TIMELINE - PART 1
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1711 - THE BIRTH OF SHANG-KUN
The boy who will become the Emperor Shang-kun is born, one of fraternal (non-identical) twin sons of the Emperor Yung-Cheng; the other is named Sueh-ye'n. He is born second of the two, and thus is not expected to succeed to the throne.
[This boy is the trigger for all the historical changes that follow. However, the actual point of divergence is nine months earlier, when a different sperm fertilises his mother's egg than in the real world, resulting in the birth of two very different people to the real-world Emperor Qianlong. In the real world, Qianlong became Emperor in 1736. In this timeline he is replaced by Shang-kun, who was born from a different combination of egg and sperm, at the same time as Qianlong, and coming to the throne at the same time, but an utterly different person...]
A curious and intelligent child, Shang-kun is interested in and involved with members of the Chinese philosophical School of Practical Learning (SPL) from a young age. He is very interested in the foreign items given to his father as gifts, and comes to agree whole-heartedly with the SPLs interest in European arts and sciences and their challenging of accepted ideas. Because he is not expected to become Emperor, this behaviour is tolerated. His brother is raised as the heir, and so has far less freedom.
The Chinese Emperor K'ang-Hsi, who has ruled since 1661, dies. His son Yin-Jeng succeeds him. However, Yin-Jeng is a bitter disappointment, and does not make it as far as the throne, being demoted in the succession. Instead, after a bitter succession struggle, another son of K'ang-Hsi, Yung-Cheng, comes to the throne.
Tsar Peter the Great founds The Imperial Academy of Sciences and Arts in Saint Petersburg.
[Over time this evolves into simply The Imperial Academy of Sciences.]
Tsar Peter I the Great of Russia dies. His widow, who becomes the Tsarina Catherine I, succeeds him.
[The Romanov Dynasty of which he is part lasts until the present day]
The 1720's and 1730's
Prussia develops a government-controlled economy and a strong central bureaucracy.
King George I of Great Britain dies. His son, who becomes King George II, succeeds him.
Tsarina Catherine I of Russia dies. She is succeeded by the grandson of Peter the Great, who becomes Tsar Peter II. He is an immature youngster at this time.
An earthquake in Tabriz, Iran kills approximately seventy seven thousand people.
Vitus Bering discovers the Bering Strait between Asia and America.
The Chinese Grand Council (Chün-chi ch'u) is founded as a way of consolidating the Emperor's control of China.
The woman who will become Catherine the Great is born Princess Sophia Augusta Frederica of Anhalt-Zerbst, in Strettin (now Szczecin), Poland.
Tsar Peter II of Russia is replaced as ruler by Peter I's niece and the daughter of Tsar Ivan V, who becomes Tsarina Anna I.
Sueh-ye'n, the twin brother of the man who will become the Emperor Shang-Kun is killed in a riding accident. To the surprise of all, himself included, he becomes the heir to the throne at the age of twenty-one.
1735 - SHANG-KUN COMES TO THE THRONE
The Chinese Emperor Yung-Cheng dies. His twenty-four-year-old son becomes the Shang-kun Emperor. He is the seventh Emperor of the Manchurian Qing (Ch'ing) dynasty, and the fourth to rule China. As his various ministers attempt to manipulate him to their own ends, they find that he is far more intelligent and strong-willed than they had thought, and find that he tends to get his way. With his coming to the throne, the SPL comes into favour, and several distinguished members of the SPL are appointed to the Grand Council. Over time the SPL grows to be as powerful in the government as the Imperial Household Department, and comes to dominate the Grand Council. [Shang-Kun's interest in and support of the SPL pushes it to expand and advance further than it went in the real world, into the study of the natural world, leading it to become a truly scientific institution.]
Shang-Kun proves to be a good organiser, good at delegation, and persuasive, but also intelligent enough to realise that he is not so good as to be able to run things entirely on his own. Thus he learns to delegate, which, over time, stops power becoming concentrated entirely in the hands of the Emperor, and sets a trend for his successors to do the same. Remaining a scholarly man even after coming to the throne, Shang-Kun also delegates power so as to be able to spend time on his studies. He patronises the arts and is liberal regarding censorship. [As such the cultural stagnation of China in the real world during the period is avoided.]
