What If?: The World's Foremost Historians Imagine What Might Have Been

What If?: The World's Foremost Historians Imagine What Might Have Been

Robert Cowley / Oct 23, 2019

What If The World s Foremost Historians Imagine What Might Have Been Historians and inquisitive laymen alike love to ponder the dramatic what its of history In these twenty never before published essays some of the keenest minds of our time ask the big tantalizing qu

  • Title: What If?: The World's Foremost Historians Imagine What Might Have Been
  • Author: Robert Cowley
  • ISBN: 9780425176429
  • Page: 186
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Historians and inquisitive laymen alike love to ponder the dramatic what its of history In these twenty never before published essays, some of the keenest minds of our time ask the big, tantalizing questions Where might we be if history had not unfolded the way it did Why, how, and when was our fortune made real The answers are surprising, sometimes frightening, and aHistorians and inquisitive laymen alike love to ponder the dramatic what its of history In these twenty never before published essays, some of the keenest minds of our time ask the big, tantalizing questions Where might we be if history had not unfolded the way it did Why, how, and when was our fortune made real The answers are surprising, sometimes frightening, and always entertaining

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      Published :2018-011-17T22:28:24+00:00

    About "Robert Cowley"

      • Robert Cowley

        Robert Cowley is an American military historian, who writes on topics in American and European military history ranging from the Civil War through World War II He has held several senior positions in book and magazine publishing and is the founding editor of the award winning MHQ The Quarterly Journal of Military History Cowley has also written extensively and edited three collections of essays in counterfactual history known as What If As part of his research he has traveled the entire length of the Western Front, from the North Sea to the Swiss Border.He currently lives in New York and Connecticut.


    1. Enh. A bit of a disappointment, for all that it took me more than four years to get to it. I skimmed a lot of the essays dealing with earlier history, as there was much moaning about how if such-and-such battle had been lost or so-and-so had died earlier or later then GREEK CIVILIZATION NEVER WOULD HAVE DEVELOPED AND WE'D ALL BE RIDING HORSES OR WEARING VEILS AND LIVING IN POLICE STATES AND SPEAKING ASSYRIAN/PERSIAN/SOME GOD-AWFUL ORIENTAL LANGUAGE OH NOES!!!!11!!Right, *cough* color me unimpres [...]

    2. I'm not one much for military history and yet this is easily one of the best history books I've read.It isn't that the writing is particularly great - there are no lines that beat you in the face with the sublime till you spout ramblings about Grecian urns. But it is consistently clear with an excitement over the subject matter that is infectious to the general reader. The selection of writers is excellent and the tone, mostly, consistent hovering somewhere between a textbook and a deranged time [...]

    3. The way the world is today came to be through a series of razor's edges (or hinges, or whatever cliche you want to use) throughout history. This is a fun book that deals with many of the most important turning points, and speculating on what might have happened if things turned out differently. Mostly, the world may have ended up unrecognizable to those of us living in this one - had the Muslims won at Poitiers we would all be Muslim, unless of course the Persians had won at Salamis which would [...]

    4. Some ”What If”s are 5/5s, some 4/5s for being too on the light side or, on the contrary, close to typical academic ramble, and some are fascinating (the best is the WW1 scenario written by Cowley himself, the editor of the book). The total is somewhere between 4 and 5, but closer to 4 for me (I am European) because it is too American-centered: way too much about the Independence War and Civil War, which gets really boring.

    5. Replace “The World’s” in the subtitle with “American and British,” and you have an accurate description of the book. A series of essays, padded with a dozen or so one-page counterfactual presentations. An endlessly fascinating idea with great potential, unfortunately not fully realized. Through 2700 years of history the authors, with varying amounts of detail, and with varying degrees of success, review some great military turning points in history, and their alternate outcomes.One gre [...]

    6. A compilation of essays that look at how things might have gone if battles had turned out differently. I found some of the scenarios very interesting. Unfortunately, either my attention span or the quality of the book began to suffer as it continued. Since the later essays were close in time, they seemed to become rather repetitive. There were even occasions when the same battle was written about twice, which really began to push my boredom level.Overall, an interesting book, but it definitely c [...]

    7. When I saw the names James M. McPherson and John Keegan, I thought this would be fun, but as I trudged through it, enjoying speculative paragraphs here and there, just to be mired in tangents about tactical and cultural what-ifs, I realized that what these guys are doing is describing fiction without actually telling a story.I guess this sort of thing is fun for a certain kind of mindset--the distant view of the chess board of history--but it became an exercise in frustration for me, who likes t [...]

    8. This was really, really interesting to read. I love alternative history novels, so why not a series of essays ranging from 700 BC to the 1980s? It really fired up my imagination, which I love. The concept is five stars, but my personal interest level varied by each author's writing style and period of history.

    9. "What If? The World's foremost MILITARY Historians Imagine What Might Have Been" is a book with an interesting premise: to ask how certain historical events could have occurred differently. However, the book is wildly inconsistent, with some interesting, thought provoking articles outweighed by poorly conceived, poorly written, myopic ones.The book is a collection of articles edited by Robert Cowley, editor of "Military History Magazine" which explore various historical scenarios. The scenarios, [...]

    10. "What If?" belongs to a genre called alternate history in which the historian speculates how the past might have been altered if one or more events had or hadn't happened. One example: Britain would have been deprived of Winston Churchill's leadership which prevented the Nazi occupation of his country if the future prime minister had been killed instead of being injured when a taxi cab in New York in 1931 hit him as Churchill was crossing the street. This nonfiction history contains discrete ite [...]

