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This is a Guest Post by Colin Draper

Throughout history some of the world's most famous figures have been targets of assassination. Some are tragically successful (Martin Luther-King, John Lennon and JFK), while others live to fight another day, (Ronald Reagan, Abraham Lincoln and Mr Burns). But what if some of these had been successful? Here we look at three attempted assassinations that could have changed the world as we know it.
Of course we can never get a definitive answer to questions of 'What if?', but sometimes you can't help but speculate.

King James I (1605)

Portrait of James VI and 1, c. 1606, by John de Critz
Image Source:
Wikipedia

The Attempt:
The Gunpowder Plot is arguably the most famous assassination attempt in history, certainly in Britain. It involved a group of Catholics (including the now infamous Guy Fawkes) rolling barrels and barrels of gunpowder under the House of Lords, blowing up James I and Parliament in the process. Simple really.
The Gunpowder Plotters (detail) by Crispijn van de Passe
Image Source:
Wikipedia

If he had been killed:
Of course the plot failed, and the men were brutally executed. But historians love to speculate, and it is thought that if successful America might not exist as we know it today.
Consider this. Charles I is filled with vengeance and hatred after the Catholics brutally murder his protestant father. This causes a brutal backlash against Catholicism in England, which becomes so Protestant and 'pure' as a nation that the Pilgrim Fathers have no reason to set sail for America on-board the Mayflower. No Mayflower, means no Mayflower Compact which means America never develops into the unified state system we know today. It seems unlikely, but who knows!

Benito Mussolini (1926)

 
Hitler and Mussolini June 1940 (part of Eva Braun's collection)
Image Source:
Wikipedia

The Attempt:
1926 was an eventful year for Benito Mussolini, as he endured four separate assassination attempts over a seven month period. On the seventh of April his nose was “wounded slightly” when he was shot by a clinically insane 50 year old Irish woman. Later in the year he survived two more shootings from Italian anarchists, while a third (Michelle Schirru) was caught while planning an attack.
If he had been killed:
Mussolini was a cult figure, and the symbol of the Italian fascist movement. The Fascists hold on power in 1926 was far from secure and if they'd lost their charismatic leader and the driving force behind the movement then their power could have easily gone with him. Would this have prevented an Italian-German alliance in the Second World War? Could it have prevented war altogether?

Adolf Hitler (1944)


Image Source: Wikipedia

The Attempt:
Hitler had to endure 42 assassination attempts during his lifetime, but here we're going to focus on the most famous - the '20th July Plot' in 1944. This saw the German army officer Claus von Stauffenberg assemble a bomb in his briefcase, and placed it under a table at a military conference held by Hitler. He was protected from the blast by the leg of the table and survived to execute Von Stauffenberg and his co-conspirators.
If he had been killed:
It's true that by July 1944 Germany had essentially already lost the Second World War. British and American forces had entered occupied Europe, and the Red Army were advancing on the eastern front. But it's not inconceivable that the death of Hitler could have brought an immediate end to the war in Europe, shortening the war by ten months and saving millions of lives. It also would have changed the shape of the Cold War, probably in America's favour.

About Mandy Southgate

Mandy Southgate is an accountant living and working in London. She is passionate about world events such as genocide and apartheid and has a desire to understand how these events continue to occur in the modern world. With a focus on the 20th and 21st centuries, A Passion to Understand reflects her continuing research and reading on these topics.
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