Discussion:
[Theory] Fortifying the American West
(too old to reply)
Old Toby
2007-06-15 05:28:56 UTC
Permalink
I'm marking this as "[Theory]" because it's more about how
ATLs might develop in general than a particular TL's history.

The basic gist is to examine how North America would have developed
if settled with less unity, and maybe a lower technological level.
Specifically, I've been thinking about a "Japan settles the West
Coast" TL, and about using North America as the base map for a
D&D world (a bit off topic for this group, I know), but let's
focus on the generics without getting bogged down in the details.

Basic scenario: You have a west coast settled by an overseas
civilization with medieval-to-enlightenment level technology.
This civilization gets at least a century to develop on its
own before it starts banging into other civs of a similar
level. There's another civ in Mexico, possibly expanding
northward, and a third in the Mississippi valley, all three
of them have similar tech levels. In between, you have
nomadic bands (possibly, but not necessarily technologically
inferior) occupying the deserts, mountains, high plains,
and subarctic forests. All three civs seek to fortify
their frontiers to guard against nomads, regulate trade,
and prevent the advance of the other civs. My question
is "what are the key points to fortify, the "inevitable"
sites of forts and castles?

Also, how "civilizable" is the American West without
industrial technology. OTL the intensive settlement
of the American west was highly dependent on the railroads,
barbed wire, deep drilled wells, etc, this means we
can't rely on history to show the potential of earlier
technologies for settling this terrain (since, with
the possible exception of New Mexico, none of the
land near the area in question was close to "fully settled"
at the time industrial technology really started changing
things.

So without this tech, how much of the area could be settled
given a mature civilization reaching its limit in that area?
Could the Pacific Civ successfully settle the Central Valley
of California and the "Inland Empire" of Washington? What
about settlements in the Rockies? How much can be eked out
of the various oases and rivers in the desert regions? How
far into the plains can the "Mississippi" civ push?


Old Toby
Least Known Dog on the Net


Old Toby
Least Known Dog on the Net
Matt Giwer
2007-06-15 06:50:00 UTC
Permalink
Post by Old Toby
I'm marking this as "[Theory]" because it's more about how
ATLs might develop in general than a particular TL's history.
The basic gist is to examine how North America would have developed
if settled with less unity, and maybe a lower technological level.
Specifically, I've been thinking about a "Japan settles the West
Coast" TL, and about using North America as the base map for a
D&D world (a bit off topic for this group, I know), but let's
focus on the generics without getting bogged down in the details.
Since when has off topic bothered anyone here?
Post by Old Toby
Basic scenario: You have a west coast settled by an overseas
civilization with medieval-to-enlightenment level technology.
This civilization gets at least a century to develop on its
own before it starts banging into other civs of a similar
level. There's another civ in Mexico, possibly expanding
northward, and a third in the Mississippi valley, all three
of them have similar tech levels. In between, you have
nomadic bands (possibly, but not necessarily technologically
inferior) occupying the deserts, mountains, high plains,
and subarctic forests. All three civs seek to fortify
their frontiers to guard against nomads, regulate trade,
and prevent the advance of the other civs. My question
is "what are the key points to fortify, the "inevitable"
sites of forts and castles?
Also, how "civilizable" is the American West without
industrial technology. OTL the intensive settlement
of the American west was highly dependent on the railroads,
barbed wire, deep drilled wells, etc, this means we
can't rely on history to show the potential of earlier
technologies for settling this terrain (since, with
the possible exception of New Mexico, none of the
land near the area in question was close to "fully settled"
at the time industrial technology really started changing
things.
So without this tech, how much of the area could be settled
given a mature civilization reaching its limit in that area?
Could the Pacific Civ successfully settle the Central Valley
of California and the "Inland Empire" of Washington? What
about settlements in the Rockies? How much can be eked out
of the various oases and rivers in the desert regions? How
far into the plains can the "Mississippi" civ push?
Here is your basic problem. The Mexican American war. America won.

At that time the "Industrial Revolution" was mainly in making cotton goods and
certainly did not have that name. Some damned fool had burned a perfectly good
boat trying to put a steam engine on it but that was about the extent of it.

