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The City in History: Its Origins, Its Transformations, Its Prospects [Paperback]

Lewis Mumford
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
List Price: CDN$ 37.50
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Book Description

Feb. 1 2001
The city’s development from ancient times to the modern age. Winner of the National Book Award. “One of the major works of scholarship of the twentieth century” (Christian Science Monitor). Index; illustrations.

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The City in History: Its Origins, Its Transformations, Its Prospects + The Death and Life of Great American Cities
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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.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars tricks Oct. 19 2003
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
this book is fine. go get it from the library and learn the origins of the city. critique civilization and its facets with other books and never mind intellectual/acedemia. educate yourself. civilizations origins are the origins of humanity's current polarized state.
"Computers serve as much more efficient storage centers for knowledge than all the libraries in any city ever could and the Internet has made the entire World into an interlocking community."
you dont know how to hunt and gather do you? i wonder why he was so hellbent on technology when you sit here rambling off all the knowledge you assimilated from a urban system that taught you how to forget your genetic roots and what kept humanity alive for millions of years. nothing a computer will ever do or help regain. you know how to survive in the city and nothing more. you are tied to machinery like he stated. this is not community. you dont consider criminals part of your community yet civilization and urban wastelandscapes create them. jails are more efficient? farming is more efficent yet destroys how much top soil? at least you have 6 billion mouths to feed now. neo-luddistic? nope. just a solid fact.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A comparative analysis of cities July 16 2002
Format:Paperback
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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5.0 out of 5 stars Encyclopedic and Impressive Dec 27 2001
Format:Paperback
Lewis Mumford is an underappreciated intellectual monster (and I mean that in a good way). This book explains the development of the city as we in the Western World know it, including the paleolithic and neolithic mythologies that led to the current patriarchy, and its emphasis upon the overpowering of the feminine and the matriarchy. To dislike this book, I think, is to miss its point - it is not a feminist reading, but it may be a liberal reading of urban history. Personally, I found very few biases in his reasoning; he reasons clearly, and thoughtfully, and is not given to simple liberalities for the sake of it. He is not a knee-jerk liberal, and is not a cuddly-wuddly "let's all get along" liberal, either. Rather, he is a moderate, espousing a philosophy that takes frequent sojourns into liberalism.
At the very least, this book is very much worth reading. Mumford's work must come back into vogue, if we are to learn to evolve as a culture. His evolutionarily and ecologically-sound perspectives are, ironically, unheard of in an era that desperately needs workable ideas that embrace both such perspectives.
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