#2. France and Britain Almost Messed Up World War I (Before It Began)
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As friendly as France and England are now, it's easy to forget that they were at war off and on for like 800 years. So it was not that strange that the 19th century was a constant cockfight between them, mainly due to a pissing contest over North Africa. The dispute was over who would control Egypt and its hot spots: the Nile River and the Suez Canal.
"Our uniforms look too damn good in the desert to NOT fight there."
In 1898, France finally got fed up and sent an armed expedition to the Nile's Fashoda area. Britain responded by sending its own armed forces to the region.
"Very well, then. ISSUE THE BEARDS OF WAR!"
People in both countries got really riled up over the situation and started demanding that their two nations settle the issue like men -- that is, with full-scale stupidity and mass killings. It was kind of tradition by that point.
What Stopped It:
France realized that the war would largely be a naval one. This meant they would be facing the British navy, an unstoppable, global force of destruction, which its French counterpart very much wasn't. This, in turn, meant that the French army, which was very capable of challenging the Brits, would be left holding their dicks as the British ships tore through their opponents.
Their ceaseless barrage of cannon fire paused only for hourly tea breaks.
Realizing that it was about to get brutally drop-kicked, France backed down and gave up all claim to Egypt. In exchange, the British agreed to friendlier relations. The resolution laid the groundwork for their future friendship, which would soon make them the powerful allies you know today ... starting by standing against Germany in World War I.
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If the War Had Happened:
Once more, the Germans might have won World War I. And this time, the Brits might have helped them.
In the late 19th century, the traditionally haughty Britain was slowly realizing that being alone sucks, even if you are one of the biggest empires in history. When the Fashoda incident occurred, Britain had narrowed its potential friend request list to either France or another rival, Germany (because frenemies were the closest thing to BFFs Britain had). Had France not backed down, Britain might have gone holding hands with Germany instead. So when World War I broke out in 1914, there's a chance Britain's 8.8 million strong military force would have sided with the Central Powers (or at least remained neutral).
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The world of hats would have changed forever.
And what happens from there in terms of the fate of Europe, fascism, a second World War, communism, the United States, is anybody's guess. Would it have wound up with Nazis creating a base on the moon? And cloning dinosaurs there? We'll never know (but yes, it would have).
#1. A Boat Invasion Nearly Brought Britain into the American Civil War
In 1862, the United States was trying to wrestle the Confederates into submission during a little scuffle known as the American Civil War. To achieve this, the North was choking the South's commerce and supply routes with a blockade. The South had no chance of breaking through without help, so they attempted to get Europe (especially Britain) to come fight on their side.
For the dudes on the shore, this is even less fun than it looks.
When the Confederates sent a team of diplomats to argue their case, the North got word of it. Soon, an overzealous naval captain boarded the diplomats' ship and arrested them. Unfortunately, he overlooked the fact that the ship was taking the diplomats to Britain and flying under a British flag, and thus he had just essentially invaded goddamn Britain, giving them every excuse to throw the mother of all hissy fits against the North. As moments of horrible, creeping realization go, that must have been a pretty impressive one.
Unsurprisingly, the British public went apeshit. Unwisely, people in the North responded by screaming "We can take your sissy British asses and the South on at the same time -- just bring it!"
It was a golden age for over-the-top propaganda.
There's really just one possible outcome after a boast like that. So, how come the entire country is not flying under a Confederate flag and speaking with a weird British-Southern lingo?
What Stopped It:
He had the third deadliest scissor kick of any American president.
Lincoln recognized the situation's severity and immediately unleashed a Machiavellian array of emergency tactics. First, he quietly released the two diplomats to sail to Britain. Then, he apologized for the mess to the British. Then, he bitch-slapped his own people, publicly recommending that they should learn to fight "one war at a time."
Lincoln's humility toward Britain and his ability to get his own people to chill out allowed the mutual rage to cool down and Britain's urge to get involved in the war to slowly evaporate. Meanwhile, the Southerners now had to fight that display of diplomatic gusto to get Europe on their side. As history has shown us, their attempts were less than successful.
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All the loaded BBQ potatoes in the world weren't enough to save them.
If the War Had Happened:
The United States could have ended up split into at least two nations. Although we've argued before that the South had no chance of winning the Civil War, an alliance with the British would have stacked the deck very differently. The British navy was powerful enough to help the South break through the North's blockade. If the Brits had sent in land troops to boot, it could well have given the South an edge to force the war at the very least into a political settlement, rather than a Northern victory.
And we'd have spent last year lauding Steven Spielberg's Davis.
And that's assuming the Brits would have just left nicely after the war was over. If they'd decided they wanted a slice of land as well, hell, who knows what the map would look like today, or what subsequent wars would have been fought? Literally nobody knows. Still, it's fun to think about.
Related Reading: For more of history's greatest unfought wars, click here! You'll learn about War Plan Red- the American invasion of Canada. Even crazier than the unfought wars are the battles you had no idea already happened; like the American Civil War naval battle that took place off the coast of France. And if you're interested in the ridiculous history of military fashion, Cracked has winged knights and horned samurai to sate your curiosity.