Transcript: Andrew Roberts on his book What Might Have Been | Jun 05, 2004

Andrew Roberts stands behind a podium with a tall library bookstand behind his back.
He’s in his thirties, clean-shaven, with receding brown hair. He’s wearing a black suit, white shirt, and striped black tie.

A caption reads “Andrew Roberts. Author, ‘What might have been.’ U of T Bookstore Reading Stories. May 10, 2004.”

Andrew says I'M GOING TO
START WITH A WONDERFUL
SHAKESPEARE QUOTE FROM Ulysses, from
TROILUS AND CRESSIDA.
WHO SAYS,
“Untune that string AND, HARK, WHAT DISCORD
FOLLOWS!
EACH NEW THING MEETS IN MERE
OPPUGNANCY.”
THE GENRE OF
VIRTUAL, IMAGINARY HISTORY,
COUNTERFACTUAL HISTORY, CALL
IT WHAT YOU WILL, IS A VERY
POPULAR ONE AT THE MOMENT.
THIS IS UH, THE FIFTH OR SIXTH
BOOK TO BE PUBLISHED IN THE LAST
SEVEN YEARS, IN WHICH A GROUP OF
HISTORIANS HAVE ATTEMPTED TO
LOOK AT HISTORY, THINGS THAT
MIGHT HAVE BEEN, BUT WEREN'T.
AND IT'S BECOME QUITE A
CONTROVERSIAL GENRE TOO, IT'S
BEEN ATTACKED FOR BEING UM, AN
IDOL PARLOUR GAME, FOR BEING
UNHISTORICAL, FOR BEING BAD FOR
HISTORY, SOME PEOPLE HAVE CALLED
IT.
UM, AND INDEED, QUITE RECENTLY,
THERE WAS A ARTICLE IN THE
GUARDIAN NEWSPAPER, SAYING THAT
“IT WAS A DANGEROUS RIGHT WING
AGENDA, THAT IT WORKED TOO.”

(Audience laughing)

Andrew continues SO UM,
WELCOME TO THE CONSPIRACY,
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN.
UM, FOR ME OF COURSE, NOT TO BE
ATTACKED BY THE GUARDIAN WOULD
BE A TERRIBLE THING.
PEOPLE TAKE IT RATHER FOR
GRANTER, THAT I'M GOING TO BE.
I SEE IT AS A BADGE OF HONOUR.
I THINK IT'S CLEAR THAT, WE ONLY
HAVE TO LOOK INTO OUR OWN LIVES
TO APPRECIATE THAT THE ROLE OF
LUCK AND CHANCE; ACCIDENT PLAYS
AN IMPORTANT ONE.
IF YOU HAVEN'T GONE TO THAT
PARTY, YOU MIGHT NOT BE GOING
OUT WITH THE PERSON OR MARRIED
TO THE PERSON THAT YOU ARE.
IF YOU HAVEN'T BOUGHT THAT
PARTICULAR DAY, THAT PARTICULAR
NEWSPAPER, YOU MIGHT NOT BE
DOING THE JOB YOU DO.
AT AN EXTREME EXAMPLE, MY FRIEND
ANNE APPLEBOUND, WHO JUST WON
THE Pulitzer Prize, WAS
BOOKED ON THE LOCKERBY FLIGHT AND
HAD TO CHANGE HER ARRANGEMENTS
AT THE LAST MINUTE.
THE UM, I DON'T KNOW HOW MANY OF
YOU HAVE SEEN THAT MOVIE,
GWYNETH PALTROW MOVIE, “SLIDING
DOORS,” IN WHICH THE CLOSING
DOORS OF A TUBE TRAIN, CLOSING
JUST A SECOND, JUST A FEW
SECONDS UM, UH, AFTER SHE GETS
ONBOARD, ALLOWS HER TO CATCH HER
BOYFRIEND IN BED WITH HIS LOVER,
AND UH, IN A PARALLEL UNIVERSE
CLOSE JUST SLIGHTLY IN FRONT OF
HER, PREVENTING HER TO DOING
THIS AND HER WHOLE LIFE IS ACTED
OUT IN A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT
WAY.
I ONCE MET GWYNETH PALTROW AT A
PARTY LAST SUMMER AND SAID TO
HER THAT HER MOVIE, “SLIDING
DOORS,” WAS THE PERFECT PARADIGM
FOR THE ACCIDENT VERSUS THE
DESIGNER OF HISTORY, AND SHE
LOOKED AT ME WITH THE LOOK OF
INFINITE CONTEMPT WITH QUITE THE
WORST CHAT-UP LINE EVER.

