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Alternate History

Article about: During the past ten years a somewhat intellectual game of second-guessing has become a popular line of reasoning among people who for some reason are not satisfied with how things actually w

  1. #11

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    Quote by HARRY THE MOLE View Post
    I totally agree with you. It is interesting to speculate. But alternate history shouldn't even be classed as history. It is purely a debate about what could have been. If it hasn't happened it can hardly be called history can it? Its almost as bad as revisionist history, and this is where it gets murky. Revisionist history claims what did happen didn't - such as mass extermination. And alternate history tries to show what might have happened if what did happen didn't!
    Funny you should say that, at this moment I'm reading Richard Evans, Telling Lies about Hitler, about his part in the David Irving Trial. A perfect example of how NOT to do history. And like you say, alternate history is within that spectrum.

  2. #12

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    Quote by HPL2008 View Post
    Not much to add to the above posts.

    Personally, I don't read a lot of alternate history material, but I really enjoyed Harry Turtledove's World War series. Going beyond "simple" alternate history, this series is about an alien invasion hitting earth during WW2 and the world-changing military, political, cultural, scientific and economic consequences:

    Worldwar series - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    http://www.sfsite.com/~silverag/worldwar.html

    I also found Robert Harris' Fatherland to be of interest. The film version is pretty decent, as well:

    Fatherland (novel) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    I've always been very interested in alternate history and thought the book and film Fatherland to be fascinating, i've not read the Worldwar series but have read Guns of the south by the same author The Guns of the South - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia about time travellers who try to manipulate history by arming the confederates in the American civil war with modern weapons, sounds very bizarre but well worth a read!..
    It's a wasted trip baby. Nobody said nothing about locking horns with no Tigers.



    I'm Spartacus, not really i'm Paul!...

  3. #13
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    Thank you Dwight for raising this interesting question, which I have thought about occasionally too.

    My feeling is that ‘alternative history’ as a developed fictional narrative, beginning from a starting point in actual history, is for entertainment. However, imagining an alternative outcome can be a historian’s ‘thought experiment’, with value for our better understanding of what actually happened. For example, if we consider the consequences if Operation Overlord had failed in June 1944, which wasn’t outside the realm of possibility, if bad weather had intervened or the Germans had thrown their full force straight against the landing beaches. The ultimate consequence of this would probably not have been the victory of Germany but the occupation of the entirety of Europe by the Soviet Union. It seems to me that this limited use of alternative history does have some value in showing that Overlord was important not only – or even primarily – in defeating Germany but in creating the post-war political order in Europe. I would add that I pluck the example quite at random and make no special claims for it other than as an illustration.

    Philip

  4. #14
    CBH
    CBH is offline
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    I feel that alternative history is good for entertainment , and has some use in the academic world . But the danger lay in this being used the make revisionist history more palatable . History is history and every side has a different take on what is the truth , there is no black and white truth . As I like to say " Your life can change , by missing the bus . Also by getting hit by it " Today the danger is the only history some people know is what they see in movies or TV , and they require no truth what so ever .
    The what ifs are many " What if Hitler had got into art school " etc .... But in closing all I can say is "If ifs and buts were candy and nuts we'd all have a merry christmas"

  5. #15

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    HPL2008: I too enjoyed War of the Worlds and Wells' earlier novel, The Time Machine, but I wouldn't call them Alternate Histories. Though they do have value in social history discussions when interpreted as a commentary on evolutionary theory, British Imperialism, and generally Victorian era fears and prejudices. But maybe I misunderstand what Alternate History is really all about, or maybe the adherents are using the wrong name to identify it. Dwight

    Fallschirmjäger: I do find from a military "planning" point of view the alternative outcomes of events quite interesting. While that would obviously not be alternative history as such, I do feel that the recording of all potential outcomes(as best as man can achieve) does hold interest in the post event evaluation and historical record.
    I agree completely that military planning should, even must, involve the consideration of all the possible outcomes. But that has real value before the event happens. As I see it, using those outcome possibilities that were valid before the fact, as the adherents to the value of Alternant History often do, is basing an argument for a particular proposition on something that never happened. And I just do not see any value in that. Interesting and fun to do, yes; but not useful in formulating a cogent appraisal of what happened and why. But I do see real value in educating military leaders through the study of what could/might have been. Dwight

