The Impact of Coincidence in Modern American, British, and Asian History

The Impact of Coincidence in Modern American, British, and Asian History

Twenty-One Unusual Historical Events

By Bruce A. Elleman

Anthem Impact

In 21 case studies, this short book examines the distinctive coincidental history of America, Britain, and various Asian countries during the twentieth century.

EPUB, 112 Pages


October 2023

£19.99, $23.80

PDF, 112 Pages


October 2023

£19.99, $23.80

  • About This Book
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About This Book

In 21 short case studies, this short book examines the distinctive coincidental history of America, Britain, and various Asian countries during the twentieth century. It covers a wide range of historical events, from American expansion into the Pacific to the creation of the Soviet gulags in Siberia to the end of the Vietnam War. 

Each of the short case studies focuses on one set of coincidental actions. Were they linked in some way? Or completely random? The reader is allowed to decide for themselves. Often, the coincidental overlap is due to timing, with various events throughout history occurring on the same dates. For example, Great Britain’s controversial blockade of Venezuela began on December 7, 1902, the U.S. Navy and the Royal Navy merged forces on December 7, 1917, and Japan attacked American and British naval bases on December 7, 1941. The author will suggest that these three actions were linked, but it is up to the reader to decide if it was really just a coincidence.

The main goal of this short book is to show how watershed historical events can often become layered or overlap each other, sometimes by intent but often merely by happenstance. As Ian Fleming once famously opined about actions in war: “Once is happenstance. Twice is a coincidence. Three times is enemy action.”


“Bruce Elleman’s new book is a concise and useful addition to the otherwise larger studies on twentieth-century world history. His book presents twenty-one coincidental episodes that the author suggests may have changed the course of history. He lets the reader decide. This short book revisits many familiar topics that are presented in new ways, challenging readers to ask new questions. The importance of this book lies in the author’s posing alternative possibilities for historical causation.” — Robert Antony, Professor, Shandong University, China

“This engaging collection of historical vignettes offers thought-provoking insights and unique perspectives on some of the major historical events of the twentieth century while also showing how some truly obscure and seemingly minor incidents may be more significant than one might imagine.” — Harold Tanner, Professor, College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences

“Professor Bruce Elleman is a global historian with a formidable knowledge, especially of East Asia (including the territory of the former Soviet Union) and of naval affairs. His books explore history from perspectives that have escaped the attention of the most attentive historians. This book will be an ‘easy read for students and anyone curious about World history. It could serve a large range of needs, from specialist to casual.’” — Hiroaki Kuromiya, Professor of History Emeritus, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, USA

Author Information

Bruce A. Elleman received his BA from UC Berkeley in 1982, his MA in 1984, a master of philosophy degree in 1987, an East Asian Certificate in 1988, and his Ph.D. in 1993 at Columbia University. In addition, he completed a master of sciences degree at the London School of Economics in 1985, and a master of arts in national security and strategic studies (with distinction) at the Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island, in 2004. 


Anthem Impact

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Unintentional Role of Coincidence in History; 1) Secret U.S. Plans to Absorb Hawaii and Guam (1897); 2) Alfred Thayer Mahan Invents Island-hopping (1911); 3) Yuan Shikai Preapproves Japan’s “21 Demands”(1915); 4) Gallipoli’s Unexpected Connection to the Arme; ian Genocide (1915); 5) The Historical Importance of 7 December 1902/1917/1941; 6) The Halifax Explosion and Unification of the U.S. and British Navies (1917); 7) Woodrow Wilson’s Clerical Error and the May Fourth Movement in China (1919); 8) Soviet Gold Mining and the Sudden End to the Mongolian Gold Rush (1924); 9) The Soviet Great Purges and Gulags as a Reaction to Japan’s Immigration Policies in Manchukuo (1937); 10) Secret Western Manipulations behind Japan’s Pearl Harbor Attack (1941); 11) The True Origin of the Kamikazes (1944); 12) Why the Kurile Islands Were Disputed After World War II (1945); 13) How Secret Yalta Talks Resulted in Post-War Soviet Colonization (1945); 14) Secret Negotiations of the Sino-Soviet Border (1945); 15) The CIA Argument for Why China Should be Allowed to Become Communist (1948); 16) Both North Vietnamese Tonkin Gulf Attacks Were Perhaps Real (1964); 17) The U.S. Anti-Soviet Blockade during the Vietnam War (1965); 18) The Secret U.S. Anti-SAM Strategy in the Vietnam War (1966); 19) The 3 March 1969 Creation of the Top Gun School (1969); 20) The Real “Signaling” History of the 4 May 1970 Kent State Massacre (1970); 21) The Secret Agreement that May Have Really Ended the Vietnam War (1975); Conclusions: The Profound Influence of Coincidental History on Twentieth-Century History; Selected Bibliography; About the Author; Index


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