Counterfactuals

Paul Kincaid posted a letter sent in response to Owen Hatherley’s review of Altered Pasts: Counterfactuals in History by Richard J Evans, last week’s Guardian Review.

Through the dark labyrinth

Last week, in the Guardian Review, Owen Hatherley wrote this review of Altered Pasts: Counterfactuals in History by Richard J Evans. It was an interesting review that attacked much of what Evans had said in his book. But Hatherley seemed to go along with Evans in assuming that counterfactuals (and alternate histories, the two were discussed without discrimination) were inherently conservative.

I had to disagree. I wrote the following letter to the Guardian, but since there seems to be no letter column in this week’s Guardian Review, I include it here (note, I kept this short for a better chance of being published, but I could have written on this subject at far, far greater length).

Sir,

In repeating the claim by Richard J. Evans that counterfactuals are inherently, and indeed always, conservative, Owen Hatherley (President Gore? Prime Minister Portillo?, 19 April) is simply wrong.

Yes, many are conservative, but not by…

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