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What If Britain Sided with the Confederacy? Maybe A New TV Episode

by John on 07/10/2017

UK confederacyIn Destined for War, Graham Allison mentions an historic anecdote that never happened.

But what if it did?

In the 1860s, Britain considered intervening in the United States Civil War on the side of the Confederacy.

Granted, the home of the Magna Carta siding with slave owners?  But with some geopolitical foresight, Great Britain could have divided the United States keeping our path to world dominance in check.  At the time, the US was a nation grappling and growing with its borders.  But within 20 to 30 years, Teddy Roosevelt and the Roughriders had pushed Spain out of The Western Hemisphere and we were well on our way to taking a bigger role in world affairs.

book cover Destined for WarAllison, in Destined for War, documents Britain’s choice to not antagonize the US as an example of how nations – especially established powers and upstart powers – can avoid major conflicts.  As a result of London’s decision, Britain would become our greatest ally in the 20th Century.  The Brits again acquiesced to us before World War I by adhering to the Monroe Doctrine and even after World War II when it was clear to Churchill that Britain was an empire in decline.  Britain survives and has avoided war more often than not.

But this historical tidbit makes you think.

First, decisions by leaders have circumstances that last years and decades.  Historians could make the case that British sea power could have won the US Civil War for the Confederacy — creating two nations.  Think about that today.  Would northerners be streaming into retirement in the South?  What effect on future Western states joining which country?  Would Lincoln have been assassinated if the North had lost?

Second, you wonder if this might become the premise for an episode of one of the new sci-fi, history altering new TV shows.  We’ll see.

TimelessI admit I watch the NBC show Timeless.   It was cancelled and then brought back because of fan response.

I am similar to the audience.  I have a love-hate relationship with these type shows.  I love their look at history and its effect today.  And I’m always curious how certain historical figures are portrayed and what actors are cast.  But I worry about script writers changing history for dramatic reasons and to please the perceptions of audiences today.

My suggestion: watch these shows but read good historical non-fiction.  Graham Allison touches on dozens of wars and wars averted to spur some thinking.

Just a side note on my interest in these shows:  my screenwriting partner Eric Snyder and I penned a pilot TV show about 10 years ago that is getting renewed interest thanks to this history-reworking phenomenon.  We profile a ghost town with some odd characters who protect a secret that could destroy the world.  And, believe it or not, it’s a comedy.

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