(Audience laughing)

Andrew continues ANDREA--UH,
LET'S FACE IT SHE WAS RIGHT.
ANDRE MORRAUX SAID THAT, “THERE
IS NOT PRIVILEGE LOST.
THERE IS AN INFINITY OF PASTS,
ALL EQUALLY VALID.”
AND UM, IT'S REALLY THE WHIGS,
THE MARXIST AND THE DETERMINISTS
WHO WILL NOT ACCEPT THAT.
WHIGS OF COURSE, IN THE 19th
CENTURY, MEN LIKE McCAULEY,
OTHER WEAK HISTORIANS LIKE
TROVILLION, WHO BELIEVE THAT
MANKIND WAS MOVING TOWARDS
PROGRESS, TOWARDS THE BETTERMENT
OF MAN, THAT SOMEHOW WE WERE ON
A PATH TO BECOMING BETTER
PEOPLE.
THAT LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, I
THINK HAS TO HAVE BEEN DESTROYED
BY THE UH, BY THE 20th CENTURY,
BY THE KNOWLEDGE OF WHAT
COUNTRIES LIKE GERMANY, WENT
THROUGH BETWEEN 1914 AND 1945,
SPECIFICALLY OF COURSE, 1933 AND
1945, WERE NOT ON SOME KIND OF
LOCOMOTIVE TO A BETTER PLACE.
IT'S A, IF IT IS A LOCOMOTIVE;
IT'S CAPABLE OF BEING SHUNTED TO
DECIDING TO GOING INTO REVERSE
TO MANY YEARS.
EQUALLY THE MARXIST WHO WILL
ARGUE THAT THERE IS AN
INEVITABILITY TO HISTORY THAT WE
ARE UH, MOVING ON A PATH TO...
Via dialectical materialism...
TO A UH, DICTATORSHIP
OF THE PROLETARIAT, I THINK
ALSO HAS BEEN BLOWN TO PIECES BY
THE UM EXPERIENCES OF CERTAINLY
THE LAST A DECADE OF THE 20th
CENTURY.
DETERMINISTS PEOPLE WHO BELIEVE
THAT ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING THAT
WE DO IS PREORDAINED.
UM, TS ELLIOT WROTE OF VAST AND
PERSONAL FORCES THAT A, THAT UH,
DOMINATE OUR LIVES.
THOSE TWO WILL DENY THE ROLE OF
CONTINGENCY, LUCK AND CHANCE
HISTORY.
BUT UNLESS WE BELIEVE ARE
ABSOLUTE automatons, I BELIEVE
THAT TOO IS A, IS IMPOSSIBLE TO
ACCEPT.
NOW I'M NOT ARGUING AT ALL, THAT
THERE AREN'T SUCH THINGS AS UM
GREAT MOVEMENTS, OF COURSE,
THINGS LIKE INDUSTRIALIZATION,
GLOBALIZATION, THE KIND OF MAGIC
AND THE RISE OF SIGNS, ARE
THINGS THAT ARE UM, THEMATIC
THROUGH HISTORY AND THE REASON
FOR THAT IS, WHEREAS HISTORY IS
THE COMBINED ACTION OF MILLIONS
AND BILLIONS OF PEOPLE, TAKING
DECISION EVERYDAY, THAT'S IF, IF
ARE IN THE SAME DIRECTIONS AS
THEY HAVE BEEN THROUGH WITH
REGARDS TO SAY,
INDUSTRIALIZATION THEN THAT WILL
HAPPEN.
LOUIS NEMEYER, ANOTHER GREAT
HISTORIAN SAID THAT, UM, “AN
INTUITIVE UNDERSTANDING OF WHAT
DID NOT HAPPEN IS TREMENDOUSLY
IMPORTANT FOR HISTORIANS IN
ATTEMPTING TO EXPLAIN WHAT DID.”
AND UM, I BELIEVE THAT'S
ABSOLUTELY KEY.
ONE OF THE MOST DIFFICULT THINGS
FOR BIOGRAPHERS--FOR HISTORIANS,
IS TO REMEMBER THAT WE CANNOT
SEE, SORRY, OUR SUBJECTS CANNOT
SEE SO MUCH OF A MOMENT, A
MINUTE INTO THE FUTURE ANYMORE
THAN WE CAN.
IF WE COULD, WE WOULD BE BETTING
ON THE HORSES.
THE FACT IS,
THAT WHEN YOU LOOK AT LOUIS XIV,
SORRY, LOUIS THE XVI ON THE 14th
OF JULY 1789 WRITING DOWN IN HIS DIARY FOR UH, FOR
WHAT HE WAS EXPECTING TO HAPPEN
IN THAT DAY.
WE THINK OF
HIM, NEEDLESS TO SAY, AS A MORON.

