Questions tagged [alternate-history]

For questions that ask what might have happened if history had taken a different path.

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85
votes
30answers
33k views

What could an average modern human achieve in medieval times?

Let's imagine that on one fateful day, John Doe, the absolutely average citizen, wakes up just outside of a small village during the Middle Ages, somewhere in Europe, maybe France or England. Let's ...
89
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15answers
27k views

If the Romans found one working steam engine would they have been able to copy and use it?

I Previously asked if the Romans could have built a steam engine to power a ship, which received a number of answers perhaps best summarised as “probably not but…”. Assuming the Romans couldn’t have ...
29
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11answers
15k views

How long would it take to remove all trace of a civilisation, with malice and intent?

If you look at the history of the earth today, we've got quite a long timeline - about 4.5 billion years. We've got a few hundred years of 'good' historical record, and it gets progressively more ...
26
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4answers
3k views

Zombie perpetual motion machines

Lo and behold! A zombie apocalypse broke out inside Roman territory. In the Iberia peninsula. Being smart as vitruvius is, he devised a plan on how to deal with the zombies. Use them as power sources! ...
12
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4answers
945 views

How long will it take to form a new dialect and language in underground steampunk London?

This is the start of an experiment to see just how useful Worldbuilding Stack Exchange can be. I'm planning a work of fiction, but rather than build the world around the story, I'd like to write the ...
137
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39answers
32k views

What single change would have given the best chance for the Axis to win World War 2?

A common topic in alternate history fiction works is the question what would have happened if a major war had been won by the other side. These usually focus on the events after the war, and the ...
6
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5answers
447 views

What is the earliest time a pulsejet could be built?

Let's assume that some wealthy characters somehow find the plans for a valveless pulsejet. How is not important. Maybe there was a time travel incident, or some Atlantean book was unearthed, or ...
59
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14answers
15k views

What would be the impact of a modern programmer and laptop being dropped into World War II, possibly breaking Enigma?

I've always found the idea of intelligent every-man sent back in time using his knowledge of the future tech to realistically impact the past. The first time something like this came to my mind was ...
30
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10answers
7k views

What would need to happen to history to make a 21st century steampunk world?

Everybody loves steampunk. Without reading the Wikipedia page, the main idea of steampunk is a world (usually 19th century or thereabouts) where steam power is used universally, and computers as we ...
12
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6answers
3k views

What if the attack on Pearl Harbor had been defeated in World War 2?

It is widely known that the US Naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, was attacked in the morning of Sunday, 7th December, 1941 - resulting in the US entering the Second World War (source: History.com). ...
7
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4answers
779 views

What if the Trinity test had ignited the atmosphere? Could we survive?

In the early days of the Manhattan project, there was a brief scare, based on some calculations by Edward Teller, that an atomic bomb would ignite the atmosphere. They later redid the calculations and ...
27
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14answers
7k views

Could the Industrial Revolution be delayed indefinitely? Or is it inevitable once a certain point in development is reached?

I am considering whether a pre-Industrial civilisation could carry on for millennia on an Earth-like planet without entering the Industrial Age. Of course, regularly destroying everything with ...
12
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13answers
3k views

Present time travelers in bronze age - how much could they boost technological development?

Short version How much would reasonably well-educated but unprepared time travelers from the present be able to speed up the technological and social development of civilization from the first ...
15
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17answers
4k views

Cultural reasons to prevent the industrial revolution

In a world similar to Earth, how can I realistically prevent the industrial revolution from occurring as an event? I need it to be held off for at least 200 years. It has to be a ...
9
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4answers
8k views

If the gravity on earth were different, how would the human body change?

If the gravity on earth was different, how would our bodies change? For this question, assume that gravity was five time stronger (5G) from the beginning of the Earth. Would a human-like body still ...
24
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13answers
11k views

Could a time traveler prevent the Black Plague?

Meet Todd the time traveler. He's a good boy and has decided to use his powers for good, more specifically he wants to stop the black plague from happening. His powers work in a similar fashion to the ...
18
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4answers
3k views

Ancient Light Trigger Mechanism

In the first scene of Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, we see a booby trap where a series of spikes are thrusted out of a wall, and are triggered by "walking into the light". I think in ...
18
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12answers
6k views

Can I have Gunpowder without having guns?

