Welcome to the BigAppleSchool podcast! This is Mike.
And today we’re talking about what if Cleopatra’s nose had been longer.
Right, so this question is one that is a cover-all for ‘What if something different happened in history’. In this case – if Cleopatra’s nose had been longer, Mark Anthony and Caesar Augustus would not have fallen out with her, cause she wouldn’t have been so beautiful.
Therefore the Roman republic may not have been destroyed and replaced by an Empire and Europe, and maybe then the world, would have been a very different place. So what we’re looking at is what if in history.
So let’s start with what if France had been victorious during the century of warfare with England from 1700 to 1815. In 1700 France and Britain went to war over Spanish succession, in 1815 Napoleon was finally defeated at the battle of Waterloo.
That intervening 1815 years France and Britain have almost constantly been at war. In particular the zenith is the 70s war from 1756 to 1763 in which England established its hegemony over the North American continent.
And it’s my contention that had France been victorious, the world would be very different, simply because we’d all be speaking French, not English. BigApple would be a French school, not an English school. What do you think Mike?
You know, it’s interesting. First of all, you pronounced the word hegemony as [hegemoni]. So it’s actually [hegemoni].
So I was wrong my whole life, I first heard [hedgemoni].
I don’t know the Australian education system.
Okay, alright, it’s just we always pronounced that as [hedgemoni], so it’s interesting. Well, you know… It’s interesting, isn’t it? I mean I always wondered how that guy, Napoleon, he actually conquered the entire Western and Eastern Europe up to Russia at that point.
At the zenith of his career. And he really hit Britain to go. I was always wondering – how did a small British isle managed to actually defeat Napoleon. How did that happen? I know there was a combined forces of Russia and whatnot, and yet in the battle of Waterloo and the British used what’s called the box formation to defeat the cavalry.
And I think Napoleon’s specialty was both artillery and cavalry and they kinda neutralized that with the right tactics. But just… How did that actually happen?
Well, in the case with the battle of Waterloo specifically the tactics were that the Duke of Wellington had been fighting the French in the Peninsula war from 1808 until 1812 in Spain. And his serious victories were that he knew what French were gonna do and he had the tactics to defeat them.
A lot of have been used of the brown bess musket – the training that British soldiers did was they’d fire off something like 3, maybe not 3, maybe 4 rounds a minute. Whereas French musketeers could only manage one a minute, so therefore the volume of fire that the British infantry could pour down upon the French soldiers was far greater.
And the French used to bounce and block formation and the tactic was like a sledgehammer. But of course that sledgehammer was greatly dented if you had a row or double row of red coats loosing off four rounds per minute per gun at you. You had to be that accurate.
You need a big block, so they just fired vaguely in your direction. And the casualties would’ve been enormous. That is how essentially Wellington defeated Napoleon’s armies.
Yeah. Well, you know, it’s interesting because I was… So four rounds a minute? They really did four rounds a minute? So every, what, 15-10 seconds they would reload and do all that, like putting the gun powder and all? Really?
I was surprised by that because basically I was always wondering if you watched like the movie like the Patriot and whatnot, you see the way that the colonial armies used to fight. And basically people would line up in a big row, much towards canon fire and bullet fire towards it.
And I was thinking – why didn’t they use cover? Why didn’t they use proposition? All the basics of, you know, firearm. You know, firearm battle were thrown out of a window and you know what? That’s so dumb. They were marching towards bullets and canon fire. And chain shots.
And I actually had a chat with a guy who’s in one of those historical reenactment groups. You know, these guys they act up and they act up all these wars. And he told me basically the muskets and whatnot didn’t really have what’s called rifling.
So they didn’t have what’s called a …indentation inside of a barrel which allows the bullet to spin and that allows you to shoot straight essentially of a long distance. And he said because they didn’t… The aim was kind of like a shotgun approach, he said men were kinda like the shotguns, so if you lined up the guys in a row and you shot, something will hit.
And so they were hoping that something will hit and that was the strategy at the times. And in life they considered chick, yeah?
You’re absolutely right, yeah, the muskets were smooth ball, that’s what you say without rifling, where the word’s rifle from, because there were rifles, rifles did exist, but because of the rifling they used to take so much longer to load.
