1913: The World Before the Great War



The world of 1913 seems irretrievably lost now, distanced from us by the horrors of the Great War. Seeking out the causes of the war, the seminal catastrophe of the twentieth century, staining Europe with blood, we naturally focus on the European countries where war broke out, trawling the years before for signs of what was to come, for explanations and for reasons: who started the war and why?

But how did the world look before? What if the war had not happened?

1913: The World before the Great War proposes a radically different portrait of the world in the first years of the twentieth century, returning the world in that time to its contemporary freshness, its future still open, its fate undecided. Looking beyond the old continent to the New World, to Asia, South America and Africa, 1913 takes the reader to twenty-three cities around the globe, telling the story of the world through the stories and descriptions of places and people, from London, Paris and Berlin to Jerusalem, Tehran and Shanghai.

Nineteen-thirteen was the year when Henry Ford's production line cranked into action in Detroit, when China appeared to be waking up from centuries of imperial slumber, when Buenos Aires and Winnipeg were considered the bright metropolises of the future, when Japan had just established itself as a great power, when creaky Tsarist Russia celebrated three hundred years of the Romanov dynasty - and an industrial boom. "Capitalism has triumphed all over the world", wrote Vladimir Lenin from exile in Austro-Hungarian Galicia.

Dynamic, modern, global: 1913: The World Before the Great War engages with the idea of the last year of European peace, the last year of the high imperial age, as a year of encounters and interconnections, a year of possibility not predestination.