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The Moscow Option: An Alternative Second World War

Thande

The Great and Powerful Wizard, Opnohop Moy
Published by SLP
#2
Skinny makes this one sound very interesting - I've always got time for WW2 AH analyses written in an earlier period when it was still well within living memory for much of the population. Often they are flawed because certain information had not yet come to light at the time, but they also reveal a lot of implicit assumptions made by those closer to the action, which us latter-day analysts in our ivory towers may miss.
 

The Red

Well-known member
Published by SLP
#3
Skinny makes this one sound very interesting - I've always got time for WW2 AH analyses written in an earlier period when it was still well within living memory for much of the population. Often they are flawed because certain information had not yet come to light at the time, but they also reveal a lot of implicit assumptions made by those closer to the action, which us latter-day analysts in our ivory towers may miss.
Yeah, there is a bit of "if it hadn't been for that meddling Hitler" at play here but that was much more prevalent in western historiography at the time and contemporary attitudes have their own merits. If someone today said that the Germans would have gone on to invade India if they had won at Stalingrad there would probably be a lot of confusion but Alan Brooke thought it might happen at the time and that's telling in itself, if only to underline the significance of what actually happened. Plus it's well written and flows, which is probably more important than anything else.
 

Thande

The Great and Powerful Wizard, Opnohop Moy
Published by SLP
#4
Yeah, there is a bit of "if it hadn't been for that meddling Hitler" at play here but that was much more prevalent in western historiography at the time and contemporary attitudes have their own merits. If someone today said that the Germans would have gone on to invade India if they had won at Stalingrad there would probably be a lot of confusion but Alan Brooke thought it might happen at the time and that's telling in itself, if only to underline the significance of what actually happened. Plus it's well written and flows, which is probably more important than anything else.
You make a good point re. India, given this was also seriously considered and tried by the Russians during the Napoleonic Wars, I wonder if it sounds too unrealistic to us just because it didn't happen (but not to the point that it would be trivial or likely, of course).

What always sticks out to me is that Bletchley Park hadn't been declassified (I think not by the time this was written - @Skinny87 ?) so inevitably WW2 analyses are going to be seriously flawed if they are not aware of the impact of the Enigma code being broken.
 

Skinny87

only ever made 19 psephological mistakes
Patreon supporter
Published by SLP
Pronouns
He/Him
#5
You make a good point re. India, given this was also seriously considered and tried by the Russians during the Napoleonic Wars, I wonder if it sounds too unrealistic to us just because it didn't happen (but not to the point that it would be trivial or likely, of course).

What always sticks out to me is that Bletchley Park hadn't been declassified (I think not by the time this was written - @Skinny87 ?) so inevitably WW2 analyses are going to be seriously flawed if they are not aware of the impact of the Enigma code being broken.
Well that's the interesting part - the ULTRA story got broken publically in 1974, and The Moscow Option was originally published in 1979, so it should have been at least fairly well known. But maybe Dowding wrote the manuscript before then?
 

Thande

The Great and Powerful Wizard, Opnohop Moy
Published by SLP
#6
Well that's the interesting part - the ULTRA story got broken publically in 1974, and The Moscow Option was originally published in 1979, so it should have been at least fairly well known. But maybe Dowding wrote the manuscript before then?
I wonder if there are any articles from the time where people comment on how the revelations change things like WW2-based wargames (I imagine that would be a more direct and quantifiable thing rather than on scholarly analyses, which might lag behind).
 

Kato

nec minute
Patreon supporter
Published by SLP
Location
Birmingham
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she/her
#7
Remember reading this in 2005 - I assume the 2001 reprint, and yes it blends together very well the academic style and an engaging, sometimes personal narrative. Seeing the results of the change carried forward into the 2nd and 3rd order was also really refreshing at the time - I'd read a lot of the What If? book essays at the time, that built up the significance of a pivotal moment but never quite seemed to follow it through in exploring the counterfactual.

The Middle Eastern bits were especially good.
 

napoleon IV

The John Oliver Shithouse
Location
Washington, Douglass Commonwealth
Pronouns
he/him
#9
Remember reading this in 2005 - I assume the 2001 reprint, and yes it blends together very well the academic style and an engaging, sometimes personal narrative. Seeing the results of the change carried forward into the 2nd and 3rd order was also really refreshing at the time - I'd read a lot of the What If? book essays at the time, that built up the significance of a pivotal moment but never quite seemed to follow it through in exploring the counterfactual.

The Middle Eastern bits were especially good.
The What If? books may be the worst AH I've ever read. Even bad AH actually takes time to discuss how the world would turn out different. What If? couldn't even do that.
 

Coiler

Connoisseur of the Miscellaneous
Published by SLP
Location
Nu Yawk
#10
The What If? books may be the worst AH I've ever read. Even bad AH actually takes time to discuss how the world would turn out different. What If? couldn't even do that.
Aren't those basically the ur-examples of "alternate history done by academics who hate alternate history, and for a general audience, no less, meaning the worst of both worlds"?
 

