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The Race to the Future: 8,000 Miles to Paris - The Adventure That Accelerated the Twentieth Century (Hardcover)

The Race to the Future: 8,000 Miles to Paris - The Adventure That Accelerated the Twentieth Century By Kassia St. Clair Cover Image
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The rise of the automobile as told through its Rubicon moment—a sensational, high-risk race across two continents on the verge of revolution.

The racers—an Italian prince and his chauffeur, a French racing driver, a con man, and several rival journalists—battle over steep inclines, through narrow mountain passages, and across the arid Gobi Desert. Competitors endure torrential rain and choking dust. There are barely any roads, and petrol is almost impossible to find. A global audience of millions follows each twist and turn, devouring reports telegraphed from the course.

More than its many adventures, the Peking-to-Paris Motor Challenge took place on the precipice of a new world. As the twentieth century dawned, imperial regimes in China and Russia were crumbling, paving the way for the rise of communist ones. The electric telegraph was rapidly transforming modern communication, and with it, the news media, commerce, and politics. Suspended between the old and the new, the Peking-to-Paris, as best-selling historian Kassia St. Clair writes, became a critical tipping point.

A gripping, immersive narrative of the race, The Race to the Future sets the drivers’ derring-do (and occasional cheating) against the backdrop of a larger geopolitical and technological race to the future. Interweaving events from the fall of the Qing dynasty to the departure of the horse economy and the rise of gendered marketing, St. Clair shows how the Peking-to-Paris provided an impetus for profound social, cultural, and industrial change, while masterfully capturing the mounting tensions between nations and empires—all building up to the cataclysmic event that changed everything: the First World War.

“Consistently mind-boggling, often funny, and occasionally hair-raising” (Philip Ball), The Race to the Future is the incredible true story of the quest against the odds that propelled us along the road to modernity.

About the Author

Kassia St. Clair specializes in telling gripping stories about the overlooked and the everyday. She has written about history and culture for publications including the Economist, Elle, and Times Literary Supplement. The author of The Golden Thread and The Secret Lives of Color, she lives in London.

Praise For…

St. Clair prunes away the mythology and nationalistic propaganda that has grown up around the race, on the basis that the real story does not need embellishment. It is entirely the right approach, and the book will appeal not only to car and sports aficionados, but to general readers interested in how the automobile, global communications, and media marketing combined to become the defining traits of the modern world.
— Kirkus Reviews

St. Clair is a gifted storyteller, deftly recounting the timeline of the rally while highlighting the volatile landscapes of the countries it traveled through.
— Booklist

In The Race to the Future, Kassia St. Clair chronicles the 8,000-mile caper that helped changed the landscape forever. . . . The Race to the Future is a vivid re-creation of the escapade, but the author also takes pains to demonstrate how what happened then determined the way we live now . . . [The] question that kept me glued to the book was, Who will survive? The terrain the racers traversed was a near-roadless wilderness dotted by remote settlements; gasoline had to be sent ahead by train or horse. . . . But as dangerous as the racers' path was, as devoid of comfort and shelter, I found myself yearning to see that world as they saw it, long before it looked like everywhere else.

— Peter Sagal - New York Times Book Review

'The Race to the Future' is more than an account of a fabled contest. Ms. St. Clair places the event in historical context by alternating chapters of the motorists’ week-by-week progress with other chapters filling in the background . . . [H]er prose is clear, her narrative drive controlled . . . She has mined a range of sources, from published reports by race participants to those of near-contemporaneous travelers. Aficionados will appreciate the care the author takes to disentangle disagreements and inconsistences among firsthand accounts.

— Sara Wheeler - Wall Street Journal

The Peking-Paris race was certainly less of a ‘race’ than it was an adventure — but that doesn’t make it any less of a compelling story, and Kassia St. Clair is the perfect person to bring it to life. I had so much fun reading this that I want to call it a romp, but I also don’t want to cheapen the wealth of knowledge that The Race to the Future brings. If you’ve ever been interested in anything automotive, this is a perfect little sampling of just what the history of the automobile has to offer.

— Elizabeth Blackstock - Jalopnik

An incredible and stirring story. . . . Its opening pages resemble Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines, the comic film from 1965 about a fictional air race to Paris. This contest features the same amateurish mix of competition, camaraderie, and national pride, as well as a larky sense of adventure.

— Guy Stagg - Spectator

This oddball collection of adventurers gripped the public’s imagination, helping to transform the motor car from just an experimental novelty into a mass-market mode of transport that changed the world forever.
— Jeremy Warner - Telegraph

A captivating history of a seemingly impossible journey and one of the most challenging endurance trials in the history of motoring. . . . St. Clair’s narrative is full of surprises.
— Miranda Seymour - Literary Review

Kassia St. Clair’s glorious account of a transglobal race at the birth of the automobile has to be read to be believed. Woven into the narrative is an elegant history of the motor car and its impacts on society: a tale of ambition, innovation, adventure and empire. . . . The Race to the Future manages to be both an exhilarating and a profound account of one of the early twentieth century’s most bizarre episodes.

— Philip Ball

Kassia St. Clair has clearly done her research. . . . She tells a thrilling tale.
— Country Life

Product Details
ISBN: 9781324094913
ISBN-10: 1324094915
Publisher: Liveright
Publication Date: May 14th, 2024
Pages: 384
Language: English