An evil British empire
by Alison Brooks
The suggestion has been raised as to how an Evil British Empire (TM) could arise.
To cover this, I've made a number of assumptions. Firstly, what is Evil? The historical British Empire had some darker moments, and I am sure that a case for unpleasantness could be made here and there. What is an Empire? The assumption here that I am making is that an Empire has to have a degree of longevity. An Evil Empire that lasts but a day isn't that critical. On the other hand, expecting any power to stay on the top of the heap eternally is just a tad unlikely. However, the Evil British Empire in this has to have a probable longevity of at least a generation.
Finally, when does one take the start point. For reasons that will become obvious, I have decided to kick it off in the classic Victorian era, circa 1880.
Professor Moriarty studied the map of London carefully. The area of Whitechapel claimed by Fu Manchu had been bitterly contested, but the victory, such as it was, lay with Britain. The negotiations with Fu Manchu had been tense, but an agreement had been hammered out. The underworld of London belonged to Moriarty, but the legitimate rights of the Chinese in Whitechapel were to be respected. Moriarty smiled; it was all terribly reminiscent of power politics by the respected national leaders. Treaties and warfare and diplomacy.
"And why not?" he said. "Fu Manchu runs his land as his personal fiefdom. Britain deserves to be Great, and I am its destined leader."
Thus it was that numerous political scandals started to develop. A Lord was advised that certain truths might come to light unless certain introductions were made. It was a long and devious process, which would be of interest to later generations of skullduggery, and required reading at the Maxwell School of Advanced Journalism, but irrelevant to the present story.
Suffice it to say that by manipulation of the political process, the Empire Party, led by one Sebastian Moran, was swept to power.
The financial and economic conditions were studied carefully, and it was quickly apparent to the Empire Party that, while the resources of the Empire were vast, the Giant was in danger of atrophy. In order to generate development, great adventures were needed. And for great adventures, and the development of a Power, an enemy was required. The two main European powers were France and Germany. France was the traditional enemy, and had an Empire of its own, and had hankerings for glory, while Germany was the upcoming force. The first could be beaten, and the second had to be subverted.
Thus it was that colonial clashes in far off places started to receive attention. Tensions between France and Britain grew, and there was growing resentment against the French. Britain took a concilliatory line, encouraging the French to grow ever more confident.
Meanwhile, the Germanic power was growing, especially in its industrial strength. The growth of a strong industry led inexorably to a workforce that had strength, if only they knew it. And working in London was the very man who could explain the situation to the workers in Germany. Karl Marx. Secret adventures abound, with the net result that Karl Marx is spirited into Germany to start testing his theories in a factory in Berlin. The proletariat began to get unsettled, which was much to British satisfaction.
Holmes on the range
The astute Mycroft Holmes was well aware of the implications of the rise to power of Sebastian Moran. He could scarcely be otherwise, given the relationship between his brother Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty, the backer of Tiger Moran.
Indeed, Mycroft worked as diligently against Moran's elevation as he could - which was not great, given his inherent laziness. The groundswell of popularity for the Empire Party, and the rumours that were circulating regarding politicians in general made any suggestion that Tiger Moran was a scoundrel sound like feeble rebuttals.
There are scholars who argue that Moran's triumphal entry into power was sealed when that much-travelled hero of the Empire, bluff Harry Flashman, described his adventures with Tiger Moran in the recent Zulu war, including the gallant defence of Rorke's Drift. Flashman gave full praise to both Welsh borderers and Tiger Moran. When asked about the Isandwhala disaster, Harry Flashman pointed out one of the major problems associated was gaining access to the ammunition which, as per Government regulations, had to be strictly accounted for. "It was bloody Government regulations which killed the army. Damned near killed me, too."
It turned out that Mycroft had apparently been partially involved in drafting these regulations, so his attempt to have a word with influential people regarding the Threat of Moran drew some cynical responses.
