Arcanum 1780: A New World
New British Culture
New British Culture
The intervention of the Gomorrah Event in history led to a nation which, while still entirely Anglophile, is in some ways very different from the Britain and America of our own timeline. There was no American Revolution, with the wealthy being co-opted into the New British aristocracy largely without a murmur of protest. There was no “45 Rising” in Scotland and the succession struggle between Stuart and Hanover was resolved by both being wiped out in the cataclysm. Peace was made with many native American tribes instead of war and thus Westward expansion has been slower. Great composers, artists and thinkers were swept away in the fire or never born at all – Handel’s Messiah, all the works of Adam Smith, Samuel Johnson’s dictionary, works by Voltaire, Rousseau and Kant and the inventions of James Watt never saw the light of day.
For the rich, Baroque was the fashionable style of art and music at the time of the Event, and its influence remains in 1780 New Britain, although the last twenty years have seen both a version of Rococo and a new, simpler style closer to our timeline’s Classical period emerge. Handel’s earlier works survive, as do almost all of J.S. Bach and Vivaldi’s, and are revered as the pinnacle of musical culture. The biggest venues, like the Royal Opera Hall in Philadelphia, have mages and artificers on staff to provide special effects for productions which are way beyond those available to their Old World antecedents. In architecture, baroque decorative flourish has survived internally, while externally there has been a tendency towards a more classical and imposingly simple style. In terms of public feeling, the more exuberant the decoration the more hedonistic the owners are assumed to be. Puritans in particular favor the Classical style or a sparse purely-American utilitarianism.
For the common people, music happens mainly in churches, pubs and at private parties rather than concert halls Church music is overwhelmingly choir-based while popular music is almost entirely based on the ‘broadside ballad’ folk music of Old Britain and emerging folk songs in the same style from the new world. Appalachian-style short-stroke fiddling was developed by an emigre Scot in the 1740s and has spread across the new nation, bringing in square dances based upon old Scots and Irish reels. In architecture too, there are harkenings back to the simple (and often Puritan) style of British rural buildings, although filtered through a tendency to build in timber at least as often as in stone or brick.
On a wider scale, the elite’s priority is rising to the production and wealth levels of old Britain and surpassing them as soon as possible, not the “divine mandate” of continental hegemony. The westward expansion has been curtailed, deliberately so as to ensure enough concentrated food production to support larger, more industrial cities than the US actually had at the time. There’s plenty of land available still, but its not the same free-for-all border diaspora. That means fewer songs about expansion and more about industrialization – less Wild Frontier and more The Weaver And The Factory Maid. In the cities, there’s a lot of employment in manufacturing, but some still fall thru the gaps. Criminality, poverty, gin abuse, all exist aplenty in the shanty towns and slum areas. Also, most of the Founders in our timeline, deprived of the need to be rebels, turned out to be just as venal an elite as the old Brit aristocracy. it’s not pre-Revolution France, but only a few of the great names of the US revolt are still revolting Republicans (and some actual wanted dissidents on the run), and resentment certainly exists.
Conflict always drives cultural memes, and of that there has been plenty. The British have aided the Haudenosaunee against the Dakota Sioux and seen several small wars with the New Spanish and Brazilians, plus various other brushfire wars against natives. A mix of Cold War and border skirmishes pertains between New Britain and New Spain at the moment – they are technically at peace but privateers from both sides raid and patrols clash. New Britain has the tech and magic advantage, New Spain has the manpower. The former would rather put off a full-on clash for a decade just to be safe, but the latter thinks there’s a window of opportunity around the Succession Question. Only a few years ago, New Spain tried to ‘nip off’ New France’s holdings in the Caribbean and in the New Orleans area, and New Britain allied with the French to keep the Spanish out and preserve what has been a very useful buffer zone between the two continental powers. Relations with France are still cordial, but everyone knows that one day that will change.