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Literature / Look to the West

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Cover of the first volume in the series

At the end of the day, 'revolution' means 'to go round in circles'.

Read it here, here, here, here,here,here and here.

Look to the West, written by Thomas "Thande" Anderson, is one of the longest-running and acclaimed alternate timelines on, a site dedicated, unsurprisingly, to Alternate History which also gave us Decades of Darkness.

The timeline is written as a series of clippings from sometimes biased or incomplete "local" histories written by the natives of the timeline, with multiple viewpoints mixed together for balance and the whole sprinkled with footnootes from the author (although technically from the team below), quotes real and fictional, and occasional helpful interludes in which a team of crosstime explorers from 20 Minutes into the Future (our future, it would seem) explain their findings.

It begins with George II of Great Britain tripping up on his coronation carpet, and from there things stay much as we know them for a couple of decades, then gradually diverge. The world is already noticeably different in 1795, when things start diverging dramatically and very, very bloodily. The timeline is currently in about 1930, but chapters are thematic, not chronological.

The timeline makes use of an idea known as "Alternate Timeline Brothers" in which people may be shaped by circumstances in different ways, be mergers of different siblings, have different names and lead different lives, but are fundamentally familiar. Such characters, and other dramatically different things having the same name, are indicated with an asterisk (*), short for "alternate". After a couple of generations, of course, these characters become considerably less common.

The prose timeline is augmented with a "raw" record of events, a helpful collection of wiki pages, and frequent maps.

The timeline is being published by Sea Lion Press, with four volumes so far: I: Diverge and Conquer, II: Uncharted Territory, III: Equal and Opposite Reactions, and IV: Cometh the Hour.... Thus far, three additional volumes have been posted in rough draft form on and the Sea Lion Press forums, to be published in time; the published versions include bonus maps, images and appendices such as a reference chronology.

Historical characters who appear or are referenced in the timeline:

  • Napoléon Bonaparte: His father fled Corsica after the French takeover, meaning Napoleon (or his close analogue) grows up in Britain under the name Leo Bone and joins the Royal Navy. Later joins and rules Royal France.
  • John Byron: Alternate Timeline Brother to Lord Byron, who travels Europe, writes poetry, and eventually becomes a spy for the French army.
  • Winston Churchill: The Duke of Marlborough is compared to both Churchill and their common ancestor the first Duke. Like Churchill, he is both the saviour of Britain and yet has a dark throwback reactionary streak running through his views.
  • Adolf Hitler: Michael Hiedler is the Alternate Timeline Brother of Adolf Hitler's real life great-grandfather Martin Hiedler. His descendent, Martin, would accidentally start the Pandoric War.
  • The House of Hanover
  • Louis XVI of France: In the story he is actually crowned Louis XVII due to his father (also named Louis) not dying young and becoming king first.
  • James Monroe
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: A general in the Austrian army.
  • Lord North
  • William Pitt The Elder
  • William Pitt The Younger: John Pitt is his Alternate Timeline Brother, who goes on to lead the East India Company rather than becoming Prime Minister.
  • Voltaire: As the story begins in 1727, he is often quoted with regards to current events in the early chapters.
  • George Washington: A central early character
  • Sir Robert Walpole
  • The Duke of Wellington: Richard Wesley, Lord Mornington, is roughly a mixture of the Duke and his real life brother Richard. (His father never changed the name to Wellesley.)

Provides examples of:

  • Airstrip One: The Societists give all the cities and territories under their control bland "ZonexUrby" names in keeping with their philosophy that acknowledging the differences between different regions leads to prejudice, division and war.
  • The Alliance: The Concert of Germany, an alliance of German states against the Habsburg Empire.
    • Subverted with the power blocs of the Pandoric War, which claim to be this in propaganda but are in reality hasty alliances of convenience constructed arbitrarily once war had broken out.
  • Allohistorical Allusion: A fair few.
    • To take one early example, there is a Battle of Trafalgar fought between Britain on one side and France and Spain on the other—but it's twenty years earlier than the one we know, and Britain loses.
    • A Mauré (Māori) visitor to Russia-controlled Yapon (Japan) considers how, if their history with Europeans had run differently, the Mauré could now be second-class citizens in their own country, just as the Yapontsi are. What he imagines is basically OTL treatment of Antipodean natives (although more Australian Aborigines than Māori).
      Autiaraux might now be a country whose very name had been overwritten with one from the other side of the world, whose folk were forbidden to speak their own tongue, whose children were taken away and raised in an alien culture—and those who escaped condemned to an existence as miserable as these street Yapontsi.
    • A lecture about the early history of ENA politics includes the aside "Maybe there’s a version of history out there where America stayed dominated by just two political parties, but I doubt it."
    • A lecture by a Siamese diplomat about his country's history says that King Ekkathat of Ayutthai "shamefully" surrendered to Burma, adding that apologists claim the Burmese could have destroyed the kingdom if the seige had continued, but this seems unlikely to him. IOTL, they did.
