Today, 1913 is inevitably viewed through the lens of 1914: as the last year before a war that would shatter the global economic order and tear Europe apart, undermining its global pre-eminence. Our perspectives narrowed by hindsight, the world of that year is reduced to its most frivolous features last summers in grand aristocratic residences or its most destructive ones: the unresolved rivalries of the great European powers, the fear of revolution, violence in the Balkans.
In this illuminating history, Charles Emmerson liberates the world of 1913 from this prelude to war” narrative, and explores it as it was, in all its richness and complexity. Traveling from Europe’s capitals, then at the height of their global reach, to the emerging metropolises of Canada and the United States, the imperial cities of Asia and Africa, and the boomtowns of Australia and South America, he provides a panoramic view of a world crackling with possibilities, its future still undecided, its outlook still open.
The world in 1913 was more modern than we remember, more similar to our own times than we expect, more globalized than ever before. The Gold Standard underpinned global flows of goods and money, while mass migration reshaped the world’s human geography. Steamships and sub-sea cables encircled the earth, along with new technologies and new ideas. Ford’s first assembly line cranked to life in 1913 in Detroit. The Woolworth Building went up in New York. While Mexico was in the midst of bloody revolution, Winnipeg and Buenos Aires boomed. An era of petro-geopolitics opened in Iran. China appeared to be awaking from its imperial slumber. Paris celebrated itself as the city of light, Berlin as the city of electricity.
Full of fascinating characters, stories, and insights, 1913: In Search of the World before the Great War brings a lost world vividly back to life, with provocative implications for how we understand our past and how we think about our future.
©2013 Published in Great Britain by The Bodley Head. Published in the United States by PublicAffairs, a Member of the Perseus Books Group (P)2013 Audible, Inc.
This is a pretty good book that does what it says it will do: Sets out portraits of the worlds countries at the time as they represented themselves and as they actually behaved. But the audio presentation is ruined by a reader and/or producer who has no idea how to pronounce the terms used or the names of people or places.
For example, the French centime is pronounced SAHN-teem, not SENT-time; a "row", as in tussle, sounds like, "Ow! You hit me", not Row, like your boat gently down the stream; Camille Saint-Saens is san-SOHNS, not sant sigh-ENS.
Simple words were mispronounced, like saying "pro-TESTS in the streets", instead of, "PRO-tests in the streets." Granted, the Qing Dynasty is not commonly known to be pronounced CHING Dynasty, but in the age of the internet wouldn't it behoove producers of audiobooks to check these things out? It's certainly not KWING Dynasty, as pronounced in this book; there's no "u".
My enjoyment of this book was ruined by cringing every few minutes at the continued, flagrant disregard for the listener's intelligence as regards simple knowledge of the proper pronunciations. But what can one expect when the makers of the product are ignorant themselves?
How hard can it be to simply check these things before recording? Otherwise, the reader did a serviceable job, his voice reminding me of the excellent Scott Brick.
This is the first time I have ever been inspired to write a review for an audiobook. Too bad it's because of the poor quality of its production.
I know the current trend is to eliminate the engineer and producer/director, and have the voice actor record and edit themselves without oversight, but if this is a product of this kind of system perhaps it should be reconsidered, and preferably abandoned.
Quality work needs the input of professionals of specific disciplines. Let the engineers record, the directors direct, the producers produce, and the actors act.
If this sort of shoddy product is the result of cheap budgets why do them in the first place?
The narration was very distracting...Foreign terms and names were mangled badly. Unfortunately, the scope of the book covered several nations and different tongues. It would be a good idea to practice or get some coaching prior to recording!
I would recommend only the print version. Kevin Stillwell's mispronunciations make me wince. How can he have been hired to read 67 books?!!!!
I keep listening to understand what London, Shanghai, Cairo, and other world capitals really FELT like before World War 1. The research is wide, including contemporary newspapers, diaries, guidebooks, music, and political tracts.
Someone fluent in English. And acquainted with German, Chinese, and other languages' pronunciations.
Probably not. The content is thorough and satisfying as it is.
Stillwell's voice is actually pleasantly neutral. Neutrality is not a bad quality: while an unsuitable or irritating voice can ruin an audiobook, only the rarest readings are memorably outstanding; simply not noticing the voice is the mark of a workmanlike reading, competent and unintrusive. Stillwell's performance is solid on this matter.
However - and this is a very big qualification - as other reviewers have pointed out, Stillwell's pronunciation of even the commonest foreign words or names - or sometimes even of fairly common English words like "quay" - is abysmal. The pronunciation is occasionally confusing ("Does he mean ...?"), but more often just jarring; I know what he means, but constantly find myself audibly correcting him, over and over. Because the text deliberately jumps from locale to locale, the listener can't even overcome the mispronunciations by becoming used to them, as every chapter brings the text to a new place where Stillwell will find a whole new crop of words to mangle.
This completely undermines the admirable neutrality of his voice, by constantly intruding on the listener, dragging him out of the story and into a pedantic confrontation with the narrator. What's worse is how easily this could have been corrected: one particular howler was Stillwell's failed attempt to pronounce the surname of the French writer André Gide, which Stillwell pronounces as if it were "guide." Gide, a Nobel Prize winner, is hardly so obscure that the correct pronunciation would have been difficult for Stillwell to find; a Google search gives it immediately.