However, Shang-kun is not completely naïve. He has spies and agents to ensure that those he delegates power to do not try to abuse what they have been given, and proves to be quite politically astute. He also stamps down heavily on corruption, particularly where this applies to the system of Civil Service examinations; this dislike of corruption continues throughout his reign.
His advisors and particularly those of them from the SPL keep Shang-Kun appraised of news from outside China. The more he learns of this, the more he becomes convinced that although the Europeans are barbarians, coming to China to trade for tea, silk and porcelain, they are a danger and, in their crude way, do know more and better ways of doing things than the Chinese. His belief in the principles of the SPL leads him to this conclusion, however much it feels wrong of him to do so. His logic for all of this is based on a question: Why are they coming here to trade with us? If we are so superior, why are we not going to trade with them?
His conclusions regarding this lead Shang-Kun to modify the way the Tributary System is applied to Europeans. There is a great deal of entrenched resistance to this and other of his new ideas which leads to the purging of some of his ministers. Eventually, they reluctantly accept the idea of foreign sovereignty.
One of his main innovations is accepting trade with Europeans in the form of goods, not just silver, that is accepting the idea that goods and ideas from outside China have value, not just money from outside China. Thus European trade with China becomes more of a two-way process - China becomes a partner, not just a market.
[This change of trade to more of a two-way process means that China is not simply a sink for foreign money, but a trading partner. This two-way trade means that there is less of a European trade deficit built up from the trade with China, and so no need for the western powers to force opium on China as a means of extracting money from the country (though as China remains strong, this would be difficult in any case), and so there are no Opium Wars. Because of this Britain does not come to own Hong Kong.]
Inspired by Peter the Great's doing of the same, Shang-Kun orders the creation of a 'model' army regiment using the most modern weapons and training, led and trained by Western mercenaries. Although, like Peter the Great, initially mocked for this, the new regiment proves both loyal and very effective. Its success rather proves his point to many in his government, and proves the basis for a new Chinese military, with rank earned by merit, rather than inherited.
He also imports European cotton, weapons, ships, scholars, craftsmen and teachers to China, so that they and their methods may be learnt from.
Canton being the centre of trade with the Europeans, Shang-Kun allows the number of traders operating there to greatly increase, as well as allowing trade at other ports too. He also opens some land-based trade routes with Russia.
The bright comet Bradley is seen for several weeks.
Opponents of the Shang-Kun Emperor attempt to assassinate him. This plot fails, although some of his close advisors are killed. Those responsible are captured, interrogated and executed. This action is also used to root out more general corruption in the Chinese government.
Britain declares war on Spain in what becomes known as the War of Jenkin's Ear, which is over English smuggling and resentment at exclusion from the Spanish colonial trade.
Shang-Kun begins to fund expeditions of SPL scholars to Europe and other parts of the world, where, over time, they learn a great deal, including the methods of scientific research used in Europe and how they apply to the natural as well as the human worlds. A young philosopher named Tai Chen is a member of these first expeditions. China is fashionable in Europe at this time, so people there are happy to teach and sell to China.
1739 to 1740
A massive famine in Ireland causes some four hundred thousand deaths.
THE 1740's ONWARDS
Chinese traders, encouraged by the policies of Shang-Kun, begin to travel further from China, around the Pacific and Indian Oceans, and to build large ocean-going trading ships for the first time in more than three hundred years. This leads to the re-opening of old Chinese trade routes to Africa, and the establishment of Chinese trading posts on the east coast of Africa, Madagascar (which the Chinese call Duome Xide Dao - Great Western Island) and the west coast of North America, as well as in many places in between. Chinese sailors also discover and settle various Pacific islands, which they use as re-supply points. These trading posts and settlements gradually grow into Chinese colonies. During this time the first Chinese, mainly merchants and exiles, and their families, begin to settle in Europe. [In the real world the first Chinese people began to settle in Europe in the late nineteenth century.]
China also adopts European-style mercantile practises.
As China re-opens its old links to Africa, this eventually causes the European powers to pay more attention to Africa too, and increase their links to and control of the continent.
Tsarina Anna dies. She is replaced on the throne of Russia by her infant nephew, who becomes Tsar Ivan VI at the age of two months.
