This scenario focuses on the second wave of European colonization, from 1870 to World War I, a period historians call "New Imperialism". At that time, the great empires of Europe began to forge colonies in Asia and Africa.

This is the period where the Scramble for Africa, the invasion of Africa by the English, Dutch, French, German and so on, took place. Simultaneously, the Great Game involved the West annexing China and the Dutch taking control of the East Indies.

How would the rest of history look if this kind of colonization never happened? What would the political map of the world look like? From a cultural and societal standpoints, who'd be in charge of Africa, China, India and the Southeast?

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    $\begingroup$ Your title is, um, politically provocative. I think most people in China, India and everywhere else would consider that they were civilised before Europeans showed them how... $\endgroup$ – bobtato Oct 6 '15 at 2:15
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    $\begingroup$ Civilization without.... are you serious? $\endgroup$ – Serban Tanasa Oct 6 '15 at 12:53
  • $\begingroup$ By annexing China, you mean annexing Outer Manchuria? The unequal treaties never annexed China completely, just some concessions like Hong Kong. $\endgroup$ – Vincent Oct 6 '15 at 16:23

Consider the history of Ethiopia or Siam. Not exactly colonized, but certainly influenced by Europe. If there were more independent countries like this, the 20th century might actually look much the same ...

  • $\begingroup$ The same as what? $\endgroup$ – JohnWDailey Oct 6 '15 at 15:54
  • $\begingroup$ The same as the real world today. Vietnam was colonized, Thailand wasn't, does that really make a difference in world history? $\endgroup$ – o.m. Oct 6 '15 at 15:58

The mechanism behind both colonisation waves is geography.
Eurasia produced increased disease tolerance as well as superior food crops and domesticated animals compared to the other, smaller and/or less conveniently directed landmasses. Political fragmentation combined with aggressive parallel invention did the rest.

Imbalance, different.
Assuming different but equally unbalanced geography these waves merely would have gone in a different direction, the most advantaged locale acquiring dominance over the less advanced.

For a real different scenario you will need geography facilitating equal progress.
Then the world should remain in balance, spawning intense trade, cultural exchanges, espionage, political wrangling to gang up on third parties and gain a foothold anywhere elsewhere.

Positively speaking that would lead to a better world. Mmm, time to read Il Principe by Niccolò Machiavelli again I'm sure.

Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond.


I would say there likely would have been a western world war much earlier since these Great Game nations must now play their games on their own soil. So lets say the Franco-Prussian war starts 1 to 2 decades earlier and develops into an all out European War (including Russia) similar in tactics to the American Civil War but on a larger scale and with even more carnage, however the sides are similar to the 1914-1918 war. This sets temporarily sets europe back 30 years but has the unexpected benefit of avoiding the even worse carnage of the 1914-1918 war.

While the europeans are hacking at each other, it leaves three nascent world powers a free hand - the USA, Japan and China. Japan defeats Russia (as they did in the Russo-Japanese War. However Japan is not strong enough to annex China on its own. After a protracted Sino-Japanese War the Japanese are forced to retreat after intervention by the USA however they manage to hold on to Korea, Australia and the Phillipines.

Japan is by this stage the primary Asian power and is aligned directly against the USA.

The US allies with China and Russia. A long cold war is conducted between USA on one side and Britain/France/Spain, due to commercial competition. Due to permanent tensions, an international treaty between these powers is signed governing African colonialism. Internally within Africa, all of the south has been united under the Zulu Empire who in this scenario never got devastated by the British. Further, the Zulus have been militarily equipped, trained and partly industrialised by the Americans. Southern Africa is in this scenario what India was in our actual history. However for most souther africans, the Zulu armies are equally as devastating as the european armies would have been.

North Africa is dominated by Turkey, which managed to stay out of the European war, and who is allied with Britain/France/Spain against USA/Zulu.

Not sure what happens to India... maybe its gets devastated by a plague or something.

Later, there is s Second World War, fought at approximately the same time (1938-45), the sides are very different.

