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Summary

A bracing, indispensable account of America's epoch-defining involvement in the Great War, rich with fresh insights into the key issues, events, and personalities of the period

After years of bitter debate, the United States declared war on Imperial Germany on April 6, 1917, plunging the country into the savage European conflict that would redraw the map of the continent - and the globe. The World Remade is an engrossing chronicle of America's pivotal, still controversial intervention into World War I, encompassing the tumultuous politics and towering historical figures that defined the era and forged the future.

When it declared war, the United States was the youngest of the major powers and militarily the weakest by far. On November 11, 1918, when the fighting stopped, it was not only the richest country on earth but the mightiest. With the mercurial, autocratic President Woodrow Wilson as a primary focus, G. J. Meyer takes listeners from the heated deliberations over US involvement, through the provocations and manipulations that drew us into the fight, to the battlefield itself and the shattering aftermath of the struggle. America's entry into the Great War helped make possible the defeat of Germany that had eluded Britain, France, Russia, and Italy in three and a half years of horrendous carnage. Victory, in turn, led to a peace treaty so ill conceived, so vindictive, that the world was put on the road to an even bloodier confrontation a mere 20 years later.

On the home front, Meyer recounts the breakup of traditional class structures, the rise of the progressive and labor movements, the wave of anti-German hysteria, and the explosive expansion of both the economy and federal power, including shocking suspensions of constitutional protections that planted the seeds of today's national security state. Here also are revealing portraits of Theodore Roosevelt, Henry Cabot Lodge, Robert La Follette, Eugene Debs, and John J. "Black Jack" Pershing, among others, as well as European leaders such as "Welsh Wizard" David Lloyd George of Britain, "Tiger" Georges Clemenceau of France, and Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany.

Meyer interweaves the many strands of his story into a gripping narrative that casts new light on one of the darkest, most forgotten corners of US history. In the grand tradition of his earlier work A World Undone - which centered on the European perspective - The World Remade adds a new, uniquely American dimension to our understanding of the seminal conflict of the 20th century.

©2017 G. J. Meyer (P)2017 Random House Audio

Critic reviews

"Accomplished with brio...[Meyer] blends 'foreground, background, and sidelights' to highlight the complex interactions of apparently unconnected events behind the four-year catastrophic war that destroyed a world and defined a century." ( Publishers Weekly)
"With a historian's eye for clearheaded analysis and a storyteller's talent for detail and narrative, G. J. Meyer presents a compelling account of the blunders that produced the world's first 'great war' and set the stage for many of the tragic events that followed." (Steve Gillon, resident historian, The History Channel)
"Especially suited for the interested American reader.... Meyer's sketches of the British Cabinet, the Russian Empire, the aging Austro-Hungarian Empire, the leaders of Prussia with their newly minted swagger, are lifelike and plausible. His account of the tragic folly of Gallipoli is masterful.... [ A World Undone] has an instructive value that can scarcely be measured." ( Los Angeles Times)

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  • DPM
  • 01-04-17

"100% America" - a disturbing place to be

I recommend this without hesitation. I have two other histories from Mr. Myer in my library, the prequel to this one " A World Undone" ( a history of WW!) and his history of the Tudors. I consider this ( " A World Remade") to be his best.

First what it is not. It is not a detailed history of the causes of,or events leading to and which occurred during, World War I (with heroic Britain, France and then America standing up against the evil German Empire). Neither is it a detailed recitation of the various battles (in other words, it was not co-authored by Max Hastings). It is, rather, a fascinating description of American society before, during and after the War, and a disturbing one at that.

He of course has to establish the context of America's consideration of the War, which he does, throughout, in a more nuanced presentation that many (most) books on this terrible time in history. He describes, for example, the somewhat hypocritical attitude of Britain condemning the war atrocities of Germany all the while engaging in an unlawful sea blockade that starved millions of civilians both during the war and for as long as six months after the fighting stopped ( thus giving a reason why Germany, for it's survival, had to ( during the War) engage in U-boat retaliation). He describes the mood of the country, isolationist or no, and the support of Britain and France by America from the outset
(notwithstanding the supposed assertion by Wilson that America was "neutral")

Most startling is Mr. Myer's descriptions ( he gives many, many examples) of the extent to which President Wilson ( and Congress) suspended civil liberties almost completely after the war began. People could be, and were, jailed for upwards of 10, 15, 20 years merely for criticizing either himself or the war effort. Newspapers were shut down. Journalists were jailed. Unless one was "100% American" ( no ethnics need apply) they were shunned, mistreated, put out of business. Criticism of any kind was not tolerated - one bit.

He concludes, less interesting for me, with a detailed description of Wilson's post-War attempts to establish the League of Nations, resisted by Congress and the Senate.

Unlike the most recent (and worth reading/listening to) biography of President Wilson by Scott Berg, mostly supportive of the man, Meyer is very critical of the President, describing him as self-righteous, intolerant, and rigid.

Mr. Meyer repeats his usual pattern of breaking up the chapters with "Background" information, all interesting in and of themselves. His prose is clear, concise.

