A History of Future Cities

A History of Future Cities

by Daniel Brook


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One of The Washington Post's "Favorite Books of 2013"

A pioneering exploration of four cities where East meets West and past becomes future: St. Petersburg, Shanghai, Mumbai, and Dubai.

Every month, five million people move from the past to the future. Pouring into developing-world “instant cities” like Dubai and Shenzhen, these urban newcomers confront a modern world cobbled together from fragments of a West they have never seen. Do these fantastical boomtowns, where blueprints spring to life overnight on virgin land, represent the dawning of a brave new world? Or is their vaunted newness a mirage?

In a captivating blend of history and reportage, Daniel Brook travels to a series of major metropolitan hubs that were once themselves instant cities— St. Petersburg, Shanghai, and Mumbai—to watch their “dress rehearsals for the twenty-first century.” Understanding today’s emerging global order, he argues, requires comprehending the West’s profound and conflicted influence on developing-world cities over the centuries.

In 1703, Tsar Peter the Great personally oversaw the construction of a new Russian capital, a “window on the West” carefully modeled on Amsterdam, that he believed would wrench Russia into the modern world. In the nineteenth century, Shanghai became the fastest-growing city on earth as it mushroomed into an English-speaking, Western-looking metropolis that just happened to be in the Far East. Meanwhile, Bombay, the cosmopolitan hub of the British Raj, morphed into a tropical London at the hands of its pith-helmeted imperialists.

Juxtaposing the stories of the architects and authoritarians, the artists and revolutionaries who seized the reins to transform each of these precociously modern places into avatars of the global future, Brook demonstrates that the drive for modernization was initially conflated with wholesale Westernization. He shows, too, the ambiguous legacy of that emulation—the birth (and rebirth) of Chinese capitalism in Shanghai, the origins of Bollywood in Bombay’s American-style movie palaces, the combustible mix of revolutionary culture and politics that rocked the Russian capital—and how it may be transcended today.

A fascinating, vivid look from the past out toward the horizon, A History of Future Cities is both a crucial reminder of globalization’s long march and an inspiring look into the possibilities of our Asian Century.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393348866
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 04/21/2014
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 480
Sales rank: 376,365
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Daniel Brook is a journalist and author whose writing has appeared in Harper’s, the New York Times Magazine, and the Nation. Born in Brooklyn, raised on Long Island, and educated at Yale University, Brook lives in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Table of Contents

Author's Note xi

Maps xii

Introduction: The Twenty-First Century: An Orientation 1

1 New Amsterdam: St. Petersburg, 1703-1825 13

2 Shanghai Race Club: Shanghai, 1842-1911 53

3 Urbs Prima in Indis: Bombay, 1857-1896 91

4 City on Spilt Blood: St. Petersburg/Petrograd/Leningrad, 1825-1934 127

5 Great World: Shanghai, 1911-1937 165

6 The City Under Progress's Feet: Bombay, 1896-1947 199

7 Closing Three Windows and Opening a Fourth 227

I: The Two-Front War: Leningrad, 1934-1985 229

II: The Dark Ages: Shanghai, 1937-1989 239

III: License-Permit Raj: Bombay, 1947-1991 250

IV: The City at the Center of the World: Dubai, to 1981 259

8 From Perestroika to Petrolgrad: Leningrad, 1985-St. Petersburg, Present 269

9 The Head of the Dragon: Shanghai, 1989-Present 295

10 Slumdogs and Millionaires: Bombay, 1991-Mumbai, Present 325

11 Dubai Inc. Proudly Presents the International City™: Dubai, 1981-Present 351

Conclusion: Glimpses of Utopia 381

Coda: From Windows on the West to Windows of the World 389

Acknowledgments 397

Bibliographic Note 401

Notes 403

Linage Credits 429

Index 431

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