Mycroft Holmes had an interesting moral dilema when Moran swept to power. Holmes was pledged to serve the Government, and, for good or ill, Moran was the Head of the Elected Government. Mycroft decided to leave the chasing of criminals of all classes to his energetic brother, and concentrated on the project before him, a collaborative venture with France for the construction of a cross-Channel bridge.
Meanwhile, Moran and Moriarty surveyed the world scene. There was potential competition from many quarters. Imperial Russia had huge resources, and was learning to begin to overcome its endemic inefficiency. The USA was a young power, anxious to prove itself, and with a growing self-confidence. And, of course, there was the sleeping giant, China. China under Fu Manchu would be a potential threat.
"One war at a time, my dear Moran. Our current target for violence is France. The others must be, um, hindered. Without our involvement."
The Great Game was thus extended. Highly expert agents were dispatched. In particular, the young and talented Raffles went with the English cricket team on a goodwill tour of Canada and the USA. It was a strong team, and included the mature Harry Flashman. While cricket was of fading popularity in the USA, it was hoped this tour would generate interest. Raffles had also been given one or two snippets of information...
The Ashes Tour
Flashman and Raffles went to the USA as part of the Goodwill Cricket Tour. There were numerous adventures involved, in the course of which Flashman decided that Raffles was yet another of these dangerous maniacs.
In due course, they arrive in Washington, where Flashman is introduced to Senator Huck Finn (D) of Missouri. They carouse as one does, and with the appropriate discretion for Washington. Meanwhile, Raffles was engaged in riffling through Senator Finn's personal belongings.
In due course, Huck Finn discovers he has lost some jewelry. This is reported, and his house visited by Government agents to check on the details. These agents come across some dubious documents indicating that there is a Mid West cabal trying to fix serious transit rates for the railroads. By complex and convoluted means, this develops into a scandal in which the President is sort of implicated. There is unrest in the Mid West about the tariff issue.
The tour moved south, and there is nearly a scandal involving Harry Flashman, a Daughter of the Confederacy, and a hot air, powered flying machine. Old north/south tensions arise at a Confederate soldiers reunion, in which Chickamauga is discussed. The role in the war of loyal Virginians (although the term loyal was not the one used) was much discussed.
Behind the scenes, a Federal government document is discovered by some of these Old Boys of the Confederacy; the document implies that the Republican party, or at least, certain elements of same, are considering sending funds to help arm a secret movement of blacks to oppose the KKK.
In the normal way of things, these would have been scandals that blew over. A little bit of extra resentment from west and south against Damnyankeedom, but no more than the normal grist of politics.
A shipment of Springfield rifles (ancient, ex Civil War stock) was seen passing through New Orleans, when it then disappeared from sight. Soon after, the British ambassador in Washington gravely informed the American government that he had seen sight of a confidential report indicating that black civilians had been seen drilling with Springfield rifles. Rumours in Washington do not get quashed; rumour has wings, and this one flew. With the growth of these rumours, Britain was compelled to withdraw the cricket team to Canada.
Black immigration to Canada grew rapidly, leading to a number of black- white clashes near the Canadian border. Britain sent a detachment of troops to patrol the border, as one does. It was perhaps unfortunate that Britain chosen to send a Sikh regiment, but as was pointed out at the time, Britain did not advise the USA where and how to deploy US regiments, and if the US didn't like British troops playing in British territory, well, too bad, old fellow. What made it more galling was that they were helping keep trouble down.
The black US regiments were getting disgruntled. Britain offered to employ these black regiments if that would help. "Maybe their being in British uniform and in Canada might be less provocative. Entirely up to you." Given that race riots were sweeping parts of the US, and that the flood of black refugees was growing, the offer was partially accepted.
Talk in the US army was spreading around as well. It was becoming noticeable that better pay and promotion went to those who soldiered in Washington, while the lot of the frontier soldier was poor pay that was usually many months late and lack of promotion and danger and total lack of respect. Morale in the army sank.
