Australia becomes a self-governing dominion. Not that the rest of the world cares, but this is around about the first time we've got even a mention in this history thing, so live with it.
Queen Victoria karks it. Several pall bearers are squashed while trying to get the coffin out of the hearse.
(NB: Can anyone tell me how to spell "karks it", meaning "dies"? I can't find it in the dictionary)
Britain and France establish 'Entente Cordiale' (Raspberry cordial) at a Cottees factory near Calais.
Russia has a tiff with Japan over Chinese territories. It occurs to neither of them that the Chinese should have the land. Russia is forced to make peace after millions of Japanese Mario Brothers characters attack, throwing flaming barrels, girders and wild snapjaws at their enemies.
Two power blocs form in Europe. No-one can quite work out where the k disappeared from the word "blocs", but the two sides are Germany and Austria, and Britain France and Russia.
Austria annexes Bosnia. Oh, and Herzogovina. Wow, you mean those two are separate places? (Ducks to avoid Serb mortar fire).
Union of South Africa forms, taking in the Cape of Good Hope, Natal, Orange Free State, the Transvaal, and the shitty bits in the middle where the Blacks are made to live.
Germany sends a warship to Agadir, in an attempt to stop the French penetration of Morocco. Gee, no wonder these Frenchies have such a randy reputation.
Two Balkan wars result in the expulsion of Turkey from Europe. Ummm.. Pardon? Sorry Turkey, but you're being removed from this particular continent. Yes, you'll be an island from June onwards. Yes, we call it artificial continental drift.
Britain introduces an Irish Home Rule Bill which nearly leads to civil war in Ireland. They decide to try again later.
In that most peaceful of European cities, Sarajevo, the heir to the Austrian throne is assassinated, setting off World War I.
The Germans sweep through neutral Belgium, giving it the first good cleaning in a century, and find Grandma's gold ring under a rug. They are halted only a few miles from Paris, when they realise they didn't bring change for the Metro. By October, the Allies have fought back, and the struggle turns to trench warfare.
Meanwhile, in a country not far away, the Russians arrive at the Prussian border, and attempt to remove the Ps from all the border signs.
Both sides make costly attempts to break though, without success. On the Eastern Front, the Germans push the Russians back. Both sides start sending in heavily disguised spies, most of them dressed in overcoats. This becomes known as trenchcoat warfare.
Turkey, fighting with Germany (I think that means fighting with, not fighting with), tries to cut the Suez canal, but fails because it is impossible to cut water. The Brits fail to open communications with Russia through the Black Sea by forcing the Dardanelles and landing troops (mostly other people's) on the Gallipoli peninsula. (Insert damning criticism of British military and heart-felt praise for Australian and New Zealand army here. Well, it was ANZAC day when I wrote this, you know.)
Trench warfare continues with huge losses on both sides. The Germans and British have a sea-battle off Legoland, the Germans having their botties soundly smacked. The Arabs, helped by Peter O'Toole, rebel against the Turks.
Anti-war feeling in Russia leads to the overthrow of the Czar. The provisional government's attempt to continue the war enables Lenin and the Bolsheviks to seize power. (Insert Beatles and Marx Brothers jokes here.)
In April, the USA, under pressure from CNN to help increase its ratings, declares war. While the Allies welcome the American help, they tell the USA to be on time next time, or they won't be given dessert.
The Germans launch their final offensive, but fail to break through. The Allies counter-attack, and the Germans sue for armistice in November. Germany becomes a republic, promising never ever ever to do it again.
Diplomats world-over rejoice. They've never had so much work to do. Most of Europe is renegotiated and reorganised after the war, creating Czechoslovakia, the Rugby League of Nations and the break-up of the Ottoman empire.
Mussolini becomes head of the Italian government, and manages to stay in power a lot longer than any post-1945 government. But then, they weren't fascist dictatorships. Maybe Mussolini was asked to step-down after the usual two weeks, and he said "No! Fuck off! I'm busy making the trains run on time!"
Lenin is astonished to see that his death is scheduled on one of Stalin's five year plans, and dies. Stalin emerges as his successor and sets out to make Russia a great industrial power, later best known for the reliability of its cars and nuclear power plants.
Economists realise they haven't had a really good depression since around 1720. They get together for a drink, get really blotto, and take the sharemarket out on the highway, crashing it immediately.
Former odd-job man Schicklgruber Jr, better known to the world as Adolf Hitler, is appointed Chancellor in Germany. Oops. And with the job he gets free boxes of matches. Double oops. The Reichstag burns down, and he suppresses all opposition and makes himself dictator. Triple oops. Just goes to show: If there's one thing more dangerous than a complete lunatic, it's a complete lunatic as Chancellor.
Hitler denounces the terms of the Versailles Treaty limiting the size of the German armed forces. He then heads down to the gym to build up his armies. Arr, arr, arr. Slap thigh.
(It's around about here that I'd mention Hitler's attempted genocide of the Jews. But it doesn't get laughs.)
