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The Battle Of Dorking: What Next?

Charles EP M.

Well-known member
Published by SLP
Most of you on here probably know of The Battle of Dorking: one man's screed against bad defence planning (in his view) and the founding text of "invasion fiction", the 19th century what-if-Britain-is-invaded genre that would eventually lead to The War Of The Worlds. Evil hordes of maybe-it's-the-Prussians descend on "near-future" 1870s Britain and beat us up after two to three days of warfare across Surrey before London is captured.

Fun thing though, the actual novel (available free and out of copyright) is someone remembering it fifty years on, when our great but built-on-sand golden age was dashed because we were complacent about being too hard to invade. So now I'm wondering not just how we get there - a "rising in India" and "the difficulty in America" that sees troops sent there (thousands captured at Canada!) and half of remaining army in Ireland "to check the talked-of Fenian invasion", a German annexation of Holland and Denmark by "Secret Treaty" following defeat of France, implied alliance with Russia, development of a new naval weapon the Royal Navy can't fend off - but what's next.

- Britain is told it has to pay a massive ransom for starting the war, meaning high taxes and is still "paupers to this day"; the Royal Navy disarmed en masse; and for a while, the government signing a law that allows the invading troops to get free quarter in YOUR house. Fifty years on, trade and manufacturing are ravaged

- Emigration from England is rampant now (including the narrator's grandchildren_. We're told following the war, "the people who made money by buying and selling the natural treasures of the earth, [went] to go and live in other places, and take their profits with them"

- "Canada and the West Indies gone to America ; Australia forced to separate ; India lost for ever, after the English there had all been destroyed, vainly trying to hold the country when cut off from aid by their countrymen ; Gibraltar and Malta ceded to the new naval Power ; Ireland independent and in perpetual anarchy and revolution"

- France has risen from their own conquest

- Our lead blames Britain's desolation on being too dependent on free trade and colonies and not itself. Worse still, we had seen power go to "the lower classes, uneducated, untrained to the use of political rights, and swayed by demagogues".

What's this 1920s likely to look like? Where's it going to go? (Is Britain still even a democracy by 1870s standards, considering The Lower Classes In Charge is blamed for defeat?)


Connoisseur of the Miscellaneous
Published by SLP
Nu Yawk
Ah, the "WE NEED MORE MONEY FOR THE ARMY" tract/book over a century before Hackett.

For actual politics, the first thing I'm picturing is an earlier rising/even stronger superpower US, with all the butterflies that would ensue from something like that.

Charles EP M.

Well-known member
Published by SLP
For actual politics, the first thing I'm picturing is an earlier rising/even stronger superpower US, with all the butterflies that would ensue from something like that.
Which raises the fun-for-us-the-reader question, did it have the civil war? Did it avoid that (at least until after the Battle for Dorking) with all the resulting damage and if so, how and for how long? And what did it want the West Indies for, if it did???

I also note India's not spoken of as a colony taken by another power. I wonder if that changed? (The Scramble for India!)

Charles EP M.

Well-known member
Published by SLP
Clarence had just finished this when there came to his ear the faint note of a tarantula singing to its young.

He looked up. Opposite him, at the next table, was seated a youth of fifteen, of a slightly grubby aspect. He was eyeing Clarence closely.

Clarence took off his spectacles, polished them, and replaced them on his nose. As he did so, the thin gruffle of the tarantula sounded once more. Without changing his expression, Clarence cautiously uttered the deep snarl of a sand-eel surprised while bathing.

It was sufficient. The other rose to his feet, holding his right hand on a line with his shoulder, palm to the front, thumb resting on the nail of the little finger, and the other three fingers upright.

Clarence seized his hat by the brim at the back, and moved it swiftly twice up and down.

The other, hesitating no longer, came over to his table.

"Pip-pip!" he said, in an undertone.

"Toodleoo and God save the King!" whispered Clarence.

The mystic ceremony which always takes place when two Boy Scouts meet in public was complete.
EDIT: And then, the inevitable Spirit Of The Nation scene:

Deep down in his heart the genuine Englishman has a rugged distaste for seeing his country invaded by a foreign army
Ah, the "WE NEED MORE MONEY FOR THE ARMY" tract/book over a century before Hackett.

For actual politics, the first thing I'm picturing is an earlier rising/even stronger superpower US, with all the butterflies that would ensue from something like that.
You make it sound like a bad thing <grin>.

Not that I have any ulterior motives, of course ...


Unlike a presidential dog
Banned from the forum
Well, I think what definitely happens after the Battle of Dorking is that in the 1920s, dashing young Clarence Chugwater is rising to power with his New Party, promising to restore Britain's dignity
Post-Swoop Prime Ministers of Great Britain

1919-1922: Andrew Bonar Law (Conservative)
1922-1924: Leo Amery (Conservative)
1924-1929: Leo Amery (Conservative in coalition with National Preparedness)
1929-1929: John Weatley (Labour)
1929-1931: Robert Baden-Powell (Scout Junta backed by Conservatives, Imperials, and "Constitutional" Radicals)

Imperial Scoutmasters of the British Isles
Robert Baden-Powell (Independent--"Unionist")
1941-XXXX: Clarence Chugwater (Independent--"Imperial Rebirth")

Charles EP M.