Back in Britain, Moran and Moriarty viewed the scene. Race riots were common; there was hot-headed talk by a few extremists in the mid West and the South of a Second Secession; the US Army was fast disintegrating in morale. The US was aflame with unrest, all from the famous Ashes Tour.
"And that, my dear Moran, is the USA neutered for 5 years. We'll need to come back to it later, but the next problem is Russia. We've got haemophilia into the Czar's family, but I don't think that is enough. Hmm. Peachey and Carneham are busy in the south. We need to speak with Rudolf Rassendyl, I think."
Russian around in blind panic
The USA was in flames; Germany was suffering from worker upheaval. Russia was considered the next potential competitor. Rudolf Rassendyl was summoned by Sebastian Moran, and told that the Crown Prince of Ruritania had passed away, and that the Queen of Ruritania had specifically requested that the British Government ask Mr Rassendyl to accompany her on a state trip to St Petersburg.
Of course, the honourable muggins agreed. Of course, the Crown Prince hadn't died. Of course, the Queen of Ruritania hadn't asked for him. In fact, an actress by the name of Pip Delys had been, um, invited by Professor Moriarty to assist Britain, after a little coaching from another professor, Professor Higgins. The story Pip was told was that Ruritania had asked Britain to provide a stand-in double for the forthcoming trip, in case of assassination attempts.
Meanwhile, the Ruritanians had been advised by the Russians that a double pair would be present, while the Russians had been advised by the Ruritanians that a double pair would be involved. These pieces of advise were clever forgeries.
It proved to be a complicated scheme, and would have been discarded by any competant writer for fear of having their dramatic license revoked. However, the complications of the stateroom farce proved mildly entertaining, and a distraction from the purpose of the trip.
The purpose was simple. Pip had been instructed to present a special bottle of perfume to the Czar's eldest daughter at the end of the trip. This was dutifully done.
Soon after the state visit, a major epidemic of something very like smallpox broke out in St Petersburg.
"And that, my dear Moran, will keep Imperial Russia in turmoil. The moujiks will suffer stoicly, and feel uplifted in their misery. The elite will suffer either from the disease, or from having to leave the political centre of Mother Russia. It will turn that nation into an introspective mood and, coincidentally and happily, kill off a good proportion of the leading lights of that unhappy land.
"That has dealt with the enemy without for a time. Now for the enemy within.."
No flowers for Algernon
Russia, USA and Germany had been hampered. "And now, my dear Moran, for the enemy within."
Moran pointed out that there was no enemy within. He was informed that there was always an enemy within, and that this was good, as it united everyone in stamping out the deviants, it channeled revolting tendencies, and also ensured the elimination of undesireable elements.
After some debate, the target was selected. The target was doubters, questioners and mealy-mouthed liberal morality.
Self-confidence, courage, decisiveness and muscular Christianity (with the emphasis on muscular) were the virtues. The vices were excessive culture, excessive sensitivity, wooly-minded liberalism, doubting a selected course of action and other such artistic trends.
This led to problems within the Public Schools. The 'Arnold' tradition at Rugby was a classic example. On the one hand, muscular adventure and laying down the law were part of the tradition, very much in keeping with the New Order. On the other hand, 'playing the game', backward looking to the Classics and a concern for Christian Charity were now vices.
The trend appealed to the stereotype of the bluff British John Bull. As such, it brought on board many of the potentially dangerous foes within. Bluff, honest John Bull making the world safe for decency, opposing degeneracy, keeping the peace, not being deflected by filthy, greasy Johnny Foreigner, and bringing the benefits of British Civilisation to the natives were vastly attractive.
Science and innovation had still to be encouraged. The Adventurous element of science, exemplified by Professor Challenger, was easy enough. Nonetheless, basic scientific research was still required. This required the participants to be thorough, stay-at-home types, conscientious, content to allow the high-profile adventurers take the glory and fame, they needed flashes of inspiration and the dedication to nurture a spark into a flame.
"Sounds to me like you're describing a woman", joked Moran.
