|virtual, counterfactual history
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Many writers, and some historians, have speculated over the
momentous "What Ifs" of humanity's shared experience and have
attempted to depict the resulting scenario if "this" had happened
rather than "that" at key turning points of history. Such speculations have
been described as alternate history, virtual history or counterfactual history.
Writers of counterfactual history have variously produced novels, short stories, scholarly essays, comic books, movies, television shows and plays with such works usually being presented as deliberate fiction.
Several such 'histories' have made it into the bestseller lists (e.g., Len Deighton's SS-GB) and have even been made into movies (Robert Harris's Fatherland).
In more recent years, a spate of works has appeared in which serious, professional historians delve into alternate history. The preferred term used in scholarly circles for such virtual, rather than actual, unfoldings of events is - counterfactual history.
Whilst some critics of this approach have dismissed it as being something of a "parlour game" it may be that we can learn valuable lessons from such a process. Certain events that actually occured may have only done so to some extent by chance and when we seek to explore what we think of as an alternative outcome we are actually attempting to explore an outcome that could possibly have happened.
Favouritive subjects for counterfactual history conjecture include:-
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