The War of the Austrian Succession begins when the Austrian archduchess Maria Theresa succeeds her father, Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI, as ruler of the Hapsburg lands. The war begins over claims on the throne from Bavaria, Poland, Spain, Prussia and Saxony. Prussia, under King Frederick II (later known as Frederick the Great), acting on a pretext and without a declaration of war, intervenes in the war by invading the Austrian province of Silesia.
Under the orders of Peter I's daughter Elisabeth, the Imperial Guard depose Tsar Ivan VI. He and his mother go into exile, eventually ending up at Kholmogory. Elisabeth becomes Tsarina Elizabeth.
The War of Jenkin's Ear ends. However, it does lead to both sides becoming involved in the War of the Austrian Succession.
Vitus Bering maps the west coast of Alyeska.
Disregarding its allies, Prussia withdraws from the War of the Austrian Succession.
In China, a group of European spies attempting to steal the secrets of porcelain production are captured, tortured and executed.
The first Chinese trading ship docks in London, to be greeted by a great deal of public interest. Others follow it, and begin to call at other European ports.
Prussia enters the War of the Austrian Succession again. As part of this war, hostilities break out between British and French forces in North America.
As a means of allowing the Prussian peasantry to avoid wartime famine, Frederick the Great introduces potato cultivation across Prussia.
A bright comet is seen for several weeks.
Prussia leaves the War of the Austrian Succession following the signing of the Treaty of Dresden, which gives Prussia most of Silesia, and leaves it as the major military power on the Continent.
Opponents of the Shang-Kun Emperor make a second attempt to assassinate him. This plot fails, and, again, those responsible are executed and the investigations into the plot are used to root out more general corruption in the Chinese government.
The Scottish Jacobites, taking advantage of Britain's involvement on the Continent, make their last major attempt to recover the British throne for the Stuart dynasty. Prince Charles Edward ('Bonnie Prince Charlie') lands in Scotland, wins the allegiance of thousands of Highlanders, and captures Edinburgh. He proclaims his father King James III. Marching south with his army, he comes within a hundred miles of London, but fails to attract many English supporters and so retreats to Scotland.
The Jacobite army of Bonnie Prince Charlie is defeated at the Battle of Culloden. Charles flees to France.
The War of the Austrian Succession finally ends with the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle.
After a series of attacks on their trading ships by Arab vessels, a Chinese fleet is sent to 'discipline' them.
A group of Virginians interested in the fur trade and speculation on Western lands form the Ohio Company. At the same time the French investigate the possibilities of occupying the upper Ohio region, acting first to found two forts over British objections. George Washington conveys these objections to the French, to little effect.
The Ohio Company gains a Royal Grant.
1750 to 1850 - TECHNOLOGICAL REVOLUTIONS
The British agricultural and industrial revolutions occur. The SPL is able to adapt the ideas of these revolutions to China and so better support the large population there, as well as advance industry and technology. Some instability and a huge increase in population is caused by the peaceful times (which is too much for the land, farmed as it was, to support) gave a need for China to find new ideas to feed the population. The SPL sees the west's new farming methods, as well as high-productivity crops such as potatoes, and uses them to good effect in China.
Industrialisation spreads across China and the western world. Britain and its American colonies both industrialise heavily. China and Russia, each spurring the other on, also industrialise.
The industrialisation of China provides the large number of people who, due to the rapid Chinese population growth (which has led to land shortage and rural pauperisation), no longer have a place in the Chinese agrarian economy with employment as factory workers in the new Chinese industrial concerns. [This thus diverts them from becoming recruited by subversive secret societies such as the White Lotus and revolutionary movements such as the Taiping who made use of such people in the real world.]
The British Empire becomes one of the last European countries to abandon the Julian Calendar and adopt the more accurate Gregorian calendar that has been used in Catholic Europe since 1582. Upon its adoption the date jumps directly from the second of September 1752 to the fourteenth of September 1752.
1754 - THE ALBANY CONGRESS
Fighting breaks out between the French and the British in North America over the Ohio region, resulting in both sides constructing forts in the area.
