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S 2020

Richard Holbrooke and the End of the American Century - 11 weeks

Wednesday May 6 to Jul 15 ( 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM )

Coordinator: Stephen Breuer
Co-coordinator: Dick Israel

Richard Holbrooke may have been the last in a line of free-wheeling, larger-than-life United States diplomats.  He was a central figure in most of this country's foreign entanglements, from Vietnam to Afghanistan.  His greatest success was the Dayton Accord, resolving the wars in the former Yugoslavia.  But his two dreams, winning a Nobel Peace Prize and being named as Secretary of State, eluded him.  George Packer's deeply researched book offers a balanced appraisal of a massively ambitious man as well as a lens through which to view fifty momentous years of United States foreign policy.

14 contemporary plays by 14 American playwrights

Monday May 4 to Aug 3 ( 1:00 PM - 3:00 PM )

Coordinator: Fariba Ghaffari
Co-coordinator: Judith Munoz

14 diverse playwrights and subjects. The diversity is only natural because the most exciting theater is often (not always!) about the most urgent issues in the world it reflects. Works exploring race and gender are prominent, for instance, because racism and sexism remain prominent. It’s a theater that is often more directly engaged in unpacking large-scale social issues than we at first expected. But it’s also a collection marked by imaginative boldness.
In this SDG, we get to know each playwright shortly and discuss one of his/her plays-in most cases one that made him/her known in the theater world.

Abstract Expressionism: The Art Revolution that was Born in America

Monday May 4 to Aug 3 ( 1:00 PM - 3:00 PM )

Coordinator: Denise Neumark-Reimer
Co-coordinator: Jane Nadler

Abstract Expressionism was a revolution in the history of art, especially modern art.  Abstract Expressionism was the first major art movement that evolved out of the American experience.  Previously, the art world was centered in Europe, and American artists followed and adapted the trends that crossed the ocean.  With the rise of Totalitarianism in the 1930’s and the beginning of WWII, American artists felt emboldened to transcend European influence, and to develop a movement that reflected their own nation, experience and emotions.  This evolution thrust America for the first time in history to the forefront of the arts, where the American life experience became the ground for new artistic expression.  Because many of the Abstract Expressionist artists were refugees from Europe, they brought with them the history of modernism  and reformed it into something new when they joined up with the art community of New York.

 

This SDG will follow the birth of Abstract Expressionism from the art background of European refugee's to the “Wall Street Crash” and the formation of the “WPA Federal Arts Project,” which led to the birth of "The New York School".  The New York School included painters, poets, musicians and sculptors who bonded together to form a community in the face of societal hardship.  During the mid-1940’s, Abstract Expressionism found a second home in San Francisco, and “The San Francisco School” was formed.  Both of these schools, perhaps better known as collectives, rocked the artistic world, and art has never looked back.  The American worlds of music, sculpture and poetry were also influenced by the changing times and embraced the Abstract Expressionist Movement, creating a cultural shift that we are still seeing today.  

 

Everything about the process of painting, music, sculpture and poetry changed!  Paint could now be dripped, thrown, poured, stained or carved into.  Music could be atonal, rhythmic or neither.  Sculpture need not be figurative or representational; and poetry could express the dissonance of human life.  So, the rules could change with the intention of the artist.  Expression was valued over perfection, vitality was more meaningful than finish, fluctuation was more interesting than repose.  The unknown was the subject, and the individual was the gateway to this unknown, inner world.

 


Collins, de Valera and the Fight for Irish Independence

Tuesday May 5 to Aug 4 ( 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM )

Coordinator: Jim Kohn
Co-coordinator: Barry Mc Grath

          Is Irish history a special taste?  Not of general interest to PLATO members? Our vote is “No.”  It’s an object lesson in the creation of a people’s independence.  The oppression of the Irish by Britain lasted 750 years.  Beaten down, essentially dispossessed in their own country, treated as savages and infidels, they finally rebelled, managed to free themselves from the English and asserted control of their own destiny in 1919.  Without significant weaponry or foreign assistance, they relied on skilled leadership and commitment.

