Trim: 6½ x 9½
978-0-7391-3869-4 • Hardback • September 2010 • $121.00 • (£93.00)
978-0-7391-3870-0 • Paperback • June 2012 • $51.99 • (£40.00)
Alexander R. Thomas is associate professor of sociology at SUNY College at Oneonta and the coauthor of Critical Rural Theory (2011), also available from Lexington Books.
Chapter 1: Social Science and the City
Chapter 2: Parameters of Social Evolution
Chapter 3: Evolution and the City
Chapter 4: The Change
Chapter 5: Rural Villages
Chapter 6: Rise of the City
Chapter 7: The Dawn of History
Chapter 8: The City in the World
Chapter 9: Rethinking the City
Fascinating to read! Thomas brings a sociological perspective to the topic of how cities began, combining insights from standard urban theory with more classical sociological theory as well as anthropology and archaeology. He is able to do this partly as a result of having studied in many departments that combined the disciplines of sociology and anthropology, thus demonstrating that what most would criticize as of little value can lead to new insights and new ways of thinking. Focusing on “pristine cities” (which could not have developed in response to other urban forms), Thomas points to similarities and differences between them and current cities. He then shows that many of the characteristics we associate with modern cities actually existed long before the first cities emerged, many of the structures we consider unique to contemporary cities are found in ancient ones as well, and that contemporary urban problems such as inequality and segregation have ancient roots. The power of this work is how it causes the reader to question and re-frame urban sociology, and move from a focus on the city as the unit of analysis to that of the “urban system” which includes all areas, including rural ones, and cities of all sizes, into a more comprehensive understanding of contemporary urban society. I highly recommend it to urban sociologists and all those interested in urban life in general. They will not be disappointed.
— Nancy Denton, University of Albany, SUNY
Thomas deploys contemporary urban theory to examine the origin of cities in the ancient world. He also demonstrates how much we have to learn from this early history—especially that the urban process is not just about cities but about the growing spatial scale of societies. Globalization takes on new meaning when we see it in the context of more than ten thousand years of change.
— John R. Logan, Brown University
Sociologist Thomas (SUNY Oneonta) applies urban social theory and utilizes theoretical insights from sociology, anthropology, and archaeology as well as other disciplines to discuss the development of the first cities and their evolution over time. Case studies include the initial development of villages and settlement sites in the Fertile Crescent, which encompasses present-day Iraq, Syria, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, and parts of Turkey. The author discusses the development of the world's first sedentary settlement on the Sea of Galilee, the agricultural revolution, the Neolithic period, the development of Mesopotamia, the Early Bronze Age, and the Middle and Late Bronze ages. Thomas's insights have relevance for contemporary debates surrounding the urbanization process, the nature of urban systems, globalization, and related concepts associated with urban studies. Of potentially significant interest to collections in urban history, urban sociology, urban planning, and urban-studies-related disciplines. Summing Up: Recommended.
— Choice Reviews
As an archaeologist who deals mainly with prehistoric cultures, I was intrigued by the idea of a sociologist trying to understand how we see the evolution of complex societies. The value of archaeology is its temporal focus—we look at things in deep time. Thomas took it from the opposite direction, asking if we could go back from the present in order to understand urban origins. He does a good job summarizing Mesopotamian culture history and the evidence for the emergence of the first cities. Sociologists and other social scientists should read this book, in order to understand how history may have begun in this core area.
— Canadian Studies in Population
Thomas ask[s] if we could go back from the present in order to understand urban origins. He does a good job summarizing Mesopotamian culture history and the evidence for the emergence of the first cities. Sociologists and other social scientists should read this book, in order to understand how history may have begun in this core area.
— Book Reviews