  • Alternate History: Well, duh.
  • America Is Still a Colony: With King Frederick having been spent much of his time in America, and identifying more with them than the British, the impetus for independence is considerably lessened. In fact, from Frederick onwards the Hanovers generally see being Emperor of North America as a more significant title than King of Britain, with the result that eventually the British declare independence.
  • America Saves the Day: For Britain, anyway, since it's still more-or-less part of the *British Empire. In an interesting variation, Spain is saved by *Mexico and its other monarchical former American colonies.
    • Also inverted. Without being preoccupied by the war against the South American UPSA, the Royal Navy could have defeated the invading fleets of Revolutionary France and prevented the devastation of south-west England.
  • Artifact Name: In-universe. What we know as South Carolina, as part of the Confederation of Carolina, is more often called South Province to avoid redundancy. This sticks even as the Confederation comes to encompass not just the Carolinas and Georgia, but also Florida and much of the Caribbean, putting South Province firmly in the northern part of the Confederation. It gets even worse after the Great American War, which leaves South Province on Carolina's northern border.
  • Armchair Detective: Apparently, as popular a concept in TTL's "ratiocinic fiction" as in ours. Examples mentioned include The Gentleman in the Tavern, The Quister Detective ("quister" being TTL's term for the telephone) and most famously, Marco Barone, an Italian chef who is regularly consulted by a New York private detective, but can't leave his kitchen for this.
  • Balkanize Me: China, Japan and the Ottoman Empire. Also happened to Spain due to the Congress of Copenhagen, with Portugal taking Galicia, Castile as a Portuguese puppet, and Aragon as part of the Crown of the Three Sicilies. Then seemingly turned back around with the New Spanish reconquest of Spain, reuniting most of the country.
    • India, already divided between a number of powers, gets shattered further by the Great Jihad in the mid-nineteenth century.
  • Bash Brothers: Ranajit Chatterjee, a Bengali officer and Edgar Tibbetts.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: The Great American War is a version of the American Civil War in which both sides are constitutionally incredibly racist. Instead of slaveowners vs emancipators, it's slaveowners vs (in part) people who think black people shouldn't be in America at all.
  • Blue and Orange Ideology: A central point of the whole project, according to Word of God, is to show how "Communism vs. Capitalism" and economics in general needn't necessarily been the defining ideological issue to risk nuclear war over. In LTTW, the major ideological divide is centered on culture: Societists vs. Diversitarianists. Societists desire a One World Order where all of mankind is unified under a single Earth-spanning nation with a single culture, single language and single religion based on a synthesis of patterns found in cultures all around the world, while stamping out all traces of the previous pre-Societist cultures. Diversitarianists champion diversity (hence the name) in cultures, languages, religious and spiritual customs, and historical viewpoints in the extreme — some hardcore Russian Diversitarians, for instance, would consider two people from different nationalities who share in a friendship to be clinically insane. So it's not just an alternate history, but an alternate historiography.
  • California Doubling: In universe: An article describing the Societist film industry notes that one advantage they had was filming in exotic reaches of the Combine, then adds that filmmakers in California are very good at making diverse parts of the country represent everywhere in the world.
  • Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp": Thande likes coming up with alternate terminology for basically anything invented or discovered after the timeline's Point of Divergence. Some examples represent older terms from OTL that have survived, such as 'alienist' for psychologist.
  • The Cavalry: Heinz Kautzman's Russo-Lithuanian-Danish-Courlandish force in the Battle of Paris.
  • Les Collaborateurs: The Hellfire Club, and others who co-operate, in a little historical reversion, with the occupying French forces.
  • Conveniently Interrupted Document: Used a few times, especially in Part #100, which at the end is revealed to be the result of the data being corrupted by the radio having been shot mid-transmission.
    • At the start of the third volume, the team is transmitting a political dictionary. The batteries run out just when we were going to get a proper definition of societism.
  • COVID-19 Pandemic: Plays a role in the Thande Institute storyline, making it hard for the dimension-hopping team to return to OTL Earth. Also influences TTL, as the Black Twenties sees a similar outbreak of the plague.
  • Cut Himself Shaving: Jorge Suárez, the UPSA Foreign Minister, finds it hard to believe that his friend and party leader is running death squads, until a terrified waitress claims that her boss was having a disagreement with the People's Volunteers about whether he'd paid his taxes and then died from banging his head on a door frame. It's strongly implied she was paid to tell the story in a way Suárez would find suspicious, since if he was simply told the man had been killed by the PVs he'd have refused to believe it.
  • Dead All Along: At some point after 1836, it's discovered that Michael Hiedler died in 1830 and the Kleinkreigers carried on without him. The various would-be rulers of Bavaria spent the Popular Wars trying to negotiate with someone who wasn't there.
  • Deadly Euphemism: "Racial purging", the term in this timeline for what we would call "ethnic cleansing".
