What If? (essays)

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First edition

What If?, subtitled The World's Foremost Military Historians Imagine What Might Have Been, is a collection of twenty essays and thirteen sidebars dealing with counterfactual history. It was published by G.P. Putnam's Sons in 1999, ISBN 0-399-14576-1, and this book as well as its two sequels, What If? 2 and What Ifs? of American History, were edited by Robert Cowley. It was later combined with What If? 2 to form The Collected What If?.

Cowley decided to create the book after several "What if?" articles were published in the Military History Quarterly, which he edits, and received a lot of attention.[1]



  • "Probably the most interesting nonfiction historical fiction was What If?: The World's Foremost Military Historians Imagine What Might Have Been (Putnam, 1999). Its editor, Robert Cowley, persuaded two dozen historians to write essays on how a slight turn of fate at a decisive moment could have changed the very annals of time." --New York Times[2]
  • "The essays collected in "What If?" are sober extrapolations from historical fact. Even so, they're a lot of fun. They remind us of the slender threads on which our past hangs. One small break -- at Poitiers or on Long Island, at Gettysburg or in Berlin -- might have unraveled the entire tapestry of modern history." --CNN[3]
  • "Those and other provocative "counterfactuals" are the topic of the intriguing "What if?", a compilation of essays by 34 distinguished historians... Each essay testifies to the fact that history hangs by a thread." --Houston Chronicle[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "What If?". NPR. March 9, 1998. Retrieved 23 June 2012. 
  2. ^ Arnold, Martin (December 21, 2000). "Making Books: The 'What Ifs' That Fascinate". New York Times. Retrieved 23 June 2012. 
  3. ^ Meagher, L. D. (February 7, 2000). "Book asks what might have been". CNN.com. Retrieved 23 June 2012. 
  4. ^ Cearnal, Lee (November 7, 1999). "'Counterfactuals' are topic of 'What if?'". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 23 June 2012.