Alternate History

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If history never changed, there would be no need to study it. This premise is an integral reason why we in the Military History Club devote a portion of our monthly meeting to consider and examine the possibilities that could have arisen if alternate histories had prevailed.

Alternate history requires three things:

  1. a point in time where history may have been altered
  2. a change that would affect history as it is known today, and
  3. an examination of the ramifications of that change.

The earliest example of an alternate history is Book IX, sections 17–19, of Livy's Ab Urbe condita. Livy contemplated an alternative 4th Century BCE in which Alexander the Great expanded his empire westward instead of eastward; Livy asked, "What would have been the results for Rome if she had been engaged in war with Alexander?"

Many books, films, TV shows and even comic books have explored this altered approach to history.

 

Books

In 1962, Philip K. Dick published The Man in the High Castle, an alternate history in which Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan won World War II. How would the world be different today if this were true?

The Plot Against America (2004) by Philip Roth looks at an America where Franklin D. Roosevelt is defeated in 1940 in his bid for a third term as President of the United States, and Charles Lindbergh is elected, leading to increasing fascism and anti-Semitism in the U.S.

Since the late 1990s, Harry Turtledove has been the most prolific practitioner of alternate history and has been given the title "Master of Alternate History" by some. His books include the Timeline-191 series, in which Confederate States of America won the American Civil War, A Different Flesh, in which America was not colonized from Asia during the last ice age; In the Presence of Mine Enemies, in which the Nazis won World War II; and Ruled Britannia, in which the Spanish Armada succeeded in conquering Britain in the Elizabethan era. He also co-authored a book with actor Richard Dreyfuss The Two Georges, in which the United Kingdom retained the American colonies, with George Washington and King George III making peace. He did a two-volume series in which the Japanese not only bombed Pearl Harbor but also invaded and occupied the Hawaiian Islands.

Fatherland (1992) by Robert Harris, set in Europe following the Nazi victory, has been widely praised for portraying a more believable society and series of events than most other novels set in a world after a Nazi victory. It was also made into a film.

 

Radio

In 1953, the NBC radio network aired a show called Stroke of Fate that posited different point of divergence creating an alternate time-line for each episode and dramatized the results along with commentary from various historians. Episodes included changes in the American Civil War, Alexander the Great surviving his illness, an alternate fate for James Wolfe at Quebec City, no Julius Caesar assassination, a different outcome of Aaron Burr's duel amongst other stories. All episodes have been preserved.

 

Film

Although foretelling a world where Germany is poised to be defeated in World War II, Quentin Tarantino's recent  Inglourious Basterds offers a satirical revenge fantasy where a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler succeeds.

 

TV:

Zipang involves a modern Aegis class destroyer of the Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force being thrown back in time to the Battle of Midway in 1942. The presence of the ship and its crew, their advanced technology and knowledge of the future, change the course of World War II and create an alternate timeline.

Code Geass depicts an alternate history in which a western empire known as Britannia has conquered and colonized Japan in a near-future setting.

Konpeki no Kantai (lit. Deep Blue Fleet) depicts a hyper-advanced Japanese navy defeating the United States in World War II. Subsequently, Japan, Britain and the United States join forces to defeat Nazi Germany.

 

Comics:

Alternate history has also appeared in comic books. An early example is Captain Confederacy, which is set in a world where the Confederate States of America won its independence.

In 2009, Bryan Talbot created Grandville, a graphic novel set in a world in which France won the Napoleonic Wars, invaded Britain and guillotined the British Royal Family.

 

Other novels:

Eye of the Needle by Ken Follett: a German spy in 1944 nearly succeeds in foiling D-Day;

The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth: an assassin nearly succeeds in killing Charles De Gaulle, president of France, in 1963

The Key to Rebecca: a German spy in Cairo nearly succeeds in letting Rommel win in Alamein.

The Man from St. Petersburg: a Russian anarchist in 1914 Britain nearly succeeds, by assassinating a key envoy of the Tsar, in averting the First World War.

Enigma by Robert Harris: an embittered code-breaker nearly betrays to Nazi Germany the vital and closely guarded secret that the Allies are able to read its secret messages.

The Eagle Has Landed by Jack Higgins: German commandos nearly succeed in kidnapping British Prime Minister Winston Churchill out of wartime England.

The Last Crossing by Harvey Ardman: German agents nearly succeed in sinking the French luxury liner SS Normandie in late 1939, with 3000 passengers on board including many VIPs.

The Romanov Succession by Brian Garfield: taking advantage of the 1941 Nazi attack on the Soviet Union, Russian exiles attempt to assassinate Soviet premier Joseph Stalin and restore the monarchy.

The Night Letter by Paul Spike: In 1940, Nazi agents nearly succeed in blackmailing U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt into not running for a third term.

The Ninth Man by John Lee: a few years later, a Nazi agent penetrates the White House and nearly succeeds in assassinating Roosevelt.

Stalag Texas, also by John Lee: escaped German prisoners nearly succeed in destroying the American nuclear laboratory at Los Alamos.

Reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alternate_history

 

There seems to be no shortage of possible topics and I have listed those from the Wikipedia article and a few which you have suggested. If you have more please convey them to me.

 

WHAT IF:

  1. Alexander the Great expands his empire westward rather than eastward
  2. Alexander the Great survives his illness and continues into India
  3. Napoleon is victorious in the French invasion of Russia in 1811 and in an invasion of England in 1814, later unifying the world under Bonaparte's rule.
  4. France won the Napoleonic Wars, invaded Britain and guillotined the British Royal Family.
  5. Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan win World War II.
  6. Italy (and subsequently France) is defeated in World War I
  7. Charles Lindbergh is elected in 1940, leading to increasing fascism and anti-Semitism in the U.S.
  8. Confederate States of America win the American Civil War
  9. The Confederates win a victory at the Battle of Gettysburg
  10. America was not colonized from Asia during the last ice age
  11. The United Kingdom retained the American colonies, with George Washington and King George III making peace.
  12. The U.S. defeated Japan but not Germany in World War II, resulting in a Cold War with Germany rather than the Soviet Union
  13. The Japanese not only bombed Pearl Harbor but also invaded and occupied the Hawaiian Islands
  14. The Japanese succeed in winning the Battle of Midway in 1942
  15. The Confederate States of America win their independence.
  16. Rommel wins in Alamein.
  17. Operation Sea Lion goes ahead and Hitler invades Britain - DONE
  18. Nazi Germany learns  that the Allies are able to read its secret messages.
  19. U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt decides not to run for a third term.
  20. German prisoners nearly succeed in destroying the American nuclear laboratory at Los Alamos.
  21. A  limited nuclear exchange ("the Cuban War") in 1962, leads to the destruction of Florida and Cuba
  22. US intervenes during the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968
  23. Lord Halifax becomes PM in 1940 and not Winston Churchill - DONE

 

 

On the failed/successful assassination theme

  1. A Spanish assassination of Elizabeth 1 allows the Spanish Armada to conquer England
  2. German agents succeed in assassinating Roosevelt.
  3. There was no Julius Caesar assassination
  4. Arch Duke Ferdinand is not assassinated in Serbia
  5. A plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler succeeds.
  6. A plot to kill FDR succeeds
  7. Soviet premier Joseph Stalin is assassinated and the monarchy is restored in 1941
  8. Mussolini, with the aid of Hilter, ensures that Italy continue to resist invasion.
  9. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill is kidnapped/assassinated in wartime England.
  10. JFK survives the assassination attempt by Mafia/Cubans/Oswald
  11. An assassin nearly succeeds in killing Charles De Gaulle, president of France, in 1963