EU shipping is temporarily suspended

The Great Cities in History

John Julius Norwich


A portrait of world civilization told through the stories of 70 of the world’s greatest cities, from Angkor to Shanghai, from Alexandria to Sydney


A work of history, but also about art and architecture, trade and commerce, travel and exploration, economics and politics, this is above all a book about people and how, over the millennia, they have managed to live closely together.

From the origins of urbanization in Mesopotamia to the global metropolises of today, great cities have marked the development of humankind – Babylon and Nineveh, Athens and Rome, Istanbul and Venice, Timbuktu and Samarkand, their very names are redolent both of history and romance.

The Great Cities in History tells their story from early Uruk and Thebes to Jerusalem and Alexandria. Then the fabulous cities of the first millennium: Damascus and Baghdad in the days of the Caliphates, Teotihuacan and Maya Tikal in Central America, and Chang’an, capital of Tang Dynasty China.

The medieval world saw the rise of powerful cities: Palermo and Paris in Europe, Benin in Africa and Angkor of the Khmer. In the early modern world, we journey to Islamic Isfahan and Agra, and Prague and Amsterdam in their heyday, before arriving at the phenomenon of the contemporary mega-city: London and New York, Tokyo and Barcelona, Los Angeles and São Paulo.

A galaxy of more than fifty distinguished authors, including Jan Morris, Colin Thubron, Simon Schama, Orlando Figes, Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, Misha Glenny, Adam Zamoyski and A. N. Wilson, evoke the character of each place and explain the reasons for its success, seeing what each city would have been like during its golden age.

Read More


'An extravaganza … a terrific line-up of writers, and some superb illustrations'
Times Literary Supplement

'One couldn’t really ask for better people to open windows of insight on this fascinating and urgent topic'
Condé Nast Traveller

'The history of cities is a history of civilization and such histories do not usually come so clear, so concise, so accessible and so entertaining as this'
The Art Book

Read More

Product Information

Book Details

Format: Hardback

Size: 26.0 x 20.0 cm

Extent: 304 pp

Illustrations: 290

Publication date: 12 October 2009

ISBN: 9780500251546

Contents List

URUK Margarete Van Ess * MOHENJO-DARO Robin Coningham * MEMPHIS Ian Shaw * THEBES Bill Manley * HATTUSA Trevor Bryce * BABYLON Joan Oates * NINEVEH Julian Reade * CARTHAGE Henry Hurst * ATHENS Bettany Hughes * LINZI W. J. F. Jenner * ALEXANDRIA Alan B. lloyd * MEROË Robert Morkot * JERUSALEM Martin Goodman * ROME Nigel Pollard * TEOTIHUACAN Susan Toby Evans * TIKAL Simon Martin * CONSTANTINOPLE John Julius Norwich * MECCA Doris Benrens-Abouseif * DAMASCUS Barnaby Rogerson * CHANG’AN Victor C. Xiong BAGHDAD Doris Benrens-Abouseif * CÓRDOBA Doris Benrens-Abouseif * ANGKOR Michael D. Coe * PALERMO John Julius Norwich * CAIRO Doris Benrens-Abouseif * SAMARKAND Colin Thubron * PARIS Chris Jones * LÜBECK William L. Urban * KRAKÓW Adam Zamoyski * VENICE John Julius Norwich * FLORENCE Charles Fitzroy * BENIN Patrick Darling * TIMBUKTU Barnaby Rogerson * CUZCO Brian S. Bauer * TENOCHTITLAN Susan Toby Evans LISBON Malyn Newitt * ROME Charles Fitzroy * ISTANBUL Jason Goodwin * AGRA Ebba Koch * ISFAHAN Stephen P. Blake * BEIJING Frances Wood * KYOTO Lesley Downer * PRAGUE Colin Amery * AMSTERDAM Simon Schama MEXICO CITY Felipe Fernandez-Armesto * LONDON A. N. Wilson * STOCKHOLM Charles Fitzroy * DUBLIN Thomas Pakenham * COPENHAGEN Colin Amery * ST PETERSBURG Colin Amery * VIENNA Misha Glenny * EDINBURGH Magnus Linklater * MOSCOW Orlando Figes * PARIS Philip Mansel * LONDON A. N. Wilson * BUDAPEST * Misha Glenny * MONTREAL Rory Maclean * WASHINGTON DC Simon Schama * BARCELONA Felipe Fernandez-Armesto NEW DELHI Jane Ridley * BERLIN Rory Maclean * CHICAGO James Cuno * LOS ANGELES Kevin Starr * BUENOS AIRES Felipe Fernandez-Armesto * SINGAPORE John Keay * NEW YORK Jan Morris & Alexander Bloom * SÃO PAULO Elizabeth Johnson * SYDNEY Elizabeth Farrelly * TOKYO Lesley Downer * SHANGHAI John Gittings

About the Author

John Julius Norwich is the author of magisterial histories of Norman Sicily, the republic of Venice and the Byzantine empire. He has also written widely on architecture and music, and has presented some 30 BBC television historical documentaries. He is Chairman of the Venice in Peril Fund and of the World Monuments Fund in Britain.

List of Contributors

John Julius Norwich