What really struck me about these essays was the huge impact that chance has on our everyday lives - if the Americans hadn't had the luck to fall upon the Japanese aircraft carriers just at the moment when their planes were being re-fuelled would they have won the Battle of Midway? And if they'd lost Midway how would that have affected the way they supported the war in Europe? What if there hadn't been a sudden patch of good weather on D-day, or what if Eisenhower had ignored the Scottish weather forecaster, who advised him, against the advice of others, to go for it on June 6th?
Weather time and again plays a vital part in military plans, scattering the fleet of the Spanish Armada, allowing Washington's forces to retreat under British noses, making the invasion of Europe in 1944 possible. Sudden illness and death also plays a part - Europe, and by extension the world, might have been a very different place if it hadn't been for the fortuitous death of Ogadai, the Mongol war-lord. Conversely what would have happened if a New York taxi driver hadn't braked just in time, and had killed Winston Churchill pre-World War II? Churchill's biography would have read very differently, and so would the history of the world.
One salutary lesson that this book teaches is that if your life is in a good place, you should be very thankful for what you have - it could all have been so different. Seemingly little decisions, or tiny changes in plans can have impacts far beyond what you may think. Educational, enlightening, entertaining, and a book that really makes you think - not just about history but about your own life choices. This isn't just for historians - each chapter has detailed information on what really happened followed by the historian's counter-factual version. A fascinating read - great for any kind of discussion group whether you're into military history or not.