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tv   Book TV  CSPAN  August 31, 2013 4:15pm-4:46pm EDT

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now from london booktv interviewed charles emmerson author of two books 1913 in search of the world before the great war and the future history of the -- this is about half an hour. let's go booktv from london this week is pleased to have with us charles emmerson who has written a couple of bucks his most recent 1913 in, in search of the world before the great war just coming out this year.
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mr. emerson what was the world like in 1913? i know that's a really generic question. >> i think the short answer to that question is the world was a lot more like today than we tend to think. it was very highly globalized, very modern in many respects. we tend to think of the world certainly in europe to look at the prison -- prism of the war or a look at in black-and-white. so what i'm trying to do with the book is very much bring back the color if you would like and look at it as it appeared to the people alive at that time. >> host: how do you approach 1913 in your book lacks. >> guest: well the way i do it is essentially a traveling around the world which is what people could do if horse in 1913 so i look at 23 different cities around the world starting in london which was very much the capital of the world, the center of lovell finance and then
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traveling first around europe and then more widely to the united states to mexico and into places which were a little bit more off the beaten track, winnipeg, shanghai, tokyo, bombay and coming back to london. looking at this book is really a tour of the world. >> host: 1913 you say london was the financial capital of the world's? its 2013. what is london today? >> guest: financial capital of the world capital. there's something else about 1913 which is it was the capital of a great empire and course the empire has entirely disappeared but that's one of the interesting parallels there are in the book between 1913 and now in 1913 as we said london was very much a cosmopolicosmopoli tan city and a very global city. it's a very global city and cosmopolitan city right now.
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if you look at new york in 1913 between washington and new york in 1913 debates about wall street many of his debates at go pretty powerfully today in terms of the relationship between wall street and main street. >> host: what about china? what was it like in 1913? >> guest: studying china has been why the most fascinating things for me and undertaking the research for this book trade i think it's very important for us now to understand just how much throughout the 19th century and early 20th century china was really besieged in a sense by the west. in 1901 you have the boxer rebellion. there's a wonderful photograph i have in the book of u.s. greens inside the forbidden city. this period of history is i think forgotten to some degree in the west but of course it's tremendously important in today's china because it's a
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tremendously dishonoring episode in china's history. the current chinese regime is very much aware of it but as it grew closer towards 1913 you have a revolution in 1911 and 1911 and you have the end of the qing dynasty and you have a bit of the civil war but you also get a sense perhaps of a chinese reawakening. the dragon which has been slumbering is perhaps reawakening so there is a sense that maybe this era of unquestioned western governance is perhaps coming to an end. >> host: you have written with caveats that history does not repeat itself but you also see parallels between 1913 and 2013. what are some of those warning signs? >> guest: i think it's impossible not to see parallels. one should never assume that the present is exactly about the past because it never is but as
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mark twain said sometimes these things rhyme and i think 2013 rhymes with 1913. i guess there are obvious parallels in terms of a hegemonic power in the united kingdom in 1913 which is declined similarities to the united states and the rising power of germany after 2013 perhaps in the rising power of china. in some respects the greater parallels are not so much between the exact trajectories of those countries but more of a general idea that in 1913 at the end of the period when there has been european and specific british political dominance and that has allowed for the politicalization. in 2013 you had a long period of american hegemony or preeminence. as that comes to an end the future becomes rather more and certain.
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there are more open question marks about the future. >> host: do you answer those questions netbook? >> guest: no. this is a history book and i should stress the book is above all how the world looked in 1913 and i don't want to preempt too much the geopolitical analysis that one can make about the present day but i think it is a reminder. >> host: charles emmerson you also visited india and he visited canada. why did you include those nation's? >> guest: well i included winnipeg which is a remarkable city in many respects. i don't think any north americans would view winnipeg is the most beautiful city in north america but if you go to winnipeg now what you would see are a lot of splendid ill things which are put up around a
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fantastic -- built in 1913. very grand, not lots of gold and tremendous to developed scale. once gets a tremendous confidence about the future and indeed winnipeg in 1913 was one of the fastest-growing cities. the idea was the future was very much winnipeg's to take. if you go there now you wouldn't get the same feeling. in fact you might say 1913 was the highpoint. but i think it's important to remind oneself of periods of time in the past when expectations of the future in this case an expectation that winnipeg would be the great capital of the prairies, people are very confident about these things then they turn out to be somewhat misplaced. for india, is there really one india or another? perhaps there are hundreds of india's. i choose to look at bombay in that year.
