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What If?: The World's Foremost Military Historians Imagine What Might Have Been Paperback – September 1, 2000
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So suggest some of the many first-rate contributors to this collection, which grew from a special issue of MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History. One of them is classicist Josiah Ober, who suggests that if Alexander the Great had died at the age of 21 instead of 32, Greece would have been swallowed up by Persia and Rome, and the modern Western world would have a much different sensibility--and probably little idea of democratic government. Still other contributors are Stephen E. Ambrose, Caleb Carr, John Keegan, David McCullough, and James McPherson, who examine a range of scenarios populated by dozens of historical figures, including Sir Walter Raleigh, Chiang Kai-shek, Robert E. Lee, Benito Mussolini, and Themistocles. The result is a fascinating exercise in historical speculation, one that emphasizes the importance of accident and of roads not taken in the evolution of human societies across time. --Gregory McNamee --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
It is true that at times the authors spend far more time summarizing the real-life events than exploring their alternate scenarios in sufficient detail. Although this was probably necessary for a general audience that may not already be aware of the details of Poitiers or the Golden Horde, it did often leave a hungry feeling in the pit of my stomach. In many cases, I wished there had been a much lengthier version of the scenario available.
I also agree that more consideration of "second-order counterfactuals" would have helped, but the general point of this work is well-taken, and should jolt the reader out of the lazy sense of historical determinacy into which we all tend to drift when we're not thinking very hard about the past. As must have happened with many readers, the book also caused me to run through the past 15 years of my own life in search of equally intriguing near-miss counterfactuals-- "what if I had moved to Rhode Island in 1996?", "what if I had married Ms. X after all?" I mention this anecdote because it is good evidence that the book can work its magic on the reader's mind despite the flaws that have been mentioned.
The bottom line is that I found this book hard to put down _despite_ reading it for the most part in a loud and seedy neighborhood bar.
The authors take various approaches to the challenge. Some launch into intriguing 'what ifs' and their consequences. These include the impact of Alexander the Great's pre-mature death, ways the American Revolution could have easily failed and what if the Battle of Midway had been won by Japan. Other authors take a different approach of only reviewing how events could have been different or how variants were avoided, but they never discuss the impact of the alternative event. This is the only weakness of the book in my opinion. Most articles joyfully carry through on the full description of how events could have differed and how the world would be different if they had turned out this way. For example, would Lincoln have negotiated peace with the Confederacy if Lee's orders for Sharpsburg had not fallen into McClellan's hands allowing the South to win this battle?
Finally, the scenarios are relatively realistic. There are no discussions of 'what would have happened if the Americans had automatic weapons in 1776...Read more ›
One of the topics we often discuss is counterfactual history or "What-if" scenarios. It's just plain fun to imagine what might have been if Custer never had a last stand or the Spanish Conquistadors hadn't have conquered the New World. What if Hitler had won W.W.II? The book explores history from this perspective of imagining how things might have been different if our history didn't occur. Having twenty plus distinguished historians who really know their stuff guide you through "what-if" scenarios makes for a good read. By the way, "counterfactual" is the word that academics prefer to use for "what-if" scenarios.
The book's full title is "What of? The World's Foremost military Historians Imagine What Might Have Been." The title fully describes the book's contents and all of the twenty scenarios describe how history could have taken a different turn had factors as uncontrollable as the weather were different. The twenty scenarios range from ancient history and the siege of Jerusalem by the Assyrians to the final scenario supposing what if Mao and the Chinese Communists hadn't have defeated Chiang Kai-Shek and the Chinese Nationalists. Every scenario was well written and discussed. The book has already provided my friend and I with great conversational fodder.
The book includes essays by: William H. McNeil, Victor Davis Hanson, Josiah Ober, Lewis H. Lapham, Barry S. Strauss, Cecilia Holland, Theodore K. Rabb, Ross Hassig, Geoffrey Parker, Thomas Fleming, David McCullough, Allistair Horne, James M. McPherson, Stephen W. Sears, Robert Cowley, John Keegan, Theodore F. Cook Jr.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A very unique way to think about events of the past that have shaped history. This book uses the insights and ideas from people in various fields, not just history, as they run... Read morePublished 4 months ago by arbole
Good clean fun exploring various historical events and asking: what if they had turned out differently? Read morePublished 4 months ago by Sturmey Archer
My grown son who is a history buff loved this book with essays pondering what "might have been" if things had gone differently in history.Published 11 months ago by dlorac
My husband loves this book. He likes that they are like short stories to read that you can read just one at a time.Published 13 months ago by Wendy Patrick
The various authors have a very good knowledge of military and historical studies to present their conclusions.Published 14 months ago by Jorge Almeida Ch
The first volume of historical essays that speculate what would have happened if an event had gone in a different direction. Read morePublished 15 months ago by Mr. Linguist
WHAT IF ?, Eminent Historians Imagine What Might Have Been , I have to say up front, I enjoy these books and there are many out there. This one is good. Read morePublished 15 months ago by Wooley in PSL
I assigned essays from this book to my students. I like that it makes the reader think of alternative endings to what too many see as the inevitable outcomes of world history... Read morePublished on December 21, 2013 by Margaret Q. Dienhoffer
I haven't finished it yet but it really makes you think about how things could turn out differently based on just a few events.Published on September 18, 2013 by Romy R. Franklin