Before the First World War, enthusiasm for a borderless world reached its height. International travel, migration, trade, and progressive projects on matters ranging from women's rights to world peace reached a crescendo. Yet in the same breath, an undercurrent of reaction was growing, one that would surge ahead with the outbreak of war and its aftermath. Tara Zahra examines how nationalism, rather than internationalism, came to ensnare world politics in the early twentieth century.
... lively and ambitious ... I was so rapt by “Against the World” that it was only when sitting down to write about it that I realized how resistant it is to a neat summary, because there isn’t a single story Zahra tells ... Every story in this book is relevant and absorbing; Zahra plaits her narrative strands together with such deliberation and skill that nothing is out of place ... She doesn’t rely on the syntheses of other scholars, examining instead how people understood events as they unfolded in real time. Her searching book reminds us that a view from 10,000 feet doesn’t always capture what’s actually happening on the ground.
Ms. Zahra’s narrative shows us how closely—even eerily—our present-day world resembles the state of the globe roughly a century ago ... The most engaging sections of Ms. Zahra’s vigorous and informative book are those in which she offers us biographical portraits of some of the players in the great game of globalization.