Digging deep into city life;Reviews;General;Secondary;Books

20th March 1998 at 00:00
URBANISATION: Changing Environments. By Corrin Flint and David Flint. Collins pound;16.

This is a book to be quarried rather than read. It is a manual for high-fliers; A-level students of average ability and commitment will need to be guided very firmly through it and helped to decide what to write in their notes.

Urbanisation is a formidably comprehensive and beautifully illustrated survey of the nature of cities, old and new, considered on a world scale. It reviews the standard ideas, models and processes of city development and decline; explores the dynamics of urban socio-economic patterns; and looks at problems of city management past, present and future. A wealth of examples supports the clear theoretical discussion. Wherever appropriate, the authors relate what they write to their home area of Birmingham and the Black Country. Above all, they communicate a strong sense of enthusiasm and excitement.

Each of the nine main chapters begins with a theoretical discussion and ends with a summary. Opening sections are followed by questionings of theoretical ideas, and comparisons between abstractions and reality.

The first chapters deal with the historical evolution of cities, including some outside Europe. They are looked at as parts of evolving settlements, developing the idea that location, function, size, technology and purpose are intimately related. Urban models are then critically discussed.

Subsequent chapters concentrate on the internal details of city development, emphasising first their social and then their economic aspects. City management is particularly well handled.

A final main chapter looks at urban futures. Chapter 10 contains a very detailed decision-making exercise on Calcutta, one of the world's most terrifying urban explosions.

An appendix summarises some useful statistical techniques. There are references (one page and sensible), a glossary and an index.

Patrick Bailey teaches at Loughborough University's Department of Education

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