Questions tagged [alternate-history]

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

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What would happen if I showed the Vikings advanced technology? [closed]

Today, I answered a question in an essay which related to time travel and what I would do if I could go back to a historical period. This got me thinking, and I came up with a hypothetical scenario in ...
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5answers
1k views

How does social and cultural change relate to scientific progress?

I'm writing a novel based on an alternative version of Earth, but because of a large change in human history, as well as a more focused transfer of knowledge and the presence of materials unknown to ...
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1answer
164 views

Minimum tech level to invent core memory

Magnetic core memory was a critical innovation in the development of computers. Per https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magnetic-core_memory it was the most advanced form of memory from about the mid-...
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2answers
146 views

Could Xenarthrans Be Ferried Outside South America?

Right from the beginning, the xenarthrans--armadillos, sloths and anteaters--have been at a disadvantage. For the longest time, their home was an island continent, which made them extremely ...
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2answers
232 views

Can a star with a large habitable zone have two planets revolving each other as they revolve around their star,?

Just an idea that had me doing a lot of navel gazing. Both planets are habitable to carbon based life forms, but intelligent life on each planet evolves very differently. Eventually, the two life ...
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7answers
1k views

Is a Selective Breeding Program to Create Enhanced Humans Plausible?

The idea is that the concepts of DNA, inheritance, and micro-organisms were discovered significantly earlier in history. Roughly 50 years after the founding of Alexandria as a city state in 332 B.C., ...
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4answers
2k views

Could the Library of Alexandria have survived until today?

The Royal Library of Alexandria was one of the greatest library of the ancient world. However it was destroyed during the 3rd century after years of decline. Was such a library doomed to ...
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5answers
340 views

Uniting The Wild Peoples Of Eow [closed]

Background Story Steve Gwa, a native American serving in U.S. special forces, one day wakes up to find himself in a very unlikely place. He is laying on the ground, near a village that appears to ...
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6answers
928 views

Survival strategy for a time traveller in the Roman empire [closed]

I would like to know what would be the best strategy to survive and prosper in the roman empire for a time traveller? Let's say that the time traveller is a 30-year-old Italian from the XXI century ...
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5answers
961 views

Can sanitation spark an industrial revolution

In an Alternate Earth timeline, round about 1200 AD, we have the Great Alchemist and Philosopher Bob. Bob, being from a wealthy family has a handful of older brothers, so he's not likely to be an ...
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4answers
845 views

What if the asteroid never hit?

Science fiction and fantasy stories are full of alternate worlds populated by races of beings that look mostly human but kind of different. But is that at all realistic? When the dominant life forms ...
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4answers
565 views

The Catholic Caribbean Viking Kingdom?

Could Viking settlers have established a catholic kingdom in the Caribbean by 1450? What challenges would they face, and be unique to their colonising this region by this time? And if they had, ...
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5answers
472 views

How can a pre-modern culture survive a sustained invasion accompanied by epidemics?

Assume the following situation: A pre-modern culture A exists on continent/island X with no previous contact with culture B (the invaders). Culture B discovers and invades X and the lands of A intend ...
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4answers
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Capital of British Empire without Britain

It's around 1895 and the British Isles have fallen to a communist uprising. Or sunk underwater. Or invaded by Germany or covered in ice or something. So the government, the Royal Family and a large ...
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3answers
2k views

Impact of a modern man with a graphing calculator being dropped into WW2?

A question blatantly inspired by my old question here: What would be the impact of a modern programmer and laptop being dropped into World War II, possibly breaking Enigma? I had so much fun with the ...
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5answers
785 views

Help with designing currency

Imagine Europe around 1810. Imagine the Netherlands. Imagine that it is the colonial age. Imagine also that the colonies are mostly under open rebellion. Imagine that the region of Netherlands (...
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1answer
405 views

What kind of engine could the 14-15th century world create?

If someone in the 14-15th century world had the knowledge required to build an engine for use in locomotives and ships, what kind of engine could be made using technology that already existed back ...
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2answers
1k views

Ninjas of the ancient Roman Empire

The emperor needs a way to quickly and decisively kill his enemies (Romans and non-Romans). So he devised an assassin squad to carry on his devious intentions. Kill or hijack enemy VIP personnel and ...
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4answers
346 views

A Permanent Norse Presence in America, Part II: How Would Europe React to This?

Previously, I had asked a question on what point of departure I would need to make the Norse's presence in North America permanent. Perhaps the best answer I got was summarized right here: If one ...
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3answers
240 views

Can we have a world where bacteriophages are the main treatment of bacterial infection?

In Georgia (Soviet Union) bacteriophages are used to to cure bacterial infection. In this video one can see how they are produced. So it might be possible in an alternate timeline, that Paul Ehrlich ...
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2answers
424 views

Manhattan Project goes really, really wrong

This is for a project where the electromagnetic pulse (EMP) from early US atomic bomb tests is somehow much more magnified than the destructive blast- so much so that it destroys electrical devices ...
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5answers
551 views

How could state borders equal major watersheds?

How can I explain, in a believable way of course, that country borders closely resemble drainage divides? They don’t always match mountain ridges, which are natural borders – as are the rivers ...
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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 ...
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1answer
302 views

Is this a plausible timeline if the United States legalized prior restraint following the Pentagon Papers?

In actual history, the Supreme Court ruled in 1971 in New York Times v. US that prior restraint is illegal, upholding its earlier decision in 1931 in Near v. Minnesota. In my alternate history, the ...
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1answer
850 views

What if the Islamic religion was never founded? [closed]

Before Mohammed founded the Islam religion, the weak and religiously divided Arabian tribes fought each other on the Arabian Peninsula in the shadow of the powerful Byzantine Empire. Without Islam ...
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13answers
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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 ...
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7answers
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How would racial perceptions be different if the atlantic slave trade had been outlawed from the beginning?

