Marshal Boulanger and the Great Fashoda War
by Edward Guimont
In 1898, France and Britain came closer to war than anytime since Napoleon to the present. For almost four months, tensions ran high enough that both nations actually began military mobilization. Then, almost overnight, the crisis ended. Fifteen years later, both nations were forced into a close relationship that has lasted ever since, and today, nearly no one remembers the Fashoda Crisis. Yet, had things gone just differently, it might have replaced the assassination of an archduke as the impetus of a war to end all wars...
Background: The Fashoda Crisis
By 1898, the Race for Africa – the carving up of the continent by expansionist European powers – had nearly ended. Britain and France were the major winners, both having the first 'modern' colonies as legacies of the Napoleonic Wars: Algeria for France, Egypt and the Cape (South Africa) for Britain. Both of these initial holdings had provided the basis for their later developments: Britain wished for the 'Cape-Cairo line' (ie, a single strip of territory that would connect Egypt and South Africa), while France wished to hold all territory north of the Gulf of Guinea and west of the Nile. In both cases, each country almost achieved their goals. Vital to both French and British interests was the Sudan.
Sudan was nominally a holding of Egypt, and in reality, just as with Egypt, was controlled by Britain. However, much of it was still largely unexplored, much less effectively claimed. Beginning in 1881, the Mahdi revolt, a native Islamic jihad, broke out in Sudan against colonial forces. By 1898, it had largely but not entirely been suppressed (the last major battle, at Omdurman, would take place during the Fashoda Crisis). Seeing their chance, the French command ordered three small forces (one from its west Africa holdings, two from its East) to march on the small Sudanese town of Fashoda and claim it for France. Located along the Nile, it was the spot of a small British fort and occupied an essential strategic position to both French and British plans.
Only the West African force – less than 200 infantrymen – arrived on July 10 under Major Jean-Baptiste Marchand. They remained there for five weeks until September 18, at which time British General Horatio Kitchener arrived. Sixteen days earlier, Kitchener had commanded the British army that had defeated the Mahdists at Omdurman; his forces included new Maxim guns, a flotilla of gunboats on the Nile, the existing British fort and garrison, and 25,000 mixed regular and colonial soldiers. Over tea, General Kitchener and Major Marchand cordially and politely insisted that they each had the correct claim while refusing the other's request to vacate. Their behaviors could not be more different from their countrymen back home, where Briton and Frenchman alike were appalled at the affront to national sovereignty.
Both nations began to mobilize for a war that the British likely would have won. The French army, although larger, was still reeling from the Franco-Prussian War and was considerably less modernized. Additionally, the Royal Navy would have effectively kept it pinned in mainland France, while the forces fresh from defeating the Mahdis would have been able to defend any French incursions into Sudan. A counterattack by the British would have likely drawn serious resistance only in heavily-settled Algeria. However, all the planning was rendered moot due to cooler heads prevailing. The French wished to court the British against the Germans, and the British did not wish another major war over such a trivial causus belli. On November 3 Major Marchand's forces were discretely pulled back, and several years later, as the Anglo-French alliance grew stronger, the British just as quietly renamed Fashoda to Kodok, hoping that no one would remember the stain on relations.
Points of Departure: Boulanger and Dreyfuss
It would be easy enough to pose a POD where Marchand or Kitchener simply fire on the other; however, where's the fun in that? In any case, even that might not have been enough to provoke an actual war between the two powers. Instead, a different outcome of two French political dramas will be our main points of divergence: those of Georges Boulanger and Alfred Dreyfus.
Georges Boulanger began his career as an officer in the French Army during the Second Empire, distinguishing himself in several wars. After the establishment of the Third Republic, he became associated with the monarchist, conservative political faction, but continued his devoted service in the Army, winning a number of ranking honors and being made a general in 1880. In 1886, his political rise began when he was made Minister of War. He won quick acclaim for using his position as a pulpit for his monarchist and anti-German views; however, he backed them up with success abroad in expanding the colonial empire and at home, as a strikebreaker and pro-soldier reformer. However, after nearly instigating a war with Germany in early 1887, he was removed from office among throngs of tens of thousands of supporters.
