1913: The World Before the Great War
In his introduction, Emmerson explains that he wants ‘to look at the world in 1913 through contemporary eyes, in its full colour and complexity, with a sense of the future’s openness.’ He analyses a number of Western capital cities; various British Dominion capitals; Algiers, a French colonial capital; Tehran, ancient capital of the Persian empire, a city with almost no government and little modern infrastructure; Jerusalem, the holy city of three faiths, which has its own unique problems; Constantinople, capital of the crumbling Ottoman empire; China, newly awakening; and Tokyo, capital of an emerging empire.
Emmerson depicts a world both connected as never before by electric telegraph, railways and new democratic ideas, and divided by ancient autocratic governments, unwilling or unable to adapt to the modern world, where the proletariat, women and various ethnic groups are agitating for their rights. 1913 is an intellectual tour de force, and Emmerson quotes perceptively – often from ordinary people rather than the movers and shakers – to prove his points. His range is international and he offers a global perspective rather than concentrating on a Western viewpoint. He argues that the world’s escalation into war in 1914 was by no means a foregone conclusion. Highly recommended.