101 Stumbles in the March of History

History is a realm of what-ifs. What if Montezuma had acted immediately and decisively against the conquistador Hernán Cortés? What if Pope Clement VII had annulled Henry VIII's marriage to Catherine of Aragon? What if Russia hadn't sold Alaska to the United States for a pittance? What if President Jimmy Carter had sent along one extra helicopter on the mission to rescue the Americans held hostage in Iran? And, of course, what if dozens of critical decisions in wars and battles throughout history had been made differently?

In 101 Stumbles in the March of History: What if the Great Mistakes in War, Government, Industry, and Economics Were Not Made? by Bill Fawcett, with contributions from Harry Turtledove, Eric Flint, Mike Resnick and Charles Gannon, these and other historical missteps are cataloged in brief, irreverent entries. Each mistake receives some shallow historical context and an extrapolation of various alternate history possibilities. Sometimes these extrapolations are dubious, or tainted by a contributor's personal political preferences, but are usually at least thought provoking. In the case of Henry VIII's annulment, for example, the continued official dominance of Catholicism in England would have deprived the emerging Reformation of one of its chief allies, and that extra helicopter might have won Jimmy Carter a second term.

Many of these fumbles are, as might be expected, in the province of military history. Still, there's enough variety to give 101 Stumbles broader appeal. It's a book built for breezy reading, a few pop-history entries at a time, something fun rather than scholarly. --Tobias Mutter, freelance reviewer

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