Perhaps encouraged by this, Boulanger began to devote himself to his political persona. He established a conservative manifesto whose basic outlines were a constitutional revision, a restoration of the Bourbon monarchy, and vengeance against the German Empire. Such was his persona that almost immediately the 'philosophy' that was named after him attracted thousands of followers, a number of prominent conservative politicians and nobility, and even the support of both the Bourbon and Bonaparte families. In July 1888 he illegally ran for the French legislature (due to him being a standing military officer, which was soon remedied by him being expelled from the Army), and won in a landslide. His popularity and influence continued to rise, eclipsing that of both President Sadi Carnot and Prime Minister Pierre Tirard. His oratory and public persona became even more flamboyant and appealing.
Due to (likely more than) perceived manipulations that the legislature was running around him, Boulanger resigned, only to run for (and win by over two-thirds) a representative seat in Paris. He declared his intentions to run for President, and huge masses of his supporters filled the streets of Paris. The French government believed a coup imminent, as did many of his supporters, who on January 27 prepared a public pronouncement in Paris of Boulanger taking command of the nation, and preparing to back him in a confrontation with the authorities.
However, for reasons that, to this day, remain unknown, Boulanger never arrived. Within several days the government had retaliated, initiating legal and police actions against first his followers, and then himself. Less than three months after being literally on the cusp of seizing control of France, Boulanger was forced into exile. Three months after that, his coalition suffered a major defeat and, combined with his absence and police actions, splintered. A year later, Boulanger's rapid and tragic downfall came to an end as, over the grave of his recently-deceased lover, he took his own life.
However, it did not have to be that way. Let us posit that whatever decision or event that held up Boulanger on January 27 never came to pass, and that instead, he proclaimed himself President of the French Republic, by will of God and the people, to restore the national pride that the current republican governments were incapable or unwilling to handle. With his support from the three major monarchist parties (the Bourbon Legitimists, the Bourbon Orleanists, and the Bonapartists), the Catholic Church, the Army, and the common people, he certainly could have taken power in Paris, and likely been recognized throughout the country soon. Bloodshed or violent opposition would have been small in scale and short-lived.
As promised, President Boulanger's first call of duty would be to convene a Constitutional Convention. The Third Republic would be done for, although its final transmutation is hard to discern. For all his sloganeering, it is entirely possible that Boulanger would have preferred to govern France himself, without a king to bow before. But if he did bow to the monarchists, he would have had at least three self-styled claimants to choose from: Charles XI (Legitimist), Philippe (Orleanist), Napoleon V (Bonapartist). Whichever course of option taken, Boulanger would likely remain the true power behind the throne. They all had drawbacks: Charles was of the Spanish royalty with Austrian blood and raised in England; Philippe had been expelled from France by Boulanger (albeit under duress) during his time as War Minister and his Orleanist faction was seen by conservatives as being too progressive and popular-minded; and the Bonapartists were opposed by many of the traditional monarchists and still tainted by the loss to Prussia in 1870. For simplicity's sake, let us assume that Charles XI would have been made king, with Boulanger as Prime Minister and War Minister, General-in-Chief, Defender of the Faith, and whatever other titles he took to ensure the point was taken. Despite that, Orleanists and Bonapartists would likely still be called upon and encouraged to serve in the service of the new state.
The convention also would likely firmly establish Catholicism as the state religion of France, a major point of contention for the right against the secularist Third Republic. Restricting state service, the electorate, and service in the military to Catholics would be an extreme and unlikely leap, but not entirely out of the question; combined with requiring an oath of loyalty to the King and Boulanger, along with the usual strategic arrests and exiles, would likely help do its job of keeping secularists (a much bigger threat to French Catholicism than Protestants or Jews) from participating in the new government. And if that failed, the outlawing of 'radical' parties, unions, and organizations would not be anything new. The Boulangist monarchy would thus – like either of the Napoleons, or even later fascism or Nazism – be able to retain the trappings of democracy and public integration while simultaneously using the public support (which would likely be high) to justify their autocratic means – as long as they kept delivering. Even in reality, historians have seen a connection between Boulangism and the development of later 'dynamic' autocracies.
The second major point of divergence is possibly not even one at all: no Dreyfus Affair. In our timeline, Alfred Dreyfus was a Jewish officer in the French Army who, in 1894, was arrested and convicted by a military court of selling military secrets to the Germans. However, the evidence was questionable at best, the witnesses unreliable, and the court procedure was rushed and compromised several times. For over a decade, France was split between the right which supported the conviction and the left which opposed it. It tore families apart and at times made it almost impossible to carry on any business of state. In fact, in our timeline, part of the reason the Fashoda Crisis was able to be resolved so quickly was that a new turn in the Dreyfus Affair quickly absorbed much of the public and political interest. Finally, in 1906, Dreyfus was pardoned, and later went on to become a decorated World War I veteran.
