For All Nails Extra: The Last Continent
by Johnny Pez
Over the course of 261 vignettes, the members of the For All Nails project have worked tirelessly to expand the world's knowledge of what is already the most detailed ATL in existence: the world of Robert Sobel's For Want of a Nail . . . . We've worked out histories (and designed maps) for Europe, South America, Asia and Africa. Now it is time to explore the final frontier: alt-Sobel's own homeland of Australia.
Heretofore we have been content to refer to Australia only in passing as we focus our attention elsewhere. However, with Australia's upcoming participation in the Bornholm Pact's invasion of New Granada, the time has come to take a good long look at this antipodean outpost of Britannic Civilization.
Jane Company and the Settlement of New South WalesEdit
As the 19th century opens, the British East India Company is looking for new worlds to conquer. The Company's directors cast their eyes to the southeast, beyond the Dutch East Indies, to the vast (maybe), unexplored (mostly) continent known to the Dutch as New Holland and to Captain Cook as New South Wales. Prodded by the Company's men in Parliament, in 1810 the ministry of Spencer Perceval charters the New South Wales Company. A majority of the shares in the NSWC are quickly snapped up by the owners of the BEIC, and most of the newly created administrative posts are filled by BEIC vets, causing London wits to nickname the new venture "the Little Sister" or "Jane Company".
In 1814 Jane Company outfits an expedition to explore the mostly unexplored continent. The expedition arrives at the site of IOW Port Stephens to find -- North Americans. Specifically, whalers out of New England who have established a base here to process their catch. On being informed that New South Wales is now Company property and that they'll have to start paying rent, the whalers respond with a series of crude and (for the most part) physically impossible suggestions. The dispute is referred to London, where the government, to nobody's surprise, sides with the Company. The whalers are evicted from New South Wales in 1820, and they relocate their operations to New Zealand.
Meanwhile, the Company is rather disappointed to learn that New South Wales has no native civilization to take over and exploit --- only some dark-skinned primitives who mostly eat bugs. The Company decides to make the best of a bad situation, and starts setting up plantations worked by indentured Bengali villagers and overseen by Company officers. The first plantation is located at IOW Sydney in 1818, and is named Melbourne after Prime Minister Peniston Lamb, Viscount Melbourne. FN1
The Crown ColoniesEdit
By the 1830s Jane Company shareholders are becoming worried about the preponderance of Bengalis in New South Wales, and by the fact that their indentures are beginning to expire, which could lead to a dramatic increase in labor costs. Two new policies are adopted by the Company to avert this possibility; first, several new regulations are promulgated to reduce both the physical and social mobility of the Indents, as they are known; and second, the Company begins active recruitment of British settlers to New South Wales (a project which is helped along by the Panic of 1835). Tillotson (IOW Perth) is settled in 1837, Amory (IOW Melbourne) in 1840, Bruce (IOW Adelaide) in 1842 and New Belfast (IOW Brisbane) in 1844.
The growing number of white settlements in New South Wales proves to have unforeseen consequences for the Company. Attempts by some of the Company officials to apply the Indent Regulations to the newly-arrived British settlers provokes a strong reaction, and questions begin to be raised in Parliament about the Company's stewardship of the Last Continent. The result is the creation of several new Australian crown colonies outside of the Company's control. The settlements around Tillotson are hived off to form the New Holland colony in 1847, while the sheep ranches expanding out from New Belfast form the New Ulster colony in 1850 and the settlements around Bruce become the Victoria colony in 1851. The island of Van Diemen is settled as a separate colony in the 1850s, and later on in the century Alberta is formed west of New Ulster and Victoria, while Carpentaria is separated from New Ulster. Finally, the separation of Watsonia from New Holland in 1897 creates the eighth and last of the colonies which unite in 1899 to form the Union of Australia.
Efforts by the newly-created crown colonies to ban the importation of Indents are overturned by Parliament, so instead they begin to replicate the Company's Indent Regulations. Ironically, New Ulster imports seven times as many indentured servants from China in the six years following the establishment of the crown colony as it had from Bengal in the six years previous.
