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The Great Cities in History Hardcover – November 2, 2009
History To Repeat & Some To Not
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“[T]his collection stimulates serious reflection.” (Booklist)
“Accessible, well indexed…this is not simply a reference work; the essays on each city and on each historical age are worth close reading. Highly recommended.” (Choice)
“A careful historian’s vision of a man’s metropolitan history. There are 68 cities here included. Each is accorded a short chapter written by contributors…. The cities under discussion range from the primordial Uruk to modern monsters like Sao Paulo, taking in, along the way, a host of conurbations from the ancient, the medieval, and the early modern periods… Packed with such savory detail, relayed by writers and historians who appear to eat, sleep and breathe their cities.” (The Wall Street Journal)
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Top Customer Reviews
The cities included are grouped by historical period: antiquity, the first millennium, medieval times, etc. Very short introductions to each section make some links between them but again it is unfortunate that space is too short to allow further development.
The book is generously illustrated with large photographs, many of aesthetic interest. A small world map locating all the cities discussed is provided. However, a map of each city would have been welcome as it is often difficult to position the information given.
One must also point out that some of the details provided are inaccurate. For instance, 1776 definitely did not mark the end of Washington's second term as president of the United States. Also, in Paris, the medieval Louvre palace is not «buried under the current Museum»; actually, it was totally demolished over the centuries and its foundations were uncovered some 25 years ago in an archaeological operation. Does this raise questions regarding the validity of what is written of more exotic locations?
Despite these shortcomings, the book is extremely interesting and strongly recommended to anyone interested in cities, history or both.
To say this book is shallow is too profound. It doesn't even qualify as light entertainment.
What is interesting about Norwich's book however is the insistently laudatious promotional publicity surrounding it - what's behind all that mendacious duplicity???! Numerous historians of various repute that failed to deliver - gloss over it, no one will notice, and they can still list it in their curriculum vitae??!
If you have any interest in the subject of the title, then forgo this book; the content does not deliver.
Even the lavish photographs lack intent beyond superficial visual reference. Two pages of discourse per city, its quite astounding actually that proclaimed historians who have presumably visited these locals should have so little of substance to say (the academic impetus to interminable verbosity withers to flaccid impotence when restricted to two pages?!?).
For a precocious 12 year old this book would be an appropriate introduction to the great cities of the world. But for the person interested in civilization's great centers, only the three page Table of Contents is worth a look to see what cities one might have neglected. Beyond that the book really has no value.
The 21 volume Time Life series Great Ages of Man can be procured for the same price, is an easy read, and will transport the reader into the teaming courts and meandering backways of the Great Cities. A tragically neglected series, it provides both sumptuous depth and magnificent vistaed breadth.
Perhaps John Julius Norwich would be better suited retailing travel apparel.