Clearly there was more to it that any infant industry.

In the long term what I see America had was an ability to attract Europeans and
no qualms about doing so. The difference was Spain only wanted people from Spain
in their colonies, newly freed or not. Same with Brazil, Canada, Australia, and
Israel. (Got to get a dig in there.) America's ability to attract people was by
offering something completely different at a time when Europe was getting pissed
at monarchies they could either stay and fight or leave their monarchies.

If you put Japanese on the west coast then there are only going to be Japanese
on the west coast. Same if you pick any other Asian country. The only hope is
China at that time AND a willingness of China to allow people to leave if they
were dissatisfied. But they would also have to relinquish governance or they
would have to rebel and gain it.

Please Santa Ana, call yourself an emperor and I can raise ten armies from
Europeans who hate emperors. Unlike Europe these folks see a chance to win the
fight they ran from in Europe.

Because of the Mexican American war it was not technology. It was armies of
volunteers from all over Europe not technology that won.

You can see the same thing with the Indians. If they has united against the
Europeans they could have fought to a stalemate at least at the Mississippi if
not further east. They could have stolen the rifles, bought them from Mexico and
Canada, whatever. They would have been on the short end of it but just barely.

On the American side they would not have been able to pick off the tribes one
at a time with the help of other tribes.

So if you start with a Japanese west coast and you can even grant a Samurai
ethic to the Shogun or Emperor depending on your timing you still have all the
Indian tribes not giving a damn who they side with and you know the Japanese are
going to piss off the Indians even more than the Europeans. Indians say tea is
for squaws and can't hold their Sake.

One of the good things about Europeans in meeting Indians is in the US they
learned to put up with each other so Indians were not as great a stretch as it
would have been for Japanese.
--
Did you ever notice Bush sounds like he gets in threat information from the
supermarket tabloids?
-- The Iron Webmaster, 3783
nizkor http://www.giwersworld.org/nizkook/nizkook.phtml
Iraqi democracy http://www.giwersworld.org/911/armless.phtml a3
Aaron Kuperman
2007-06-15 14:16:45 UTC
Permalink
Old Toby (***@earthlink.net) wrote:
: I'm marking this as "[Theory]" because it's more about how
: ATLs might develop in general than a particular TL's history.

: The basic gist is to examine how North America would have developed
: if settled with less unity, and maybe a lower technological level.
: Specifically, I've been thinking about a "Japan settles the West
: Coast" TL, and about using North America as the base map for a
: D&D world (a bit off topic for this group, I know), but let's
: focus on the generics without getting bogged down in the details.
[...]

In addition to the Indians (Native Americans, First Nations, etc.),
America was "settled" by people from England, Scotland, Russia, France,
Sweden, Netherlands, Spain, Portugal and Greenland - and that only counts
"settlers" sent by their own government. As it was, only England, Spain
and Portugal lasted long enough to to chased out by the descendants of
their own colonists (not counting the French who were chased out by the
slaves they brought, and the Greenlanders who were chased out by the
Indians). You have more groups in America, it will probably result in more
groups being conquered or forced to withdraw due to competition, rather
than more survivors.

If you have the old world "settlement" (genocide/conquest) earlier in
time, and less technologically advanced, the easier it will be for the
existing civilizations to adapt. The Scandanavians fighting with medieval
weapons lost. If the Spanish in the 16th century didn't have gunpowder,
how well would they have done.
Alfred Montestruc
2007-06-16 01:32:16 UTC
Permalink
Post by Aaron Kuperman
: I'm marking this as "[Theory]" because it's more about how
: ATLs might develop in general than a particular TL's history.
: The basic gist is to examine how North America would have developed
: if settled with less unity, and maybe a lower technological level.
: Specifically, I've been thinking about a "Japan settles the West
: Coast" TL, and about using North America as the base map for a
: D&D world (a bit off topic for this group, I know), but let's
: focus on the generics without getting bogged down in the details.
[...]
In addition to the Indians (Native Americans, First Nations, etc.),
America was "settled" by people from England, Scotland, Russia, France,
Sweden, Netherlands, Spain, Portugal and Greenland - and that only counts
"settlers" sent by their own government. As it was, only England, Spain
and Portugal lasted long enough to to chased out by the descendants of
their own colonists (not counting the French who were chased out by the
slaves they brought, and the Greenlanders who were chased out by the
Indians). You have more groups in America, it will probably result in more
groups being conquered or forced to withdraw due to competition, rather
than more survivors.
If you have the old world "settlement" (genocide/conquest) earlier in
time, and less technologically advanced, the easier it will be for the
existing civilizations to adapt. The Scandanavians fighting with medieval
weapons lost. If the Spanish in the 16th century didn't have gunpowder,
how well would they have done.
The gunpowder was not an issue. Firearms were not very useful against
the native people as they were slow to load and hand held guns were at
that time only in military use as being anti-armor weapons. The
natives had no very effective armor. Bows or crossbows were much
better as distance weapons against unarmored men.

