Customer Reviews


11 Reviews
5 star:
 (5)
4 star:
 (2)
3 star:
 (1)
2 star:
 (2)
1 star:
 (1)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Informative and thought-provoking
"Virtual History" has a very modern slant - its earliest subject is Charles I and the Civil War and 7 of the 9 essays relate to 20th-century events. As a reader with an interest in ancient and medieval history I was a little disappointed that there was not a little more variety. That does not undermine the quality of the writing at all, but some prior knowledge of the...
Published on 7 Mar 2007 by The Wanderer

versus
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fun-time Ferguson
I found this an interesting book and I have huge respect for Ferguson's work. My only problem is the attempt to elevate the "what if" game to a branch of the philosophy of history. I found this introductory section creaky and unconvincing. "Counterfactuals" are better classified as imaginary conceits, more akin to sci-fi than history. They may be more entertaining than a...
Published on 30 July 2009 by Mr. David Cheshire


‹ Previous | 1 2 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Informative and thought-provoking, 7 Mar 2007
"Virtual History" has a very modern slant - its earliest subject is Charles I and the Civil War and 7 of the 9 essays relate to 20th-century events. As a reader with an interest in ancient and medieval history I was a little disappointed that there was not a little more variety. That does not undermine the quality of the writing at all, but some prior knowledge of the subjects covered is definitely helpful. To be fair, however, care has been taken to ensure that the subjects chosen are all fairly well-known events - the (English) Civil War, the American War of Independence, World War Two, the assassination of JFK for example.

Ferguson's introductory chapter is perhaps the best section of the book, being both excellent and informative. In it he takes a careful look at the development of counterfactual history over the ages, making reference to the literary world and to the development of science too. Some might find this section too dry, especially if their interest is more in the actual 'what if' scenarios presented in the following chapters. To me, however, this was one of the most engaging parts of the book, with plenty to consider.

One of the best essays is Andrew Roberts' "Hitler's England: What if Germany had invaded Britain in May 1940?" Here he explores plausible alternative courses based on contemporary attitudes, German strategies and British contingency plans. This is the kind of counterfactual history this book is really concerned with, rather than simply telling fictional stories. For this reason there seems to be little value in the last chapter, which attempts to tie together all the scenarios into a continuous narrative.