(Audience laughter)

Andrew continues HOWEVER, HE WASN'T TO KNOW THAT
THE BEST YEAR WASN'T ABOUT TO
FALL IN THE NEXT DAY, ANYMORE
THAN WE CAN TELL THE VARIOUS UM,
DISASTERS THAT MIGHT OVERCOME
WESTERN CIVILIZATION FROM UM,
MOBILE PHONES OR SPACE TRAVEL OR
THE JERRY SPRINGER SHOW.

(Audience laughter)

Andrew says THIS UH, THIS
BOOK, WHICH ACTUALLY I WAS JUST
NOTICING EARLIER, IS A VERY
CANADIAN BOOK.
UM, THIS UH, THIS UH, “WHAT
MIGHT HAVE BEEN.”
ITS UH, ITS GOT TWO INVASIONS OF
CANADA IN IT.
UM, YOU DO VERY WELL, BY THE
WAY, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN.

(Audience laughter)

Andrew says UM, IN BOTH
1861 AND 1775.
IT'S ALSO GOT TWO CANADIANS
CONRAD BLACK, WHOM I'M TOLD SOME
OF YOU MIGHT OF HEARD OF HERE.

(Audience laughter)

Andrew says AND ALSO,
WHOSE WRITTEN AN EXCELLENT ESSAY
OF “THE JAPANESE DO NOT BOMB
PEARL HARBOUR” AND WHAT F.D.R.
WOULD HAVE DONE IN AN ATTEMPT TO
TRY AND GET AMERICA TO THE 2nd
WORLD WAR, AND ALSO DAVID FRUM
WHO HAS WRITTEN AN SATIRICAL
ESSAY ON AH, WAS THAT A HIT?
HE WOULD BE THRILLED IF THAT WAS
A HIT.

(Audience laughter)

Andrew says UM, I MUST
TELL YOU IT WAS OR IT WAS NOT.
UM, HE'S WRITTEN A FINE
SATIRICAL ESSAY ON UM, WHAT IF
ENOUGH “CHADS HAD FALLEN OFF
FLORIDA” IN NOVEMBER 2000 AND UH
PRESIDENT AL GORE HAD, HAD TO
FIGHT THE WAR AGAINST TERROR.
UM, AND OF COURSE IN ONE OF
THESE ESSAYS BY ANN SOMERSET,
THE BIOGRAPHER OF ELIZABETH I,
“THE SPANISH ARMADA LANDS IN
BRITAIN” AND SHE'S A, SHE'S
ASSASSINATED AND LADY ANTONIA
FRASER HAS WRITTEN A GREAT ESSAY
ON WHAT WOULD HAVE HAPPENED IF
THAT WOULD HAVE COME OFF, UM,
WHICH SHE SAYS, GAVE HER A
TREMENDOUS SENSE OF POWER.
AS A HISTORIAN, OF COURSE,
NORMALLY YOU JUST TO WRITE ABOUT
WHAT GENUINELY WHAT HAPPENED,
BUT IT'S UP TO HER TO DEICIDE
HOW MANY PEOPLE TO KILL IN THE
UH, GUN POW THROOP.

(Audience laughter)

