Other Pasts, Different Presents, Alternative Futures
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Other Pasts, Different Presents, Alternative Futures

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Description

What if there had been no World War I or no Russian Revolution? What if Napoleon had won at Waterloo in 1815, or if Martin Luther had not nailed his complaints to the church door at Wittenberg in 1517, or if the South had won the American Civil War? The questioning of apparent certainties or "known knowns" can be fascinating and, indeed, "What if?" books are very popular. However, this speculative approach, known as counterfactualism, has had limited impact in academic histories, historiography, and the teaching of historical methods. In this book, Jeremy Black offers a short guide to the subject, one that is designed to argue its value as a tool for public and academe alike. Black focuses on the role of counterfactualism in demonstrating the part of contingency, and thus human agency, in history, and the salutary critique the approach offers to determinist accounts of past, present, and future.show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 254 pages
  • 149.86 x 226.06 x 20.32mm | 385.55g
  • Indiana University Press
  • Bloomington, IN, United States
  • English
  • 0253017041
  • 9780253017048
  • 1,196,079

Review quote

[Black's] illustrative examples of 'what if,' 'how,' and 'why' will make readers sit back and wonder. * Kirkus Reviews * Professor Black shows, in this intriguing book, exactly why the examination of different potential outcomes can aid historical understanding. He pinpoints how the expectation of events, even when unrealised, can determine human actions and affect perceptions of both past and future. Black demonstrates that, in skilful hands, counterfactual history is more than just fun; as one ingredient among many, it can be an extremely fertile source of explanation. * History Today * This is the most robust defense of historical counterfactuals to date . . . For those interested in this fascinating subject, Black's book is indispensable. * Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) * A sparkling defense of the legitimacy and utility of counterfactual history-of what ifs-and the best single work on its subject available. * Weekly Standard * With a unique methodology, Black performs a what-if analysis of history to show how little it takes to change the world's fate. . .This book provokes thought and speculation while also entertaining. * Foreword Reviews *show more

About Jeremy M. Black

Jeremy Black is Professor of History at the University of Exeter. He is author of many books including War and Technology (IUP, 2013), Fighting for America: The Struggle for Mastery in North America, 1519-1871 (IUP, 2011), and War and the Cultural Turn. Black is a recipient of the Samuel Eliot Morison Prize of the Society for Military History.show more

Table of contents

Preface1. Introduction2. A Personal Note on Life and Times3. Types of History4. Power and the Struggle for Imperial Mastery5. The West and the Rest6. Britain and France, 1688-18157. Counterfactualism in Military History8. Into the Future9. Skepticism and the Historian10. Conclusions11. PostscriptSelected Further ReadingIndexshow more

Rating details

9 ratings
3.22 out of 5 stars
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4 11% (1)
3 33% (3)
2 33% (3)
1 0% (0)
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