What Ifs? of American History: Eminent Historians Imagine What Might Have Been
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What Ifs? of American History: Eminent Historians Imagine What Might Have Been

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3.47 of 5 stars 3.47  ·  rating details  ·  285 ratings  ·  25 reviews
The "what if" concept is one of the most original and engaging on the current history bookshelf. The essays are chock-full of provocative ideas; they are as accessible to the general reader as they are to the scholar; and they are the perfect gift for the dedicated history buff on anyone's list.

In this new collection of never-before-published essays, our brightest histori...more
Published (first published 2003)
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Paul Lunger
The 3rd book in the "What Ifs?" series, "What Ifs? of American History" is perhaps the weakest of the 3 books so far. The essays cover topics ranging from the Mayflower to the American Revolution to John Tyler to the Civil War to WWII & Watergate. Each of the 17 essays in this book examine various events in American history & cite simple facts of what could've been had they not happened. Where the majority of the essays fail is that they don't provide details of how significantly America...more
Jack
Good series of 'what if...' essays - especially chilling was the one about the Oct 1962 Cuban missile crisis in which things quickly got out of hand (I was a freshman in high school when that occurred)

Very entertaining - especially if you know the 'real' history
Steve
Pretty good stuff. Really opened my eyes on a lot of historical events and how they unfolded. What if is always a dangerous question to ask especially in context of American History. The book is part of a series and consists of short stories and essays of what would have happened to this nation if small changes were made in the course of history...best article "what the fog wrought, the revolution's dunkirk, August 29, 1776" by David McCullough. Be careful when reading some stories drift into fi...more
Susanna - Censored by GoodReads
Dec 25, 2011 Susanna - Censored by GoodReads rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: american history fans
Recommended to Susanna - Censored by GoodReads by: my father
This was the first book I read after the stroke.

I couldn't concentrate on any very long writing at the time, so the short essay format was perfect.

I liked some essays better than others - a particular favorite was the one on the Cuban Missile Crisis, in which the Cold War "got hot."
Kyle
This is a collection of theoretical essays written by prominent historians about pivotal moments in American history that could have had a different result. As is often the case in compilation work, the tone and readability of the different essays varies quite significantly. There are a couple of stand-outs that really make the reader think, two or three that are quite forgettable, and the rest are at the very least intriguing, if not quite beguiling. If you like history and often wonder about w...more
Don
It's interesting, and fun in lots of places, but not really very solid. I mean... James McPherson suggesting that if Bobby Lee's lost orders had remained unfound, then not only would have Antietam been a great Southern victory, but the Army of Northern Virginia would be entrenched in (yes) a fishhook defensive strategy in the hills around Gettysburg in the Autumn of 1862. How convenient.

Yet, the notion that Lincoln would not have been able to issue the Emancipation Proclamation, and then sustain...more
Alan Chen
My goodness, has it really been 10 months since I last finished a book? In truth, I largely finished this off in August and have only now read it cover-to-cover.

Catnip. That's what this book was for me.

I do science, but history and politics have always been my first loves. Perhaps it's something about relative immutability of events, that though interpretations of actions and motivations may change with time, the Admiral "Bull" Halsey will always be drawn off the landing beaches in the Philippi...more
Nicholas Whyte
http://nhw.livejournal.com/898458.html[return][return]I'd read the two previous volumes in this series, which are more global and less American in scope; loved the first one, less impressed by the second. This one concentrates on US history, and is generally pretty good - the one real dud is an essay on "What if Pearl Harbour hadn't happened?" which concludes that nothing would have been very different except that the Pacific War would have been six months late. The other Second World War essay...more
Socraticgadfly
Good book with one, possibly two, exceptions

That omission would be a highly plausible counterfactual of us not entering World War I.

First, in the real world, WWI, as opposed to WWII, had no moral dimension to it, except as Wilson tried to impose it. So, another president could have gone in a different direction, especially one insisting that Britain's blockade by extension (not directly blockading Germany, but instead shipping to neutral countries, and interdicting supplies shipped in excess of...more
Tommie
This book, one of the first I read on my Nook, was bought because I read the first two in the series collected by Cowley in the 1990s when they first came out.

