Currently available in hardcover and paperback and Chinese and Russian translations.
“[An] inspired [and] invigorating survey of the future by way of the past.”
Every month, five million people move from the past to the future. Pouring into developing-world “instant cities” like Dubai and Shenzhen, these urban newcomers confront a modern world cobbled together from fragments of a West they have never seen. Do these fantastical boomtowns, where blueprints spring to life overnight on virgin land, represent the dawning of a brave new world? Or is their vaunted newness a mirage?
In a captivating blend of history and reportage, Daniel Brook travels to a series of major metropolitan hubs that were once themselves instant cities— St. Petersburg, Shanghai, and Mumbai—to watch their “dress rehearsals for the twenty-first century.” Understanding today’s emerging global order, he argues, requires comprehending the West’s profound and conflicted influence on developing-world cities over the centuries.
Juxtaposing the stories of the architects and authoritarians, the artists and revolutionaries who seized the reins to transform each of these precociously modern places into avatars of the global future, Brook demonstrates that the drive for modernization was initially conflated with wholesale Westernization. He shows, too, the ambiguous legacy of that emulation—the birth (and rebirth) of Chinese capitalism in Shanghai, the origins of Bollywood in Bombay’s American-style movie palaces, the combustible mix of revolutionary culture and politics that rocked the Russian capital—and how it may be transcended today.
A fascinating, vivid look from the past out toward the horizon, A History of Future Cities is both a crucial reminder of globalization’s long march and an inspiring look into the possibilities of our Asian Century.
“Uncommonly interesting and intelligent.” — The Washington Post
“Fascinating” — Nature
“Deft” — Publishers Weekly
“Brook presents an interesting thesis about the city's role in fomenting political change in the modern era.” — The New Yorker
“Enormously elucidating and relevant” — Kirkus Reviews
“The pleasure in Mr. Brook's unusual history is in his descriptions of the creation of these cities. The deeper message, though, is about the tensions such cities create” — The Wall Street Journal
“Provocative [and] original…bristl[ing] with questions both answered and unanswerable.”
—TLS (cover story)