Well-known member
Published by SLP
1871-74: Britain and America do not come to terms about the "Alabama Claims", leading to continuing sabre-rattles. Polemics like George Tomkyn Chesney's The Battle of Toronto stoke fears of America seizing Britain's colonies, causing the government to keep ships and troops far from home - the result leads to minor uprisings in India and US-backed Fenian rumblings in Ireland. With Britain distracted, Germany and its allies, the League of the Three Emperors, are given a free hand in Europe. Germany decides to cajole and bribe Denmark into becoming an 'autonomous region' of Germany, and then starts to push for the Netherlands to buddy up.

This causes Britain to panic and declare war earlier than it should have. It takes the Germans just three days to seize London - historians have said the country could have continued to fight for longer, but the shock of it all causes the government to capitulate. Wanting to make sure Britain is in no position to get revenge, Berlin imposes a peace deal that will leave the country hobbled and broke (but not so broke it can't buy Germans goods). After two months of occupation, they depart.

During that two months, the Second War of Indian Independence sees the British wiped out. Outside the princely states, India is now ruled in theory by the Indian middle class elites and former civil service. Canada is carved up into states and will be a hotbed of low-level bombings and insurgency (especially Quebec), while the West Indies are dominated by African-American professionals 'encouraged' to move there by Washington. Ireland declares independence, then falls into civil war as the Protestant landowners refuse to cede any power and the socialists in the main cities start to spy openings. A panicked Australia and New Zealand are trying to figure out what to do.

(The Netherlands, understandably, signs a very favourable treaty with Berlin within a week of Britain's defeat)

1874-1900: The dismemberment of the British Empire leaves the world with the League of the Three Emperors dominating Eurasia and the United States ruling the Americas. The Emperors shatter the Ottoman Empire to make it official, reducing it to colonies and "protectorates"; and the US fights a war of "liberation" on Cuba, sinking the Spanish navy.

France starts to reach out to India to rebuild its economic weight in this new world - a land of resources, an educated government to work with, and a land barely holding together that will cut any deal. While Paris does better out of this deal, the francs and guns coming from them keep India a frayed mess instead of seeing it fall to bits. Portugal, and soon Belgium, Italy, and Spain, scramble for gains in Africa. Given breathing room, Japan and Qing China both regroup to prepare for if great powers come for them (or if the other does) - China is the first to reach out to the defeated British and convinces thousands of them to emigrate, hoping to make use of them. China wins a war with Japan in the late 1890s, proving it's back on top.

As for Britain itself? The Liberal Party has been shattered by defeat and the Conservatives reign unchallenged, trying to restore the economy through tariffs (not working) and trying to keep order & stability, as the free trade liberal era is being blamed for defeat. Suffrage is restricted and the growing Cooperative Party can only grow so much. Stagnation sets in. People emigrate wherever they can. (To the side, Ireland suffers more wars and government collapses) The 20th century will be a grey one for Britain.

1901-1929: The Great Pacific War of the early 00s sees the navies of Germany & Russia, the United States, and China clash for dominance. It proves so costly that all three cut a deal, formally dividing the world into spheres of interest - Eurasia, East Asia, and Americana - and divvying up the colonies. The disruption to trade it causes parts of Africa to be cut off, sparking various rebellions and some even succeed.

It also knocks Britain and Ireland into severe recessions. The communists seize their chance in Ireland and a blank red flag soon hangs in Dublin - counter-rebellions rage into 1912 but the state wins. In Britain, the Georgist Party - a fad growing in the young middle class - sweeps to minority government, helped by the Tories in civil war. Reforms are brought in, including mildly increased suffrage. The National Conservatives, fearing this will lead to communism or worse, push back. Then, the Georgists again.

By 1924, the anniversary of the invasion, Britain's in a grim mood. Some mutter that democracy, giving the wrong sorts power, is what led to defeat anyway, and look how the flipping between Georgism and Conservatism is making everything chaotic. If only industry could be organised like it is abroad. If only we had dignity.

Into this comes Clarence Chugwater, Boy Scout leader and political whizkid, forming the New Party and campaigning against the "rot" of unrestrained democracy, of undirected industry, of uncontrolled labour. What Britain needs is leadership and a plan. Everyone needs to be trained for a role and then put in that role: an efficient way of doing things. Farmers need to learn to farm, builders to build, and so on, and this needs to happen early and it needs to happen to a plan. Chugwater has that plan.

In their second election, in 1929, Chugwater's New Party races to power. It's only a minority government and needs some support, but it has it. Soon a greater Britain will emerge...