I want to start writing alternate history story, set in the 'Wild West' where there are factions of Muslims and non-Muslims vying for territory and resources.

I need to have a reality check on this concept before I start laying the foundations of world building. Essentially I want to fill the gaps in my knowledge, by finding the fewest questions I need to answer to reasonably explain this alternate history. (n.b. I don't want you to answer these questions, I want you to ask me questions)

Here are my requirements:

  • Reality splits after Muhammad's (ﷺ) death in 632
  • Muslims retain a foothold in Spain and a large amount of Europe
  • Large-scale colonization of America by both factions (with in-fighting being expected, and not counter to this requirement).
  • Norsemen are still recognizably in existence, and not converted to Christianity.

What holes are left for me to fill in?

For what it's worth, as much as this is might influence the gaps to fill, there are an elite few in this alternate reality who can either use Djinn to 'mind-control' individual people (Muslims) or turn individual people into large troll-like creatures (Norsemen)

I can think of a few 'turning points' I need to answer, however they'd be better broken down to smaller more precise questions:

  • How does Muslim Spain prevent itself from being re-taken?
  • How do Norsemen gain control of Britain in 1066 (which may be considered the end of the 'Viking Era')
  • What drives the above factions to go to America?

What other questions do I need to answer, for a believable alternate-history?

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    $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868
    Jul 18, 2020 at 22:24

7 Answers 7


How do the Vikings not become Christian?

Even as the Vikings were militarily successful, they were falling under the cultural sway of the geo-politically weak Christian nations. Clearly, there was something powerfully attractive about Christianity.

In order for your Vikings to stay noticeably Viking, and not generically Northern European, they have to keep their own religion, possibly developing it into something that can compete with the proselytizing success of Christianity and Islam.

Why does this Viking/Muslim Europe advance so fast?

This is a tricky one, since it is not entirely clear what made Early Modern Europe develop so fast. It is undeniable that a region that was probably the least developed of the four major cvilization centers of the Old World (out of China, India, the Middle East, and Europe) in 1400 ended up clearly ahead as soon as 1600 and far ahead by 1800. But what caused this is up for debate. Suggestions include:

  • The competition between secular and religious authority and the legacy of feudalism lead to stronger property rights in Europe than elsewhere.
  • The legacy of Republican Rome and the tension between independent secular and religious authorities undermined the absolute nature of monarchy. For example, only Europe had a situation where a powerful King (of France or Spain) nominally owed religious obedience to a religious leader outside his own authority.
  • A large number of relatively stable states limited tyrannical governments' ability to stifling trade and development.
  • A large number of states lead to increased competition and warfare, and fast development of weapons technologies.

None of these reasons seeems fully satisfactory, so a combination of them is probably more accurate.

In any case, if your Viking-Muslim continent gets together, how do you reasonably replicate the fast growth and technological development (both in shipbuilding and weapons) that allowed Europeans to go to other continents and push the natives around?

What drives New World Colonization?

There were three major factors for early colonization efforts in the New World: gold, sugar and religious persecution.

The Spanish got into the game first with the gold. By 1535, they conquered both Mexico and Peru and their corresponding gold reserves. Most of the first Europeans to permanently settle the New World did so in relation to one of these two territories, either in their capitals (Mexico City and Lima grew large) at the mines (Potosi in Bolivia grew to almost 100,000 in this time period) or in ports servicing trade to these places (Veracruz, Darien/Panama, Havana, Acapulco).

The second big pull was sugar. There wasn't much good land to grow the stuff in the Mediterranean, and most of that land was in Muslim hands anyways. Already colonized places like Havana and Veracruz were perfect for this crop, as was much of Portuguese Brazil. Once the slaves part of the equation came in to play, this became the perfect high risk/high reward venture for adventurous European lesser nobility. Spend thousands on slaves, hope you don't die of malaria; if you can ship a few tons of sugar back to Europe each year, you will be rich.

The last pull was religious persecution. The Pilgrims of Massachussets and the English Catholics of Maryland are two examples, as were abortive Huguenot colonies in Brazil and Florida and other places. These colonies were the most stable in the long run, since they were by families who intended to stay put, not greedy pillagers and slavers. By the 1700s, the victims of religious wars in Europe were filling the New World: oppressed Scots-Irish; the rest of the Huguenots; German Catholics in Protestant states and Protestants from Catholic states, etc.