And so it was that a Woman's College for Scientific Advancement was set up, and a number of schools sprang up to feed into this. One of these feeder schools later became notorious, but for now St Trinians was just one of several.
The programme for the revitalisation of British confidence proceeded apace. Newspapers and magazines and publications were produced that encouraged the British way of life. Trenchant criticism of wastrel, degenerate artists abounded. Museums and libraries were scrutinised. Museums of science and technology and adventures (such as collection of rare animals made even rarer through several of their number being stuffed and exhibited in museums) were Good Places. Art collections, on the other hand, were under suspicion. Attendance at the ballet nosedived, although the Music Hall became incredibly, inelectubly, inexhaustibly, inextricably popular. Theatre had a mixed time. On the one hand, subtle satire and social commentary (such as provided by Oscar Wilde) suffered badly. On the other hand, melodrama and slapstick, and, for the intellectuals, strident, bold criticism blossomed.
The field of political criticism grew in a strange manner. It was firstly very muted, but a sub-culture of strident criticism grew. Punch in particular, while applauding the Britishness of the British Government, took upon itself the task of 'popping pomposity' This involved frequent and loud criticism, and especially damaging cartoons, that made savage attacks on specific individuals and specific policies extremely effective. The cross-Channel bridge, for example, was much attacked.
"If they are talking, they are not plotting, my dear Moran."
One of the major areas of public row turned out to involve the Royal Navy. The Government had agreed with the Japanese that a number of Japanese naval officers would be trained by the Royal Navy. This led to a number of Japanese naval officers serving as members of the Royal Navy at various levels, and they were treated in every way as serving members of the RN. It was working well, until one Japanese Midshipman was promoted to Sub Lieutenant, and posted to HMS Thunderchild, and given responsibility for the starboard-side boats. Nothing unusual, but a Midshipman Winslowe felt he had been deprived of a place and a promotion to please the Japanese. This brought on a dispute as to whether a British Naval Officer took precedence over a Japanese Naval Officer within the RN. Details of the case were lost among the emotion generated and, regardless of the outcome, poor Winslowe's career lay in ruins. He realised this himself, but his father was a domineering personality.
The RN was adamant that it was not going to change its ruling. The Japanese government was terribly anxious that the decision, whatever it was, did not imply its officer was in any way inferior. The British Government was keen to cultivate good relations with the Japanese. The innate patriotism of the Empire Party found it difficult to accept that a Japanese naval officer might be a better naval officer than a British naval officer.
The answer, of course, was blindingly obvious, which was why it took so long to find it. The Admiralty announced that the Japanese naval officer was the correct choice, as the officer in question was loyal, honourable, efficient, professional, trustworthy and utterly appropriate for the promotion and position. Midshipman Winslowe had not been considered for the position because the Admiralty had received a special request that Winslowe be kept available for a specific task. That task was not available for discussion or publication.
Everyone was happy. Three months later, Mr Winslowe received a letter from the Admiralty, and another from the government, offering him condolences over the unfortunate death of his son on active and special service in a secret project. Mr Winslowe received a similar letter from a Professor Cavour.
"And that, my dear Moran, is the British people back on course. The people will not merely follow, but will be most ingenious in leading us where we wish to go. Now, for France and for war."
"So, we have to win a war with France."
"No, Moran. We must lose it. It's the peace we have to win."
Seen a fairy, Anne?
"And now, my dear Moran, we have a war to lose with France, and then win the peace."
"Can't be done, Moriarty. I mean, there's the Channel, there's the Empire, and there's the Navy."
It quickly became evident that trouble was brewing in many parts of the Empire. West Africa and Egypt in particular grew very troubled. A detachment of the Army, with a naval presence, was dispatched to Egypt, and to Nigeria.
For reasons of caution, Britain also decided to send a significant fleet to Canada, and beefed it up with a few more troops from the Indian Army. The troubles of racial disharmony and rioting were still endemic in the USA, and the threat of overspill was self-evident. Britain made it utterly clear to the world that the Empire would not be forgotten.