No problem with Mr. Shapiro's narration, Always a critical factor for me when I am ordering the book.

This book is so detailed I will probably listen to it a second time in the future

Highly recommended.

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  • John
  • 20-04-17

Great Book, Interesting Takes & New Look at Wilson

As a fan of The World Undone, I looked forward to The World Remade and was not disappointed. It offers a great overall view of the period with many anecdotes that give it a more intimate feel. Additionally, it is refreshing to have an author go into detail to expose the hypocrite that was Woodrow Wilson. This book looks closely at all the details and finds the good and bad with all characters, including Wilson. If you want an unvarnished read on this period (and one that does not glorify Wilson or shame Lodge reflexively) than this is the read for you.

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  • Micheline Creager
  • 14-07-17

Well done!

Gripping! So very interesting and enlightening! I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about WWI, and what was going on in this country at that time. I especially enjoyed the background information at the end of each chapter.

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  • daniel hoffelder
  • 02-09-17

after this you will look at the world Wilson creat

Worth every penny... well done historically and audio quality definitely worth your time every minute

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  • LeTrice D
  • 26-07-19

great performance

Great performance and a good overview of Woodrow Wilson during World War I. Meyer's history is very top down.

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  • A.
  • 10-02-19

must read

must read for all living now under the orange beeing in the White House. there are things to be rearranged to prevent such behavior! Never again? Well look at us now...

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  • Mike From Mesa
  • 14-05-18

The Wilson Administration and World War I

This is the third of My Meyer’s histories that I have read, and it serves as a sort of companion book to Mr Meyer’s other book on World War I, A World Undone. That book concerns itself with the lead up to World War I, the unsuccessful attempts to prevent the war from starting and the major events of the war. This book is almost entirely about the US actions during the period it called itself neutral and during the war itself, and so is a mostly political rather than military history, although there are sections describing how the US military worked with the British and French forces in France and some information about US led attacks. The book then covers actions by the US and the Allies (listed here as separate entities since the Wilson Administration always referred to the British and French as associates, and not as allies).

Mr Meyer’s books have been extremely interesting to me, both because they are well written and because his books always seem to contain chapters giving background information that makes the main events more understandable. Almost half of the chapters in A World Remade cover background events both before and during this period, and give information that I, and perhaps others, were not aware of since the World War I period has not received as much attention as that of World War II in the last 30 or 40 years. In the background chapters in this book we hear about how the US had become an economic colossus during the 19th century, almost without noticing, and how Europe and the UK viewed the US, given that power, information about some of those figures who were important in the Wilson Administration, even if not much is taught about them today, the mystery about why the British passenger ship, the Lusitania, was where it was when she was torpedoed rather than where she should have been to be safe, about the strains of isolationism that ran through the US at the time as well as much, much more. This was particularly helpful to me because, even though I was well read about the US during the period leading up to World War II, I was not particularly familiar with the US of the 1910s.

Most histories, especially those concerning the last several hundred years, have a point of view, and this book is no different, and what struck me the most was the author’s detailed explanation of the hubris of the Wilson Administration during these years. The Lusitania became an important event for the US because there were US passengers on board who died when it was sunk by a German submarine. The Lusitania was apparently carrying arms at the time she was sunk, and thus was a legitimate target for the Germans, but Wilson, against the advice of many of his advisors, insisted that US citizens had the right to safe passage on any ship, even warships sailing in declared war zones, and that Germany was to be held accountable for the loss of any US lives regardless of the rules of war as they existed in the years leading up to World War I.

Added to this are the questions about how the war changed Wilson who insisted prior to US entry into the war that the only way to end the war was with a treaty that avoided harsh treatment of the loser, only to become a champion of one of the harshest peace treaties of the modern era. Added to this we have the Wilson administration passing the Espionage Act (1917) and the Sedition Act (1918), and a variety of other laws intended to stop Americans from questioning US participation in World War I and his refusal after the war to accept even slight compromises to have the US Congress accept the League of Nations, and we have some idea of the hubris of his administration.

It seems too simplistic to suggest that Mr Meyer is more sympathetic to World War I Germany than to Great Britain and France, but he does make the point that World War I Germany was not World War II Germany and Kaiser Wilhelm II was not Adolph Hitler. The book details what we would today call war crimes on both sides, but debunks the idea that Germany committed the atrocities the British claimed they did in Holland during the invasion and occupation by showing that no Nuns were raped and no young boys had both of their hands cut off. He spends considerable time describing the British Blockade of Germany during the war and the effect that had on the civilian population, with the brunt of the resulting malnutrition and starvation falling on the elderly and the very young. While such actions, horrible as they may be, can be at least understood as the result of the excesses of war, it is more difficult to understand why the British continued the food blockage after Germany had asked for an armistice and demobilized its army.

The book is extremely well written, as have been all of Mr Meyer’s histories that I have read, and is well narrated. I found this to be an extremely interesting book, well worth the time and I recommend it highly to any who are interested in US actions from 1914 through 1917 when the US entered the war and on through 1919 when the peace Treaty of Versailles was finally signed.

