Home > Alternate history, Society, What-ifs > What if the Confederacy had survived? Part 2

What if the Confederacy had survived? Part 2

Reading... like a BOSSIn case you missed part 1, here it is.

Imagine now that we wound the clock back 150 or so years and through some confluence of events, the Confederate States of America actually survived the American Civil War. You now have three distinct anglophone nations (Candada, CSA, USA) living side-by-side on the North American continent coming into the 20th century, one of them a slave-state. How differently would the history of the 20th century have gone? The answer here is amazingly different to how it did in real life, regardless of how you think it might’ve played out.

The rest of this article is the second part of my poorly-researched and baseless speculation. I cut the last bit short at just prior to the dawn of World War 2, so here is my timeline for how things could have gone:

1940 – 1944:

German national resentment at their treatment under the treaty of Versailles comes to a head. Once more, World War 2 begins, though the order of events is nowhere near the same as it was in real life. Again, the Allies do everything they can to appease a belligerent Germany and again Germany responds by calling their bluff and taking things just a little bit further. Alliances force country after country to enter the war and once again, the battle lines are drawn in Europe.

American continent, meanwhile is split ideologically between sides, the CSA covertly helping out the Axis powers (primarily a fascist Germany flirting with or actually legalising slavery) and the USA and Canada helping the Allies. As neither the CSA or the USA has overtly allied itself with any of the European powers, however, war is constantly threatened between the two, but never actually sparks. They do, however, benefit economically from the war in Europe as each is supplying one side or the other.

That's a lot of territoryJapanese expansion into mainland Asia goes unchecked, as it does in a big part of the Pacific (except for islands that fall into the USA/CSA sphere of influence, thanks to friendly relations with the CSA). Due to the state of cold war between the USA and CSA over the past 80 years, foreign naval presence in places like Hawaii is always a transient thing between one country and another. Pearl Harbour never happens and Hawaii remains a tiny independent republic. At any rate, thanks to the CSA and the USA playing off one another, Japan has only the British, Korea and China to contend with in Asia.

1945 – 1960

World War 2 is brief and ends in a stalemate, with the Western European powers surviving intact, but with a Greater Germany and its allied/vassal states encompassing much of Central and Eastern Europe. A three-way ideological cold war begins between the USSR, Greater Germany and the West and you have a great shuffling of intellectuals and scientists between the three. In the West, you have modern democracies, in the Centre, you have an oppressive, fascist and slave-holding German empire, whereas in the East, you have Communist Russia. All three sides hate one another and whatever peace exists is fragile at best.

The Middle East is still carved up, but somewhat differently than before, with distinct lines of influence in each country to one of the three major political forces in Europe (Western democratic / Racialist / Communist)

Japan meanwhile, cedes its conquests in China after a long and bitter war, but does manage to retain much of the Korean penninsula with China taking the north. The Japanese empire is forced out of all British possessions following a very long and very bloody island-to-island war, but it survives. The atomic bomb has not been successfully developed and is never dropped on Japan, but more on that later.

The Communist party of China is never able to launch its revolution as the long war with Japan has allowed the Nationalists to keep a stranglehold on power. This allows China to begin the process of reinventing itself as an industrial titan, its main customers being the Western democracies. Japan, meanwhile, does not get the economic leg-up that the postwar rebuilding effort gave its economy and looks a lot like it did prior to the war.

The economic gap between the USA and the CSA in this time is becoming extremely apparent, with the mass adoption of new technologies (such as television) happening apace in the USA, but not in the CSA. Without the enourmous new market that was the rising middle class, Confederate society simply cannot support a strong manufacturing sector, let alone the fact that slave labour robs the educated classes of the incentive to innovate or build up a strong base of infrastructure. In short, much of the CSA still looks like the Old South with electricity, radios and the occasional rare automobile, whereas their northern neighbours are comissioning a national highway system, have an extensive telephone network and the majority of homes now have indoor plumbing.

1960 – 1970

War between Germany et al and the USSR begins some time in the 60s, with the Western European powers joining in the fight against Germany and its allies, sparking WW3. Thanks to the use of newly developed nuclear weapons by the British, this is is a brief war that ends in German defeat and leads to the carving up of Europe in much the same way as happened post-WW2. Axis slaves are freed and slavery is once again banned in Europe.

The CSA sees a massive decline in its influence and standing in the world thanks to the loss of a major kindred nation and the fires of revolution are continually stoked by expatriate former slaves living in the USA as well as abolitionists and democratic revolutionaries at home. You see border states with the USA begin to attempt secession, though at first this is put down via electoral fraud and government fiat.

The late 60s see the final culmination of too-long a struggle by abolitionists and democracy activists living in the CSA as well as a near-total collapse of the CSA economy thanks to the loss of their main trading partner. Encouraged by elements within the USA and Mexico, a series of democratic revolutions occur in the CSA. Some states choose to join the USA (or are conquered into the Union). Others become independent nations. Large parts of Texas and California are annexed by Mexico. Slavery ends everywhere after a series of wars and many former slaveholders flee overseas.

What is left in the aftermath would be nothing short of bizarre to our eyes. In some parts of what was once the CSA, you have a version of what Haiti was like after its own revolution with a relatively rich white minority and a very poor black majority, most of them newly freed and extremely undereducated. In others, you have a majority American Indian population, very militant and some of whom were themselves slaveholders. Finally, you would have areas newly annexed by the USA and Mexico, with poor, mostly rural populations trying to come to grips with the new realpolitik and having to integrate into a nation that, for them, is entirely alien.

