Historical Counterfactuals

What if … Zheng He’s Chinese fleets had sailed to the Americas before the Europeans? What if … Quebec were a US state? How would the world and subsequent world history have changed?

FYI: Historians are strongly skeptical of the Menzies/new map claim regarding Zheng He and the ‘New World.’

However, these things very well could have happened. Social scientists deal primarily in general explanations for general phenomena, but we should not forget that upsets happen.

UPDATE 2006.01.28: “The Domino Effect,” a series on Inside the NBA on TNT by Kenny Smith is another attempt to examine “what-if” situations: what if a given shot did not go in. Would the Knicks have given Allan Houston $100 million if he hadn’t made a shot that won them a playoff series in 1999? Would they have kept Jeff van Gundy or dealt Patrick Ewing? Would they be so financially out of sorts today? …. While the series assumes that no is the answer to these questions, Barkley disagreed. Bad decisions were already being made. This pivotal moment only reinforced their resolve to move further in this diretion. Moments can be decisive and pivotal, but structural forces should not be discounted … no matter the domain of inquiry.

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