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  • Philip S.
  • 02-09-17

Good history, with a little bit of a slant

The World Remade, by G.J. Meyer is the 'sequel' to his earlier work, A World Undone. That work is an exceptional history of the Great War and I recommend anyone considering The World Remade to read/listen to his other work first.

The World Remade focuses almost entirely on the United States during the war, and was very informative to me about where the US was extremely influential, and where they were not so much. It is focused primarily on the politics of the time, and the military events get relegated to a few chapters. However, as the US joined so late, and still was politically active from 1914-1917, it makes sense that most of the book would not be about the 6 months of combat US troops saw.

The book is very critical of President Wilson and his administration, and while I agree that he deserves this critism, it felt like the author was trying to exonerate the Germans from any wrongdoings besides being politically inept. The Allies are themselves cast as selfish and full of ulterior motives, and while they most certainly were, this is again done while German actions are defended by the author. As someone who has read much on the First World War, I was able to appreciate the German point of view that Meyer gives, but was aware that Meyer wasn't explaining the Allies' actions (i.e. the blockade of Germany) in the same light he did for Germany (i.e. unrestricted submarine warfare). A less aware listener may come away with a different impression.

Besides this, I do recommend The World Remade, and Rob Shapiro's wonderful narration made the 24+ hours a joy to listen to.

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  • IGoWhereIPlease
  • 15-09-21

Mischaracterizes repatriation of 1st 3 US war dead

Author G.J. Meyer grossly mischaracterizes the repatriation of first 3 A.E.F. war dead in chapter 25 of his book, “The World Remade” as being, “a departure from standard practice”. He writes:

“The first three members of the A.E.F. to be killed in combat… Corporal James B. Grisham… Private Thomas N. Enright… Private Merle D. Hay… were buried originally with full military honors near the place where they died… A monument was erected over their graves. After the war, in a departure from standard practice, their bodies were returned to the United States, and… re-interred in their home towns...”

The remains of:
Corporal James B. Grisham,
Private Thomas N. Enright, and
Private Merle D. Hay

Were repatriated to the U.S., along with 60% of their fallen comrades as part of the following:

In a massive a $30 million ($400 million in today’s dollars) project after World War I, the United States government sent out questionnaire cards to families of fallen A.E.F. Soldiers asking if they preferred the option of leaving the bodies in national cemeteries in France or bringing them home.

The result:
-44,000 bodies of fallen Americans were located, exhumed and shipped home for burial
-30,922 Americans who died in World War I remain in Europe

Returning these three soldiers’ remains is hardly, “a departure from standard practice” when the same was done for 60% of AEF war dead.

I do not know why the author made the effort to characterize these soldiers’ repatriation at all. Much less as, “a departure from standard practice”.
-Was he using misinformation to try to make some sort of point that eludes my ability to fathom?
-Or, in his research, did he simply overlook a $30 million ($400 million in today’s dollars) project that exhumed the remains of 44,000 bodies, re-encased them in extremely durable new metal lined oak caskets, loaded them aboard refrigerated U.S. cargo ships, sailed them almost 6,000 miles across the Atlantic, then with great logistics efforts, transported each via train to their proper destinations in all 50 states as requested by their families.

This begs the questions:
1)If the former is true, what is author Author G.J. Meyer’s agenda? What point is he trying to make by blatantly misleading his readers?
2)If the latter is true and his research overlooked such a massive effort (or worse, he just decided repatriation was “…a departure from standard practice…” and couldn’t be bothered to follow up his assertion by confirming its basis in fact), then how much of the remainder of his book is equally suspect?

Appalled at Mr Meyer’s lack of scholarship and professionalism.

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  • kristen
  • 19-03-19

Wilson-centric

My feeling at the end of this book was disappointment and I don’t know if it because of the book itself or what I learned about America’s involvement in the war. The book itself is very Wilson-focused. Based on his style of leadership and prominent role in this era that is understandable, but I myself was quickly tired or hearing of Wilson. As portrayed by meyer, he seems an egotistical man whose leadership approach left the door open for all of his personal shortcomings to have too great an effect on his politics. If I was more interested in Wilson, I’d be interested to read a work by one of his admirers in order to judge Meyers assessment of him. As it stands, I do not admire Wilson after reading this and wish to know any more about the self absorbed man. In Wilson’s favor, compared to the rest of the war-crazed country and politicians, one has to wonder if he was the best man for the job because even though he acted radically, he seems to have often represented the least (or lesser) radical stances.

While Meyers first book on ww1 positions America as the allies saviors in bringing an end to the war, this book certainly debunks any myth around America as the steady neutral world power who finally at the end decided to use their powers to bring the war to a close.

This book opened my eyes to the turmoil and nasty politics happening domestically for the us at this time, and also to the great profit America stood to gain by taking the non-neutral stance and supporting the allies.


The narration was a bit over dramatic for me, but easy to listen to.

In summary, I am left feeling the dirtiness of politics at this time, and the hypocrisy of a bunch of white men sitting on a room to decide the fate of the world. In this case, they failed us.