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Customer reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars

on 31 May 2010
Well presented as a publication and reasonably informative. This book is as biassed as they come, pro-Enlightenment and therefore pro-Pombal, and often pro-Moorish in its appreciation of the a few centuries of Moorish rule. It is relatively short and easy to read, but its arrangement of material in terms of different aspects of the city often means apparent anachronisms (such as, for example, the description of the Marquês de Pombal's atrocities against the old families; the author first presents the whole of Pombal's program of development of the city before describing the enemity with the aristocracy, but wait, hold on, the elimination of families like the Tavores took place very early on and, oh, how confusing these jumps back and forth in history get) with trips up and down the time-line. This can be annoying and distractive.

Similar to the Pombal thing are other anomalies, possibly a result of the repetition of items: the author seems to mention the knights of the Temple long after the suppression of the Order in the thirteenth century. There is also something odd about the assertion that the Inquisition was set up in the sixteenth century and was an instrument of persecution of the Jews. He may be referring to the New Christians, Jewish converts who had returned to Judaism in private but unfortunately remained subject to the Church courts. Church courts could only rule on Christian subjects and conversion to Christianity for material benefit has never been appreciated by the Church.

The author has a barely hidden contempt for the Portuguese kings, whom he always portrays as trying to *appear* regal and dressing up their palaces and cities to compete with other kingdoms in Europe. Possibly true, but I'd like to see him describe the other monarchs of Europe like this. A certain grandeur belongs, I suppose, to London and Paris, but is out of place in Portugal? There is also a dislike of the Church passim, as given by this one description of English Jesuit Fr. Henry Floyd (p.72) as a cunning predator on the 'most vulnerable;' this because he tried to bring certain Englishmen back to the Catholic Church and they were, oh, *so* vulnerable because they were homesick bachelors living in Lisbon. There is an assertion that this priest was allegedly involved in the Gunpowder Plot to assassinate the English King, but without references.

Lovely looking book. Read it, but take its information with a pinch of salt. I would recommend more general histories of the whole country, like The Portugal Story: Three Centuries of Exploration and Discovery of John dos Passos or A Concise History of Portugal (Cambridge Concise Histories) of David Birmingham.
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on 21 August 2007
I have only been to Lisbon once, very briefly, to watch a football match, but this scholarly and readable history makes we want to go back. The author has a real feel for his subject and offers fascinating insights into the higgledy-piggledy city that has grown up around the Tagus estuary over so many centuries. Jack takes the story back to Roman times and beyond and shows how, as with other great European cities, there have been ongoing tensions between locals and outsiders - from Moors to Jews to celebrity visitors like Lord Byron. The section on the devastating earthquake of 1755 is particularly good.
I like the way the author meanders. He offers succinct portraits of major figures in Lisbon, like King Manuel I and the Marquis of Pombal, but also wanders off into topics like bullfighting, literary cafes and art deco cinemas. A lot of ground is covered quickly.
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on 4 September 2007
I haven't been to Lisbon but having read this lovely book, I'm really interested to go. I had no idea that Lisbon was so cosmopolitan even hundreds of years ago when most European cities were still quite insular. Malcolm Jack draws on a huge amount of research to bring human stories to life; one identifies easily with the main players of each era. He also orders the book in a very logical manner which helps bring each stage of the city's development (and destruction by earthquake) into clear focus.

I'd recommend this book to anyone who knows and loves Lisbon, and to those people like me who haven't been but love cities with history and passion.
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on 17 September 2007
I have visited Lisbon on two occasions, yet I have learnt just as much about this great city from reading Malcolm Jack's 'Lisbon: City of the Sea'. This is a place steeped in history, and of disaster, a city of fado, religion, royalty and poetry; and geographically of steep inclines stretching away from the mighty Tagus: the watery backbone of Lisbon and Portugal.

Yet this is not just a book to help any traveller acquire a knowledge of its history. The author writes in an accomplished style that transcends right into its heart and soul.

The words have the power to take me back to sitting outside a baroque coffee house in Bairro Alto watching Lisboans going about their business, to and from the markets; as the heat of an Atlantic sun radiates onto my skin; and waiting for that moment when Fernando Pessoa, his long black cape blowing horizontal in the wind, side steps around the corner as his felt hat flies off his head.. This is the true wealth of this enjoyable book.
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on 2 May 2011
This is a delightful book to read, with no pretentious theories or complicated language structure. It says it like it was, and the information is informative and interesting. A lot more than a pre-holiday tourist guide, it reveals Lisbon for the ancient port of commerce and multi-culturalism that it was. Thank you.
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on 29 August 2007
This is a wonderful book, Malcolm Jack has a style of writing that is both informative and entertaining. He brings the city of Lisbon to life with its rich history and enticing scenery. This book is a must read for history buffs and travellers alike.
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on 5 March 2008
I really enjoyed Mr. Jack's book. It is much like a fireside chat. He is always terse, and the repetitions in the text are there as mnemonic devices. How else would I remember those Suevic tribes that recur at the beginning of the various chapters-- all of which are arranged chronologically. What I learned from the book is that from early on in Portugese history the English played a starring role. Portugal was almost an English protectorate-- keeping the Spanish away, and the Brazilian trade routes open. And Henry the Navigator's mother was Philippa of Lancaster, the wife of Joao I.

There are great chapters on the Manueline Age, the All Saints' Day earthquake of 1755, and the rise of the Marques de Pombal-- who dug deep enough in the 1654 treaty to figure out how to wrestle the wine trade monopoly from the English. Mr. Jack is unerring when it comes to politics and politicians, and the chapter on the rise of Salazar in the 1920's is lucid and to the point. I learned a lot, and was entertained along the way.

Maurice Hart
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