Andrew says UM, I THINK
THAT THERE IS A SERIOUS, UM,
SIDE TO, TO, A COUNTERFACTUAL
HISTORY, IT ISN'T ALL SIMPLE AN
“IDOL PARLOUR GAME” AS EP
THOMPSON CALLED IT.
UM, OR A FAIRY TALES AS ANOTHER
MARXIST HISTORIAN HAS CALLED IT.
BECAUSE I FEEL THAT IT SHOULD,
BY REMINDING PEOPLE THE
IMPORTANCE OF THE INDIVIDUAL IN
HISTORY OF WHAT THEY CAN
ACHIEVE, WHAT INDIVIDUALS CAN
ACHIEVE, IT SHOULD UM, BANISH
POLITICAL LOTTRIDGE.
QUE SERA SERA
IS THE
PHILOSOPHY OF THE WASTREL
THROUGH THE AGES, AND WHEN WE
REMEMBER THAT WE CAN ACTUALLY
INDIVIDUALLY MAKE A DIFFERENCE,
THAT IS NO LONG INTELLECTUALLY
AT LEAST LEFT AS AN OPPORTUNITY
FOR US, ALSO IT GOES TO THE
HEART OF NATURAL SELF-
PERCEPTION.
WHEN BRITAIN THINKS OF WHAT
WOULD HAPPENED IF HITLER INVADED
IN 1940, AND TODAY, BY THE WAY,
TODAY IS THE 64th ANNIVERSARY OF
THE DAY WHEN WINSTON CHURCHILL
BECAME PRIME MINISTER.
NOBODY AT THE TIME KNEW THAT
WHEN HE BECAME PRIME MINISTER,
THAT HITLER WAS ONLY 4 HOURS
LATER WAS GOING TO RELEASE A
BLITZ SCREEN ON THE WEST.
A SERIOUS OF FASCINATING MIGHT
HAVE BEEN THAT UH, MIGHT HAVE
CROPPED OUT OF THAT.
AND HAD, UM, THE B.F HAD BEEN
SCOOPED OUTSIDE OF DUNKIRK AND
INSIDE DUNKIRK ON THE 25th, 28th
OF MAY 1940, THERE WERE ONLY TWO
DIVISIONS, BOTH OF THEM
INTERESTINGLY ENOUGH CANADIAN
DIVISIONS, THAT STOOD BETWEEN
THE NAZIS AND LONDON.
SO WHAT WOULD WE HAVE DONE, UM
HAD THERE BEEN A JET SUCCESSFUL
GERMAN INVASION OF BRITAIN?
SOMETHING THAT GOES TO THE
HEART, AS I SAY, OF OUR NATURAL
SELF-PERCEPTION.
EQUALLY, UH A GREAT ESSAY IN
HERE BY MY FRIEND SIMON SEBAG
MONTEFIORE, WHO JUST WRITTEN
THIS GREAT BIOGRAPHER OF STALIN.
WHO WRITES ABOUT, THE TRAIN THAT
STALIN HAD MADE READY FOR HIM ON
THE 16th OF OCTOBER 1941, TO
TAKE HIM OUT OF MOSCOW AND TO
TAKE HIM BEHIND THE EUROS.
NOW IF THAT HAD HAPPENED, LADIES
AND GENTLEMEN, SIMON ARGUES
QUITE RIGHTLY IN MY VIEW, THAT
THE MORAL IN THE EASTERN FRONT
WOULD HAVE COLLAPSED.
ONE REMEMBERS, OF COURSE THAT
Stalingrad HAD FELL AND THAT
Leningrad WAS SUBJECTED TO A
GRUELLING THOUSAND DAY SIEGE.
AND UH, IF MOSCOW AND THE
(Unclear) HAD GOT TO THE GATES
OF MOSCOW AND THE UNDERGROUND
STATIONS THERE, UH, HAD FALLEN,
WHAT WOULD THAT HAVE MEANT FOR
THE WHOLE OF THE EASTERN FRONT
AND ULTIMATELY OF COURSE THE
WORLD.
I'M NOT GOING TO TELL YOU
BECAUSE I WANT YOU TO BUY MY
BOOK.
UM, NEVERTHELESS IT'S A VERY
GOOD PIECE.
AMERICANS TOO, WHEN THEY LOOK
AT, ONE OF THE GREAT WHAT IF'S,
THERE WAS AN AMERICAN PROFESSOR
CALL, PROFESSOR FOUGAL--SOUGAL
HIS NAME WAS AT PRINCETON, WHO
HAD A, A--WON PRIZES DOING A
“MIGHT HAVE BEEN” BOOK ON WHAT
WOULD HAPPEN TO AMERICAN SOCIETY
AND THE ECONOMY HAD THERE BEEN
NO RAILWAYS.
UM, AND, AND
TAKING THIS ONE STAGE FURTHER,
HE THEN, AND HE WAS APPLAUDING
FOR THIS, AND HE TOOK IT ONE
STAGE FURTHER AND WROTE ABOUT
WHAT IF SLAVERY HAD SURVIVED,
UM, SURVIVED THE 1860's AND WHAT
WOULD--WHAT EFFECTS WOULD THAT
HAVE ON THE ECONOMY AND SOCIETY?
AND FOR THIS
HE WAS LAMBASTED AND UH, AND UH,
UH, AND UH, ATTACKED.
SO THE--AND REASON MUST BE, IT
DOES LAY BARE ELEMENTS OF
NATURAL CONSCIOUSNESS, IT'S NOT
JUST THE PARLOUS GAME.
POLITICIANS THINK IN TERMS AND
SPEAK IN TERMS OF COUNTERFACTUAL
THE WHOLE TIME.
WHEN THEY SAY THAT IF THE OTHER,
IF WE ELECT THE OTHER GUY UM,
THE economy WILL COLLAPSE AND THE
SOCIETY WILL BREAK TO PIECES AND
PLAGUES OF LOCOS WILL DESCEND.
UM, THEY ARE EFFECTIVELY
INDULGING IN COUNTERFACTUAL,
HOVERER MUCH, THEY CONSTANTLY
SAY THAT THEY DON'T BELIEVE,
THEY DON'T BELIEVE IN
HYPOTHETICAL AND ALWAYS REFUSE
TO ANSWER HYPOTHETICAL
QUESTIONS.
SO WHAT ARE THE RULES FOR UM,
FOR FORE COUNTERFACTUAL HISTORY?
I THINK THAT THE 3 OR 4 OF THEM,
AT LEAST 3 OR 4 OF THEM THAT I
TRY TO IMPOSE ON MY, ON MY
AUTHORS.
UM, THE FIRST IS THAT THE ESSAY
IS THE BEST LENGTH.
I THINK VERY FEW COUNTERFACTUAL
BOOKS LASTS UM, CAN KEEP THE
IMAGINATION GOING VERY
SUCCESSFULLY, THIS IS BECAUSE
ONCE YOU HIT BALL A IN THE--
AROUND THE HISTORICAL BILLIARD
TABLE AND IT HITS INTO BALL B,
AND BALL B THEN GOES ON, WHAT
YOU HAVE TO REMEMBER IS OF
COURSE, BALL C, D, E, F, ARE ALL
CAREERING AROUND THE TABLE
HITTING BALL A AND B, SO IN THE
END, YOU ONLY SHOULD REALLY
CHANGE ONE MAJOR THING; YOU
CAN'T CHANGE CHARACTER FOR
EXAMPLE, YOU CANNOT MAKE ADOLF
HITLER A, UH, A NICE EASYGOING
KIND OF A GUY...

