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The City in History: Its Origins, Its Transformations, and Its Prospects Paperback – October 23, 1968

ISBN-13: 978-0156180351 ISBN-10: 0156180359

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The City in History: Its Origins, Its Transformations, and Its Prospects + The Death and Life of Great American Cities + The Image of the City (Harvard-MIT Joint Center for Urban Studies Series)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 657 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books (October 23, 1968)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156180359
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156180351
  • Product Dimensions: 2.2 x 5.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #100,523 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Lewis Mumford's massive historical study brings together a wide array of evidence--from the earliest group habitats to medieval towns to the modern centers of commerce (as well as dozens of black-and-white illustrations)--to show how the urban form has changed throughout human civilization. His tone is ultimately somewhat pessimistic: Mumford was deeply concerned with what he viewed as the dehumanizing aspects of the metropolitan trend, which he deemed "a world of professional illusionists and their credulous victims." (In another typically unrestrained criticism, he dubbed the Pentagon a Bronze Age monument to humanity's basest impulses, as well as an "effete and worthless baroque conceit.") Mumford hoped for a rediscovery of urban principles that emphasized humanity's organic relationship to its environment. The City in History remains a powerfully influential work, one that has shaped the agendas of urban planners, sociologists, and social critics since its publication in the 1960s.

Review

Lewis Mumford was the author of some 30 influential books, many of which expounded his views on the perils of urban sprawl and a society obsessed with "technics." In this classic text first published in 1952, Mumford contends that an overemphasis on technics has contributed to the depersonalization and emptiness of 20th-century life. He issues a call for a renewed respect for artistic impulses and achievements. This edition contains a new introduction by Casey Nelson Blake, professor of history at Columbia University. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com) (Booknews )

Lewis Mumford's massive historical study brings together a wide array of evidence--from the earliest group habitats to medieval towns to the modern centers of commerce (as well as dozens of black-and-white illustrations)--to show how the urban form has changed throughout human civilization. His tone is ultimately somewhat pessimistic: Mumford was deeply concerned with what he viewed as the dehumanizing aspects of the metropolitan trend, which he deemed "a world of professional illusionists and their credulous victims." (In another typically unrestrained criticism, he dubbed the Pentagon a Bronze Age monument to humanity's basest impulses, as well as an "effete and worthless baroque conceit.") Mumford hoped for a rediscovery of urban principles that emphasized humanity's organic relationship to its environment. The City in History remains a powerfully influential work, one that has shaped the agendas of urban planners, sociologists, and social critics since its publication in the 1960s. (Amazon.com Review ) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

It's very interesting and informative.
Inez Kwiatkowski
He charts the evolution of modern city planning ideals, very critical of Le Corbusier's "Radiant City" and other megalomaniac ideas which arose in the 20th century.
James Ferguson
Though it has been decades since the year this book was published, this book will never become out-dated.
Mingyu

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

57 of 59 people found the following review helpful By James Ferguson VINE VOICE on July 16, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Lewis Mumford deftly explores the formation and development of the city from its early Mesopotamian and Egyptian roots to its modern day manifestations. It is the logical extension of his earlier works on the subject, in particular "The Culture of Cities," which has been partially absorbed into this volume. Of particular interest to meis his analysis of the walled versus open cities, and the sharply opposing world views of the progenitors of these cities.
Mumford was particularly drawn to the early Hellenic and later medieval town planning ideals. He noted how the early cities knew their limits, and established satellite communities, rather than continually extend their boundaries. Loose-knit federations were formed, which were much more democratic than were the Roman and Baroque regimental cities.
He charts the evolution of modern city planning ideals, very critical of Le Corbusier's "Radiant City" and other megalomaniac ideas which arose in the 20th century. Mumford favored the "garden city" ideals of Ebeneezer Howard, which recognized the destructive impact of industrialization on urban centers; rather than those schemes which extolled the industrial city as the city of the future.
Mumford is careful not to over reach, or at least let you know when he is forming suppositions. His annotated bibliography is immense, and probably the single most compelling aspect of this book for those who want to read more on the subject. The new Harcourt paperback edition, which came when I ordered this volume, has a more handsome cover than that shown in this listing.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By E. White on June 11, 2014
Format: Paperback
Things Lewis Mumford likes: medieval towns and "garden city" ideals. Things Lewis Mumford does not like: Roman cities and capitalism. If you can make it through this dense, comprehensive work you will have a much better understanding of the history of cities. You will learn how they came into existence, what functions they performed, and what purposed they filled throughout time.

Mumford asserts that "human life swings between two poles: movement and settlement." To illustrate this, he takes readers from the earliest cave dwellings up to the modern era. Well, the modern era of the 1960s, when The City in History was written. Though he has been criticized for veering off-point with his anti-capitalist sentiments and his fears about the future, as well as his failure to acknowledge any contributions made by certain periods (i.e. Roman), this is still a book to be reckoned with.

The City in History is still referenced by urban planners, sociologists, etc. today and really makes you think about cities in a whole new way. This may not be the book you take with you to the beach, but it is still one of the best starting point for those who want to better understand how the urban form has evolved (you should also check out Cities Perceived: Urban Society in European and American Thought, 1820-1940). The style may be dry at times (with so much information to touch on, this is difficult to avoid), but Mumford presents things in an interesting way. Like his point that the dead were the first in history to have permanent dwellings! Graveyard - I never thought of that, but it's true!
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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Magnus Jaensson (mange@bigfoot.com) on December 9, 1998
Format: Hardcover
This is more than a look at the development of the urban organization. It's an examination of society as a whole. This is one of the few books that actually covers all intresting areas of human social developmen, i.e political science, religion, sociology, anthropology, economics, etc. The book more than tells the story of the cities development, it explains why today's society functions in the way it does.
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44 of 50 people found the following review helpful By S. Pactor VINE VOICE on April 5, 2004
Format: Paperback
After two hundred pages I wanted to give this book five stars, but after finishing it, I was almost ready to give it three stars.
This book is what it says it is, "The City in History". Starting in the neolithic era, Mumford marches through all of recorded time and place (place being limited to the Near East, Greece, Rome, Europe and America) to bring, you, the reader, his thoughts on the role and "prospects" of the city.
In the beginning, it's an exhilerating ride. Mumford is not shy about advancing bold arguments. Although the book starts with sections on the city in Ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt, he doesn't really get excited until he gets to Ancient Greece. I'd say it's clear from the text that Mumford is a fan of Ancient Greece, particularly Athens between the 7th and 6th century B.C.
Then it's off to Rome. Mumford is a harsh critic of Roman culture. His critique of the Roman method of burial (take bodies just outside city limits, dump, bury) contrains so much righteous indigination you might think the Romans were still pottering around when he wrote this book.
After Rome, we get an equally stirring defense of the Middle (don't call them "Dark" around Mumford) Ages. Mumford is a big fan of the city in the late middle ages. As an example, Mumford uses Amsterdam. Specifically, what Mumford likes about this time period is the community involvement by the ruling elites.
Like many other social critics, Mumford is not a huge fan of the impact that capitalism and industrialization have had on the modern city. Unlike some of the other reveiwers below, I don't really hold that against him. He was writing in the sixties, people!!!
However, I do admit that by the last hundred or so pages, when Mumford starts despairing of the future of the city, the whole tirade started to get tired.
I'm not sure I would recommend this for a general reader.
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