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4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
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on 7 September 2014
A good angle for a development economist as many of the current challenges in the developing world echo those of 1913, from the corruption scandals of the UK to the breathless pace of growth in certain cities. Some real surprises here, such as the booming city of Melbourne being one of the largest in the world. The breadth is good - from Teheran to Tokyo, and from ballet to the rise of Hollywood. Inevitably some chapters are stronger than others. Best recommendation is that I finished it
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on 21 March 2015
Still chugging through this fabulous tome! Quite hard work in some ways but a compact and fantastic history of the time. If only my history classes had been this good I would already know more than I have learned from 1913.
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on 21 August 2014
for people who are interested in the history of what happened and how folk survived without mobi;e phone ans had to just wait for news in the newspapers of the day or the pathe news at the cinema.
Just shows that that generation was not pampered as we are to-day
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on 25 August 2013
The author allows the reader to visit 22 major cities of the world in 1913 with a wonderfully rich and erudite dialogue that leaves you feeling you've had more than enough after each chapter. There are no maps - they would be superfluous. The ambient mood, stresses and strains, major influences and evolutions are described in each case, with mention as to how increasingly democratised peoples, at least in spirit, see their world and how it will evolve. The overall tone is somehow positive, implying that the European and Middle Eastern conflagration about to descend the following year would be quite nonsensical and out of place. Britain was already being challenged internally by the increasingly bellicose attitudes of suffragettes, unions, and opposing sides in Ireland. In Europe and the west the craze was the Tango, Germans did not need passports to come to Britain, France's population was declining, and the Kaiser had even been nominated for the Nobel Prize in 1911. But the shift in the centre of gravity of the world away from Europe had already irredeemably commenced, and empires were dissolving into looser unions. The threads that link reality then to that of today are discernible. This is no mechanical treatment - the book flows well and without any imposing structure, almost to a fault. Read only one chapter a day.
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on 7 May 2014
This book sets out to give a global perspective on the world immediately before WW1 but IS NOT seeking to explain it or to look atthe courses of it. It is like a mini-social history snapshots of key cities around the world. Interesting in its own right but I would expect most people would want to read something else as well.
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on 5 January 2014
'1913' gives a fascinating insight into the world prior to the cataclysm of the First World War. By highlighting individual cities, the author illustrates how many of the major powers were then on the point of collapse and it just needed the spark of Sarajevo to set the world aflame. I had no idea how rotten the Austro-Hungarian Empire had become, for example, with its "pantomime parliament" in which there were no less then 10 official languages but no interpreters!. I found the central section dealing with North and South America less interesting, but that no doubt reflects my own historical interests.

Yet, two errors in its first 3 pages make one wonder how many others may be contained within the book. Emmerson mentions the pan-European nature of the arts. He refers to Harry Kessler as "the author of the libretto" to the Richard Strauss opera 'Der Rosenkavalier'. Only partly true, as Hugo van Hofmannsthal, Strauss' regular collaborator on his libretti whom Emmerson does not mention, is the much better-known co-author. A few lines later, he mentions "the Russian ballet impresario Nijinsky". Nijinsky was no doubt the most acclaimed dancer of his day, but he was no impresario! As other reviewers have pointed out, these are not the only errors.
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on 1 August 2013
Another reviewer mentions the death of Ned Kelly. It is extaordinary for someone born in Australia to be wrong about the manner of his death and the inaccuracy calls into question the precision of the rest of the book.

Also, I do not know whether Random House has an agenda based on bringing the English language into line with American but a book published by The Bodley Head in Great Britain could avoid spelling 'Labour' as 'Labor', and I do not think it was a direct quotation in at least one instance. Nor is it necessary to write 'The Times, of London', to refer to 'London, England' or explain the meaning of 'Baronet' - imprecisely. Any intelligent English speaking reader would know what was intended, or find out. There are other examples.

Maps would have been a great advantage.

These points apart, I found it a fascinating book on a topic by that has great relevance for us today.

Without the irritations I should have given it five stars.
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British author Charles Emmerson looks at the world of 1913 in his new book, "1913: In Search of the World Before the Great War". This is a big book, almost 500 pages, and does what no other armchair-history book has done so far. Instead of focusing on the main European world - the world that went to war a year later - Emmerson looks at cities and countries world-wide.

The term "The Great War" is, in general, applied to the fighting in Europe - mostly on the Western Front in France and Flanders and the Eastern Front in Russia - but the fighting really was world-wide. Don't forget that the main countries - England, Germany, France, Belgium, and Italy - had colonies and territories around the world. We know that the countries and territories of the British Empire contributed fighting forces to the war effort beginning in 1914. Emmerson takes a look at those countries - concentrating on the selected cities - to show how the years right before contributed to each nation's development. Examining the Empire cities of Durban, Melbourne, Bombay, and Winnipeg in 1913, Emmerson writes of developments in each city that made the countries they were in evolve a bit more into their own national identities.

Emmerson also does a great job in looking at the United States and using Detroit and Los Angeles as examples of how the US economy evolved from agriculturally-based to industrial-based. The influx of immigrants to our country in the late 1800s and early 1900's was changing the face of America as well as how we looked at the world at large. He also includes Tokyo, Peking and Shanghai, and Buenos Aires among the world's cities.

Charles Emmerson has written a masterful look at the world of 1913. The only complaint I have is the lack of maps in the book. I wish the publishers had included some; I consulted Wiki quite a bit while reading. But this is one of the best books of the period I've read.
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on 25 April 2013
The Emmerson book is truly a work of scholarship. He paints a magnificently detailed and very colourful picture of social and political life is each of the major cities he chose as it was in 1913 - leading up of course in Europe to a war that few really anticipated.

He must have done an enormous amount of research but the end result is good and eminently readable if you have acquired the taste, which I probably have.
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on 30 September 2013
Having read reviews about this book I decided to purchase it. It as without doubt a written document on the state of the major cities in the run up to the Great War. The amount of research to produce such a volume must have been immense and I salute the author for this. Never boring, always interesting, anyone interested in the history of the world 100 years ago should buy this book. As a summary of world conditions, I can sum it up quite simply - "everything has changed - but nothing has changed". To read and understand the book will qualify this statement.
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