"[An] inspired tour of the post modern city…Invigorating." —Mark Kingwell, Harper’s
Hailed as an “original and fascinating book” (Times Literary Supplement), A History of Future Cities is Daniel Brook’s captivating investigation of four “instant cities”—St. Petersburg, Shanghai, Mumbai, and Dubai—that sought to catapult themselves into the future by emulating the West.
In these deft portraits of St. Petersburg, Russia; Bombay, India; Shanghai, China; and Dubai, UAE; journalist Brook (The Trap) artfully condenses and illustrates three centuries of revolutionary urban development and globalizing impulses. From Peter the Great's decree that brought St. Petersburg into being in 1703 to the recent creations of towering skyscrapers in the Persian Gulf, these "instant cities modeled on the West have been built in the developing world in audacious attempts to wrench a lagging region into the modern world," with relative degrees of success and unforeseen consequences. Brook traces the commercial and authoritarian origins of these deliberately "dis-orient-ed" cities that slam West and East together. The intended goal of promoting commerce with the wider world inevitably created heady mixes of cultural and political mores: the Communist Party of China thrived in 1920s Shanghai, a portal to the West that sowed the seeds of the People's Republic; Bombay (now Mumbai) played a crucial role in fostering the movement that led to India's independence in 1947. While the ruling family of Dubai can now run it as a corporation backed by studies and plans from McKinsey and PricewaterhouseCoopers Brook convincingly puts it in a continuum of cities that have taken on a life of their own, observing that "the only question is when, not if, its people will seize the opportunity its autocrats have unwittingly created."