Friday, January 1, 2016
Sobel Wiki: Remaking a Continent
This month's featured article at the Sobel Wiki is on the Kinkaid Canal, the Sobel Timeline counterpart to our own Panama Canal.
As is often the case with the Sobel Timeline, the Kinkaid Canal is a sort of funhouse-mirror version of the Panama Canal. First and foremost, it is in Nicaragua rather than Panama. This is actually a pretty high-probability event. There were a number of proposals in our own time for a canal through Nicaragua, one of them made by none other than then-Secretary of State Henry Clay in 1826. Clay's proposal was turned down, due in part to political instability in Central America, and due to the fact that the British controlled a lot of the territory in the vicinity of the proposed canal route.
The British were not a problem in the Sobel Timeline, for reasons that Sobel never revealed. He makes no mention of the British colony at Belize, though his frontispiece map shows it as part of the Mexican state of Chiapas. He also doesn't say how the British lost control of the Mosquito Coast, the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua. All he does say is that Central America is united into a single country called Guatemala (or as he inexplicably spells it, Guatamala), and that this country has spent years disputing possession of the Isthmus of Panama with the South American nation of New Granada. It is this, more than anything else, that convinces Sobel's master Robber Baron, Bernard Kramer, to opt for a canal through undisputed Guatemalan territory.
Kramer Associates was originally formed in 1865 as a consortium of California businessmen with the purpose of improving transportation links between their state and the North Atlantic nations, and especially with the Caribbean coast of the United States of Mexico. Building an interoceanic canal is the obvious project for K.A. to undertake, and Kramer spends his first five years as head of K.A. laying the groundwork for it.
In our own history, the U.S. Navy assisted Panamanian separatists who seceded from Columbia in 1903, as part of a project by President Roosevelt to build a canal. In the Sobel Timeline, it was Kramer's company, acting independently of the Mexican government, that financed a coup d'etat in Guatemala as part of the canal project. The canal received its final name after Mexican President Omar Kinkaid was assassinated, and Kramer decided to name the recently-completed canal after him. This may have started a trend in the Sobel Timeline, because a British canal in Egypt was named, not after the Gulf of Suez, but after Queen Victoria.
Btw, the map of the Kinkaid Canal at the top of this blog post was created by For All Nails mastermind Noel Maurer, who later went on to co-author a book on the Panama Canal with his fellow FAN alumnus Carlos Yu.