The big issue was smallpox, the Viking Greenlanders did not have a
large enough population to have it.

After that is was iron armor and weapons which the Vikings had, but
not enough of, nor enough numbers.

Without smallpox the small Spanish parties that did the conquest of
Mexico or Peru would have been killed.
BernardZ
2007-06-16 16:04:07 UTC
Permalink
Post by Alfred Montestruc
The big issue was smallpox, the Viking Greenlanders did not have a
large enough population to have it.
The group was large enough. The Indians were lucky that none of the
Viking Greenlanders had it or if they did have it that none of them
spread it to them.
Monte Davis
2007-06-17 13:20:36 UTC
Permalink
Post by BernardZ
The group was large enough. The Indians were lucky that none of the
Viking Greenlanders had it or if they did have it that none of them
spread it to them.
We don't know that. Both the historical record and our (limited)
theoretical understanding of epidemiology in "virgin soil" populations
suggest that there were many waves of many diseases over several
centuries.

Say that a Skraeling took something nasty home from an encounter at
l'Anse aux Meadows, and 20% of everyone west to the Great Lakes and
down to the Chesapeake died in the next 10 years. Would you expect
that specific signal to have been detectible to European settlers c.
1600 -- or for that matter to be detectible today? Barring some very
lucky archeological find, I wouldn't.
Alfred Montestruc
2007-06-17 19:28:38 UTC
Permalink
Post by Monte Davis
Post by BernardZ
The group was large enough. The Indians were lucky that none of the
Viking Greenlanders had it or if they did have it that none of them
spread it to them.
We don't know that. Both the historical record and our (limited)
theoretical understanding of epidemiology in "virgin soil" populations
suggest that there were many waves of many diseases over several
centuries.
Say that a Skraeling took something nasty home from an encounter at
l'Anse aux Meadows, and 20% of everyone west to the Great Lakes and
down to the Chesapeake died in the next 10 years. Would you expect
that specific signal to have been detectible to European settlers c.
1600 -- or for that matter to be detectible today? Barring some very
lucky archeological find, I wouldn't.
Once smallpox got loose in the New World it would spread all over
North and South America and ~ 5 centuries later the Spanish would
bring mutated smallpox back to Europe and the effect would have been
two sided, and much more mild to the native Americans.

The massive increase of immunity to smallpox of Native Americans would
indeed have made a big difference. I doubt that the Spanish would
have been able to take Mexico or Peru.
Phil McGregor
2007-06-17 21:41:53 UTC
Permalink
On Sun, 17 Jun 2007 19:28:38 -0000, Alfred Montestruc
Post by Alfred Montestruc
Post by Monte Davis
Post by BernardZ
The group was large enough. The Indians were lucky that none of the
Viking Greenlanders had it or if they did have it that none of them
spread it to them.
We don't know that. Both the historical record and our (limited)
theoretical understanding of epidemiology in "virgin soil" populations
suggest that there were many waves of many diseases over several
centuries.
Say that a Skraeling took something nasty home from an encounter at
l'Anse aux Meadows, and 20% of everyone west to the Great Lakes and
down to the Chesapeake died in the next 10 years. Would you expect
that specific signal to have been detectible to European settlers c.
1600 -- or for that matter to be detectible today? Barring some very
lucky archeological find, I wouldn't.
Once smallpox got loose in the New World it would spread all over
North and South America and ~ 5 centuries later the Spanish would
bring mutated smallpox back to Europe and the effect would have been
two sided, and much more mild to the native Americans.
Possibly not. Smallpox needs large *concentrations* of population (aka
"cities" to become endemic, like (almost, if not) all epidemic
diseases.

