HomeGroupsTalkExploreZeitgeist
Search Site
This site uses cookies to deliver our services, improve performance, for analytics, and (if not signed in) for advertising. By using LibraryThing you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your use of the site and services is subject to these policies and terms.
Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

Loading...

What If? The World's Foremost Military Historians Imagine What Might Have… (1999)

by Robert Cowley (Editor), Alistair Horne (Contributor)

Other authors: Stephen E. Ambrose (Contributor), Caleb Carr (Contributor), James Chace (Contributor), Theodore F. Cook, Jr. (Contributor), Thomas J. Fleming (Contributor)26 more, David Fromkin (Contributor), Ira D. Gruber (Contributor), Victor Davis Hanson (Contributor), Ross Hassig (Contributor), Cecelia Holland (Contributor), Alistair Horne (Contributor), John Keegan (Contributor), Lewis H. Lapham (Contributor), David Clay Large (Contributor), David McCullough (Contributor), William H. McNeill (Contributor), James M. McPherson (Contributor), Ted Morgan (Contributor), Williamson Murray (Contributor), Robert L. O'Connell (Contributor), Josiah Ober (Contributor), Geoffrey Parker (Contributor), Peter Pierson (Contributor), Barbara N. Porter (Contributor), Theodore K. Rabb (Contributor), Elihu Rose (Contributor), Stephen W. Sears (Contributor), Dennis E. Showalter (Contributor), Barry S. Strauss (Contributor), Arthur Waldron (Contributor), Tom Wicker (Contributor)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: What if (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,651258,912 (3.5)11
Historians and inquisitive laymen alike love to ponder the dramatic what-ifs of history. In these 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. This provocative collection of essays features today's foremost historians speculating on these "what ifs", providing a fascinating new perspective on history's most pivotal events. The essays include: Infectious Alternatives: The Plague that Saved Jerusalem by William H. McNeil; No Glory That Was Greece: The Persians Win at Salamis by Victor Davis Hanson; Conquest Denied: Alexander the Great's Premature Death by Josiah Ober; Furor Teutonicus: The Teutoburg by Lewis Lapham; The Dark Ages Made Lighter: The Consequences of Two Defeats by Barry S. Strauss; The Death that Saved Europe: The Mongols Turn Back by Cecilia Holland; If Only It Had Not Been Such a Wet Summer by Theodore K. Rabb; The Immolation of Hernn Corts by Ross Hassig.… (more)
None
Loading...

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 11 mentions

English (22)  Dutch (2)  All languages (24)
Showing 1-5 of 22 (next | show all)
The path untrodden, counterfactual reality, or simply alternate history. Twenty of the late 20th Century’s eminent historians look might have been in the essay anthology What If? edited by contributor Robert Cowley.

The twenty essays range from 701 B.C. Assyrian siege of Jerusalem to Berlin and China early in the Cold War in the middle of the 20th Century, some deal with one event but some deal with several scenarios (i.e., the American Revolution, American Civil War, the beginning of World War I, and the early Cold War in/around Berlin). In addition to the essays were 14 sidebars from other contributors. Of the single scenario essays among the best was Ross Hassig’s “The Immolation of Hernan Cortes” and James M. McPherson’s “If the Lost Order Hadn’t Been Lost” while the two worst were Victor Davis Hanson’s “No Glory That Was Greece” and close second was Lewis H. Lapham “Furor Teutonicus: The Teutoburg Forest, A.D. 9”.

What If?: The World’s Foremost Military Historians Imagine What Might Have Been is an good collection of counterfactual historical events and what the alternate history would have been for the world. ( )
  mattries37315 | Dec 29, 2021 |
the old old stories are not that interesting because I know nothing about them.
it is interesting how luck is involved so much. ( )
  mahallett | Sep 4, 2020 |
Good short bursts of reading that give perspective ( )
  Brightman | May 8, 2019 |
A compelling collection of articles from some of our finest military historians, speculating on how the course of history might have changed had certain events turned out differently. Far from indulging in "idle parlour games" – which, as the introduction notes, was the phrase used by E. H. Carr to dismiss counterfactual history – What If? is intellectually rigorous and often chillingly plausible. Outcomes of some of the various speculations include: a world in which the Abrahamic religions of Christianity and Islam never emerged; a Europe ravaged by the Mongols, killing off all potential of an Enlightenment; a colonial USA still beholden to the British Empire; a separate Confederate States of America after Robert E. Lee's victory in the American Civil War; a Japanese invasion of Hawaii in World War Two after a crushing American defeat at Midway; and the atomic destruction of Berlin after a failed D-Day invasion.

As editor Robert Cowley suggests in his introduction, these are about more than just historians and anoraks indulging in their hobbies; What If? throws into sharp relief just how much of the historical course of events – which often seems so inevitable in retrospect – actually rests on a knife edge. Above all, we are reminded of the importance of the element of chance and luck: if Ogadai Khan had not died and the Mongol invasion of Europe had continued under his leadership; if the British officer who had George Washington in his gunsights had pulled the trigger; if the American dive-bombers at Midway had stumbled across the Japanese carriers just a few minutes too late. It is particularly remarkable to note just how close and how often the American War of Independence came to disaster (those jammy Yanks). To further underline this, a persistent theme in the articles comprising What If? is the fickleness of the weather: preventing Cornwallis from retreating at Yorktown; saving Washington at Brooklyn Heights; allowing a 36-hour window of storm-free weather for the D-Day landings to take place. As Cowley notes in one introduction: "Often, in military history, the dominoes fall where the wind blows them." (pg. 341).

