This book explores the city's raisons d'etre, functions and forms, its achievements and problems, from fortifications to sewers, factories to markets, theatres and bars.
John Reader's history of Africa was praised by the "Sunday Times" for 'masterfully [ranging] across time and space, making extraordinary and thought-provoking connections'.
His new book, an exploration of the nature of the city and of city-life will draw on the same skills, both as a researcher and writer.
From the ruins of the earliest cities to the present, Reader will explore how cities develop and thrive, how they can decline and die, how they remake themselves.
He will investigate their parasitic relationship with the country around them, the webs of trade and immigration they inhabit, how they feed and water themselves and dispose of their wastes, focusing as much on Baron Haussman's creation of the Paris sewers as of his plans for the grand boulevards, on prostitution as on government, on human lives as on architecture, on markets as on cathedrals, in a sweeping exploration of what the city is and has been, fit to stand alongside Lewis Mumford's 1962 classic, "The City in History".