In this scenario, the American British Colonies never revolted against Great Britain. Therefore, GB still has many of its colonies.

Now, imagine that it is 1938, and the Second World War is right around the corner. Germany is about to invade Poland, and Great Britain and France are about to declare war on Nazi Germany. You, a British minister, are confident in your country's success in the war, sure that you will crush Germany just like last time.

Now fast forward to late 1940. In real life, Britain was being crippled by the Nazis, and the U.S. was debating sending aid to Britain, their ally in mainland Europe. But, for the purposes of this question, Great Britain controls the 13 original colonies. However, it controls only those 13. The rest is under the neutral control of the Native American Indian tribes.

The question is: How would Great Britain controlling the 13 original colonies have changed the outcome of WWII?

I recognize that this is an extremely difficult question to answer because the U.S. played a huge part in the history of the world before World War II. Nevertheless, I would like to have an idea of what would have happened to GB if it still controlled the 13 colonies.

To make this question clearer, you can look at the circumstances like this:

Everything has happened up to the beginning of WWII as it did in our real history. The difference is that in this scenario, suddenly at the beginning of WWII, everything is exactly the same, except that GB controls part of America and the U.S. does not exist. The change is only at WWII; the time before that is totally unaffected.

If anybody needs any clarification, which I am sure will be needed, I implore you to please tell me in the comments.

Thanks in advance.

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    $\begingroup$ What happened to the French, Spanish and Russian Colonies in the Colonial United States? Are they to have stayed the same? or did the native americans rise up and kick them out? $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 15, 2015 at 6:06
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    $\begingroup$ How have the colonies grown and developed? How industrialised are they? How large is the population? Without the farms of the mid-west, are they producing a surplus of food they can supply? The statement that everything happened as it did in our history doesn't really work for the colonies themselves. $\endgroup$
    – Steve Bird
    Commented Sep 15, 2015 at 6:29
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    $\begingroup$ A note on your story: In our world, Germany wouldn't have become Nazi and the WWII would not have started without the Great Depression. If you haven't thought about it already, you should come up with an alternate crash of 1929. For example it could have originated it London. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 15, 2015 at 7:13
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    $\begingroup$ In your Setup, WW1 would not have been a world war. Britain would not have feared german strength (because it would still have been HUGE), so it would have stayed out. Wether or not that would have made france fall short of the assistance pact with russia is anone's guess, but if not, they would have lost quickly. The result would have been interesting and complex, but not a world war, and as a result, no treaty of versailles, and thus no nazi germany, and no second world war. $\endgroup$
    – Burki
    Commented Sep 15, 2015 at 8:08
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    $\begingroup$ @Burki I am not even sure there would be a Germany without an American war of independence. The French revolution was triggered in part by discontent over the price paid to achieve the treaty of Paris. No french revolution could mean no Napoleon which means no dismanteling of the HRE. $\endgroup$
    – Taemyr
    Commented Sep 15, 2015 at 9:31

4 Answers 4


Yes, Britain would still win WWII. Simply put, British are one monster nation (or at least used to be. no disrespect intended) and it is next to impossible to beat them in war. What of their investment in technological advancements and what of their supreme skills in diplomacy and conspiracy. Not to mention their extremely practical approach towards practical matters, no matter what the cost.

OK, so you aren't satisfied by my simple answer. So I think I must break it down to pieces, starting from 1789 ...

The American Colony

As British control 13 of the American states (I am assuming all states are near-equal in area and natural resources, as implying otherwise would put this question into unnecessary detail of which states the British control), they have to make the necessary investments in this region so as to cultivate a good tax reaping every year. Railways, telegram (later upgraded to phone lines) and canal irrigation system are the first areas of investment. The locals would first be persuaded and then forced into cultivating more of the cash crops which the British can sell in the international market and earn huge profits (we are talking cotton here). Of course direct access to international markets is strictly forbidden to the locals.

Militia is another primary area of investment. Hiring local populace to serve for The Crown makes sure there is very less chance of a rebellion as the most war-worthy males are already paid to fight for the The Crown.

