What If? 50 Ideas for Alternate History Scenarios

Need some inspiration for an alternate history scenario? Need a point in time for your alternate timeline to diverge? Here’s a list of 50 questions to excite your imagination, invalidate your history textbooks, and infuriate your stuffy childhood history teacher.

What if…

  1. What if Charles Darwin had sought political office?
  2. What if the Ottoman Empire had succeeded in capturing Vienna in 1529?
  3. What if Queen Elizabeth I had never been born?
  4. What if King Henry VIII had been impotent?
  5. What if the Russian “October Revolution” had failed?
  6. What if there were no such thing as horses?
  7. What if the US had received advanced intelligence about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor?
  8. What if Boudica (Boadicea) had won the Battle of Watling Street?
  9. What if the Vikings never went viking and just stayed at home instead?
  10. What if Neanderthals had not become extinct?
  11. What if all human lifespans were limited to 35 years?
  12. What if everybody in the world had the same skin tone?
  13. What if the Black Death had never occurred?
  14. What if all humans were vegetarians, having never evolved the ability to digest meat?
  15. What if the Nile River had dried up thousands of years ago?
  16. What if there was no oil in the Middle East?
  17. What if Earth had a habitable twin planet instead of a moon?
  18. What if the ancient Greeks had discovered a naturally formed wormhole to another world?
  19. What if the Romans never converted to Christianity?
  20. What if the British Empire had invaded and conquered China?
  21. What if Australia had been discovered and colonized by the Japanese?
  22. What if the entire continent of South America had been united under the flag of the “Bolivarian Republic”?
  23. What if the Aztecs had defeated Cortez?
  24. What if Alfred the Great had died in a cake-related fire, causing England to remain divided into separate kingdoms?
  25. What if Henry VIII’s first son (to Catherine of Aragon), Henry, had lived to adulthood?
  26. What if Henry VIII had stayed married to Catherine of Aragon?
  27. What if Napoleon had succeeded in invading Russia?
  28. What if the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic had killed 50% of the world’s population?
  29. What if WWII had ended with nuclear attacks on Berlin, Hamburg, and Munich, as well as Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Osaka?
  30. What if the Australian Aborigines had developed a civilization as technologically advanced as those of the Western World?
  31. What if a spate of alien visitations had made the world aware of life on other planets as early as the 13th Century?
  32. What if the renaissance sparked a popular movement to reunite the Roman Empire?
  33. What if Napoleon defeated the armies of the Seventh Coalition at the Battle of Waterloo?
  34. What if Christopher Columbus never sailed west, and the Americas weren’t discovered until several decades later?
  35. What if Genghis Khan had died in infancy?
  36. What if the RMS Lusitania was not sunk by a German U-Boat in 1915?
  37. What if a large-scale slave revolt in the 1700’s led to the establishment of a united Caribbean nation governed by former slaves?
  38. What if President John F Kennedy survived the assassination attempt?
  39. What if President Abraham Lincoln survived the assassination attempt?
  40. What if “The Babington Plot” succeeded in assassinating Queen Elizabeth the First in 1586?
  41. What if the Confederate States won the American Civil War?
  42. What if Otto Von Bismark failed to unite the German states in the late 1800’s?
  43. What if the French decided not to sell the Louisiana territory to the USA?
  44. What if the Allies invaded the Japanese mainland at the climax of WWII?
  45. What if Hitler had decided not to invade Russia?
  46. What if Alexander the Great had lived to a ripe old age?
  47. What if the 1914 assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand had failed?
  48. What if the Vikings successfully colonized the east coast of North America?
  49. What if Russian Tsar Peter the Great was killed by the Streltsy during the Moscow Uprising of 1682 (aged 10)?
  50. What if the Ottoman Empire had decided to stay out of the First World War?

    Written by Mark Ball. With special thanks to David Ball.