What if there had been no American War of Independence? What if Hitler had invaded Britain? What if Kennedy had lived? What if Russia had won the Cold War? Niall Ferguson, author of the highly acclaimed The Pity of War, leads the charge in this historically rigorous series of separate voyages into imaginary time” and provides far-reaching answers to these intriguing questions.Ferguson’s brilliant 90-page introduction doubles as a manifesto on the methodology of counter-factual history. His equally masterful afterword traces the likely historical ripples that would have proceeded from the maintenance of Stuart rule in England. This breathtaking narrative gives us a convincing, detailed alternative history” of the Westfrom the accession of James III” in 1701, to a Nazi-occupied England, to a U.S. Prime Minister Kennedy who lives to complete his term.
Published: Basic Books on Aug 6, 2008
My knowledge of British history was not up to reading this book. The articles are written by historians with expert knowledge of particular periods and the alternate histories turn on small scale events, which someone who has only one survey course in general European history will be unlikely to know about. But if you have that kind of detailed knowledge, I think you would find the book fascinatingread more
This is a controversial area of history, is it worthless speculation, since it never happened, or can these be informative thought experiments. It is up to Ferguson in the seminal introductory, and lengthy, opening essay to convince the reader that this is a worthwhile endeavor.read more
A collection of essays considering the "what ifs" of history -- what if there had been no (sucessful) American Revolution, what if Hitler's Germany had defeated Russia, what if John Kennedy had not been assassinated, and so on. The orientation, not surprisingly in a book edited by Niall Ferguson, is heavily Anglo-American. These are serious essays by serious historians, who regard "counterfactualism" as a way of better understanding what actually did happen. Some other serious historians regard it as a waste of time. I find the thought exercise iinteresting, however. Moreover, counterfactualism can help examine widely held assumptions that may not be true (John Kennedy as an American hero, for example).read more
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