The Confederation of North America versus the United States of Mexico
For Want of a Nail: If Burgoyne Had Won at Saratoga by economic historian Robert Sobel is a 1973 Alternate History textbook that details the counterfactual trials and tribulations of the North American continent from 1763 to 1971. It's considered a Trope Codifier, if not the Trope Maker, of more hard-nosed approaches to alternate history that move away from the outlandish geopolitical shenanigans in works like The Man in the High Castlenote where Nazi Germany has filled in the Mediterranean and split the United States with Japan or Bring the Jubileenote a book that features a Confederate States of America that took over all of the nations south of it. The book eschews any conventional fictional story, and embraces alternate history for its own sake, serving as an inspiration for writing communities like AlternateHistory.com (which is especially evident from the glowing review it received from Ian the Admin, the site's founder.) The book also won the Sidewise Award for Alternate History (Special Achievement category) in 1997.The Point Of Divergence is the arrival of reinforcements for British General Horatio Gates during the Battle of Saratoga, which turns the tide of the American Revolutionary War to the favor of the United Kingdom, which then stamps out the rebellion. Afterward, the colonies are reorganized into the more centralized and autonomous Confederation of North America (CNA), while thousands of revolutionaries that weren't executed or imprisoned sojourn westward, founding the nation of Jefferson in the place Texas would have been. Under the charismatic yet steady leadership of Andrew Jackson, it unifies with the neighboring Republic of Mexico to create the United States of Mexico (USM) in 1820. The new republic is soon embroiled in a continental power struggle with the Confederation of North America.Although historical figures factor heavily in the beginning, such as Thomas Edison essentially inventing most modern technology, there are also new faces in the CNA and the USM, such as the idealistic automobile mogul Owen Galloway and the histrionic liberal governor Richard Mason, the nepotistic narcissist Benito Hermíon, as well as the bastardyCorrupt Corporate Executive Bernard Kramer who leads his company Kramer Associates in attaining dizzying heights of power. Throughout this entire book, one finds that two hundred years of history becomes a lot more interesting when you don't know what happens next.
Alternate Techline: Before 1903, the people of this world have cars; however, they don't develop nuclear weapons until 1962.
Ambition Is Evil: Subverted, as some of the ambitious characters merely go onto become pragmatic and competent leaders. Although there are shades of this with Bernard Kramer.
America Saves the Day: Subverted. Neither the Confederation of North America or the United States of Mexico does anything akin to the United States of America's entry into World War I or World War II, as the former mostly stays neutral and the latter is merely prone to opportunistic land grabs.
America Takes Over the World: Although the book is centered on this region, it seems as though the equivalent of the Cold War for this timeline takes place between two superpowers on the North American continent, perhaps even three if one counts Kramer Associates due to their Mexican origins.
Any One Can Die: And not just because it covers so much history. Among them Governor of the North Confederation Daniel Webster, Indianan Grand Council member Dudley Graves, and two Mexican presidents: Pedro Hermión and Omar Kinkaid.
Dystopia: The United States of Mexico has shades of it. For instance, slavery doesn't get abolished there until 1920 and it was a Police State with the backing of a Mega Corp. in the intervening years.
Cult Colony: Manitoba is a beacon for Utopian philosophers and radicals of all stripes... yet remains the land without politics.
Decided By One Vote: In the CNA, the People's Coalition only won a majority in the Grand Council by two seats in the 1938 elections.
Deep South: The Southern Confederation in the CNA, appropriately enough.
Divided States of America: The continental United States of America never comes to be, and thus what would have been its territory is divided between the Confederation of North America and the United States of Mexico.
Downer Beginning: From an American point of view, as John Adams, Sam Adams, John Hancock, Thomas Jefferson, Richard Henry Lee, Robert Paine and Roger Sherman are all executed, while George Washington is sentenced to life in prison.
Eagleland: The Confederation of North America is mostly a Type 1, while the United States of Mexico falls hard into a Type 2.
Easily Conquered World: The Russian Empire during the Great Northern War, which has Alaska and Siberia taken from it in the course of two years by the increasingly powerful United States of Mexico. France also falls into this trope during the Global War.
Fantasy World Map: There's a map in the frontispiece of the book, which makes it reminiscent in purpose and placement of this trope. (Seen here: ◊.) Some fans regard it as dubious because a few details contradict those in the the book; at least one fan has gone to the trouble of making their own version (◊.
Fictional Counterpart: The United Workers of the World, compared to the Real Life International Workers of the World. The same also applies to the Confederation Bureau of Investigation.
Fictional Document: All over the place, with extensive footnotes to dozens upon dozens of (fictitious) works.
Fictional Political Party: For the CNA there was or is the (Unified) Liberals, the (National) Conservatives, and the People's Coalition. Meanwhile the USM has the Continentalist, Liberty, United Mexican and Progressive parties, with divergent periods of mainstream establishment due to the chaotic politics of the country.
For Want of a Nail: Without the success of the American Revolution, there is no French Revolution, and it's thus implied that the edge of radical revolutionary politics was dulled in this world. Socialism has marginal influence, fascism seems to have never come to be, and there is no analog to the Soviet Union.
