The primary theme here would be the overgrowth of cities that was characterized by lack of will to achieve balance and harmony. This led to a complete destruction of life and civilization by a variety of internal factors stemming from increasing populations, deteriorating housing conditions, and poor town planning towards the end of the empire. (Mumford) Here, the author lays a convincing argument to back his theme, starting from the Rise of Rome to its decay and disintegration with proper illustrations.
The second theme is the manner in which transformations of cities occur as illustrated. Mumford says that cities don’t die away completely unless totally annihilated and new life always springs from old dying cities that transformed the city completely by breathing new life into it. He illustrates this by showing how the decadent Roman megapolis gave way to the medieval town. In our present times, we saw during World War 2, the same theme playing itself out, when European cities were nearly annihilated, but were later recreated and rebuilt, albeit different from the older cities.
The third theme is the rise and impact of institutions, such as universities and The Church on the cities, and the formation of communities within walls. The control exercised by the Church on these cities lead to a moderation and balance in the excesses in contrast to the Roman times. (Mumford) The building of walls had numerous advantages, especially the ability to exercise control. In modern times, these institutions have been replaced by civic bodies, but how far these institutions are doing their job is a doubt that Mumford seems to raise in some parts of the readings.
The recurring theme is that Mumford clearly prefers the medieval town over a large Roman city. He bestows praise on medieval town planning, and the methods used for ensuring a holistic balance of growth. He further argues that this also prevented undue urban expansion and lead to a sense of balance and harmony.
Mumford wants to highlight the point that our modern cities also suffer from some of the almost the same problems that led to the disintegration of Rome. Through these themes, he urges us to ensure that institutions that exercise a degree of control to ensure balance and harmony in urbanization are the urgent requirements of our time.
These four key points are probably chosen as themes by Mumford with a view to show us the dangers of unbridled urbanization and development. In our modern cities, we increasingly see this phenomenon of uncontrolled urbanization and chaos taking place. Mumford aims at showing us the effects of urbanization without considering balance and harmony, as well as how metamorphosis of large cities takes place after a devastating disintegration as in the case of Rome. This metamorphosis lead by responsible institutions can pave the way for better town planning, management and control. Thus, Mumford uses these themes to connect these various effects of transformations of mega-cities into sustainable and balanced living spaces.
These chapters from the book are linked to earlier chapters in the book, since the earlier articles talk on the progression of communities to towns, from towns to cities and megapolis, and the need for setting necessary organic limits, beyond which colossal cities are the result, and decay is the consequence. From the reading of the book thus far, Mumford clearly prefers an urban setting in which growth organized populations are linked in a regional framework. These communities would then internally display the efficient decentralization and close familiarity of the medieval town. Megapolis’ is a theme Mumford would certainly not prefer in urban development.
Mumford, Lewis. The City in History. Mariner, 1989. Print