Within New South Wales itself the Company faces a crisis when gold is discovered at Balla Arat near the Amory settlement in 1859. Amory is quickly overrun with prospectors, who chafe under Company regulations. An incipient revolt by the prospectors in 1861 is only headed off when Company officers agree to petition Parliament to establish a royal colonial administration for New South Wales. The petition is granted, and by the Act for the Governance of New South Wales of 1862 the Company's last fief in Australia becomes a crown colony. The New South Wales Company becomes little more than a commercial association run by and for the Company's officers and their descendants, known as nabobs. With their inherited wealth and land, the nabobs become an Australian aristocracy.
The United CommonwealthEdit
Australia's rapid economic growth, sparked by the gold strikes in Balla Arat and elsewhere, parallels that in Britain's other major colonies of Egypt, Victoria, India and New Zealand. The growing importance of the colonies (and fear of rising protectionism in Britain) brings growing co-operation among their elites, and leads to calls for political amalgamation. In Australia, these calls are led by the commercial interests within the Liberal Party, which has been in power since the formation of the Union. The final result is the London Conference of 1906 and the establishment of the United British Commonwealth of Nations. (North America, less worried about a possible future loss of access to the British market and less dependent on British defense subsidies, remains aloof.)
A goodwill tour of the Union of Australia by Arthur, Duke of Kent in 1914 makes a very favorable impression upon the Duke as well as the Australians. George Bradshaw, the wily leader of the opposition Conservative Party, capitalizes on this wave of positive emotion by leading a movement to make Australia a separate monarchy within the United Commonwealth under Prince Arthur. Bradshaw's movement quickly gains popularity, leading to victory for the Conservatives in the 1916 elections. Bradshaw's first act as Governor-General is to petition Parliament to make Prince Arthur the King of Australia. The petition is granted under the Act of Devolution, and in 1917 Arthur returns to Australia to be crowned the nation's first king, and the United Commonwealth becomes the United Empire. (Similar movements among the other Commonwealth member states are unsuccessful, leaving Australia the only monarchy in the United Empire other than Great Britain itself.)
The Bloody Eighties and the Rise of the NabobsEdit
The upheavals in Europe in the 1880s see a flight to Australia of nearly a million refugees, including thousands of European nobles (mostly French), who quickly adopt the New South Wales plantation society as their own, intermarrying with the nabobs to produce a new generation of wealthy, conservative, land-hungry gentry. They are joined in the early years of the 20th century by Russian nobles fleeing that country's revolution. An attempt by the reactionary Australian nabobs to introduce slavery into the country in the 1910s fails, but the importation of whole villages of Indents to serve as a rural workforce for their estates continues. (By 1920 the word "Indent" has dropped out of usage, replaced by the Russian "robotniki", quickly shortened to "robot".)
One of the first acts of the new Union of Australia is to repeal the Indent Regulations. This provokes surprisingly little opposition at home. Powerful labor unions within Australia have already succeeded in insuring that urban factory jobs or higher-paying professional positions in mining companies or on the railroads are closed to non-white workers. Laws restricting the inter-confederation movement of non-citizens and banning them from entire professions remain on the books until 1944.
Much of Australia's arable land is claimed by the nabobs, and by the 1920s there is a growing movement by the country's smallholders, called the Free Australia Party, to break up and distribute their vast estates and forcibly relocate the robots to Asia. The leading nabobs respond by sponsoring an ambitious plan (bankrolled in part by Kramer Associates) to irrigate the country with Antarctic icebergs. In 1925 an iceberg processing plant is built on the site of IOW's Denmark, Western Australia, while pipelines fan out to the north and east for hundreds of miles. Over the next 15 years vast swathes of the western confederations of New Holland, Watsonia and Alberta are irrigated and brought under cultivation by the nabobs, who are able in this way to gain political control of the three western confederations. Plans to build a second processing plant in Victoria fall victim to the Panic of 1936.
Australia's racial hierarchy begins to blur during this period. For some time, half-caste Indents have been entering the lower rungs of the nabob class, and following the establishment of the United Commonwealth/Empire, there is a continuing trickle of relatively wealthy Indians into the new country who are able to do the same. In addition, a class of Bengali, Sikh, and Chinese merchants has arisen with the economic wherewithal to purchase their citizenship. There is also a significant movement of North Americans (including Robert Sobel's parents) with their progressive racial attitudes, into the country under the provisions of the Galloway Plan. To traditionalist Australians, these changes signify the end of the color line. To moderate ones, they are a sign that all is well. To progressive ones, they make the continuing discrimination faced by the bulk of the robot population even more galling.
