Initially I thought that pondering the "what if's" of history was a passing fancy or a fun game to play, especially with other history geeks. But the more I delved into such questions, the more I realized they provide a whole way of studying and sparking interest in world history. Seeking answers to "what if" questions -- what if a certain event did not take place or turned out differently, what if certain individuals made different decisions or took different paths? -- are essential to understanding and explaining history.
I now ask myself such questions to spur personal interest in the history of parts of the world that I have never visited and know little about. "What if" questions get to the heart of the significance of events or historical periods.
And when you apply "what if" questions to the biographies of great or significant people, you have an almost infinite number of questions to ask or an infinite number of key moments, thin moments or points of divergence to identify. The questions make history come alive.
So, now, alternate history or the possibilities that life could so easily have turned out differently for all of us has become a subject of lifelong study, and a whole way of looking at history, freed from unquestioning, facile, implicit beliefs in "destiny" and "pre-destination."