Metropolis Book Summary - Metropolis Book explained in key points
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Metropolis summary

Ben Wilson

A History of the City, Humankind's Greatest Invention

4 (96 ratings)
17 mins
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    Metropolis
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    Engines of innovation

    From ancient Mesopotamia to modern Shanghai, cities have long served as crucibles of human innovation. But what draws us to them? And what enables cities to endure crisis after crisis – from wars to pandemics to climate change?

    Cities offer economic opportunities, access to amenities, and social mobility exceeding what’s available in rural areas. Cities are humanity’s laboratories. The density and diversity of cities make them engines of innovation, where new ideas emerge through chance encounters and collaborations. In ancient Mesopotamia, less than 5 percent of people inhabited cities. But this minority, however small, propelled advancements in writing, mathematics, law, and the use of tools. Cities concentrate talent and facilitate the exchange of ideas, the specialization of skills, and the accumulation of wealth.   

    Over two millennia, pioneering metropolises like Uruk and Harappa gave way to Athens, imperial Rome, and Muslim Cordoba. Medieval Bruges established capitalism while the Italian city-states birthed artistic and technical breakthroughs. By the mid-nineteenth century, new transport and manufacturing technologies enabled unprecedented, rapid urbanization.

    In 1900, 10 percent of humanity lived in cities. By the close of the century, this number exceeded 50 percent. Now, the twenty-first century is experiencing stunning urban expansion. Cities occupy ever more land area, spreading outward even as they shoot upward. 

    Humanity’s future depends on the future of cities. Understanding historical urban successes and failures can help guide urban planning and policy today. Citizens shouldn’t have to passively accept squalor, sprawl, and pollution as inevitable costs of urban living. Across generations, people have reshaped cities; if we learn from this past and work together, we can create places that meet twenty-first – and twenty-second – century needs.

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    What is Metropolis about?

    Metropolis (2020) charts how cities have profoundly shaped humanity. From Athenian democracy to Baghdad’s bazaars and London finance, it reveals cities as the driving force of civilization for over 200,000 years.

    Metropolis Review

    Metropolis (2021) delves into the fascinating history of cities, exploring their evolution and impact on society. Here's why this book is worth your time:

    • Unveils the hidden stories behind famous cities, shedding light on their growth and transformation over time.
    • Offers insights into the social, political, and cultural dynamics that shape urban environments, providing a deeper understanding of city life.
    • Engages readers with its compelling narratives and thought-provoking analysis, ensuring that even the most urban-savvy readers find new perspectives.

    Who should read Metropolis?

    • History buffs interested in the evolution of cities
    • Readers curious about how people lived in past eras
    • Anyone wanting to understand the origins of human civilization

    About the Author

    Ben Wilson holds undergraduate and master’s degrees in history from Cambridge. He’s the author of five previous books, including the Sunday Times best seller Empire of the Deep. Wilson has also written for major publications, including the Spectator, the Guardian, and GQ, bringing his historical insights to a wide audience.

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    Metropolis FAQs 

    What is the main message of Metropolis?

    In Metropolis, the main message revolves around societal class struggles and technological advancements impacting human relationships.

    How long does it take to read Metropolis?

    Reading Metropolis typically takes a few hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just a few minutes.

    Is Metropolis a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Metropolis is worth reading for its insightful exploration of complex human themes within a futuristic setting.

    Who is the author of Metropolis?

    The author of Metropolis is Ben Wilson.

    What to read after Metropolis?

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