248 years ago today, fighting broke out between the British Empire and its troublesome colonists in North America, changing the course of history. How would things have been different had this not happened? What if the British and the colonists had sorted out their differences?
Perhaps the British Empire would have become even more powerful in the 19th and early 20th Centuries, with the economic might of the would-be United States powering the British lion. The British Empire might have become a global hegemon. Perhaps the World War would not have happened, or it might have been mainland Europe against the British.
Perhaps slavery in North America would have ended without the bloodshed of the Civil War. The British outlawed slavery in 1833; this was a contentious event because of the British economy’s reliance on cotton, sugar, and tobacco from the Americans. Perhaps a British Parliament with the albatross of American slavery around its neck would not have had the courage to pass the Slavery Abolition Law. Had an overseas parliament banned slavery in the American colonies, would that have triggered a 19th Century American Revolution? Or would African Americans freed from bondage have avoided the horrors of a failed Reconstruction and Jim Crow?
Ultimately, that is not what happened. British grenadiers, light infantry, and marines marched out of Boston toward Concord, and the Lexington Militia turned out as a warning. Someone pulled a trigger. A few hours later the Massachusetts Militia opened fire on British troops guarding Concord Bridge and drove them from the field.
The fighting had begun, and the world would never be the same.