Counterfactuals in History
Publication Year: 2014
A wonderful critical introduction to an often-overlooked genre for scholars and casual readers of history alike.
Published by: Brandeis University Press
Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
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The following pages reproduce, with additions, the Menahem Stern Jerusalem Lectures that Richard J. Evans delivered in April, 2013. Before coming to Cambridge, where he has been professor of modern history, Regius Professor of History, and president of Wolfson College, he had taught at...
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This short book is an essay on the use of counterfactuals in historical research and writing. By counterfactuals, I mean alternative versions of the past in which one alteration in the timeline leads to a different outcome from the one we know actually occurred. In the chapters that follow, examples that are...
1 | Wishful Thinking
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What if? What if Hitler had died in a car crash in 1930: Would the Nazis have come to power, would the Second World War have happened, would six million Jews have been exterminated? What if there had been no American Revolution in the eighteenth century: Would...
2 | Virtual History
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Many times more books and essays on what their authors, following Niall Ferguson’s lead in his 1997 edited volume Virtual History, now call counterfactual history, have appeared since 1990 than in the whole of real history before then. Counterfactual histories have now become so frequent...
3 | Future Fictions
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Many historical subjects have been treated counterfactually. Novelists have been as wide-ranging in their choice of topics as historians have. Often their purposes, however, have been dramatically different. Jorge Semprún’s experimental novel L’Algarabie, published in 1981, for instance, sets...
4 | Possible Worlds
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Counterfactuals, or what some historians term counterfactuals, come in many different guises, and it is important to disentangle them before reaching a conclusion as to their usefulness or otherwise. Politically motivated fantasies, however widely they are believed, involving, for instance, the survival of Nazis...
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About the Series, Other Works in the Series
Page Count: 176
Publication Year: 2014
Series Title: The Menahem Stern Jerusalem Lectures