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From a brilliant young historian, a colorful journey through 7,000 years and twenty-six world cities that shows how urban living has been the spur and incubator to humankind's greatest innovations.
In the two hundred millennia of our existence, nothing has shaped us more profoundly than the city. Historian Ben Wilson, author of bestselling and award-winning books on British history, now tells the grand, glorious story of how city living has allowed human culture to flourish. Beginning with Uruk, the world's first city, dating to 5000 BC and memorably portrayed in the Epic of Gilgamesh, he shows us that cities were never a necessity but that once they existed their density created such a blossoming of human endeavor--producing new professions, forms of art, worship, and trade--that they kick-started nothing less than civilization.
Guiding readers through famous cities over 7,000 years, he reveals the innovations driven by each: civics in the agora of Athens, global trade in ninth-century Baghdad, finance in the coffeehouses of London, domestic comforts in the heart of Amsterdam, peacocking in Belle Epoque Paris. In the modern age, he studies the impact of verticality in New York City, the sprawl of L.A., and the eco-reimagining of twenty-first-century Shanghai. Lively, erudite, page turning, and irresistible, Metropolis is a grand tour of human achievement.
About the Author
BEN WILSON has an undergraduate and master's degree in history from Cambridge. He is the author of five previous books, including What Price Liberty?, for which he received the Somerset Maugham Award, and the Sunday Times bestseller Empire of the Deep: The Rise and Fall of the British Navy. He has consulted for various TV history programs and appeared on TV and on national radio in the U.S., UK, and Ireland. He has written for The Spectator, The Literary Review, The Independent on Sunday, The Scotsman, Men's Health, The Guardian Online, and GQ.
"[A] towering achievement . . . Reading this book is like visiting an exhilarating city for the first time-dazzling, frazzling, sometimes both simultaneously. Metropolis teems with information and observations."
--The Wall Street Journal
"Ben Wilson takes us on an exhilarating tour of more than two dozen cities and thousands of years . . . Metropolis is a bold undertaking that makes for gripping reading."
--The New York Times Book Review
"[An] ode to cities and cosmopolitan life . . . Metropolis has the added virtue of Wilson as
an erudite, creative guide to the history of civilization through its great urban areas."
"He explores the growth, diversity and evolution of human civilisation in this enchanting and meandering book."
--The Evening Standard
"[A] sharp reminder that the metropolis is vulnerable... [Wilson] brilliantly synthesises the forces that make cities hum."
"[Wilson] hops from city to city and century to century, interweaving data, primary sources, anecdotes and the arts. . . Wilson has done an admirable job wrangling his topic down to an easily digestible size."
"Historian Wilson (Empire of the Deep) offers a sweeping survey of how the rise of cities over the past 6,000 years has shaped human history. . . An amiable and well-informed tour guide, Wilson stuffs his account with intriguing arcana and analysis. Armchair travelers will be enlightened and entertained."
"Information rich and accessible. For history and public policy readers seeking a global vision of the impact of world cities."