    • Societists tend to do this with "Human (anything)", e.g. "Human Music" meaning an attempt to obliterate all traces of regionally distinctive culture from art forms.
    • Societists are also responsible for the Scientific Weapon, a euphemism so deceptive that they managed to get two Meridian officials to sign off on the first use of death luft without either of them realising what it actually was.
  • Depending on the Author: In-Universe, the author of one story in The World At War: From the Pages of the Discerner portrays Admiral Hughes as being largely sincere in his alliance with the Mauré and his association of their history with the Celtic Revival he's a part of. Another has him as cynically using them, and not being terribly impressed with his own Celtic forbears either. (They can't even decide what his name is; the one who thinks he was a genuine Celtic Revivalist calls him Owain ap Hughes, but to the one who thinks he was more hardheaded, he's just Owen Hughes.)
  • Disproportionate Retribution: George II's son Frederick laughes at his father when he trips on the coronation carpet. George's response? Exile Frederick, thus setting up the plot.
  • Doomed Hometown: A statistically improbable number of the timeline's heroes have their houses, villages, towns, or cities burned to the ground. Well, three, four at the outside, but this has proven enough to make the "Burned House Hero" a fandom running gag and to see the timeline humorously rechristened "Look To The Burning House Where Your Family Used To Live".
  • Driven to Suicide: ITTL, Antoine Lavoisier is forced to build a primitive gas-chamber and swallows the arsenic compound he is studying when he sees its effects. Possibly also Robespierre, although the situation there is a bit murkier.
  • Enemy Civil War: *Revolutionary France is plagued by constant power struggles, while Spain had the bad luck to have a bitter succession crisis just when the French were invading, and Prussia and Saxony fight each other while South Germany burns.
  • Evil Prime Minister: Joshua Churchill quickly goes from a well-meaning strongman working to rebuild England into a true tyrant.
  • Exact Words: Bartolomé Jaimes tells Carlos Priestley that he once knew the Societist leader Raúl Caraíbas, but now doesn't know if the man is alive or dead. After Priestley is gone, Caraíbas comes down the stairs and congratulates Jaimes for his deception. Jaimes insists he didn't lie: "I once knew Raúl Caraíbas" isn't saying you don't still know Raúl Caraíbas, and Jaimes didn't know for absolute certain that Caraíbas hadn't slipped in the bath and killed himself until he came downstairs.
  • False Flag Operation: The Meridians use the New Spanish flag against the Portuguese in the course of the Popular Wars. This is not without consequences to their national reputation. They get called out on this behavior, even by their own people, and there are worries that the laws and customs of war won't be applied to them by their enemies in future wars.
  • Fantastic Racism: An alt-history version of this trope occurs here with the spread of "Linnaean racism". The Jacobins take the taxonomist's distinction between human "strains" much too seriously, and start erecting conquered territory into "Latin Republics" and "Germanic Republics", "regardless", as the Duke of Marlborough complains, "of what all historical and legal precedent say, to speak nothing of simple convenience."
  • The Federation: The Empire of North America in the Americas and the German Federal Empire and Danubia in Europe. Broadly averted with the UPSA, which (unlike Argentina in our timeline) is much more unitary earlier on due to the need to unite against an external foe.
    • A number of countries get more federalist in the 1840s due to the nobility and established interests using this to push back against more central representation by the people, which is dubbed the 'Federalist Backlash' by historians.
  • Fictional Political Party: The timeline has its own terminology for the political axis: a metallic spectrum where left-wing is "cobrist" (copper), right-wing is "doradist" (gold), and centre is "argentist" (silver). Accordingly, parties in this timeline are a bit different from ours. In addition to Britain and America having Whigs, Tories and Liberals as IOTL, there are:
    • The Empire of North America has the Patriots (initially just pro-royalist, become doradist as party lines are drawn, but shift during the Great American War), the Constitutionalists (argentist, trying to be both the party of the Western frontiersmen and the party of the Southern rich) who split into the Whigs (pro-slavery) and the Neutral Party (argentist), the American Radical Party (cobrist), and the Supremacists (anti-slavery racists).
    • Post-Restoration France has the Liberty Party or Rouges (cobrist), the Royalist Party or Blancs (doradist), and the Moderate Party or Bleus (argentist). The Rouges split into the Adamantine Party and the Revolution Party or Noirs (neo-Jacobins), while the Blancs and Bleus merge into the National Party or Verts.
    • The United Provinces of South America has the Solidarity (later Colorado) Party (cobrist), the Amarillo (later Unionist) Party (doradist), the Adamantine Party (argentist). A later addition is the Mentian Party (deep-cobrist [what we'd call socialist], combined with German ethnic solidarity).
    • The Kingdom of Great Britain has the Phoenix Party (whose only real policy is keeping Joshua Churchill in power), the Scottish Party (Scot Nats), the Regressives (doradist) and the Radicals (cobrist) who split into the Green Radicals (cobro-argentist) and the Populist Party (cobrist but prone to infighting).
