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's 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.
This book was published by Indiana University Press.
"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)
"A wide-ranging and lively commentary on the utility (and limits) of examining what did not happen in the past as a way to make sense of what did...represents the kind of wide and up-to-date synthesis that is a hallmark of Black's scholarship." (John Brobst, author of The Future of the Great Game: Sir Olaf Caroe, India's Independence, and the Defense of Asia)
"A concise, comprehensive analysis of an approach to history that is far more complex than either its supporters or its critics understand." (Dennis Showalter, author of Armor and Blood: The Battle of Kursk and the Turning Point of World War II)
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