A bold, revisionist account of World War I’s lingering end, the bloody years that followed, and the Western world’s reeling transformation.
Nobody believed a modern war could last so long–but by 1917, Europe had already been at war for three years. The fabric of the continent had unraveled and now, just as the first American troops docked in European ports, the continent began to collapse from the inside: first Russia, then Austria-Hungary, soon Germany, then the Ottoman Empire.
Historians have long divided World War I into neat divisions of conflict–1914 to 1918–and peace, after the Treaty of Versailles in 1919. Yet in his new, remarkable history, Charles Emmerson reveals that Europe had already begun its metamorphosis long before the war’s end–and that the finale was longer, bloodier, and more complex than we’ve previously been told. As Russia spiraled into revolution with the fall of the Romanovs and the rise of the Bolsheviks, Germany was violently combating communism within its own borders. As civil war fomented in Ireland, Mustafa Kemal was reinventing himself as father of the Turks. Meanwhile, Spain fought a colonial war in Morocco, the British quelled uprisings in the Middle East.
By 1924, Woodrow Wilson, Vladimir Lenin, Emperor Franz-Josef, and Tsar Nicholas II were all dead, and the metamorphosis of the western world was complete. New states had risen, America was isolated, Germany was embittered, and the French and British were weak and exhausted. Yet after twelve years, the Great War was over, finally. And, as Emmerson proves, it was in this extended eight-year ending–not in the trenches or the halls of Versailles–that the seeds of the future had been sown.