You would have to guarantee, therefore, that it would reach the dense
urban sites of mesoamerica from L'anse to have a chance of becoming
endemic in the Americas. I wouldn't like to guarantee it from one
instance occurring once.

As for it mutating. Well, there are two strains (minor, @ ~1%
mortality and major, @ 3-3.5% mortality), but apart from that no
evidence that it has mutated harmfully in Eurasia any time since it
first appeared, quite some time ago.

It *has*, evidently, crossed with cowpox and horsepox to the extent
that it is now, evidently, genetically impossible to tell for certain
what the ancestrals strain(s) of the latter were like (if, indeed,
they were separate diseases and not mutations).

However, Smallpox itself seems to be the only "mutation" from any
ancestral form in at least a couple of thousand years that is
particularly lethal.

I wouldn't place a high chance on some weird mutation occurring just
because it is transferred to the Americas ... especially as it seems
to be a mutation, in itself, of a disease of large domesticated
herding ungulates (cattle, horses) of which there are ... none ... in
the Americas of the time.

YMMV.

Phil

Author, Space Opera (FGU); RBB #1 (FASA); Road to Armageddon;
Farm, Forge and Steam; Orbis Mundi; Displaced (PGD)
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Email: ***@pacific.net.au
bernardz
2007-06-18 01:29:58 UTC
Permalink
Post by Phil McGregor
Possibly not. Smallpox needs large *concentrations* of population (aka
"cities" to become endemic, like (almost, if not) all epidemic
diseases.
You would have to guarantee, therefore, that it would reach the dense
urban sites of mesoamerica from L'anse to have a chance of becoming
endemic in the Americas. I wouldn't like to guarantee it from one
instance occurring once.
I remember this is what happened to the Comanche Indians as they were
in small groups they suffered less from smallpox.

On a similar point in relation to white men diseases.

Years ago I remember reading a study of US Indians for the first time
infected with the flue in a mining town. The disease itself was not
that deadly to them but....


What the writer stated was that those Indians that were close to the
mining town did okay as the white people in the town looked after them
while they were sick.
On the other hand those further from the town suffered more as the
whole tribe got sick together. So there was no one to look after them
while they were sick as a result many dead in this group.
Phil McGregor
2007-06-18 07:11:18 UTC
Permalink
Post by bernardz
Post by Phil McGregor
Possibly not. Smallpox needs large *concentrations* of population (aka
"cities" to become endemic, like (almost, if not) all epidemic
diseases.
You would have to guarantee, therefore, that it would reach the dense
urban sites of mesoamerica from L'anse to have a chance of becoming
endemic in the Americas. I wouldn't like to guarantee it from one
instance occurring once.
I remember this is what happened to the Comanche Indians as they were
in small groups they suffered less from smallpox.
On a similar point in relation to white men diseases.
Years ago I remember reading a study of US Indians for the first time
infected with the flue in a mining town. The disease itself was not
that deadly to them but....
What the writer stated was that those Indians that were close to the
mining town did okay as the white people in the town looked after them
while they were sick.
On the other hand those further from the town suffered more as the
whole tribe got sick together. So there was no one to look after them
while they were sick as a result many dead in this group.
Indeed, you are quite correct in your memories.

In fact, this is a well known factor with disease lethality,
especially (but not only, of course!) in "virgin field" epidemics when
flight by the (seemingly) still healthy is a considered and common
response.

In such situations, mortality rates rise *considerably* because those
who are ill are generally not able to take basic care of themselves
... no-one to get water, cook food, toilet etc ... and this increases
their vulnerability.

I haven't seen specific figures for the survival difference, but it is
a commonly mentioned factor in increased survival rates.

MacNeills "Plagues and Peoples" has more on it, and it is has recently
been reprinted for the first time since, IIRC, the early-mid 1970s and
is worth tracking down.

Phil