In an attempt to organise and co-ordinate the defences of all of the colonies a congress of the commissioners representing seven British colonies in North America occurs at Albany, in New York, to treat with the Iroquois. This is done chiefly because a war with France is seen to be impending.
At the meeting, a notable example of co-operation among the colonies, Benjamin Franklin proposes The Albany Plan of Union, a plan for the 'voluntary' union of the thirteen British colonies in North America into a Union which would be administered by a Crown-appointed President-General and a General Council of delegates from the colonies. It would have exclusive control of Indian affairs, regulating Indian trade and buying Indian land for the Crown. It would also be responsible for constructing forts and paying for troops to man them. This plan is supported by the chiefs of the six Iroquois nations, who are present at the Congress, who have no resentment with the British. Because the British are focussed more on the orient, the Crown is happy to delegate the running of its colonies to a local level, and, over the objections of the colonial governments, the Plan of Union is implemented.
[In the real world a treaty was concluded, but the Plan of Union was rejected by the colonial governments and the Crown as demanding too great a surrender of their powers. Also, the Indians were dissatisfied with the removal of William Johnson, the Crown Representative who knew their ways well, and were resentful of a land purchase made by the colony at Albany. Because of this they allied themselves with the French in the ensuing French and Indian War. The reduced funds available in America because of increased trade with China means that this resentment does not exist here as there is no Albany land purchase in this timeline.]
The first permanent Chinese trading post is established on the west coast of North America.
Over time, the Plan of Union proves to be a very good idea, as despite occasional tensions and conflicts between Crown and colonists it allows Colonial grievances with the Crown to be addressed, and gives the colonies a voice in England. [It also prevents many of the abuses of the Native Americans that took place in the real world, and gives them, in time, their own Union governments.] Because it is so effective, the same form of government is, over time, adopted for many of Britain's other colonies, and is still used today.
The former Tsar Ivan VI is taken to the Schlisselborg Fortress, where he is kept in extreme secrecy and under strict guard.
An earthquake levels Lisbon, the Portuguese capital, and is felt as far away as southern France and North Africa. Seventy thousand people are killed.
The Emperor Shang-Kun is described as the 'Golden Emperor' for the first time.
[By this point the European nations trading with China are actually richer than in the real world, due to a more two-way trade with China reducing Europe's trade deficit. However, more money than in the real world is tied up in the trade with China, leaving less for other areas, such as the American colonies.]
1755 to 1759
China annexes East Turkestan after the native Junggars and Uigurs are defeated. After its conquest this region is re-named Xinjiang ('New Dominion').
1756 to 1763 - THE SEVEN YEARS WAR
Because European trade with China has become more of a two-way process, Europe is actually somewhat richer than in the real world by this time. However, there is more money invested in Chinese trade so there was less money available for other things. Also, the British Royal Navy and other military forces are focussed more on the protection of the Oriental trade routes than on America and the colonies there; the same applies to other European powers, particularly France.
The war arises from the conflict between Austria and Prussia in Europe, and between France and Britain over colonial supremacy in North America.
In North America, the British attempt to capture the French forts in the West, as well as the French cities on the St. Lawrence, Quebec and Montreal. Their attempts to do this, including an attempted blockade of Canada by Admiral Boscawen, prove fruitless. Both sides have skilled generals, including James Wolfe and Louis Joseph de Montcalm, but both sides, the British particularly, are limited by their governments at home diverting resources to protecting their trade with China [of which there is more than in the real world]. The British make good use of the Iroquois tribesmen with whom they are allied, but even so, their lack of resources limits their operations. The war becomes a fight for the St. Lawrence River, with Montcalm pitted against Wolfe.
Eventually, Britain and Prussia defeat France, Austria, Spain and Russia in Europe. Britain gains control of India and some of France's colonies. Spain cedes Florida to Britain in exchange for Cuba. Fighting against great odds, Prussia is eventually successful in becoming established as one of the great European powers.
China reopens its trade routes to Africa, using local mercenaries for protection. Good relations spread Chinese culture and influence in east Africa (as well as histories of the Chinese under Zheng He having been there in past years), until some groups of the locals petition China to make their lands a protectorate, to safeguard them from the European powers, the Ottoman Empire, and Arab slavers. The Chinese accept these petitions, though this does cause conflict with other groups in that area.
