Historians love to play “What If?”—in part to remind themselves that things did not have to happen the way they did, but mostly because it’s fun. The 12 writers who have short pieces in Andrew Roberts’ What Might Have Been (McArthur) seem to have enjoyed the exercise. The publisher calls them “leading historians,” which certainly should be taken in the spirit of good clean fun, since one of them is David Frum, who offers a sophomoric hatchet job on President AI Gore’s response to 9/11. But most of the contributors-including Conrad Black on FDR and Pearl Harbor-are recognized experts who tackle major historical turning points. What if the Spanish Armada had managed to land in England in 1588; or if Archduke Franz Ferdinand had survived Sarajevo; or if Napoleon or Hitler had won in Russia? There’s even a 13th questionreaders are free to speculate on exactly what it israised solely by the cover illustration: a man standing on the moon with a Nazi flag behind him.
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