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india of course is part of the british empire the lynchpin of the british empire tremendously important economically, tremendously important politically. really india is to a large degree the british empire. and bombay is the most imperial city, tremendous confluence of peoples and ethnicity in our time. i'm trying to uncover what the city was like and what they empire meant in india at that time. when it's very interesting points is you discover that india is an empire. it's not just about the colonizers colonizing the colonized. i think another thing which comes out of that very much the extent to which india itself is also becoming more 1913 as you have the first india feature
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length movie which you can look at on line. >> host: charles emmerson 1913 of course the next year began the first world war. do you see 2013 moving in that direction? >> guest: no, i mean that is going too far. that is too strong a parallel between those two years. what i do think however is that the certainties that we have grown up with and the certainties of western dominance if you like, the certainties of localization to the extent that that's a certainty, of cut those things i think we need to understand that they are actually rather contingent but they may not necessarily contained -- again looking back to 1913 you see b.c. expectations that the future would be, the world would be
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ever more integrated economically. we would be more integrated in terms of people traveling around and the forces of technology drawing people together. these great and mutable forces history which nothing could conceivably knock off course and yet in 1914 they were knocked off course. i think that's a lesson if you like in fragility of our end times as well. >> host: charles emmerson's most recent book 1913, in search of the world before the war and before that the future history of the arctic. is there a connection between these two books? >> guest: me. that's obviously a facetious answer in some respects but it's sure that both of these books while being very different are for me a different way of looking at the world. they are trying to approach the world a little bit from the side , from an angled.
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in the case of 1913 it's very much trying to recover a generation which has been rather lost. we tend to flatten our understanding of the world before the first world war. to try to understand an area of the world which for the longest time was considered not tremendously important or much going on there, very much the edge of the world but now there is an awful lot going on. suddenly we have to rethink everything we thought we knew about that part of the globe and we have to look at it. to me the most exciting thing as a writer is to be able to use words to be able to use a book and to be able to use research to really look at the world anew. >> host: who owns -- [inaudible] >> guest: that's a very good question. in terms of the state to have the arctic states of course and you have the russians the
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canadians the swedes and the fence. >> host: the each owning a piece of that continent. >> guest: each owning a slice of the continent. there are questions as to exactly where the line should be drawn. in some places that's entirely unclear but in some places the arctic is very much apart from potentially a fan area around the north pole which might he -- by humanity. that's entirely defined by the different states and preparing their claims as to exactly who owns what. >> host: is there going to be a treaty combat an agreement in splitting up the arctic? >> guest: that is not really necessary because there is already law of the sea which sets the constitution. the oceans are more are less defined how at least the states should determine who owned that
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to the arctic. >> host: why would the art become a political football or resource? >> guest: there are a number of different reasons. one of course is that the region is changing very quickly so as a result of climate change more energy companies aren't just in the area. so there is a lot more going on politically in the arctic now than was the case 10 or 15 or 20 years ago. in terms of conflicts between the state's, i don't think that is what we are seeing. i think what we are actually seeing is a tremendous degree of cooperation rather than conflicts so i'm quite pleased on the geopolitical level it least there is an understanding on the part of all of the arctic countries to work together. that's not always easy when it comes to security and military questions in particular.