The Global War and AfterEdit
Despite earlier predictions that Australia would refuse to join Great Britain in a European war, the Global War comes to Australia in 1939 as the United Empire declares war on the Germanic Confederation. Meetings between the Australian government and Kramer Associates in 1939 and 1940 result in an informal alliance between the two and Japan. The war widens in 1942 when the United States of Mexico attacks the Japanese Empire and also seizes several island chains within British Polynesia, leading the Australians to declare war on the USM. The seeds of social upheaval are sowed when the Australian government, hard-pressed by German and Mexican invasion attempts, reluctantly begins repealing the Indent Regulations and allowing robots to work in factories to replace drafted white workers. By 1944, the government is forced by the escalating scale of the conflict to begin recruiting robots themselves into the armed forces.
The Kingdom of Australia emerges from the war victorious but exhausted and suffering from increasing turmoil. During the war, a majority of the country's male robots gained full citizenship as a result of their military service. However, continuing unofficial discrimination gives rise to a robot rights movement emphasizing civil disobedience. This movement is met with strong resistance, especially in the nabob-dominated western confederations. With India gone from the United Empire, it has become clear that it is no longer feasible to deport the robots there, and the Free Australia Party splits into two opposing factions. One faction, which dislikes the robots more than the nabobs, seeks to deprive the robot veterans of their full citizenship and reinstate the prewar restrictions. This faction is eventually absorbed into the Conservative Party. The other faction, which dislikes the nabobs more than the robots, now favors integrating the robots into white society, extending full citizenship to all of them, and repealing the remaining discriminatory laws. This faction allies with the United Empire wing of the Liberal Party to form the Australian Renewal Party (ARP). The remaining anti-robot wing of the Liberal Party continues as a marginal factor in Australian politics.
Both parties prove far more moderate in office than might have been expected from their origins. The 1950s and early 1960s see a slow but steady erosion of the power of the nabobs as continued immigration from Great Britain and growing migration from Japan strengthens the ARP's base of middle-class voters. The robot rights movement itself proceeds in fits and starts, marked by judicial advances, protest rallies, and the occasional riot. In a bid to gain the support of the growing middle class, the Conservative government of Duncan Cazalet secures the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1965. However, the ARP capitalize on a growing Jeffersonist insurrection in Indochina to gain a majority in the Grand Council in the 1969 elections. Cazalet retires as Conservative party leader, and his place is taken by Alberta Governor Myron Loy.
Governor-General Henry Vanderkellen succeeds in negotiating an end to the Indochinese insurrection in 1971. Ironically, though, it is the domestic situation that proves his undoing. Enforcement of the Civil Rights Act has been selective at best and largely ignored in the nabob-dominated confederations. After dying down in the late 1960s and early 1970s, protest by the robot rights movement re-escalates, with a new emphasis on civil disobedience. The government waffles in the face of the demonstrations. Vanderkellen's government is tarred as out-of-touch and overly concerned with foreign affairs (a mild recession in 1972-73 doesn't help any), and the Conservatives return to power in 1974, just before the Bali bombing catapults Australia into war against New Granada.
A Note on Convict TransportationEdit
Those familiar with IOW Australian history may be wondering why no convicts are settled in FANTL Australia. The answer to that question can be found in the aftermath to the North American Rebellion.
The outbreak of the Rebellion in 1775 resulted in the abrupt termination of transportations to North America. During the three years that the Rebellion raged, the Thames filled with hulks overloaded with convicted criminals. The end of the Rebellion and the imposition of military rule on Massachusetts came as a welcome relief to the North ministry, which took the opportunity to use Massachusetts as a dumping ground for British convicts.
Not until the turn of the century did Governor Shays of Massachusetts succeed in ending the inflow of convicts. By then, the conquest of Spanish Florida gave London the chance to establish a new penal colony at Jenkinson (OTL's Orlando), which continued to operate until the 1830s. By then, the reforms proposed by the Watson Commission had been adopted, and the practice of transporting criminals had ceased.
(Forward to FAN #207: The Dingoes of War.)
(Return to For All Nails.)