The result of the Dreyfus Affair was widely seen as a victory for the left, republicans, and secularists, with the right's support of the conviction causing the radical conservatives especially to be pushed from the mainstream to little more than the fringe. It also directly resulted in the creation of a 1905 law separating church and state in France that infuriated the conservatives but remains in effect to the present day. Without the Dreyfus Affair, the right would have remained a strong force in French politics, and without the divisions, the nation would have remained more cohesive and productive, with less citizens turned away from it. The reason it might not even need to be a POD of itself would be that, following a Boulangist victory, there are a number of ways a butterfly effect could remove it entirely. Dreyfus might never have been arrested in the first place; as a Jew, he might have been expelled or reassigned; or, as the government tried to do in reality, the faulty conviction could have been quickly and quietly brushed under the rug. In any even, the results are that the far-right – and the conservative social system it advocated – is not swept under the rug; confidence in the government and the Army – especially important for the regime of Marshal Boulanger – remains untainted; and the French public are not distracted for a decade to the detriment of all other issues.
A third point of divergence is the reign of Freidrich III. Freidrich III was the son of Wilhelm I, the first Kaiser of the German Empire. Unlike his father, son (Wilhelm II), Chancellor – the iron Otto von Bismarck – and the majority of those in power in Berlin, Freidrich was a liberal and a reformer. As a young man, he had eschewed the traditional exclusively-military education of Prussian royal males and studied history and literature. His wife, Victoria, was the English daughter of the queen of the same name, and encouraged such tendencies. He risked the ire of both Bismarck and his father by actively supporting peaceful foreign policies and the accession of liberal parties in the Reichstag.
Wilhelm I died on March 9, 1888, with Freidrich III becoming Kasier. Unfortunately, his reign was to last little more than three months: some time earlier he had been diagnosed with larynx cancer, and due to a botched operation, had already lost the ability to speak by the time of his accession. On June 15 of the same year he died, with his eldest son becoming Wilhelm II, who would continue to rule as an essential autocrat and lead his nation to ruin in World War I.
There are two options here. One is that he becomes the King of Prussia in 1862, when Wilhelm I, barely a year into his reign, threatened to abdicate due to a political stalemate with the Reichstag. Freidrich himself had opposed abdication for setting a dangerous precedent, and it is quite possible that was he to assume the kingship of Prussia at that time, that there might never have been a German Empire, at least one comparable to the one from our timeline. The other option – that he either never developed cancer, or died from it at a much later point – is therefore what will be accepted for the purposes of this timeline.
Under the extended reign of Kaiser Freidrich III, it is very likely that Germany would have become a proper liberal democracy along British lines, with the Reichstag holding true power and a cabinet and Chancellor responsible to it, not the Kaiser. Bismarck’s sacking would be an even more likely occurrence. The result would be a less hostile foreign policy (the absence of Wilhelm II and his propensity for foreign blunders, such as the naval race, obsessions over places in the sun, and Kruger Telegraph, would alone be a dramatic help) with the British viewing Germans as rather more civilized. The two nations would likely see each other more as trading partners than as trade rivals (inasmuch as colonial mercantile powerhouses could be partners and not rivals).
With the points of divergence, major and minor alike, established, let us now proceed onto the development of the scenario itself.
The Setting of the Stage
On July 10, 1898, the French force under Major Marchand arrives at Fashoda, and on September 18, General Kitchener’s force arrives. In Paris and with the backing of King Charles, Marshal Boulanger refuses to give the order to withdraw. A quiet statement of support from Kaiser Freidrich to his mother-in-law to Britain’s pre-existing, legal and recognized claim, made public or at least presented to the Marshal, is perhaps the last impetus that Boulanger needs to declare war on Britain, in late September.
Germany would seem a logical quick second choice for Boulanger to declare war on. He may want British colonies but the need to avenge 1871 is stronger still. It would not be impossible for him to declare war on Germany and Britain in the same breath, using the diplomatic message as evidence of collusion. Or perhaps he manufactures a border skirmish or claim of German infringement on Belgian neutrality in their war plans. In any case, the start of hostilities sees Royalist France pitted against liberal Germany and Britain.