Therefore the majority of infantry were armed with smoothball musket, and they, as you say, weren’t very accurate weapon. So you’d fire them in volleys at a target. There’s no point in hiding behind a border and trying to pick off your enemy with a musket, cause you wouldn’t be able to do it.
The general who won the battle was the general who could bring his soldiers onto the battlefield in a life-long line and bring all their weapons to bear on your enemy before your enemy got his soldiers onto the battlefield and organized to fire their muskets.
Therefore the victorious general was the best drill sergeant, Frederick the Great of Prussia for instance. And this is why armies began to march and do drilling turning formations, that’s where march and drill comes from. It’s because of the smoothball musket trying to get volley fire onto your enemy, concentrating, hit them before they can shoot at you.
I mean, those men, who fought at those days must have had, you know, balls of steel. I mean, actually to march towards canon fire, just takes special kinds of guts don’t you think?
Are you telling me alcohol was allowed?
Cause today no military allows alcohol on the field, so in those days rum was used not only for the medicinal purposes to amputate you, it was actually used to the courage?
It was, yes. It was in the navy, for instance that’s what you drank – you drank, cause water would go off. You would make your own water, so most of the liquid you drink would have alcohol in it, cause it would poison you. Well, sort of. You drink sort of beer, but rum was given as well.
Not I did meet a Frenchman who did say that. What the French are used to drinking wine even as children or something because back in the day that was just substitute for water. So you got your hydration because the water was so dirty.
Absolutely. And then people didn’t drink in the Middle Ages water at all in England, they drank what’s called small beer which was about 1 percent alcohol. But everyone must’ve been terribly dehydrated all the time.
Yeah. I mean, they must have had horrible skin. I can imagine.
We got drifting off a bit
You know, returning back to England versus Germany over North America, just returning back to that. So, I was always sure that Britain always had a journey over North America, but that was actually one out of a war that Germany was. So, the Statue of Liberty was gifted to the Americans for their fight against the British.
So this was like the big return FU for French losing Italy, so… Riiiight. So we lot the dominion of your colony, but in return you kicked them out. So thank you. So we give you the statue of liberty. So they sent it in boxes and containers and then they shipped it over and reconstructed it. And then the peace and the history.
The French paid the money and the Americans finished it off I believe. And it didn’t arrive until the 1870s I think or 80s even. The first Europeans must have claimed bits of North America with the Spanish, the oldest city in the United States is… oh…. Saint Augustine in Florida.
And that was established by Juan Ponce de Leon in something like 1520-1530, something like that. The French established the settlement further up the coast, and the British arrived up in the North-East, the plantation around Boston et cetera. And all three countries squabbled over North America.
First, of course, they were separated by huge tracks of bland where only the Native Americans lived. But eventually they began to butt up against each other and fight each other and compete. The Spanish were soon pushed out, pushed West and South.
The Americans after all in the Louisiana purchase after the war of Independence, bought everything west of the Mississippi from the further than the Spanish I think. I stand to be corrected on all that. But the East of the Mississippi it was Britain and France,
and during the war of the Austrian succession, 18something… 40-48, and again the 70s were later, Britain and France went to it in North America. And eventually Britain ejected France from North America including Canada. But it didn’t last long because of course the American War of Independence.
So Britain ejected from what was now the United states. But they remained in Canada. But my contention is that had France maintained control of the United States, the United States would’ve spoken French rather than English.
You know, you meet some American Southerners, and some of them actually do… You can kinda tell by their language, there’s still some French culture mixed in there. So is that their kind of roots?
Could be, could be. Certainly in New Orleans.
But in certain areas. So I’m just thinking, right, they would’ve spoken French. You think the American constitution would have been written in French?
Well, it’s interesting. I just suppose, just suppose. The English would be kicked out from North America during the 70 years war. So maybe there would’ve been no American war of Independence against France. Maybe. We’d come there next.
Maybe and had the French become the dominant language in the United States, United States been so much bigger than France would have become the dominant partner in the partnership. And maybe French would have become the international language of business rather than English.
Right, right. That’s interesting. I’ve never really thought about that – if the Americans had been Frenchesized. Just gonna create the word Frenchesized. What would they have been like? They would’ve taken the Napoleonic code.