After a while (some 10-20 years of installing the railways network and "persuading" the locals into cultivating cash crops), the area would start giving output in terms of tax returns. In colonial India, the ratio of tax was --hold your breaths-- 50% of the total agricultural yield. A similar percentage would be implemented for the American cultivators too. Now I ask you to stop here, do some math and calculate how much would the British be earning annually from American Colony? I am saying 7-8 million pound sterling annually would be the tax return while 2-3 million annual would be the expenditures (paying the militia and the management employees etc). So the Brits would be making an annual profit of 4-6 million pounds from their American Colony.

Profitable? Yes, very much indeed! We are talking about the currency value of late 1700s early 1800s here so don't assume 4-6 million are worth as less as they are today!

World War 1: Lessons Learned

After world war 1, the British have understood that if ever there is a second such war in the future with advanced technology and more gun-fodder, they will have to rely heavily on their colonies for fueling the war, both in expenditures and hiring a mercenary army to fight the war for the British.

What does it mean? It means that the size of militias kept in India, America and other colonies would be increased. Ammunition factories would be set up fortnightly in those regions. The British management officers would show slightly less egotist behavior when dealing with a local.

Mid 1930s. World War II Hovers On The Horizon. What Now?

Immediate preparations! Here are the steps taken by the British to prepare for war:

1- Increase the training level of the local militias so they can last longer in front of German and Japanese machine guns.

2- Increase the tax ratio. Immediately! From 50% to 70%. These are times of war. However, to persuade locals into joining the military, a family having 2 men registered in the military would pay only half the tax.

3- Start stockpiling the food reserves in the colonies. We are going to need that if Hitler goes at it again!

4- Employ the power of media (newspapers and radio stations) and make it look like the Germans would crush the British colonies if they win the war. (Yeah, they did that in India after they realized local Indians are more enthusiastic in getting rid of British, than fighting their war for them, back in late 30s and early 40s).

War Proceedings

*- 1938. The British are fully prepared for the upcoming war.

*- 1940-42. Instead of looking for potentially strong allies to assist them, the Brits successfully employ their colonial militias for serving gun-fodder.

*- 1943-1946. Indians serving in the British in eastern regions (Africa, Japan etc) while Americans and native British forces stopping Hitler on the western and northern regions (Europe).

The outcome? British win the war much easier than they did in real history. With Indians and Americans having to cope with the greater part of casualties, the British can go home merrily, making demands to Germans and Japanese for stopping the war.

Result. Brits win. Colonies cope with casualties and even stricter tax terms. Japanese and Germans crushed by war loss and damning war fines.

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    $\begingroup$ Who exactly would have sunk the japanese carrier fleets? Indian militiamen? $\endgroup$
    – nvoigt
    Commented Sep 15, 2015 at 13:30
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    $\begingroup$ Are you sure there would have been the japanese carrier fleet in the exact same location in the exact same time as happened in the known history of WWII? The butterfly effect, friend. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 15, 2015 at 14:15
  • $\begingroup$ No, without a US threat or embargo, those fleets would surely not be in the same location, but rather roam free to harass NZ, AUS or the indian ocean. Anything vaguely british between the african coast and the american coast would be controlled by those fleets. $\endgroup$
    – nvoigt
    Commented Sep 15, 2015 at 14:26
  • $\begingroup$ With a whole lot of British naval headquarters around the subcontinent and along the coasts of North America, no, the Germans wouldn't have such an easy going in the waters. In fact the British empire would have been a bigger monster than the Nazi Germany. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 15, 2015 at 14:57
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    $\begingroup$ Since the British Empire has been amassing wealth and building and maintaining a navy and global Empire for over 3 centuries, the Great War and WWII would resemble the Napoleonic wars far more than the wars in our timeline. The British Empire would most likely use their maritime power to choose the time and place where they would deploy forces, but otherwise use diplomacy and money to ensure a constellation of allies fought for them. And at some point they would also have realized there was this lovely continent going to waste, and instituted some system to exploit the rest of North America. $\endgroup$
    – Thucydides
    Commented Sep 16, 2015 at 2:14

Everything has happened up to the beginning of WWII as it did in our real history. The difference is that in this scenario, suddenly at the beginning of WWII, everything is exactly the same, except that GB controls part of America and the U.S. does not exist. The change is only at WWII; the time before that is totally unaffected.

So we assume the US east coast is under British control, while the rest of the US is a patchwork of neutral, maybe Spanish states and colonies trading with anyone and helping no one.

