Social Studies 10F‎ > ‎Human Rights‎ > ‎

Counterfactual History

In every great story there are key moments when the story changes. These are turning points. The boy asks the girl to the movies. The knight decides that, yes, he will attack the dragon. The storm passes and the ship is saved. 

These turning points lead to great stories, but have you ever wondered what happen is the story were told the other way? What is the boy didn't ask the girl to the movie, if the knight decided to leave the dragon alone, or if the storm didn't pass and maybe the ship sank?

Those are counterfactual questions; questions that run counter to the facts as we know them.

In history we have moments like this, too. For example:
  1. Chinese Head Tax. What would have happened in 1885 if they had not introduced a tax? What if, instead of choosing to discourage Chinese immigration, they'd chosen to encourage it instead?
  2. Women get the vote and/or are declared to be legal persons. What would have happened if women had been denied the vote? What if the JCPC had said women weren't persons?
  3. Japanese Internment. What would have occurred if the Japanese Canadians hadn't been locked up?
  4. Igor Gouzenko defects. When Gouzenko decided to bring documents from the Soviets to the Canadians, he probably started the Cold War. What if he had decided to stay put on that fateful evening? The Soviets still would have been spying even though we wouldn't have been told about it.

Your Assignment

  1. Pick one of the four events listed above.
  2. Doing some research, uncover five things that actually did happen because of the event you've chosen. For example, what five things changed because the Japanese Canadians were interned?
  3. Explain in several sentences how your event caused each one of those changes.
  4. Now pretend that your event didn't happen. For example, if there had been no Chinese Head Tax, or Igor Gouzenko had not defected, what would have happened? Come up with five examples that build off of each other.
  5. Provided an explanation of several sentences to explain why each of these five possible events might have happened. Create branches off of those events as well.
  6. Create a branching diagram that shows 
    • the key moment of decision, 
    • the five things that really happened, 
    • the five things that might have happened, 
    • and your explanations. 
  7. You can do this at Twinery.org. This site allows you to create a simple webpage that can link to the different elements of the story.
  8. If you would prefer to chart this in another way that makes more sense to you, please talk to me.

6 7  8 9 10
Suggests 5 things that changed due to the chosen event. Explains in each event box how the chosen event caused these 5 changes. Imagines 5 things in sequence that reasonably might have occurred as a direct consequence of your event not happening.

Adds a branch at each event to show what else might have occurred next showing the many possible ways events could have taken place.
In each event box explains why these 5 events would have happened. 

In each event box explains the logical branches.
Analyses which scenario is more appropriate from a Biblical point of view.

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James Dykstra,
Dec 11, 2015, 11:22 AM
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