So would that have been a more functional society today had they taken the French? Given that the French were the first to kind of, you know, create modern version of democracy, somewhat. The concept of the, you know, no monarch rule.
Yeah, but it’s… It’s a bit of a misnomer, because the guy… They did abolish the monarchy or something like that, and then Napoleon went back into it. But it was some sort of like a strange… A different kind of monarchy in the sense that it wasn’t like a bloodline. Because Napoleon was not of, you know, royal birth.
Yeah well, I heard that remnants of his family, the descendants today, they are considered nobility. So obviously, yeah.
So we wanna move on now to… Look at the American war of Independence. What if George III ministers who was King of England at the later half of the 18th century had been more conciliatory towards the American colonists and haven’t imposed such swinging taxes upon them to, actually, pay for the 70 years war.
If they hadn’t done that, would the American colonists have not declared Independence in 1776, had there been no American war of Independence, and the United states had not come about and remained a colony like Canada and then became a dominion like Canada,
and then become self-governing independent state but still with the Queen as head of state? How different might the world have been? Could you imagine the United states, huge as it is, being part of England, but be an Empire. What do you think?
I don’t know. With the American attitude. I would discuss this with the Americans here, some of the my friends here in Novosibirsk. And I first considered Americans basically… They’re a culture of warriors, yeah, they fight. They use aggression.
And I’ve always felt that even if that was imposed on them, the constitutional monarchy system, eventually the Americans would find a way to rebel against it and fight against it. If you look at how the Americans expanded from the East coast all the way to the West coast, it was all done through a succession of wars.
So they spilled blood to gain that territory, so you know, when they went to the Midwest, they had to fight after natives. And then during a succession of wars and treaties they won those territories.
When they went into Texas and California, they had to fight the Mexicans and then they won, they won those territories! So I always felt that, you know, these guys have always fought and fought and fought and their tradition continues on even today!
They were always fighting the wars, no matter what. Every 10 years there’s a new war. And all the military forces have to join in them. We’re on the contract to do that. So… I don’t know what your thoughts are on that.
Well, I wonder, slightly different, in the presence troubles in the United States over race, I wonder if something slightly different may have happened. For instance, slave trade was abolished in England in 1807. And throughout the empire in 1832, whereas they had the Civil war and then slavery wasn’t abolished until 1864.
And abolished almost only name for most of the Black and southern states remained certainly the bottom of the socio-economic pile and many would say still are. Maybe if the United States had remained part of the British empire.
The abolishment of slavery coming earlier, the succession of this trade coming earlier, maybe the present problems United states have with race may not have been so bad.
I have a different opinion on that because actually the riots are happening in London too right now. So in fact the only English speaking zone where the riots are not happening is actually in Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. So I don’t know.
I think there is a bit of a fundamental difference between the way these nations sort of… at the base level how race politics sort of play out. So, you know, even if officially slavery is abolished, that doesn’t mean that you’re granting a certain group of people certain privileges that uplifts them.
I’m a little bit skeptical on that idea. I’ve always felt that, you know, especially in cases like Australia, where everything is sort of peaceful and everyone sort of gets along, the one group that is… Well, one group that is kind of protesting are actually the aboriginals, the Native Australians.
And they feel that they’ve been kept out. So as a group for a very very long time. So they are actually protesting, but that’s not a riot, they’re not going violent or anything like that. So I’ve always felt that for them to gain that sort of privileges of a middle class perhaps, is to essentially separate ourselves away from the Old Britain and American and the Chinese influence.
Essentially establish a complete republic that is independent. I’ve always believed that. You have to… The thing is that Australia has inherited a lot of British sort of constitutional monarchy sort of system.
But I’ve always felt that there’s a fundamental difference between the attitudes of Australians and British when it comes to class. I think when I’ve met a lot of British people, there’s a concept of class in the country, there still is.
There’s a concept of class economically and in terms of privilege and whatnot. But in Australia nobody gives a damn. It’s just one of those countries that should’ve been ego tearing life in the beginning. And it was supposed to be, but I’m not sure if it is sometimes. What do you think on that?
