Cover image for What ifs? of American history : eminent historians imagine what might have been
What ifs? of American history : eminent historians imagine what might have been
Cowley, Robert.
Publication Information:
New York : G.P. Putnam's, [2003]

Physical Description:
xvi, 298 pages : illustrations, maps ; 24 cm
Might the Mayflower not have sailed? / Theodore K. Rabb -- William Pitt the Elder and the avoidance of the American revolution / Caleb Carr -- What the fog wrought : the Revolution's Dunkirk, August 29, 1776 / David McCullough -- "His accidency" John Tyler / Tom Wicker -- Lew Wallace and the ghosts of the Shunpike / Victor Davis Hanson -- If the lost order hadn't been lost : Robert E. Lee humbles the union, 1862 / James M. McPherson -- The Northwest conspiracy / Thomas Fleming -- Beyond the wildest dreams of John Wilkes Booth / Jay Winik -- The revolution of 1877 / Cecelia Holland -- The whale against the wolf : the Anglo-American War of 1896 / Andrew Roberts -- No Pearl Harbor : FDR delays the war / John Lukacs -- If Eisenhower had gone to Berlin / Antony Beevor -- Joe McCarthy's secret life / Ted Morgan -- If the U-2 hadn't flown / George Feifer -- The Cuban missile crisis : second holocaust / Robert L. O'Connell -- JFK lives / Robert Dallek -- What if Watergate were still just an upscale address? / Lawrence Malkin and John F. Stacks.
Subject Term:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E179 .W535 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
E179 .W535 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
E179 .W535 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



An all-American collection of essays on the pivotal moments in our nation's history by award-winning historians, the third in the bestselling series. The "what if" concept is one of the most original and engaging on the current history bookshelf. The essays are chock-full of provocative ideas; they are as accessible to the general reader as they are to the scholar; and they are the perfect gift for the dedicated history buff on anyone's list. In this new collection of never-before-published essays, our brightest historians speculate about some of America's more intriguing crossroads. Some irresistible highlights include: Caleb Carr (The Alienist) on America had there been no Revolution; Tom Wicker on the first time a vice president, John Tyler, succeeded a deceased president and its surprising ramifications; Jay Winik (April 1865) on the havoc that might have resulted if Booth had succeeded in his plan to assassinate Johnson and Seward as well as Lincoln; Antony Beevor (The Fall of Berlin 1945) on the possibility of Eisenhower's capture of Berlin before the Soviets' arrival there in 1945; and Robert Dallek (the upcoming An Unfinished Life about John F. Kennedy) on one of the most agonizing American "what if"s of all: what might have happened if JFK hadn't been assassinated.

Author Notes

Robert Cowley is the cofounder & editor of "MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History" & the editor of the anthology "Experience of War".

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

The 18 contributors to this latest installment of the What If? series are indeed eminent: they include David McCullough, Tom Fleming and Robert Dallek (though series editor Cowley might have found more than one woman for his roster). For historians whose works are bound by facts, there must have been pleasure in letting their imaginations engage instead in speculation, though the "shadow universe" presented here is still rooted in the historical record and reflects back on it. In "Might the Mayflower not have sailed?", for example, Theodore K. Rabb enumerates a series of "strokes of luck" that enabled the Pilgrims to come to America, including Sir Edwin Sandys's propitious takeover of the Virginia Company. And in "What if Watergate Was Still Just an Upscale Address?", Lawrence Malkin and John Stacks wonder what would have happened Nixon hadn't been forced to resign the presidency. Americans would be less cynical, they speculate, and, more surprisingly, the U.S. might have had a national health insurance plan. Other essays ask fascinating questions about the the Civil War and the Cuban missile crisis. A pleasure for history buffs longing to engage in some footloose imagination, this book drives home the fact that even momentous political events can hinge on a few uncontrollable events. Maps and b&w photos. (Oct. 27) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Library Journal Review

In this illustrated third volume of the "What If" series on conjectural, counterfactual, or imaginary history, editor Cowley once again enlists the assistance of historians David McCullough (on the Battle of Long Island), James McPherson (on General Lee's famous "Lost Order"), and others such as Tom Wicker, Robert Dallek, and Thomas Fleming. Breezy, popular, and yet with some annotations (although no bibliography or index), this compilation entertains and provokes the already informed and whets the general reader's appetite for the would-be past. The essays demonstrate how events influence one another by showing what could have happened rather than judgmentally making a case for what should have occurred. Great for history buffs not quite ready for fiction, it is suitable for public libraries and general academic collections.-Frederick J. Augustyn Jr., Library of Congress (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Robert CowleyTheodore K. RabbCaleb CarrDavid McCulloughTom WickerVictor Davis HansonJames M. McPhersonThomas FlemingJay WinikCecelia HollandAndrew RobertsJohn LukacsAntony BeevorTed MorganGeorge FeiferRobert L. O'ConnellRobert DallekLawrence Malkin and John F. Stacks
List of Maps and Illustrationsp. xi
Introductionp. xiii
Might the Mayflower Not Have Sailed?p. 1
William Pitt the Elder and the Avoidance of the American Revolutionp. 17
What the Fog Wrought: The Revolution's Dunkirk, August 29, 1776p. 43
"His Accidency" John Tylerp. 55
Lew Wallace and the Ghosts of the Shunpikep. 67
If the Lost Order Hadn't Been Lost: Robert E. Lee Humbles the Union, 1862p. 87
The Northwest Conspiracyp. 103
Beyond the Wildest Dreams of John Wilkes Boothp. 127
The Revolution of 1877p. 147
The Whale Against the Wolf: The Anglo-American War of 1896p. 163
No Pearl Harbor?: FDR Delays the Warp. 179
If Eisenhower Had Gone to Berlinp. 189
Joe McCarthy's Secret Lifep. 205
If the U-2 Hadn't Flownp. 225
The Cuban Missile Crisis: Second Holocaustp. 251
JFK Livesp. 273
What If Watergate Were Still Just an Upscale Address?p. 285