Reading: Chelsea Follett, Centers of Progress: 40 Cities That Changed the World (2023, Cato Institute)
The chapters for each city are mostly short vignettes more than in-depth portraits or deep-dive investigations. These are pretty light and enjoyable; for more details, you might want to work through the bibliographical entries for each city in the
Suggested Reading at the back of the book, which usually give about 2-4 secondary sources (some scholarly, others popular) on each city’s story. Follett is a lively writer and, to her credit, has a pretty decent sense for trying to depict both the development of things that are now familiar to us from our own world, while also keeping in mind just how strange and different places in the past might seem to us. The other day was the vignette on Abbasid-era Baghdad (for
Astronomy, and international / multilingual scholarship more broadly); today is the vignette on Heian-era Kyoto (for
The Novel and literary movements driven by court women like Murasaki Shikibu and Sei Shonagon.