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Tim of Aclea
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PostSubject: Future Histories   Sun 27 May 2012, 18:39

I have recently been reading a book on the events leading up to the fall of the Soviet Union Eastern European Empire in 1989. The author comments that the only example he can find of someone predicting it happening was in an article by Bernard Levin and he even said that his article was more of wishful thinking than prediction. The CIA produced a report for the incoming President Bush in which they expected little to change in 1989.

I was pondering on why we are so bad at predicting the future in that we do not predict events that happen, the above was despite the legion of Soviet Experts.

On the other hand when people do try to predict the future in future histories they normally seem to get it very wrong. Below is a couple of pieces from 'The Great War in England in 1897' which describes, complete with maps and illustrations the Russian and French invasion of Gret Britain.

The Russian advance to Reading


British troops, fighting valiantly, struggled to protect their native land, which they determined should never fall under the thrall of the invader. But alas! Their resistance, though stubborn and formidable, was nevertheless futile. Time after time the lines of defence were broken.

The Russian Eagle spread his black wings to the sun, and with joyous shouts the dense grey white masses of the enemy marched on over the dusty Sussex roads northward towards the Thames.

After the battle of Horsham, the gigantic right column of the invaders, consisting mostly of French troops, followed up the defenders to Guildford and Dorking, preparatory to an attack upon London; while the left column, numbering 150,000 French and Russians of all arms, pushed on through Alfold to Haslemere, then through Farnham and Odiham to Swallowfield, all of which towns they sacked and burned, the terrified inhabitants being treated with scant mercy. As the majority of the defenders were massed in Kent, South Surrey, and Sussex, the enemy advanced practically unmolested, and at sunrise one morning a terrible panic was created in Reading by the sudden descent upon the town of a great advance guard of 10,000 Russians.

The people were appalled. They could offer no resistance against the cavalry, who tearing along the straight high road from Swallowfield, swept down upon them. Along this road the whole gigantic force was moving, and the Cossack skirmishers, spurring on across the town, passed away through the Railway Works, and halted at the bridge that spans the Thames at Caversham. They occupied it at once, in order to prevent it being blown up before the main body arrived, and a brisk fight ensued with the small body of defenders that had still remained at the Brigade depot on the Purley Road.

Meanwhile, as the French and Russian advance guard came along, they devastated the land with fire and sword. The farms along the road were searched, and afterwards set on fire, while not a house at Three Mile Cross escaped. Entering the town from Whitley Hill, the great mass of troops, working in extended order, came slowly on, and followed by 140,000 of the main body and 1000 guns, carried everything before them.

No power could stem the advancing tide of the Muscovite legions, and as they poured into the town in dense compact bodies, hundreds of townspeople were shot down ruthlessly, merely because they attempted to defend their homes. From the Avenue Works away to the Cemetery, and from the Railway Station to Leighton Park, the streets swarmed with soldiers of the Tsar, who entered almost every house in search of plunder, and fired out of sheer delight in bloodshed upon hundreds who were flying for their lives.

The Russian capture of Birmingham

In New Street the Irish Volunteers distinguished themselves conspicuously. After the retreat they had been withdrawn with the Canadians into the city, and, waiting in the side thoroughfares at the opposite end of New Street, held themselves in readiness. Suddenly, as the enemy rushed along in their direction, an order was given and they formed up, and stretching across the street, me them with volley after volley of steady firing; then, rushing onward with fixed bayonets, charged almost before the Russians were aware of their presence.

Without a thought of his own personal safety, every Irishman cast himself into the thick of the fray, and backed by a strong body of Canadians and fusiliers, they succeeded in cutting their way completely into the invaders, and driving them back into Corporation Street, where they were forced right under the fire of four Maxims that had just at that moment been brought into position outside the Exchange.



The scenes of that memorable night were awful. Birmingham, one of the most wealthy cities in the kingdom, fell at last, after a most stubborn resistance, for just before day broke the overwhelming forces of Russia, occupying the streets commenced to drive out the defenders, and shoot down those who turned to resist. From Bordesley to Handsworth, and from Smethwick to Aston, the city was in the hands of the enemy. The banks in New Street were broken open, and the gold stuffed into the pockets of the uncouth dwellers on the Don and the Volga, Chamberlain’s Memorial was wrecked, and Queen’s College occupied by infantry. Cossack officers established themselves in the Grand and Queen’s Hotels, and their men were billeted at the Midland Union, Conservative, and other Clubs, and at many minor hotels and buildings.

Before the dawn had spread, whole rows of shops were burning, their brilliant glare illuminating the streets that ran with blood. It was a fearful scene of death and desolation.

