7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 29 March 2001
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.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 7 December 2007
May I agree wholeheartedly on every single point with the previous reviewer! I cannot recall the last time I was so excited about a book. In every single way 'Cities in Civilization' fires the imagination. It is an absolute goldmine of facts and anecdotes that stretch across the globe, and across the history of civilization. Every chapter reads like a novel whilst at the same time offering insights into a wider variety of academic disciplines than you are ever likely to encounter in another book, including philosophy, engineering, art history, literature, construction, military history and information technology. There is a continual sense throughout though of the author's guiding hand, and a awareness that every single fact is being introduced to paint a wider picture that will indeed increase your understanding not just of the world we live in, but of how it came about, and where it is headed. So many of the predictions in the final chapter, written in the late 1990's, have now proved to be true. Written at a time when I, for one, did not yet have an e-mail account, Peter Hall was already talking of how applications would increasingly become digital, and that many of them would be multi-functional. As phones, mp3 players, digital televisions and games consoles gradually merge into one, just one of his predictions from 10 years previously - a sidenote, really, to the main story - is obviously becoming true.