    11. Two scriptural passages come to mind while reading this collection of might-have-beens: First, from Alma, "by small and simple things are great things brought to pass" (Alma 36:6-7) and second, paraphrasing Nephi, the rise and fall of nations are in God's hands. (1 Ne. 17:37). In many of these essays, the fates of empires, both ancient and modern, turn on a lieutenant's reflexes or on the sudden vagaries of weather. The quality of writings varies among the selections, as might be expected in any [...]

    12. What if were ALL written by top quality writers?The premise of this book is explained by the title. The "What ifs?" range in time from the failed Assyrian siege of Jerusalem in 701 B.C. to an extremely tense period in the Cold War in November of 1983. There are 40 different scenarios in all. For me, the most interesting were the scenarios concerning the Spanish conquest of the Aztecs and the American Revolution. Each of these had multiple "What ifs?" and I am now convinced that 2 of the luckiest [...]

    13. Counterfactual history alternative outcomes at history's key turning points and how things could easily have turned out. Let's face it, it's pulp fiction for history buffs! I love it! Interesting that all the pre-1500 scenarios similarly observe that any slight change along the way would have derailed Christianity and thus changed the course of world history. Testament to the profoundly shaping influence Jesus has (in actual fact) had on the course of history, I guess.

    14. A very interesting book - a lot of history is taught in a way that makes it seem inevitable that things turned out the way they did, but some events that could have easily gone differently would have led to a world today that might be hard to recognize compared to the one we inhabit. Some great writers here, sharing some deep and careful thinking.

    15. Well, OK, it's been a while since I read it, but I remember this book fondly. It takes several major wars and battles and tries to predict how the world would have been if the other side won. A very interesting way to predict what might have been.

    16. In what ways could history have been altered if just one small event had happened differently? This compilation of essays includes historians' musings on that very question for defining moments from ancient Greece up through World War II. Some of them are familiar - the typical alternatives presented in high school history classes with a bit more depth or longer extrapolation of resulting events - while others isolate little known occurrences which ended up having a big impact on the world and c [...]

    17. I like history, but I also happen to find it, how it is typically written, very boring.Instead, I prefer to investigate history through alternative history. By learning what could have happened, the author must first establish what did happen.The essays in the this work cover a broad range, from several centuries BCE to the middle of the 20th century (I would have appreciated a bit more on the late 20th century, but I understand there is a second book by the same editor that maybe covers a bit m [...]

    18. An intriguing concept with tremendous potential -- this is a book of short essays on the some of the most tantalizing historical military "what-ifs". Yet, some two significant complaints: 1) The twenty essays are some of the most obvious and western-centric choices imaginable ranging from the American Revolution to Napoleon and Hitler. While I would have been disappointing if these books didn't touch on these topics. There is so much more military history pertaining to other time periods and cul [...]

    19. This should be a book that I would enjoy. I have degrees in history, I write history, I love speculative history I mean, I enjoyed The Guns of the South even though it was wholly insane. So a volume of best selling historians writing counter-factual fables collected from the pages of a well known popular history journal seemed promising as light entertainment at minimum and at best a chance to see major historical events from a new angle. But rather than find this collection an easy read, though [...]

    20. This book is fascinating.I had never thought about the impact of tiny changes from the Ancient world.a random outbreak of a disease or the death of one person can change so much.The section on the Mongols was a bit scary because they were such a brutal fighting force and could have easily changed Europe into a barbaric tribal area with no great cities.The book lost my interest a bit in the middle when there was a huge section about the American war of Independence, although maybe American histor [...]

    21. Excellent read for anyone who enjoys pondering the "what ifs" of history and what impact certain events would have on the world if only something turned out slightly differently. The weather-based scenarios were my personal favorites because it really demonstrates how history can turn on a dime! There were only two drawbacks for me that prevented a 5-star rating, the first being that the collection is very Euro- & Amero-centric and some authors had heavy pro-European bias that I felt interfe [...]

    22. Interesting idea, though too much focus on American issues/perspectives (inevitable, in a book by US historians, I suppose!). Also , most scenarios are more a discussion around the key decisions/events/incidents that shaped that moment in history - weather features prominently! - though still intriguing to see how finely-balanced some major moments in history were.Not bad for a charity shop find, but I'd be disappointed to have paid full price for it!

    23. A interesting compedium of various counterfactuals in human history. All are plausible and in the realm of possibility. From ancient Jeruslam to civil war China in the 1940's. Famous authors and historians like Stephen Ambrose and John Keegan contributed to those is essays.A must have for counterfactuals fans.

    24. Some of the essays were truly compelling, like Parker's about what would have happened if the Reformation movement had been divided and how the world would have been different. For those of us in North America especially. It was amazing how close-run a thing it was, and Parker tells the story in a very memorable and gripping way. Some of the other sections are less interesting, even rather light

    25. Very interesting, almost a four. What have happened had we lost the Battle of Midway?? (Yikes) Lots of other What Ifs throughout history; I liked it mainly because I like reading about history, but I found myself at times wishing I were reading what really happened instead of the possible alternatives. But an interesting book, and some of the essays are excellent.

    26. Quite a book! It sets up situations like “What if Alexander the Great had died young?, or “What if D Day invasions failed? The book, written by historians, teaches a lot of history on the way to it’s conclusions. I enjoyed it very much! 4.5!

    27. Probably gave up too early, but I couldn't get into this at all. Required too much knowledge of relatively obscure events to understand what was, let alone what might have been. Would have been more interesting with less academia and more story-telling. Like many history teachers.

    28. So, so , so dry I really wanted to finish this. I listened for a good 2 hours before I had to quit. It was painful. I felt so dumb because I didn't know enough to get a good grasp on what the essays were about. I was familiar with the names, but nothing beyond names and approximately what country they were associated with. It held such promise. Alas.

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