Cities in Civilization by Peter Hall


Peter Hall was born Geoffrey Peter Hall on March 19 1932 in England. He was later to be known as Sir Hall amongst other title, which include town planner, geographer and urbanist. Moreover, he was later to become the professor of planning in Bartlett University. This also contributed to his appointment to the presidency of the Town and Country Planning Association. The book by Peter Hall offers a different spectrum of the whole scope about the lifetime of studying urbanism. Hall tries to put it across using the book that the experiences in the urban centers as “The union of art technology and organization”. In another part, he explains more on the planning that needs to take place in the organization of the proper urbanization. This is found in the part that he speaks of how the cities are coming to the golden age, he noticed that there are many ill effects that have caused London its reputation among the people that dwell in the city. The effects have brought all the negative thoughts to the mentality of the shopkeepers that are cheeseparing. Nonetheless, he talks of the history of the British people having a lot of positivity when it is a question of building a place that is seen to have an urban experience. Moreover, he quotes,

“Places for people who can stand the heat of the kitchen: places where the adrenaline pumps through the bodies of the people and through the streets on which they walk; messy places, sordid places sometimes, but places nevertheless superbly worth living in, long to be remembered and long to be celebrated.” (Hall, 989)

Looking at the whole aspect of celebrating the out come of the cities having the positive experience, then it is said that there is a lot that is celebrated at the end of the day. The book talks of these cities to be in their golden age whereby they are celebrating the outcome of the revolution. On the other hand, the cities are viewed as having the rare outcome of the evolving situation. They include Florence, Athens, Vienna, London, Berlin and pairs which have cultural crucible. These cities are seen to have a golden age that is associated with the name, they are celebrating example Athens is known as “classical Athens”, and London is known as “Shakespearian London.”

The book also explores the significance of the postulations and how they affected the growth of the cities, example the Manchester moved from Birmingham city and Copenhagen having to replace Stockholm. The other element that led to the growth of the cities according to Hall is the locality of the cities. The cities that are located in the regions, which are prosperous, will in turn be successful. It also speculates that there are some cities that made it into civilization even though they were not in a position that could be noticed. One of those cities is Tokyo-Kanagawa that is not found in Europe or America. It is for these reason that hall in his book, shows it was not only the western cities, which could be civilized. Moreover, he even explores the Mohammedan era that took place between the seventh century and the fifteenth century. The book also looks at the post-Gupta period for the Indians and the Chinese cultural history that developed for about five thousand years (p.23).

However, the book also acknowledges how the western civilization contributed to the growth of some cities. This is brought clearly in the “Cities in the western civilization”. Nevertheless, this can be seen as offending the urban centers that are non-western. This can be reflected in the cities such as the ones that were formed during the colonial period and are known as the colonial cities. They include Singapore, New Delhi and Sydney. It is clear that these cities attribute their civilization to the European culture. The book also shows how cities yearned for civilization during the golden age. It was for these reasons that the cities started competing and they found themselves having a rapid growth to civilization and urbanization.

Finally, in the last book that talks of the “the union of art technology and organization”, compliments more on how the Romantic view of the city was and how this contributed to the historic narrative. From the point of view of the golden cities, it is clear that there was a lot of grubby realities about the civilization of the cities. Looking at the whole prospect of how cities like Rome were built. This is from the whole aspect of the city being built from imperial aggression and slavery. On the other hand, a city like Manchester was built on child labor and London was built under the spectrum of poverty and Slum-dom. From all these negativity, the book also shades a light on the success of the cities and the aggression they had towards urbanization and civilization.


The book talks more on the aspects that are behind the growth of the cities and it is clear that a lot of growth took place during the golden age era. Nonetheless, it also concludes with the ugly picture that is found in most of the cities. This is from the fact that the cities are always blanketed with high rates of crime, deprivation, poverty, unemployment and overcrowding. In addition, it is from his writing that we realize that he shows the connection between the urbanization in the present time and that of the Romantic era that was characterized by high rate of unemployment. In addition, he quotes,

“Islands of affluence surrounded by seas of poverty and resentment” (Hall, 1089)

As he explains, the individuals have the choice of staying in the urban centers or move out at their own peril.


Hall, P. (2001) Cities in civilization: culture, innovation, Pantheon Fromm Intl

Stephen, A. (2010) Cities in civilization; culture, innovation and urban order”. Geographical Journal.