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4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
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on 7 March 2014
First I have to admit that its a work in progress but I am enjoying dipping in to chapters on the many places reconstructed here.
Its both a history and geography lesson and the format has certainly helped my understanding of the tensions building in the great captals of Europe.
Perhaps a bit more perspective on what ordinary folk were up to would have made it even better.
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on 8 June 2014
Having read a number of texts on WWI as well as the Edwardian and late Victorian eras I find it rare to come across a book that offers a truly different angle on the period; however this really is an original and quite fascinating take - I won't say on the year before the Great War because that would be doing it an injustice, rather - on the 20th Century.
In his introduction the author makes an insightful observation which largely sets the books' tone; '[W]e tend to mentally compress time when it falls within our own lives, and extend it when it falls in the lives of past generations. Any yet for those alive in 1913...the Boxer Rebellion of 1901 - when foreign troops marched into the Forbidden city in as close in time to 1913 as the events of September 11, 2001 are to us today'.
By setting the context in this way the author encourages his readers to appreciate the perception people had of their world at the time. The reader starts to think about how people alive then would have applied notable events from their recent past, for example; the largely unexpected outcome of the 1904-5 Russo-Japanese War, the pomp and spectacle of the 1911 Delhi Durbar and the shocking sinking of the Titanic in 1912, in order to make sense of their present.
The other key points the author makes, also very convincingly, are that (1) the world of a century is not so long ago and (2) how highly internationalised the world was in terms of trade, communications, travel and immigration in 1913 (it is pointed out that international trade did not reach its 1913 share of global output again until 1970). In terms of the former argument, the very premise of this book - a whistle-stop tour around the world as it was in 1913 - provides rich context on important events occurring later in the twentieth century, for example the motivations of the Japanese government in entering WWII. Regarding the global nature of 1913, the chapter on Detroit and excerpts taken from the 'Ford Times' are especially enlightening - it is not difficult to draw parallels between Ford's domination and the cultural titans of the present like Google and Amazon.
Lastly what I appreciated about the structure of this book is its division into four main segments each with five to six 'bite size' (hesitate to use that description, but is quite apt) chapters - perfect for consuming one at a time on the morning and evening train commutes.
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on 11 July 2013
I was loving this right up to the moment that a glaring historical inaccuracy that could have been checked in 2 seconds on Wikipedia lept off the page at me, really put me off. For the record, Ned Kelly didn't die in a gunfight he was hanged in Melbourne Jail.
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on 4 August 2014
Undeniably well-written, but ultimately unsatisfying. Presented here are a series of vignettes describing the great - and lesser - cities of the world on the brink of war, with precious little effort to link the narrative and present a bigger picture. These vignettes, while in themselves fascinating, contain virtually no foreshadowing of the conflict to come. Perhaps that's the whole point. Much more interesting is the almost throw-away Epilogue. A few notes and observations about the general state of the world post-1918. A better book I think would have been to link these pre-1914 vignettes with more post-1918 analysis, which I think would have driven home the scale of the war and its worldwide effect. Somewhere lurking must surely be the definitive eve-of-war book. But this isn't it.
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on 4 January 2016
I enjoyed this book, it told the story of the World's problems and concerns and events that caused the great war and all the treaties that linked the countries together, I found it very interesting.
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on 21 July 2013
This book I have been looking for, for sometime now.
life before the world changed forever
1914 was really a watershed moment,and 1913 really pre-dates it
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on 14 August 2014
A wonderfully insightful read to the magnificent era that the Great War was about to disrupt, if not destroy, influence and kick into different directions and so never be the same again.
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on 26 October 2015
An informative and well researched book on world capitols just prior to WW1 and begs the question, why did Europe have to self destruct when the future looked bright and hopeful.
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on 30 December 2013
This is a very interesting book helping me to understand the causes of the first world war. It is a very good informative read
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on 18 November 2014
An interesting book looking at the world just one year before the First World War. Written in the way that the layman can understand, but it is rather lengthy.
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