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Alternate History Scenario Seeds: Longer lived Leaders
dalecoz

I just got to thinking about the lifespan of various leaders.  There is a lot of potential for Alternate History in how long various leaders lived.  Here are just a few to get the creative juices flowing.

 

1.      Long-lived Lincoln:  Let’s say Abraham Lincoln survives the assassination attempt and lives to a ripe old age—maybe another twenty or thirty years. What impact does that have?  Does he run again in 1868, ala Franklin Roosevelt, or does he respect the informal two-term limit?  Oh, and here’s a twist: What if the assassination attempt leaves him borderline incapacitated, maybe with some borderline brain-damage?  It would be a long time until 1868, and there was no constitutional provision for presidential incapacitation at the time, then there was the problem of his VP being very unpopular among Republican leaders. 

2.      Long-lived Lenin:  What if Lenin survived—maybe avoided having a stroke until a ripe old age—twenty or thirty years down the road?  That would put him around until the 1940s or even 1950s.  How would the Soviet Union develop with him as leader?  How would he react to the inevitable challenge from Stalin?  Would he continue with the New Economic Plan or would he go for a Stalin-like heavy industrialization?  Would he do the kinds of mass purges than Stalin did?  If World War II happened, how good of a war leader would he be?  How good would the Soviet Army be?

3.      Speaking of Stalin, what if he lived to a ripe old age of 80 or 90?  Maybe he’ still around when (if) Ronald Reagan gets elected.  Now that would be interesting times.  I wonder how the space race would have went with him in charge instead of Khrushchev.  I wonder if we would have still been able to avoid a nuclear war.

4.      Long-lived Trotsky:  What role would Trotsky have played during and after World War II if he had survived in exile?

5.      Long-Lived Napoleon: This could go two ways.  We could have him live much longer in exile, maybe even making a comeback at some point.  We could also have him survive in power, which would mean not doing the disastrous march to and from Moscow.  Let’s say he opts for a more patient strategy, maybe expanding his puppet kingdom of Poland at Russia’s expense, then waiting for the Russians to come to him.  That would be risky.  There were plenty of people in Europe, and even in France who would be happy to bring him down if they saw signs of weakness, In any case, let’s say he survives and remains in power in France, at least for another five or ten years.  How does that change things?  How does European Great Power politics develop?

6.      Long-lived Hitler?  Not sure how to get to that, and it’s kind of a nightmare scenario, but how do you get an 85-year old Hitler retiring from his place at the head of the Third Reich.  For a real challenge, how about him being the head of a Third Reich that exists alongside other Great Powers and is not currently at war with any of them.

7.      Long-lived Alexander the Great?  He might lose the “Great” part of his name if he lived into his 80s.  I get the feeling he might keep looking for more worlds to conquer until he found one that conquered him.  He might also run out of people willing to follow him on his conquests.

8.      Long-lived Patton: I’m not sure what he would have done with himself after the war.  Probably nothing exceptional.

9.      Long-lived Rommel?  I wonder what would have happened if he had still been around after the war and when West Germany became independent.  I don’t think he would have been tried for war crimes.  I’m not sure if he would have been allowed to be part of public life in the early West German republic.

10.  Long-lived Eva Peron: Would the Peron dictatorship have lasted longer and caused more damage to Argentina if Eva had remained at her husband’s side?

11.  Long-lived Tecumseh: Tecumseh tried to unite the bulk of the American Indian tribes in the eastern US against white settlement.  He failed, and died fighting on the British side in the War of 1812.  He was a formidable opponent though, well educated (I think he went to Harvard), and a formidable orator and military leader.  What if he survived and went into exile in Canada, or somewhere in the unexplored west with a group of his followers?

12.  Long-lived King Phillip (the American Indian leader) He was nominal leader of the New England Indians who fought the New England settlers in 1675 and 1676. What if he escaped to New France, or at least to the area of northern Maine where Indians kept fighting for generations after King Phillip’s War ended?

13.  Long-lived Phillip of Macedon: Would he have been able to do what Alexander did?  Would he have been able to establish a dynasty?

14.  Long-lived Cromwell: Would it be possible to get another 10 or 15 years of rule by Cromwell?  What would that have meant for England?

15.  Long-lived Mussolini: What does it take to get a Mussolini ruling Italy to a ripe old age?  How does that affect the rest of history?

16.  Long-lived Franklin Roosevelt: If he had lived until 1948 and been relatively healthy would he have run again?  If so, when would he have been defeated or stopped running?  Were his four election victories a freak circumstance due to the threats from Japan and Germany, or would he have become essentially president for life? We could also take this the other way.  What if FDR had an incapacitating stroke but didn’t die at the time he died historically?  Or what if he had the stroke shortly before the election and the people around him tried to conceal it?  If Roosevelt served until 1948, but did not seek reelection, he would still have had the potential to have enormous clout even after he left office.  How would another full term for FDR have affected international politics?  The development of the Cold War?

17.  Longer-lived (politically) Churchill:  What if Churchill had remained Prime Minister of Britain for five or ten years after the end of World War II?  How would that have affected things in India?  How would it have affected the British role in post war maneuverings and the beginning of the Cold War.

18.  Longer-lived (politically) Khrushchev: What if Khrushchev had not been ousted in the Soviet Union?  How would that have affected the Cold War?  The Space Race? 

19.  And of course we can’t forget Long-lived Kingfisher.  Not sure there’s anything new we could do with that, but there it is for what it is worth.

20.  Long-lived celebrities: Marilyn Monroe, Elvis (obviously), Buddy Holly.  Most of them would probably have diminished in peoples’ eyes if they had stayed in the spotlight longer.