(Audience laughing)

Andrew continues BECAUSE AN
ARGUE FROM THAT, THAT IF HE
HASN'T PERSECUTED THE JEWS, SAY,
HE WOULD HAVE GOT THE NUCLEAR
BOMB.
THAT'S CHEATING IN MY VIEW.
AS IS, BREAKING THE, BREAKING
THE HISTORICAL, UM, STRAIGHT
FORWARD NARRATIVE.
IF YOU FIND, YOU CAN'T, FOR
EXAMPLE, GIVE OLIVER CRUMBLIER A
MACHINE GUN, UM, THAT TOO, THAT
TOO IS CHEATING.
UM, THE OTHER INTERESTING THING
IS, MILITARY AND POLITICAL WHAT
IF's TEND TO BE THE BEST.
UM, THE, THE REASON IS, THAT
THERE IS NO PARTICULAR TIME WHEN
A SCIENTIFIC INVENTION NEEDS TO
HAVE BEEN INVENTED IN THIS.

He drops a book onto the ground.

He continues THIS IS GOING
TO HAPPEN WHETHER NEWTON
DISCOVERED IT OR NOT, AND SO
THERE IS NO PARTICULAR TIME.
UM, EQUALLY UH, THE KEHOTE BY
SEVANTIS DOES NOT HAVE TO BE
WRITTEN AT ANY PARTICULAR POINT
IN HISTORY.
SO THESE LITERARY OR SCIENTIFIC
ONES ARE NOT QUITE SO GOOD AS A
BATTLER OR A WAR OR AN
ASSASSINATION, WHICH ARE THE
THINGS I'VE CONCENTRATED ON
THIS.
I'VE GOT NORMAN STONE, PROFESSOR
NORMAN STONE WRITING ABOUT WHAT
IF THE ARCHDUKE SURVIVED
SARAJEVO, AND UH, WHICH HE,
WHICH HE SO EASILY COULD HAVE.
THE UM, THE CHAUFFER TOOK THE
WRONG TURNING, THE CAR HAD TO
REVERSE BACK AND AS IT STOPPED,
DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF THE GUNMAN,
THE OPPORTUNITY WAS HAD TO KILL
THE ARCHDUKE AND HIS WIFE, AND
NORMAN WRITES A PRO-FASCINATING
ESSAY ABOUT THE WAY IN WHICH
EUROPE WOULD HAVE DEVELOPED, HAD
THERE BE NO UM, NO UM FIRST
WORLD WAR.
NOW, OF COURSE, EVERYONE THINKS,
HAD THERE BEEN NO ASSASSINATION,
THERE WOULD NEVER BE THE LESS
BEEN A FIRST WORLD WAR BECAUSE
OF THIS REASON OR THAT REASON,
THERE WERE GREAT VAST AND
PERSONAL FORCES TO GO BACK TO TS
ELLIOT.
BUT I THINK HE ARGUES VERY
SUCCINCTLY, THAT THERE'S NOT
NECESSARILY THE CASE, JUST
BECAUSE THERE WERE GREAT
ARMAMENTS IN 1914, DOES NOT
NECESSARILY MEAN THERE WAS
GOING TO BE A WORLD WAR, ANYMORE
THAN THE WORLD WHEN RUSSIA AND
AMERICA FACED EACH OTHER IN THE
COLD WAR AND BLOWN EACH OTHER UP
FIVE TIMES OVER, THAT ALSO, DID
NOT LEAD TO A CATECHISM.
I THINK THE, THE GREAT, UH,
GREAT ARGUMENTS FOR THIS KIND OF
HISTORY, IT SHOULD ALSO BANISH
HUBRIS.
UH, AT THE END OF EVERY
TRIUMPHAL PROCESSION, IT REMINDS
US THERE'S AN OPEN MANHOLE
COVER.
UH, ONES REMINDED OF THE SLAVE
WHO WAS PUT IN THE CHARIOT OF
THE ROMAN GENERAL THAT CAESAR
WENT THROUGH ROME, AND THE
ROARING CROWDS ON EITHER SIDE,
THERE WAS A SALVE WHO WAS
DEPUTED TO STAND IN THE CHARIOT
AND WHISPERED INTO HIS EAR,
“REMEMBER CAESAR, THOU AREN'T
MORTAL.”
CAN YOU IMAGINE HOW IRRITATING
THAT MAN MUST HAVE BEEN?

