In Search of the World Before the Great War

Book - 2013 | 1st ed. --
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Today, 1913 is inevitably viewed through the lens of 1914: as the last year before a war that would shatter the global economic order and tear Europe apart, undermining its global pre-eminence. Our perspectives narrowed by hindsight, the world of that year is reduced to its most frivolous features--last summers in grand aristocratic residences--or its most destructive ones: the unresolved rivalries of the great European powers, the fear of revolution, violence in the Balkans.

In this illuminating history, Charles Emmerson liberates the world of 1913 from this "prelude to war" narrative, and explores it as it was, in all its richness and complexity. Traveling from Europe's capitals, then at the height of their global reach, to the emerging metropolises of Canada and the United States, the imperial cities of Asia and Africa, and the boomtowns of Australia and South America, he provides a panoramic view of a world crackling with possibilities, its future still undecided, its outlook still open.

The world in 1913 was more modern than we remember, more similar to our own times than we expect, more globalized than ever before. The Gold Standard underpinned global flows of goods and money, while mass migration reshaped the world's human geography. Steamships and sub-sea cables encircled the earth, along with new technologies and new ideas. Ford's first assembly line cranked to life in 1913 in Detroit. The Woolworth Building went up in New York. While Mexico was in the midst ofbloody revolution, Winnipeg and Buenos Aires boomed. An era of petro-geopolitics opened in Iran. China appeared to be awaking from its imperial slumber. Paris celebrated itself as the city of light--Berlin as the city of electricity.

Full of fascinating characters, stories, and insights, 1913: In Search of the World before the Great War brings a lost world vividly back to life, with provocative implications for how we understand our past and how we think about our future.
Publisher: New York : PublicAffairs, c2013.
Edition: 1st ed. --
ISBN: 9781610392563
Characteristics: xiv, 526 p. : ill.
Alternative Title: Nineteen-thirteen


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Mar 08, 2015

We were taught that the 1914-18 World War was about freedom, equality and rule of law. Mr. Charles Emmerson undermines these noble quests by educating us that the main proponents of this war of wars were all hypocrites, imperialists and greedy. The French hyped liberty and equality at home but denied these rights to their Colonial empire including Algiers and Viet Nam. The British could not see fit to offer liberty and equality to any of their aboriginal people. No European country would allow women to vote. One would not to have wanted to be black and living in the United States in 1913 . Chinese intellectual Yan Fu noted that European race's last three hundred years of evolutionary progress had come down to nothing but four words:
Selfishness, slaughter, shamelessness and corruption. Mr. Emmerson provides us an enlightened context for a war which took millions of lives. No one should read a book on WW I until they read 1913. I wish I did.

Mar 13, 2014

This is an excellent overview of the geopolitical situation just prior to the First World War. The author has attempted the broadest geographical perspective - which means that it's not just about the US, the UK, France and Germany. The cost, of course, is that the depth of detail cannot be as strong, but it does give some potential hooks for further research if one has any interest.

oldhag Jan 24, 2014

More a collection of individual essays about selected cities than a linear book with a unifying theme. My problem with sweeping survey books is that the very act of choosing what to put in, and what to leave out, biases the book to support the author's perspective. While the current turmoil in the world has much in common with the intrigue, grievances, subterfuge, and seething ambitions that were at-play in 1913, there are equally as many important differences today. To name just two: more women vote; the internet exists. Each, a revolutionizing event, on its own. To be sure, there are obvious, and deeply troubling, similarities, but 2013 is as different from 1913 as 1913 was from 1813.

janzor Oct 25, 2013

I just finished this book and think it is a very good thought provoking look at the world 100 years ago. It's a good look at a number of different cities around the world, the culture, politics and technology . Gives a very interesting framework for what's happening now in 2013.

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