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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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21
votes
10answers
3k views

First innovation for time traveler to low-tech society [closed]

A time traveler goes back in time (one-way trip, and he does not get to choose the exact destination) to a low-tech society, similar to medieval Europe. His objective is to kickstart an industrial ...
21
votes
12answers
3k views

Are there any good alternates to iron?

I know iron is valuable, but I was wondering if iron was extremely rare, rare enough that it could not be used for construction, weapons, or anything our society uses iron, what this society would ...
20
votes
13answers
7k views

How to keep apartheid alive?

For my story, I need South African apartheid to still be alive in the 1990's. Everything else is more or less the same. For example, the Eastern block still collapses in 1989. What would be the ...
20
votes
8answers
4k views

Aliens englobed the Solar System: will we notice?

Around 100 million years ago, the Solar System was instantaneously encased in a massless, magical sphere centered about the Sun. The boundary is about 10,000 AU (.158 ly) in radius and behaves ...
20
votes
11answers
5k views

If Michigan had never become the center of the auto industry, what would it be known for? [closed]

In the United States, each state exists as a general stereotype in most Americans' minds, at least. Wisconsin is full of dairy farmers who dedicate their lives to the production of cheese; Texas is ...
20
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6answers
3k views

Medieval Europe With Modern Logistical Industrial Concepts

A medieval European ruler (specifically whom and of what country doesn't matter, but may be specified by an answer) one day finds in his bedchamber a group of textbooks and self-improvement books. ...
19
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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
votes
5answers
5k views

AIDS vs Great Plague in medieval period

The Great Plague is known as one of the worst pandemics in human history as it killed between 75 and 200 million people from 1347 to 1351 (according to wikipedia). I would like to know if AIDS had ...
19
votes
15answers
5k views

Combat in age of swords and railguns

In a world that i am building, there is an advanced civilization that is somewhat close to 21st century humans. Two of the differences are: they have discovered electricity much earlier than we did ...
19
votes
8answers
6k views

What services could a time traveller offer a medieval king? [closed]

A brilliant modern scientist/engineer has been sent back in time to medieval Europe (somewhere between 800 and 1100 CE). It would be very advantageous for him to have many friends among the various ...
19
votes
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
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 ...
18
votes
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, ...
18
votes
9answers
5k views

How well would precision guided munitions work against early aircraft?

Premise: My setting incorporates an alternate history with a Martian invasion at the end of the 19th century as in War of the Worlds, the two major technical differences being that the Martians are ...
18
votes
2answers
3k views

How viable are my glass towers with (Arab-Islamic) Renaissance technology/engineering?

In my alternate history, during the Islamic golden age (in this case, 9th century Arabia - present day Oman), my characters are building a series of glass towers. They are like lighthouses traversing ...
18
votes
2answers
414 views

Technology level of South African Vikings in 1488?

In my timeline fleet of Viking ships reached South Africa in 10th century, and settled there. They defeated indigenous tribes and created a Viking kingdom. They also stopped the Bantu expansion in ...
18
votes
6answers
19k 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 ...
18
votes
5answers
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 ...
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
21answers
8k views

19th Century army standing against a Modern Army

In short, after shenanigans revolving around travel around dimensions a modern army( A Marine Expeditionary Force if you want to be precise) end up invading a world that is still in the 19th century. ...
17
votes
10answers
3k views

How to make the era of airships last longer?

Yet another airship question. We now all know that it would be impossible to build an airship of any practical size or effectiveness before the 19th century, and that once a civilisation is advanced ...
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 ...
17
votes
7answers
5k views

How to split South Africa on racial lines? [closed]

I want to have a setting where South Africa instead of ending the apartheid peacefully it splits across the racial lines. Whites form a separate state in the Western Cape or any other province as long ...
17
votes
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 ...
17
votes
7answers
4k views

How can I achieve swords in modern military [duplicate]

Let's be honest, swords are cool, we can all agree on this, but the invention of the bullet (which removed the musket's reloading time) has practically removed swords from any form of combat where ...
17
votes
3answers
711 views

Reality check: Buddhist Aztecs

Idea Is the following alternate history setup conceivable: Central Mexico has been converted to Buddhism by missionaries arriving from East Asia or South-East Asia hundreds of years before European ...
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 ...
16
votes
4answers
2k views

Could Inuits survive in Antarctica?

Imagine that a group of Inuits from Greenland settled in Antarctica; let's say on the Antarctic peninsula, if there is no better place in Antarctica. Could they survive there with their traditional ...
16
votes
2answers
3k views

What would the Soviet Union have looked like if Trotsky was in power, not Stalin?

During the final days of Lenin, it was time to pick his replacement. For reason no body understood, Stalin was allowed to go into power and he immediately focused on keeping this power. Trotsky and ...
15
votes
18answers
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 ...
15
votes
7answers
3k views

Could the IJA have mounted an invasion through Alaska in this alternate timeline?

