What If?

What If?

The World's Foremost Military Historians Imagine What Might Have Been : Essays

Book - 1999
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Historians and inquisitive laymen alike love to ponder the dramatic "what ifs" of history. In these twenty-two original essays, scholars ask the tantalizing question: Where might we be if history had not unfolded the way it did? Their answers are surprising, and sometimes frightening, but always entertaining.David McCullough imagines George Washington's ignoble end at the hands of the British if he had not made his escape from Long Island in August 1776. Writing about the Civil War, James M. McPherson suggests General Robert E. Lee could have moved into Union territory and the ultimate crossroads--Gettysburg--and won it all in 1862, if only his Special Order No. 191 had not been lost and turned over to General McClellan. Would the Union have been cleaved in half? Stephen Ambrose describes what might have happened if D-Day had failed. If the storm enveloping the Normandy coast in 1944 had become worse on June 6th, the invasion would have resulted in catastrophe.Other essay topics include Alexander the Great's luck, the Spanish Armada's ill wind, Napoleon's overconfidence, Hirohito's missed opportunity, and Hitler's inflated ego. In addition to the twenty-two essays, fifteen "sidebars," or shorter pieces, cover even more "what ifs." Among the contributors are Stephen W. Sears, Thomas Fleming, Victor Davis Hanson, Lewis H. Lapham, William H. McNeill, Williamson Murray, Josiah Ober and Theodore K. Rabb.
Publisher: New York : G.P. Putnam's Sons, c1999.
ISBN: 9780399145766
Branch Call Number: 355.48 Wha 3701 1
Characteristics: xiv, 395 pages : illustrations, maps ; 24 cm.
Additional Contributors: Ambrose, Stephen E.
Cowley, Robert


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Jan 26, 2015

I checked this book out when I realized that this was literally going to be like the best fan fiction ever- alternate timeline histories from some of the greatest historians of the last century. How could this fail, right?

A very potentially entertaining idea... not fully executed well though. Some of the essays by different historians are hit or miss, although one or two are electrifying and utterly fascinating.

Some of the essays fail when most of it is a regurgitation of true historical events for 90% of the whole chapter, followed by a brief and utterly anticlimactic "If so so had done X instead of Y, then there would be a different outcome. End of essay". The essays that really soar are the ones that take the biggest, boldest risks in extrapolating far down the road how the world would be different today (in detail) had events differed by one second, one decision, or one more stroke of luck... for better or worse.

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