The collected works of over twenty historians from two different books, this 827 page volume covers critical moments in history from the Bronze Age through Vietnam. Authors include Stephen E. Ambrose, John Keegan, James M. McPherson, David McCollough, James Bradley and the editor of the book, Robert Cowley, and many others. Each one takes a crossroads in history, imagining what it would be like had mankind taken a different turn. Stephen E. Ambrose, author of Band of Brothers and Citizen Soldiers, imagines a world in which the U.S./British combined forces were unable to take Normandy on D-Day. The implications of the U.S. and Britain unable to get a foothold in the European continent and suffering a massive defeat would have vast repercussions for the global landscape today.
David McCullough, author of the best-selling biography Truman, writes of a reimagined world in which the American Continentan Army was destroyed at New York. The Continental Army had been pincered between a larger British force on the landward side, and the British Navy in the New York Harbor. Out of food and supplies, battered by rain and cold for many days, tired and nervous, Washington seemed to be waiting for the inevitable. However, it was two consecutive evenings of fog that allowed the army to slip across the harbor during the night and escape almost certain annihilation. What if there had been no fog? What if the army had been forced to engage the British there? The REvolutionary War would have certainly ended differently.
One of the more fascinating revisionist histories is one in which a single battle casualty in 424 B.C drastically changes the cultural and philosophical heritage of western civilization; that of Socrates. Written by Victor Davis Hanson, professor of classics as CSU and author of eleven books, it imagines a western world in which the teachings and writings of Socrates never took place. Socrates, as many Greek men, was a soldier and fought in the Peloponnesian War. In the fall of 424 B.C., Socrates was a forty-five year old Hoplite infantryman that found himself in an unwinnable position in a small, insignificant battle in Delium and fled. Had he been killed it is unlikely that some of the greatest thinkers of western civilization would have influenced future generations. Aristotle was a student of Plato who was a student of Socrates. Plato's writings are largely the medium by which we have record of Socrates teachings, which were entirely verbal through the "Socratic Method". Aristotle taught Alexander the Great, among many other great philosophers and mathematicians. These early Greek thinkers in-turn influenced Rennaissance thinkers oer a thousand years later? Ideas of liberal thinking, democracy, rhetorical, astronomical, linguistic, and scientific thought could be drastically different through the preceding 2,500 years.
I would strongly urge anyone that has a love of the past and sees history as a living thing to pick up this novel. Each chapter is roughly thirty pages, and offers a different insight into a different period or event in history. The book is available through GP Putnam through Penguin Publishers, copyright 2001.