(Audience laughing)

Andrew continues BUT NEVERTHELESS,
HOW, HOW NECESSARILY, BECAUSE
ALTHOUGH IT MIGHT BE, OF COURSE,
THAT EVERYTHING I HAVE SAID THAT
HAS BEEN PREORDAINED BY SOME
KIND OF FAITH OR PROVIDENCE OR
KISMET, BUT I TRULY DON'T THINK
SO.
HISTORY HAS NO GRAND DESIGN,
JUST THE MULTIPLIED ACTIONS OF
BILLIONS OF PEOPLES ACTING FROM
THE MYRIAD OF DIFFERENT MOTIVES.
AND SO, AND SO, TO SUM UP THE
GRAVEMENT OF MY BOOK REALLY,
WELL OF COURSE, ALL THESE ESSAYS
CAN BE READ AS A, AS A HUMOROUS
AND LITERATURE, AS WELL ACTUALLY
MAKING ANY SERIOUS POINT, IF
THERE IS ANY SERIOUS POINT
BEHIND THEM, I WOULD SAY IT IS
THAT, GOD MIGHT NOT PLAY A DICE
BUT AT LEAST HE ALLOWS US TO.
THANK YOU VERY MUCH, INDEED.

(Audience applauding)

(music plays)

Andrew’s book cover appears on screen. It features a famous picture of an astronaut standing on the surface of the Moon next to a flag, only in this case it is the Nazi flag.

Then, Andrew reappears.

