Cities in Civilization
By Peter Hall
8/10 from 1 review
Doesn't do what it says on the tin
This 1000 pager is billed as answering such questions as "What makes a particular city, at a particular time, suddenly become immensely creative, exceptionally innovative?" Unfortunately it doesn't really answer this, and spends very little time attempting to do so.
This is not to say it's a bad book, just that you should know what to expect. The bulk of it is a series of histories of particular cities in particular times: Elizabethan London, Berlin 1918-33, Detroit 1890-1915, early Hollywood, Imperial Rome, etc. As such it is extremely interesting. Each 20-50 page chapter is a wonderful history of what made a place "happening," the emergence of whatever industry or culture made it the place to be. But any analysis of why this was is a brief section at the close of each chapter (and some summary chapters). While it's fair enough that these don't necessarily reach a concrete conclusion, the preceding history's depth often seems irrelevant. The analysis could be accompanied with a brief summary of a city's history, rather than a few dozen pages, and little would be lost to the main thesis.
However, if you expect a book with a collection of fascinating periods and places in history it really is worth a read.