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More What If?: Eminent Historians Imagine What Might Have Been Paperback – 7 Mar 2003

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Product details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Pan; New edition edition (7 Mar. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330487256
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330487252
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.8 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 397,611 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'Marvellously entertaining as well as thought-provoking - the finest intellectual parlour-game around.' Noel Malcolm, Sunday Telegraph

About the Author

Robert Cowley is the founding editor of MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History - the award-winning magazine in the United States. He has worked in book and magazine publishing, and lives in New York City.

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THE CLASSICAL GREEKS saw no contradiction between a life of action and contemplation, even in the extreme polarities between military service and philosophy. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

3.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A. Ross TOP 500 REVIEWER on 13 Mar. 2002
Format: Hardcover
Following the vast success of the first What If collection, editor Cowley returns with another collection with a slightly different subtitle. Instead of "The World's Foremost Military Historians Imagine What Might Have Been" we now have "Eminent Historians." This is presumably to underscore the presence of nonmilitary essays and not a commentary on a decline in the quality of the contributors. It's worth noting that there's a startling lack of women in the two volumes-historical novelist Ceceila Holland appears in both, but apparently counterfactualism is overwhelmingly the brief of male historians. In any event, the twenty-five essays proceed in chronological order, and are supported by outstanding maps.
As with the earlier volume, I generally enjoyed the essays that concentrated on the older events more, perhaps because they are more removed from time and consciousness and thus are more plausible. While the essays are all entirely accessible, the are somewhat uneven in quality and on the whole seem a little short. In fact, one criticism is that in many cases, an excellent contextual setup trails off into very little counterfactual speculation. Still, each essay is useful as a minor history lesson if nothing else. A more minor annoyance is editor Cowley's one page introduction to each essay, which summarizes it and gives away the main points.
While some of my favorite essays were those which speculated on Pontius Pilate's sparing of Jesus, the continued exploration embarked upon in the 15th century by a massive Chinese navy, Napoleon's invasion of North American, and an examination of how WWII might have proceeded had the Allies not cracked the Enigma code machine-others that looked at the effects of small bureaucratic or political shifts were equally intriguing.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Wandering Dave on 25 Feb. 2004
Format: Paperback
This book is a very attractive collection of essays. The range is fantastic- it contains battlefield history, social history and historical theology. To give one specific example of each it contains an essay about Hastings, an acount of Linclons decision to free the slaves and an essay about Jesus.
The vast majority of all the essays in this book is actually simply factual accounts. The Hastings essay, for example, describes the battle in detail and the events leading up to Williams invasion-in that unchronological order! In between this there is about a page slighly dabbling in "what if" with a few thoughts about Britian as a Norse, rather than Latin, nation.
This book is, mostly, a history book. The main body of each essay concentrates on historical details. The "what if" part is actually rather limited (usually just a couple of pages) and based heavily on factual knowledge, such as how other powers in that situation behaved. As such don't buy it expecting wild and fantastical theories about how the world might have been!
This book also presumes the reader to have some historical knowledge already, and as such is best suited for people who have studied history at A level and beyond (or who are keen readers). Most people will probably find several essays to be simply a repeat of things already stuided- but there is more than enough scope in this book for people to find something new.
This is a nicely put together book- excellent for people who enjoy history to dip into time and time again.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 27 Nov. 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
First the plaudits, this is an interesting book which investigates some intriguing "What Ifs" of History. All the essays are well researched and written and perhaps most importantly VERY easy to read. I especially enjoyed the essays on Antony and Cleopatra,Harold Godwinson and William the Conqueror (although some thought as to what would have happened if Harald Hardrada had won at Stamford Bridge would have been nice) and France not fighting the Franco-Prussian War.
However I can only give the book 3 stars,as a hardback, as it is almost entirely written from a solely American point of view. Of course this is valid and makes a change from an Anglocentric viewpoint, but it makes some of the essays almost painful to read, for example VE Day - November 11th 1944, in which Patton and Bradley are let off Eisenhower's leash to win the war early and blow British, French and Soviet sensibilities!
In summary, a very interesting book but VERY American in point of view. I suggest waiting for the paperback. That would get 4 or 5 stars.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By "a_history_student" on 1 Feb. 2006
Format: Paperback
This book offers to the reader a historical interpretation of key events in history, combined with the imagination and flair of the author to forray into the world of counterfactuals. It is primarily, a fascinating insight into many events which i knew of, yet had little knowledge or understanding of. Although i must agree with previous reviews and conceed that it is heavily bias towards the 20th century, there are notable exceptions. The essay regarding Martin Luther's untimely death i found particularly interesting. The strength of this book lies in the fact that it moves at a fast pace and is able to cover many different events, which prevents it from stagnating. Unfortunatly, there is no real attempt in the essays to explore the counterfactual element beyond a few pages, which is a slight disappointment. Nevertheless, i found the book to be enjoyable and would recommend it to anyone else who had a inclination towards history, and wanted something easy going and not to specific.
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