1913: In Search of the World Before the Great War

Book review by Deane Barker
tags: world-war-one, history
2014
Charles Emmerson
544
6/10

An interesting look at the world in 1913, before the Great War. The book doesn’t mention the looming war, and that’s kind of the point. It goes city-by-city, discussing what was happening in each, on the eve of World War 1.

The result is…interesting. The book paints the picture of the world as a flurry of activity and advancement, while you, the reader, know that complete disaster is right around the corner.

It’s like those pictures that depict “seconds before chaos.” We think of the war as this massive, looming menace of the time, but we forget that the people in 1913 had little idea what was coming. They were troubled with their own problems, enamored with their own advancements, and blissfully unaware of what was coming and how that would reorient their perspective on everything.

In the end, there’s a lot here. You don’t go very deep on any one city, which makes it a little superficial, even with an overload of information. It’s like this huge well of history, and you can only drink so much. I enjoyed reading it, but my only lasting takeaway is likely the unsettling feeling of all those people, ignorant of the future.

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