            The two principal leaders of that rebellion were Michael Collins ("Big Fellow") and Eamon de Valera ("Long Fellow").  They came from different backgrounds, had different life experiences and very different skill sets, but both came to believe that only violence could free Ireland from English rule.  And they prevailed where others had failed.

Despite their alliance to gain that independence, rather than settle in to enjoy it, Collins and de Valera led their respective followers into a brutal civil war, with consequences (including the "Troubles" in Northern Ireland)  which have lasted until today.  When the civil war ended, Collins was dead and de Valera was the political leader.  And he remained the principal Irish political leader into the 1950’s.  And the legacy of the rebellion and civil war led to the more recent “Troubles” in Northern Ireland. 

              This is a fascinating story of how the Irish fought for independence, how the English yoke was finally thrown off, the civil war, the creation and operation of the Irish Free State, de Valera’s career as its political leader and the military, social and political aspects of all of them.  We will start with a summary of what English rule meant, the failed rebellions of 1798, 1803 and 1916 and the 19th century movements to assert Irish political participation, cultural pride and land reform.  We will then move to the events leading to the successful rebellion, civil war and the creation of a nation. 

Many myths have grown up around these events. Among our tasks are to try to separate the myths from the realities, to take an objective view of the events themselves, to honestly appraise both Collins and de Valera, to see how the events of almost 100 years ago still galvanize emotions and to see how their respective attitudes and actions still play out today.  These events raise questions about whether the rebels were justified in forsaking peaceful methods to achieve independence in favor or violence, whether the violence of the civil war was justified, and to what extent the egos of the leaders influenced their actions.

              

Crime and Punishment--Fyodor Dostoevsky - 12 weeks

Wednesday May 6 to Jul 22 ( 1:00 PM - 3:00 PM )

Coordinator: Edward Robin
Co-coordinator: Carol Segal

A desperate young man plots the perfect crime-the murder of a pawnbroker-an unpleasant old woman no one loves and no one will mourn.  Is it not just, he reasons, for a man of genius to transgress moral law if it will ultimately benefit humanity?  So begins one of the greatest novels ever written, a psychological study, a terrifying murder mystery, a  fascinating detective thriller infused with philosophical, religious and social commentary.  Experience the themes of mid-19th Century Russia--poverty, religion, mysticism, political ferment and nihilism.  From dirty backrooms and dingy bars, journey into the darkest recesses of the depraved mind and witness sin, guilt and redemption.  Dostoevsky is the acknowledged master of psychological drama and this is his masterpiece.  Originally serialized more than 150 years ago, it is peopled with remarkable characters and remains as fresh and current as today's news.

Elections 2020

Wednesday May 6 to Aug 5 ( 1:00 PM - 3:00 PM )

Coordinator: Barbara Klein
Co-coordinator: Jim De Meules

Every four years our nation goes through a political paroxysm of (pick one):  furious activity, anxiety, fear, or loathing.  The Presidential election -- this year may be the worst ever.  The nation has gone through a grueling time since the 2016 election.   Now, not only must we choose our president & vice-president, 1/3 of all Senators, all members of the House of Representatives, countless governors and state legislators – we are faced with two very different philosophies of governance. 

 

This SDG proposes to study Election 2020 in each of the three terms in 2020.  While we will focus on the Presidential race, we’ll also discuss important local and national trends & issues as they emerge.


During the course of the year, we'll cover:  election funding; PACs and SUPER PACs; how to win friends & votes:  advertising/PR/events; endorsements & what they mean; analyses of all debates; media coverage – fair and balanced, or…; geographical differences; polls & pollsters; real issues and phony issues; friends and foes; is honesty the best policy?; how do politicians approach/avoid talking about issues, and any and all relevant news.

