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Books in brief: ‘Altered Pasts’ by Richard J Evans

Richard J Evans has his sights on the brand of “virtual” history

Altered Pasts by Richard J Evans (Little, Brown, £20.99)

In this characteristically pugnacious book, Cambridge historian Richard J Evans attacks the current fashion for “counter-factual” history—the imagining of alternative versions of the past. Evans’s principal target is not the counter-factual as “entertainment,” though he is grouchily dismissive of such “frivolities,” especially when they’re written by those unfortunates who don’t have a PhD. Rather, he has in his sights the brand of “virtual” history practised by Niall Ferguson and other, predominantly right-wing, historians. The political dimension here is important: as Evans rightly points…

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