He says HOW DID I
CHOOSE MY ESSAYS?
VERY GOOD QUESTION.
UM, I, UH, REALLY CHOSE THE
ESSAYISTS AND UM, ASKED THEM,
ALL OF THESE PEOPLE ARE TOP
EXPERTS IN THEIR PARTICULAR
FIELDS.
THEY HAVE WRITTEN--THE MANY OF
THEM, THE DEFINING--THE
DEFINITIVE BOOKS.
ADAM ZAMOYSKI HERE, WHO JUST
BROUGHT OUT HIS BOOK, BROUGHT
OUT HIS BOOK IN BRITAIN 1812, I
GOT TO WRITE, WHAT IF THE
RETREAT FROM MOSCOW, UM HADN'T
HAPPENED, AND THAT NAPOLEON HAD
TRIUMPHED IN RUSSIA?
AND IT'S A FASCINATING ONE, IN
FACT, BECAUSE HE DOES ARGUE
ABOUT THE WELL, HOW NAPOLEON
COULD HAVE PULLED OFF, WHAT TO
MOST PEOPLE MUST SEEM LIKE A
COMPLETELY IMPOSSIBLE CAMPAIGN.
UM, BOB COWLEY HAS, HE'S WRITTEN
ONE, “WHAT IF BRITAIN HAD WON
THE AMERICAN WAR OF
INDEPENDENCE?”
YOU GET INVADED, AS I SAY, IN
THIS, IN THE COURSE OF THIS, AS
I REMEMBER RIGHTLY.
NONETHELESS, UM, HE IS ABLE TO
EXPLAIN HOW THAT COULD HAVE GONE
THE OTHER WAY.
BUT I, BUT I REALLY LEFT IT UP
TO THEM TO DECIDE WHAT WE WERE
GOING TO DO.
THERE WERE A
FEW ABSOLUTE OBVIOUS ONES, Dr.
JAMES ADAMSON OF CAMBRIDGE
UNIVERSITY HAS WRITTEN ABOUT,
“WHAT IF KING CHARLES I WINS THE
ENGLISH CIVIL WAR,”
AND THAT
ALMOST SORT SELF-SELECTS BECAUSE
THAT'S HIS PERIOD.
BUT I DECIDED, AS I MENTIONED
EARLIER, TO CONCENTRATE ON GREAT
EVENTS.
I'VE WRITTEN ABOUT ONE OF THESE
ESSAYS.
MINE IS “WHAT IF LENNON STEPPING
OF THE TRAIN AT THE FINLAND
STATION IN APRIL 1917 HAD BEEN
ASSASSINATED?”
JUST BEEN SHOT THERE AND THEN.
SO YOU HAVE A MECHVICH, SORRY,
A, UH, A, UM KOLINSKY REVOLUTION
OF THAT MARCH THAT GOT RIDE OF
THE ZAR, BUT YOU THEN DON'T GO
ON TO HAVE THE OCTOBER
REVOLUTION, BOLSHEVIK REVOLUTION
WHICH MAKES UH, A RUSSIA
COMMUNISTS.
AND UM, I LOVED DOING IT.
IT IS A, IT'S A, IT'S A, IT
MAKES YOU THINK AND IT'S A, AND
IT'S A VERY STIMULATING WAY OF
WRITING, AND YOU MUSTN'T OF
COURSE, EVER JUST DO THAT, YOU
GO TO GO BACK TO HISTORY
IMMEDIATELY OTHERWISE YOU MIGHT
INDULGE YOURSELF TO IT.

(Audience laughing)

(music plays)

Andrew’s book cover appears on a black slate next to the question “What would have happened had Churchill not lived to become Prime Minister?”

Andrew says IN FACT, IT'S
ASTONISHING REALLY, THAT UM,
WINSTON CHURCHILL EVER DID GET
TO THE AGE OF 65.
WHEN ONE THINKS ABOUT HIS LIFE,
THE INFLUENZA AT HIS PREP
SCHOOL, FALLING 30-FEET IN A
GAME OF, UM, OF A CHASE WHEN HE
KNOCKED HIMSELF OUT FOR 3 DAYS.
UM, A CAR CHASE IN A--KNOCKED
OVER IN 1930 ON FIFTH AVENUE AND
VERY NEARLY KILLED THERE.
A PLANE CRASH HE WAS INVOLVED IN
ONCE.
HE WENT HUNTING AND HE BROKE ANY
NUMBER OF BONES IN HIS LIFE.
HE ESCAPED OF A PRISON OR WAR
CAMP.
UH, HE HAD BULLETS FLY PASSED
HIS EARS IN JEZZEL BULLETS ON
THE NORTHWEST FRONTIER, UM,
QUBAR AS WELL, OF COURSE, HE SAW
ACTION.
UH, I MEAN, HE TOOK PART IN THE
LAST GREAT CAVALRY CHARGE IN
ENGLAND.
THERE ARE NO, NO END OF MOMENTS.
I THINK THE CLOSEST HE CAME TO
DEATH, IN FACT, WAS IN 1916 WHEN
ARTHUR DARDANELLE'S CAMPAIGN, HE
TOOK OVER HIS, UH, THE (Unclear)
IN THE TRENCHES, AND 4 MINUTES
AFTER LEAVING A, UH, DUGOUT, A
WIZ BANG, A GERMAN HIGH-
EXPLOSIVE SHELL CAME DOWN AND
KILLED EVERYBODY IN THE DUGOUT
IN WHICH HE WAS NOT STANDING.
SO I MEAN, ACTUALLY REALLY, WHEN
ONE THINGS OF IT, THE UH, LACK
OF AN ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT IS A
CURIOUS OVERSIGHT IN AN
OTHERWISE QUITE UH...

