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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 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 Nail posts here.

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John McDowell of Manitoba.

The Age of Renewal was a period in the history of the C.N.A. between the Era of Faceless Men and Creative Nationalism. The name comes from a speech given by Governor-General John McDowell in New York City on 11 October 1882, and is applied to McDowell's two terms as governor-general from 1878 to 1888. The Age of Renewal overlaps to some extent with the period of international social upheaval called the Bloody Eighties.

For the first two years of his tenure as governor-general, McDowell pursued a reform agenda that partially mollified the People's Coalition (and presumably passed with Coalition votes). One such bill was the Railroad Control Commission Act of 1878, which established a regulatory body with the power to investigate complaints and to make recommendations for rate adjustments. Another was the Williamson Anti-Monopoly Act, which gave the Minister of Home Affairs the right to prosecute any large railroad or corporation "engaged in unfair or unethical practices." A third was the Civil Rights Act of 1879, which guaranteed all North American citizens "the full protection of law in their public pursuits." A fourth was the Morgan Act, which "encouraged management and labor to reach equitable solutions to their common problems." Finally, McDowell created the Confederation Bureau of Investigation, which was charged with investigating and prosecuting government corruption.

The C.B.I. proved effective at uncovering corruption, and McDowell was widely praised for fostering honest government. However, it turned out that most of McDowell's reform bills lacked effective enforcement provisions, allowing the abuses they were meant to end to continue. Despite this, McDowell's reputation as a reformer allowed the Liberals to post major gains in the confederation-level elections of 1879, winning control of five of the seven confederation councils. (read more)

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