I was originally going to claim my world has very low levels of sulfur, resulting in a lack of gunpowder and thus a lack of guns. But after realizing how cool things like fireworks and Hwacha are, ...
8
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2answers
2k views

Point of Divergence to replace Humans with humanoid Bears

I have got a fictional universe, where a humanoid lifeform evolved on earth not from apes, but from bears. The humanoid bears are like humans; they walk on their legs only, wear clothing, have various ...
5
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7answers
3k views

What can I do to make a Bartering system stable?

The Bartering system is a means of trading goods for other other goods, very similar to the Currency system except minus the money. The problem is that as the population of a location increases people ...
18
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6answers
18k views

What would Earth be like right now without the Black Death?

The black death wiped out anywhere between 20% and 50% of the human population, and so without it obviously the world population would be billions more than it is now. What I'm more interested in is ...
10
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6answers
3k views

Ancient tanks of war

I plan to go back in time and help Asterix and Obelix to turn the tide of Gallic wars against the romans. To achive this i will build ancient versions of our most dreaded land weapon: Tanks ! The ...
7
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13answers
4k views

Could machine guns be produced in the 14th century? [duplicate]

Could light machine guns such as the Madsen be made during the 14th century? And since materials may be scarce only a few would be produced for use by a single soldier in a unit. Lets say their ...
6
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7answers
2k views

How to explain electricity discovery and usage in 12th century?

I am thinking about an alternative - history scenario, where humans were able to discover and use electricity, in a 12th-13th century. I don't need any complex devices, I want to make society study ...
17
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5answers
6k views

Could the entire world have been destroyed by the existing nuclear arsenal in 1962?

Considering the nuclear arsenal that existed in 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis, could it have destroyed the entire world, following the events below? Edited question a bit: Considering the ...
11
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8answers
2k views

Preventing the spread of Christianity in the Roman Empire

In this alternative reality Constantine the Great never embraces the Christianity and the Roman Empire remains polytheistic. So I would like to know what realistic change(s) could have prevented the ...
6
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2answers
783 views

The Key For a Longer-Lasting, Steampunkier Industrial Revolution

From 359 to 298 million years ago, the "Carboniferous Coal Swamps" dominated the continents. It was the Carboniferous coal itself that sparked one of the greatest watersheds in human history--the ...
2
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3answers
738 views

If the earth spun the other way, what would be different?

Assuming it just spins at the same rate, the other way. Axial tilt is the same, year length is the same. Perhaps winds and ocean currents? What would the effect be on geography? Would deserts or ...
2
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4answers
423 views

Glass in Concrete?

The last time I asked about adding glass in something, the answer I got is that adding glass to steel alloy is, for every intent and purpose, impractical. But what about concrete? Is using glass in ...
10
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6answers
1k views

How long would it take for the Americas to reach Renaissance-level technology?

Let's say history went on as it would have with one major exception - a virus/series of viruses decimated the European/Asian populations repeatedly to such a degree that they simply could not advance ...
6
votes
1answer
309 views

If a Volcano Killed Rome Instead of the Barbarians

In the fourth and fifth centuries AD, the Roman Empire had fallen under bad times. Within its boundaries, the once powerful nation had been getting compromised by political corruption and civil ...
3
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3answers
2k views

What would the consequences be if there was a planet other than Earth, Venus, or Mars that was in the habitable zone?

Okay, there are two habitable worlds in the Solar System. One of them is Earth. Human history goes mainly the way it really went. Then, there is another planet with a sentient, equally advanced ...
2
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4answers
2k views

Alternative History: If the Hindenburg Incident Never Happened

The Hindenburg Incident was a very famous tragic part of history, much like the Titanic, but what would happen if the famous airship never burned? Would airships continue to be the dominant force of ...
40
votes
22answers
11k views

What single change would have given the best chance for the Soviets to win the Cold War?

