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Questions tagged [alternate-history]

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

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214
votes
13answers
31k views

Is there a single historic event which could be changed to cause the USA to use SI units?

I am time traveller with aim to make world better. Last time I went to the past, all I heard was: "Kill Hitler!" So I went to the past and I must tell you, April 1945 was pretty loud in Berlin! ...
177
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32answers
22k views

What is the least “world changing” reason why the government would pay for you to keep a llama during your 44th year of life? [closed]

I want to make a short story about an Earth just like ours except it's commonly accepted that at the age of 43, the government allows people to have a llama in their house and the government pays for ...
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 ...
89
votes
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 ...
85
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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 ...
66
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22answers
12k views

What single change would have given the best chance for the Allies to win the Battle of France in early WWII

The obvious WWII alternate history question is how could the Axis have won. Let's try something different this time. The Battle of France was a big gamble for the Third Reich. They sent more or less ...
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 ...
57
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25answers
16k views

How can I prevent the collapse of the Soviet Union?

During the era of the Soviet Union, Russia was a much scarier nation: The Cold War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the Space Race. No one can deny these were major events in Russia's history. Let's say ...
54
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13answers
7k views

Crucial and unlikely discoveries in history [closed]

I'm trying to come up with an alternate reality where some specific invention or discovery was never made. Many inventions or discoveries in (mainly European) history were not a 'miraculous event,' ...
53
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15answers
11k views

Would a steam powered plane be able to cross the Atlantic ocean?

In a world where the development of internal combustion engines had been seriously delayed (for whatever reason), would it have been possible to power heavier than air aircraft by steam propulsion? ...
50
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33answers
11k views

Stumped: What would replace 'names' in an alternate history?

I have an alternate history epoch taking place in 10th Century Islamic Renaissance, but I have a large Bedouin tribe that does not use anything to indicate a person's name or identity. This is a big ...
47
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16answers
12k views

Is this alternate history plausible? (Hard Sci-Fi, Realistic History)

Is this alternate history I came up with plausible? What holes does it have? Are some events very unlikely to happen, even impossible? Should I change some dates of some events? Most of my knowledge ...
43
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4answers
9k views

Is it possible to create a Gas Mask using only Medieval Technology?

This question was inspired by this one, which brought up the concept that a lot of the issues with a sword that created toxic fumes would also kill the user (that question also has one of the best ...
43
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14answers
9k views

Can the Aztec Empire learn and reuse Conquistador technology?

In this alternate history, Christopher Columbus makes landfall in Central America, after passing south of Florida and sailing through the Gulf of Mexico, arriving right on the doorstep of the Aztec ...
41
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12answers
16k views

What steps are necessary to read a Modern SSD in Medieval Europe?

So the main team of characters is traveling back in time from "modern day" to medieval Europe, arriving around the 1300s. Assumptions: They Know they are going, they have space and time to prepare, ...
41
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7answers
4k views

What would World War I outcomes be if the Tunguska event had occurred over London in 1908?

I am exploring an alternative history of a timeline if the centre of the British Empire is wiped off the map in the early 20th century. The Tunguska event was believed to be an air burst comet or ...
40
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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 ...
39
votes
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 ...
36
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10answers
13k views

How would the indigenous peoples of North America have developed in the absense of the Europeans?

In some alternate history, Europeans never discovered the Americas for one reason or another. Maybe the initial motivations just weren't there, or maybe the visionaries of the day fell ill and died ...
34
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24answers
12k views

What is the most reasonable way for non-binary computers to have become standard?

Let us assume planet Earth, with a history similar to ours. Except, the result of the computer revolution is not a computer system based on binary (i.e. 0 and 1), but some other system. This system ...
34
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22answers
7k 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 ...
33
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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 ...
33
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8answers
6k views

Would the capability for Japan to drop a nuclear bomb on the USA have deterred the USA from dropping a nuclear bomb on Japan?

Would the USA have been deterred from dropping a nuclear bomb on Japan if Japan had the means of retaliating with a nuclear weapon in WW2? Leading on from that, would Japan have used the nuclear ...
31
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12answers
10k views

In the late 1940’s to early 1950’s what technology was available that could melt a LOT of ice?

In my story I’ve devised lore where Greenland becomes a US territory, and they begin populating the region. It initially just served as the hub for numerous military bases and airbases, but eventually ...
31
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9answers
9k views

What would modern IT look like if Silicon Valley had been completely destroyed in 1985?