Election 2020 #2 – Spring/Summer

By this point, the Presidential field is pretty narrow.  Competition for the Vice-Presidential slot is increasing.  Primaries are over, and platform discussions begin.  And then… conventions.

 Election 2020 #3 – Fall 

We will discuss how the campaigns are faring… and then, after the results are in, we’ll analyze them.


Note:  Since committing to a year-long course may be difficult or impractical, persons will initially sign up for Winter Term.  Those who wish to stay in the course will have priority for the nest term(s).  Open spaces will be filled at registration.

Genre Films that Extend the Genre

Thursday May 7 to Aug 6 ( 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM )

Coordinator: Doug Green
Co-coordinator: Armen Markarian

Genre films require suspension of disbelief, and we viewers love them for that.  Westerns: we are riveted as men face each other drawing six guns.  Film noir: bad guys looking great in fedoras are done in by sexy dames.  Musicals:  we enjoy characters interrupting dialog to break into those wonderful song and dance routines.  But, sometimes, the suspension of disbelief we bring to genre films lets us see and feel more than we can in “reality” films.  In this SDG we will watch films that are more than simple genre, they extend the genre in ways that are touching, that are powerful.    


In the western The Oxbow Incident, men in anger have to make moral choices.  In True Confessions are cops and murder and corruption, but none of that is what we care about.  In Seconds we wonder if we can begin a second life, and if we do, then who are we?  Pennies from Heaven is a musical that dares us to accept absurdity, and to accept both death and life when neither should be.  Watching The Last Wave we ask, when is a fantasy profoundly religious, and when is a fantasy too true?  Join this SDG and w
atch these films—all available on Netflix or youtube--with your disbelief suspended as the more-than-genre films take you away.

George Eliot's Middlemarch - first 7 weeks

Tuesday May 5 to Jun 16 ( 1:00 PM - 3:00 PM )

Coordinator: Anne Mellor
Co-coordinator: Jackie Jaffe

George Eliot's Middlemarch (1872) is arguably the greatest novel written in English, and without doubt the greatest novel written by a woman. It provides a trenchant account of a young woman's coming of age in Victorian England; searing representations of four marriages, both successful and less so; an analysis of scientific research and the nature of the medical practice in England in the 19C; and a study of the political and social effects of the Great Reform Bill of 1832. As Virginia Woolf said, "Middlemarch is the only novel ever written for grown-ups." And Frank Kermode concurred, "No writer has ever represented the ambiguities of moral choice so fully."

HIGH CRIMES & MISDEMEANORS - A History and Analysis of Impeachment for the Age of Trump - 7 weeks

Thursday May 7 to Jun 18 ( 1:00 PM - 3:00 PM )

Coordinator: Hank Toles
Co-coordinator: Barry Mc Grath

The Donald Trump Impeachment is over, or is it?  This SDG is a historical and analytical look at the process of Impeachment from its inception in the monarchies of Europe (Britain in the1300's), debate in the constitutional convention after the Revolutionary War, the Federalist Papers, the final product in the U.S. Constitution thru Donald Trump and beyond.  The SDG will include all facets of Impeachment in the United States, including Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton, Donald Trump.  Finally, we will discuss if the process is effective as envisioned by the founding fathers and where it may evolve in today's highly partisan country.

Hacking Darwin - 10 weeks

Tuesday May 5 to Aug 4 ( 1:00 PM - 3:00 PM )

Coordinator: Victor Weingarten
Co-coordinator: Joyce Campbell


The “Hacking Darwin” SDG is a ground­break­ing explo­ration of the many ways genet­ic-engi­neer­ing is shak­ing the very core foun­da­tions of our livessex, war, love, and death.
 

At the dawn of the genet­ics rev­o­lu­tion, our DNA is becom­ing as read­able, writable, and hack­able as part of our infor­ma­tion tech­nol­o­gy. But as human­i­ty starts retool­ing our own genet­ic code, the choic­es we make today will be the dif­fer­ence between real­iz­ing breath­tak­ing advances in human well-being and descend­ing into a dan­ger­ous and poten­tial­ly dead­ly genet­ic arms race that could destroy humanity. Some think that the genetic arms race is possibly as dangerous for our existence as the nuclear and climate change threats.