Now, as to the other nations, both of Europe and of the world. The Triple Alliance between Germany, Italy, and Austria was signed in 1882. As in reality, Austrian backing of Germany would seem assured, and unlike in reality, Italian support might also be counted for. The secret Italian guarantee to France did not occur until 1902, and while the irredentists coveted Austrian South Tyrol and Dalmatia, they also sought Corsica, Savoy, and French African colonies. By promising those to them, and perhaps a discussion of the Austrian regions afterwards, Italian support against France could likely be assured, for what good that was.
There is no reason the historical Franco-Russian Alliance of 1892 could not still exist here. France would still have large investments in Russia, and the two would still have a common enemy in Germany and be seen with antipathy by the liberal British. With a restored monarchy and conservative social order in France, Tsar Nicholas would likely see France as a closer ally than in reality. And as this is before the Schlieffen Plan, the German High Command would be even jitterier regarding an alliance between the two.
The large amounts of German, Austrian, and British investment would ensure with ease that the Ottoman Empire would enter their side, especially when Russia, the traditional enemy of Turkey, was against them. Similarly, the Baltic states – Greece, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, and Montenegro – would as usual revolve within the Russian sphere, and when given the chance to fight both their Turkish and Austrian oppressors, would have their choice practically made for them.
Japan would probably join the Allies for the same reason it did in World War I, its relatively close relationship with Britain, the chance to grab colonies from the defeated, and an excuse to expand its influence on the mainland. 1898 also times itself with the establishment of Russian control over southern Manchuria – the cause of the Russo-Japanese War of 1905 – and is just before the Boxer Rebellion of 1899. The war in the East therefore would likely include Japanese and some British and Germans fighting Russians in Manchuria, French in their trade cities and sphere of influence in southern China, and Chinese rebels (or even government forces, with Russia's nudging). Fighting in Indochina by the British also seems likely.
Spain would possibly tip onto the French side. King Charles of France was a Spanish Carlist, and thus had opposed King Alfonso XIII of Spain and his branch. However, that was before he became King of France, he was still a Spaniard, and France and Spain were the traditional Catholic allies against Britain; perhaps these factors could have led to reconciliation between the two. There was also the fact that intermittent Spanish enemy Portugal was still a valued friend and ally of Britain.
Finally, there is the fact that this was in the middle of the Spanish-American War. The Fashoda Crisis began July 10 and war was declared in late September. In reality, the Spanish-American War began on April 25, the last fighting was around August 12, and the peace treaty was signed December 10; thus the main fighting of the war, in which Spain lost its remaining American and Asian colonies, had finished yet a state of war still existed. With the offer of British-held Gibraltar (long wanted back by Spain and offering a way to soothe angers over the loss of the remaining colonies) and a vague hint towards German or British possessions, Spain would join with the French.
This would naturally draw American into the Anglo-German camp, although its entry might be somewhat rockier than on first glance. It was only in 1896 that a dispute over the border of Venezuela and Guyana had erupted between Britain and America, with some even wondering if war might break out between the two (an idea for another time). And Americans still would not like to fight for the colonies of European kings. However, their own colonies – the Spanish-American War was fueled by American imperialism, after all – would be a different matter altogether. President McKinley could argue that entering the wider war was necessary to ensure that other nations – specifically Britain or Japan – did not attempt to take the American-claimed Philippines; limiting European decrying of America’s seizure of Spanish territory, the possibility of gaining more, and a token attempt to ‘moderate’ the fickle Europeans completes the stated need for America to prolong its splendid little war.
Denmark had lost Schleswig-Holstein to Germany, Norway to Sweden, and been humiliated by British fleets during the Napoleonic Wars. Sweden had lost Finland (and much of its other territory, earlier) to Russia, and would have to defend Norway against Denmark. If either of those nations joined the general war, Denmark would join the European powers, and Sweden the Allies. Belgium was traditionally neutral, a claim supported widely by Britain (who did not want Germany or France to get its Channel ports) and opposed by France, who had annexed it until the defeat of Napoleon and who had, as late the as the Franco-Prussian War, continued to hold hopes for regaining it. It would join with the Allies, if it joined at all. However, along with the Netherlands, it would be unlikely for any of those four nations to enter conflict (at least officially) unless directly provoked, and given their locations and the absence of the Schlieffen Plan, that would not be certain.
