1913: In Search of the World Before the Great War - Charles Emmerson Neither here nor there, I'm afraid. I was intrigued by the conceit of examining a dozen or so major world cities in 1913, particularly the fairly broad global selection, but unfortunately the book tends to stray too wide to be really interesting, at least for my tastes. There are snapshots of each city, and those are great, but they're far too brief. Mostly it becomes just a jumping off point for short, tip-of-the-iceberg, ho-hum political histories. So the Tokyo chapter spends a lot of time on the Meiji restoration, Constantinople on the Young Turks, Durban on Ghandi's career, etc. It is a bit of a rock and hard place - for the stuff I was already familiar with, it was just treading water. For the stuff I was unfamiliar with, it was just a dense mess of names and dates I was unlikely to absorb in any meaningful way.

The political focus also seems to me to undermine the stated premise of the book, which is to try and look at 1913 not through the lense of what was to follow, but the books can't seem to entirely shy away from the things we know would turn out to be important, like Ghandi or the mass produced car. Secondly, while there's an admirable attempt at global reach, in practice it still often remains a story of the way other places interacted with Europe, again mostly politically.

So it's an interesting attempt but ultimately fell flat for me because there just wasn't enough of the kind of daily information about these places, in this time, that I find interesting. There was some, and that made it all the more frustrating when the book segued away from discussing technology, culture, fashion and landscape for another half-hearted account of some major political/military crisis.