1970 – 2000

The 70s and 80s see lots of small wars happen between the USSR and the Western European powers, but they take place in the Middle East, mostly over oil supplies. As in our own timeline, an ideological war begins, though actual war never takes place. As before, the arms race and the space race begin with the British Empire, Western Europe and the USA on one side and the USSR on the other. The USSR also has nationalist China at its back, its power in no doubt as it wages war with Japan and dismantles its Pacific empire.

By this time, all the major powers (the USSR, the West, China) are nuclear powers, though the technology isn’t as well-developed as in our own timeline at this point.

During these years, all the social changes that happened in the 1960s still occur, but roughly ten years later and at a different pace all over the world. Civil rights movements take place and nation-building is the main order of business, in the USA especially the effort to bring the former CSA up to speed, whereas British efforts are focused on rebuilding Germany after WW3. Peace is the order of the day, though the looming spectre of a confrontation with the USSR hangs over everything, especially with communist revolutions and attempted revolutions taking place in Latin America and parts of the former CSA.

The 80s see the space race and first moon landing – a joint effort between Britain, Europe and the US launching off the coast of Spain, or possibly Africa. In an effort to get itself up to speed for this endeavour, the US has adopted the metric system, though like the UK, it would take some years for the general populace to fully adopt they system for day-to-day tasks.

The early 90s see the end of the Cold War as the USSR collapses. To the end of the decade, the conflicts that would come to obsess the West would still be in the Middle East, though it would be British imperialism, rather than American, that would be the target of Middle Eastern ire.

The end of the 20th century would reveal a strange and unfamiliar world to our eyes. Britain is still a global superpower and both the US and China are still on their way to matching her in economic, if not military, terms. The US is an unfamiliar shape, Canada is larger and there are small independent nations that sit between it and Mexico. Further south, there is no Panama and the canal might even still be a pipe dream. There is no Israel, though a sizeable Jewish minority lives in the Holy Land. Japan is still a relatively poor nation and it is China where the majority of our high-tech toys come from. There is no UN, though a world forum of some sort has sprung into being. Racism is a much bigger issue, colonialism is still happening and at least one European city was hit with a nuclear bomb.

Meanwhile, the Internet is either still a theoretical construct or has taken a very different form than the thing we have now. It is very probable that just as shown in the TV show Fringe, zepplins are a common form of air travel, certainly for short distances. Small pox and polio are still big problems and there is no rock and roll.


Regardless of how it all would have gone, regardless of whether or not I was right or wrong on every single point in this post and the last, the present day would be a very different place if we wound back the clock and different choices were made. Your own country might seem like a foreign place, with different values, different politics and maybe even a different language being spoken. The thing that gets me about history is how something that might at first blush seem irrelevant and far away can affect your life in some very fundamental ways. I think it’s fascinating and frightening at the same time.

  1. Jim
    20/06/2011 at 7:49 pm

    I can’t agree with you. Germany would have still fell in WW2. American participation (in fact, the entire western front) was not decisive at all. The idea that WW2 was won in the west is a myth perpetuated by nations that don’t wish to acknowledge the fact that, if not for Russia, the war wouldn’t have gone so well for anyone.

    • 21/06/2011 at 6:19 am

      You’re absolutely right that it was the Eastern front that mauled the Germans. There were battles on the Eastern front where more people died than all the battles of the western front combined.

      I made the assumption that the politics of Germany were ever so slightly different in a reality with a “first world” slave state so that it would be the taking of slaves and not genocide that motivated the leadership, especially in the east. Perhaps this small distinction could have slowed down their initial advance (there are huge logistical ramifications associated with keeping prisoners that the Nazis simply dispensed with) and made it slightly less cruel (if your value is in your labour, there is a motivation to keep you alive). Maybe they wouldn’t have attacked Russia itself in the first place, at least not during WW2.

      Such a situation on their doorstep would be intolerable to people living free in Western democracies, so any peace that was attained would never have lasted long. I didn’t include it for space reasons

      I haven’t even looked at the humanitarian ramifications of a modern slave state or what that would mean for things like the modern concepts of human rights.

  2. 22/06/2011 at 12:40 pm

    Have you ever read the alternate history of the civil war series by Harry Turtledove? It creates a similar alternate history (What if the Confederates had won the civil war?) and he does a pretty awesome job at describing how the two countries continue to co-exist. In reality, the CSA could not have survived for long without the naval assistance of Britain and perhaps France. Therefor, Britain, CSA, and France would be allies whereas the US would probably end up being allied to the WW1 Nationalistic Germany, rather than the Nazi-Era WW2 Germany. Hmm interesting events! Check out that series though, it’s pretty good.

    • 22/06/2011 at 5:45 pm

      Unfortunately no, I haven’t read it. I did look for it at one of my local bookstores the other day and they actually had the series… but they didn’t have Guns of the South (which is the first book I think). I’ll keep looking though.

      • 22/06/2011 at 10:09 pm

        Actually Guns of the South is a standalone separate alternate history about the South getting AK-47s from a time traveler and the consequences of that. “How Few Remain” is the first book in his Southern Victory Saga. Here’s the wikilink for everyone’s benefit. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/How_Few_Remain It’s a pretty good series, although I personally prefer his crosstime traffic series (parallel world traveling) or his Darkness series (WW2 but done with magic and fantasy style instead of machines)

  1. 20/06/2011 at 9:01 pm

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