It all began in 1997 when an amateur linguist and history buff from New Zealand named Andrew Smith decided to conduct a thought experiment. What if the Celtic languages of the inhabitants of Britain were supplanted by the Latin spoken by the settlers in that arrived during the period of Roman rule. What if these Romano-Britons were able to at least partially resist the Saxon Invasion that occurred after that Romans left in the Sixth Century AD,forming a kingdom in what in our world became southwestern England and Wales. What would the resulting language, country and people be like.
By applying to Latin the same sound-changes that affected the ancestor of modern Welsh over the past two millennia, Smith generated a conlang that he named Brithenig (i.e. 'Britannic'), spoken in a nation named Kemr (Cambria). The quote at the top of the page is Brithenig for "A nation without a language is a nation without a heart". A lot of people liked both of them and were curious about that language and culture.
As interest grew in the world of the Kemrese people began to develop their own ideas about the world they lived in and what else might be different about it. This led to people asking their own little what ifs:
- What if the Roman Empire established a settlement in what is now Poland late in their history and took enough of a foothold that when the Slavs invaded, they were able to maintain the language and culture and give birth to a Slavic-influenced Romance language?
- What if the British colonies in America gained their independence a little later and with a lot less bloodshed and (due partly to a slight mellowing of Scandinavian influence) were not interested in expanding beyond the Mississippi River?
- What if Castile and Aragon never were united?
- What if Japan was opened up not by men with guns but by men offering land and riches in return and asking nicely?
- What if China did not dismantle its navy and remained a sea power in East Asia allowing it to successfully resist European colonialists in the Nineteenth Century?
And that's just for starters...
As you can see that scope of the project expanded beyond just one conlang and just one country to include an entire world a lot like Real Life but different as a result of several different For Want of a Nail situations turning out differently.
Tropes featured in this work :
- Allohistorical Allusion : Literally hundreds, many of the highly ironic variety, referencing things from major political events to minor pop-cultural tidbits.
- Alternate History : Well, obviously.
- Alternate History Wank: Averted. While Scandinavia is the dominant power, taking US place *here*, it's not a superpower in the modern sense.
- A Nazi by Any Other Name : The Holy Roman Empire under the leadership of Hessler and the nationalist instead of communist analogue of the USSR, the SNOR (basically militarist White Russian monarchists/nationalists on acid).
- Animal Wrongs Group : The "Ecotopic" movement which was the Green movement in the real world actually ruled some countries as Ecotopic Republics. Examples are Oregon, Basra [Southern Iraq], and the Moluccas.
- Brand X=/=Bland-Name Product: Many of the companies in Il Bethisad. Some of them even made a disclaimer that for example, "Niozul is NOT Nestle!"
- Subverted in that many real world products and companies do appear.
- Commie Land : Subverted. The White Russians defeat the Bolsheviks in the Russian Civil War. The first Communist country gets establish in Bavaria instead (which makes it the IB equivalent of East Germany). Then there was the Yugoslavian Confederation of Soviet Danubian States, which was Yugoslavia plus Bulgaria. It was still ruled by Tito though.
- Cool Airship : Many examples here, since aircraft technology in Ill Bethisad is at best at 1950s levels.
- Divided States of America: What is the United States and Canada in our world is divded up into ten different nations. The Closest Equivalent to the the USA is the Sovereign League and Covenant of North America, and while they are the domainent political, economic, and military power in North America, they are more like Canada in terms of temprament.
- Divided We Fall: Veneda political system has evolved from old Polish parliament and is now intensely chaotic (which somehow resembles Polish politics right after the fall of Communism in the early nineties). As a result the state has around three different parliaments and around fifty different parties that have some representatives - and hundreds of ones they don't. It's a miracle the state still functions.
- Eagle Land : Semi-averted. The US-equivalent of Ill Bethisad, the North American League, is more like Canada, but still culturally resembles Real Life US as well as Canada.
- Expanded Universe / Shared Universe : Basically this entire World Building project, since it's pretty much a Spin-Off of the original Conlang project.
- Fantasy Counterpart Culture : Or rather a linguistic example. Some nations were changed due to the linguistic change (i. e. what if Welsh was based on Romance languages instead of Celtic), but some are still recognizable enough to be identified as such. Examples :
- Kemr/Cambria is Wales.
- Veneda and the Venedans are analogues of Poland and Poles. The Republic of the Two Crowns is an analogue of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The equivalent of Slovakia is known as Slevania.
- Nassland is like Karelia with some Finland thrown in. Finland itself does exist, but as part of the Scandinavian Realm, with the Danish royal house as the unifying factor.
- In addition, if posits what if extinct languages in OTL did survive and evolve in time [e.g. Dalmatia, Tocharian, and Baltic Prussian.]
- As well as adding completely new languages like Montreiano (which was spoken in OTL Monterey area and is like Gratuitous Spanish but as a language in its own right and Xliponian which is spoken in the Epirus area of Albania and Greece in Real Life).
- Some nations are more culturally and linguistically assimilated by their neighbours than in our history, i. e. the Czech language is more a heavily germanified Slavic language.
- Fun with Acronyms - the Commie Nazis in this reality were a horrible Russian right-wing nationalists called Alliance for National Rebirth of Russia. The joke? The acronym written in cyryllic script looks like CHOP, but the form SNOR is used everywhere in the materials
- In Spite of a Nail : Despite some people never existing in the timeline [e.g. Sigmund Freud], someone that resembles them still do the things in the Ill Bethisad timeline. For example, Sigmund Freud in Real Life is replaced by S. Froyt. And then many historical events in Real Life also happen in the timeline.
- Never Was This Universe: Kind of, it had multiple points of divergence, but you could usually find a single POD in a region.
- Nuke 'em : Used by the Holy Roman Empire against Lodz,Veneda. Again used by the Australians against Beijing, China, which replaced Japan as the Asian Axis equivalent.
- Richard Nixon the Used Car Salesman : He was indeed a salesman in IB, but also a Quaker activist in the Republic of Alta California.
- Adolf Hitler became a respectable writer in Ill Bethisad. But this does not stop an expy of him named Hessler from taking over The Holy Roman Empire and embarking in a second global war.
- Schizo Tech : Airships still prevail over heavier-than-air aircraft and even in the early 21. century, there is still no equivalent of the internet.
- Shout-Out: Egypt becoming a Scottish colony, with some Egyptians being descendants of ancient Scots, is one to L. Sprague de Camp's story "The Green Magician", as well as the Total War After-Action Report A Scotsman in Egypt.
- Sliding Scale of Alternate History Plausibility : The original Conlang project is a clear Type I (Hard). The Expanded Universe / Shared Universe veers more into the soft territory of the scale, ranging widely from Type II (Hard/Soft) to Type IV (ignores Butterfly of Doom completely), naturally Depending on the Writer. But this is justified, since the authors have stated that they're trying to create a purely fun Alternate Universe, not a completely realistic one. Overall, it is likely a low-end Type III timeline.
- Spell My Name with an "S" : Basically, alternate orthography in real world languages are sometimes used in Ill Bethisad. For example, not only Japanese in Ill Bethisad is based on the Kansai Regional Accent, but also their Romaji seemed to be based on Spanish and Portuguese. note
- United Europe: Scandinavian Realm as the name implied unites the Scandinavian countries. The EU counterpart is Hanse, having evolved into trade union.
- What If? : The basic premise of the web original is what if Welsh was based on Romance rather than Celtic. Then things start to change...
- Zeppelins from Another World : Airships replace aircraft after an airplane crash in the 1930s seals the passenger airplane's fate in Ill Bethisad.