Here are some free ideas for timelines, if anyone wants them. I came up with them originally, but I've decided I'm not as interested in them as I could be, and I'm giving them away- just please tell me if you will use them. Feel free to use the entire thing I have written, or just the POD, or even to incorporate certain aspects of these scenarios into completely different timelines.
Timeline #1: Catholic Japan
So, in 1550 St. Francis Xavier went to Kyoto and sought an audience with the Emperor. In OTL, he never got it. But what if he did? What if he had met the Emperor, and not only met him, but stayed at the court? What if he was able to convert the court to Catholicism, leading to a top-down Christianisation of the country?
There are several consequences I can think of in the short term: firstly, consolidation of power by the Emperor. Most of the Warlords in the late Sengoku era were hostile to Christianity, and thus would probaly form the bulk of resistance to the Emperor. But, in the long run they would be doomed, as the Imperial forces would have access to Spanish and Portuguese aid, namely guns and ammunition.
Since Japan is more in tune with Europe as a result of the religious change, I'm expecting it to modernise much, much earlier; probably in the early 1600s-mid 1610s. At first, it would be primarily aligned with Spain and Portugal, but I expect that as time wore on the government would grow more wary of those nations' colonial ambitions. This would be both an impetus to modernise and to develop more cordial relations with the Protestant states of the Netherlands and England.
At home, I think that the Japanese would move quickly towards absolutism. The feudal sytem would be abolished very early on, with the Emperors seeking to curb the power of the Daimyo class. The Edo-era division of provinces would probably remain intact, while Kyoto would remain the capital. Edo would remain a provincial backwater.
Religiously, I'm expecting the change to be accomplished fairly easily. The violence of the rebellious Buddhist Warlords would do a lot of damage to that religion's credentials, and the Christian conception of heaven is fairly close to that of the Pure Land Sect, the version of Buddhism most influential among the common people at the time. It would give the authorities an excuse to curb the power and privlidges of the monks. Finally, if the Emperor himself decries the notion of his divinity and orders the Shrine at Ise smashed, that would have to erode anyone's faith in Shintoism. I imagine, as was done in formerly pagan regions of Europe, that churches would be built over former temples and shrines. Some vestiges of pre-Christian beliefs would of course remain: I'm thinking that many of the traditions associated with Obon would be transferred to All Staint's Day, and that characteristics of various gods and boddhisatvas would be projected onto certain saints.
Culturally, the Japanese would be influenced by the more austere, Iberian brand of Catholicism, which should have some effect on popular morality. At the very least, no such thing as hentai. I also think the culture would be less militaristic, on account of the disenfrachisment of the Warring Classes by the Emperor.
Eventually, the Japanese would probably expand. The European exploration of the Pacific would most likely be a wake-up call for colonisation of Micronesia and Polynesia in the early 19th century, and even earlier they would have probably made their presence known in East Asia. Perhaps they might fight in various European wars, with the express goal of appropriating the colonies of other nations. They might even participate in the Scramble for Africa (how does Japanese Madagascar sound?)
That's what I have so far. Part of me is tempted to make this a "kitchen sink" timeline, where I add all kinds of crazy things to it via the butterfly effect. A few ideas: a United Kingdom of Scandanavia; the Empire of Mexico survives and retains Central America, New Mexico, and Alta California; the part of the Oregon country that in OTL becomes part of the US is instead an independent Republic; a Southern Victory in the Civil War (but this is not your standard Confederate scenario: no Latin American annexations, no great power status, no British alliance, and certainly no Central Powers victory in World War I!); in fact, part of me wants to see what would happen if World War I ended two years early and the Entente had split Germany into 22 Independant states (and maybe recreated several more besides?)
Timeline #2: When Baldwin Goes (provisional title)
When Neville Chamberlain became Prime Minister of the UK, he was expected to lead a caretaker government until the next election, until someone else (likely Anthony Eden) would take over. What if the leadership had passed over Chamberlain and chosen Eden as Prime Minister then and there? Eden was certainly not in favour of appeasment.
So, suppose that Eden is PM, and that the British don't abandon their commitment to Czechoslovakia. Suppose that the war breaks out in November 1938; or January 1939 at the latest. Germany would not be fully prepared for a war, and the Czechoslovak Army would be strong enough to resist for at least a month. While Hitler was busy in Czechoslovakia, France and Britain would invade Germany. Thus, once Prague falls and the Czechoslovaks are good and subdued, the Nazis wouldn't bother with Eastern Europe or Scandanavia. They would rather throw everything they had at Western Europe. Now, if Germany is poorly prepared for the War, France is certainly in a much worse position. With only minimal British reinfocements, the Schlieffen Plan Redux, and an Italian invasion (to take Savoy, Nice, and Corsica) coupled with Spanish involvement (they would take the Basque country, as well as the Catalan regions annexed by France centuries ago), France falls at about the same rate it does in OTL. Sensing an opportunity, Éamon de Valera aligns with Germany and invades Northern Ireland, forcing the British Army well away from the front. Meanwhile, the French and Dutch exile governments, desparate for an ally, sell their Southeast Asian colonies to Imperial Japan. Sino-German cooperation continues, and the Kuomintang government accedes to the Triparte Pact.
