Thursday, July 11, 2019

What If The Paris Commune Had Survived, Expanded...?

A couple weeks ago one of my church friends clued me into the Revolutions podcast by Mike Duncan, which has been going on for awhile and has episodes on the various intricacies of the American, French, Haitian, and Mexican revolutions and a lot of discussion of the different strains of Marxism and anarchism as they build toward the Russian Revolution. I haven't had a chance to listen to all of them yet, but over the last few weeks a lot of driving (especially during my trip to Hypericon--driving from Atlanta to Murfreesboro and back plus a jaunt from Murfreesboro to Nashville to see about getting my books in the city library) meant I could listen to all of the episodes about the Paris Commune. For those of you not in the know, it was a brief Communist-anarchist takeover of Paris that got gruesomely suppressed and the lessons learned from it were quite influential on the Communist revolution in Russia.

One of my big interests is alternate history and although I had myself banned from the premiere AH discussion forum online, I do check in now and then. I decided to see what I could find on the Paris Commune and found a full alternate timeline called "The Spectre of Europe" written by the user whose handle is Reydan. It diverges from real history when conservative politician Adolphe Thiers has a stroke just before the revolt breaks out, preventing him from playing the instrumental role he did in crushing it. As a consequence, the revolutionary Louis Auguste Blanqui isn't preemptively jailed and able to make it to Paris and provides the necessary leadership for the Commune to avoid being crushed, although they do have to make a deal with the Prussian devil to do it.

Highlights of the timeline include...

*The division of France into a very left-wing republic (seriously, most conservative parties are outlawed, although given certain recent circumstances I wouldn't blame them for worrying about the Bonapartists) and a restored monarchy. When said monarchy is defeated in a later war it goes into exile in France's North African colonies, which the monarchy retained when France was partitioned.

*William Jennings Bryan becomes the president of the United States.

*Reform and partition in China.

*One of Kaiser Wilhelm's character flaws is that he was, in addition to being an erratic blowhard, is that he had some very Yellow Peril ideas about the rise of China. Since our world's WWI doesn't happen, we get to see these tendencies flourish and the results are not pretty.

*The rise of a sort of militant agrarianism (in Scandinavia of all places) as an analogue to our timeline's fascism.

The timeline is so popular that it even has a TVTropes page. I would definitely recommend checking it out. Also, don't forget to check out The Revolutions podcast or his History of Rome podcast, all of which are really interesting.


  1. Love Mike Duncan's podcasts. I had difficulty following the French Revolution, but it was all in all very well put together.

    I have followed "Specter of Europe" sporadically over the years, and it's been one of the better reads on the website IMO.

    1. Agreed. A pity it looks like the timeline is dead for the moment. Reydan's a third to halfway through the 20th Century, so there's not much time left to cover.

      I actually let some of my students do "History of Rome" podcasts for extra credit, but with AP World's curriculum beginning at 1200 AD this coming year, probably not that helpful for them. I should give that one a listen, since they seem a lot more incident-specific than "Revolutions."