A fascinating look at cities that have changed the world

The Guardian has just begun a 50-article series titled ‘The Story of Cities‘.  The first three instalments, published on the first three days of this week, include:

Each examines how the city in question came to be, and its impact on the world of its time.  I find them fascinating.  If this sort of thing interests you, keep an eye on the series’ Web page for the remaining 47 articles, which will appear over the next several weeks.

Also of interest is this article on how the skyline of London has changed over the past 400 years.

Fifty years before the centre of London was destroyed by the Great Fire, Dutch draughtsman Claes Jansz Visscher captured it in his 1616 engraving, View of London – a low-rise cityscape dominated by church spires and steeples.

Now the artist Robin Reynolds has updated that classic view for the present day, recreating Visscher’s perspective as closely as possible, but detailing the London riverside of 2016.

There’s more at the link, including full-size versions of the images above.  It’s particularly interesting to view the images above in combination, using a slider to superimpose one on the other.  (In the first image from 1616, note the heads of traitors impaled on steel spikes above the southern bridge gatehouse.  You’ll see them more clearly in the larger image at the link.)

One can’t help but nod cynically at the replacement of houses of spiritual worship, in the first image, with what might best be described as ‘houses of temporal worship’ in the second.  After all, that’s essentially what skyscrapers are, isn’t it?  We’re still religious . . . it’s just that the object of many people’s faith has changed.  Sadly, human nature hasn’t.


1 comment

  1. I had read that many of Europes old cities which are along rivers were actually created by beavers. No – really.

    What had occurred was that beavers would build their dams on the rivers, which created flood plains, which killed off trees and vegetation when flooded. Once the beaver had eaten themselves out of food, they abandoned that location, where the dam eventually sprung a leak and drained the land. Humans came along and not needing to clear the land, built there.

    I don't know for certain if this is fact, but it does make for interesting thought.

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