> Skip to content
About the book
  • Published: 5 September 2019
  • ISBN: 9781473545212
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 752


The Long End of the Great War and the Birth of a New World, 1917–1924

A brilliant work of narrative history with an international cast of characters that captures this definitive period after the close of the Great War.


In Petrograd a fire is lit. The Tsar is packed off to the Urals. A rancorous Russian exile crosses war-torn Europe to make his triumphal entry into the capital. ‘Peace now!’ the crowds cry… German soldiers return from the war to quash a Communist rising in Berlin. A former field-runner trained by the army to give rousing speeches against the Bolshevik peril begins to rail against the Jews… A solar eclipse turns a former patent clerk from Switzerland into a celebrity, shaking the foundations of human understanding with his revolutionary theories of time and space… In Paris an American reporter in search of himself writes ever shorter sentences and discovers a new literary style…

Lenin and Hitler, Einstein and Hemingway, Sigmund Freud and André Breton, Emmaline Pankhurst and Mustafa Kemal – these are some of the protagonists in this dramatic panorama of a world in turmoil.

Emperors, kings and generals depart furtively on midnight trains and submarines. Women are given the vote. Artistic experiments flourish. The real becomes surreal. Marching tunes are syncopated into jazz. Civilisation is loosed from its pre-war moorings. People search for meaning in the wreckage. Even as the ink is drying on the armistice that ends the war in the west in 1918, fresh conflicts and upheavals erupt elsewhere. It takes six years for Europe to find uneasy peace.

Crucible is the collective diary of an era: filled with all-too-human tales of exuberant dreams, dark fears, grubby ambitions and the absurdities of chance. Encompassing both tragedy and humour, it brings immediacy and intimacy to a moment of deep historical transformation – with consequences which echo down to today.

  • Pub date: 5 September 2019
  • ISBN: 9781473545212
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 752

About the Author

Charles Emmerson

CHARLES EMMERSON is an Australian-born writer and historian. He studied modern history at Oxford University and international relations in Paris. He is the author of The Future History of the Arctic and 1913: The World Before the Great War. He lives in London.

Also by Charles Emmerson

See all

Praise for Crucible

“Ricochets the reader around the globe, providing a visceral sense of the power and pace of the whirlwind that in the wake the Great War birthed the world as we know it. The result is a kaleidoscopic portrait, brilliantly curated and elegantly executed, of a world on the cusp of modernity”

Wade Davis, author of Into the Silence

“A remarkable book… An amazingly audacious and completely innovative way of writing history … immediate and gripping”

William Boyd

“An ambitious, original, seductive and important work”

Robert Gildea

“Brings this extraordinary time to life with great vividness by evoking key moments from the daily lives of a dazzling variety of people”

Adam Hochschild

“Emmerson skilfully tells the story of this lingering end to the Great War and Europe’s subsequent and dramatic transformation”

History of War

“Emmerson… vividly bring[s] out…the sheer unpredictability of events, the role of personality and pure chance…that lay behind the tidier narrative which…we label ‘history’”

David Crane, Literary Review

“In its intimate details and its grand overviews, Crucible is a compelling patchwork depiction of an era”

Lucy Hughes-Hallett, Times Literary Supplement

“The fragmented form of Crucible matches its content… Though never formless, Emmerson’s book dramatises that variegated chaos, dodging to and fro across the globe and veering between tragedy and farce, high politics and low culture”

Peter Conrad, Observer

“Writing in the present tense, the author hops and skips around the capitals of Europe…giving us short, erudite and often colourful snatches of the lives of a series of individuals which when taken together describe the crucible in which the world is changed”

Wynn Weldon, Spectator

“Crucible… somehow metastasises into one’s consciousness… The reader is…thrown raw, wet entrails and left to divine them. It’s unsettling, entertaining, aggravating and intriguing”

Gerard DeGroot, The Times

“[The Reinvention of Humanity is] told very engagingly by Charles King”

Julia Llewellyn Smith, Mail on Sunday

Related titles