The majority of the citizens had fled, leaving everything in the hands of the enemy, who still continued their work of pillage. In the streets the bodies of 10,000 Russians and 3000 British lay unheeded, while no fewer than 9000 of the enemy’s infantry had been wounded.

The headquarters of the Russian army had at last been established in a British city, for over the great Council House there now lazily flapped in the fresh morning breeze the great yellow-and-black flag of the Tsar Alexander.

And the Russian General, finding he had lost the enormous force of 61,000 men, spent the grey hours of dawn in nervous anxiousness, pacing the room in which he had installed himself, contemplating the frightful disaster, and undecided how next to act.

An incident illustrative of the fierceness of the fight outside the city was published in the Times several days later. It was an extract from a private letter written by Lieut. JG Morris of the 3rd Battalion of the York and Lancaster Regiment, and was as follows: -

“The sun that day was blazing and merciless. Throughout the morning our battalion had lost heavily in the valley, when suddenly at about twelve o’clock the enemy apparently received reinforcements, and we were then driven back upon Weather-oak by sheer force of numbers, and afterwards again fell further back towards our position on the high ground in Hagley Road.”



“Looking, I saw in the fading twilight the dark masses of the enemy moving up the steep road, and at that moment a round was fired with effect upon those who had surrounded us. One more round only remained. Then we meant to die fighting. Blinding smoke suddenly filled the half-wrecked room, and we knew that the enemy had succeeded in setting fire to the taproom underneath!”

“I stepped forward, and shouted for the last time the order to my brave comrades to fire. Nine rifles rang out simultaneously; but I had, I suppose, showed myself imprudently, for at the same second I felt a sharp twinge in the shoulder, and knew that I had been struck. The rest was all a blank.”

“When I regained my senses I found myself lying in Sandwell Hall, with doctors bandaging my wounds, and then I learned that we had been rescued just in time, and that my nine comrades had all escaped the fate they had faced with dogged disregard for their own safety, and such noble devotion to their Queen.”

It was a black day for Britain. During the long hours of that fierce, mad struggle many Victoria Crosses were earned, but the majority of those who performed deeds worthy of such decoration, alas! fell to the earth, dead.

Tim
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Triceratops
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PostSubject: Re: Future Histories   Sat 02 Jun 2012, 10:24

I've heard about the pre-WW1 war fictions, Tim, Battle of Dorking etc, though never actually read one. I have read some of the more recent books in this genre, Tom Clancy, Harold Coyle, Sir John Hackett and a few others.

One man to make a basically accurate forecast of a future war was H G Wells with his Land Ironclads.Wells [along with Korda] was also responsible for Things to Come, a film with it's view of aerial bombing which would have been in the back of people's minds at the time of Munich.
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PostSubject: Re: Future Histories   Sat 02 Jun 2012, 10:47

Generally, it seems that technological predictions are more accurate. If something not yet extant can be envisaged as being useful and, even better, profitable and does not contravene the laws of chemistry and physics, they can come into being. The social and political effect of these things, though, is a different matter and that's where the futurologists usually get it wrong. The concept of 'Star Wars' was at least partly responsible for the collapse of the USSR and the social rejigging in progress resulting from mobile computing and communications is still in progress.
I still hope for a jet pack and the broadcast of the first manned Mars landing before I croak it though.
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PostSubject: Re: Future Histories   Sat 02 Jun 2012, 14:20

Even technological advance is notoriously difficult to predict. This article from the Observer/Guardian newspaper makes what could be called as intelligent a stab as possible at predicting how things will be in 25 years time, not just technologically but socially in general.

20 predictions for the next 25 years
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Tim of Aclea
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PostSubject: Re: Future Histories   Sat 16 Jun 2012, 15:47

Triceratops

there were a number of future histories written before WW1. I have not read the battle of Dorking but I understand it is an account of how the British lost the battle of Dorking. In the Great War we are in the end victorious and in fact the final battle is fought through where I live in Surrey.

I would have said that wells got quite a lot wrong about the effects of aerial bombardment. In fact he envisioned a second world war destroying civilisation. It is quite possible that the film 'Things to Come' had an effect of civil morale in Britain leading to the Munich capitulation in 1938. Mind you the Air Ministry was also totally wrong in its estimates of the effects of bombing and I believe the estimate for the casualties during the first week of war was higher than the UK in fact suffered during the entire war.

regards

Tim

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PostSubject: Re: Future Histories   Sun 17 Jun 2012, 15:35

Tim,

Battle of Dorking is on Gutenberg, it's quite a short story;

http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks06/0602091h.html

This may be of interest as well

http://www.depauw.edu/sfs/backissues/71/clarke71art.htm

One big difference between Things to Come and the reality, was the use of poison gas dropped from bombers,which, of course, was never used,though eveyone in the UK was issued with a gas mask[not that they would have been of much use if the Germans had used Tabun or Sarin].
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PostSubject: Re: Future Histories   Wed 20 Jun 2012, 22:33

Thanks for posting those links Trike.

