The genre of alternative history is a comparatively recent one in the world of literature. Its underlying starting point is to take a series of historical events or a period and ask "what if?..". To take a couple of examples, supposing Leonardo da Vinci had given up painting and concentrated on designing flying machines, or Richard III had triumphed on Bosworth field instead of Henry VII? How would the history of the Church been different if Constantine had not made Christianity the new state religion? Alternative history usually asks these questions in the form of a novel, often weaving historical characters (emperors, dictators, scientists, etc) with the fictional protagonists of the story.
One of the masters of the alternative history is Harry Turtledove, and he and his books are reviewed below as a whole. However, others have also explored the art, often raising thought-provoking questions about recent historical events. Good examples of this are Bruce Quarrie's Nightmare, where from a successful invasion of Malta (which of course in the Second World War never took place) Hitler goes on to win the war, triumphing finally with the atomic bomb; and a series of essays edited by Kenneth Macksey, The Hitler Options, in which six possible alternative strategies for both Allies and Axis are presented in essay or short story form.
It should be pointed out that most of these books are in fact quite scholarly in the best sense of the word, involving a lot of historical research into both the events and personalities involved, rather than simply being excuses for ignorance of the period involved.
Burning Mountain, a novel of the invasion of Japan
Alternative histories of the Second World War
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