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What Might Have Been

2.93  ·  Rating Details ·  115 Ratings  ·  21 Reviews
Throughout history, great and terrible events have often hinged upon luck. Andrew Roberts has asked a team of twelve leading historians and biographers what might have happened if major world events had gone differently?
Each concentrating in the area in which they are a leading authority, historians as distinguished as Antonia Fraser (Gunpowder Plot), Norman Stone (Saraje
Paperback, 208 pages
Published May 5th 2005 by Phoenix (first published 2004)
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Jul 08, 2015 Will rated it it was ok
In a word – disappointing.
It begins with the front cover, of a Nazi flag planted on the moon, a misleading and weak attempt at hooking a wider audience: none of the essays are about that. The fact that leading German scientists with certain known sympathies were later employed by NASA is mentioned only briefly in the introduction.

A few essays are quite good – “Napoleon triumphs in Russia”, and Archduke Franz Ferdinand surviving the bullet in 1914, but overall the quality is uneven and the topi
Jul 28, 2011 Jemma rated it it was ok
Another disappointing collection of counterfactuals, the cover image doesn't even relate to any of the tales and that would be interesting.

What works here are the essays by Historians, most of which tend to give you what happened as well as how they think it would've worked out. This is very helpful if you don't know the period very well. Even the editor Roberts, who is so right wing he chooses to write about Wellington, Churchill and exonerate WWI generals, is okay here. If one of the weaker e
Jun 21, 2010 Chaundra rated it liked it
I was really intrigued by the idea of this booked and so picked it up when it was on sale at Borders a number of years ago. My overall view of this collection of short essays is rather mixed. The first thing to probably bring people's attentions to is the fact that these are (mostly) historians, rather than fiction writers and so the writing is a bit cold and more analytical. The best essays were those that drew on this as a strength and overtly aired the issues and necessary guesswork required ...more
An interesting collection of essays, but sadly the story suggested by the book cover, "What if the Nazis Got to the Moon First" isn't one of them.

The collection was spoiled for me by the last two essays, which appear to have been written by twin right-wing apologists, separated at birth by the Atlantic Ocean. They were so clearly politically biased that I wonder why any discerning editor would have allowed them through.

Those quibbles aside, interesting, as I said, but not a keeper.
Dec 10, 2016 Tom rated it liked it
An interesting concept, the introduction sets the tone for the rest of the book. The author
attacks the idea of historical determinism, with a particular, critical, focus on Marxist and neo-liberal (i.e. Francis Fukuyama 'End of History' thesis) historical analysis. There are some great alternative stories that are set out and a possible view of what the aftermath may have looked like.

The main problem I have with this book is that it is rather uneven. For instance, the chapter on the English Civi
A. Bowdoin Van Riper
The “alternate history” subgenre encompasses everything from straight fiction (like Robert Harris’s Fatherland) to straight non-fiction (like Robert Cowley’s What If? series). This slender volume by Andrew Roberts covers the spectrum. Anne Somerset’s essay on the conquest of England by the Spanish Armada is faux history written from within the alternate timeline it describes, as is Roberts’ on what Russia might have been like had Lenin been assassinated in 1917. Simon Montefiore’s reimagining of ...more
Ali Bannerman
Oct 29, 2014 Ali Bannerman rated it it was ok
Great potential but all over the place in quality. I enjoy historical fiction and 'what if's but this book suffers badly from a number of inaccessible and politically charged chapters.

The book consists of 12 essays written by different historians, most of which are in the style of a fictionalised historical account. Many of them suffer from the problem of not giving any actual background or context and just launch you right in, so unless you are pretty well read on the area you are likely going
Dec 09, 2013 Jack rated it liked it
For me this was a somewhat uneven book.

I am a big fan of "what if" histories and this was going to be different because the short stories were written by historians . Some were very interesting; some a little interesting; and some - OMG - I fell asleep.

