Book Review: The Unruly City

The Unruly City Audiobook

The Unruly City: Paris, London and New York in the Age of Revolution by Mike Rapport


During roughly the same time period all three cities mentioned in the title of the book underwent revolution. New York had the American Revolution and in the wake of that a softer revolution based around how the country was to be run. London, while not an outright revolution, went through a period of political turmoil that was spawned by the American and French Revolutions. Paris, well in their revolution Paris pretty much burned.

So the question is, why did the French Revolution become such a violent event while the revolutions in New York and London, though just as world changing, stay relativity violence free? Part of the answer according to the author lies in the cities themselves. How they were built, where the public buildings were located, how the grew in response to the turmoil outside.  This is a book not about revolution but about the geography of revolution and how the construction of the cities themselves shaped the events.

Yes, it sounds a little out there, at least to me. The author however handles the topic well and treats the cities themselves as characters in the narrative. They comes off as living breathing entities that react and sometimes even guide the events purported by the people residing in them.

It can get a little heavy at times, not boring, but a lot  is going on as the narrative bounces between locations. The one thing that is totally and unquestionable accomplished with this book is perspective. A lot is happening at the same time and events in one city effect the others and this is handled very well.

It is my opinion that one can not truly respect what the American Revolution was until you understand what the French Revolution became. If that interests you, then this book needs to make your list. It is highly recommended and as always you can pick up a copy via Amazon by clicking on the cover above.