Questions tagged [alternate-history]

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

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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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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
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3answers
6k 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 ...
23
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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 ...
22
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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 ...
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
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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 ...
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 ...
21
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14answers
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What point(s) of departure would I need for space colonization to become a common reality by 2020?

As of 2020, colonizing outside of Earth and into the other bodies that orbit our sun--planets, moons and even asteroids--is all talk and no do. Sure, we have stations like the International Space ...
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 ...
21
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10answers
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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 ...
20
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11answers
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An Undercover Army

Suppose you want to invade Russia. But, beating it in a conventional or nuclear war isn't possible for your people for some reason. What if, instead, you line up 500,000 soldiers to move to Russia ...
20
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13answers
8k 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
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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
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 ...
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. ...
20
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6answers
21k 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 ...
20
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3answers
990 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 ...
20
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5answers
4k 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 ...
19
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14answers
5k views

Would a Pre-Columbian America with its own plagues still be vulnerable to Old World diseases?

Most of the Native Americans in our history were killed by smallpox, measles, etcetera, and this video makes a good case for why: though the Americas had cities of their own, they lacked many options ...
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
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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
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8answers
7k 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
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3answers
4k 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 ...
19
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4answers
3k views

How would human civilisation develop with little iron?

Imagine a planet that's identical in pretty much every aspect (including Homo Sapiens) to our own current Earth, with only a single exception - the continental crust has, for whatever reason, much ...
19
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5answers
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 ...
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, ...
18
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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
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10answers
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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 ...
18
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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 ...
18
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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
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2answers
3k views

If the Roman Empire in the Year 90 AD Found a Living Tyrannosaurus Rex, What Creature in Their Mythology Would They Most Likely Mistake It For?

I'm writing a story where a group of mischievous aliens teleport iconic creatures to inappropriate time periods. (Dimetrodons in colonial Germany, Pterodactyls in the medieval Ottoman Empire, ...
18
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2answers
487 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 ...
17
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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
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11answers
2k views

Could a world without borders and immigration restrictions exist? [closed]

I’ve heard a few people imagine an alternate history where people are completely free to live in whatever country they choose to. Countries/city states would have to maintain a high standard of living ...
17
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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
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7answers
6k 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
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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 ...
17
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7answers
5k 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
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4answers
6k 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 ...
17
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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 ...
16
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18answers
8k views

How plausible is it for nuclear power to be invented but not nuclear weapons?

I don’t need a super detailed answer here, so this is definitely going to be pretty opinion-based. For context, let’s say you have a world where WW2 was ended by an all-American superhero punching ...
16
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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. ...
16
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12answers
4k views

What would sway all humans to stop having kids cheerfully, painlessly, voluntarily? [closed]

Assume the world to be at least as good as it is now in 2019. Rule out involuntary or any human extinction caused by pain and suffering. Why would all humans cheerily, knowingly stop reproducing? ...
16
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15answers
4k views

Why would we burn witches? [closed]

So, imagine a world where magic is a real, quantifiable energy. It has real, visible effects, and can be used by humans to mold reality as they see fit (with varying degrees of finesse). The beginning ...
16
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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
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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 ...
15
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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
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10answers
3k views

How could the Empire of Japan and America be allies in WWII? [closed]

I am slowly building an alternate history story where America and the Empire of Japan are closely allied during the early 1940s instead of at war. They are so close, in fact, that Anchorage is seen as ...
15
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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 ...

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