The idea of a world survey of 1913 was great, but there is no strong theoretical thread, nor narrative thread in this work. It seems like a series of postcards, but the postcards aren't those funny or interesting ones we liked to get (back when people actually sent postcards), but are instead those common cards that show the 'important' buildings, or the local celebrities.
Stillwell has a great voice, but his mispronunciations become more and more distracting.
I would have liked skimming through this book in a paper or electronic version. It doesn't have enough continuity to sustain a lengthy listen.
While I'm certain Mr. Stillwell is a perfectly acceptable reader for many books--specifically, ones requiring an American accent--he was a poor choice as narrator of this volume. "1913" describes the mood, highlights, lowlights, popular longings, political and intellectual atmosphere, and foreign and defense policy outlooks of Big Power and Lesser Power capital cities immediately before World War I. It is reasonably interesting, though a bit shallow as intellectual history.
The fact that the book surveys so many national capitals--Berlin, Paris, Vienna, Rome, St. Petersburg, among others--means that it would be a real advantage if the reader knew how to pronounce words and names in the languages of those cities. It is unreasonable to expect perfect pronunciation, but a game attempt based on some coaching from a trained linguist certainly would help. Instead, Mr. Stillwell thought plowing ahead with an unaided American accent would work just fine. It doesn't. People with a smattering of French or German will cringe every time the narrator attempts to render straightforward words in those languages. The author of the book is trying to strike a sophisticated pose with his wide learning and cultured asides. The effect is completely ruined when the narrator mispronounces the name of a well-known writer, politician, intellectual, or the best-known street in a world-famous city.
The book is beautifully written and fascinatingly conceived.
His inability to pronounce common names and phrases correctly, again and again, ultimately insulting at least five languages before I gave up in despair, combined with his utterly bland and colorless delivery.
Interesting survey of the world on the eve of the First World War. Rich in detail about the political, economic, and cultural life of the great cities of the world in 1913.
The account of Woodrow Wilson's shameful refusal to do anything about institutional racism in the United States federal government.
His narration includes dozens of egregious errors in the pronunciation of French, German, Italian, and Russian words. This really should have been better edited.
This overview of the world on the edge of war is a wonderful narrative history. It doesn't keep playing the irony card with observations on how little people knew about what was coming. Instead, it takes a deep snapshot of a remarkably varied set of nations and gives us an honest account of what was going on with them that contributed--or not as the case may be--to the war that followed. I found the chapter on Japan in 1913 especially helpful.
"A fascinating book, rather let down by the reader"
An excellent tour d'horizon before WW1
Certainly not. His lack of familiarity with basic foreign names and foreign terms commonly used in English is embarrassing and makes the reading uncomfortable at times.
It's a high quality book. It would have much better with a different reader
"Fresh, broader perspective on the era before WW1"
Don't know, but I will definitley buy the book.
The new insights into the pre-Great War world, drawn from around the world, not just the major powers. For instance, the chapters on Mexico and Argentina filled huge gaps in my knowledge and would probably only be otherwise available in the kind of specialist tomes that I never pick-up. It's brilliantly researched, providing glimpses of the real lives behind the history and really well written with clarity and purpose, presenting the complexities of geo-politics in a highly digestible style.
I would have given Kevin 5 stars were it not for his incessant mangling of foreign names, which often detracted from the serious tone or even comprehension of the piece. However, I consider the blame to lie not with the performer but with the editor who failed to select someone with some small familiarity with the French, German, Italian languages particularly. (I think Kevin was more familiar with Spanish). I would secondly criticise the ediorial process for not editing out the worst howlers (including in English e.g. 'quayside' pronounced 'kwayside'). After all, these books cost enough and I think both the reader and the author have the right to expect them to be performed to the standard of the printed work.
A truly global perspective on a global conflict.
Yes. I'd like to know what Charles Emerson, the author, has to say about this performance.
"Shockingly bad pronunciation"
The author probably but the narrator never.
The focus on a single year without seeing it as a necessary prelude to WWI.
The narrator is utterly incapable of pronouncing any foreign word, to the extent of making the whole performance a joke. There is also rather too much upward intonation in normal sentences, ok in soap operas but not historical narrative.
The bad pronunciation went from infuriation to humour. Is the narrator aware, I wonder, that there are such languages as French and German?
"FASCINATING BUT BADLY FLAWED BY POOR NARRATION"
The idea of describing the world on the eve of the greatest catastrophe of the First World War is well thought out with fascinating vignettes of a wide range of the worlds' cities.
For me the most memorable moment was the description of the relationship between China and the other Powers in the years after the Boxer Rebellion.
Stillwell's performance ruined the experience for me. His monotonous voice coupled with his complete inability to pronounce important words in the text (as an example Quay pronounced Kay instead of Key). In particular his mutilation of most German and French names drove me to distraction. Only fascination with the topic kept me going to the end.
Stillwell's perfomance inspired me to write my first ever book review.
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