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there are challenges their and their trusts deficits but broadly i think the general thrust is quite positive. >> host: what are some of the resources and the art? >> guest: lots of oil and gas for starts and in greenland also minerals, gold, pretty much anything you can think of is likely to be in the arctic. of course because it's relatively underexplored from the mineral perspective there is the chance that quite a lot of various substances will be discovered. but getting added is very difficult and it's very expensive. there are possible environmental risks associated with it so that act that it's there doesn't necessarily imply that it will be produced. >> host: what about them militarization of the arctic? has that happened? >> guest: 30 years ago prior
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to the cold war there were probably more assets than there are now so what you have seen his cold war that is tremendously important militarily. why? it's a great place for submarines to hide submarines to destroy russia or the united states -- that era is over so that kind of military infrastructure is not necessarily in the arctic. but also we have returned to the period of 1990 and early 2000 when the arctic was completely off the strategic map. there wasn't much going on there economically or the priority lyrically or militarily. now because there is more interest in oil and gas because there is a possibility of shipping routes across the arctic, there is a greater need for defense ministries to look
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again at what they should have in place in case of a worst-case scenario. to deal with what if a cruise ship runs aground? what if there is an oil spill? so militaries and governments are beginning to look again at what they need to have there but we shouldn't do this too much as militarization in some respects having some infrastructure out there is a good thing because it allows states to do what they need to do which is to show that they are in control and show that they have the capabilities to show their sovereign powers. >> host:>> host: has that been conflict over the use of the arctic in the last 10 years? >> guest: a lot of the conflict is actually within the states so think about for example in the united states the question of whether or not to develop resources, whether an
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onshore alaska or offshore. that's a tremendously high octane political issue in washington and war etc.. some argue it's vital financial security for these resources to be developed. others say no that's not true so a lot of these debates are very powerful political debates happen not between the arctic stakes -- but within domestic states. >> host: what about private investment? >> guest: that is going up very quickly. oil and gas companies very much are sniffing around seeing what there may be for them to invest in. if you look at the russian arctic there has been a string of deals made over the last 18 months where western oil companies are looking to advance
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in the russian arctic at the russian government is very key to allow those companies to come in to invest and to develop oil and gas resources. and the figure is bandied around are very large. there was one quote from putin. i think he used a figure of four or 500 billion dollars over a period of decades. so they're potentially a very big numbers in terms of money to be invested and of course that is bound if that comes off it's bound to change the political salience of the arctic and the strategic importance of the arctic. it's not inconceivable that in 20 or 30 years time we will see ships going across the top taking goods between asia and europe and maybe further out in
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time but these things are now conceivable in a way that they were really pipe dreams just a few years ago. >> host: charles emmerson what are some of the environmental changes that you have noted in your book about the arctic? >> guest: well, you can spend time up there speaking to people in the arctic to realize just how much it has changed. people will say we used to be able to hunt on the sea ice and go out, miles out no fear at all of the icebreaking. now the period is much shorter and we are much more uncertain about whether the ice will carry our weight and whether it will hold. there are and it total bits of evidence which i think are very powerful because they are from people who live in the arctic year in and year out but also there is of course the big picture stuff. the stuff picked up by -- and
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again if you look at the web site noem for example the national oceanic graphic says -- you will see photography with time lapsed imagery of the reduction of the art sea ice over a number of years and it really is quite striking plus it's sweet -- freezes up in the summer and it melts in the summer. each summer it doesn't freeze up quite as much as the previous winter and over many years you get the sense that the arctic sea ice is slowly, slowly quickly in some cases disappearing. the big question of course is in what year will in summer be no arctic sea ice at all? when i started working on these
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issues the answer from bad sign taste tend to be maybe 206060, maybe 2070 and as i worked over the years that consensus estimate has come down to 2050, 2040, 2030 and some even say it could happen as early as 2020. so there is a sense that this is something which part of the world wishes it to be a c. unchanging frozen and yet it's changing before our eyes in our lifetimes. that's a fairly remarkable thing to see. >> host: is it dangerous? >> guest: is it dangerous for the globe? yes, sir it certainly is. just how dangerous we don't know but it's certainly the case that is the arctic comes more open if you like, as the ice disappears
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that tends to accelerate processes global warming so it is a country bitter if you like to global warming which is why understanding the scientific presence in the arctic are important. >> host: we are talking on booktv in london with charles emmerson who is the author of two books 1913 in search of the world before the great war that just came out this year in his previous book the future history of the arctic. where did you get the name the future history of the arctic? >> guest: welcome for my first love this history and my starting point for most things in life or many things in life is that you need to understand the past in order to understand the future. that is one reason why i think in 1913 the future seems very important to me not just to present a vision of what the
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arctic might be like 20 or 30 years from now but to try and understand where we come from over the last century and what has changed. why are things the way they are now? what is the reason for them being the way they are now? for me a historical investigation for example and understanding flight pressure has a particular attachment to the arctic and the russian states have a particular attachment to the arctic understanding all those things to my mind is key to them projecting forward trying to understand how things might change in the future. >> host: are they the same issues dealing with the antarctic? >> guest: it's a little bit different. the climate changes themselves are different but also it's a different ballgame. in the art you have got the sea surrounded by land and the land
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is owned by various states ended and arctica you have essentially this big area of land which no one owns surrounded at the sea. but there again, can't there are questions for the future, perhaps not the immediate future but 40 years out, 50 years out. currently there is no economic exploitation are very little economic exploitation allowed in antarctica but in 40 or 50 years time will mining companies be looking there? currently they can't. but will that treaty holds? similarly antarctica is not as i said owned by any state. basically there are various sovereign claims that are suspended for the duration of the answer to treaty but in 40 or 50 years time will the treaty still be there?
