A History of Future Cities
by Daniel Brook
Published in February 2013
Thibault’s Score: 4/5
A History of Future Cities is a book which covers the history of 4 cities which have shaped the modern world, and solidified relations between the east and the west: St. Petersburg, Shanghai, Mumbai, and Dubai.
These 4 cities all have several things in common: they were created by authoritarian forces in an attempt to rapidly modernize the area around them, they hosted large and very diverse populations, and they all became pillars of capitalism in their regions.
I was initially recommended this book by Mark Frazier, one of the world’s (retired) leading Special Economic Zone Consultants, and it took me more than two years to get to reading it. That was my loss.
I have the privilege of having travelled to 3 out of 4 cities (I haven’t yet been to Mumbai), and especially enjoyed reading the book for that reason. I could clearly remember many of the places and sights described.
The book starts with St. Petersburg, then chronologically jumps around between the cities, covering the key highlights of their histories. Brook draws many comparisons between the history of the respective cities, pointing out counter-intuitive details. For example, I would have never drawn the comparison between Peace Hotel’s appeal to vice in the 1920s and Dubai’s tolerance of prostitutes and alcohol. Neither would I have ever considered comparing Peter the Great to Mohamed bin Rasheed, although the comparisons are logical.
As a SEZ consultant, I also found the sections about Deng Xiaoping’s reforms in Shanghai and the creation of the Freeport in Dubai to be of particular interest.
This book is a must read for anyone in the SEZ industry, and stands as one of the best books I’ve read in a long time.
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