Counterfactual Briarland
By Julian Yaqub

Originally published on, November 2007

This is an attempt to imagine, in very broad strokes, an allohistory – sometimes known as an alternative history – for the United Kingdom. The aim of this thought experiment is to transpose colonial history into a familiar setting and imagine ‘what if’ Britain itself had become a colony. The intention is to invoke empathy for those Sudanese who support the arrest of Gillian Gibson, but without justifying her arrest. Indeed, the premise is that, unless we move beyond the finger pointing which is implicit in the ‘fury’ and ‘outrage’ expressed in some sections of the media, the only outcome of this sad debacle will be world further divided. The history itself is written and conceived from the perspective of a ’sympathetic’ German – for in my imagined past, it is the Germans who colonized the land of the Anglers…

1800-1939: The rise of the Germanic Empire
Our history begins by imagining that the second industrial revolution began and rose to triumphant power under the auspices of the great German empire (1914-1979). By the turn of the century, the German peoples were incontrovertibly the political, cultural and technological masters of Europe. By 1914, the first Verfassungsstaat had successfully usurped much of backward Europe and by the time war was declared in 1914, the outcome was seen as almost inevitable. The Briarish, poorly equipped and led by an antiquated leadership noted for their huge grey moustaches, never made it past the Frankish coast. In the rout that followed, the Briarlanders and their allies were broken into submission within a matter of months.

The Germans had two overwhelming advantages: an attack helicopter, known as a Großraumhubschrauber, and an advanced method of leadership called Einzelvorhaben, in which Projekt commanders would lead small, well armed groups of sadistic paratroop soldiers into umstürzlerisch zones identified using local intelligence. The result was the most notable rebellion against German occupation – the battle of Sieben Eichens, led by the fanatical Lord Winston the ‘second King Arthur’ – were annihilated within minutes of leaving cover. Historians continue to represent this battle as a victory for Vorsprung durch Technik, although Anglicanist fanatics continue to celebrate the event as “a cold blooded massacre”

The Verfassungsstaat took control of a rather disparate peoples who had been battling for supremacy for these cluster of North West European islands for centuries. The Anglish, so called because of their love for the barbaric sport of hook fishing (Eng. Angling), at the time of invasion held the capital Londonberg, but once humiliated, their elite were quick to collaborate in the hope of retaining a modicum of power and position, and thus helped consolidate German rule.

However, in order to simplify administration, the high command decided to unite the principalities into one single colony, which they named Briarland, a term derived from combining the tribal names of Britain and Ireland. However, the term was modified to refer to the ‘briar’ heaths that typify the British landscape, notably in the nihilistic novels of Anglicanist rebel Thomasz Hardy (d.1916).

One of the first acts of the Briarland Verwaltungsratspräsident was to close the arcane Victorian hospitals, including the GOSH children’s asylum at Great Ormond Straat. Only doctors trained in medical schools registered to the German Empire were permitted to practice medicine. The barbaric Anglicanist laws, which includes more than 100 hanging offences, were replaced by the more liberal German civil code and execution was only carried out using the more humane Kartoffeldämpfer. Some of the more primitive Briar festivals, such as the burning of effigies on bonfire nacht, were banned for fear of inciting sedition.

The education system was also reorganized along German lines. However, groups of Anglicanist traditionalists campaigned to maintain their own educational facilities in parallel with the Germanic system. Known as Kindergottesdienst, Briar children were permitted to study English, drama from the so-called Tudor age and medieval satire. However, after the Morris dancing riot of 1931, Briar schools were compelled to register with the Bundespolizei and most were banned from teaching Anglicanist theology which called for the restoration of the monarchy.

1940-1960: The Empire in decline
Serious opposition to German rule over Briarland came from two sources. The first was the intellectual elite educated in the Germanic school system, some of whom became doktors, having studied advanced medicine in Berlin. The psychiatrist Ronstat von Laing, for example, draw attention to the mental illness that resulted from the sense of inferiority induced by German rule in his famous Briar Skin, Teutonic Masks. His work influenced both German intellectuals and populist anti-Imperial resistance leaders around the world, including the founder of the radical Anglicanist Bruderschaft, Johann Lennon.

