When Napoleon landed his forces in Egypt he set off a chain of events that he could never have foreseen.
Though Ottoman control over the area had been waning of late, the struggle to take control of Egypt away from the Sultan was decidedly hard-fought, but ultimately won by the French forces. Britain's lifeline from the Orient had been put in danger - if not cut off entirely.
Under Napoleon France pursued a policy of cutting Britain off from its trade with Europe by forcing countries into the so-called "Continental System". Combined with France's control over the historical trade route through Egypt and the increasing instability of the Kingdom of American States, this system presented a significant, if not necessarily debilitating threat to Britain; a threat that politicians and press were quick to exaggerate to its extreme.
At first the threat was waved aside as trifling and transient, at least until French and Spanish forces marched on Lisbon, and the American south - heart of the continent's agriculture - burst into full scale rebellion. With Britain's most long-standing ally in the continent - Portugal - under the heel of Napoleon, and America undergoing a fit of revolutionary chaos the fear of isolation not just from Europe but from Britain's overseas colonies and allies struck the island, and colonial policy underwent great reform in order to put away these fears.
It was decided that Britain's colonial policy should be shaped with two goals in mind; firstly that Britain should be self-sufficient through her colonies, and secondly that no trade route should be made so vital that cutting it off could cripple Britain. It was with these ideas in mind that Britain went into negotiations following Napoleon's disastrous reign of Europe.
Much of the Netherlands' colonies, which had been seized by Britain when France had conquered the country, remained with Britain, on the understanding that the Netherlands was to be permitted certain safe passage and trade rights in certain ports, and that the islands south of the East Indies would be given over to the Netherlands. One of these colonies was the important Cape Colony. This country had saved Britain during the Napoleonic wars, being a perfect stop-off point for ships on the long route around Africa to India and the East Indies.
At first the Cape Colony was developed mainly as a point on a trade route, but as the science of agricultural chemistry developed and the nations of Europe looked towards Africa as the world's last colonial battleground, Britain realised that its African colonies could be developed to provide it with cotton, rice, wheat, and other agricultural produce.
A treaty was negotiated with Portugal which defined the southern-most line of permitted Portuguese control in Africa. This line was relatively far north - certain parts of the border followed the Kwanza river in the West, and the Zambezi river in the East - thereby demanding the handover of existing Portuguese territory to Britain, but Portugal did not go without gains; they would receive the Congo, and British assurance that their claim would not be violated by the other nations of Europe, and they would be allowed to claim territory contiguous from the West coast of Africa to the East coast, on the understanding that Britain would be given control over important trade route that ran North-South through this territory.
Britain began a period of rapid expansion in Africa, rapidly asserting their control over souther Africa and the East coast that had formerly been dominated by the Sultanate of Oman. This prompted other nations to scramble for the last scraps of land on the continent, whilst Britain stood firm in their mastery over the South and East, with moderate holdings in the West.
In Africa Britain had much land, but there was a lack of labour to work it. Hoping to solve the problem of unrest amongst the descendants of Dutch colonists in the Cape Colony, Britain offered them certain economic incentives for moving out of the Cape and setting up farms and businesses in regions of Africa that Britain wanted to develop. It quickly became evident that a significant number of immigrants were moving into the colonies from Europe in hopes of a new start away from the threat of war, and the religious and economic oppression which they had endured in their home countries. There was even a trickle of immigrants from America, which was still far from stable following the Southern Rebellion. Seeing an opportunity, laws were enacted that permitted all foreign immigrants freedom of religion and significant economic incentives for moving to Britain's South African colonies.
People [I]flooded[/I] to Britain's African colonies, as much as they had done during the American States' heyday of colonial expansion only decades before. But it became quickly obvious that the situation in Africa was too complex and volatile for it to be administrated directly from London. The Dutch Afrikaners were calling for autonomy, and the colonists grew restless due to the distant nature of Britain and its parliament - a parliament which they had no part in electing.
Reasoning that Britain wanted South Africa for its agricultural produce and its importance as defender of the route to Asia and not in order to rule directly over its populace, it was decided that Britain's colonies in South Africa would be permitted home rule.
The government of the newly created United Provinces of the Cape was influenced heavily by that of the American States and the former Dutch Republic. Firstly, the territory of the Cape would be divided into Core Provinces, Organised Territories, Governorates, Special Directorates and Unincorporated Territory.
Core provinces were given some small amount of sovereignty in the constitution, permitting autonomy in certain economic, legislative and judicial affairs. To hold this sovereignty each province would each elect a regional Minister-President alongside small legislatures called Provincial Assemblies. Core provinces would also elect representatives to the Estates-General (the national legislature), the number of which was determined in proportion to the provinces' population (though no province would have any less than 5 representatives).
Organised territories would be regions where immigration and development were to be heavily encouraged, but they were not given any constitutionally assured sovereignty; they could be made and unmade at the whim of the Estates-General. However, Organised territories were permitted to elect a General Council, which would carry out the laws and directives of the government in the territory (though powers could be given and removed from the General Council at will, and it could even be dismissed entirely or replaced by the Estates-General). Organised territories were also permitted to elect 20 representatives to the Estates-General.
Governorates were ruled by a Governor who was either elected by the population of the Governorate or appointed directly by a body in the central government. Regions which were reasonably important, but not heavily populated or vital, were often made into Governorates in order to give them some regional autonomy without giving them representation in the Estates-General.
Special Directorates were imposed upon especially important cities and the regions surrounding them. They were ruled by Directors appointed by the Estates-General and generally had more autonomy in some matters than Governorates, though in most economic matters the central government maintained strict control. Generally Special Directorates were imposed on coastal cities which were extremely important for trade.
Unincorporated territory was, in essence, all other territory held by the government of the United Provinces of the Cape. These regions had no autonomy from the central government and citizens residing there could not participate in any elections. Regions which were unincorporated were generally unimportant and underpopulated areas that no one had any real interest in.
The Estates-General would be the legislature of the United Provinces, and the representatives elected to it would elect two State Presidents to act as joint Heads of Government in an executive council consisting of the two State Presidents and any Ministers of State that they care to appoint called the Council of State.
The Head of State of the United Provinces was the monarch of the United Kingdom of Great Britain, as represented by a Governor-General appointed by the monarch.
This practical system of government, combined with the liberal attitudes with which the constitution was written (the constitution permits voting rights to all citizens, who may not be discriminated against on grounds of race or religion, and it permits many human rights - such as the right to habeas corpus and to be tried by a jury of their peers - to everyone regardless of any factor) and the increasing prosperity of the region spurred an era of immigration and development in the Cape, including the founding of many major cities and the construction of a vast railway network stretching across the entire continent.
The discovery of diamonds, as well as gold and other valuable metals, in the Cape brought the region into the spotlight for a time, and the level of immigration to the rapidly industrialising colonies was so great that it overtook the American States as the primary receiver of European emigrants for more than a decade.
By 1886 the United Provinces of the Cape has become known as "Little Europe" for the variety of languages, religions and national identities that litter its territory, and, while it is once again in the shadow of the American States, the nations of Europe are not likely to forget that far-off land that boasts industry and diamonds alongside freedom and tolerance. Nor are they likely to forgot that - for Britain's fear of starvation - the world was once turned upside down.
Sorry for the wall of text; I've been thinking about this map and the history behind it for the past two weeks, so I had a lot of good ideas about it.
Just in case anyone was wondering, this map is set in the same world as my previous map about the Kingdom of American States (hence references to "the American States" in the explanation), and I do intend to do more about the timeline, and the Kingdom of American States in particular, in future.