Reviews for 1913 : In Search of the World Before the Great War


Book News Reviews
It is difficult to remember that there was a world before 1913; we had London and Paris, of course, and a few more spots where we could rely on history to proceed in an orderly fashion. But what we fail to understand that the world was already whirling like a dervish, and seemed ready to devour itself. Emmerson (history, Royal Institute for International Affairs) describes the parts of the world before the Great War, and lets us know that it was not all that simple a time. He starts with what was considered the center of the universe (London, Paris, Berlin, Rome, and whatever else was not in Asia), the moves to the old new world (Washington DC, New York, Detroit, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Winnipeg, Melbourne, Buenos Aires, Algiers, Bombay, Tehran, and Jerusalem), and the twilight powers (Constantinople, Beijing, Tokyo, and again, London) that would eventually rule the world. The result is a new way of looking at the real situation just before the gunfire rang out in Sarajevo, putting all that had been set into place in motion. Annotation ©2013 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

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Booklist Reviews 2013 May #2
Writing about "a year of possibility not predestination," Emmerson surveys a selection of cities around the world as they appeared in 1913. Portraying the European capitals of the next year's belligerent countries, Emmerson strikes a cosmopolitan tone by noting social interconnections linking London to Paris to Berlin to Constantinople. Diarists and travelers populate his narratives, their descriptions lending eyewitness immediacy to his delineation of streetscapes, new architecture, and political issues. Above all, Emmerson seeks to evoke the economic globalization that affected, in positive and negative ways, all the cities he presents. As 1913 was, in retrospect, the apex of empires, Emmerson dwells on the imperial outlooks from Britain and France and from the empires doomed to destruction in the war ahead, the Austro-Hungarian, Russian, and Ottoman. Turning from centers of power to cities beginning to boom from their global linkages, Emmerson enunciates the aspirations of outliers like Winnipeg, Melbourne, and Buenos Aires. Including stops in Tehran, Mexico City, Jerusalem, several U.S. cities, Shanghai, and Tokyo, Emmerson's historical world tour emotively captures the civilization soon to vanish in WWI. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

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Choice Reviews 2013 October
The year 1913 claims attention because the Great War broke out the following summer. The last year of peace can be seen as the culmination of the long, transformative 19th century, or as a "world bathed in the last rays of the dying sun." Emmerson, a student of international affairs (and not the first to mark this as a pivotal year), paints a broad picture that, while centered in Europe, contains a welcome international dimension. Using key cities as the setting for familiar surveys of politics and society, with nods toward the arts (The Rite of Spring receives only two brief mentions), Emmerson opens with a description of London before moving to the chief continental capitals. He hits his stride, however, with revealing pictures of cites at the periphery: Detroit, Buenos Aires, Algiers, Teheran, Jerusalem, Tokyo. Emmerson imaginatively links certain locales--Winnipeg-Melbourne to mark the reach of the British Empire, Bombay-Durban to showcase India and its African connections. Well written and researched, despite some factual errors (Czar Nicholas II was not descended from Queen Victoria). A revealing picture of life before the catastrophe of 1914. Summing Up: Recommended. All levels/libraries. General Readers; Lower-division Undergraduates; Upper-division Undergraduates; Graduate Students; Researchers/Faculty; Two-year Technical Program Students; Professionals/Practitioners. W. S. Rodner Tidewater Community College Copyright 2013 American Library Association.

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Kirkus Reviews 2013 April #2
Most books about the year 1913 deal with the run-up to World War I. Emmerson (The Future History of the Arctic, 2010), fellow of the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London, casts his net more widely, depicting life in two dozen great cities on the eve of the event that either ushered in the modern world or didn't (historians still debate this). The author has little new to say but says it well, and the further he travels from Europe, the more he illuminates areas unfamiliar to even educated readers. Parallels between eras a century apart are not in short supply. Observers in 1913 were already extolling a globalized planet, knit together by dazzling advances in technology. Democracy and capitalism seemed the wave of the future despite the disturbing spread of terrorist movements. The reigning superpower, Britain, was in relative decline, with Asia re-awakening and other rising powers flexing their muscles. In five chapters, Emmerson examines European capitals on a continent that took for granted that it was the center of the world, barely aware that the United States (four particular cities) was poised to take over that role. The hinterlands (Buenos Aires, Tehran, Jerusalem and others), colonies (Winnipeg, Bombay, Algiers and others) and Asian metropolises complete Emmerson's world tour. Although ostensibly about cities, the author also describes the country involved, often emphasizing a major figure--e.g., Woodrow Wilson in Washington, Gandhi in Durban, South Africa. Emmerson largely confines himself to history and national concerns with only a passing look at international politics on the verge of the Great War, but this is an intelligent picture of our world exactly 100 years ago. Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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Library Journal Reviews 2013 November #2

In 1914, the world went to war. Called "the war to end all wars," the conflict set the stage for many wars that followed. Was a global conflagration inevitable? Could it have been avoided? While historians have argued these questions for decades, Emmerson (senior research fellow, Royal Inst. for Intl. Affairs, London; The Future History of the Arctic) takes a different approach. Instead of reexamining all the classic causal explanations that came after the first shot was fired, he looks at the world (not just Europe) in the year before the war. Through the lens of contemporary travelers, journalists, politicians, heads of state, and writers from 20 cities, readers get a very real sense of the political, social, and economic events and mood of the period. Beginning and ending with London and including Paris, New York, Bombay, Buenos Aires, Constantinople, and Tokyo, this is a fascinating bird's-eye view of a landscape seen in what was the dying light of empire and on the brink of tragedy. The mood of the time reads as both sadly sensing doom and being naively hopeful. VERDICT An imaginatively conceived, thoroughly researched, and outstandingly written perspective that is highly recommended for both academic and general readers.--Linda Frederiksen, Washington State Univ. Lib., Vancouver

[Page 99]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2013 June #1

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. (June)

[Page ]. Copyright 2013 PWxyz LLC

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Publishers Weekly Annex Reviews

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. (June)

[Page ]. Copyright 2013 PWxyz LLC

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