This week, we tackle Amazon’s Man in the High Castle and discuss alternative history as a way of understanding the past.
Based on Philip K. Dick’s award-winning novel, and executive produced by Ridley Scott (Blade Runner), and Frank Spotnitz (The X-Files), The Man in the High Castle explores what it would be like if the Allied Powers had lost WWII, and Japan and Germany ruled the United States. Starring Rufus Sewell (John Adams), Luke Kleintank (Pretty Little Liars), and Alexa Davalos (Mob City).
Tackling the historical plausibility of a work of fiction, let alone one that presents an alternate timeline, presents an interesting challenge for historians. Alternate timelines and “what ifs” are necessarily rooted in counterfactual imaginings and cannot easily be debunked without likewise utilizing such methodology.
In “The Man in the High Castle,” the unsettling, if uneven, alternative-history thriller whose 10-episode first season begins Friday on Amazon Prime, fascism has not simply conquered America. It has insinuated itself, with disturbing ease, into America’s DNA.
What are we even watching? Is it alt-historical realism? (Looks like we can cross that one off the list, but who knows?) A “Fringe”-like mind-bender of parallel universes and possible futures? A mystical tale in which a false reality hangs over our eyes like a veil?
The Man in the High Castle is a fine show; fine as in sufficient, not as in excellent. The series, which premiered on Amazon on Friday, has all of the signifiers of Quality TV Drama—a slow burn with just enough violence to keep audiences interested, mysterious characters, an extremely dark palette. But something is missing.
Atlantropa was the brainchild of the German architect Herman Sörgel, who tirelessly promoted his project from 1928 until his death in 1952. His experience of World War I, the economic and political turmoil of the 1920s and the rise of Nazism in Germany convinced Sörgel that a new world war could only be avoided if a radical solution was found to European problems of unemployment, overpopulation and, with Saudi oil still a decade away, an impending energy crisis. With little faith in politics, Sörgel turned to technology.
Dams across the Strait of Gibraltar, the Dardanelles, and eventually between Sicily and Tunisia, each containing gigantic hydroelectric power plants, would form the basis for the new supercontinent. In its final state the Mediterranean would be converted into two basins, with the western part lowered by 100 meters and the eastern part by 200 meters and a total of 660,200 km2 of new land reclaimed from the sea – an area larger than France.
Reinhard Tristan Eugen Heydrich(German (7 March 1904 – 4 June 1942) was a high-ranking GermanNazi official during World War II, and one of the main architects of the Holocaust. He was SS-Obergruppenführer und General der Polizei as well as chief of the Reich Main Security Office (including the Gestapo, Kripo, and SD). He was also Stellvertretender Reichsprotektor (Deputy/Acting Reich-Protector) of Bohemia and Moravia, in what is now the Czech Republic. Heydrich served as president of the International Criminal Police Commission (ICPC; later known as Interpol) and chaired the January 1942 Wannsee Conference, which formalised plans for the Final Solution to the Jewish Question—the deportation and genocide of all Jews in German-occupied Europe.
Drawing on previously unpublished eyewitness accounts, prizewinning historian Donald L. Miller has written what critics are calling one of the most powerful accounts of warfare ever published.
Here are the horror and heroism of World War II in the words of the men who fought it, the journalists who covered it, and the civilians who were caught in its fury. Miller gives us an up-close, deeply personal view of a war that was more savagely fought—and whose outcome was in greater doubt—than readers might imagine. This is the war that Americans at the home front would have read about had they had access to the previously censored testimony of the soldiers on which Miller builds his gripping narrative.
Miller covers the entire war—on land, at sea, and in the air—and provides new coverage of the brutal island fighting in the Pacific, the bomber war over Europe, the liberation of the death camps, and the contributions of African Americans and other minorities. He concludes with a suspenseful, never-before-told story of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, based on interviews with the men who flew the mission that ended the war.
The basic moral question—could you kill one infant to save millions of lives?—is essentially a more dramatic version of the trolley problem, a thought experiment whereby a person must choose between a speeding trolley killing five people or diverting its course to kill one.
