1913: In Search of the World Before the Great War by Charles Emmerson

Wonderfully written re-discovery of the world of 1913 via a tour of its major cities. Manages to give a feel for each without dwelling too long on any one city.

Ends on a haunting note, with the assurances and questions of 1913 obliterated by the war of 1914. 1913 comes to seem an extension of the 19th century, rather than the beginning of the 20th, a different world that had a different future, once. Final chapter quotes a German intellectual returning home after the war to see everything preserved as if 1913 had been frozen in time: the British books, the Persian cigars from French friends, the Russian plays, all transformed, all changed now that the internationalism of 1913 had been dismantled by four years of war.

Three of the many things I learned about the state of the world in 1913:

  • The Ottoman Empire was still in the midst of the reforms and changes brought about by the Young Turks and the new parliamentary government they had brought back
  • Woodrow Wilson originally ran on a platform of domestic reform, and hoped that his presidency would leave him free from foreign policy crises so he could focus on it.
  • Non-European Algerians were french subjects, not citizens. They could become citizens only by renouncing Islam and applying for citizenship