I’m on vacation, but I’ll still post this.
It even has some World War One material relevant for today.
This was, I believe, the first collection of academic alternate histories ever done and featured various famous historians and literary writers of the early 20th century.
This is a Raw Feed, so my historical ignorance is not as great as 29 years ago.
Raw Feed (1987): If It Had Happened Otherwise, ed. J. C. Squire, 1931, 1972.
“Introduction”, J.C. Squire — Brief comments on academic alternate history treatises. Emphasizes importance of causality chain beginning with trivial event (brilliantly explored in Bradbury’s “Sound of Thunder”) and how we almost always think of alternate histories as undesirable worlds to our own though this obviously depends on cultural/moral/political point of view.
“Introduction”, John Wheeler-Bennett — Brief comments on history of alternate history as literature and valid historical speculation. (His definition of alternate histories are peculiar. He includes political sf like Fail-Safe.) He also writes on why he likes sub-genre.
“If the Moors in Spain Had Won“, Philip Guedalla — Like most essays in this book promise to be, this story (told in excerpts from travel books, history texts, diplomatic papers, and newspapers) this is a rich source for alternate world ideas. The work not only develops its premise but wryly comments on historical study: chance events of little seeming significance to change things drastically, the events of our history were not inevitable, over reliance on economic factors in studying history, and belief that events in our history were for the best.
“If Don John of Austria Had Married Mary Queen of Scots“, G.K. Chesterton — A rather muddled piece of writing (part of problem could be I’m not familiar with the fine points of English history) whose purpose seems to be less constructing an alternate history than an edifying Christian legend of true love (which, evidently, the rest of us mortals can not achieve due to the Original Sin) in Don John and Mary’s marriage. Chesterton’s portrayal of Mary (perhaps because he is a Catholic) seems very idealized though he does seem to validly suggest Mary was a charming, beautiful, vigorous monarch. Chesterton seems to think their marriage would have included England in a greater community (that would have been created with the marriage) of a Europe with Christian traditions and morality and Renaissance vigor and questioning. He seems to attack Puritan influence on England as culturally mordant and brutal. He does have a satirical wit in regard to the question of history and study. He also has a valid point when he says we should consider personal motives such as attraction (and, unspoken, sex) as well as great abstract motives of diplomacy and economics. (A similar point as to Ward Moore’s saying history is made by people obsessed with the trivial.) Continue reading →