Being held as a colony is not as productive as being a free and democratic country. While the east coast is probably quite rich and can muster their own military, it's not the powerhouse it is today with the backing of the entire 51 states. We can safely assume this colony can handle it's own protection with regular troops as well as send some money, elite forces and navy to help Great Britain wherever it's needed.

Great Britain itself has always been an Empire. Another colony will not change that much. It will improve it's strengths a bit because of additional income and manpower, but it's organisation, political actions or general world view would remain unchanged.

So there we are, at the brink of another war. Would it have started? Most likely yes. The Nazis did not start the war with a great master plan in mind. "World War" was a risk they took when expanding eastwards, not their actual goal. Hitler was a gambler and would have taken the risk anyway, even if it would have been greater. After all, there is not much greater risk than the "World War" he was risking already.

In terms of military, Great Britain would be slightly better in what they were already great in: Navy. They'd have more ships and better ships. They already had planes and tanks that were good, if not even better in a plane-by-plane or tank-by-tank comparison than Germany's. With more resources, they might have been even better. However, the tactics lacked. And when it lacks with a colonial Empire with X colonies, there is no reason to assume a colonial empire with X+1 colonies would improve significantly.

Germany won their first campaigns not by being superior in weapon design or even superior in absolute numbers. It won it's early campaigns through superiority in organisation, focus and tactics. "Blitzkrieg" was not about having the coolest tank. It was about ruthless use of combined arms effects, concentration of power, daring leaders and a few elite troops.

Chances are, the campaigns against Poland, Denmark, France, Yugoslavia and Greece, even the Soviet Union would not have changed much. The campaign against Norway relied on seaborne transport. It was clear from the start that the German Navy would have losses and with even more British sea power, more German ships would have been lost. Maybe, Operation "Weserübung" would even have failed. Or never been started. But again, it had been a gamble from the start, and I think it's safe to assume that gamblers will continue gambling even at higher risk.

The battle in the Atlantic would probably have been turned in favor of Great Britain quickly. Being able to protect the convoy routes with their own ships end-to-end using air cover and without the help from a non-combatant that had to hide all their actions as to not be drawn into the war would be an enormous advantage. The convoy battles elsewhere, for example later on the route to Russian ports would have been easier also, with more navy and maybe even Norway free of enemy occupation.

However, while the convoys would be safer, they would also either not transport as much or transport goods at a much higher cost. A lot of the goods that went by convoy either to support Britain or the Soviet Union was lend lease. Without a US, those goods need to be paid for. Assuming the colonies can easily support Britain itself and can also be taxed into oblivion in wartime, that still leaves the goods transported to the Soviet Union.

So in Europe, the course of the war will be slightly altered, with Norway maybe not occupied and Great Britain free to put less resources into convoy raid protection and maybe more into bombing the Reich. With more resources, maybe that tactic would not have been abandoned. However, although not directly involved, with the US and it's economic power out of the equation, not much would have changed. The advantages for Britain would probably be on par with the disadvantages that not having the other US states on their side impose. If you look at who actually suffered the losses of the war and who actually killed the most soldiers and defeated the Wehrmacht, then a change in UK power would not matter much. The Soviet Union did a majority of the fighting, killing and last but not least dying to bring down the Axis.

With Europe only changed in details, the whole conflict in the Pacific would change radically. With the US out of the picture (that would probably include the Philippines, maybe still a Spanish colony or independent then), Japan would rule supreme. Being locked in a land war with China, there would be a huge what if. What if Japan, not threatened by a US embargo, simply decided to conquer China and live happily ever after? Great Britain and the Soviet Union would defeat the Reich more easily. But what if not? In reality, Japanese Ships butchered almost any allied fleet presence but the US navy. With Pearl Harbor a free trading port, the Japanese Navy would be free to chase down any remaining navy in the Pacific and Indian Ocean. Instead of invading the Philippines, they could conquer New Zealand or Australia. They could certainly harass India enough to neutralize it in terms of help for GB in Europe. However, both options are purely speculative. Unlike with Europe, the situation would be so different, we could only guess.

So the bottom line is:

Not much would change in Europe, but the changes in Asia would impact Europe. And the changes in Asia without a US presence are hard to project. It may have went either way. Use whatever fits your story best.

