Friday 22 January 2010

Douglas Wilson on Five Cities That Ruled the World

Douglas Wilson, 5 Cities That Ruled the World: How Jerusalem, Athens, Rome, London and New York Shaped Global History (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2009), xx + 236pp., ISBN 9781595551368.

I am working my way through – and enjoying – this recent acquisition from Douglas Wilson, looking at how critical moments in world history have been birthed in these five influential cities:

• Jerusalem – with its ‘complex history and its deep-rooted character as the city of freedom, where people found their spiritual liberty’.

• Athens – and its ‘intellectual influence as the city of reason and birthplace of democracy’.

• Rome – and its ‘evolution as the city of law and justice and the freedoms and limitations that come with liberty’.

• London – with its ‘place in the world’s history as the city of literature where man’s literary imagination found its wings’.

• New York – and its ‘rise to global fame as the city of commerce and how it triggered unmatched wealth, industry, and trade throughout the world’.


Dave said...

I'm happy to have found your blog, Antony--looks like a lot of good stuff to explore here.

I'm always a bit surprised when I discover Brits reading people like Wilson.

I haven't read the book but I do wonder if his choice of cities is a bit subjective. I think I could agree with the big three (Jerusalem, Athens and Rome) but even then I wonder if the influence is by and large on the west (his list does seem to betray a western bias).

Antony said...

Thanks Dave. I think you’re right to be a bit surprised, as I don’t think Wilson is widely known in the UK.

I too wondered about his choice; in fairness, he’s fairly self-conscious about the selective nature of his account, and is fully aware of the danger of reducing the legacy of one city down to one thing.

Even so, when the book arrived at work I asked a few colleagues what they thought would count as ‘5 cities that ruled the world’; they got Wilson’s five quite fast, at least within the first ten mentioned, including others such as Paris, Shanghai, Babylon, and Nineveh. Of course, that they got them could still, as you point out, say much more about our own particular ‘place in life’.

Thanks again