Worst - - 1980 British politics - an in depth - with way, way too much detail - discussion of what would have happened if the IRA bomb in 1984 had killed Prime Minister Thatcher. Half way through I thought the world would have been a better place
Charly Fitzpatrick
Entertaining but fairly light-weight collection of essays of "What Ifs" or "Counterfactual" history. The historians include Conrad Black who I thought was a criminal and his piece on "The Japanese Did Not Attack Pearl Harbour" states "not much" would have been different. Editor , Andrew Roberts' piece "Lenin Was Assassinated At Finland Station" is good fun and well thought out as is Antonia Fraser's "The Gun Powder Plot Succeeded". "The Brighton Bomb Killed Margaret Thatcher" by Simon Heffer is ...more
Aug 04, 2011 Richard rated it liked it
Fascinating book, that showcases what the world might be like today had history taken a different turn. Some of the chapters are harder to get into than others if you're not familiar with that particular time period of history so it's worth reading up on unfamiliar times beforehand so you can truely appreciate the consequences of the decisions that were made. Some chapters do only discuss the immediate effects of each event whereas I would have like to have seen a discussion about it's impacts u ...more
David Vernon
This book has been in my 'to read' pile for sometime and so it was finally with some anticipation that I opened it and started to read. And I didn't bother finishing it. The essays were very uneven in quality. They lacked structure and overwhelmingly the essays mixed reality with fantasy to such a degree that most of the time I was unaware which was which. And for someone who loves history this was disappointing.

Conrad Black's essay was poorly written and remarkably dull. Andrew Roberts' selecti
Jul 06, 2011 Fiona added it
Interesting read for those with a huge interest in history. Those who just like history or know very little actual facts will soon be drowning with this book. There are a number of "what if" stories and they are intriguing but if you don't actually know the real story, you will soon get very confused.
So be cautious with this one - not a holiday read!
Aug 04, 2011 Christian rated it really liked it
More "What Ifs" of history. A very nice collection of 12 essays such as "What if Great Britain won the American War of Independence" and "What if the Japanese did not attack Pearl Harbour". Another 'must read' for any fan of counter-history.
Becca Ehling
Apr 19, 2016 Becca Ehling rated it really liked it
Brilliantly written and thought provoking--is all history inevitable? Do leaders and individuals matter?
Nov 05, 2015 John rated it did not like it
As pedantic as a university History major's essay with none of literature's adventure or art. A colossal waste of time. I couldn't finish it.
As ususal with these sort of "What If" some of the essays are better than others. Nothing especially groundbreaking but an easy enough read
David Tendo
Aug 08, 2011 David Tendo rated it liked it
Fascinating and eye-opening takes on crucial moments in history. Essential reading for people who know history, but kind of mute for those who don't.
Gaopd rated it it was ok
May 05, 2015
Tony Nickonchuk
Tony Nickonchuk rated it really liked it
Nov 04, 2012
Courtney Williams
Courtney Williams rated it liked it
Jan 18, 2009
Brian rated it liked it
Apr 30, 2015
Apr 11, 2010 MpaulM rated it it was amazing
Such a fun book to read and I learnt about some history that I never knew about in school too.
Bob Vervloet
Bob Vervloet rated it did not like it
Oct 04, 2014
Csaba Kemencei
Csaba Kemencei rated it it was ok
May 21, 2015
Pieter Baert
Pieter Baert rated it did not like it
May 03, 2016
Andrew rated it really liked it
Jul 06, 2012
Alan rated it did not like it
Dec 20, 2011
Mark rated it it was ok
Oct 16, 2013
Bayu rated it it was amazing
Jul 24, 2014
Michael Heighton
Michael Heighton rated it it was amazing
Feb 23, 2013
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Dr Andrew Roberts, who was born in 1963, took a first class honours degree in Modern History at Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge, from where he is an honorary senior scholar and a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). He has written or edited twelve books, and appears regularly on radio and television around the world. Based in New York, he is an accomplished public speaker, and is represented by Har ...more
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