In your world, how do you provide the same impetus driving people to plunder, enslave, and/or settle the New World?

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    $\begingroup$ This is a really great, and well scoped answer. $\endgroup$ Dec 27, 2017 at 13:42
  • $\begingroup$ sugar cane production gained prominence after initial colonial enterprises (gold) failed. Beaver hides were another initial pull being one of the few exotic resources found in the new world. $\endgroup$
    – anon
    Dec 27, 2017 at 13:47
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    $\begingroup$ also I wouldn't be surprised if the Muslims adopted the same colonial practices as the Christians particularly with respect to enslavement, at the time they had similar outlooks on their fellow man. $\endgroup$
    – anon
    Dec 27, 2017 at 13:50
  • $\begingroup$ I've edited my question to refer to Norsemen, not Vikings. $\endgroup$ Dec 29, 2017 at 10:47
  • $\begingroup$ Don't forget about the reason Spain sent ships to the west: Muslims took over Constantinople and blocked all trade routes to India and China. And Columbus was just looking for a way to trade with Asia without crossing any muslim countries. They don't even expected any new land there. $\endgroup$
    – user28434
    Oct 10, 2019 at 9:30

How does Muslim Spain prevent itself from being re-taken?

The turning point of the Reconquista, the war of the Christians against the Muslims of Spain was the year 1000 AD. The Caliphate of Cordoba suffered of internal conflict, civil war and political fights for the power, with a 10-year-old caliph.

If you keep the Caliphate stable, without hiring Christians to fight wars for them against their enemies and those Christians can't breed so many horses as they did (in the wars of 1200 the proportion of mounted soldiers in the Christian army was at least 40%), it is reasonable they stay in power.

What drives the above factions to go to America?

For the Muslims, somehow they get interested in the Fortunate Islands as the Romans called them (the Canary Islands).

Once conquered the guanches (the people of the Canary Islands), an easy feat because those guanches are a Neolithical society, they could discover a Phoenician route to the Azores.

Once in the Azores, a lost ship could end in America and return with just a lot of luck. The Muslim ship gets back with slaves and gold and it is all Al-Andalus needs to be interested in conquest.


I do not think there are that many issues at the general level. You'll need to drill down to details to get real issues.

The issue with Muslims was infighting. You just need a stable Muslim state to rule the western Mediterranean. They'd be richer and more advanced than their Christian competition so they'd probably have no issue defending themselves. More likely they'd expand to Southern France and parts of Italy.

I guess you'd want to pick some suitable Muslim state to promote, find out why it failed, and how to prevent that failure.

For the Vikings, the issue was lack of cohesion. They came to the South, adopted local religion and culture and more or less merged with the Christian culture.

Since you want them not to be Christian that might be your best bet. If the Norse stay strongly pagan they'd have a strong cultural identity of their own and not merge with the Christian Europe.

For that you are going to need a religious reform. The Vikings will need to adopt more organized religion with upgraded theology. Simplest explanation is that they'll do so in response to Christianity and Islam by adopting and incorporating elements of those religions to their own religious practices.

Hinduism successfully underwent something like this in response to competition from Buddhism and Islam. You can use that as a reference.

Another possible reference is the trilogy starting with "The Hammer and the Cross" written by Harry Harrison and John Holm (pseudonym) that basically is about Vikings resisting Christianity.

The questions would be about reforming Norse paganism to something competitive with Christianity.

Having them colonize the Americas would be fairly simple. As everybody knows the Vikings did actually settle Greenland and a short lived colony in Canada(?). A strong Viking kingdom would have followed up on that almost certainly at some point.

And when they did the Muslims would have heard about it and sent somebody to investigate.

Not sure if there is anything to ask about that part.


How does Muslim Spain prevent itself from being re-taken?

By avoiding the fracturing that happened when the Ummayads were toppled. That weakened the muslims in Spain so much that they never recovered and got defeated by small christian kingdoms. Unified, solid, muslim empires are tough nuts to crack, just look at the Ottomans or the Mamluks of Egypt.

