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Welcome to Sobel Wiki
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 sixty years. Meanwhile, the defeated rebels leave the colonies to settle in northern Mexico, where they found the State of Jefferson. In 1820, 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 Nails posts here.

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Featured ArticleEdit

Van Buren

Martin van Buren.

The Conservative Party was one of the two major political parties of the Confederation of North America in the nineteenth century. After the adoption of the Second Britannic Design, three of the first six governors-general of the C.N.A. were Conservatives. The Conservative Party was supplanted by the People's Coalition in the late nineteenth century. The last Conservative nominee for governor-general mentioned by Sobel was Abraham Reese in the 1888 Grand Council elections.

Like their Liberal Party rivals, the Conservatives had their origins in the autonomous confederations of the original Britannic Design. The three eastern confederations of Quebec, the Northern Confederation, and the Southern Confederation had the closest commercial ties with Great Britain, and the economic interests of different groups within each confederation gave rise to partisanship as the groups organized to promote their own interests.

In the Northern Confederation, the beginnings of industrialization after 1800 created a class of wealthy factory owners, who combined in 1814 to gain control of the Northern Confederation Council. The Council's industrial cabal sponsored legislation raising tariffs, subsidizing manufacturing, and easing restrictions on the creation of private banks. In 1820, they organized themselves as the Liberal Party, and went on to win control of the Council in the 1821 elections.

The success of the Liberals led their political opponents, made up of farmers, urban workers, and small businessmen, to form the Conservative Party. Between them, the groups that made up the Conservatives outnumbered the Liberals, and in the 1825 elections they were able to gain control of the Council. Liberal Party Governor Daniel Webster of New Hampshire was replaced as governor of the N.C. by Conservative leader Martin van Buren of New York. Unfortunately, due to the heterogeneous nature of their membership, the Conservatives were unable to put together a coherent program of their own. Van Buren's manipulation of the banking system was a major cause of the Depression of 1829, which brought the Liberals, and Webster, back to power in 1831. (read more)

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