The City in History; Its Origins, Its Transformations, and Its Prospects

New York: Harcourt, Brace Jovanovich, Inc., 1961. Later printing. Hardcover. xi, [1], 657, [1] pages. Illustrations. Bibliography. Index. Winner of National Book Award, 1962. DJ has some wear and soiling. In this influential book Mumford explored the development of urban civilizations. Harshly critical of urban sprawl, Mumford argues that the structure of modern cities is partially responsible for many social problems seen in western society. While pessimistic in tone, Mumford argues that urban planning should emphasize an 'organic' relationship between people and their living spaces. Mumford uses the example of the medieval city as the basis for the "ideal city," and claims that the modern city is too close to the Roman city (the sprawling megalopolis) which ended in collapse; if the modern city carries on in the same vein, Mumford argues, then it will meet the same fate as the Roman city. Mumford wrote critically of urban culture believing the city is "a product of earth ... a fact of nature ... man's method of expression." Further, Mumford recognized the crises facing urban culture, distrustful of the growing finance industry, political structures, fearful that a local community culture was not being fostered by these institutions. Mumford feared urbanization, politics, and alienation. Mumford wrote: "The physical design of cities and their economic functions are secondary to their relationship to the natural environment and to the spiritual values of human community." Lewis Mumford (October 19, 1895 – January 26, 1990) was a historian, sociologist, philosopher of technology, and critic. Particularly noted for his study of cities and urban architecture, he had a broad career as a writer. The City in History: Its Origins, Its Transformations, and Its Prospects is a 1961 National Book Award winner by American historian Lewis Mumford. It was first published by Harcourt, Brace & World (New York). Mumford argues for a world not in which technology rules, but rather in which it achieves a balance with nature. His ideal vision is what can be described as an "organic city," where culture is not usurped by technological innovation but rather thrives with it. Mumford contrasts these cities with those constructed around wars, tyrants, poverty, etc. However, the book is not an attack on the city, but rather an evaluation of its growth, how it came to be, and where it is heading, as evidenced by the final chapter "Retrospect and Prospect." Mumford notes apologetically in his preface that his "method demands personal experience and observation," and that therefore he has "confined [him]self as far as possible to cities and regions [he is] acquainted with at first hand." Mumford's writing style is "organic" compared to the cold, mechanical style of many history texts. Stylistically, his works are full of metaphors and similes, as well as quotations from famous novelists, giving his prose shades of poetry. He refers to such texts as Great Expectations and Hard Times, sometimes using citations to illustrate to the reader what life was like during the industrial era and the city in which Dickens lived. Articles have been written on Mumford's use of metaphors and how his works can often be read as "fiction," in the sense that they have narrative flow. That is evident in this book, in which, instead of a human protagonist on which the story centers, we have the city and its growth in a quasi-bildungsroman fashion. Condition: Very good / Good.

Keywords: City, Urban Design, Megalopolis, Necropolis, Cloister, Community, Baroque, Paleotechnic, Coketown, Suburbia, Citizen, Urbanity, Housekeeping, Metropolis, Marketplace, Village, Urban Planning

[Book #87060]

Price: $60.00

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