists, but its influence is very small compared to the far-right, which mostly thrives on youth movements. Communism has never been tried outside of Cuba, and it is viewed as something of a joke. As in OTL, Social Democracy and Neoliberalism are the only serious economic views. However, the terms Social Liberal and Social Conservative have a very different connotation. Because abortion was never legalized and is widely viewed as murder, and because the gay rights movement never managed to gain momentum, Social Liberalism generally means support of the welfare state. Social Conservatism generally means opposition to the welfare state, but in some countries it is viewed as a euphemism for racist beliefs and is a term of abuse.
- Social demographics are much different. Religion is much more important in the Western World than it is in OTL; on average 16-29% of people in Western countries attend religious services weekly and another 20-42% attend monthly, though 12-27% identify as atheist/agnostic/spiritual-but-not-religious. The Jewish population is both larger and more European than in OTL: while Anti-Semitic tendencies among the Syndicalist powers and the Russian Empire led many Jews to emigrate to Palestine (those from Romania had no choice), Germany remains a bastion of European Judaism and is renowned for its tolerant, liberal attitude. Forced deportation of populations in Eastern Europe never happened, though attempts in Poland to assimilate ethnic minorities into Polish and Lithuanian culture sparked a mass exodus of Germans and Ukrainians. Because of the larger territories gained by Armenia and Greece at Ottoman expense, the Armenian and Greek genocides never happened, with the result that the Ottomans are bordered by two hostile nation-states who often conspire to aid separatist forces within the Empire. Immigration to Europe is very restrained; the former Syndicalist powers have a very restrictive policy, and the NSTO powers skew the system drastically in favour of their former colonies. Immigration laws are very strictly enforced, and African states are more stable, with the result that few even try to enter illegally. Due to pro-natalist policies initiated by the government of the Union of South Africa (the UK Dominion formed by the Cape and Natal), whites are much more prominent, however, this is also partly due to the mass migration of Blacks to the Republic of South Africa in order to find work. While the UK has made it clear that anyone who emigrates to the RSA renounces their status as a British Subject, the Apartheid government of the RSA refuses to naturalize Blacks, creating a large stateless population and humanitarian crisis.
- Technology is both more and less advanced. The UK was the only power on earth with the capacity for Space Exploration, but the government concluded that manned exploration would be too costly and dangerous. Thus, satellites and probes are the only man-made objects to ever enter space; the Syndicalist powers had no interest at all in space exploration and thus no space race occurred. Computers exist, and software is at the level found in OTL, but the internet as we know it does not exist and computers are largely office tools. They have the power to create documents and presentations, and even to send e-mails and upload photographs, but no more. Nuclear weapons do not exist. However, in some senses TTL is far ahead of our own. Biofuels have largely replaced fossil fuels. When Brazil replaced half of its gasoline with sugarcane ethanol in 1956, the other Syndicalist powers began to see the merits of such a system to their economic independence, and began to cultivate sugarcane for the express purpose of fuel production. Not to be outdone, and as much of its fuel reserves depended on the Ottoman Empire, the UK began to ramp up production as well. This in turn, led to the Ethanol Wars as the UK and the Syndicalist powers strove to outdo each other in fuel production, making the use of ethanol further entrenched due to nationalistic impulses. The Ethanol Wars led to further research, and by the 1980s switchgrass ethanol was developed. This enabled Canada and the US to begin a highly lucrative switchgrass farming industry, which in a decade proved so prosperous that most oil reserves were abandoned. By 2000, almost 79% of all vehicles in the world ran exclusively on ethanol. Decreased use of fossil fuels led to greater use of bioplastics, which largely replaced conventional plastics by the decade's end.