THE CITY IN HISTORY by Lewis Mumford
Kirkus Star


Its Origins, Its Transformations, And Its Prospects
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The distillation of years of research, study, reflection and writing -- and the fulfillment of the promise of The Culture of Cities, The City in History will challenge, disturb and inform all who come to grips with its thesis and development. Virtually, here- through the central theme of the city- is world history. It is far more than the study of urban culture through the ages. It is a revitalization of civilizations- with focus particularly on the Minoan and Mycenaean cultures of ancient Greece, the age of Pericles, the disintegration of the Hellenistic period, "richer in science than in wisdom", and the deterioration when Rome took over. He explores those factors that made the Greek cities unique- the contribution brought to urban culture by Olympia, Delphi, Cos- the decline of even respect towards the gods. To this reader this is the most revealing section, for he approaches half-known facts and endows them with fresh vision and interpretation. The nature of the ancient city sets the note, until the concept of perpetual war and conquest was evolved, never to be lost. His portrayal of the Roman city concept, too, is different from the accepted one, as is their contribution to world history. Almost cynical he seems as he itemizes Rome at its best, its worst, and in survival with Byzantium. The emergence of the Christian culture, the role of monasticism, the struggle of the Middle Ages against the barbarians and how the urban movement was reborn out of insecurity. We then see Romanesque Europe, we study medieval town planning, the Baroque of the 16th and 17th centuries and the mercantile capitalism that emerged supreme. His final section forms a chant of dismay and discouragement- but not, finally, of despair, over the advance of urbanism gluttonously embracing all outlying districts, turning men into machines. But in the shadows he sees glimmers of hope, that the very instruments of our destruction can be turned around to be instruments of salvation, and that the "One World Man" can be the goal of the future city:- "that of creating a visible regional and civic structure designed to make man at home with his deeper self and his larger world". So closes one of the great achievements in social studies of our times.
Pub Date: April 12th, 1961
ISBN: 0156180359
Page count: 788pp
Publisher: Harcourt, Brace
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1961


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