Archduke Franz Ferdinand Lives!:A World Without World War I, by Richard Ned Lebow

Nine stars

The Butterfly Effect posits that an event on one side of the world could be responsible for something on the far side of the globe, or so I am led to believe. Richard Ned Lebow offers a similar, yet much more complex, argument in this book, which delves not only into alternate history, but also counterfactual developments in the 20th century. Lebow creates an argument about what might have happened if Archduke Franz Ferdinand had not been assassinated in June, 1914. His argument is that there would have been no Great War, which would have negated the rise of the Nazis, no Holocaust, and therefore no Israel. On its surface, this is enough of a brain cramp, but Lebow goes further. This academic geared book goes deeper to look at what the world might have been like in politics, science, social movements, and even the arts. Examining the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ worlds that could have come to pass, Lebow lays out some fairly convincing arguments that there would never have been a successful Russian revolution, therefore no communists that made a claim for government control. That would have negated a Cold War (as we know it). However, without the rush to find some technological solutions to adapt to wartime issues, things like blood coagulants and jet engines would have been shelved, crippling the world for a lot longer when it comes to some key breakthroughs. Lebow offers the reader some interesting counterfactual arguments about how the world might have been vastly different, but not entirely ‘better’ in the long run. Quite eye opening and well researched, this piece left me wondering and wanting to know more. Recommended to those who love alternate history pieces, as well as the reader who has a penchant for academic ‘what if’ theories.

Being a great fan of history, particularly areas that relate to politics, I was immediately drawn to this book. I have a great interest in the Great War, particularly because of all its political machinery and what brought it about. Lebow does a masterful job of recounting the events that led up to the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and how things spiralled out of control from there. His ability to step back and posit a new narrative, doing so not out of thin air but with research and well-placed arguments, makes this book a must read for those who love pulling on the strings of ‘what if’ and ‘could it be’. Lebow offers both sides of the coin, arguing effectively that there would be good from a lack of the Great War, but also some truly negative developments. His arguments are not only sound, but they leave the reader to really think and wonder about an alternate reality that could have drastically changed where we are today. Using some of the necessary lingo to best tackle such academic discussions, Lebow presents his arguments in an easy to decipher way and does not pull any punches. While some may call it fantasising and silliness, if one gives some serious thought to what is being presented, it makes a great deal of sense. Full of concrete examples over seven long and detailed chapters, Lebow makes his case quite effectively. His work may not be for those who read for pure enjoyment, as there are some in-depth discussions that only history buffs will likely enjoy, but those who can stomach the read, it is well worth the time and effort.

Kudos, Mr. Lebow, for a truly eye and mind opening experience. I will have to read some more of you counterfactual pieces, as this was quite interesting for me to ponder.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: