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British Commonwealth

The British attitude to their white dominions was somewhat peculiar.  They had effectively granted Canada, Australia and New Zealand (south Africa and Ireland came later) total independence, while retaining a commitment to fight in their defence.  This was very much the worst of both worlds; dominion parcipitation in any British wars was never guaranteed and the dominions had little say in imperial defence.  The plan to effectively write off Canada if there was a UK/US war and the betrayal of Australia in both 1921 and 1941 were inevitable results of that attitude. 

I propose a few differences in the dominion system.  The British granted Canada self-government in 1867.  Let’s have them grant home rule, but instead of the dominion system, let them have a few seats in a new house of parliament, which we’ll call the Empire House or Imperial Parliament.  The British, particularly if Gladstone is PM at the time, will avoid the US mistake by granting seats based on voting population, which, even with the restrictive franchise, leaves the British in charge of the Empire. 

However, the Imperial Parliament has limited responsibilities; it handles the foreign affairs of the empire, the defence of the empire, the shipping of the empire and a few other matters.  The local parliament handles most other matters.  The states, for want of a better term, have to provide a certain quota of regiments for Imperial service, as well as whatever militia/yeomanry they raise on their own.  The Imperial Parliament has control over the Imperial Troops, but none over the Yeomanry without the consent of the local governments.  This is pretty much the British system before 1914; it’s now spread out all over the empire. 

What the inclusion of Canada does is create a precedent.  That can now be expanded; Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and Cape Colony can also be included in the Imperial Parliament as states.  When Cape Colony enfranchises the educated blacks, it becomes more powerful than the Boers, who reluctantly accept membership themselves. 

This has a number of interesting effects right from the start.  Both Australia and New Zealand begin construction of new shipyards and industries, which increases their local power and therefore the power of the Empire.  The Empire may keep the East Indies instead of allowing Germany to have them, as Australia has more voice in the empire, and there may be no alliance with Japan, maintaining the principle of Splendid Isolation. 

This may lead to a somewhat paradoxical result.  If Britain and the Empire is less involved in world politics beyond their own sphere, Germany will almost certainly win this timeline’s version of WW1.  Or maybe not, the empire might still take part as a united group. 

With a far more powerful Britain in the Far East, the odds are that Japan would decide to continue to subdue China instead of building a massive navy, perhaps with quiet British support, ending with the Japanese occupying north China and the British controlling south china and Tibet as ‘protectorates’, eventually integrating them both into the Imperial Parliament.  

When the Ottoman and Persian Empires collapse, as they might well, the British will be in a position to snatch most of the important territories from their bases in the small Gulf States.  Iran, Iraq and Saudi would become British territories.  Further, the British would probably take the Dutch, Belgium and Spanish African colonies.

The long-term effects of this would change the world structure completely.  With the dominion precedent, India would probably get the same status, as would the African colonies and the few South American ones.  Instead of decolonisation, there would be a series of new entries into the Imperial Parliament, and perhaps a few other states clamouring to join.  Egypt, Iraq, Iran, and whatever comes out of Saudi-region will also be members, keeping the Suez in Imperial hands. 

Further, as status within the Imperial Parliament depends on voter size, there would be greater racial and sexual equality.  When New Zealand extends the franchise to women in 1893, they get double the seats and power, leading to a wave of women voters.  The Africans extend the franchise to blacks based upon their education levels (ones who are ‘civilised’ get the vote if they play by white rules) and develop the continent as those voters press for development.  The majority of Africa is developed to first world standards (clean air, running water, health care, transport) by 1970, ditto for India.  The Arab states develop slower, but they’ve coming along, with a massive rail network coving most of the empire. 

Politically, a British empire that covers a third of the globe and has a large population that is educated and active will be dominant.  Europe won’t be able to compete, while America may add a few more states down south, as imperialism won’t be so unpopular.  British and American funding will develop South America, unless the two powers block each other, which would probably leave South America as the ATL third world.  The example of educated blacks enjoying equal status within the British Empire would probably have an effect on civil rights within the US.

In space, I’d expect the British to be far ahead of their competitors.  The British model for colonial development would probably work better than the Russian or American model and there would be strong interest in establishing a dominant military position in space.  Moon bases in 1970, anyone?  It would also have an effect on space law; the British precedent would suggest that whoever got there first would own it, so the British might end up with the moon. 

It would probably be a far more peaceful world in many ways.  Europe vaguely united, the Russians might have had their revolution, but would be outmatched by the US/Imperial combo, and democratic states everywhere.  No September 11th, no Saddam, no China/Taiwan conflict, no Saudi. 


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