Also, one or two Chinese trading posts are established in northern Australia, but these are not terribly profitable, and various others in India and Annam [Vietnam].
There are now a number of joint Chinese-Russian trading posts on the west coast of North America. China uses many of these as places to exile those criminals it does not execute (including political criminals), and does the same with its African trading posts.
Halley's Comet reappears.
In battle on the Plains of Abraham both Wolfe and Montcalm were killed, but France maintains their hold on Quebec [which they lost in the real world]. They are thus able to maintain their control of all of Canada, and the war stagnates, with both sides limited by their lack of supplies.
The first Chinese restaurant outside of China itself opens in London. The continuing fashion for all things Chinese means that it is a great success.
King George II of Great Britain dies. His grandson, who becomes George III, replaces him.
A Great Comet appears.
Measurements taken around the world during the transit of Venus by European and Chinese scientists allow the distance of the Earth to the Sun, and thus also other distances in the Solar System, to be measured more accurately than ever before.
Tsarina Elizabeth of Russia dies and is replaced by her nephew, who becomes Tsar Peter III.
Tsar Peter III is overthrown by a court coup led by his wife, Catherine, formerly Sophia Augusta Frederica of Anhalt-Zerbst. After his deposition, he is imprisoned in Ropshinskii Castle, where he is later killed by Count Alexei Orlov, Catherine's favourite and one of the organisers of the coup. Catherine becomes Tsarina Catherine II (later known as Catherine the Great).
Russia announces a colonisation policy to the world; it will now welcome all foreigners apart from Jews into Russia, giving them free land in conquered areas, freedom of worship, low taxation and other incentives. Significant numbers of foreigners begin to immigrate into Russia following this, initially largely Germans, and begin to colonise conquered areas, as well as Siberia and Alyeska, with loyal Russian subjects.
Comet Kinkenberg is seen.
The Treaty of Paris between Britain, France, Prussia and Spain ends the Seven Years War, leaving the French in control of Canada, while Great Britain gains control of Guadeloupe (formerly French) and keeps a number of valuable Caribbean islands. The French also keep Louisiana. The end to the war is such that Frederick of Prussia does not interprets it as an abandonment by Britain [as he did in the real world], leading to continued friendship between the two nations. [This is unlike what happened in the real world, and keeps the British settlements, which are basically surrounded by the French, looking towards Britain for protection.]
The first Gurkha regiments are created.
The philosopher Tai Chen becomes a leading member of Shang-Kun's Grand Council, bringing to it a great knowledge of both eastern and western arts and sciences.
Courland (a part of Latvia) is made a Russian protectorate.
AFTER THE SEVEN YEARS WAR
British North America is entirely encircled by French Canada in the north and Louisiana in the west, with the Indian Territories between. The British colonies there cannot help but look back towards Britain for protection. Because Britain has more money from the trade with China, after the Seven Years War, the British government lowers the tax burden on the American colonists in an attempt to keep people living there and stop them moving elsewhere. Despite this, many more people go to the Hudson's Bay area and the north-western territories known as Prince Rupert's Land, all of which are run under the aegis of the Hudson's Bay Company, because there they are not hemmed in by the French. However, the British also give the Indians preferential treatment, to keep them loyal. This leads to some conflicts between the colonists and the natives on the borders of the Indian Territories. Britain does not put too much effort into defending British America because, with its eyes and trade oriented towards China, America does not seem too important.
Many of the British and French forts along the American-Canadian border form the nuclei of new towns.
Because of its large holdings in North America, France looks more to the New World than to Russia.
The increased colonisation of Prince Rupert's Land leads to some minor conflicts with Russia on the border with Alyeska. French Louisiana also has some conflicts with the Spanish in Mexico, and China comes into conflict with the Spanish and the Russians as their settlements on the west coast of North America expand.
With a large area of America to administer, French resources are drained into the continent to the expense of their trade with the orient. Likewise, with a smaller area of America to administer than the real world, and a Union government in place in their colonies there, the British have to spend less resources to maintain their American colonies.
[Because the French still have Canada, Pontiac does not rebel in 1763 to 1765.]
