Eve of the Globe's War: A ‘What If?’ Novel of the Coming of the Second World War without an Industrial Revolution
Today I self-published a new 'what if?' novel for sale on Amazon. Rather than look at a small shift in history of one country and its implications, this one considers what would have happened if the Industrial Revolution had not been permitted to happen. As the introduction outlines, there have been many regimes and societies throughout history that have resisted innovation; indeed passed laws against it. The Classical societies of Egypt, Greece and Rome did advance knowledge in certain areas but as slave economies felt no need to go further and indeed many of the skills they had were lost. In Imperial China and Shogunate Japan there was active resistance to innovation for fear of the damage it would bring to the established regimes. Thus, looking at absolutist monarchies that were increasingly strong across Europe in the 18th century, often with monopolies over leading industries, it seemed highly feasible that innovation may have been halted; punishable by death. Discovery of China and Japan seem to simply vindicate that this was the right approach for these restrictions.
Having set up this scenario I aimed to pick a well-known element of our history and show how different it would have been without the industrialisation of the 18th and 19th centuries. I lit upon the Munich Crisis of 1938 when Germany demanded the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia. In addition, paralleling with the German use of the Enigma ciphering system and its provision to Britain and France by Polish intelligence, I thought the idea of agents seeking such a device would form the good basis for a story. In order to highlight the differences I used well known people from our history: Winston Churchill, Anthony Eden, Bernard Montgomery, Neville Chamberlain, Oswald Mosley and Adolf Hitler to show that the lack of industrialisation would have not simply have impacted on the technology available but also the societies of Europe. In our world there was still limits on chances to advance, but in a democracy even a man from a mercantile background like Chamberlain could become Prime Minister of a large empire and Adolf Hitler, a failed painter, son of a customs official, could rise to be dictator of Germany. In a world where society remains dominated by the nobility such men could not have progressed.
I have felt that the Stuarts were more liable to become an absolutist monarchy for Britain than the Georgians would have been, given the behaviour of Charles I and James II. People might challenge that the family, especially Charles II, had an interest in science. However, given the removal of Charles I, their Stuart descendants - stemming from children of Queen Anne surviving rather than dying in infancy - seemed more like to adopt the kind of absolutist approach favoured in France, that in our world, provoked the French Revolution. In this alternative rumblings on both sides of the Channel have not gone any further.
The map of Europe looks very different too. As there has been no French Revolution so no Napoleonic Wars, the Holy Roman Empire and various Italian kingdoms have been left in place. The slow speed of communications and relatively low level of urbanisation has meant that though things have developed from the early 18th century, it is of a fraction of the scale of what happened in our world in the same time period in so many aspect.
This is the map I produced to give an idea of what the heart of Europe is envisaged as in this book, in itself providing opportunities and challenges for the heroes and heroine as they travel by horse-drawn carriage, river-carried barge and hot-air balloon from London to Munich and back.
This book is a spy novel set in this alternate context and it has a greater romantic element than my previous novels. It is interesting as an author when a character appears and then gains a more central role than you had ever anticipated and this is what occurred with Écuyesse Servane Adélaïse
de Grimoard who grew from an incidental to being a counterpoint to the Honourable James Manners, the rather feckless civil servant despatched with the motley crew of notables - Churchill, Eden and Montgomery to barter for the Prussian cipher machine, of course, unlike the Enigma of our world, operated by hand; electricity not being in use in this alternative.
I hope a spy novel set in a very different 1938 to our own will appeal to readers. It provides a very different story set around the Munich Conference to that seen in Robert Harris's forthcoming novel!