The Battle of Dorking is one of those works that are often heard about but seldom read. I was also glad that Project Gutenberg didn’t give its year of publication, as I read the book online blissfully unaware of its context other than that it was written pre-1914. While reading I was struck by how similar in parts it appeared to be to other books such as Le Debacle (1892) by Emile Zola, The Red Badge of Courage (1895) by Stephen Crane and The Riddle of the Sands (1903) by Erskine Childers. While reading The Battle of Dorking I suspected that George Chesney had been influenced by Zola and Crane etc and merely sought to write a fictional British-set fantasy version. At first I thought that the book probably dated from around 1910 but then mention of ‘the Queen’ in the text made me revise this estimate back to, say, 1890. Having finished the story, however, it came as something of a surprise to find out that it dates from 1871.

Chesney was not influenced by Childers, Crane or Zola at all but pre-dated all of them.

For anyone wanting to understand the baffling (from a 21st Century point of view) phenomenon of British-German rivalry in the decades before 1914 then The Battle of Dorking is an excellent starting point. It provides a fascinating insight into the psyche of much of the British middle-class at the time and the sense of insecurity which the events of the Franco-Prussian War must have engendered in the minds of many of the citizens of a supposedly neutral UK.
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Tim of Aclea
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PostSubject: Re: Future Histories   Thu 21 Jun 2012, 12:12

In the Great War in England, the enemy is not Germany but France and Russia and Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy are allied with Great Britain.

On Reigate Hill is a restored muster fort that formed part of the defence line for London built in the 19th C AD to protect London against an invasion from the continent.
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PostSubject: Re: Future Histories   Thu 21 Jun 2012, 15:34

I was the same with BoD Vizzer, one of those stories I'd heard about but never read until a few days ago.

Gutenberg is really useful for these things, I'm reading another one at the moment, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Danger which first appeared in the Strand Magazine in July 1914;

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/22357/22357-h/22357-h.htm

Tim's Great War in England is there as well;

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/37470/37470-h/37470-h.htm

Mention of the Reigate Fort, brings to mind what became known as "Palmerston's Follies". Forts built in the 1860's to protect Portsmouth.

http://www.hgs-online.org.uk/pfolly.htm
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PostSubject: Re: Future Histories   Sat 23 Jun 2012, 13:05

nordmann wrote:
Even technological advance is notoriously difficult to predict. This article from the Observer/Guardian newspaper makes what could be called as intelligent a stab as possible at predicting how things will be in 25 years time, not just technologically but socially in general.

20 predictions for the next 25 years
It's interesting that those Guardian contributors don't seem to agree as to whether ongoing and projected human population growth is to be welcomed or feared.

Will Hutton takes an optimistic view:

'In 2035, there is thus a good prospect that Britain will be the most populous (our birth rate will be one the highest in Europe), dynamic and richest European country, the key state in a reconfigured EU.'

Chris Llewellyn Smith is more sceptical:

'With 6.7 billion people on the planet, more than 50% living in large conurbations, and these numbers expected to rise to more than 9 billion and 80% later in the century, returning to a world that relies on human and animal muscle power is not an option.'

Jay Rayner is more portentous:

'When experts talk about the coming food security crisis, the date they fixate upon is 2030. By then, our numbers will be nudging 9 billion and we will need to be producing 50% more food than we are now. By the middle of that decade, therefore, we will either all be starving, and fighting wars over resources, or our global food supply will have changed radically. The bitter reality is that it will probably be a mixture of both.'

Georgina Mace is downright gloomy:

'The human population has roughly doubled since the 1960s and will increase by another third by 2030. Demands for food, water and energy will increase, inevitably in competition with other species. People already use up to 40% of the world's primary production (energy) and this must increase, with important consequences for nature. In the UK, some familiar species will become scarcer as our rare habitats (mires, bogs and moorlands) are lost.'

What they all agree upon, however, is that unprecedented massive growth in the global human population is happening and will have profound consequences in the very near future.

P.S. Thanks Tim and Triceratops for the pointers and links to The Great War In England. If this wet weather continues then I'll probably read it this weekend.
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