In Praise of Cities - Jacques Le Goff

In Praise of Cities - Jacques Le Goff

In Praise of Cities: A Book Review

In his book "In Praise of Cities", Jacques Le Goff takes readers on a journey through the history of cities, from their origins in ancient Mesopotamia to their current status as global hubs of commerce, culture, and innovation. Le Goff argues that cities are not merely collections of buildings and people, but rather complex and dynamic organisms that have played a vital role in the development of human civilization.

The Origins of Cities

The first cities emerged in the Middle East around 3500 BC. These early cities were small, with populations of only a few thousand people. However, they were already home to a variety of social and economic activities, including trade, manufacturing, and religious worship.

The Rise of the City-State

In the centuries that followed, cities grew in size and complexity. By the 1st millennium BC, city-states such as Athens and Rome had emerged as major centers of power and culture. These city-states were often at war with each other, but they also competed to build the most impressive temples, theaters, and public buildings.

The Middle Ages

The Middle Ages saw a decline in the power of cities. Many cities were sacked by invading armies, and the population of Europe declined sharply. However, cities began to revive in the 11th century, and by the 13th century, they were once again thriving centers of trade and culture.

The Renaissance and the Enlightenment

The Renaissance and the Enlightenment saw a renewed interest in classical learning and culture. This led to a renewed appreciation of cities, which were seen as centers of knowledge and progress. During this period, many new cities were built, and existing cities were expanded and beautified.

The Industrial Revolution

The Industrial Revolution brought about a new wave of urbanization. As factories were built in cities, people flocked to them in search of work. This led to a rapid increase in the population of cities, and many cities became overcrowded and polluted.

The Modern City

In the 20th century, cities continued to grow and change. The rise of the automobile and the development of new technologies led to the expansion of cities into suburbs. Today, cities are home to more than half of the world's population, and they play a vital role in the global economy.

Why Read "In Praise of Cities"?

"In Praise of Cities" is a fascinating and informative book that provides a comprehensive overview of the history of cities. Le Goff's writing is clear and engaging, and he does an excellent job of bringing the past to life. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in history, urban planning, or the future of cities.


"In Praise of Cities" is a celebration of the city. Le Goff shows how cities have been centers of innovation, culture, and progress throughout history. He argues that cities are essential to human civilization, and he calls on us to protect and preserve them. This book is a timely reminder of the importance of cities in our world.