The City in History: Its Origins, Its Transformations, and Its Prospects

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Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1961 - History - 657 pages
24 Reviews
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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Review: The City in History: Its Origins, Its Transformations, and Its Prospects

User Review  - Piotr Smolnicki - Goodreads

It's an obligation to read this book for every urban researcher to know what innovative thoughts are just reinventions of ones in the past. Read full review

Review: The City in History: Its Origins, Its Transformations, and Its Prospects

User Review  - Nicholas Moryl - Goodreads

This book's importance is mainly historical. As a work of urban planning analysis and history, it is a failure. "The City in History" was written in an era when hand-waving and appeal to "common ... Read full review

Contents

SANCTUARY VILLAGE AND STRONGHOLD
3
THE CRYSTALLIZATION OF THE CITY
29
ANCESTRAL FORMS AND PATTERNS
55
THE NATURE OF THE ANCIENT CITY
94
EMERGENCE OF THE POLIS
119
CITIZEN VERSUS IDEAL CITY
158
HELLENISTIC ABSOLUTISM AND URBANITY
183
MEGALOPOLIS INTO NECROPOLIS
205
THE STRUCTURE OF BAROQUE POWER
344
COURT PARADE AND CAPITAL
375
COMMERCIAL EXPANSION AND URBAN DISSOLUTION
410
PALEOTECHNIC PARADISE COKETOWN
446
SUBURBIAAND BEYOND
482
THE MYTH OF MEGALOPOLIS
525
RETROSPECT AND PROSPECT
568
BIBLIOGRAPHY
579

CLOISTER AND COMMUNITY
243
MEDIEVAL URBAN HOUSEKEEPING
281
MEDIEVAL DISRUPTIONS MODERN ANTICIPATIONS
315
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
635
INDEX
637
Copyright

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About the author (1961)

Lewis Mumford has been referred to as one of the twentieth century's most influential "public intellectuals." A thinker and writer who denied the narrowness of academic speciality, Mumford embraced a cultural analysis that integrated technology, the natural environment, the urban environment, the individual, and the community. Although he lacked a formal university degree, Mumford wrote more than 30 books and 1,000 essays and reviews, which established his "organic" analysis of modern culture. His work defined the interdisciplinary studies movement, especially American studies; urban studies and city planning; architectural history; history of technology; and, most important in the present context, the interaction of science, technology, and society. Mumford was the editor of Dial, the most distinguished literary magazine of its era, and in 1920 he served as editor of Sociological Review in London and was strongly influenced by Sir Patrick Geddes, the Scottish botanist, sociologist, and town planner. In 1923, Mumford became a charter member of the Regional Planning Association of America, an experimental group that studied city problems from a regional as well as an ecological point of view. Mumford's well-known principle of "organicism" (the exploration of a cultural complex, where values, technology, individual personality, and the objective environment complement each other and together could build a world of fulfillment and beauty) was discussed in all of his work, spanning a career of nearly 70 years. Mumford's first book, The Story of Utopias (1922), introduces reliance on history to understand the present as well as to plan for the future. His books on architectural history and his works in urban studies established Mumford's reputation as the leading American critic of architecture and city planning. Each book views and analyzes the city, or built environment, in the context of form, function, and purpose within the larger culture. Mumford's books are focused on technology's role in civilization, especially "the machine" and "megatechnics." As a result, they have provided formative direction and structure to science, technology, and society studies and have established Mumford's stature as one of the foremost social critics of the twentieth century. Mumford's most profound and important analysis of technology (and the work that most directly influenced interdisciplinary technology-society studies) is the two-volume The Myth of the Machine:Volume 1, Technics and Human Development (1967), and Volume 2, The Pentagon of Power (1970). It was written following World War II (during which Mumford lost his son) after the deployment of atomic weapons by Russia and the United States, and during the arms race. This major work reflects a noticeable reinterpretation of the role of technology and a deep pessimism regarding "megatechnics," a metaphor Mumford uses for intrusive, all-encompassing systems of control and oppressive order. He views the military-industrial complex (the most horrendous "megamachine") as destroyer of the emotive and organic aspects of life. Mumford argues against the loss of personal autonomy and the organic world by electricity-based computer systems. Despite deepening pessimism, Mumford continued to write and to lecture in order to foster the values that could reshape technologies for creative and constructive purposes. He always retained the hope of realizing his vision of the "good life" in which objective and personal worlds complement each other through integration of tools, machines, knowledge, values, skills, and arts. Although Mumford refused to define himself narrowly as a historian, sociologist, urbanist, or architectural critic, he became the ideal interdisciplinary observer to inspire and articulate the contextual study of science, technology, and society.

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