Have you ever wondered whether, if given the opportunity, Jeb Bush would go back in time to kill Adolf Hitler in his crib? Well, wonder no more.
Japanese war crimes occurred in many Asian and Pacific countries during the period of Japanese imperialism, primarily during the Second Sino-Japanese War and World War II. These incidents have also been described as an Asian Holocaust and Japanese war atrocities. Some war crimes were committed by military personnel from the Empire of Japan in the late 19th century, although most took place during the first part of the Shōwa Era, the name given to the reign of Emperor Hirohito, until the surrender of the Empire of Japan, in 1945.
Welthauptstadt Germania (“World Capital Germania”) refers to the projected renewal of the German capital Berlin during the Nazi period, part of Adolf Hitler’s vision for the future of Germany after the planned victory in World War II. Albert Speer, the “first architect of the Third Reich”, produced many of the plans for the rebuilt city in his capacity as overseer of the project, only a small portion of which was realized between the years 1937 and 1943 when construction took place.
Analysis of the aerial shot of Berlin from the final episode.
The Fallen of World War II is an interactive documentary that examines the human cost of the second World War and the decline in battle deaths in the years since the war. The 15-minute data visualization uses cinematic storytelling techniques to provide viewers with a fresh and dramatic perspective of a pivotal moment in history.
The Domination of the Draka is a dystopian alternate history series by S. M. Stirling. It comprises a main trilogy of novels as well as one crossover novel set after the original and a book of short stories. This series is also called the Draka series or Draka Saga.
Command & Conquer: Red Alert is a real-time strategy computer game of the Command & Conquer franchise, produced by Westwood Studios and released by Virgin Interactive in 1996. The second game to bear the “C&C” title, Red Alert is the prequel to the original Command & Conquer of 1995, and takes place in the alternate early history of Command & Conquer when Allied Forces battle an aggressive Soviet Union for control over the European mainland.
It was initially available for PC (MS-DOS and Windows 95 versions included in one package), and was subsequently ported to PlayStation. The PlayStation version was also re-released as a download on the PlayStation Network for PSP and PS3. On August 31, 2008, Electronic Arts who acquired Westwood Studios in 1998 officially rendered Command & Conquer: Red Alert freeware.
It Can’t Happen Here is a semi-satirical 1935 political novel by American author Sinclair Lewis. Published during the rise of fascism in Europe, the novel describes the rise of Berzelius “Buzz” Windrip, a populist United States Senator who is elected to the presidency after promising drastic economic and social reforms while promoting a return to patriotism and traditional values. After his election, Windrip takes complete control of the government and imposes a plutocratic/totalitarian rule with the help of a ruthless paramilitary force, in the manner of Adolf Hitler and the SS. The novel’s plot centers on journalist Doremus Jessup’s opposition to the new regime and his subsequent struggle against it as part of a liberal rebellion. Reviewers at the time, and literary critics ever since, have emphasized the connection with Louisiana politician Huey Long, who was preparing to run for president in the 1936 election when he was assassinated in 1935 just prior to the novel’s publication.
It is the fourteenth century and one of the most apocalyptic events in human history is set to occur–the coming of the Black Death. History teaches us that a third of Europe’s population was destroyed. But what if? What if the plague killed 99 percent of the population instead? How would the world have changed? This is a look at the history that could have been–a history that stretches across centuries, a history that sees dynasties and nations rise and crumble, a history that spans horrible famine and magnificent innovation. These are the years of rice and salt.
What is worse, counterfactual speculations spring naturally from deeply conservative assumptions about what makes history tick. Like bestselling popular histories, counterfactuals usually take as their subjects war, biography or an old-school history of technology that emphasises the importance of the inventor.
So I’m teaching the second iteration of my course on counterfactual history this semester.
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Harry Norman Turtledove (born June 14, 1949) is an American novelist, best known for his works in several genres, including that of alternate history, historical fiction, fantasy, and science fiction.