Alternate history, also known as alternative history[1], is a genre of literature which proposes history as it might have been given different circumstances. Since the 1950's this genre has been found mostly among science fiction works that postulate time-travel which creates divergence histories from the point of interference. Another way to look at changed time is as a mental exercise to better understand how history works, the thought experiment of "what if." This leads to the discipline of the distinct but related field of counter-factual history[2]

To be an alternate history, events that diverge have to be in the past in relation to the writer's point of view. An altered present that was future at the time of it's writing (i.e., 1984 or 2001: A Space Odyssey) is not considered alternate history since the authors wrote about future, rather than past, events. Likewise, "secret histories," of things that might have happened but did not change present history, are not included in this genre.



Most references in this article are directly copied from the Alternate history article on Wikipedia.

  1. ^ Brave New Words: The Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction (Oxford University Press, 2007) notes the preferred usage of "Alternate History" as well as its primacy in coinage, "Alternate History" was coined in 1954 and "Alternative History" was first used in 1977, pp.4–5.
  2. ^ Martin Bunzl (June 2004). "Counterfactual History: A User's Guide". American Historical Review. Archived from the original on 21 June 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-02.