Well, the class system in Britain I wouldn’t say it still exists. To be honest I think it’s dead, it’s dying, it’s gone. It doesn’t really exist anymore. Yes, we have aristocracy, there still is, we still have the Royal family, we still have the house of lords, but it’s a pale shadow of its former self.
Your status and sight in society have more to do with the fitness of your… you know, your wallet and the size of your bank account, it’s got nothing to do with, you know, whether or not you have double barrel surname to be honest if anything. There’s an inverse snobbery now about things like that.
I suppose the new upper class are the meritocracy of people who’ve gained most from the education they had in the 60s, 70ws, 80s. People like meself who went to university and didn’t have to pay tuition fees and have reason of the economic scale because of their education or achievements and the opportunities that they had.
Whereas being born into a coal-mining family, staying as a coal-miner and your grandchildren being coal-miners – that’s gone. One of my friends from the university, his father was a coal-miner. He is retired, so I think that class system is gone now.
There’s an interesting documentary series that came out in Britain many years ago, 50 years ago now plus, I think it’s called the “Up” series. Basically the documentarian called Michael Apted. And the concept is very simple – you get a 7-year-olds across various classes, are from the wealthy to the poor.
And then you document them every 7 years. So, once when they’re seven, 14, 21, 28, 35 and so on. Now, last year was when the children turned 60-something. And of course it’s essentially, Michael Apted said that, basically the premise of the story,
the premise of the documentary, the underline fundamental question, thematic was “Does class play a role in your destiny?” So if you were born poor at the age 7, will you be poor by the time you are 35? And so on and so on. And will your children be poor?
And ironically, actually, supports your argument, is that there was no such a distinction. There’s no such.. The path was all different for everybody. So how the kids started at 7, is not how they ended up when they were 40-something and vice versa.
It’s interesting enough, because for the Russian audiences listening to this, there’s actually one created for the SSSR, so the children are now hitting 36 years old. Last year was when the 35 was supposed to come out. So in one of them, one of the subjects actually lives in Novosibirsk.
He was a guy from Kazakhstan. And came here and started working in the markets. His name was Almaz. It’s interesting because I’ve been trying to track this guy down. Apparently he works in the market, he’s one of those gastarbeiters what they’re called here.
For him, he felt that at age 7, when the SSSR still was around, he felt that everything was much more fair. But by the time he turned 25, 21 or whatever, he came over here and started working, he realized that he is now like economic class. And therefore he felt like he was left out of it, left out of the middle class life, right?
Whereas other adult people have had, of course, different lives. So, there’s one for the United states, there’s one for the USSR, there’s one for the Britain. And Michael Apted essentially inspired this trend of documenting kids aged 7.
But you’re right, in that sense I suppose in Britain a lot of these class trouble, you know, the concept of a class is becoming blurred. Or has become blurred right back from decades ago.
Yeah, I have seen that series actually. I think I saw some bits of the most recent one in Britain. The idea is the Jesuit idea that give me the boy aged 7, I’ll show you the man. I’d really like to see the Russian version actually, so perhaps you can actually give me the link later.
YouTube, It’s all on YouTube. But the Russian one was supposed to come out last year, 35, but it actually got delayed and I know the reason why. The Russian filmmaker was in charge of it takes 20 subjects to being with. Like double the amount the original did. And Russia’s a big country.
To go around all these territories and film the lives of these kids which are now growing up children of their own is a monumental task, that takes time. So I think the timing was a little bit unrealistic when he first scheduled it.
So our next ‘What if Cleopatra’s nose had been longer’ is a bit further, a bit longer ago in history. Catherine of Aragon had she given birth to a healthy male heir and secured the Tudor succession, would Henry VIII had the started the reformation of England. Now a bit of background to those who don’t know.
Henry VIII was the second Tudor monarch, he’s the one who had six wives if you recall. He was married off to his deceased elder brother’s widow, once Spanish princess, Catherine of Aragon, and she gave birth to a number of still-born children, one healthy daughter.
But she could not produce a heathy son, she did produce one, but he died after a week I think. She was older than Henry and when she reached the point in her life where she could no longer conceive, he started looking around and started thinking about the succession,
because his father came to throne after the end of the war of roses, so the period of 40 years of almost constant civil war in Britain. And he didn’t want that to happen again, he wanted his line, his Tudor family to continue to rule Britain. And he wanted a male heir.