Therefore, within a short time of the start of the war, we have Europe (and the world) divided up into the following camps:
The war itself will be more like 1870 than 1914. It might last a year or two but will almost certainly not be a total war that kills hundreds of thousands, at least for the most part. The advantage is tipped too far to the side of the Allies for that. Among the European Powers, France and to a much lesser extent Russia are the only serious powers. Russia would have its hands tied just in the East against Japan and fighting the Boxers. The Turks, Austrians, and Germans (although with the former two mainly capable of distractions) would mop up with ease in the European front.
In the Western front, the British will send an expeditionary force to Portugal to fight the Franco-Spanish armies, in a repeat of the Peninsular Campaign – the main difference being that Spain is already on the verge of collapse. Again, the bulk of the French army will be to the east, although against Germany rather than Russia. With the French forces divided among the colonial, Spanish, and Italian fronts (the latter of which they could well sport victories in), and with British and any Belgian help turned against rather than with them, the Miracle of the Marne seems unlikely to repeat itself.
In the colonies and high seas, the main American contribution would be the occupation of the Philippines and confronting any French ships in open water. German and British forces would collapse French resistance in its colonies relatively quickly, although fighting in Algeria would likely be hard. The Allied navies would be able to blockade the French Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts effectively; their colonial armies and merchant fleets would be cut off, but France would not starve, unlike World War I Germany.
Italy probably would not fare any better against France than it did against Austria, but a British reinforcement of the front, enabling them to punch through into France and draw forces away from the Spanish campaign, would prevent any real danger breaking out. In the Balkans, major Austrian defeats from the would-be Balkan League are certainly far from impossible, at least until France and Russia are dealt with and Germany is free to relocate its troops to the region, although to do so would most likely be seen as a necessary duty to an honorable ally rather than with any real enthusiasm. British forces would almost certainly not go there, and perhaps would not even be at war with Greece. The Italians might also be eager to send troops across the Adriatic for their own ends.
The war, for all intents and purposes, would be over with the surrender of France and Russia, which would likely occur within a year, perhaps two. Russia would not quite be facing a combination of 1905 and 1917, but it would be close – its navy decimated, its Chinese territory taken by the Japanese, German troops deep into European Russia, its army collapsed (albeit not totally ground into cannon fodder). A revolution would be inevitable, although it would be more 1905 and February 1917 than Red October: a Duma and a cabinet responsible to it formed, with perhaps Nicholas II abdicating in favor of his brother, Grand Duke Michael. This was attempted in 1917, but with Russia in not-quite-as-desperate straits and without a Petrograd Soviet to agitate, in this case the Grand Duke would likely accept and become Tsar Michael II.
In France, the Boulangist regime was predicated upon three things more than anything else: strength of the Army, revenge against Germany, and a national resurgence. The defeat in (shall we say) 1899 will destroy all of that. For the second time in less than thirty years, the Germans will be occupying the industrial and rich northeast France, including Paris; indemnities and colonial losses will be seen around the corner; the dictatorship will no longer have any justification to counterbalance its oppression. Marshal Boulanger also would be the type to take personal command of the armed forces during wartime; like Nicholas in OTL Russia, this would only more firmly cement him as a cause for the defeat in French eyes. As soon as Paris is captured – whether or not Boulanger, Charles, and their government relocates, or surrenders, or are killed in the fighting – the game will be up for Boulangism. As repetitive as it seems, there would likely be little alternative to a revolution against both Boulanger and the restored monarchy, with both being toppled and replaced with a republican provisional government. If either Boulanger and/or Charles survives and are free, they may order whatever Army units still obeying them to try to stamp out the ‘traitors’; but by that point, it will not change the outcome one bit.
France’s provisional government would once more find itself signing a humiliating peace. Besides war indemnities at least to Germany, continuing to bear the loss of Alsace-Lorraine, and not gaining Fashoda as hoped, it would have to give up Savoy, Nice, Corsica, and Tunisia to Italy, Morocco to Germany, French Guiana and its Caribbean/North Atlantic islands to the United States, and its Indochinese and Chinese claims to Britain. Its Pacific territories would go to Britain, Germany, or Japan. It could also be made to give up its sphere in Thailand, which would pave the way for it to become a full British colony/protectorate as well. Other African colonies would also possibly be fair game, although Algeria is likely safe.