In an alternate timeline, the 1867 Alaska Purchase does not happen (the British do not fight in the Crimean War and instead aid Russia financially). Russia still controls Alaska in 1904 when war ...
15
votes
5answers
1k views

A Permanent Norse Presence in America

Since the discovery of L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland in 1960, the picture began to emerge that the Norse (I hesitate to say "viking" because that is a verb, not a noun) beat Christopher Columbus ...
15
votes
13answers
2k views

Modern military tactics and strategy effects on the past (WWII)

For reasons unbeknownst to them, a hundred US military personnel from 2016 have been thrown backwards in time, coming out in the middle of Kansas, December 9, 1941, one day after the Pearl Harbor ...
15
votes
4answers
2k views

Could Catholicism have survived as the dominant religion in England if it had allowed aristocratic polygamy?

The proximate cause of the Anglican Church's split from the Roman Catholic Church, which retained more vestiges of Roman Catholicism than other major early Protestant Church denominations, was the ...
14
votes
7answers
7k views

What is the most befitting place to drop 'H'itler bomb to score decisive victory in 1945?

Supposedly Adolf Hitler had in his possession a blueprint of a working atomic bomb. Its destructive power is estimated to be similar to or on par with "Fat Man" which was dropped on Nagasaki in 1945. ...
14
votes
15answers
5k views

How might a Professor of Mathematics Change History?

A professor of mathematics is sent back in time to a post-Neolithic farming village. They accept him as their wise man, and he spends 30 years teaching them all he knows about mathematics until he ...
14
votes
6answers
5k views

Julius Caesar with a one-time pad

Julius Caesar used a substitution cipher (now called a Caesar cipher) for sensitive private and military correspondence. The cipher involves shifting all of the letters in a message in one direction a ...
14
votes
1answer
2k views

King John acting boldly and opening churches - would this work?

England, 1208. The Pope declares an Interdict on England because the King would not agree to the Papal choice for Archbishop of Canterbury. In our reality, King John tried to tough it out and to get ...
14
votes
7answers
1k views

How can I prevent the Christian schism of 1054 in order to create a more unified church?

Schism of 1054, also called East-West Schism, event that precipitated the final separation between the Eastern Christian churches, led by the patriarch of Constantinople, and the Western church. ...
14
votes
7answers
919 views

Helping the Soviets to win the race to the moon

Because of an error in the interpretation of the Mayan calendar I just discovered, I know now that Earth will be destroyed on March 13, 2021 at 11 o'clock in the morning, time zone of Palenque. I ...
14
votes
4answers
480 views

Moving the US capital to the Midwest before 1900?

A few years ago, an old map started circulating around the internet from 1850 with a proposed Western District of Columbia located in western Kentucky, across from the real Illinois town, named in a ...
14
votes
4answers
5k views

How would the history of American colonization by Europeans differ, if the Native Americans were immune to the new diseases?

How would the history of American colonization by Europeans differ, if the Native Americans were immune to the new diseases? From Wikipedia: Even before the European settlement of what is now the ...
14
votes
3answers
5k views

Is it possible for a wooden medieval era ship to carry a ballista inside that fires from the ship s prow?

I'm writing a fantasy novel and in it I'm designing a huge wooden ship moved by sail and man powered wheel paddle, and I wonder if it would be possible for the ship to carry a ballista inside that ...
14
votes
3answers
1k views

How would a lack of smokeless propellant affect WW1?

Gunpowder, also known as black powder, is some nasty stuff. It's extremely corrosive, it produces large amounts of obstructive grit and fouling, and using it creates a cloud of obscuring smoke. So ...
13
votes
9answers
654 views

Alternate timeline nomenclature [closed]

Let's say through some unexplained (and largely irrelevant) phenomena, an alternate timeline has suddenly "collided" with ours. The specifics don't really matter besides the idea that the two ...
13
votes
5answers
3k views

Could a human civilization never invent the wheel?

Let's go back 10,000-12,000 years, when humans have yet to make strides in basic machines. In our world, the invention of the wheel makes things easy to move, starting a transportation revolution. ...
13
votes
7answers
894 views

What change in history would cause the Dutch to speak German?

What single change(s) in history would cause the Dutch people to be speaking German instead of Dutch? I understand that German and Dutch are both Germanic languages and share a common ancestry, as ...
13
votes
4answers
748 views

Can the Mongols conquer France?

Background In the mid 13th century, France was without a doubt the richest land of the West. Inside its modern borders there were perhaps 18 million people, and maybe more, at that time perhaps 1/5 ...
13
votes
7answers
680 views

What are the minimal questions I need to answer for Muslims and Vikings to have discovered America?

I want to start writing alternate history story, set in the 'Wild West' where there are factions of Muslims and non-Muslims vying for territory and resources. I need to have a reality check on this ...
13
votes
7answers
3k views

How could a time-traveler change a medieval society if he can prepare and bring something from our time?

I have been daydreaming about this scenario a lot. There are many similar questions here about time travellers being thrown to the middle ages, but they usually can't prepare and can't bring anything ...