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What Might Have Been: Imaginary History from Twelve Leading Historians
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What Might Have Been: Imaginary History from Twelve Leading Historians

2.97 of 5 stars 2.97  ·  rating details  ·  88 ratings  ·  17 reviews
Throughout history, great and terrible events have often hinged on chance. Here, historian Andrew Roberts has assembled a team of his prominent colleagues, asking them to consider what might have happened if major world events had gone differently. Amanda Foreman, author of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, ponders what might have happened if Lincoln’s Northern States of A ...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published May 1st 2005 by Orion Publishing (first published 2004)
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Chaundra
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
Michael
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.
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
...more
Jemma
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
...more
Ali Bannerman
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
...more
Jack
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
...more
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
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
Richard
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
Fiona
Aug 17, 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!
Christian
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.
David Tendo
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.
Ipswichblade
As ususal with these sort of "What If" some of the essays are better than others. Nothing especially groundbreaking but an easy enough read
MpaulM
Such a fun book to read and I learnt about some history that I never knew about in school too.
Gavin Lavelle
The best thing is the cover, and one or 2 of the early essays. Most of it is smug, Neocon shite
Simon
The historians engage more in fantasy than actually applying principles of history.
Katie
Less formal then the other two I read. I liked it.
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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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