Lennon began his working life as a Wagner recitalist, but his outlook was transformed during a sabbatical at the Bremen conservatory in the Vereinigte Staaten von Amerika. Known as a bright, sexually repressed protégé who had witnessed his mother killed as a teenager, the young Lennon was deeply disturbed by his first-hand experience of anti-Briar hatred in 1950s Amerika as well as being scandalized by the new-Hamburg whore houses, where some academics claim he caught syphilis. On returning to Briarland, he rejected his prestigious concert career and took up the hurdy gurdy. In his most widely read work, Denk Doch Mal!, Lennon called for the restoration of the English monarchy and compulsory church attendance on Sundays. In his commentary to the Anglish Prayer book, Lennon scandalously proclaimed, “We need true Briar music – without the sauerkraut!”

1960- : Independence and beyond
The Briarland civil war (1960-69) divided the islands between the German speaking minority who supported Imperial rule and the majority who rejected it. Over 100 000 people died as a result of the conflict and large parts of Londonberg were reduced to rubble. Victory came as support for the war dwindled in the new cultural capital of Germanic Europe, Paristaat, where a multitude of anti-German exiles were courted by new wave intelligentsia, including Lennon and the charismatic Northumberland bagpipe player Johnny von Rotten, a bilingual moderate who went on to become Briarland’s first president in 1970. Although not democratically elected, he had the full support of the German Empire and its secret services.

Almost from the outset, von Rotten made enemies among his own people. His failure to challenge German economic dominance of Briarland, most notably the 98% ownership of North Sea gas and oil fields (with the other 2% owned by him and profits stashed in Swiss bank accounts), plus the presence of most of his family in government, including his two year old grandson as foreign minister, inevitably led to charges of corruption and nepotism. Just as during German rule, the majority of Briarlanders continued to live in subjugation and poverty and political opponents were often imprisoned and tortured. Moreover, von Rotten’s new Briarlandic nationalism – derived from German nationalism – convinced him to declare Anglish the only national language, whilst banning Gaelic, the native language of the Welshites (but not German). Increasingly unpopular, Von Rotten was finally deposed in a 1979 coup which bought the radical Anglicanist Johann Lennon to power.

Lennon immediately restored the monarchy and enacted the ‘1850 laws’, the year considered to be the ‘classic age’ of Briarland by Anglicanists. Thus, theft of a silk handkerchief was punishable by hanging and many of Lennon’s enemies were beheaded for treason. Classrooms housed 200 children on wooden benches, who were forced to learn by rote, and church attendance was compulsory on threat of a fine, which converted into contemporary money was set at £5000. Debtors were thrown into prison and women were banned from voting. Middle class women were also forbidden to take paid employment. Popular acts including the mass smashing of bidets and the distribution of free toilet paper.

Despite the anachronistic nature of many of Lennon’s laws, his rule was extremely popular with many ordinary Briar men, who felt their self-esteem and pride restored by Lennon’s piety, his pride in Evensong and his penchant for inciting mob violence. His supporters were a motley crew of radical neoliberals and members of the boot-boy political far-right. Although poverty remained a serious problem, the oil fed the wealth of a new Londonberg elite, whilst in the North, unemployed Cumbrian farmers were supplied with state of the art military equipment and horses in order to enact raids on the nearby Scots, whose Lutheran sympathies had long singled them out as German-loving third columnists. However, as long as the oil and natural-gas flowed, the international community were reluctant to act, even when the death toll approached one million…

Many of the elite Briarites, especially among the commercial classes, continued to educate their children in the German Lutheran schools, where standards remained high and opportunities more promising. Then in 2007, a German teacher working at a Lutheran school in London asked her children to vote for a name for the class mascot, a stuffed toy German Shepherd she had bought with her from her home in Bonn. When the children decided to name it after one of the pupils in the class, Thomas Aquinas (a popular name among Anglicanists), the teacher – who, like most Germans, was utterly obliviously to the political and cultural history of Briarland and German colonialism– instigated an international incident, with Briarlanders demanding she be put to death under the nation’s treason laws, whilst popular opinion in Germany supported a re-invasion in defense of the long-suffering Scots…

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