Enter the lab­o­ra­to­ries where sci­en­tists are turn­ing sci­ence fic­tion into real­i­ty. Look towards a future where our deep­est beliefs, morals, reli­gions, and pol­i­tics are chal­lenged like nev­er before and the very essence of what it means to be human is at play. When we can engi­neer our future chil­dren, mas­sive­ly extend our lifes­pans, build life from scratch, and recre­ate the plant and ani­mal world, should we?

If you are concerned about the future of our species then Hack­ing Dar­win is a “must take” SDG for you.

 

Mysticism - 7 weeks

Tuesday Jun 23 to Aug 4 ( 1:00 PM - 3:00 PM )

Coordinator: David Eandi
Co-coordinator: Barbara Clegg

Mysticism (from the Greek word muo [to shut or close the lips or eyes]) is not a religion or a philosophy; it has no connection to the occult; it is not mysterious.  Its fount is the raw material of all religions and the inspiration of philosophy and poetry, a consciousness of something beyond the external world of material phenomena. In the words of Evelyn Underhill:  “In mysticism the will is united with the emotions in an impassioned desire to transcend the sense-world in order that the self may be joined by love in the one eternal and ultimate Object of love; whose existence is intuitively perceived by the soul [the cosmic or transcendent sense].”    In its pure form mysticism is the search for absolutes, union with the Absolute, and the abolition of individuality.  In this s/dg we will compare and contrast the various forms of mysticism, from the Hindus to psychedelic drug trips, and examine the question of its logic. There will not be a core book.  The readings will be assembled in a packet of photocopied documents.

Nationalism: Two Different Historical Analyses - 7 weeks

Wednesday May 6 to Jun 17 ( 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM )

Coordinator: David Roloff
Co-coordinator: Sheila Mc Coy

Jill Lepore, the liberal Harvard professor of history, and Yoram Hazony, an Israeli conservative, have written books taking diametrically opposed stances on nationalism.  Lepore traces the origins of nation and the history of nationalism in the United States and the failure of United States historians to write about its nature and its consequences, most of which she opposes.  Hazony, for his part, is an ardent supporter of nationalism.  Though one-third of his book is devoted to Israel, the remainder provides a more universal history of nationalism than does Lepore and a strong defense of it.  Both authors confront the problem of liberal nationalism or national liberalism.  And both strongly support the nation as a necessary entity in a global world.  Together, they provide a substantive set of arguments about one of the most pressing problems of current times.

OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES - A Life in War, Law and Ideas - 10 weeks

Thursday May 7 to Jul 16 ( 1:00 PM - 3:00 PM )

Coordinator: Ann Beisch
Co-coordinator: Nancy Bott

OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES - A Life in War, Law and Ideas by Stephen Budiansky

Oliver Wendell Holmes, a Boston Brahmin, a thrice wounded civil war veteran with the military mustache, the image of a hero from central casting, and that is before you consider his incredible accomplishments as a scholar, a judge and a Supreme Court Justice for over three decades. Our core book is OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES - A Life in War, Law and Ideas by Stephen Budiansky.

We will look at his pioneering early legal scholarship in the study and understanding of the common law, evolving and not staid, to meet the changing needs of society.

In his passionate dissents such as the case of Abrams v. United States, we will study Holmes’ groundwork for the modern constitutional protection of freedom of speech. And a year later, writing for the Supreme Court’s majority in Missouri v. Holland, we will consider Holmes introduction of the concept of a living Constitution. He writes that this Constitution should be properly interpreted “in the light of our whole experience, and not merely in that of what was said a hundred years ago.”