  • $\begingroup$ Lend Lease would not have to be paid for in any way different than the US had to pay for them. Government bonds will pay down the line. The US and UK being one government would make such transfers easier. $\endgroup$
    – Oldcat
    Commented Sep 17, 2015 at 23:31
  • $\begingroup$ @Oldcat The US and the UK are not supposed to be one government in the question. Large parts of the US are supposed to be true neutral and a small part is supposed to be a British colony. With only the 13 colonies adding to the war effort, there would be no lend lease from the US at all. Just the taxes from the colonies. Anything bought from the true neutral US would actually have to be paid for. In real money. $\endgroup$
    – nvoigt
    Commented Sep 18, 2015 at 7:29
  • $\begingroup$ These 'colonies' are, what, five times the area of England, and none of it is windswept hills and moors like Scotland? Exploiting that area to the max would produce a country as rich as England and/or France at a minimum. And the chance of a neutral Indian presence is basically impossible. Canada didn't have that, and it did not have the migration mad colonists spreading out to claim land that the 13 colonies did. These colonies claimed land to the Pacific - only in joining the USA did the states cede these claims. $\endgroup$
    – Oldcat
    Commented Sep 18, 2015 at 21:24
  • $\begingroup$ For all practical purposes, the UK and the Commonweath states formed one wartime government. Australia had its concerns, and the UK met them or did not, but there was no worry that the Aussies would join the Axis. The same would be true here. If the UK needed US resources, it would get them basically at once in a general war. $\endgroup$
    – Oldcat
    Commented Sep 18, 2015 at 21:26
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    $\begingroup$ @Oldcat I'm sorry to say, but you are reinterpreting the question. The USUK is exactly what the OP specified for this question. I won't argue with you about what would have been if it were even different than in the question. That's Alt-Alt-History. Probably fun, but not the point here. $\endgroup$
    – nvoigt
    Commented Sep 22, 2015 at 17:27

TLDR; Japan would start WWII.

I think there is more to Japan. In 1930s Japanese imperialism would be free'd from dispute on northward versus southward expansion. Note that in 1937 Japan was already at full-blown war with China. Nanking Massacre happened in 1937 in real world. But lack of large U.S. Navy in the Pacific would direct Japan even more to naval expansion. It would also antagonize Britain more, as they would see Japan as their main adversary in the Pacific.

So I think the Second Sino-Japanese War would just transform itself into a World War, and that it would be remembered that WWII started in 1937. United Kingdom would aid China in 1938 or 1939. This would promptly cause Japanese naval attack on British fleet and colonies. Historical Khalkin Gol (probing other expansion routes) wouldn't make sense in this setting and would be obviously replaced with taking of Phillipines, a colony with a weak Spanish presence, as well as other Pacific islands being a power-vacuum without United States.

In this setting Hitler would be even more encouraged to expand eastwards. He would invade Poland even sooner, at the beginning of 1939. With UK war effort already concentrated on Pacific/Indian Ocean, Germany would likely succeed with blocking British Isles, cope better with the aerial war and try the naval invasion (in 1941).

Soon after German invasion on Britain, the USSR would attack Germany (Suvorov scenario) and become formally an ally of UK, but they wouldn't progress more than 200-300 km. Germany would need to withdraw from Britain. In 1942 Germany would launch a counter-offensive on USSR, which would progress similarly to real-world Operation Barbarossa.

The war would end in 1945 with Berlin taken by Soviets and France liberated by British. Soviet Union wouldn't invade Japan as it did in 1945.

Britain would develop nuclear bomb in 1946 and the demonstration would cause Japan to sign a peace treaty. Japan would hold part of China and remain the most powerful navy over Pacific, but it would withdraw from India and Indian Ocean, where British would continue to rule.