Other than gaining Guiana, the French islands of the North Atlantic (possibly, having to compete with Britain) and Caribbean (certainly America’s for the taking), and perhaps a permanent occupation of Cuba as a reward to itself for extra services in the wider war, the American outcome would probably not be that different than the end of the Spanish-American War.
Spain would lose its remaining African colonies to Germany or Britain, and the monarchy probably would not survive this conflict. A Second Spanish Republic would be proclaimed earlier than OTL; this, along with the loss of the African possessions, could in the long run eliminate Franco from any position of importance.
Just as was tried with Brest-Litovsk, a network of German client kingdoms and principalities in the East – Ukraine, Poland, Finland, and the Baltic states – will be established under Hohenzollerns. Russia will also be forced to giver up Manchuria, its Chinese rights, and perhaps even Vladivostok to Japan, and its claims to Persia and Afghanistan to Britain.
The fates of the Ottoman and Austrian empires is anybody’s guess. I can’t picture the Ottoman’s doing great even against Russia, and the Balkan nations would probably have finished off European Turkey, along with much of the southern Austrian territory. Austria probably would not implode, if for nothing else than Germany being there to prop it up. Italy might directly annex Montenegro or any other areas it could reach, and Austria could pressure itself into an unstable protectorate in Serbia.
Most or all of Turkey’s European territory would be returned to it, under the caveat that it (like Bosnia) is administered by Austria or Italy: a de facto loss but one that they are in no position to object to. Italy or Germany might also be given ‘administration’ over the provinces of Tripoli and Cyrenaica, and east, a Jewish autonomous region in Palestine would be supported, at the least, by Britain. If the Ottoman state’s situation was driven too precariously by the war, direct ‘spheres of administration’ or outright annexation over its Arab territories by Britain or Germany would also not be out of the question.
In France, the fact that this most recent defeat was caused by a restored monarchy, military government, and conservative social system would strengthen the left, secularism, and republicanism is in the short term. However, with its economy not too crushed and without a large-scale loss of soldiers, it would only be a matter of time before the desire of vengeance would rebound, and with the usual right-wing feelings associated with it. The alternative is a resurgent radical left that adopts the revanchist and nationalist doctrine, as was the case prior to the mid 1850s. Either way, a radical leftist government, at least for the short term and probably the long one as well, would emerge in this French Fourth Republic. A unique twist would be to pin the final defeat on a ‘stab in the back’ from the right-wing regime, and its dying attempts to suppress the provisional government with troops that might otherwise have kept the fight going.
In Austria, the added influx of Slavic peoples would increase the drive for the creation of a ‘triple monarchy,’ incorporating a Kingdom of the Slavs out of its existing Balkan territory. How much that would actually help in reality would be questionable and the end result of the war, with its debts and added non-German/Magyar populace would probably be to drive it closer into Germany’s orbit. It should be clear to everyone that it was only German soldiers, German money, and the international balance of power that prevents the splintering of the Hapsburg domain.
The war, won to Germany’s advantage by a liberal monarch and his democratic government, would solidify Freidrich’s liberal reforms within Germany. He would die soon after, succeeded by Wilhelm II, but even with his power curtailed someone as inept as him is bound to still make trouble, especially since the victory has proved to those both abroad and within the Second Reich that Germany has definitively eclipsed France as the dominant Continental power.
Russia is in quite a pickle indeed. It has lost most of its richest, most industrial, and most productive territories; its navy has been wiped out and its army humiliated; its only ice-free port; and its only attempts at colonies and protectorates. The people have been given a liberal constitution and government, but only very grudgingly; and it still does not solve the problems of food, employment, and poverty. The more conservative aspects of Russian society – that is to say, a large amount of it and especially those in power – will resent the concessions, just as the lower classes will resent not being given more or having their other problems solved, and a revolution or even civil war could follow the wake of the defeat. At least for now, and with the aid of British and German forces who have it in their best interest (how else to spread civilization and recover war debts?) the liberal-monarchist government will probably triumph over any radical revolts. But with its areas of trade, industry, and agriculture gone, any road to recovery or modernization is going to proceed extremely slowly indeed.