The former Tsar Ivan VI, now twenty-four years old, is killed by his guards when his lieutenant, V. I. Mirovich, attempts to free him from the Schlisselborg Fortress. He is secretly buried in a hidden location near the walls of the fortress. This grave is later destroyed.
Tsarina Catherine II places a favourite of hers, Stanislaus Poniatowski, on the throne of Poland.
Clockmaker John Harrison presents the results of the successful testing of his chronometer for longitude calculation, completed in 1761, to the British Board of Longitude. The Astronomer Royal being biased against Harrison, they reject the results, claiming them to be simply luck.
The first schools of oriental martial arts outside those in the orient itself are opened in London and Paris by Chinese expatriates.
Tsarina Catherine II draws up a document to reform the Russian code of laws. She creates a Legislative Commission representing all Russians other than the serfs to enact this document into law.
Briton James Watt patents the steam engine.
China annexes Burma.
James Cook, the British explorer, makes his first visit to New Zeeland. He claims parts of the country in the name of King George III, shortly before two separate French expeditions also land on New Zeeland.
1768 to 1772
Russia conquers the Crimea and other areas of the Ottoman Empire in a long and hard war that annihilates the Turkish Navy. It leads to the creation of an independent Crimea, and other new states around the Black Sea. [This war is rather longer and harder than in the real world because of extra Russian forces being posted to the Chinese border. One casualty of the war is Emelian Pugachev, a Don Cossack, who is killed. This stops him from leading a huge Russian peasant uprising in 1773 to 1774. The lack of this uprising allows Catherine II to maintain somewhat more liberal internal policies.]
British Captain James Cook discovers the fertile east coast of the Australian continent and claims it for Britain.
The bright comet Messier is seen for several months.
Further results obtained during the transit of Venus in this year refine the measurement of the distance from the Earth to the Sun.
Comet Lexell is seen for several weeks.
[Because there is more two-way trade with China, the British East India Company does not become bankrupt in 1770, so there is no Indian financial crisis from 1770 to 1773.]
Britain receives ownership of the Falkland Islands from the Spanish.
A Chinese ship commanded by Feng Shi-Wa, a Chinese merchant captain, discovers and claims the Hawaiian islands.
Catherine II of Russia revives the Russian security police as an organisation.
Another Great Comet appears.
To avoid a war between Austria and Russia, parts of Poland are given to Austria, Russia and Prussia, leaving a much smaller Polish state; Poland is not consulted on this.
Feng Shi-Wa's ship makes anchor off the North Island of New Zeeland. He claims the islands in the name of the Emperor.
Border clashes between Russia and China lead to what becomes known as the First Sino-Russia War; it lasts for six months in the summer of 1772, and leads to nothing more than minor border adjustments.
A coup in Sweden restores royal rule there, and places the autocratic Gustav III on the throne, ending the Swedish Age of Liberty.
Comet Biela is seen.
China's increasingly outward-looking and industrialised state spurs a similar outward-turning and industrialisation in Russia under Catherine the Great. As part of this Russian ships begin to sail and trade all around the world.
As the Chinese and Russia trading posts on the west coast of North America expand, there are conflicts of ownership over the territory there, leading to a number of minor wars between the two empires. Clashes also occur along the Sino-Russia border and lead to the establishment of border forts and outposts across Siberia and the north-west of China, and the development of cities such as Magadan and Okhotsk. Thus Siberia is developed more and sooner than in the real world. Eventually China's superior ships leads them to hold the southern areas of North America, while Russia holds the northern. The Chinese colony there becomes known as Haijou.
The British have less need to tax their North American colonies after the Seven Years War than in the real world because there is more money coming in from China.
Because there is no USA, Russia never sells Alyeska. A Chinese colony on the west coast of North America grows out of its trading posts there. The British settle North America south and westwards from the area of Hudson's Bay. while the French spread settlements west from Canada and Louisiana.
With no American Revolution the King's Party does not lose power, and George III retains some real political power. As such he establishes a tradition of stronger Royal powers in Britain.
After the personal intervention of King George III, John Harrison's chronometer is finally accepted by the Board of Longitude, and he receives the prize of twenty thousand pounds that was set up for the first person to provide a means of accurate longitude calculation.