  • $\begingroup$ Japan and England were allies in WWI. Japan's China adventure was looked down upon severely in the USA because of the contact US missionaries in China had with both. The effect of this on Japan/USUK relations is unclear. GB might have 'delegated' regional enforcement in Asia to Japan much like they let the US have a free hand in the Americas before we could really enforce it, just because we had similar aims. If Japan organized Asia, but traded freely the UK might have let them do it. Or US feelings (if similar) might lead to a war like happened historically. $\endgroup$
    – Oldcat
    Commented Sep 17, 2015 at 23:35
  • $\begingroup$ You forget that the US section of the UK would provide ample bases and income to support a larger fleet, instantly ready to reinforce the RN to block a German Naval Invasion. $\endgroup$
    – Oldcat
    Commented Sep 17, 2015 at 23:37
  • $\begingroup$ @Oldcat Yes, you may be right. I forgot that regardless of British-Japan war, after the fall of France there would be more than enough time to re-deploy most of the Navy and Air Force to the British Isles. So the European theater would go similarly to the real one. $\endgroup$
    – kubanczyk
    Commented Sep 18, 2015 at 8:46

Executive summary: The military situation is more difficult for Germany and much easier for Japan.

Let us consider the situation at the outbreak of war in 1939. It seems reasonable to assume the following:

  • The 13 former colonies have become an independent nation allied to the UK, similarly to Canada and Australia in the original timeline (OTL). Let's call it USEA (the United States of Eastern America).
  • Population growth and industry in the USEA developed more or less as it did in OTL.
  • The colonies have approximately the boundaries of the following modern units: New Hampshire, Maine, Massachussetts, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, Washington DC, Virginia, North/South Carolina, Georgia. (These equate to the original 13 plus Maine and Washington DC.) Everything further west belongs to the neutral Native American nations.

According to the 1940 US census, the USEA had a combined population of 50 million people. They have no direct access to the Pacific Ocean, so they are not particularly interested in Japan; their main concern is the prospect of a European war.

In 1939, populations of the major belligerent powers in western Europe were:

  • UK: 48 million
  • France: 40 million
  • Germany: 70 million
  • Italy: 44 million

In OTL, the Axis powers of Germany and Italy had a combined population of 114 million, compared to 88 million for the Allies of UK and France. With the addition of the USEA, the Allies now have 138 million people. This would make them a significantly tougher opponent for the Axis.

In OTL, Germany and the USSR signed a non-aggression treaty (the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact). After it conquered Poland in 1939, Germany then had a free hand to blitzkrieg France in 1940 without worrying too much about its eastern border, before turning its attention to the USSR in 1941.

With the participation of the USEA from the beginning, Germany will find it much more difficult to conquer France or enforce a U-Boat blockade of Britain. How this will affect German military and diplomatic strategy is left as an exercise to the reader.

The war in the Asia-Pacific theatre will be very different. With no need to worry about the USA, Japan will have much more freedom of action. It may attempt an invasion of British India via Burma. It is also likely to come into conflict with the USSR much sooner, instead of at the very end of the war as in OTL.

  • $\begingroup$ I'd say the realistic chance that the US colonies did not at least reach the Mississippi is zero. $\endgroup$
    – Oldcat
    Commented Sep 17, 2015 at 23:37
  • $\begingroup$ @Oldcat That's a very strong statement. Suppose there's a highly organised Native American nation in the modern midwest, which stopped the British colonisers in their tracks. Or imagine the French made a much bigger effort to settle and hold onto the Mississippi valley. Anyway, if you assume the USEA extends that far and double its population, most of the above analysis still holds. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 18, 2015 at 8:17
  • $\begingroup$ @RoyalCanadianBandit I don't follow. How would you expect the industry to flourish in your USEA? With hefty taxes and without protective tariffs, the American British Colonies (ABC - this is OP's assertion) industries would develop somewhat like real Canadian did. With population I understand even less. Let's count again and treat all colonies and combatants equally (you don't mention India, China, Japan). $\endgroup$
    – kubanczyk
    Commented Sep 18, 2015 at 9:10
  • $\begingroup$ @kubanczyk Yes... and? In Canada, the heavily populated areas of Quebec and Ontario had a reasonable level of industrial development by 1939. The USEA would be similar, but with a much bigger population base (50 million, as opposed to 11 million for Canada in 1939). $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 18, 2015 at 9:49
  • $\begingroup$ @RoyalCanadianBandit - a strongly orgainized Native American world would have stopped the original 13 colonies. So that's out. A strong French presence would hold Canada as well, which didn't happen. The English, able to take Canada could trivially stopper up New Orleans and take it all. Then the colonists, land hungry and increasing just like historically, would fill up the Midwest at a minimum. This nation would be a dominant force with English level tech and a huge base of men and resources. $\endgroup$
    – Oldcat
    Commented Sep 18, 2015 at 21:17

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