Thande

The Great and Powerful Wizard, Opnohop Moy
Published by SLP
#12
Well, that's another book bought for the Kindle... once I've finished Thande's LttW and a few other books, I might even find the time to read it before 2021!
The What If? books may be the worst AH I've ever read. Even bad AH actually takes time to discuss how the world would turn out different. What If? couldn't even do that.
I can link these two posts by pointing out that one thing the What If? books did achieve was to inspire my enjoyable habit of writing LTTW history book segments in the style of "stuffy historian with stick up his backside who isn't as clever as he thinks he is".
 

Thande

The Great and Powerful Wizard, Opnohop Moy
Published by SLP
#15
I can link these two posts by pointing out that one thing the What If? books did achieve was to inspire my enjoyable habit of writing LTTW history book segments in the style of "stuffy historian with stick up his backside who isn't as clever as he thinks he is".
I would also be remiss if I did not mention that @Charles EP M. turns this into an art form in Chamberlain Resigns.

That wasn't the point of them.
This is true, of course, but I don't think they succeed very well (for the most part - varies from essay to essay) at what they were intended for, either. Felt too often like "Describe OTL situation, [SCENE MISSING] then people in this world might speculate that Progressive President Roosevelt might not have negotiated an end to the July Crisis", i.e. skipping straight to the glib gotcha comment at the end of the vignette without any meaty analysis first.
 
#16
You make a good point re. India, given this was also seriously considered and tried by the Russians during the Napoleonic Wars, I wonder if it sounds too unrealistic to us just because it didn't happen (but not to the point that it would be trivial or likely, of course).
I recently read 'The Last Article' by Harry Turtledove in his collection Kaleidoscope (1990) which features the German occupiers of India dealing with Mahatma Gandhi. In that story there was a sense that the Germans felt they had to chase down the British wherever they were across the world. We know Hitler admired British rule in India.
 
#17
Well that's the interesting part - the ULTRA story got broken publicly in 1974, and The Moscow Option was originally published in 1979, so it should have been at least fairly well known. But maybe Dowding wrote the manuscript before then?
Yes, I remember picking up both books when they came out in the 1970s. The Ultra Story was big at the time with concerns that official secrets had been violated. It was everywhere. Like a lot of books on the war, you could buy a copy in Woolworths, let alone bookshops. It certainly featured in The Secret War 7-part TV documentary series broadcast in 1977. It would have been hard for Dowling to have avoided it.
 
#18
I read The Moscow Option soon after it had come out. Having read Pavane, The Alteration, Russian Hide & Seek, The Man in the High Castle and Bring the Jubilee plus anything Moorcock was producing, there were not many other alternate history books available, the post-war ones were generally out of print and in those days you had to go from bookshop to bookshop rather than being able to sit at home and order stuff online (I only found a copy of Swastika Night in Norwich in 1991). The bits I remember some 40 years on are the invasion of Malta, the assassination of Adolf Eichmann by a Jewish sniper in Palestine and a sex scene which was not only unnecessary - though very common in books written in the 1970s - but as a young man alarmed me. I guess the fact that the book has been republished, even largely as a result of Dowling's own efforts, suggests there is something about it that still attracts readers. Having written a couple of Second World War AH novels myself, I know many readers want lots of action rather than character development and this is a brisk novel, compared to some of the tomes which have followed, showing lots of combat, which I guess will continue to win readers who might not normally be attracted to AH.
 
#19
I wonder if there are any articles from the time where people comment on how the revelations change things like WW2-based wargames (I imagine that would be a more direct and quantifiable thing rather than on scholarly analyses, which might lag behind).
I used to play board wargames as they were called. I certainly remember playing an invasion of Malta one evening in 1982. It was on the flip side of another standard history wargame, I imagine set in the Mediterranean during the Second World War, but after all of this time, I cannot remember what it was. Of course, typically, because all the players knew the actual history, at the time if you played a historical wargame, you would very quickly go off into an alternate history scenario, but that was one I remember particularly which had been set up from the start with a non-historical scenario in place alongside ones that at least started historically accurate.
 
#20
I used to play board wargames as they were called. I certainly remember playing an invasion of Malta one evening in 1982. It was on the flip side of another standard history wargame, I imagine set in the Mediterranean during the Second World War, but after all of this time, I cannot remember what it was. Of course, typically, because all the players knew the actual history, at the time if you played a historical wargame, you would very quickly go off into an alternate history scenario, but that was one I remember particularly which had been set up from the start with a non-historical scenario in place alongside ones that at least started historically accurate.
There is the 2008 Island of Death: Invasion of Malta, 1942 by Avalanche Games, but that came way after the one I remember.

Found it! It was the bonus game in Air Assault on Crete by Avalon Hill (1977).