Books

A Look at Cities Through Time

Written by Sheeba Manish

Cities are nodes of the earth. People gravitate to cities for their amenities and easy access. A city is not unlike a living, throbbing organism with an intricate inner mechanism that enables the life outside. Pipes, vents, sanitation and roads are some of the structures that come to mind when we think of a city. Skyscrapers, traffic jams, public buildings, marketplaces are some others. Have cities always been this way? No. Just as any evolving creature cities have moved from being a few huts together to the teeming metropolises’ they are today.

Peter Kent’s ‘A Slice Through A City‘ is a wonderful book to show a child the growth of cities over time. He has shown the city’s changing face from StoneHenge to today’s modern format. The entire book is shown in cross section format that includes a below the street view as well. A well researched and illustrated book A Slice Through The City is an informative and enjoyable read for children above 6.

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From Peter Kents ‘A Slice Through A City’

The book takes us through the Stone Age, Iron Age, Romans, Dark Ages, Middle Ages and from the 16th century to the 20th.

The book starts its journey from the Stone Age. The people of the stone age lived in simple thatched huts. The people of the stone age used stone extensively to make weapons. Bone was used to make smaller weapons and needles. No known method of sanitation or other public utilities were prevalent at this time.

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Next we move on to the Iron Age. In this age implements were first made of copper. Being too soft bronze was used later. The homes of this age were made of timber and stone. They were far more comfortable than the houses of the Stone Age.

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Things changed quite drastically architecture and urban planning wise in the Roman Age. Roman cities had marketplaces or forums, two-tiered houses, aqueducts and sewers.

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The Roman Age

The Middle Ages had marketplaces where people sold their wares, with inventory in the background. It also saw the rise of stages where Morality plays were staged.

The 16th century further saw homes and towns improving in infrastructure. Holes in the roof to let out smoke gave way to chimneys. Wooden shutters were replaced by glass ones. Streets were not yet unpaved and garbage disposal methods often involved trash being thrown out of houses.

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The 17th century saw a series of plagues and plundering. Entire towns were destroyed due to either or both methods.

Brick and stone made their foray in the 18th century. Broad streets, squares, and Roman style buildings became the order of the day.

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Brick and Stone

Come the 19th-century cities no longer just had homes and a marketplace. It had  concert halls, libraries and other public buildings which make cities so attractive. Gas lamps and sewers could be found, but an unwelcome addition turned out to be traffic jams.

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Traffic Jams!!

World war 2 meant many buildings were destroyed again. In the 20th century, cities were redone to accommodate the new technologies that were available. Telephone cables, electrical cables could be found underground, along with storm drains and subways.

A Slice Through A City is like looking through a viewfinder with colourful, cross-sectional snapshots of cities through the centuries. It has history and architecture rolled together in a format that will be enjoyed while educating the reader.

Age: 6 years and above

Image Credit: Peter Kents, ‘A Slice Through A City’

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