I did have one of two minor qualms about the book – with a keen emphasis on 'minor'. There were a few more spelling mistakes than I would have expected; not a great deal but enough for me to remark on it. I found Cowley's habitual use of the word 'us' – meaning the Americans – in his introductions to the articles a bit irritating, and I found Thomas Fleming's article on the American Revolution a bit jingoistic at times. Speculating on a British victory, for example, he says: "Within a year or two at most, Americans would have been on their way to becoming replicas of the Canadians, tame, humble colonials in the triumphant British empire, without an iota of the independent spirit that has been the heart of the nation's identity." (pg. 166). I found this to be a little bit silly and a somewhat provincial view of American exceptionalism; in reality, the Canadians have as much a claim to be 'the land of the free' as their rebellious neighbours.

Overall, however, I thoroughly enjoyed the book; I don't indulge my passion for military history as much as I used to and What If? really got the juices flowing again. I picked it up expecting to only enjoy the later articles about modern history (which is more my area) but the ones that have stuck in my mind are the ones on ancient history. Here, there is more wiggle-room for speculations and tangents, for the sole reason that they took place so long ago, and consequently they allow us to imagine a world fundamentally different from the one we live in now. To give just one thought-provoking example: the close-fought naval battle at Salamis. Previously, Ancient Greek democracy had judged citizenship based on ownership of land. Victory at Salamis was won by landless oarsmen and sailors, leading to a more universal interpretation of citizenship (pg. 33). How different would our inheritance of Greek democracy have been if this battle had not been won? What would be our Western principles of governance, law and society? It is incredible to speculate on the world we might be living in if a certain storm hadn't subsided, a certain bullet hadn't missed, or a certain man hadn't been in the right place at the right time. What If? shows, to quote the Duke of Wellington, just how 'near-run a thing' a lot of crucial historical turning points have been. In this respect the book provides a valuable – and entertaining – service. It helps us understand the dynamics of history: its ebbs and flows, its twists and turns that make it such an enduringly fascinating subject. ( )
1 vote MikeFutcher | Mar 28, 2017 |
Overall a very thought provoking book, and most entries were interesting. My favorites were various combatants making moves on Jerusalem, and the backstory on the consolidation of the Hebrew religion during the exile to Babylon. I also like the piece by Stephen Sears on the alternate outcomes of the early battles of the Civil War such as Bull Run and Chancellorsville.

The contrast of styles by the various contributors was very interesting. ( )
  delta351 | Mar 2, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 22 (next | show all)
no reviews | add a review

» Add other authors (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Cowley, RobertEditorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Horne, AlistairContributormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Ambrose, Stephen E.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Carr, CalebContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Chace, JamesContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cook, Theodore F., Jr.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Fleming, Thomas J.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Fromkin, DavidContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gruber, Ira D.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hanson, Victor DavisContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hassig, RossContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Holland, CeceliaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Horne, AlistairContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Keegan, JohnContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lapham, Lewis H.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Large, David ClayContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
McCullough, DavidContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
McNeill, William H.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
McPherson, James M.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Morgan, TedContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Murray, WilliamsonContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
O'Connell, Robert L.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ober, JosiahContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Parker, GeoffreyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Pierson, PeterContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Porter, Barbara N.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Rabb, Theodore K.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Rose, ElihuContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Sears, Stephen W.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Showalter, Dennis E.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Strauss, Barry S.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Waldron, ArthurContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Wicker, TomContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Amoroso, LisaCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bolte, CarlaDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ward, Jeffrey L.Cartographersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
People/Characters
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
Epigraph
Dedication
First words
It has been said that "what if?" (or the counterfactual, to use the vogue word in academic circles) is the historian's favorite secret question.
Quotations
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Blurbers
Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS
Canonical LCC

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (3)

Historians and inquisitive laymen alike love to ponder the dramatic what-ifs of history. In these 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. This provocative collection of essays features today's foremost historians speculating on these "what ifs", providing a fascinating new perspective on history's most pivotal events. The essays include: Infectious Alternatives: The Plague that Saved Jerusalem by William H. McNeil; No Glory That Was Greece: The Persians Win at Salamis by Victor Davis Hanson; Conquest Denied: Alexander the Great's Premature Death by Josiah Ober; Furor Teutonicus: The Teutoburg by Lewis Lapham; The Dark Ages Made Lighter: The Consequences of Two Defeats by Barry S. Strauss; The Death that Saved Europe: The Mongols Turn Back by Cecilia Holland; If Only It Had Not Been Such a Wet Summer by Theodore K. Rabb; The Immolation of Hernn Corts by Ross Hassig.

No library descriptions found.

Book description
Haiku summary

Popular covers

Quick Links

Rating

Average: (3.5)
0.5
1 4
1.5 3
2 16
2.5 6
3 64
3.5 20
4 83
4.5 5
5 21

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.

 

About | Contact | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 176,724,057 books! | Top bar: Always visible