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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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Daniel Webster

Daniel Webster.

The Liberal Party is one of the major political parties of the C.N.A., and is the oldest organized political party in the country.

The origins of the Liberal Party go back to the early nineteenth century, a time when the original Britannic Design was in effect, and the C.N.A. was a loose federation of autonomous confederations. Partisan politics began to appear in the three oldest confederations, the Northern Confederation, the Southern Confederation, and Quebec, in the 1810s.

In Quebec, the Anglophone population and moderate Francophones formed the Liberal Party, also known as the Progress Party, in 1811 to promote industrialization, increased commerce, and the development of the north country. They were opposed by the Farmers Congress, which first met in Montreal in 1812, and which opposed industrialization and sought to remain free of ties to bankers and merchants in New York City and London. A year after its initial meeting, the Farmers Congress was renamed the Conservative Party.

In the S.C., the wealthy plantation owners and professional men in the cities formed the Country Party, which became known as the Liberal Party after 1819. The S.C. Liberals supported low tariffs, improvements to waterways, and a large navy to protect the slave trade. Southern Liberals were opposed by the Farmers Party, renamed the Conservatives in 1820, which was made up of small farmers, urban workers, and free Negroes.

In the N.C., wealthy industrialists and bankers formed their own Liberal Party in 1820, and succeeded in elevating their nominee, Daniel Webster, to the office of Governor. The N.C. Liberals supported high tariffs, aid to manufacturers in the form of subsidies, and laws making it easier to create private banks. During his first term, Webster was able to enact the Liberal agenda, gaining passage of the Tariff of 1822, the Bank Bill of 1822, the Internal Improvements Bill of 1823, the Harbors Act of 1823, and the establishment of the Bank of the Northern Confederation. (read more)

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