    • 1920s Italy has the Alliance Party (mainstream cobrist), the Union Party (probably doradist) and the Action Party, which is the political wing of the Romulan Order, which is Basically Fascism.
  • Fictional United Nations: The Alliance of Sovereign Nations is mentioned in the framing story and occasionally when the history texts connect something to the present day. As a Diversitarian organisation, however, it is at pains to have no power over the sovereign nations at all and its slogan is "Divided we Stand, United we Fall". We finally see it get formed in Volume IX.
  • Final Battle: The Jacobin Wars get a climactic one. After the republican authorities in Paris surrender and restore the monarchy, the 80,000-strong Grande Armée under Pierre Boulanger remains in the field and blitzes the capital, defended by 55,000 French, British, Irish, and American soldiers. The defenders hold out long enough for the Russo-Curono-Lithuanian expeditionary force to relieve them, while Boulanger himself dies very dramatically.
  • Follow the Leader: In-universe: all the satirical magazines of the 19th century seem to be modelled on the Kingdom of Great Britain's The Ringleader: Notre amis, Monsieur Loyalnote ; The Leprechaun, or, The Irish Ringleader; Weinig Petrus, or, The American Ringleader. (IOTL Punch! originally had the subtitle The London Charivari, after a French magazine.)
  • Framing Device: The crosstime exploration team in the present day (of 2019).
  • Frank's 2000 Inch TV: The French engineer Isembard Brunel (the father of the more famous Isembard Kingdom Brunel from OTL) builds a gigantic semaphore shutterbox on the side of a building in Paris that's capable of displaying 324-pixel images.
  • Gas Chamber: The Phlogisticateurs are devices similar to these. The French Revolution uses them to execute their enemies.
  • Generation Xerox: Once more, we have another British king named Frederick driven from Britain, though this time he is not exiled by his father— but rather flees to avoid dealing with Joshua Churchill.
  • Golem: Golems are very popular in the fantasy fiction of this world because they can be a Recycled In Space version of Automata set in a mediaeval setting before technology would allow the real thing to be built.
  • Good Republic, Evil Empire: Inverted, it's republicanism that is in the early 19th century tarred with the brush of evil (of course, this was somewhat true in the 1810s even in our own world). Partly due to Author Appeal.
  • Head-in-the-Sand Management: Charles Fox.
  • Historical Domain Character: Different people have different destinies. They may do more or less for very different causes. The effect this has on how history perceives them is something of a matter of perspective.
    • It's a well-known fact on that if it really happened, a completely implausible thing can be slipped into your timeline. In this case, the entire career of Moric Benyovsky.
  • Hunter of His Own Kind: Show Within a Show example. One of the seminal works in the "Automaton fiction" craze of the 1820s-1850s period is The Venator, about a Killer Robot whose role is to hunt down and kill the last of his own rebellious kind, and once this is accomplished, to dismantle himself.
  • Icon of Rebellion:
    • The bloody-red flag with the inverted black fleur-de-lys of the French Revolution, inspired by when the unknown soldier L'Épurateur flew a regime flag upside-down from the top of the Bastille after dipping it in the blood of a fallen reactionary leader.
    • The United Provinces of South America has the Cross of Burgundy with flipped colours, the Torch of Liberty and later the Sun of Cordoba.
    • The purple 'Asterisk of Liberty' in Britain, stemming from combining English and Irish cross flags with the newly invented cheap purple tyrine dye associated with 'every man a king'.
    • Subverted with Le Diamant, who began as a revolutionary leader but whose writings inspired the moderate constitutionalist ideology of Adamantinism, which uses a diamond symbol.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Michael Hiedler refuses to kill his nemesis personally on the grounds that slaughtering animals for the pot is women's work.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: Often used for chapter titles, such as a chapter about a Portuguese revival being titled "The Unsinkable Lusitania". Also sometimes used in the text, for example Dashwood being given the nickname "Sooty Sweep" apparently purely so his alliance with Native Americans becomes "Sooty Sweep and Sioux".
  • Internal Retcon:
    • The ASN did this in the mid-twentieth century to suppress evidence that elements of Societism had not only been used by Diversitarian nations but been successful. This led to the Streisand Effect and so the modern ASN is more subtle in its censorship, glossing over such things rather than denying them.
    • The Societist Combine had the Biblioteka Mundial, in charge of rewriting history and later managing all news across the Combine. The Silent Revolution led to the official narrative changing so often that almost no reliable information on it survives.
  • It Will Never Catch On: The In-Universe writers of From the Pages of the Discerner are very fond of this, having characters muse that "if only" there was a way of sending Lectel messages through the air, or insisting that Danubia will never have a single language. And, above all, that the Societists aren't going to achieve anything.
  • Just the First Citizen: Rodrigus Alfarus becomes de facto ruler of the Societist Combine, but claims no title beyond "Kapud", his rank in the unfortunately necessary organisation for spreading Societism that would look a lot like an army if Societism wasn't so opposed to that kind of thing.
