by Larry Smith
Counterfactual history is an attempt to answer hypothetical questions by considering what would have happened if certain key historical events had not occurred. Such speculation has spawned an entire book genre, which seeks to understand the relative importance of the event in question.
Science fiction writers are very fond of counterfactual themes, but serious historians have also been unable to resist the temptation to ask 'what if?' In 1931, for example, Winston Churchill contributed to an anthology called If It Had Happened Otherwise. His essay examined the course of events if Robert E. Lee had won the Battle of Gettysburg in the American Civil War.
Julian Granberry, the veteran Florida anthropologist and linguist who contributed decades of scholarship on the extinct Lucayan Taino inhabitants of the Bahamian archipelago, has produced his own alternate history titled The Americas That Might Have Been: "a book I expect practically everyone to find some fault with" as he says in the preface. "My hope is that everyone will also find a great deal that is new, interesting and useful."
In this 2005 work, Granberry attempts to answer the question: What would the Americas be like today—politically, economically, culturally—if Columbus and the Europeans had never found them, and how would these American peoples interact with the world's other societies?
It assumes that Columbus did not embark from Spain in 1492 and that no Europeans found or settled the New World afterward, leaving the peoples of the two American continents free to follow the natural course of their native lives.