Medieval Alternate History

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Medieval Europe is all the rage in the fantasy genre. Though settings inspired by different places and times are becoming more popular, the main flavour of heroic and epic fantasy is knights, kings and feudal oppression. Even when settings aren’t medieval European-looking, they still pick up that era’s traits by default.

The doorstep evangelists got a real shock at Tod’s house

But in the other genre spinning unreal worlds from the real past, that of alternate history, medieval settings are fairly rare. The different way of combining the familiar and unfamiliar used in that genre leads to a lot of setting rooted in the 19th and 20th centuries, in particular the overwhelming volume of variant Second World Wars.

Redressing the balance, I wrote a piece for Alternate History Weekly Update looking at three possible alternate medieval pasts. So if this stuff interests you at all please check it out.


Photo by Ed Alkema via Flickr creative commons

5 thoughts on “Medieval Alternate History”

  1. How about this one…

    The Wrath of Khan:

    1241, and Ogedei Khan, son of the great Ghengis Khan, lives on instead of dying suddenly and unexpectedly. His hordes in Eastern Europe do not turn back to the steppes to choose a new ruler, but instead press on into Europe. The Great Khan’s ambition to assert his sovereignty to the Great Sea must be completed.

    Pope Innocent IV submits to the Great Khan as Rome burns around him. The Emperor Frederick II ignominiously flees to his Sicilian stronghold and makes desperate pacts with the Saracens to continue the fight. Saint Louis IX of France dies a martyr’s death, feathered with arrows from composite bows. The great scholars of Rome, Bologne and Paris are taken to serve the Khan In Karakorum. King Henry III of England accepts the suzerainty of the Great Khan and send Edward, his young son and heir as a hostage to receive and education in steppe horsemanship and archery instead of castle building in Gascony.

    1. There’s a chapter on that idea by Cecelia Holland in Robert Cowley’s ‘What It?’ She suggests a vast pillaging that cripples the European economy and stalls the Renaissance, rather than a long term conquest. But I’m far more fascinated by the idea of this archer horseman Edward I, bringing very different warfare back to England and its neighbours.

      1. I’m going to have to get myself that book!

        I’m quite taken by the idea of Edward-I-minus-castlebuilding, too. Britain today would be a very different place.

  2. I’ve been tossing around an idea bout Arthur Tudor surviving for years, but never got round to writing anything with it. I’m sure you’re aware of my (eugh boring) feelings about more modern eras and I think too much alt hist deals with that stuff, so loving the medieval alt ideas.

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