How do Norsement gain control of Britain in 1066 (which may be considered the end of the 'Viking Era')?

By abandoning the tribal customs establishing norman feudalism generations earlier. A norse high king will have to emerge, using, somehow, the norse religion to justify a feudal monarchy, the development of a monarchy and the development of an improved norse metaphysics will have to walk side by side. But the norse lacked philosophy to systematize their religion like the egyptians and the chinese did. They will have to borrow the philosophy from somewhere and, if you want to keep them pagans, that means neoplatonism (they are too far away from China or India to be inspired by taoism or hinduism) and in 1066 that means that they will have to sack Constantinople or Egypt to get the late-roman manuscripts.

What drives the above factions to go to America?

In our timeline, the discovery of America was inevitable because the fishing boats hunting cods and whales went deeper and deeper into the Atlantic. Eventually they would get on the other side and the stories about a big land full of resources would spread. Eventually they would start planting sugarcane and tobacco in Cuba and Haiti, get very rich in the process and the rush for the new continent would begin. Both the norse and the muslims would them fill America with slaves, driving settlements in african coast in the case of muslims and raids in Europe in the case of norses.

What other questions do I need to answer, for a believable alternate-history?

How will the norse paganism interact with the natives, specially in Peru and Mexico? the aftermath of a norse conquest of the aztec empire will be quite different because instead of supplanting the aztec religion, the norses will merge the religions (like the romans did in Egypt and Syria).

How will the muslims react if a native nation convert en masse to islam like the volga bulgars did?

Will the muslims burn the american wealth in religious wars like Spain did? Maybe Spain will be Shia and will burn itself attacking the sunnis in Anatolia or Egypt?

Also: norse slave trade, enslaving christians to man the tobacco and sugar plantations will devastate christedom in the same way that the old nigerian kingdoms were devastated in our timeline.


Partial answer, since the rest is fairly well covered already:

  • Norsemen are still recognizably in existence, and not converted to christianity

Actually... This one is VERY easy to explain. If the norsemen can turn people into large, troll-like creatures, and that was somehow tied into the norse religion? That'd be a pretty strong counter to any christian influence (who stopped being able to present miracles shortly after the death of christ even if the bible is 100% real in this world). I'd worship odin and sons over jesus any day if odin's priests can show me the might of their god(s) and the christian ones can not!


Given the nature of most of the colonists in North America, I have a pair of questions for you:

  • What were the Muslim running from?
  • Who were the Muslim authorities trying to get rid of?

There are plenty of ways and reasons to exploit a new land but the first few rounds of that exploitation are usually pretty rough. It seems to me that desperation or coercion were factors in early historical colonization.

The answer you choose to either of those questions will have a profound effect on the resulting story.


Christian Monks are Martial Artists

When the Vikings raided Lindasfarne Monastery in 793, they were shocked to find that the humble men in burlap sacks and silly hair cuts were more than a match for them. Fighting with heavy bronze staves, they smashed the raiders to pulp. After the fighting, they patched up the raiders, taking care of them while they mended bones.

After several months recovering, they sailed back home.

"Don't f*ck with those Britons, they are some crazy bastards!" They told their friends.

One of their friends said that he heard that his cousin's lord's uncle's brother-in-law found this land further west. It's a much longer sail, but there's no crazy warrior monks waiting to bash your skull in, then patch it up. Britain is, after all, a silly place.

Muslim armies liked to fight with champions. Sometimes, they would have a 1v1 and respect the results. When they invaded Spain, the Spaniards sent out their champion. A man with no armor, armed with just a staff. "1v1 me", he said.

The Generals picked their champion and sent him out. This funny looking peasant with a staff beat their champion like a rented mule. Could every Spanish peasant fight like that? "Best not to find out, let's go back to Morocco". They agreed.

With the war avoided, the Caliphate developed strong ties with Spain through trade. The silk road got on boats in Jerusalem and sailed to Gibraltar. An enterprising Moroccan merchant decided that it was taking too long to get the silk from China. Maybe it would be faster to go the other way around the world. He sets off to find China, but finds America instead.


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