We all know about the horrific history of the slave triangle which transported people from Africa to the Caribbean and America in exchange for sugar and other plantation produce. I'm trying to ...
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6answers
841 views

Time Travellers And The Roman Empire, Part 1: Transport and Control

I am a time traveller from the not so distant future. I have gone into the past to the Roman Empire (specifically the Nerva-Antonine period) and via -handwaving magical mumbo-technobabble- have become ...
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8answers
715 views

Earliest possible colony in the Americas?

The first Europeans to land in the Americas were Viking explorers who arrived in the 1000s. Viking colonisation didn't last, and sustained European colonisation began after the late 1400s when ...
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6answers
375 views

Is it reasonable for electric generators to come before steam engines?

Let us develop an industrial electric motor from first principles. Alessandro Volta developed a battery whose ingredients were copper, zinc, seawater, and imagination. These ingredients have been ...
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5answers
573 views

Allowing rural, isolated societies to maintain certain industrial capabilities?

My society/area is set in a isolated wasteland where the primary income of people is ranching. However, I want my people to be able to at least be able to maintain technology at a 1916 level (the ...
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4answers
809 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 ...
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3answers
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How would the Anglo-French empire arise?

After I asked what language the Anglo-French Empire would use, I got a few comments that made me realise that I haven't really thought about how this would arise in the first place. For starters, as ...
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5answers
229 views

Can-and-String Telecommunications Network - Repeaters and Amplifiers

Background We know about the can-and-string telephone. There are various claims about the maximum distance over which this is effective. Let's say 100 feet is possible without too much loss and ...
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3answers
562 views

How to make Napoleon attack Ottoman empire instead of Russia?

I want to have alternate history where Napoleon fights Ottomans backed by the British. I need British as enemies no alliance with them whatsoever. How to make Napoleon invade Ottoman empire instead ...
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5answers
1k views

Latest Nazi Germany could reach peace agreement; maintain largest empire

In an alternative universe I'm wanting Nazi Germany to maintain as much of its war-achieved empire as possible, via reaching a peace agreement (and not more successful efforts on the war front, or ...
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6answers
2k views

Could Nazi Germany, Surviving WWII, Survive the Cold War?

In our theoretical alternate universe Nazi Germany--thanks to its scientists that in real history were split and used by the US and USSR--managed to reach the level of nuclear warheads and ICBM ...
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11answers
1k views

What should a modern human-turned-king do to accelerate medieval society and science to modern standards?

Bob is a thirty year old atheist man from our modern times. One day, he is irreversibly thrown back into medieval France around 1300 C.E. His education consists of a Bachelor's degree in mathematics, ...
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3answers
229 views

Maintaining a Moon Suit

The Apollo-era A7L Extravehicular Mobility Units were used for less than eight hours at a time, within a few days, with a maximum of three moonwalks per mission. Assume a fictional moonbase with ...
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4answers
933 views

Ancient divers of Rome

Ancient divers: Vitruvius connected a long tube of cloth, impregnated with special waxes, with bronze rings every 10 cm to hold the tube open, to a pair of bellows connected to crude cheek valves. ...
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5answers
800 views

What would cause turkeys to be intelligent?

In the spirit of Thanksgiving (US) let's tackle a fun one. I'm defining "intelligent" in this situation as "at least on par with hunter-gatherer humans, able to communicate" What natural, ...
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5answers
274 views

Technological complexity in a tribal setting?

Situation It is 2000 BCE. Seven late bronze age clans descended from the Fatyanovo-Balanova Culture which have been warring for control of the Moskva after the disappearance of their culture have ...
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5answers
507 views

How can I account for the curvature of Earth for my straight line (10th Century)?

It is the 10th Century and the hero, Ibn Muadhe has discovered trigonometry about six centuries before Cartes, and has received a wonderful gift. A very spiritual Avicenna had rushed by camel and ...
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2answers
533 views

What are the hippos of the Americas?

In a world where man entered North and South America without causing a mass extinction, all of the paleofauna which became extinct ~10,000 BC in the Americas are still around. There are several ...
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2answers
436 views

Earlier Greek fire

No one knows for sure the composition of Greek fire, but there is almost certainty that it truly existed. Question: What would be the effects of earlier Greek fire during the time of the Western ...
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5answers
361 views

How NOT to Turn Volkshalle Into a Rain Factory

This is a model of Volkshalle, the People's Dome, part of a vision of "Germania" by Adolf Hitler. But the tides of war had washed Germania away, yet this and other architectural plans by Albert Speer ...
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3answers
686 views

How does Maximilian establish a lasting Mexican Empire?

On 20 October 1861, while in Paris, Ferdinand Maximilian Joseph Maria von Hapsburg, brother of the Emperor of Austria-Hungary, received a letter from Jose Maria Gutierrez de Estrada, a Mexican ...
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6answers
331 views

What WWII technology could make a smart, underwater mine?

I have an alternate-history story taking place during an extended end of WW2. For naval mines, I need them to be disarmed if a 'friendly' ship (let's say Axis) bumps into them, but detonate if the ...
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2answers
230 views

If humans evolved on Mars instead of Earth, how quickly would we have detected life on Earth?

Suppose that both Earth and Mars was booming with life in a similar way. Except that, on Earth, there was no hominid family, and no humans evolved. Instead, humans evolved on Mars. Assuming we had ...
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3answers
536 views

What history supports modern day Gladiatorial Combat?

For the most part human against human bloodsport lived and died with the Romans, but a common sight in fantasy or science-fantasy is the existence of gladiator arenas in some form (Hunger Games to ...