(Audience laughing)

Andrew continues ...OTHERWISE
QUITE ACTIVE LIFE.
UH, I THINK YOU CAN SAY THAT,
UH, THAT THE, WAY IN, WHICH THE
BRITISH AND CANADIAN AND THE
FREE PEOPLE OF THE ENGLISH
SPEAKING WORLD WERE UM, UH, INFUSED OF THAT BY THAT
MAGNIFICENT RHETORIC OF
CHURCHILL'S IN 1940, COULD NOT
REALLY HAVE BEEN REPLICATED BY
ANYONE ELSE.
THERE WAS NOBODY ELSE WHO HAD
THAT, WHO HAD THAT LYRICAL SENSE
THAT UH, UH, THAT BEAUTIFUL
TIMBRE OF A, OF A RHETORIC THAT
COULD BE UM, THAT COULD BE SORT
OF PUT INTO ACTION ON BEHALF OF
THE BRITISH PEOPLE.
DO I THINK THAT WE WOULD HAVE
BEEN SOME KIND OF A BIG NOBEL
PEACE WITH THE GERMANS IN MAY
1914?
NO I DON'T.
I'VE WRITTEN ABOUT THIS, IN
FACT, IN MY FIRST BOOK, “A
BIOGRAPHY OF LORD HALIFAX.”
WHICH I NOTICED IS ON SALE, I THINK.

(Audience laughing)

Andrew continues UH, NO IT'S
NOT.
OH WELL, THERE WE ARE.
AND UH, UH, IT'S NOT GOOD FOR
BOOKSHOPS THOUGH.
UH, HE HAS, UM, HE WOULD NOT
HOPE (Unclear) ANY OF THE
IMPORTANT THINGS THAT WOULD
ALLOW HITLER TO HAVE GOT UH, TO
ALLOW TO HAVE DESTROY BRITISH
SOLVENT INDEPENDENCE.
WE WOULDN'T HAVE GOTTEN RID OF
YOUR NAVY.
WE MIGHT HAVE GIVEN UP OUR
MORTAR PERHAPS.
BUT NOT ANY
OF THE, ABSOLUTELY CRUCIAL UH
PARTS OF THE, UH, THE WORLD THAT
WE NEEDED TOO.
AND SO, UH, I THINK THAT'S--
ALTHOUGH THERE MIGHT HAVE BEEN
DIFFERENT NEGOTIATIONS...
I REALLY
CAN'T SEE US GOING INTO A, INTO
PEACE IN MAY 1914, BUT AGAIN
THAT IS A, THAT IS A GREAT WHAT
IF, I'VE WRITTEN ABOUT IT IN
OTHER BOOKS.
WHAT I'M
WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT, WHAT
I'M VERY INTERESTED IN HERE IN
ADAMSON'S WRITING ABOUT “THE
BATTLE OF CHEFARGA,” BECAUSE I
AM JUST ABOUT TO BRING OUT A
BOOK NEXT FEBRUARY ABOUT “THE
BATTLE OF WATERLOO.”
UM AND SO, THERE WE ARE, WE CAN
DO A BOXED SET.

(Audience laughing)

Andrew continues THE UH, BUT
THE BIG BOOK THAT I'M WORKING ON
IS ABOUT “THE BATTLE OF
WATERLOO” IS QUITE A--SORT OF A
30,000 WORD BOOK, BUT MY MAJOR
TASK, IT IS A MAJOR TASK BECAUSE
YOU'LL APPRECIATE IT WHEN I TELL
YOU THE TITLE, IS A HISTORY OF
THE ENGLISH SPEAKING PEOPLE
SINCE 1900.
UH, CANADA, NEW ZEALAND, UM,
AUSTRALIA, THE WEST INDIES,
BRITAIN, AMERICA, IRELAND, UH,
IT'S GOING TO BE QUITE A--QUITE
A PROJECT AND PLEASE DON'T' HOLD
YOUR BREATHE FOR THAT
PUBLICATION.

(Audience laughing)

Another slate reads “What would have happened had the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion succeeded?”

Andrew continues I THINK THAT,
YOU WOULD HAVE HAD A, A,
COMPLETE CHANGE OF A, OF A
POLITICAL RELIGIOUS, OBVIOUSLY,
RELIGIOUS SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC
HISTORY OF BRITAIN.
I THINK THAT QUITE A LOT OF THE
UH, OF THE ENERGY OF THE UH,
DRIVE OF THE DRIVE AMERICAN OUT
CLASSES IN THE LATTER PART OF
THE 18th CENTURY, AND EARLY 19th
CENTURY WOULD HAVE BEEN
ANTICIPATED BY SURELY
INCOMPETENCE.

(Audience laughing)

Andrew continues I CAN SAY
WHAT I LIKE BECAUSE IT DIDN'T HAPPEN.

(Audience laughing)

Watch: Andrew Roberts on his book What Might Have Been