What If?: The World’s Foremost Military Historians Imagine What Might Have Been (What If Essays)

Written by Robert Cowley (ed.)
Review by John R. Vallely

Arguing the “what ifs” of history is one of our more enjoyable past-times and certainly contributes to the enduring hold the study of the human past has on each generation of readers and scholars. Editor Robert Cowley has assembled some of the leading contemporary historians in pursuing the possibilities involved in asking for alternate views of selected events from the military past. The coverage ranges from William H. McNeill’s essay on the plague that saved Jerusalem in 70 A.D. to Arthur Waldron’s article on Chian Kai-shek in the struggle for China in 1946.

The writing is uniformly excellent and the choice of topics is uniformly thought-provoking. History is never dull; contrafactual history is always stimulating. Contrafactual writing by scholars like Geoffrey Parker, John Keegan, and Alistair Horne is a reader’s dream. A well crafted and challenging series of essays. Highly recommended for those interested in military history.