Christmas Book Final Suggestion

You are now getting desperate if you have hit upon this website. Can I suggest a little counterfactual fun? This sort of history is periodically popular, and has a tendency towards conservatism. It usually involves asking 'what if' type questions that focus upon a battle or an individual, and so bring history down (as it sometimes comes) from the sweep of great social or economic forces or technologies to recognisable categories. It's also the case that counterfactualists posit that human nature doesn't really change, and often have a moral or ethical agenda attached to their fantasies about what didn't happen.

This sort of thing probably happens in the minds of monkeys and apes too. The cleverer orangutans, I always thought, were those in the clearing sipping the coconut and bark juice mixer whilst the stupid ones were up a tree knocking the raw materials down at a safe distance. They must wonder about things at some point too.

Have a read of Sophie Macdougall's Romanitas series. They are potboilers, but in them, she details a Rome that never fell, but which instead discovered electricity and the Americas. Western and modern society having such a great legacy, there are many spooky commonalties in the story of two slaves and an emperor who want the world to be free, and many differences that strike one as obvious after they have been pointed out. It seems obvious, for instance, that a non-individualist urban civilisation would prefer trains to cars, and that telephones ('longdictors' in the book), might be things to be addressed rather than held clamped to the ear. And in an age of televised hangings in Iran and deathwatches outside American prison gas chambers, can we really be sure that a stainless steel cross shorn of the power of Christ's death wouldn't be a public attraction?

Have a read, and a very merry Christmas. I'm off to my mother's tomorrow and whilst I may blog occasionally, I won't be back for a few days. The very best of the season to you, and good luck to one and all

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