A military rising against the left-wing government in Spain leads to the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. "Outbreak" of war. Makes it sound like pimples, doesn't it. The war ends in 1939 when General Franco takes power. Just time for a commercial break before WW2.
Hitler occupies Austria and claims the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia. The rest of Europe tries out a new concept called "appeasement". The theory is that if they give Hitler what he wants, he won't want any more. So they agree to let Germany have the Sudetenland. Hitler promises he won't take any more of Czechoslovakia. Cross his heart and hope to die.
Hitler seizes the rest of Czechoslovakia. The rest of Europe says "Ummm.. well, that's okay, but don't do anything else. Please. Otherwise we may have to declare that you're a naughty boy."
Hitler says "Yeah. Sure." Well, the German equivalent, anyway.
When Germany invades Poland, Britain and France finally cotton onto the fact that appeasement is crap. They declare war. The Second World War begins.
The Second World War gets under way, with major teams lining up to call each other names and generally irritate each other. The Poms write a song telling of doubts about the number of testicles Hitler has.
One Ball and millions of German troops go for a weekend stroll, and realise they've walked through Belgium, Holland and France. Oh, and Luxembourg, if it's worth mentioning. They then proceed to drop stale strudel bombs in England.
Italy joins in with Germany, attacking Greece, paralysing the country with mountains of macaroni cheese. One wonders how the Italians and Japanese fitted in with One Ball's idea of the gloriously tall, blonde German master race. Perhaps it's just as well he never got to see Neighbours or Home And Away...
The Greek souvlaki is no match for One Ball's Wiener schnitzel. He polishes off Yugoslavia and Greece, then decides on Russia for dessert. But he fails to realise while listening to the 1812
Overture that the music was written about Napoleon (aka Bonehead) being defeated in Russia by the cold. And falls for the same error himself.
Meanwhile, Rommel leads his German forces around North Africa, armed with lethal knotenschiefer. None of them are quite sure why it's so strategically important, but oh well, an order is an order.
In December, Japan decides it's high time the USA joined in the war, and bombs Pearl Harbor with exploding sushi. While waiting for a response, they go and invade Singapore, Hong Kong, Siam, Malaya, the Philippines, Indonesia and Burma. While in Burma, they combine warfare and mass transit, and use prisoners to try and build the Burma Railway, the first bullet train.
Rommel is defeated at the battle of El Alamein (passengers for city change at Camberwell. Little local reference there. Sorry).
Japanese advance is halted by American forces, making use of hamburger bombers, in the Coral Sea and off Midway.
German forces in Africa surrender to the might of Allied spam. Ummm.. is that VA day then? The Allies overcome hot salami bombardment, and invade Italy, but Mussolini escapes.
The Russians push the Germans out of Russia using high-powered Borscht, and advance into Europe. Meanwhile, the Western allies, led by Eisenhower, land in Normandy, and sweep across France. Meanwhile meanwhile, a group of German officers try to assassinate One Ball, about 20 years too late.
The Allies invade Germany from the west, the Russians from the east. One Ball commits suicide as Russian piroshkis enter Berlin, rather than surrender and undergo an embarrassing genital inspection. Germany surrenders - VE Day, May 8th 1945. 50 years ago. Pretty neat tie-in, eh? Pure coincidence, I assure you.
Japan fights on. Until a couple of nuclear bombs have been dropped on them. They decide to surrender, and take over the world later with consumer goods. VP day.
Almost nothing happens. By December, the United Nations is calling for an international investigation into why 1946 has been so boring.
Russian government representatives visit a combined metalwork/ manchester warehouse outside Kiev, and are inspired to introduce the Iron Curtain. What's different about this curtain is that it doesn't bend back to let the sunlight in.
The state of Israel is proclaimed. Proclaimed what? "I hereby proclaim that the state of Israel is... ummm..." Oh, proclaimed to exist? Okay.
The USA, Canada, and ten western European countries defy advice to use a TLA, and instead form NATO, the Neat Army Tricks Organisation. Meanwhile, the Communist Chinese People's Republic is set up... in... umm... China!
The Korean war, a conflict actually dating back to a family feud from the sixth century, when an argument about trading a goat got out of hand.
A bunch of countries get together for another one of their "organisations whose acronyms end in 'ATO'". This one, SEATO, is so named because the seats in the building where the official naming ceremony is held are far too uncomfortable.
Russia launches the first man-made satellite, Spudnik I, broadcasting Spudnik TV (Soviet Potato Television) to homes all over the Soviet state.
Fidel Castro takes over in Cuba, promising the people all the cigars they can handle. Critics say it will never last.
Communist China occupies Tibet; the Dalai Lama flees to India, to avoid political and religious persecution, Yum Cha, rice, MSG and those damned awkward chopsticks.
Yuri Gagarin of the USSR becomes the first man to experience weightless urinating, when he makes the first flight into space. "Comrades, I need help, the piss has gone everywhere!"
The USSR builds the Berlin Wall - destined to be almost the only thing constructed in the Eastern Bloc not to fall apart during the warranty period.
