Books, Ramblings, Reading Reflections

Five Cities that Ruled the World (book review)

I just finished another book I requested from Thomas Nelson’s book review program, Five Cities that Ruled the World: How Jerusalem, Athens, Rome, London, and New York Shaped Global History by Douglas Wilson.  As the title suggests, the book discusses five different cities and ways they have impacted the world, with a particular eye toward the progression of liberty (spiritual, political, legal, intellectual, and financial).

The topic of the book intrigued me, and in general I like this approach to history (i.e. Thomas Cahill’s Hinges of History).  Unfortunately, this book did not live up to my initial interest.  The book’s theme was the progression of liberty (which is fine), but the chapters felt less like an attempt at history and more like vignettes regarding the origins of Western Christianity.  While I do not believe any history to be “objective,” the majority of the book felt overly apologetic rather than historical (the chapter on Jerusalem and the epilogue in particular).  I found both the lack of acknowledgment of the non-Western world and the vague and non-nuanced manner in which the author treated Islamic history/culture to be distracting and damaging to the author’s intention to discuss “global history.”  In the end, the book disappointed me and I would have preferred to see the topic treated with more balance and nuance.


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