    Harry the Mole: I cannot really see how you can separate the 'what ifs' in battle from the 'what ifs' on the political and social side of the coin. You are right that total separation of the variables in battle and the effects of those variables on society is impossible. But the variables in battle are much more objective than variables of social issues. For example. the Allies strategic bombing campaign in WWII was often described as being aimed at "destroying the enemy's will to resist," (population) and as a "High-level, precision bombing campaign designed to destroy the enemy's ability to wage war." (industry) In practice, the bombing campaign per se neither destroyed the enemy's will to resist nor did it destroy his ability to wage war. It caused widespread suffering and deprivation among the civilian population without destroying their will to resist, and it seriously reduced the enemy's industrial production, but it did not clearly accomplish both stated goals. Whether or not mass, area bombing of civilian targets materially reduces the enemy's will to resist is a highly subjective topic, which historical experience indicates is not the case. Whereas, weighing the effects of bombing, together with mass armies on the ground and a vastly superior material advantage, is much more objective. Certainly the two go together to one degree or another, but they do not share equal weight. Dwight

    Harry the Mole, And as an afterthought, it just might have affected this forum too! Would anyone be collecting Nazi era items if there had been no WW2? HPL2008, No. But a lot of people would be wearing them.
    I love that sort of exchange. Dwight

    Spitace41: On two separate occasions at two separate universities I have heard people rattling on about how IF Germany had been able to develop atomic weapons and IF they had been able to build gigantic bombers and colossal troop carrying aircraft then they would have been able to invade the US and win the war.
    My answer always is, but they didn't. Anyone who knows anything about the Second World War knows that the likelihood of such events occurring by 1946 or 1947 was very slim indeed given Germany's political and economic climate. In my opinion alternate history has no real place in academic study.
    I could not agree more fully with what you said. Dwight
    Harry the Mole: Revisionist history claims what did happen didn't - such as mass extermination. And alternate history tries to show what might have happened if what did happen didn't! I could not be more in agreement. Dwight

    Gunny Hartmann: I've always been very interested in alternate history and thought the book and film Fatherland to be fascinating, I've not read the World War series but have read Guns of the south by the same author The Guns of the South - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia about time travelers who try to manipulate history by arming the confederates in the American civil war with modern weapons, sounds very bizarre but well worth a read!. Gunny, I enjoy reading that sort of thing too, but works on the nature of The Guns of the South are at best science fiction and probably more appropriately labeled science fantasy. War novels are equally entertaining, but in the end, fiction is fiction, and it really isn't history. I'm a Ray Bradbury fan and have read nearly everything he wrote, so I think we are on the same page. I think I can say without fear of being corrected that you, like I and many others, enjoy that sort of writing for the pure entertainment it provides, but never apply any of the "lessons" from it to the real world, especially real military history. Dwight

  6. #16

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    Quote by drmessimer View Post
    HPL2008: I too enjoyed War of the Worlds and Wells' earlier novel, The Time Machine, but I wouldn't call them Alternate Histories. Though they do have value in social history discussions when interpreted as a commentary on evolutionary theory, British Imperialism, and generally Victorian era fears and prejudices.
    No offense, but... my post had nothing to do with H.G. Wells.

  7. #17

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    HPL2008: Oooops. Sorry about that. I saw Harry Turtledove's World War series about an alien invasion and my mind locked on The War of the Worlds. I have an idea, I'll say that you could have cited the War of the Worlds, which you didn't, but you might have, and my response will be an example of Alternate History. Dwight

  8. #18
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    No one can place themself into a situation where the axis had won. This because we see everything with the winners eyes thru 70years of one way produced shows, movies and one way forced thinking.

    Like the hollywoods movies we have been served, it is a true wonder these evil braindead germans is able to use their guns at all,- without shooting themselfs and severly cripple everyone around them.

    So for me it is impossible to even think the "what-if?" question.

    My 2pesos worth. Sorry if i ruined the party.
    Collect ROA, Cossack, Schuma and other WW2 Volunteer militaria.

    "Be Humble and kind, for you may find that it was Odin you entertained"

  9. #19

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    Trondk:No one can place themself into a situation where the axis had won. This because we see everything with the winners eyes thru 70years of one way produced shows, movies and one way forced thinking. You certainly nailed it with that observation. Dwight

  10. #20

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    The Allies DID win and for good reasons, some of which were supplied by the Germans themselves-as to alternate histories, 'Fatherland' shows an interesting example of what level of actual analysis makes a reasonable attempt-the book has the Germans invading Britain in 1940 and ending the war then with a following scenario that was plausible whereas the TV movie (to interest US audiences) postulated a failure of 'Overlord' in 1944-there could be no way the Germans would have been able to achieve the same result from that point onwards.

    Personally I find people playing games endlessly refighting the battles of real wars for entertainment distasteful and disrespectful of those who actually suffered doing it for real.

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