Our core book will provide an interesting road-map as it drawing on many previously unpublished letters and records, and offers a full portrait of this pivotal American figure, whose zest for life, wit, and intellect left a profound legacy in law and Constitutional rights.  He was also an inspiring example of how to lead a meaningful life in a world of uncertainty and upheaval. 


 

Ta Nehisi Coates Speaks: Essays on the Existence and Denial of Racism and White Supremacy in America - 7 weeks

Tuesday Jun 23 to Aug 4 ( 1:00 PM - 3:00 PM )

Coordinator: Toni Delliquadri
Co-coordinator: Lee Molho

A pre-eminent black public intellectual of his generation, Ta-Nehisi Coates testified before Congress in June, 2019 on the case for Reparations for blacks of ex-slaves in the United States. It was the first such hearing on the subject in over 20years.

During the Obama administration, Coates wrote a series of articles for The Atlantic, examining the issues and events of the period from his own intimate and revealing perspective of the haunting shadow of our nation's persistent and unreconciled racial history. 

This 7 week SDG will explore Coates' examination of the Obama years based on his own experiences, observations and his intellectual development as a black man in 21st century America. We Were Eight Years in Power , includes his  essays for The Atlantic, each introduced with a personal story (mini-essays) which elucidate his thinking, his confusions and his pessimism (lately turned to guarded optimism in wake of the democratic responses to Trumpism). His themes are about man, community and national identity and his view that black progress is always met with violence and backlash; that most white Americans still cannot tolerate the idea of equity and that acknowledging the many legacies of slavery is too much to ask of Whites because it would disrupt our conception of our country and ourselves. The book's essays provoke and invite argument and discussion as to what Coates has to say and to offer for the future in a black/white divided America.

The Choices: Equality or Oligarchy; Individuality or Totality; Truth or Falsehood....Where is Democracy Going? - 7 weeks

Tuesday May 5 to Jun 16 ( 1:00 PM - 3:00 PM )

Coordinator: David Roloff

In his recent book, The Road To Unfreedom: Russia, Europe, America, Timothy Snyder reveals how and why liberal democracy has eroded in America and Western Europe since 2010. He asks the question, Are we losing our way and headed to "unfreedom"?

Snyder has written several books and many articles on the threats to democracy and the challenge to understand, restore, and renew the fundamental political virtues offered by liberal democratic traditions and demanded for its survival. In  Road To Unfreedom ,  he illuminates the significant role that Putin and Russia have played, and somewhat succeeded in creating chaos in W. European governments, and confusion by dividing and polarizing the EU and the US against themselves. To win back democratic traditions, we must understand the stark choices before us....between equality and oligarchy, individuality and totality, truth and falsehood, and make our choices. Snyder offers a way forward.

In this 7 week SDG, we will explore Snyder's analysis of how Putin re-shaped Post -Soviet Russia, put into practice the fascist and nationalist ideas of several modern Russian thinkers and created disruption and confusion in leading western democracies. We will examine Snyder's commentary and his call to concerned citizens as to what to do about the unraveling of democracy and the decay in our public, political life. What are the lessons? And,... What now?



The Civil War Era: Battle Cry of Freedom

Monday May 4 to Aug 3 ( 1:00 PM - 3:00 PM )

Coordinator: Paul Markowitz
Co-coordinator: Sam Pryor

The Civil War remains the most significant, studied and written about era in US history.    Written 3 decades ago, the core book, James McPherson's Pulitzer Prize winning Battle Cry of Freedom remains unchallenged as the definitive one volume study of the war. The fast paced narrative integrates the political, social and military events that crowded the 2 decades from the outbreak of war in Mexico to the ending of another at Appomattox. The SDG will offer an in-depth view of the background causes and events and all aspects of the war itself--the battles, the  strategic maneuvering on both sides, the politics and the personalities. While chronology is marked by battles, the book emphasizes analysis of slavery expansion, the origins of the Republican Party, the causes of secession, the internal dissent and anti-war opposition in North and South and the political battles on both sides. Battle Cry of Freedom will guide us through the most important chapter of the American story.

