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Cities in Civilisation (Phoenix Giants) [Paperback]

Peter Hall
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

9 Sep 1999 Phoenix Giants
Peter Hall explores the history of cities and their role in the development of civilization, from the cultural crucibles of Athens in the sixth century BC and Florence in the fifteenth century through the industrial innovations of Manchester, cotton and steam, and Palo Alto, computing, to the city as freeway, Los Angeles.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 1184 pages
  • Publisher: Orion; New edition edition (9 Sep 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0753808153
  • ISBN-13: 978-0753808153
  • Product Dimensions: 23.1 x 15.5 x 5.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 580,139 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Lucas Cranach's A Golden Age hangs in the Alte Pinakothek in Munich. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Doesn't do what it says on the tin 24 Nov 2002
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.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant -- Key Work of the Twentieth Century 29 Mar 2001
By A Customer
This book is extraordinary for its pure breadth of intellect coupled with a writing style that draws the reader in to make the hundreds of pages pass by like mileposts on an uncongested freeway.
As the trend to narrow, boring, specialization turns academia into a wasteland, Sir Peter has no qualms about weaving together his extraodinary knowledge of history, social science, literature, performing arts, technology -- you name it, he is able to show insight about it. All of this comes together in a natural way to reveal the nature of that special creativity that emerges from cities, and which has made cities special in our civilization.
The author is a keen observer, and there is something new, unexpected, and intriguing at every turn. Indeed, I have to blame Sir Peter for far too many sleepless nights as I lay in bed helpless to put down this magnetic book, which shows and imparts that very pleasure in learning that accompanied periods which have made cities great.
This is a book of a century, and should be read by everyone, but no student of cities, urban studies, geography, history, or social sciences should be without it.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stupendous achievement 21 Aug 2002
By Glenn McDorman - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Cities in Civilization is a magnificent monument to human creativity, ingenuity, and beauty. More than half of this thousand page book is dedicated to examining the "golden ages" of various cities, searching for both commonalities and distinguishing characteristics. The first three hundred pages are devoted to creative and artistic golden ages, beginning with classical Athens and ending with Weimar Berlin, passing through Renaissance Florence, Elizabethan London, Vienna in the long nineteenth century, and Paris between war with Prussia and the first war with Germany. The next two hundred pages deal with innovative golden ages, beginning with industrial Manchester and ending with post-war Tokyo, passing though steam-ship Glasgow, Berlin of the Kaisers, Ford's Detroit, and Silicon Valley. Thirdly, Hall looks at the combinations of the creative and innovative urges that created golden ages in Los Angeles in the early twentieth century and Memphis in the middle of the same century. Finally, Hall spends the last half of the book scrutinizing the various ways that cities have combatted crowding, scarce resources, pollution, disease, transportation, and employment throughout history. This section begins with imperial Rom and ends with contemporary London, passing thorugh early industrial London, Haussmann's Paris, New York after the reconstruction of the American South, Los Angles throughout the twentieth century, and socialist Stockholm. Through the entire journey Hall takes us through twenty-one cities and eras, showing us their greatness as well as the factors that made them so. The journey is fantastic and brilliant. Hall shines as a historian, and displays a deep understanding of true scholarship and the academic process. Alternative views are always presented in an unbiased way, and when the accuracy of information (oftne the case up until the late modern period) cannot be determined he let's that be known. Hall does an excellent job of showing how people lived in these different times and locations, showing us that the notion and nature of a "golden age" has itself changed over time. A small detractor from the quality of the book is that there are no maps, and very few (proportionally) photographs and illustrations, but the main detractor is simply that it couldn't be longer. This is a stupendous achievement that you won't want to put down.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intellectual Orgasm 28 Oct 2000
By Matthew A Cohen - Published on
Stunning and Beautiful. Peter hall depiscts the creation if innovation with exciting anecdotes and copious research. A mindblowing expereince. You're constantly re-expereinceing the most exciting times in human history, and Peter Hall outlines his ideas on common themes that run through these periods. I would get fired up everytime I sat down to read it.
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