Hero with Bad Publicity: The CNA under the governorship of Richard Mason donated tons of money abroad, for which they get almost no appreciation.
Historical-Domain Character: There are some mostly in the earlier part of the book that get prominent roles, but this tapers off towards the end.
Historical Hero Upgrade: Thomas Edison develops this world's versions of television, the automobile and “airmobile” before 1903.
Historical Villain Upgrade: In-Universe accusations are lodged at the author for making the leaders of the United States of Mexico slightly more incompetent and immoral in contrast to the Confederation of North America.
Hitler's Time Travel Exemption Act: Yet another notable aversion, because nothing like the Holocaust ever takes place and there is never anyone even remotely as bad as Hitler described in the book.
In Spite of a Nail: Andrew Jackson still becomes president of a United States, Karl Marx has the same economic philosophy and Thomas Edison is an inventor. Germany still unifies in some fashion and bests France in a war that takes place in the late 19th Century, before the Russian Empire collapses in the early 20th Century.
King Incognito: Deposed Emperor Hermíon when he flees the palace after its surrounded with Kramer Associates' sponsored soldiers.
La Résistance: The perpetrators of the American Revolution, who don't see their goals achieved.
Landslide Election: The CNA's 1933 Grand Council elections featured the Liberal Party snatching up 104 seats, and the People's Coalition only taking the 46 that remained.
Literary Allusion Title: In addition to the title of the Real Life book, the In-Universe name for it (Scorpions in a Bottle) is a reference to a speech made by Pedro Hermión about the continental rivalry between the Confederation of North America and the United States of Mexico.
Name's the Same: The Great Depression, only it takes place from 1880 to 1882, corresponding more with the economic downturn experienced in our timeline during the 1890s.
Naturalized Name: Bernard Kramer, a German immigrant who became a world-class Mexican industrialist, can be inferred to have this.
N.G.O. Superpower: Kramer Associates, which is treated as its own world-class power later on in the book and even develops nuclear weapons before anyone else in the world.
No Celebrities Were Harmed: Granted, this is alternate history, but Owen Galloway has many parallels with Henry Ford in particular as an innovative industrialist in the automobile business with a large public platform.
No Hugging, No Kissing: Justified because this is essentially an overview of history, but one could plausibly assume almost all of the main characters are bachelors.
Nouveau Riche: Bernard Kramer and his successors qualify as this.
Police State: A type of governance that the USM finds it hard to shake away.
Politically Correct History: In addition to the questionable nature of Andrew Jackson championing a multiethnic Mexican republic, James Billington serves as the black governor-general of the CNA from 1950 to 1953, and the author notes that he heard no substantive criticism based on his race.
Pragmatic Villainy: Kramer Associates, whose support of the Benito Hermíon dictatorship fluctuates according to how much it benefits them.
Shown Their Work: Much of the statistics and descriptions of economic processes in the book clearly show the author's professional background in the subject, especially when it comes to innovative programs like the National Financial Administration in the CNA.
Space-Filling Empire: Germany could be considered an example of this, having most of continental Europe and the former Ottoman Empire under its rule after the Global War.
Strawman Political: Erich Neiderhoffer describes his plan for workers to buy out their own plants like this: “no one would be an exploiter, everyone would be an exploiter”.
Governor-General Richard Mason is a Liberal who describes his aid to other countries as motivated by guilt, while being prone to breaking down and crying. His critics are described as "the only sober people at a drunken orgy, trying to discuss serious matters with individuals in a state of advanced inebriation."
The Empire: Mexico becomes this under Benito Hermíon.
Imperial Germany succeeds in conquering most of continental Europe during the Global War, although they've been met with some widespread opposition a few decades into their rule.
The Emperor: Benito Hermíon declares himself this over Mexico.
The Federation: The British Empire, primarily through the Confederation of North America, is portrayed like this. It becomes only more so with the 1906 foundation of the United British Commonwealth of Nations.
The Migration: The Wilderness Walk qualifies as one, which is a mass exodus of American revolutionaries to Mexico who founded what would become the USM.
The Galloway Plan also counts, wherein the disaffected peoples of the CNA were urged to migrate westward with generous financial backing.
The Plague: An influenza epidemic occurs during the Global War, piling onto the misery.
The Republic: The CNA acts like this throughout the story, generally favoring more progressive policies than their westward counterpart.
The Smurfette Principle: There are only three named female characters in the entire book, none of which have very significant roles. Women's suffrage within the CNA, given in 1908, is also only addressed in a footnote.
Unexpected Successor: James Billington to Bruce Hogg for the General-Governorship of the CNA, not only because Billington was black, but because Perry Jay was seemingly groomed for the succession by Hogg before he suffered his massive stroke.
United Europe: With the exception of the United Kingdom, Spain and a few others, Germany has successfully unified Europe after the Global War.
Writer on Board: An In-Universe example, as the alternate Robert Sobel is an Australian that resides in Taiwan; the latter is essentially a Kramer Associates protectorate and the former is party to the United British Commonwealth of Nations. As such he frames Kramer Associates and the CNA in a rosy light, in comparison to the United States of Mexico.
Written by the Winners: The Confederation of North America, as noted above, doesn't see the United States' founding fathers in a particularly favorable light.