A common topic in alternate history fiction works is the question what would have happened if a major conflict had been won by the other side. These usually focus on the events after the conflict, and ...
20
votes
17answers
3k views

Lost in the multiverse: how to find home?

You have an individual who can travel backwards and forwards in time. They normally maintain an observer status but occasionally a butterfly is stepped on. Because, home is where the heart is, how ...
39
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16answers
13k views

What difficulty would the Roman Empire have besieging a fantasy kingdom's 49 m wall?

I'm trying to work out the logistics of a little fantasy-historical piece I'm working on. Rome at the height of its power (c. 117 CE) has decided to invade a fantasy kingdom up north. It has a ...
33
votes
8answers
11k views

Could the Romans have colonised the New World?

The question of whether the Romans could have crossed the Atlantic in a storm has already been answered and the answer seems to be: yes but unlikely. Could the Romans have crossed the Atlantic in a ...
11
votes
9answers
1k views

Finding real world historic examples of cultures/organizations/tribes to represent Elves

I plan to make this a series of questions to avoid being overly broad. Each question will address a particular fantasy species ("race" in RPG terms). The "racial" traits will be based on the content ...
34
votes
22answers
6k views

What could cause humanity to migrate from land to water?

I'm constructing a world where the humanity had to migrate from land to water somewhere in antiquity. In this world, humans are living on seas and rivers. They live both on pier-like and other fixed ...
23
votes
15answers
5k views

What advice could a time traveller give for use of an atomic bomb to end WW2 while minimizing loss of life or later nuclear brinkmanship [closed]

Say someone was sent back in time to roughly the time that they were considering using the nukes on Japan to end WW2. The time traveller wishes to minimize loss of life for both sides, but more so for ...
11
votes
5answers
5k views

Modern Body Armor for Medieval Style Weapons

Imagine an alternate history, where weapons types didn't advance past "medieval" type weapons. So like: swords, maces, flails, crossbows, bows, polearms, mauls, etc. I'm intentionally excluding "gun"/...
27
votes
12answers
5k views

Spaceflight without transistors and nuclear power - how to bend the history of physics?

As stated in the topic: I would like to have Project Olympus-style space stations served by Apollo-like spacecraft in a world where neither nuclear power (and weapons) nor transistors were developed ...
12
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6answers
3k views

What would be the state of society without semiconductors? [closed]

So let's say that we never figure out how to purify silicon and germanium to the levels required to make transistors. This would readily happen in a technical culture that wanted clear and quick ...
23
votes
6answers
4k views

Super metal and the construction of knight armor

Assume that roughly at 1200 AD, Europe discovers a new metal (or alloy). By terms of various strengths and hardness it's comparable to high grade steel, however instead of steel's density of ~8 g/cm³, ...
19
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6answers
4k views

Could The Spartan Discipline Work on Larger Nations?

From the moment it was born, a Spartan was bred to service the state. If a baby passed inspection with a clean bill of health, he or she would be spared until age seven--agoge season. If a baby ...
19
votes
13answers
4k views

How could a time traveller change medieval history using only modern knowledge? [duplicate]

How could a time traveller from our era change the outcome of a medieval battle using only knowledge of history, geography and modern science? Lets suppose our time traveller is a learned person ...
19
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3answers
3k views

What is the oldest a cave could possibly be?

What is the oldest a still extant cave on Earth could be? What conditions could encourage the longevity of a cave? It seems that the oldest known caves, the Jenolan Caves in Australia, formed in the ...
17
votes
19answers
5k views

Can a world exist with large calibre guns but without small calibre guns?

I would like to construct a world where firearm weaponry is known but is only used in large calibre weapons such as gun emplacements protecting cities and large cannons aboard large ships. There are ...
17
votes
6answers
1k views

How could 1BC Earth speed up communication across vast distances?

Tech level is early Rome, China, Ethiopia, etc. ~ first century BC. Unlike history, there's peace and cooperation among all the benign monarchies of the whole Earth. But it's hard to get daily ...
16
votes
11answers
3k views

Killing all the explorers

The year is 1489, Christopher Columbus is planning to test his theory, that if he sails west, he will be in India much much faster than going to the east. Because he knows Earth is rounded, so this ...