Catherine of Aragon could not provide one. At the same time he as a medieval monarch had numerous mistresses, one, Anne Boleyn came to his view, and he was smitten with Anne Boleyn. She was young enough to give him a son and eventually he decided right, Catherine’s gonna go, I’m gonna marry Anne.
Now this is not an unusual thing in those days, but of course they’d been married in a catholic church. Everybody in Europe was then a Catholic. But he could get a dispensation of the Pope to have the marriage annulled.
After all she was his elder brother’s widow, they’d find something in the scritches that say that shouldn’t be done. But! Catherine’s nephew was the Holy Roman emperor and he, at that point, had invaded Italy. And the Pope was effectively his prisoner.
And she appealed to hew nephew to prevent the annulment and so Henry was then in a problem. He couldn’t persuade the Pope to give him the annulment, he wanted to marry Anne Boleyn. So his only solution was divorce Catherine, the only way to do that was to leave the Catholic church and start the reformation in Britain.
Had Catherine of Aragon produced the son, maybe that would happen – England would still be Catholic, we’d never had all sorts of things that maybe the English civil war wouldn’t have happened. Spanish armada. Mike, what do you think?
You know, I wanted to go back to actually Napoleon on this one. Now he was, his accession to emperorhood was authorized by the Pope as well, so he had a similar kind of deal going on. So what’s the relationship here between the Pope and the European leaders, the British leader?
There seems to be this sort of the Pope’s illegitimatizes the rules of rulers. So he’s sort of King-authorizer, not the King-maker, but the King-authorizer. But then he owes people favors and he has to capitulate, even though he doesn’t want to, I’m sure.
I mean, is that kind of relationship that, you know, has always existed between the British kings and the Pope as well?
Well, up until Henry VIII, yes.
Right, so that’s why he went… Right. That’s why the Anglican church is… Riiiight.
That’s why the Queen is the head of the church of England. See? So Henry started his own church.
So they wanted to be free away from the system that was prevalent at the time. Where you have to be authorized by the Pope in order to rule, you know, your country. So why didn’t the other European kings do that?
Well, because in the case of the Holy Roman emperor, who was, if you like, the King of Austria and Spain at the same time, they were Catholic. But he invaded Italy, he controlled the Pope, so the Pope did what he told him to do. But at the same time the French, they sometimes…
They used to fight the Austrians, it continued with Italy. And sometimes the French had controlled the Pope. And then it was never… It never came about. There was no necessity for split between the French king, the French monarch, and the Head of the church if you like, until the revolution.
And then all kings got rid of in France. Then Spain remained the catholic monarchy until the 1830s, Austria remained a catholic monarchy until 1919. But there was the reformation spread across Northern Europe, so all the Northern Monarchs, Scandinavia and Germany,
like Prussia became Germany later if you like, they became provinces and split the Pope. But that was all to do with the 30 years war that came a century later.
So, going back to the main topic here, what if Cleopatra’s nose had been longer. So had Christianity not been… So had the Pope not existed in other words, what would have happened to this whole continent of Western Europe?
You mean had Christianity not taken the route?
Yeah, so if there was no Pope to legitimize people’s rules and people having battles over this, so what would have happened? That essential sort of authority figure.
So what was the religion before Catholicism? Before Christianity?
Everybody had their own religion. Pagan religion.
Yeah, pagan religion. But I asked this question – what big religion sprang up in the 7th century in the Middle East? Which spread across large parts of the world?
Islam. So had there be no Christianity, if there was a vacuum if you like in Europe, would Islam have spread across Northern Europe? Maybe.
But they would have to get their armies there in the first place. Right, so would’ve been a different player coming to the vacuum.
You know, this isn’t a completely big question, so what would’ve filled the vacuum that Christianity would have left? I can’t imagine people 2000 years ago, they all worshipped something if that wasn’t a stone, it was the sun, or it was a broken statue. Would they have been able to wanting to kick Islam out or would they have accepted it? Who knows, I don’t know.
That’s an interesting question for our audiences actually. So, that wraps up our lesson or our conversation for what if Cleopatra’s nose had been longer. This has been BigAppleSchool’s podcast, this is mike.