As expected, there were some great Might Have Been scenarios involving the Civil War, and the Revolution, and I was glad I'd bought it.

And then, towards the end, I came to the story that posed the question What If The Cuban Missile Crisis Had Become The Second Holocaust? The nightmare it details, presented in the form of a government repor...more
P
As an amateur historian, I found these imaginative essays quite interesting. Especially fascinating was the "Archive Report" on the nuclear war that happens when the Cuban Missile Crisis goes sour, the Union defeat at Gettysburg in 1862 (quickly ending the Civil War) and Eisenhower making it to Berlin before the Soviets. I'm sure the latter would have dramatically changed German history in the second half of the 20th Century--or spelled disaster as the Allies could have began battling each other...more
Ruth
So I've discovered I do not like counterfactual history. I suppose it's a thin line between speculating on what could have happened had certain events developed differently, and constructing alternative scenarios. This collection focuses on military and political situations and circumstances, and had I realized that I might have stayed away (my bad for not paying more attention to the dust jacket!). I find history (and in particular American history) fascinating, but to really concentrate on bat...more
Steven Williams
I thought the pieces in the book were good, but Cowley's other What If? collections were better.
Michael Durant
A bit idealistic, especially in the JFK Lives essay. No credit is given to LBJ's mastery of leverage in Congress. It's unlikely that JFK's civil rights agenda would have been as successful.

On the flip side, I really enjoyed the Pitt essay, which committed to counterfactual history and painted a historic golden age of British global hegemony. It was quite mad and fun. Also see Joe McCarthy, Soviet Spy.

I recommend it. From a serious-minded perspective, the Civil War section (the largest grouping o...more
Ruru Ghoshal
The analyses are far too hurried and lacking in detail. And the chapter on the possible scenario of FDR's delay in entering the War is disappointing, to be honest, especially if one consider's John Lukacs' other works.
Brianna
May 08, 2009 Brianna rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Brianna by: Dr.P
This book wasn't as enjoyable as I thought it would be (too many technicalities, and it wasn't imaginative enough .. although that was apparently by design).

My favourite "What Ifs" were the ones around the Civil War (what if the South had never been united with the North again?) and the Revolutionary War (particularly the fact that the essay's author seemed to wish we would have remained British)
Rob Knuth
Interesting thoughts on how the world would be changed had certain circumstances either ended differently or never happened at all. I like taking my mind on road trips of what might have been. I'd recommend for people into history and asking what might have been had such and such happened or not.
Eric
A foray in 'alternative history'. A friend is into this kind of stuff, so I borrowed a book of his and read it out of curiosity. 'What if' scenarios can be so open ended, it is no more interesting than any other fiction book. It's well written, but didn't hold my attention.
Ryan
Excellent. I love imagining what might have been.
Michael
It's not history when historians write an essay on what if the factual history turned out another way. These essays were what if Lincoln hadn't been killed, what if the South - Democrats had won the civil war, etc.
Debby
A thought-provoking collection of essays on how major American history events might have turned out differently if one small detail had been different.
Yosef Shapiro
A good idea. But, it was poorly executed. The stories were not written in an enjoyable manner. They made me feel like I was in class.
Joseph
Good, but more real history than alternate history, just as a heads up to AH fans/
DA
I have not read these myself, but the series are my husband's favorite!!!!!
Sabra
Interesting premise, rather boring execution
Ralphz
Ralphz added it
Jul 28, 2014
Brennan
Brennan marked it as to-read
Jul 26, 2014
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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...more
More about Robert Cowley...
What If? The World's Foremost Historians Imagine What Might Have Been (What If, #1) What If? 2: Eminent Historians Imagine What Might Have Been (What If, #2) The Collected What If? Eminent Historians Imagine What Might Have Been (What If, #1-2) No End Save Victory: Perspectives on World War II The Cold War: A Military History

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