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Virtual History: Alternatives and Counterfactuals Paperback – 5 May 2011

3.7 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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  • Virtual History: Alternatives and Counterfactuals
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Product details

  • Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (5 May 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0241952255
  • ISBN-13: 978-0241952252
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.4 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 302,859 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Review

Quite brilliant, inspiring for the layman and an enviable tour de force for the informed reader ... A wonderful book ... lucid, exciting and easy to read (Literary Review)

Ferguson constructs an entire scenario starting with Charles I's defeat of the Covenanters, running through three revolutions that did not happen and climaxing with the collapse of the West, ruled by an Anglo-American empire, in the face of a mighty transcontinental, tsarist Russian imperium ... A welcome, optimistic assault on an intellectual heresy (Sunday Times)

A talented and imaginative team who tackle with counterfactual verve a series of turning points (Daily Telegraph)

About the Author

Niall Ferguson is one of Britain's most renowned historians. He is the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University, a Senior Research Fellow of the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and a Visiting Professor at Tsinghua University in Beijing.

He is the author of Paper and Iron, The House of Rothschild, The Pity of War, The Cash Nexus, Empire, Colossus, The War of the World, The Ascent of Money, High Financier, Civilization and The Great Degeneration. His Kissinger, a feature-length film based on his interviews with Henry Kissinger, won the 2011 New York Film Festival prize for best documentary.

His many other prizes and awards include the Benjamin Franklin Prize for Public Service (2010), the Hayek Prize for Lifetime Achievement (2012) and the Ludwig Erhard Prize for Economic Journalism (2013).


Customer Reviews

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Format: Paperback
I borrowed this book on a whim from an e-library and was impatient to move onto the first of the analyses - how would British history have turned out had Cromwell never come to power. But I thought I had better read the introduction first. Over 80 pages later, I finally finished it, enthralled by a fantastic critique of various approaches to history (broadly the deterministic approach of the 'historicists' such as Marx and his followers, but also the Whig school, etc., and the idealists such as Collingwood). Ferguson ends by making a very strong case for 'counterfactual' history as consistent with the essentially chaotic nature of events and as allowing the historian to consider causality more critically - in a world of multiple necessary but not sufficient causes, how do we ascertain which were actually necessary? By considering what would have happened without them, he proposes. He places historical discipline on this: alternative courses of action should not only be obvious to us in hindsight, he proposes, to be appropriate for analysis, but must have been seen as possible to people at the time. And should be supported by historical records.

As an ex-historian myself in my first degree many years ago, I found this extremely interesting and plausible. Ferguson's use of modern science such as chaos theory and quantum mechanics and evolution is well-informed and also persuasive.

The introduction would be excellent, thought-provoking reading for a historian at A-level or International Bac level or in the first year or two of a university course. And of course for the general reader as well.

I have not yet read any of the eight actual counterfactuals and may comment or revise this review as I do so. But the book, for me, was worth reading for the introduction alone.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I'm afraid it's not one does expect. There is no alternative history but going in to too much about why history and people should remain concerned what did happened rather than what if.

I found it heavy going.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Fascinating historical speculations! I suppose life itself is full of what ifs, but these alternative histories are really serious.
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great stuff brilliant service
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