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‘If Downton Abbey still colours your impression of what Britain was like on the cusp of the First World War, 1913 could be a useful corrective’ Scotsman
2018 marks the centenary of the end of the Great War. What was the year before the war really like?
1913 is usually seen as little more than the antechamber to apocalypse. Our images of the times are too often dominated by last summers of upper-class indulgence or by a world rushing headlong into the abyss of an inevitable war.
1913: The World before the Great War proposes a strikingly different portrait: told through the stories of twenty-three cities – Europe’s capitals at the height of their global reach, the emerging metropolises of America, the imperial cities of Asia and Africa, the boomtowns of Australia and the Americas – Charles Emmerson presents a panoramic view of a world crackling with possibilities, from St Petersburg to Shanghai and from Los Angeles to Jerusalem. What emerges is a rich and complex world, more familiar than we expect, connected as never before, on the threshold of events which would change the course of global history.
‘A masterful, comprehensive portrait of the world at that last moment in its history…’ Spectator
Two decades into the 21st century what could possibly be left to say about the 20th? Emmerson, a fellow at the Royal Institute for International Affairs has reached back 100 years and found plenty. His engrossing book profiles world cities who will play pivotal roles in the century's narrative arc, from "Old World" European powers through Asia's "Twilight Powers". This historical time is unique in being the moment the globe was finally completely discovered and claimed, as well as interconnected via telegraph wires, railway lines, and shipping routes, creating what has become the globalization we presently take for granted. Emmerson's best chapters lay foundations for the global issues on the horizon like race and diplomacy in America, and oil and religious differences in the Middle East; lesser-known personal and institutional stories laying the groundwork for enriched understandings of world events to come. By staying so tightly focused on this single year, Emmerson is able to reveal causal mechanisms while simultaneously making readers wonder what could have been. No reader will leave this work without ever again looking at current events as clues, a living history of powers to come and go with all the possible advancements and catastrophes that will follow.