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Counterfactual Approach Analysis

Decent Essays
Counterfactual means that you describe an event as if it were not the case. Essentially it's removing a a factual part of history to make a point or describe the significance of the group, thing, or idea removed. Writing about historical events in a counterfactual way can have flaws as well as triumphs.

As mentioned earlier, one pro of a counterfactual approach is making a point. In Axtell's article, he proves that the Indians played a significant role in the history or America, and even more so, the world. His counterfactual is quite effective in proving his point.

Proving the relevance of a specific group, place, or person is another advantage of using a counterfactual approach. For example, Axtell describes multiple events
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One major flaw is it leads to assumptions. Assumptions lead to guesses and guesses are not always accurate. Axtell's writing at least acknowledges in many areas that events could still transpire, but presumably not as soon as they did. For instance, page 53 shows that Indians cultivated the land and because of that, the English colonists had a much easier time taking over with little work. America would have developed at a much slower pace if not for the Indians working the land for centuries.

Another downfall of counterfactual thinking is that it tends to leave out the whole story. It proves the side of the writer, but usually that includes only the good or bad when a major part of history is removed. Axtell did seem to fall to this fate. He described very little positives of Colonial America without Indians. There definitely is many positives for this thought; however, Axtell left those out which lost some of the "whole story."

Overall, a counterfactual approach is only as good as the person who writes it. If done correctly, it will make a point, prove a significance of something, not make assumptions, and include positives and negatives of something not happening. A counterfactual approach can easily be the best or worst way to write on history because it can be done right and do a great job, or it can be done horribly wrong and mislead many on the
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