Now, there are a few ways to go with this idea:
1) Eden is forced out in disgrace, and the UK signs an armistace with Germany, but the War continues as a Cold War. The armistace entails that the British cede Germany its former colonies, recognise the Republic of Ireland (consisting of the entire Island), and pay Germany War Reparations. In exchange, the Germans and Italians are confined to their current territorial limits and sphere of influence. The UK will recognise Free France (consisting of the French Antillies, French Guiana, Réunion, New Caledonia, Wallis and Futuna, and French Polynesia) and the Government in Exile of the Kingdom of the Netherlands (the Netherlands Antillies and Suriname) as the legitimate governments of those respective countries, and also align with Denmark, Norway, Portugal, and Poland against the Nazi threat. With German aid pouring into China, the Sino-Japanese War will drag on and on- but, given the ready access to oil, rubber, steel, and other natural resources, Japan will never go to war with the US, and remain on good terms with the UK and the anti-Nazi powers.
2) The British resoundingly defeat the Irish, uniting the Island under a government opposed to de Valera (most likely, it would be an independant Kingdom of Ireland with a constitution written to satisfy as many of the factions a possible). This strengthens British resolve, and they launch a daring plan- an amphibious invasion of Germany itself! This would take the Germans completely by suprise, shatter the heterofore overwhealming appoval of Hitler, and enable the OTL 20 July plotters to take power in a coup. The new regime restores monarchies, purges the country of Nazis, and makes friendly overtures to the UK. Meanwhile, the Japanese overrun China and install a government under Puyi and Wang Jingwei (I am much more favourably disposed toward this scenario, but I have surprisingly less to show for it.)
In each situation, I expect that the US and the USSR never enter the War, and thus never become superpowers. America remains isolationist, while the Soviet Union collapses at least twenty years ahead of schedule. As for the Bomb, I expect it to be developed in the first scenario, but not in the second. Another idea, that I'm interested in putting into this timeline: what if, when South Africa becomes a republic, Natal secedes and remains in the Commonwealth? (whichever scenario, the UK will not allow Republics to join the Commonwealth.) Even better, what if the British evacuate all white settlers in Central and East Africa to Natal shortly afterwards, and the Anglophones in other South African provinces migrate there en masse?
Timeline #3: Lutheran Scotland, Huntingdonite England
I also have one with two PODs in the 1500s: firstly, John Knox is exiled to Germany and becomes a Lutheran, with serious consequences for the Scottish Reformation. Even more drastically, Elizabeth I dies of smallpox in 1563, and Henry Hastings, 3rd Earl of Huntingdon, seizes the throne for himself. Some of the consequences: divided England and Scotland to this day, as well as a revolt by legitimists in Ireland that leads that country out of union with England and into personal Union with Scotland. The British Empire will be divided into the English and Scots-Irish Empires (the bulk will belong to the English; however, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Rupert's Land, the Columbia District, Montserrat, Dominica, and New Zealand will be Scots-Irish). There will be a United Kingdom of Scotland and Ireland, which under the enlightened ministry of Edmund Burke and Adam Smith with grant representation in Parliament to certain colonies, thus resulting in a pluricontinental state. The English will have dominions that evolve into sovereign nations as in OTL.
Scotland and Ireland will be mostly Lutheran (Scottish Calvinists will move to Ulster and become the Ulster Scots, while much of the Irish Catholic population will emigrate to America and the English colonies in the 19th century), while England will be Presbyterian. There will be toleration for Congregationalists and Episcopalians, but the Quakers will only be tolerated in Pennsylvannia; the Baptists will be surpressed before they can make any real impact. Methodism as we know it does not exist.
As for royal lineage, the Huntingdons will look on continental royal houses with disdain and marry members of the English nobility; the crown will follow the OTL path of succession that terminates in Simon Abney-Hastings, 15th Earl of Loudon (the only differance is that Ferdinado Hastings will be named Francis, and that the family won't keep putting the name Hastings in every subsequent surname; also, I think the all Paulyns will be named Paul- who names their kid Paulyn?). Meanwhile, in Scotland, James VII will still be Catholic, the Glorious Revolution will still occur, and the House of Hanover will come to power (but OTL George III and all subsequent monarchs named George will be named Andrew, while all monarchs named Edward in OTL will be named Robert; Elizabeth II is Mary III).
I like this idea, but the second POD (Elizabeth dying of smallpox) is also the POD for Pox, and I don't want this to look as if it's stealing that idea. I mean, honestly, everything except the English monarchy is completely different. But still, it just dosen't look quite right.
Still, how 'bout this flag:
Please, tell me what you think! Leave a comment, or a message on my talk page.