The Conservative Sensibility - 10 weeks

Monday May 4 to Jul 6 ( 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM )

Coordinator: Sheri Ross
Co-coordinator: Fred Goldberger

James Madison was the visionary who crafted the classical political framework of individual liberty, economic dynamism, based on a strict interpretation of the Constitution. When was the founders’ philosophy abandoned? Was it after the Civil War; or during the Woodrow Wilson Administration? This SDG is not designed to reconcile any particular problem or philosophy, but to discuss the enduring questions concerning the proper scope and intellectual competence of government. There is no better authority commenting on the current state of American Politics than George F. Will to build the case that the true classical Conservatism has always been in America’s best interest.


THE CORE BOOK IS ONLY MEANT TO BE A COMMON BASIS FROM WHICH TO START - NOT THE BOUNDARY FOR THE SDG.

The Quixotic History of Chemistry

Monday May 4 to Jul 20 ( 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM )

Coordinator: Bernd Givon
Co-coordinator: Mark Wellisch

From a historical perspective, chemistry is probably the most neglected science.  In this SDG we will attempt to make up for that deficit.  We will explore the fascinating history of chemistry from its earliest philosophical roots and technical knowledge during the Greek period, through the Medieval alchemists attempting to produce gold, the early chemists (as we now think of the science) through the brilliant chemist Dmitri Mendeleyev, the creator of the Periodic Table.  Along the way, we will encounter numerous scientists and pseudo-scientists (known and not so well known), their interesting lives, their success and missteps along with an understanding of the derivation of the words that make up chemistry.  Definitely geared to the non-scientist, our engaging core book provides an easy to read 2,500 year history of chemistry.  At the conclusion of the SDG you should have a better knowledge and appreciation as to how chemistry got to where it is today.

The World of Trees, exploring their value and meaning - 10 weeks

Wednesday May 6 to Jul 8 ( 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM )

Coordinator: Jane Tokunow
Co-coordinator: Juanita Davis

Did you know that trees talk to each other, share nutrients with other sick trees and can warn each other of danger? They are essential to the survival of the human race, yet most Americans can only name 10 or fewer trees growing in the United States. Not an SDG in botany, but rather on the value and meaning of trees, discussion will examine the roles trees play in our lives. Topics will include how trees feature in art, literature, film, health, religion, and politics. Further, we will examine how trees influence climate, control environment, and enhance community. Beyond the role that trees play in our lives, we will also look closely at select trees to discover both the extraordinary secrets of everyday trees, as well as familiarize ourselves with the exceptional trees of the world. Optional field trips offered.


Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy - 10 weeks

Tuesday May 5 to Jul 7 ( 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM )

Coordinator: Barbara Shuwarger
Co-coordinator: Ken Korman

An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser, published in 1925, is a complex and compassionate account of the life and death of a young antihero named Clyde Griffiths. It has often been called American's Crime and Punishment. The novel begins with Clyde’s blighted background, recounts his path to success, and culminates in his apprehension, trial, and execution for murder. Tracing the psychic and social consequences of inequality, An American Tragedy was voted into the 16th spot on the Modern Reader's Library Top 100 novels. 

 Based on a thinly disguised true story, this important novel is not only a biting portrait of the American dream gone sour but also a universal story about the stresses of urbanization, modernization, and alienation.

It was a watershed book that inspired the creation of a number of American tragedies - Richard Wright’s Native Son (1940), Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood (1966), and Norman Mailer’s The Executioner’s Song (1979) among others. The story has also been made into an opera and a film (A Place in the Sun, 1951). We will study the film in the last session.

The book is 856 pages.

Toni Morrison - 10 weeks

Wednesday May 6 to Jul 8 ( 1:00 PM - 3:00 PM )

Coordinator: Juanita Davis

Toni Morrison’s imaginative, vivid writing will captivate you." She is the winner of the Noble Prize, National Book Circle Award, the National Book Foundation's Medal of Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the PEN/ Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction. We will delve into this treasure trove of beautiful writing.