  • Kneel Before Frodo: King Charles X of France does this at the end of the Popular Wars to his rebellious army as a dramatic gesture that subdues their rage—he also gives all the veterans the right to vote.
  • Last of His Kind: Emperor Ferdinand IV of the Holy Roman Empire, and he is fully aware of it.
  • Locked Room Mystery: Jean de Lisieux's eventual, unexplained fate.
  • Lost in Transmission: The 100th chapter, and finale of Part 2, is full of static, represented by "#####". It's also "titled" No Title Entered, and none of the footnotes are present (with the footnote markers all saying [N]). It ends with a note from the Thande Institute that the fate of the researchers is now unknown.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: Volume IV opens with the lyrics to John Lennon's Imagine contrasting with images of horrific destruction, reflecting the fact that the song pretty much describes the goals of Societism— but Societists also believe that Utopia Justifies the Means.
  • Moral Guardians / Executive Meddling: In-universe, some of the "Automaton Craze" books of the 1820s-50s are subject to this, such as The Cogwheel Turns, where the original ending (that humans are themselves an automaton creation of an earlier vanished race, identified with legends of pagan gods) was censored.
    • Furthermore, many history books in this timeline have considerable censorship for ideological reasons, which the crosstime team have to work around.
  • Moustache de Plume: Clara Keppel, founder of scientific romance, was published under the name Cuthbert Lucas.
  • Multinational Team: Not uncommon as one might expect but the the final stages of the Jacobin Wars aka The War of the Nations is still quite notable because basically every single European nation and the Anglophone North Americans fought against the French Latin Republic.
  • My Friends... and Zoidberg: “I would like to thank all you gentlemen for your attendance...along with Mr. Churchill.” From Leo Bone at his father's funeral. (Leo had wanted to burn London down again, blaming Churchill for his father's heart attack, but was dissuaded.)
  • Nations as People: The personification of the ENA is Lady Septentria, who bears a sword in one hand and an olive branch in the other, and has a snake wrapped around her like a sash. The 1862 WorldFest saw the unveiling of a huge statue of her in New York Harbour.
  • No Place for Me There: Subverted with the Celatores: Societism teaches that war is always wrong, therefore, should the definitely-not-soldiers who the Combine must use to maintain their order find themselves killing someone (which, in theory, should be a rare thing, since their "opponents" should simply realise the rightness of Societism), they will be sentenced to execution. Said execution will take place on their eightieth birthday, following a stay in a "military prison" that looks suspiciously like a pleasant retirement.
  • Nuclear Weapons Taboo: Zig-zagged. There is no taboo against using nukes, with dozens of (tactical) nuclear weapons used in anger in the modern era. There is, however, an even larger taboo against using them against civilian targets (and, related to this, against putting them on ballistic missiles rather than bombers). In fact, there's something of a taboo about using missiles at all, since one of their earliest uses (with deathluft/alkahest warheads) was by the Societists, and the ENA (mistakenly) thought they were threatening civilian targets.
  • One Nation Under Copyright: At one point most of India is owned by a consortium of European trade cooperations, called International Oversight Board for East Indian Trade, while the Russo-Lithuanian Pacific Company dominates the northern Pacific, including Japan.
  • One-Steve Limit: Averted with many monarchies of course, like OTL, in which many of the monarchs draw from only a handful of names. Also averted with the list of American presidents, in which Lewis Burwell is succeeded by Lewis Faulkner - as they are both of the same generation and named for the earlier president Lewis Studebaker, despite leading rival parties.
  • One World Order: The goal of Societism, one of the most influential ideologies of the timeline.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: When George II leads his troops into the Battle of Dettingen (as he did in OTL) he gets a bullet in the shoulder (unlike OTL), but fights the battle to the end. Averted in that the infected wound kills him some weeks after, leading to the War of British Succession.
  • Outside/Inside Slur: The split of the Radical party into "Purple" and "Green" factions leads to the term "over-ripe aubergine" for someone who looks green, but is actually purple.
  • Peace Conference:
    • The Congress of Copenhagen is this timeline's analogue of the Congress of Vienna.
    • And then the Congress of Brussels happens a couple of decades after that. The difference is that this one is marked by more Teeth-Clenched Teamwork, as nationalism has started to take over the European powers' ruling classes, rather than them seeing it as a mutual enemy to all suppress together.
  • Pirates vs. Ninjas: Happened during the *Crimean War when the Ottoman Empire sends recently subjected pirates from the Barbary against ninjas in Russian service.
  • Please Select New City Name:
    • After a rebellion by French-speakers in Quebec, the Empire of North America either anglicises (Montréal -> Mount Royal) or outright renames (Quebec City -> Wolfeston) all its settlements with French-sounding names.
    • Similarly, after adopting Russophile cultural policies to appease those alienated by the earlier Tsars' westward-looking stance, Russia russifies some of its more German-sounding names.
    • After Corea invades China, they restore the ancient Corean names to every village and city they conquer.