King George III of England sends an ambassadorial misson to China, along with a large cargo of mainly scientific gifts. The mission, and its gifts, are warmly welcomed by Emperor Shang-Kun, and formal diplomatic ties are established between Britain and China. A Chinese ambassador, also bearing gifts, returns to London with the mission. [This is in contrast the similar McCartney Mission of 1793 in the real world, when the embassy, and its gifts, were rejected.]
Another Great Comet appears.
Other European nations also establish embassies in China, and China likewise establishes a number of European embassies.
The Russian Legislative Commission finally produces a new set of Russian laws. These create greater central control of the Russian state, dividing the country up into provinces and districts, and also properly instituting the Table of Ranks and its ennoblement (a system originally introduced by Peter the Great but never seriously adopted before now, which allows commoners to rise up through the ranks to the nobility, giving initially just a life peerage for the person in question, but at higher ranks it becoming hereditary for the heir, then for the whole family). Over time, this new set of laws proves highly successful.
Tsarina Catherine II is sufficiently impressed with the results of the Committee's work that she has it continue work in an advisory capacity. [In the real world the Legislative Committee was dissolved before it could finish its work, largely because of the 1773 to 1774 peasant uprising.]
George III and Shang-Kun, both being educated, scholarly types, get on well, by letter at least (they never meet). This leads to exchanges of scholars and so on between the two nations, as well as favoured trading status.
Comet Bode is seen.
The Armed Neutrality of the North alliance is formed between Denmark, Sweden, and Russia, to protect their ships from the British. The United Provinces of the Netherlands join the alliance later in the year. [Britain does not attempt to stop the Netherlands joining, unlike the real world, as there is no American revolution for the Dutch to support.]
The British begin the first mail coach service, between London and Bristol.
China begins to construct a proper sea-going navy to protect its interests abroad. Russia begins to do likewise.
Inspired by a Korean ironclad warship of the seventeenth century, the 'kobukson', the Chinese Navy begins to secretly experiment with ironclad warships.
The Chinese Navy begins to eradicate piracy in the China Seas.
1780 to 1792
The ruler of Mysore, Haidar Ali Khan, rises up against the British in India and the British East India Company. He scores sufficient victories to endanger the company before the British rally and push his forces back. Haidar Ali Khan dies in 1782 and is replaced by his son, Tippu Sultan, the 'Tiger of Mysore', who continues the war against the British. Tippu cannot retake the land his father lost to the British, and despite fighting hard and using war rockets against them, by 1792 he has been forced to sign a treaty with the British which ends the war at the cost of half of his lands.
A seventh planet orbiting the Sun is discovered by the English astronomer, William Herschel. He names the planet Georgium Sidum in honour of the then King George III. In turn King George III honours Herschel with the title of 'The King's Astronomer'. The German Astronomer Johann Bode proposes that the new planet be named Uranus, after the father of Saturn, in line with classical tradition. This name eventually becomes accepted (and translated to Tianwangxing, 'Star of the King of Heaven', in Chinese), although it is referred to as the Georgian Planet and Herschel until at least 1850.
Russia and Austria sign a secret agreement against the Ottoman Empire.
British hunting and farming communities are established in New Zeeland.
Chinese traders establish a settlement on the North Island of New Zeeland.
Border clashes between Russia and China lead to what becomes known as the Second Sino-Russia War.
Prussia joins the Armed Neutrality of the North.
The British and Chinese communities expand out over New Zeeland. After some minor conflicts between the two sets of settlers, the Chinese agree to keep to the North Island while the British keep to the South Island.
Frenchman Marquis Claude de Jouffroy d'Abbans creates the first steam-powered ship, the 'Pyroscaphe', which runs against the current of the Saone River for fifteen minutes. However, its boiler cannot generate enough steam for extended operations.
Frenchman Joseph-Michel Montgolfier launches the first hot-air balloon, in France. Others quickly follow suit, launching balloons around the world.
An earthquake in Calabria, Italy, kills thirty thousand people.
1783 to 1784
The Laki volcano in Iceland erupts. Haze from the eruption kills the island's livestock by their eating contaminated grass and causes widespread crop failure from acid rain. This leads to more than nine thousand deaths, a quarter of the population of Iceland, mostly due to starvation. Haze from the eruption is reported from Iceland to Syria, and the eruption causes a noticeable temperature drop in the entire Northern Hemisphere.