Waking the Giant, the dynamic world beneath our feet. - 7 weeks

Thursday Jun 25 to Aug 6 ( 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM )

Coordinator: Susana Schuarzberg
Co-coordinator: Toni Schuman

The ground beneath our feet may seem safe and solid but earthquakes, volcanic blasts and other hazardous natural phenomena leave no doubt that this isn't the case.  The earth is a dynamic planet of shifting tectonic plates that is responsive to change, particularly when there is a dynamic climate transition.  Over the past 20,000 years, the earth has undergone an astonishing transformation from  frigid wasteland to the temperate world upon which our civilization has grown and thrived.  The disturbing fact is that there are clear signs that human-induced climate change is awakening the slumbering giant on which we live.

 The core book is delightful, easy to read and wonderfully informative.


What If?: Essays and Discussions On Actual And Counterfactual History

Thursday May 7 to Aug 6 ( 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM )

Coordinator: Fred Reimer
Co-coordinator: Art Smukler

 "The essays collected in "The Collected What If?" are sober extrapolations from historical fact. Even so, they're a lot of fun. They remind us of the slender threads on which our past hangs. One small break -- at Poitiers or on Long Island, at Gettysburg or in Berlin -- might have unraveled the entire tapestry of modern history." --CNN

 

Churchill called them ''the terrible ifs.'' He meant those little nudges, those very slight alterations, that might have changed the outcome of a battle, for instance, and in a snowballing process an entire happening of history could have turned out different.  Churchill's chilling “ifs” have become the mind game of a small but cultist book genre called Alternative history, Speculative history, Counterfactual history or Hypothetical history. Some examples:

·   If Socrates had died in battle during the Peloponnesian War, Christianity and Western thought as a whole could be radically different.

·   What the incredible Chinese navy could have accomplished in the Atlantic and the New World had the Ming emperors not turned inwards.  Might the Chinese have discovered the New World, and even prevented the horrors of the Atlantic Slave Trade?

·   What if Wellington had been leading the British Armies in America, as he had been asked to, rather than worrying about Napoleon?

·   If Teddy Roosevelt had defeated Woodrow Wilson in the 1912 election, would WWI have ended sooner?  Effects on global geopolitics?

·   One bureaucrat may have kept Germany from winning WWI by hindering their program of unrestricted submarine warfare.

These questions provide the starting points for interesting discussions of the actual historical events and their alternative outcomes.  Many armchair historians have spent hours daydreaming of what might have been if some turning point in history had gone another way. The appeal of our Core Book (The Collected What If?: The World's Foremost Military Historians Imagine What Might Have Been) is that editor Robert Cowley hired professional historians to expand on these imaginative questions via an engrossing series of essays on counterfactual history.  Mr. Cowley enticed historians such as David McCullough, Stephen E. Ambrose, John Lukacs, James M. McPherson, James Bradley, Caleb Carr, and John Keegan to consider and develop these speculations. The SD/G will take a look at selected historical events from the Core Book's forty-five essays. 

Each historian examined a pivotal event, then presents the intriguing ramifications had the event come out differently. Authors develop their specific conjectures, their biases and assumptions about the forces of history—the great man theory, randomness, uncertainty effects, statistical probabilities, economic, religious and sociological forces, et al. 

During our sessions, these historically-oriented discussion topics will include the:
            — Actual history of the event(s) considered in the essay(s)
            — Persons, politics, societies, biases, religions, economics, technology, special circumstances, etc from the original history
            — Historical ramifications and impacts of the original historical event
            — “What-if” circumstances or incidents that could perturb the original history
            — “Downstream” impacts, implications, changes, etc. of the “What-ifs”

Tired of historical events turning out the same old way?  Use your imagination and creativity to explore and build on the alternatives provide by our historians.