Virtual history

From Academic Kids

Virtual history, also referred to as counterfactual history, is a form of history which attempts to answer "what if" questions. It seeks to explore history and historical processes from the point of view of extrapolating a position in which certain key historical events did not happen or had an outcome which was different to that which did in fact occur. It should be noted that many historians find counterfactual history a controversial topic. It should be noted that virtual history is most emphatically not revisionist history, nor should it be confused with the genre of alternate history fiction.

Although there are Victorian examples of virtual history, it was not until the 20th century that the exploration of counterfactual positions was to begin in earnest. An early example is "If, or History Rewritten", 1931, which features a contribution by Winston Spencer Churchill who examined what would have happened had Robert E. Lee won at the Battle of Gettysburg.

A more recent collection of essays exploring topics in these fields are to be found in "Virtual History: Alternatives and Counterfactuals" edited by Niall Ferguson.

References

  • Robert Blumetti: What If?: Alternative Historical Time Lines, ISBN 0595301398
  • Robert Cowley (ed.) What If?: The World's Foremost Military Historians Imagine What Might Have Been, Putnam Publishing Group, ISBN 0425176428; Pan ISBN 0330487248
  • Robert Cowley (ed.) More What If?: Eminent Historians Imagine What Might Have Been? Pan, ISBN: 0330487256; Berkley Publishing Group ISBN 042518613X
  • Robert Cowley (ed.) What If? America: Eminent Historians Imagine What Might Have Been, ISBN 0330427296
  • Niall Ferguson (ed.) Virtual History: Alternatives and Counterfactuals, ISBN 0465023231; ISBN 0330413031

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