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The Great Cities in History by John Julius…

The Great Cities in History (edition 2016)

by John Julius Norwich (Author)

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Title:The Great Cities in History
Authors:John Julius Norwich (Author)
Info:Thames and Hudson Ltd (2016), Edition: 01, 372 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Great Cities in History by John Julius Norwich



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The idea of this book sounded good, if a little ambitious - a collection of short essays by distinguished experts presenting a global overview of the role of particular cities in history from ancient times until 2009. But in practice, it turns out that the essays are simply too short (1000-1500 words) for most of the experts to get around to saying anything really interesting about their cities before the editor's red light comes on. And there's no real attempt to draw any general conclusions from what they say - Norwich's introductions to each of the five broad time periods are brief and do little more than touch on some of the big historical themes that are important for the period. After reading it, I discovered that the book was originally issued by Thames & Hudson in a big, glossy coffee-table format with lots of pictures, which would make a lot more sense for such a book than the later "compact edition" in which I read it, with illustrations at the rate of only about one to every four essays, gathered into blocks of colour plates.

That's not to say that it's a complete waste of time - whilst many of the contributors waste precious space telling you what you almost certainly already know (Rory Maclean reduces Berlin to little more than a truncated Wikipedia entry), others, like A. N. Wilson on London or James Cuno on Chicago, have more instinct for the form and manage to home in on non-obvious details that tell you something relevant about their cities. Norwich - as you would expect - has claimed Constantinople, Palermo and Venice for himself, and of course does a very nice job of condensing the thousands of pages he has written about those cities to three or four each. ( )
  thorold | May 30, 2018 |
I read this over a period of months, reading 5 of the essays on the chosen cities between each other book that i read. It proved a total mixed bag without little consistency of approach; some were interesting, some boring. I think my approach made the best of it. ( )
  johnwbeha | Sep 28, 2017 |
A great big coffee table of a book, with a great mixture of photos, art and vignettes about each city in its particular place in world history. Nice. ( )
  notmyrealname | Nov 11, 2010 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0500251541, Hardcover)

A portrait of world civilization told through the stories of the world's greatest cities from ancient times to the present.

Today, for the first time in history, the majority of people in the world live in cities. The implications and challenges associated with this fact are enormous. But how did we get here?

From the origins of urbanization in Mesopotamia to the global metropolises of today, great cities have marked the development of human civilization. The Great Cities in History tells their stories, starting with the earliest, from Uruk and Memphis to Jerusalem and Alexandria. Next come the fabulous cities of the first millennium: Damascus and Baghdad, Teotihuacan and Tikal, and Chang’an, capital of Tang Dynasty China. The medieval world saw the rise of powerful cities such as Palermo and Paris in Europe, Benin in Africa, and Angkor in southeast Asia. The last two sections bring us from the early modern world, with Isfahan, Agra, and Amsterdam, to the contemporary city: London and New York, Tokyo and Barcelona, Los Angeles and São Paulo.

The distinguished contributors, including Jan Morris, Michael D. Coe, Simon Schama, Orlando Figes, Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, Misha Glenny, Susan Toby Evans, and A. N. Wilson, evoke the character of each place—people, art and architecture, government—and explain the reasons for its success. 280 color, 50 b&w illustrations

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:37 -0400)

From the origins of urbanization in Mesopotamia to the global metropolises of today, great cities have marked the development of human civilization. "The Great Cities in History" tells their stories, from Uruk and Memphis to Tokyo and Sao Paulo. A galaxy of distinguished contributors evoke the character of each place its people, its art and architecture, its government and explain the reasons for its success. Richly illustrated with photographs, paintings, maps and plans, this volume is nothing less that a portrait of world civilization.… (more)

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