‘Thinking about what might have happened,’ says a character in The History Boys by Alan Bennett, ‘alerts you to the consequences of what did.’ Another character replies: ‘It’s subjunctive history … The subjunctive is the mood you use when something might or might not have happened, when it’s imagined.’
‘We told Rampton,’ reflected and rejoiced people of African-Caribbean heritage in Britain in 1981, ‘and Rampton told the world.’ Anthony Rampton’s report, West Indian Children in our Schools, had been warmly welcomed by the prime minister, James Callaghan, and by the secretary of state for education, Shirley Williams. Rampton’s messages were uncomfortable for Mr Callaghan, who had not said anything remotely similar in his celebrated Ruskin speech in 1976. But his positive response to the Rampton report, supported and reinforced by Mrs Williams, laid the foundations for one of the most exciting and sustained revolutions in education and society that these islands have ever seen.
There’s more of this ‘subjunctive history’ at http://leftcentral.org.uk/2013/03/13/what-if-jim-callaghan-had-won-the-1979-election-education-and-society-in-multi-ethnic-britain-an-essay-in-subjunctive-history/#more-3223