In the 1985 movie A View to a Kill, James Bond discovers--and then foils--a plot by to destroy Silicon Valley, in a manner that makes it look like a natural disaster. The plot for doing so is a bit ...
30
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17answers
10k views

Would evolution happen the same exact way if Earth restarted?

If Earth instantaneously reverted back to when the only organisms were small microscopic creatures in the sea, would evolution happen the same exact way creating the same animals and species? Was ...
30
votes
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 ...
29
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5answers
4k views

How could the Mafia retain its power in New York into the new century?

A mutant who sees multiple futures has predicted that the world will be invaded by aliens. Every future ends disastrously for the human race with us being wiped out. The only one in which we survive ...
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 ...
27
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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 ...
27
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6answers
10k views

If the Cold War went hot in the early 1970s, would the Warsaw Pact be able to reach the Rhine River?

So, let us go back in time to the year 1973, specifically around October of 1973; the time frame of the Yom Kippur War. In our timeline, the conflict almost became WWIII after the Soviets threatened ...
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 ...
27
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9answers
3k views

Would the members of an online imageboard (or any community) be able to build a post-apocalytic society upon their reputation?

Youtube, Vine, Twitter, Tumblr, 4chan, Reddit, Stack Overflow, heck, even Github or Slashdot...all these online, primarily social sites have been able to build up not only tremendous communities, but "...
26
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12answers
8k views

World where gender roles are swapped

This world is background for erotica story which came into my mind. Porn/erotica worlds are commonly totally unrealistic: Pizza delivery is always on time, always delivered by fit male at exactly the ...
26
votes
7answers
4k views

How could a simple submarine be built using 100 BC technology?

I have some ideas, but I'd like my fictional Roman (100BC) General Mikey (ha) to build a submarine(s). This should be able to navigate in lakes and calm shores of the Mediterranean, succeed in ...
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! ...
25
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6answers
4k views

If North America Was Devastated in 1980, Would the Eastern Bloc Still Collapse in 1989?

I have a timeline when North America is devastated by a natural disaster in 1980: USA, Canada & Mexico are with only 5% of their people and even less of their infrastructure, thus barely ...
25
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7answers
6k views

Why can't a Tercio use crossbows and pikes?

The Spanish tercio was the premier infantry unit of the late 15th and 16th century, as exemplified at their one-sided demolition of the French army at Pavia in 1525. The tercio was a mixed unit of ...
24
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7answers
7k views

How much alteration would be needed for the Cuban Missile Crisis to go nuclear? [closed]

My story takes place centuries in the future, in the year 2567. Over 600 years ago, during 1962, an all out nuclear war broke out. Most modern day historians believe it to have occurred in autumn, but ...
24
votes
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 ...
24
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6answers
5k views

Is it bad Worldbuilding to use the real world and history as a template for your own setting? [closed]

I love history and I love alternative history. But when I want to write alternative history myself, I quickly feel restricted. Now, I like mythologies and fantasy too. Now I came across an old map. ...
23
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15answers
7k views

Could medieval atheist king end religious dominance?

In alternative medieval Europe, there is a king who is (secretly) an atheist and wishes for (what we would call) a secular and humanist society. Unfortunately for him, in the same medieval Europe, the ...
23
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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 ...
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, ...
23
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3answers
5k views

What would have happened to the world if the sepoy mutiny of 1857 had suceeded?

In 1857, native soldiers in the Crown Jewel of the British Empire--the Indian subcontinent-- mutinied and for three days established rule of a native monarch. Eventually, British imperial might ...
22
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3answers
6k views

How advanced can a civilization get without zero?

More or less exactly what it says on the tin. Start with a group of cavemen on prehistoric earth, discovering fire, language, wheels, etc, and walk them along the path to civilization, but with one ...
22
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 ...
22
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5answers
2k views

What would North America look like if the States weren't United? [closed]

Following the American Revolutionary War, the Continental Congress is unable to agree on a satisfactory new Constitution and the United States, after a brief flash-in-the-pan existence, the union ...
22
votes
9answers
2k views

If clock and calendar was reinvented with today's knowledge, what could they look like?

Our notion of recording and communicating time and date is based on very old concepts, many of them being built upon flawed assumptions (that the Sun should be at exact south at noon, that a year ...
21
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4answers
4k views

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

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 traits will be based on the content included ...