  • Point of Divergence: The Point of Divergence isn't exactly flashy: at the coronation of George II, a musician plays a wrong note, surprising the king and causing him to trip. His son laughs at this, which pisses George off enough to exile the prince to the American colonies, thereby radically changing the course of both nations and all nations deriving from them
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: Happens to officials who fall out of favor with their rulers; however, the more typical post is somewhere in the Americas or the East Indies. More visible in the leadup to the Popular Wars.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Fox redeems himself somewhat spectacularly.
  • The Republic: The Corsican Republic and the United Provinces of South America, the latter also counts as The Federation. The French Latin Republic is a villainous example.
  • La Résistance: The Kleinkriegers ("Kleinkrieger" being this world's equivalent of "Guerilla").
  • Richard Nixon, the Used Car Salesman: Many examples (for instance General Mozart), although Thande's at pains to point out it's more "Person Who was Born in Richard Nixon's Place the Used Car Salesman".
  • Riddle for the Ages: No-one really knows what happened to Lisieux, though many theories are put forward. Not even the author. Likewise with who shot Joshua Churchill. A third mysterious disappearance is Princess Daniela of Venezuela during the Seige of Fredericksburg.
  • Rightful King Returns:
    • Frederick the First of Great Britain returning from his American exile. The New Spanish repeat it during the Popular Wars, which in the future of the timeline will be written about, appropriately enough, by *Tolkien.
    • The return of King Louis XVII to Paris, with backing from all the other nations who want to take down France.
    • And the return of the New Spanish Bourbons to Spain itself.
  • Rising Empire: Much of the timeline is about the foundation and rise of the Empire of North America and the United Provinces of South America who ends taking over most of the British and Portuguese empire, respectively.
  • Scrapbook Story: Told through excerpts from history books, as selected by a team of parachronic explorers deciphering how this world works. A fun conceit is that some volumes change this up a bit, reflecting the survey team's location and situation. Besides volumes where the tone and focus of the history books available reflect the country the team are currently based in (sometimes verging on blatant propaganda), Volume VI describes the Pandoric War entirely through in-universe fiction; Volume VII is excerpted from educational Motext broadcasts; and Volume IX consists of transcripts of public lectures.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The crosstime exploration team, Jacques Tisserant, Heinrich Kautzmann, and Pascal Schmidt are all semi-cameos for other members.
    • King Henry IX is close to Charles James Fox and other Radicals in Parliament. Naturally, his political enemies nickname him "King Radical".
    • The chapter in which John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough, meets his mysterious fate is titled "John Dies at the End".
    • A chapter about Chinese expansion is titled "China Will Grow Larger".
    • Moritz Benyovsky is recorded in a destroyed Japanese tapestry as "The Bringer of Chaos, the Destroyer of Worlds, the Oncoming Storm".
    • The manoeuvre with which the Duke of Mornington defeats the French becomes known as Mornington's Crescent.
    • Two successive Ottoman sultans who disapproved of Grand Vizier Dalmat "were mysteriously found to have accidentally brutally slit their throats while shaving".
    • The interlude describing Automaton fiction is called "Do Automatons Dream of Steampunk Sheep?"
    • When it was suggested that Joshua Churchill could take the throne, he responded "Do you have any idea how much power I would have to give up to become king?"
    • The entry about John Byron's adventures in Switzerland is called "John Byron, GENTLEMAN ADVENTURER!"
    • During the French Revolution, the Marquis de Ségur observes that "What the shopkeeper or the farmer or the peasant wants more than anything is not liberty or rights or even riches, but simply the knowledge that tomorrow will be much like today", with a footnote even pointing out that he's channeling Lord Vetinari.
    • The entry about the conference Emperor Frederick II of the ENA held with the five knights of the realm considered for the role of Lord Deputy notes that it was the basis for a great historical play, later adapted into a film, but now chiefly remembered through a farcical parody under the title Five Knights at Freddy's.
    • A female resistance leader in Spanish California (with a public identity as an airheaded socialite) adopts the Appropriated Appellation of "La Zorra".
    • The interlogue that opens Volume IV, in which Dr Wotstyn explains his current situation and why he is now chucking entire books through the Portal, is called "Silence in the Library". Since Wostyn's superiors apparently disagree with his policy of establishing the historical background first, and demand more works about the present day, the next section is called "Spoilers".
    • The Crystal Dome at the London WorldFest, esentially this timeline's counterpart to the Crystal Palace, is a bit of a maze inside, and apparently there was a rumour that the guard would only show visitors the exit if they solved complex tests of his own devising.
    • In a film based on the life of Liam Wesley, Duke of Mornington, the Bad Duke is informed "The President has been kidnapped by Nindzhyas. Are you a Bad enough Duke to rescue the President?"
    • The Prime Minister of France in the build up to the Pandoric War is Leo Bone's grandson Napoleon Leclerc. When Parliament is in uproar, he calls for attention by declaring "It is I! Leclerc!"