Vietnam, the forgotten war, hots up when US troops move in. Following this, the... umm... followed by... err... I forgot.
When Cuban leader Fidel Castro takes delivery of a batch of Soviet lighters, the Cuban Cigar Crisis ensues. Eventually the Soviets back down, when President John F Kennedy points out that there is a regional No Smoking policy.
John F Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas, Texas, by tobacco-loving aliens hiding in the Texas Book Suppository. The Suppository is later found to be a UFO. The aliens, who smoke pipes, cigars and cigarettes from nine of their thirteen mouths, all eventually die of cancers in each of their five lungs.
Beatlemania sweeps the world. Shortly afterwards, electronics companies devise a fifty year plan to get people to buy all their favourite music many times over, by introducing new recorded music technology every decade. This works until the 1990s, when, due to a tactical miscalculation, everyone is perfectly happy with their CDs.
Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin land on the moon. NASA had received large amounts of sponsorship for the mission, much of it from the International Cheese Conglomerate. The ICC, who had hoped to purchase mining rights, demanded their money back.
The Watergate controversy strikes the White House, causing every government scandal afterwards to be dubbed by the press as being (something)-Gate.
Whitlamgate strikes the sleepy little village of Canberra, when Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam is sacked. Rumours abound about CIA involvement, but ultimately the culprit is found to be The Fine Print in the Constitution. The Fine Print is immediately placed under detention for questioning.
Reagan shot. But luckily the bullet hits him in the head, totally missing his brain.
Bit of a deadly time, the early-80s.
Charles & Diana tie the knot in a fairytale wedding that eventually has an unhappy ending. Analysts have said that the major problem with their marriage is that Charles has never declared that he would like to be one of Diana's tampons.
Argentina decides they would like the Falkland Islands back. The Brits see a slight problem with this, and send in several squadrons of football hooligans. They soon have the Argentine forces subdued.
South Korea refuses to recognise UN Resolution 246, to abolish Beta video tapes by the year 2000.
The Space Shuttle Challenger takes on the challenge of a faulty O-ring sealant, and loses, providing the playgrounds of the world with Space Shuttle jokes for several weeks afterwards.
Near Kiev, the now infamous power plant Chernobyl goes belly-up. The Soviet administration denies that there is any problem, saying that the plant will last longer than even the Berlin Wall. The story is later told of how just two weeks before the disaster, a repairman was called in for some routine maintenance. But when shown the problem, he said "What plutonium cooling tanks? This time of year? Tssssshhh. No way guv - at least six weeks for them to come in, we're completely out."
The Berlin wall comes down after 28 years, when it is discovered that the Soviets had built it without getting planning permission. Actually, I never understood the emphasis on the Berlin Wall, when there are hundreds of miles of other bits of border between East and West Germany.
Nelson Mandela is released from prison. He is elected in 1994 to be South Africa's first post-Apartheid president. With both the Soviet empire and South African Apartheid policies gone, the West had to find some new bad guys for the next Lethal Weapon movie. Enter Saddam Hussein and the Bosnian Serbs.
Three years of turmoil for Russia, as Gorbachev is kicked out of office for not having paid the rent, the Soviet Union ceases to be. It expires. It passes on. It is no more. It is an ex-Union, etc, etc, fucking snuffed it, and so on. Boris Yeltsin takes over, and holds an extended drinking competition, which runs until 1993 when conservatives claim Yeltsin spiked the Vodka with water. Yeltsin retaliates by shelling the parliament building, and the conservatives surrender.
What begins as an Iraqi invasion into Kuwait develops into the most significant war in the Middle East - the war between CNN and NBC. It becomes a war of technology, of the green night camera lens versus the live satellite link to Baghdad versus the camera mounted in the missile head.
Anarchy breaks out in the former Yugoslavia, after the Bosnians claim the Serbs borrowed the lawnmower. The Croats demand that the Serbs and Bosnians turn down the music after 10pm. After that it all gets far too confusing for the average man in the street, as wave after wave of factions split up the country.
Bill Clinton is elected among promises of a new era, reform and saxophones. In fact, Clinton is said to have quite a lively sax life.
France announces the decision to resume nuclear testing, for three primary reasons:
Millions across the world pay homage to Princess Diana after she is killed in a car crash - and vow to always keep their seatbelts on from now on.
Bill Clinton's sex life catches up with him, as the world discovers the ultimate in "sucking up to the President".
The computer industry realises that computers aren't as sensible as people, and having been programmed by some apparently sensible people to store years as two digits, may have problems distinguishing between 1900 and 2000. A massively expensive re-programming exercise takes place, followed by complaints in early 2000 when it all appears to work okay.
Note: If you're wondering, most of this history is adapted from a copy of Pears Junior Encyclopaedia. With love to David from Uncle Wally + Auntie Joan, Xmas 1961.
- Copyright© 1994-2003 Daniel Bowen. Feedback: e-mail to dbowen at custard dot net dot au or sign the guestbook