Unmaking the West: "What-if?" Scenarios That Rewrite World History

Unmaking the West: "What-if?" Scenarios That Rewrite World History


Edited by Philip E. Tetlock, Edited by Ned Lebow, Edited by Geoffrey A. Parker

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  • Publisher: The University of Michigan Press
  • Format: Hardback | 456 pages
  • Dimensions: 158mm x 228mm x 32mm | 739g
  • Publication date: 23 October 2006
  • Publication City/Country: Ann Arbor, MI
  • ISBN 10: 047211543X
  • ISBN 13: 9780472115433
  • Illustrations note: 5 maps, 1 figure

Product description

What if the Persians had won at Salamis? What if Christ had not been crucified? What if the Chinese had harnessed steam power before the West? Disparaged by some as a mere parlor game, counterfactual history is seen by others as indispensable historical tool. Taking as their point of inquiry the debate over the inevitability of the rise of the West, the eminent scholars in "Unmaking the West" argue that there is no escaping counterfactual history. Whenever we make claims of cause and effect, we commit ourselves to the assumption that if key links in the causal chain were broken, history would have unfolded otherwise. Likewise, without counterfactual history, we all too easily slip into the habit of hindsight bias, forgetting, as soon as we learn what happened, how unpredictable the world looked beforehand, and closing our minds to all the ways the course might have changed. This collection is thus both an exploration of alternative scenarios to world history and an exercise in testing the strengths and weaknesses of counterfactual experiments.

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Author information

Richard Ned Lebow is James O. Freedman Presidential Professor of Government at Dartmouth College and author of The Tragic Vision of Politics: Ethics, Interests and Orders, which won the Alexander L. George Award for the best book in political psychology. Geoffrey Parker is Andreas Dorpalen Professor of History at Ohio State University, a Fellow of the British Academy, and author of The Military Revolution: Military Innovation and the Rise of the West, 1500-1800, winner of two book prizes. Philip E. Tetlock is Professor of Organizational Behavior at the University of California, Berkeley, and author of Expert Political Judgment: How Good Is It? How Can We Know?