It is also worthwhile pointing out that "Virtual History" has an extensive list of endnotes, which means it is possible to follow up on many of the interesting points raised. At the same time, though, it would have been nice to have a bibliography or 'recommended reading' list. However, this is a minor flaw in what is generally an excellent read for anyone interested in 'what if?' history or even just looking for a new and imaginative take on what are well-covered subjects.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating concept, good book, 22 Jan 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: Virtual History: Alternatives and Counterfactuals (Paperback)
Ferguson is an extremely readable historian, and in Virtual History he certainly raises a host of thought-provoking questions. The book deals with what my history professor calls 'if history'--what would have happened if circumstances had been just a little different, or if individuals had made different choices. Ferguson's introduction deals with any reservations people may have about this idea--he discusses conventional historians' dislike of 'if history', the need to avoid the 'Cleopatra's nose' ideas, and the reasons why it is so important to think about what could have happened.
The different chapters in the book discuss various scenarios--what would have happened if America had remained a British colony, what if Hitler had invaded Britain in 1940, and so on. Most are extremely readable. The essays discuss possibilities and detail why the choices which were made were actually made before considering what could have occurred. I found those dealing with WW2 to be the most interesting--perhaps this was because the Nazis left their plans for the Thousand Year Reich, allowing historians to reconstruct Hitler's Europe with reasonable certainty. Obviously the essays vary; I felt that the essay dealing with JFK was far from subjective. Certainly he was an extremely flawed man, and a continuation of Camelot might not have been in anyone's best interest, but it is more of an attack than a construction of Virtual History, and JFK's finest hour in the Cuban Missile Crisis is not even mentioned.
Despite this, I recommend this to any history students or anyone with a general interest. It's a book to dip in to and to think about, and one which might just change the way you view the past.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fun-time Ferguson, 30 July 2009
This review is from: Virtual History: Alternatives and Counterfactuals (Paperback)
I found this an interesting book and I have huge respect for Ferguson's work. My only problem is the attempt to elevate the "what if" game to a branch of the philosophy of history. I found this introductory section creaky and unconvincing. "Counterfactuals" are better classified as imaginary conceits, more akin to sci-fi than history. They may be more entertaining than a lot of straight history but they are never likely to throw up genuinely original insights. Ferguson ironically demonstrates this later in the book. His essay on the causes of the First World War is fascinating and does indeed throw up ar least one original insight, namely that pre-war Britain repeatedly rejected the option of an Anglo-German alliance not from fear of a strong or resurgeant Germany, but precisely the opposite. A German alliance would jeopardise friendship with France and Russia; they were strong; Germany was not. The perception of German weakness was the main obstancle to Anglo-German detente. But the point is - it is an essay; Ferguson did not write it in the format of a counter-factual, but as a probing and speculative essay. Counter-factuals are fun; but they are no substitute for the reflective intelligence of the historian, compared to which they are a gimmick. Don't get me wrong - read this book - but for strictly for fun.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, 26 Nov 2013
Some historians might scoff at counterfactual "what if" history, but I fully believe in its value. When historians consider alternative scenarios to what happened, it can only help to aid their understanding of what actually did happen. Niall Ferguson presents this argument (in a great deal more length) during this book's introduction, then a number of historians use counterfactuals to examine certain historical events - from the English Civil War (what if Charles I had avoided the Civil War?) to the Cold War (what if Communism had not collapsed?) I found the two Second World War counterfactuals, looking at the possibility of Germany victories against the UK and the USSR, to be the most engaging. The only question mark against the book is the afterword, in which Niall Ferguson indulges in a 'virtual history' encompassing all the events of the earlier chapters which ends in the long-lived Stuart dynasty being overthrown at the end of the Cold War. Having spent time building up counterfactual history as a serious pursuit which should be rigorous and sensibly applied to history, the afterword is a flight of fancy which contradicts the central idea of the book. Nevertheless, Virtual History succeeds in making the reader think seriously about the value of counterfactuals as a tool for historical understanding.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2.0 out of 5 stars On time but pages missing, 22 Aug 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Someone has ripped twenty pages out of the book. It's a dip in read so this doesn't ruin it completely, but these were twenty pages I wanted to dip into
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars "what if", 28 Feb 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Virtual History: Alternatives and Counterfactuals (Paperback)
a good book, but more academic than expected. the very long introduction drowns you in the 'history of history' and becomes slightly pompous, and it seems Ferguson feels the need to justify to the academic community why counterfactual history should be taken seriously. the chapter themselves are ok, but there are better counterfactal works out there. a lot of time in each chapter is spent on telling what actually happened, and too little time is given to the "what if" part of the question. also, most of the chapters are focused on newer history (20th century), so for someone like me, more interested in older history, it wasnt great.
a good read, but some knowledge about history (particularly western European) would be useful.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A chaotic past, 19 Aug 2011
By 
D. J. Andrews "David Andrews" (Keele, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Virtual History: Alternatives and Counterfactuals (Paperback)
This book puts counterfactual history in the context that it should have been in all along and that is one in a crusade against whiggishness. It raises the importance of questioning what the alternatives were to a decision or outcome before making judgments on actions. It gets a bit whiffy at points and i'm sure the union jacks and hitler on the cover were nothing to do with selling the book.

It is fun, but so are alot of things that are worthwile and tell us about the nature of humanity, art, literature, film, cheese. Being fun shouldn't cheapen it.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 8 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not up to scratch, 30 Nov 2009
This review is from: Virtual History: Alternatives and Counterfactuals (Paperback)
There is very little by way of counterfactual ideas or theories in this book.
Disappointingly,the authors spend the vast bulk of the book simply repeating what any historical book about the period could tell you & not nearly enough effort is put into the fascinating theories that it is possible to expand upon.
The vignettes by such eminent authors as John Keegan that are dotted about the book are far superior but regrettably brief.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars WHY DID I BUY THIS?, 29 Nov 2013
By 
Mervyn O. Hagger "freebornjohn" (Texas, USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This book was recommended to me because of it style of presentation, and so I bought two versions of the same book. That was a waste of money since I didn't like the style or the book.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


6 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars History is an accident - brilliant, 19 Mar 2006
By 
Jennifer Okonkwo "SteveP" (London, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
A slow start, and gets bogged down at times. However so shocking and controversial it will turn your head around 180 degrees. Absolutely must.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 2 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

Virtual History: Alternatives and Counterfactuals
Virtual History: Alternatives and Counterfactuals by Niall Ferguson (Paperback - 6 Mar 1998)
Used & New from: £0.01
Add to wishlist See buying options
Only search this product's reviews