If It Had Happened Otherwise

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If It Had Happened Otherwise (ISBN 028397821X) is a 1931 collection of essays edited by J. C. Squire and published by Longmans, Green. Each essay in the collection could be considered alternate history or counterfactual history, a few written by leading historians of the period and one by Winston Churchill.


The original edition included the following essays:[1]

  • "If Lee Had NOT Won the Battle of Gettysburg" by Winston Churchill: This essay is written from the viewpoint of a historian in a world where the Confederate Army won the Battle of Gettysburg and the Civil War, and the narration frequently asks what would happen if that were not so, the joke being that we know that it isn't so. Although the Confederacy achieves independence, the British Empire becomes a broker between the USA and CSA, resulting in an eventual unification of all three as the "English Speaking Association", which prevents World War I.[3]
  • "If Louis XVI Had Had an Atom of Firmness" by André Maurois: As with Hilaire Belloc's essay above, the main story posits Louis XVI as averting his 1793 death in the French Revolution, but the point of divergence happens in the 1770s rather than 1791, and leads to a more optimistic outcome. In a frame story, a recently deceased historian is escorted by an angel to a great library in Heaven, where he gets to read history books of possible worlds that did not come to be. His eye is caught by a book whose cover states that Louis XVI had a 46-year reign as King of France, dying of a lung illness in 1820. In the main story, the young king, shortly after coming to power in the mid 1770s, makes necessary financial and constitutional reforms beforehand that prevent the necessity for the Revolution, resulting in the survival of France as a constitutional monarchy into the twentieth century. Louis refuses to sponsor the American Revolution and later builds an alliance with Great Britain; the United States never exists, but the 13 Colonies get the representation they desired from the British Parliament, so the expanding America effectively controls Britain. The 1790s and 1800s are relatively peaceful decades for Europe, and all nations live happily ever after.
  • "If It Had Been Discovered in 1930 that Bacon Really Did Write Shakespeare" by J. C. Squire. Not a true alternate history, this is a comic farce wherein cultural upheavals, acts of quick thinking in rebranding tourist attractions, and additions of new slang terms to the English language occur when someone finds a box containing 17th-century documents proving that the plays generally accepted to have been written by William Shakespeare were in fact written by Sir Francis Bacon.
  • "If Booth Had Missed Lincoln" by Milton Waldman: Booth's gun fails to fire at Ford's Theatre on April 14, 1865 and he is put in an insane asylum. Lincoln is charged with mismanaging the recently concluded Civil War, and there is repeated friction between Lincoln and a hostile United States Congress. Before Congress can impeach him in 1867, however, Lincoln dies, discredited and castigated as a spendthrift warmonger. Lincoln's role in this story is similar to that of his successor Andrew Johnson in real history.

Revised edition[edit]

A revised edition with the alternate title If: or, History Rewritten was also released by the American Viking Press in 1931, deleting the General Strike essay and adding one new essay along with reprints of two older but previously uncollected ones:

  • "If Napoleon Had Won the Battle of Waterloo" by G. M. Trevelyan (1907): Following the titular event, the exhausted, demoralized British Empire becomes a reactionary dictatorship wracked with political instability, and harsh censorship which suppresses much of English Romanticism. France governs much of Europe, and Napoleon eventually dies of natural causes in 1836, by which time he is somewhat senile due to ennui, being ill suited to life in a peaceful world.[5]

See also[edit]

Among many other works of alternate-history science fiction:


  1. ^ Uchronia Entry
  2. ^ "If Don John of Austria had Married Mary Queen of Scots" by G. K. Chesterton (scroll to bottom of page)
  3. ^ "If Lee Had Not Won the Battle of Gettysburg" by Winston Churchill. Reprinted in Wisconsin Magazine of History: Volume 44, number 4, summer, 1961.
  4. ^ "If: A Jacobite Fantasy" by Charles Petrie
  5. ^ "If Napoleon had Won the Battle of Waterloo" by G. M. Trevalyan at the Wayback Machine (archived October 27, 2009)