Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Five Cities That Ruled The World by Douglas Wilson

Five Cities That Ruled The World cover

Five Cities That Ruled The World
by Douglas Wilson

Trade Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
First Released: 2009

Source: Review copy from publisher

Book Description (from publisher website, slightly modified):
History unfolds in a wide tapestry, but some patterns and threads stand out from the others for their brilliance and importance in the bigger picture. Five Cities that Ruled the World examines how and why a handful of cities—Jerusalem, Athens, Rome, London, and New York—emerged in their respective times of influence to dominate the world stage, directing wealth and power, influencing faith and belief, commanding fear and allegiance, provoking wars and conquests, and shaping the world we live in today. Profiling their leaders, exploring their philosophies, following their armies into war, riding their merchant ships to ports of commerce, and watching as one eclipses the others, Douglas Wilson broadens our understanding and appreciation of these cities.

Five Cities That Ruled The World spent about 40 pages per a culture giving a quick overview of thousands of years of history for the Jews, Greeks Romans, and British, and hundreds of years of history for America. Each section was topped off with a very brief summary of the lasting legacy of the corresponding city.

The few pages covering each city's legacy felt more like an afterthought than the focus of the book. The author didn't really build a case for his chosen legacy nor how it impacted the world. These legacies can be easily be summarized as Jerusalem gave the world a spiritual legacy; Athens left a political, philosophical, and arts legacy; Rome gave the world justice under law; London gave the world literature; and New York will leave a commerce and baseball legacy.

Partly because the author tried to summarize each culture's history from its beginning until the present, his history lacks the details and nuances of various events--even the ones he gave the most detail for--so the reader could be left with wrong impressions. He also assumes an ancient chronology that not everyone would agree with (though he does assume the Bible is accurate).

The book was definitely aimed at a Christian audience. However, he often interpreted Scripture in a non-standard way, especially Biblical prophecies. For example, he stated that Rev. 13 referred to Nero's persecution of the Christians during his reign, whereas it's traditionally interpreted as referring to a world leader during the End Times.

The book was written in a very casual tone. For example, when discussing how Herod had "all the baby boys in the area of Bethlehem" killed, he says, "That kind of action will drive your poll numbers down every time."

One nice thing about the book was that it occasionally linked together what was happening in various parts of the world at certain, critical times. However, the book was so general and imprecise that I don't think it would interest history buffs. But those with little familiarity with history who want a quick, very easy-to-read history book might enjoy this book.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Page 165
This explosion was all due to the Erie Canal. Before the canal, it had taken three weeks at a cost of $120 to move a ton of flour from Buffalo to New York City. After the canal's construction, it took eight days and cost $6. [John Steele] Gordon remarked that, before the canal was even completed, "the Times of London saw it coming, writing that year [1822] that the canal would make New York City the 'London of the New World.' The Times was right. It was the Erie Canal that gave the Empire State its commercial empire and made New York the nation's imperial city."

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