Empires at War, 1911-1923

Empires At War / 1911-1923

Robert Gerwarth and Erez Manela (2014)
Oxford University Press: Oxford and New York

Empires at War, 1911-1923 offers a new perspective on the history of the Great War. It expands the story of the war both in time and space to include the violent conflicts that preceded and followed the First World War, from the 1911 Italian invasion of Libya to the massive violence that followed the collapse of the Ottoman, Russian, and Austrian empires until 1923. It also presents the war as a global war of empires rather than a a European war between nation-states.

This volume tells the story of the millions of imperial subjects called upon to defend their imperial governments’ interest, the theatres of war that lay far beyond Europe, and the wartime roles and experiences of innumerable peoples from outside the European continent. Empires at War covers the broad, global mobilizations that saw African solders and Chinese labourers in the trenches of the Western Front, Indian troops in Jerusalem, and the Japanese military occupying Chinese territory. Finally, the volume shows how the war set the stage for the collapse not only of specific empires, but of the imperial world order writ large.

Link to the publisher’s website

The book has also been translated into Turkish, Arabic, Farsi, Spanish, Chinese, Greek, and Portuguese.


The First World War was a war not fought between nations but between empires European and Asian as well as “blue-water empires”. This fundamental insight of the Greater War opens a powerful new perspective on the way the war was fought, the aims of the combatants, and the strains it imposed on their brittle systems of rule. The result is a major contribution to rethinking the First World War’s impact on modern world (and not just European) history. – John Darwin, Oxford University

Empires at War is the best account we have of the global framework of warfare in the period including and surrounding the Great War. The value of this rich collection is in its forceful demonstration of how deeply imbedded nations were in transnational projects, traditions, experiences, and dreams. – Jay Winter, Yale University

With contributions from this generation’s most influential historians, Empires at War offers a stunning reappraisal of the First World War’s global dimensions; revealing with brilliant clarity how imperialism reached its zenith, and then collapsed as a newly politicized ethnic and racial groups stepped forward to demand their rightful place in the world order. – Jennifer D. Keene, Chapman University

Empires at War makes and important and much-needed contribution to the history of the Great War by reminding us that it was a truly a world wide conflict and one which for many areas from Central Europe to the Far East continued well beyond the armistice of 1918. This strong collection of thoughtful essays expands our understanding of a pivotal moment of the twentieth century by showing the war’s global impact and consequences. – Margaret MacMillan, Oxford University