The Ottomans might have a blessing in disguise from the war: sudden loss of economically and militarily wasteful colonies, a brief period of calm among those hurrying to carve up its corpse, and the impetus for a Young Turk revolution a decade earlier. If pulled off, this would give it a leg up to modernize and survive in the new Twentieth Century, with the survival of the caliphate – and one in a westernizing, modernist state – being extremely important after the rise of radical Arab and Muslim movements in the latter half of the century. However, with all of the problems of the Ottoman state and society, it would take much more than a bit of luck to pull off.
The United States would not change much, nor would the Balkan states – more wars amongst each other are likely an unavoidable outcome. Italy would still want to incorporate the Italian-dominant areas of the South Tyrol and Dalmatia, just as after World War I; in this timeline, however, they had never been seriously offered them, and would have made out well regardless. The end of the classical-liberal-dominated elitist government by proportional voting, as after World War I, would likely develop to reward the peasants and workers for their contributions. This would probably result in a fluctuating Catholic and Socialist parliament. Italy might thus be seen as a junior partner to the French Fourth Republic as the embodiment of European radical and populist movements, vague counterparts to post-WWI Russia.
Without French or Russian concerns, Britain would have no reason not (at least attempt) to annex Persia, Siam, and Afghanistan as colonies or protectorates, along with its spoils from French colonies. The French navy would be scuttled, leaving Britain the undisputed master of the seas. It would never have been richer, the Empire never larger. A golden age in all appearances. However, it would have to deal with a Germany and America risen to new national prominence, the cost (economic and military) of administering its new colonies, and the strains any war put on society.
One thing that would probably happen, as surprising as it might be, would be civil war over Irish Home Rule. This nearly happened in 1913/1914 in our timeline, but was averted by the Sarajevo crisis and eventual outbreak of war. Here, there would be no Sarajevo to prevent it, and the stresses of its postwar settlement could bring it on quicker. The Conservatives, backed by the army and their media empire and fueled by the need to not show any weakness in the face of either France or Germany, would engage in (to use the phrase) ‘a very British coup’ to prevent the Irish-Liberal-Labour alliance from initiating Home Rule. The end result would probably be a government firmly in the hands of the Conservative Party, yet not fully dictatorial; somewhat like the early Mussolini years in Italy in OTL. Freedom of the press and opposition parties would exist, yet the lower classes, revisionist programs, and mass movements would be firmly kept under foot, and Parliament would continue to be firmly (if under a velvet glove) kept in the thrall of a Conservative majority and the House of Lords. This new Conservative semi-dictatorship would solve the initial problem of Home Rule by engaging the plan of ‘Imperial Federation’ – the essential union of Britain and its colonies under a single government, governed by an Imperial Parliament at Westminster, a plan that in OTL had a large sway from British Conservatives prior to WWI, especially in relation to the ‘Irish Question.’ Of course, under the Conservatives, there would no doubt be an upper-class white Protestant majority.
Between the Conservative rise in Britain, Wilhelm II’s accession in Germany, and the end of the war leaving the two nations as the dominant forces in Europe, a ‘cold war’ between Britain and Germany seems inevitable. The launch of the Second Boer War, and Wilhelm soon going on about his place in the sun and a naval building program, would set the tone just as it did in the real world. The end result would painfully and predictably be another general European war.
As a conclusion, we can ponder the vague outlines of this ‘Second Fashoda War’ between Britain and Germany. France would have to decide which of its enemies is greater, and it takes little difficulty to know it would side with Britain (who had done it relatively little harm) against Germany (who has defeated and occupied it three times within the past century, still holds Alsace-Lorraine, and has twice imposed humiliating economic indemnities). Italy, too would side with Britain and its revolutionary brother France against Germany: Austria would obviously side with Germany, and could no longer offer anything to outweigh Tyrol and Dalmatia. Russia would dearly like to regain Poland, et al, but would probably still be too weak to make any appreciable impact, especially as Germany could now effectively rely on those border kingdoms to defend themselves against Russia. Turkey, if it joins, will side with Germany, primarily against Russia and with the hope of eliminating the British spheres of influence in its Middle Eastern territories. In the East, Japan will side against Britain: Thailand, Indochina, and Chinese spheres providing lucrative and vulnerable colonies with, like Italy in relation to Austria, Britain no longer being able to offer anything to counteract it.
However, without dragging this essay on any longer, that is as far as I am willing to ponder for now.