Similarly, Australia and New Zealand received a British presence, due to 'Dutch' meddling in the former (from the East Indies), and to a desire to set up shipyards in the latter.
Meanwhile, tensions with France were raised. Such things can be easily arranged, especially when there is a major project such as the Cross-Channel Bridge being designed. The fact that the Eiffel Tower gave the French experience in such constructions rather gave the French the impression that they knew more about large metal structures than the British.
In Egypt, trouble started to arise in a tense, three-sided affair with the British and French glaring over the Suez canal, and native unrest inspired, it is thought, by agents of Fu Manchu. A large British fleet and a large French fleet both went to the area to protect their respective interests.
By a variety of such events, British strength was sent to a variety of trouble spots, and Britain became quite active in protecting the Empire. Nonetheless, sufficient forces were retained in Britain to protect it. Or so everyone thought. To a large extent, the ships that remained were eldely and obsolete, or under repair, or just simply non-existant. The Admiralty was extremely concerned, and made great efforts to keep secret the shortage.
Unfortunately, the French were able to acquire, through some spectacularly successful espionage, details of the distribution and strength of British forces. (After the event, there were suggestions that Mycroft Holmes was implicated. His brother, Sherlock, took on the case to prove his innocence, highly successfully. As intended. It kept Sherlock from looking into other matters). The French looked at the distributions, and noted with despair how strong were the forces in the colonies. There was no chance of being able to pick up anything. Then, a bright spark with Napoleonic pretensions, Colonel Jules Dubosc of the Artillery, noted the comparative weakness in Britain. The thing was noted, and after a heated debate, all was put in train. "A mass of soliders, descending on the south coast, and advancing rapidly on London, and the war will be won."
Meanwhile, in Britain, a few more dispositions needed to be made. Commander Nemo was promoted Captain and posted to command of the Portsmouth fleet, and told NOT to undertake any submarine investigations. Of course, he did. It weakened the Portsmouth fleet still further.
At last, all was ready on both sides; the French had secretly prepared a massive invasion, and the British had disposed their forces to ensure that the French could get across.
When it happened, it took place with a sudden violence. There were struggles at the landing places, which the outnumbered British forces defended, before retreating in confusion.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in the Empire, the strong British forces faced reduced French forces; Algeria, the Ivory Coast, and the French Caribean possessions were swiftly overrun. However, the great struggle lay in Britain.
The decisive battle was building at the gap in the North Downs, at Dorking. The British government suggested discussing terms, but the British public didn't fail. Numerous citizens, including some well known adventurers, had luckily been in London on business, and the Battle of Dorking was a messy affair, involving scratch British units being flung in to hold the Gap, and the French forces having supply difficulties. Both Governments wanted to talk, and both peoples were not happy with talks. "Victory is nearly ours!" and "Invade England, will they?" swept aside any peace talks.
Dorking was a hard fought battle, but it broke the French army. The RN regained control over the Channel, and peace could be discussed. The British colonial gains were accepted as permanent, and other than that, the status quo was restored. The British Empire generally appreciated the British having stripped Britain to protect them, and started to demand that they be allowed to protect themselves.
The British public demanded reforms in the Army and Navy, which were dutifully carried out, improving the quality of these arms. The French started to look at Alsace and Lorraine, and reasoned that supply lines would be easier. Hmm.
"All's well, eh Professor?"
"No, my dear Moran. It's a disaster. How dare those patriotic fools win us victory. Oh, there's the chance to make the changes we had to make, but really. Let down by the French again!"
"I don't understand."
"Moran, how did Scotland and England get united? How did we pick up the Welsh? We lose, and take over. The union of France and Britain would have been an accomplished fact, were it not for the British public. France is not diminished, Moran. It is still a power, and it dislikes us. Right. We're going to have to bring the French to heel."
"We're going to lose against them again?"
"Very funny. No, let Germany and France set to. Now for India. Peachey and Carnehan still unavailable?"