Most of Western Europe and Japan against the US, China and Russia and in this scenario the USA is the nation that develops a fascist government following a long economic depression and starts the war.

Western Europe has undergone a communist revolution prior to the war as a result of the serious inequality and outdated aristocratic practices that remain there, with no option to offset these pressures by importing wealth from the colonies.

  • $\begingroup$ A few things here don't make sense. First, why would the U.S. develop into a fascist government when it was a healthy democracy in 1869? Second, why would the U.S. and Britain be antagonistic? According to the History SE, their friendship was looking strong in 1867 when Britain established Canada. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Oct 6 '15 at 12:13
  • $\begingroup$ Obviously this is just one example of many possible scenarios. I have chosen to assume that an expansionist USA choses to fill the gap left by a lack of European Colonialism. Initially this is triggered by opposition to Japan in the pacific, but soon becomes a wider expansionism that conflicts with the colonies established by the european powers earlier in the 18th and 19th centuries. $\endgroup$ – rumguff Oct 6 '15 at 12:51
  • $\begingroup$ The fasicst outcome in the USA is a bit of a narrative flourish admittedly, however its not wholly unjustified given that in my scenario its a combined outcome of expansionist culture and an economic depression (similar to but not the same as Germany 1929-1934). $\endgroup$ – rumguff Oct 6 '15 at 12:53

I think it's impossible to say. History has many places where an alt-history might have diverged dramatically from that of the world that we know. It's fiction, so just make a convincing story!

My favorite is how the Chinese almost became the dominant empire, a few hundred years before England did. They had almost arrived at the industrial revolution. They had build large sailing ships, had sailed to India and Africa (and there's some suggestion they'd discovered America).

Then the ruling dynasty came to an end, the new emperor was in a position of weakness, felt threatened by new technology and new ideas, and clamped down. China became isolationist. The ships were burned. New technologies were banned. China hardly advanced, until the former barbarians arrived in their own large ships bearing much-refined firearms based on a Chinese invention.

Rome also came close. Maybe the fall of Rome was inevitable, but it's also possible that a single mutated microbe or virus changed the world's history. Look up "Plague of Justinian" if you don't know what I'm talking about.


Assume the wave of European conquest and exploration had not happened.

At roughly the same time, the Chinese actually had their own wave of exploration, with a flagship larger than anything used by the west. It was only a decision to turn inward that brought home their entire fleet. That decision could have been reversed by the next emperor and without European competition then the Chinese could easily have spread their influence at least around the Indian Ocean (India, Arabia, Africa, Australia, Indonesia...).

The American continents had extensive civilizations. The most common mentioned are the Incan and Aztec, which were mostly directly conquered militarily. While the classic "American Western" stories of "cowboys and Indians" tell a story of conquest, the primary European destroyer of the American Indian people was likely the Plague. It is thought that as much as 90% of the population had died as the plague swept over the continents. Combined with the fact that the Incan people had ships capable of ocean travel, the different American cultures could have rapidly had more internal contact and conflict, and perhaps developed into even stronger empires and confederations. Ocean currents off South America could result in extensive settlement of Polynesia and Micronesia.

I'm less familiar with the Indian and African cultures of the time, but without European interference they would have developed further along their own path as well.

I'm also sure that other civilizations I'm not currently bringing to mind would also have continued to blossom on their own.

  • $\begingroup$ You're thinking the first wave of colonization. $\endgroup$ – JohnWDailey Oct 6 '15 at 3:58
  • $\begingroup$ Larger does not necessarily mean better. Chinese unfortunately didn't ever invent a Bermuda cut sail which was already adopted by Europeans. With just a square sail the Chinese mission was stillborn. $\endgroup$ – user58697 Oct 6 '15 at 4:14
  • $\begingroup$ The Chinese used junk sails, the Europeans square rigged sails and Lateen sails. The Chinese rigging and boat building (e.g. water tight chambers) was superior. By a huge margin. It was a voluntary decision not to use it. $\endgroup$ – his Oct 6 '15 at 6:01

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