What Might Have Been by Andrew Roberts

Throughout history, great and terrible events have often hinged upon sheer luck. Tiny changes to great enterprises can produce profoundly different results. We all ask ‘what might have been?’ about our own lives, now Andrew Roberts has assembled a team of twelve leading historians and biographers and asked them what might have happened if major world events had gone differently?

Each concentrating in the area in which they are a leading authority, historians as distinguished as Antonia Fraser, Norman Stone and Anne Somerset look at vital moments of history and consider: ‘What Might Have Been?’

In her first publication since her acclaimed Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, Amanda Foreman looks at what might have happened if Lincoln’s Northern States of America and Lord Palmerston’s Great Britain had gone to war, as they so nearly did in 1861. Whether it’s Stalin fleeing Moscow in 1941, as imagined by Simon Sebag Montefiore, or Napoleon not being forced to retreat from it in 1812, as recorded by Adam Zamoyski, the events covered here are important, world-changing ones.

George W. Bush’s former White House advisor David Frum considers a President Al Gore’s response to 9/11, while Simon Heffer posits a Heseltine premiership had Margaret Thatcher been assassinated by the I.R.A. in Brighton. Conrad Black wonders how the United States might have entered the Second World War if the Japanese had not bombed Pearl Harbor.

All twelve essays are thought-provoking and scholarly, some of them posit a fascinating and often horrifying parallel universe – a universe that so easily just might have been.

Reviews

‘This is counter-factual history at its best – drawing fresh but informed conclusions from perfectly credible errors. Stimulating, provocative and playful, What Might Have Been is everything one looks for in a collection of essays.’
Graham Stewart, Literary Review

‘The main object of these essays is to entertain, and they do so handsomely. This book is a hymn to the accidental and the erratic. Look on these works, ye Determinists and Dialectical Materialists, and at least consider the possibility that you might not be entirely right.’
Philip Ziegler, Daily Telegraph

Moments when the fates of nations seem to turn on the roll of a die, haunt the minds of the twelve writers assembled for this intriguing and entertaining anthology.’
Andrew Holgate, Sunday Times

What Might Have Been is the latest of a series of volumes in which a gifted team of authors envisages alternative historical scenarios. As has become the custom of the genre,20some of the contributors submit sober and measured assessments, while others spot a chance for playfulness.’
Blair Worden, Sunday Telegraph

‘All twelve essays are good fun, and the will make the reader think – and that is, after all, what all good history, ‘factual’ or ‘counterfactual’, should be about.’
T.G. Otte, Times Literary Supplement

Copyright© 2008 Andrew Roberts

Leave a Reply

Next ArticleGeorge IV by Chistopher Hibbert