    • An Italian military attaché presents his Danubian host with a crunchy hazelnut chocolate (developed to make the most of what little chocolate is arriving in Europe while the American powers go to war). The Danubian's reaction (“Why, Mr Military Attaché, you are spoiling me!”) refers to the "Ambassador's Reception" Ferrero Rocher ad.
    • The Simese/Feng China front of the Pandoric War is basically The Vietnam War, even taking place in Annam. When the Feng soldiers have a victory, they start singing a song from an opera originally sung by a group of warrior women; this timeline's Chinese version of "Ride of the Valkyries".
    • An in-universe work possibly exaggerating the French-English of Mount Royal (Montreal) has someone using the phrase "What is it that it is?".
    • The author of The Children’s Complete Cyclopaedia is Arthur Yew, a reference to the TTL author of The Children's Encyclopedia, Arthur Mee.
    • Henri Éclatier, a former school bully and by the Pandoric War a cowardly, womanizing and cynical officer in the French army. His name translates literally as "Henry Lightninger", or less literally as "Harry Flashman".
    • After the restoration of Frederick II, the British Radical Party starts splitting into “Green” and “Purple” factions. An apparent reference to the Drazi civil war in Babylon 5.
    • The history of TTL cinema ends with a description of a film in which the heroine, Annie, and her friend Carolina "Car" Roosevelt pursue kidnappers who have taken Annie's boyfriend, an upper-class New Yorker. Although officially titled Annie's Quest, it is better known by Annie's most famous line: "Car, Where's My Dude?"
    • The dictatorial regime in Italy in the 1920s takes its name from the founder of Rome: the Romulan Empire. The chapter outlining the Empire is titled "Beneath the Raptor's Wings".
    • The somewhat unfeasible career of the anti-Societist crusader Eljiso (whose nom de guerre is taken from combining the male pronouns of Spanish, Lithuainian, and Turkish, and who appears to have been everywhere, if not quite all at once) is based on the Amalgamated Individual of "he" in the Destroying History With Bad Translations videos. Thande calls this "quite possibly the silliest reference I've ever put into LTTW".
  • Show Within a Show: Fiction and art have also taken a different course in this world, and some works are periodically mentioned. Most notable is the "Automaton fiction" craze of the 1830s-50s period, which effectively replaces Frankenstein and the rise of vampire fiction in our timeline. (Vampires in this world are considered as obscure as, say, naga or drow are to the general public in our timeline; golems are much better known than our timeline due to authors using them as a mediaeval stand-in for automata in works set in the past).
  • Sidetracked by the Analogy: Mentioned by name when Pablo Sanchez, making a point about the stupidity of racism, says "Ask any anatomist: beneath the skin every man is the same". To his annoyance, debate on his statement centers around the ethics of human dissection.
  • Simple Country Lawyer: Future ENA President Lewis Faulkner in the 1880s:
    As a lawyer, he was known for taking cases "pro bono" when the plaintiff was poor and disadvantaged, as in the case of miners mistreated by the powerful Gualpa mining corporations. His political enemies accused of him doing so purely as a publicity stunt, but this won him great popularity with the people of Gualpa. The corporations often appointed expensive (and more capable) Harvard lawyers from the East, and Lewis became notorious for his habit of emotively appealing to the (local) juries and attacking his opposite numbers as stuffy outsiders. In this he formed part of a longstanding American tradition, which may be described as anti-elitism or anti-intellectualism depending on where one stands.
  • Sociopathic Hero: Michael Hiedler. A man whose burning hatred of just about everybody fuels his dark charisma (just for fun, try saying his name out loud). May, or may not, eat people.
  • Space-Filling Empire: Lampshaded. A large colonial empire in Africa is actually called the Space-Filling Empire after its two architects, a Mr. Space and a Mr. Filling.
  • Steampunk: Steam technology has received a boost relative to out timeline, with highly awesome (although sometimes impractical) results.
  • Stranger in a Familiar Land: Frederick, upon returning to Britain and reclaiming his rightful throne, finds that he does not fit in there - having been born and raised in Hanover, and then spending most of his adult life up to that point in the American colonies, echoing the situation of his grandfather, George I (though at least he can speak the language). Voltaire aptly describes him as "an Englishman to the Germans, an American to the English, and a German to the Americans".
  • Streisand Effect: In-Universe, when ratiocinic fiction author Slim Havemeyer writes a book about an Impossible Theft from a fictional bank, the bank he worked for twenty years previously sues him for allegedly exposing their security system. Not only does the headlines this causes make the book an international bestseller, the bank itself is nearly ruined when his fans start closing their accounts.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: London during the French invasion of England.
  • Succession Crisis: Just like the real eighteenth century, virtually every time a monarch drops dead someone decides to dispute it and it starts a War of Succession.
  • Suddenly Ethnicity: In-universe example: at the height of its popularity the 1830s sequent (comic) The Black Shadow reveals that the Coat, Hat, Mask hero is not called "Black" due to his costume, and turns out to be written by an abolitionist making a point. The Caroline and Virginian "slaveocracy" is not happy.
