Alternate history - relevant field of study, or just a way to waste one's time?
Just recently I've read a history magazine themed with alternate history - you take a historic event with all the know data about the "actors" and happenings and possibly options some country had at the time, and create an alternate reality according to how a weather change could influence some battle or meeting, how an ilness could influence someone's decisions and roll with it. Do you think it's serious field of study, or just an area a serious historian should stay clear of?
Honestly ... I don't see that as a good use of time or money. What has happened has happened and there's no reason to study the alternatives because the alternatives are never going to happen. However, I do love reading a well-written alternate history novel which is the only place I think alternate history really has a place. But that's just my opinion. In case you're interested, "Gray Victory" was one of my favorites and is about the South having won the Civil War.
It is just a mind twister, no more no less. There are SO MANY alternate history books and videos. There is even a short video relating to the Nazis' reign over America. It is just mind exercise only.
I have to disagree with the idea that counter-factuals are just "mind exercises". They are very useful in the training of historians to think outside of the box and to learn essential critical thinking skills.
As a professional historian in training I was taught that counter-factual history was a waste of time and unprofessional at best.
As an educator and historian who seeks to engage a larger public with history: It's priceless.
I am increasingly finding counter-factual history to be interesting and useful as a teaching tool and as a way of getting people to realize that history really IS interesting and fun.
One book that really got me thinking:
"Then Everything Changed: Stunning Alternate Histories of American Politics: JFK, RFK, Carter, Ford, Reagan" by Jeff Greenfield.
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