The Emperor Shang-Kun of China dies of old age. There are many praises given of Shang-Kun's life:
British history compares him to Elizabeth I in his impact, but unlike her he left many children and a clear line of succession. Chinese history compares him to a benevolent version of the First Emperor. [Essentially Shang-kun was a scientist-Emperor, and this led, over time, to a trend for monarchs (initially Chinese monarchs, but others later, too) to be trained more in the sciences than the arts. And in time this spread down through society so that even though there is not such a wild drive to advance as in the real world, the fact that there are more scientists in this world, and science has a prominent place in society, drives things on anyway. Because of this there have been fewer artists, and there has not been as much radical experimentation in the arts (particularly things like architecture) as in the real world.]
Shang-Kun is replaced by his son, who becomes the Emperor Xiu-Fang. He follows in his fathers footsteps, but is not terribly innovative.
The second Sino-Russia war ends with noticeable Chinese territorial losses.
James Rumsey, a citizen of British Maryland, successfully demonstrates a steam powered boat on the Potomac River. It is propelled by a stream of water forced out of the stern by steam pressure, and attains a speed of four miles per hour. He is the first of several American inventors to design and build steam-powered ships, using water jets, paddle-wheels and screw propellers.
After various provocative border clashes between Russia and the Ottoman Empire, Austria and Russia declare war on the Ottomans. The war detaches Greece from the Ottoman Empire (as intended by Austria and Russia) and also gives Russia the opportunity to annex the Crimea to itself. [1788 in the real world.]
Sweden take the opportunity provided by this war to declare war on Russia with the hope of regaining lost territory. However, although they succeed in destroying some Russian ships, the war has little other effect.
A small fleet of French colonists led by Jean-François de Galoup, Comte de La Pérouse lands at what will become Port Jackson [Botany Bay], in Australia, and begin to set up a penal colony there. They arrive three weeks before a similar British fleet. The British fleet sails further north up the coast and founds a separate penal colony there, at what becomes known as Brisbane.
Johann Franz Encke discovers comet Encke. It reappears in 1795, 1805, 1813, and 1822.
Comet Herschel is discovered.
[In this world Earl Cornwallis does not become governor of India from 1786 to 1793; this helps to prevent problems in India by maintaining the status of Indians with the British establishment there. This is mainly because, with no American Revolutionary War, the British Governor General in India feels no need to restrict the rights of Indian and half-Indian people so as to prevent the rise of a settled (and later rebellious) colonial class.]
Because of the French continuing to own Canada and Louisiana, more British colonists go to Australia after the Seven Years War than in the real world.
Native Americans get a better deal under the British than in the real world. There are no reservations or deportations, and instead are used as a paid local labour force. The British do their best to 'civilise' them, which results in some loss of their culture.
The government of Louis XVI of France introduces a new Edict of Toleration, granting Calvinists (but not other non-Catholics) civil rights, including the right to practice their religion, but no political rights. The Edict is a convoluted compromise between the demands of the Catholic Church and those of the long-oppressed Calvinists. [In the real world this Edict was first proposed in 1787, but here, with more money from trade with China, it happens somewhat later.]
The rump Poland shows signs of regeneration, and so is invaded by Russia and Prussia, who divide the remaining parts of Poland up amongst themselves, causing Poland to disappear from the map entirely. Various Polish uprisings fail to dislodge the invaders.
China annexes Nepal.
A major slave uprising on the French Island of Haiti leads to civil war there.
The collapse of an old lava dome during eruption of the Unzen volcano on Kyushu Island, Japan, causes an avalanche and tsunami which kills more than fourteen thousand people (most of them dying in the tsunami).
Steam-powered riverboats begin to be constructed in China.
At the insistence of the King George III, who has learnt of them from Shang-Kun, the British government adopts a set of examinations, inspired by the Chinese Civil Service exams, for anyone entering government service.
A Chinese scholar, Wang Li, having heard of the Indian war rockets used by Tippu Sultan against the British, investigates them and takes what he has learnt back to China.
Steam-powered ocean-going vessels are launched in China, Maryland and Scotland.
Comet Encke reappears.