  • Taking You with Me: This is how James Charles Fox decides to go: blowing up the building he's in and taking a bunch of French invaders with him.
  • Tank Goodness: "Cugnots" are steam-driven wagons used by the French revolutionaries as troop transports and mobile gun platforms. Every other nation eventually gets in on the action after seeing how useful they are.
  • Team Switzerland:
    • Virginia declares neutrality during the Great American War.
    • France becomes the centre of an armed neutrality bloc (the Marseilles Protocol) in the Pandoric War. Everyone expects them to get drawn in eventually, but the other blocs are fighting on so many fronts, the last thing they want to do is open another one.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Civilised: The French Revolution starts out being as violent as our history's... and never really calms down, eventually adding in a touch of omnipresent surveillance and racism to really spice things up. In the long term this has the effect of forcing nearly all reformist movements to be more nonviolent by default, just to avoid getting tarred with the same brush as Robespierre and de Lisieux.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: Jean de Lisieux is a dark version of this. A Totalitarian Utilitarian, he believes killing is monstrous because it robs the Republic of a warm body that could be used to build houses or warships in conditions that are slavery in all but name. He will occasionally break his rule for people he considers particularly politically dangerous, but always reluctantly.
  • Titled After the Song: Not intentional, according to Word of God (unless it was subconscious) but Stairway to Heaven does have the title in an apposite context (considering the number of heroes whose houses are burned down):
    There's a feeling I get when I look to the west
    And my spirit is crying for leaving
    In my thoughts I have seen rings of smoke through the trees
    And the voices of those who stand looking
  • Tomato Surprise: Show Within a Show example—The New Eden, the book which started the Automaton Craze in the literature of this world, ends with the revelation that the 'humans' living in the roboticised landscape are themselves automata. This twist is then played with by other books inspired by it, such as The Cogwheel Turns, which suggests that the world is trapped in a cycle in which the dominant race create automata to do their work, grow lazy and decadent, and then the automata rise up and take their place—and the original edition also suggests humans are themselves the creation of an earlier race...
  • Totalitarian Utilitarian: Jean-Baptiste Robespierre, Jean de Lisieux, and implied with Pablo Sanchez.
  • The Triads and the Tongs: The Sanhedui or Heaven and Earth Society, which became the Triads in our timeline, in LTTW realises its original purpose; the Society takes advantage of a Qing dynasty civil war to attempt a Ming restoration.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Footnotes will occasionally highlight how some of the quoted history books get it wrong, either through lack of knowledge or just plain bias. Most prominently, a common prejudice in the 'present day' of LTTW (excluding some revisionist historians) is that the Japanese are considered subject to Creative Sterility and are intrinsically inferior to neighbouring Asian races, which obviously puts a spin on historical accounts.
  • Un-person: The Societist Combine, inevitably, does this, with all the founders of the Combine except Kapud Alfarus being written out of history during the Alfaran era, and then Alfarus getting the same fate during the purist backlash. There was a rumour that during this period, the Black Guards found an asicom (photo) of Alfarus apparently standing alone, everyone else in the picture having been removed. So they removed him as well, leaving a picture of an empty room.
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: Jean de Lisieux. The Societists, or at least those of the Combine, are also like this. (At some point between Sanchez and the horrific end of the Pandoric War, Sanchez's "It is an unforgivable crime to take a human life" has had "without good reason" added to it.)
  • War Is Hell: The Franco-Italian front of the Popular Wars is notorious in the cultural imagination for being a bitter, brutal struggle where many lives were spent for little gain: it becomes known as the Nightmare War.
  • We ARE Struggling Together: The Populist uprising in Germany. Theoretically all the groups involved are inspired by Pascal Schmidt and are working to make a united republican Germany. In practice the rebels in Brandenburg refuse to merge with Schmidt's "Volksrepublik Deutschland" which incenses Schmidt— he views them as a bigger threat to Germany than the petty monarchies they seek to overthrow, because all he fought for would be in vain if it just replaces petty feuding monarchies with petty feuding republics and no united Germany.
  • Wham Episode:
    • The Popular Wars begin in Portugal's colonial empire, of all places.
    • The 100th chapter ends with the "narrators", a research team from another timeline, being violently arrested by English (no, not British) security forces.
    • Volume VIII ends with a disease strangely similar to Covid-19 appearing in England in the framing story, with rumours that it escaped from a lab being dismissed because the lab in question was a physics lab. In other words, exactly the sort of lab that might be trying to reverse engineer the research team's transporter tech, if they've realised what it is.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Charles James Fox admires the French Revolution's progressive stance and hopes to reform Britain so it, too, can live up to the ideals of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity. Unfortunately, the French have long since drowned these principles in a sea of blood.
  • Zerg Rush: The French Revolutionary conscript armies were rather like this in our history, but the fact that regiments suspected of disloyalty are sent on suicide missions doesn't help matters.