Gillian Tindall

Urbs Et Orbis

The Great Cities in History

By

Thames & Hudson 304pp £24.95 order from our bookshop

First, the acclaim. This is a beautiful and instructive book in the best Thames & Hudson tradition. Too weighty, perhaps, to take on a train to Moscow or Istanbul (when one really wants it), it is compact enough to browse at home; it is stuffed with well-informed descriptions and colour pictures, all of them appropriate and some of them exquisite, that carry each story further – for stories, narratives of origin, growth and change, are what cities are about. Storm clouds gather, in a double-page spread, above the ruins of the Roman forum. Giant tree roots twine themselves around the ruined walls of Angkor. Between the courtyard arches that frame the Mamluk minaret of the great Damascus mosque, trinkets and soft drinks are sold and birds fly up at the evening call. Gleaming frescoes and centuries-old tiles enchant the eye. In modern Shanghai a glittering jewellery of neon signs hangs above a murky, watery street. And much, much more, for the geographical extent of this book is the entire globe and the time span is from pre-history to the present day. (Hands up, those who had heard before of Uruk, ‘the world’s first city’, whose story can only be summoned up by conjecture and whose few ruined mounds lie in an isolated Iraqi desert. No, I hadn’t either.)

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • What a charming, candid blogpost from one of our dear contributing editors. ,
    • RT : The first guess from one of my 1st graders was “death” and such an awed, somber, reflective hush fell over the clas… ,
    • Merry Christmas from Literary Review! Hope your stockings were laden with books, and the tree bending under the weight of further books....,
    • Last minute Christmas gift required? We're offering discounts on all our subscriptions (20% no less!) with the cod… ,
    • In this issue's 'Silenced Voices', Lucy Popescu writes of Thailand's restrictive lese-majesty laws and their latest… ,
    • "Gunn was a disciple of the American formalist Yvor Winters, but Winters’s poetry could never give off such a scent… ,
    • Christmas gift hunting? Why not give the gift of being even better read? We're offering discounts on all our subscr… ,