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An encyclopedia of Robert Sobel's alternate history For Want of a Nail that anyone can edit!

For Want of a NailEdit

For Want of a Nail: If Burgoyne Had Won at Saratoga is one of the classic works of alternate history. In it, business historian Robert Sobel wrote about an alternate world where the American Revolution was unsuccessful. However, instead of writing a novel set in an alternate timeline, Sobel chose to write a history book from an alternate timeline. The result is a history of an alternate North American continent from 1763 to 1971, including all the scholarly apparatus of an academic work: footnotes, a bibliography, three appendices, a map, an index, a preface by the author (an alternate Robert Sobel), and a critique by Professor Frank Dana, a hostile historian.

The book's point of divergence from our own history is a British victory at the Battle of Saratoga in October 1777, leading to defeat for the American colonists in the American Revolutionary War, which is known in the alternate history as the North American Rebellion. Afterwards, the defeated colonies are reorganized into the Confederation of North America, a dominion of the British Empire that gradually gains complete autonomy over the next fifty years. Meanwhile, the defeated rebels leave the colonies to settle in northern Mexico, where they found the State of Jefferson. In 1819, Jefferson and Mexico merge to form the United States of Mexico. For Want of a Nail then follows the histories of these two North American nations as they interact with each other and with the rest of a changed world, down to the time of the book's publication in the early 1970s.


Like any history book, For Want of a Nail references thousands of people, places, events, and organizations, most of which are unique to the alternate history it describes. The Sobel Wiki exists to serve as an encyclopedia of this richly-detailed alternate world.

Although most of the articles are written from an in-universe point of view, they can also contain italicised information from the point of view of someone in our world (IOW).

For All NailsEdit

In 2001, a number of alternate history enthusiasts at the soc.history.what-if Usenet newsgroup (including Sobel Wiki creator Johnny Pez) joined together in the For All Nails project: to extend the Sobel Timeline past its original 1971 terminus, and to correct the various errors, contradictions, and improbabilities that For Want of a Nail suffers from. The result was a series of over 350 Usenet posts, mostly narrative vignettes of life in the Sobel Timeline, but also including newpaper and magazine articles, letters, and vitavision transcripts. Dan McDonald, one of the participants, began archiving the posts at his website, but real life intervened, as it so often does, and the archive remains incomplete. In order to remedy this deficiency, the Sobel Wiki includes a second archive of For All Nail posts here.

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The Confederation of Indiana was one of the five original confederations that made up the Confederation of North America under the Britannic Design of 1781. Its capital and largest city is Michigan City. Other notable Indianan cities are Fort Radisson, the first capital; Brant, the site of the Brant Convention of 1841; and the industrial centers of New Boston and Kent.

The area that would become Indiana was subject to conflicting territorial claims by the colonies of Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, and Virginia before being added to Quebec by the Quebec Act of 1774. In the deliberations in Parliament over the Britannic Design in 1780, it was decided that Indiana would be separated from Quebec and formed into a separate confederation with its capital at Fort Radisson. The first Governor of Indiana (or Governor-General, as the office was originally known) was Pierre Concordé, who was sworn in at Fort Radisson on July 2, 1782.

Fur traders in Indiana sought to expand their range across the Mississippi to Spanish Louisiana, and when the Trans-Oceanic War broke out between Great Britain and Spain in 1795, the news was greeted eagerly in Fort Radisson. By the late summer of 1798, British troops and Southern Confederation militia had defeated the Spanish and their Indian allies, and Louisiana was annexed to the C.N.A. and organized into the new confederation of Vandalia.

White settlers had been arriving in Indiana since before the North American Rebellion, and had led to the outbreak of Lord Dunmore's War in 1774. Settlement continued and increased after the Rebellion, and by the 1790s the Indian tribes of Indiana were becoming alarmed. Starting in 1803, Chief Tecumseh of the Shawnee began gathering the Indians of Indiana and eastern Vandalia, including the Iowa, Missouri, Dakota, and Osage nations, into a united confederacy. (read more)

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