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will those sovereign plants be in effect and what happens then? >> guest: have you visited the arctic? >> guest: oh yes. >> host: what is it like? tell us about and experience. >> guest: well, it's cold. but i mean the first time i went there, the first time i was a child. i suppose maybe 10, 11 or 12 years old. i was on holiday with my mother in sweden visiting stockholm and i've managed to persuade her what we really needed to do was to get on a train and head across the arctic circle, head north. so we went on this train and obviously eventually i fell asleep and i woke up the next morning. are we in the arctic? have we crossed the arctic? i looked around to try to see if
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anything was regularly different which it wasn't and it was a fairly dull monotonous landscape outside. we guess we crossed the arctic circle. i didn't actually experience that feeling of crossing it out since then of course i have been back many times. my favorite place probably is probably greenland. it's a remarkable place to go to. before i went there, i was told by a colleague of mine the best view in greenland was the view just after you have landed. i said what do you mean just after you have landed? he said get off the plane come go back ahead turn around and look at the faces of the other people getting off the plane. so i got off and ran ahead and turned around and all the faces
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of the people getting off of the plane behind me had this kind of beatific glow about them. they also emerged kind of starry-eyed and looked around at the beautiful white mountains and the extraordinary landscape in the extraordinary sense of space and all of their faces just glowed. they had this tremendous look about them because the arctic is in many places very special and people to respond to it. >> host: have you made it to the north pole? >> guest: no, because the north pole is just a point on the map. if i'm honest maybe that is the more important. i think for me the most interesting thing about the arctic is the people. the people who live on the north
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pole, that really is just a point on the map. to me what is more interesting is the people in the coastal areas conquered the people who have been in the arctic and people who have had dreams about what the future of the arctic might be your fears of what the future of the arctic might need. >> host: charles emmerson what is your day job in washington? i mean london. >> guest: we are the sister organization of the council on foreign relations. >> host: here in london and what are the subjects that you have researched? >> guest: pretty broad. also the arctic but also geopolitical issues. >> host: what is your background and where are you from originally? >> guest: i am actually australian but certainly no one
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can hear that. i grew up in this country and i'm a londoner now. i went to school at oxford where he studied history and to paris where he studied law and since then i have bounced around a bit in europe but eventually i made it back to london. >> host: are you in the process of researching a third book? >> guest: well, gosh. only just or just about to publish the second one but yes of course. i mean i think writers always have another idea to the way in the back of their mind. i have got two or three ideas which i am playing around with in trying to figure out which will work as books and which may not which i can do now which maybe i should do later. certainly i have a few ideas. >> host: the author is charles
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emmerson and the most recent book 1913 in search of the world before the great war. you are watching book tv on c-span2. >> host: it's been 40 years since this book was published. "fear of flying" is the name of the book and at least 20 million copies sold worldwide. erica jong is the author and she joined us on booktv here c-span2. ms. sub live this book has been described as a feminist treatise. how do you describe that? >> guest: i think it's a novel about a woman trying to find yourself in what is interested me about this book is that all over the

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