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Tales of Two Cities

Paris, London, and the Birth of the Modern City

List Price: $16.95

September 16, 2014 | Paperback | 6 x 9, 320 Pages | ISBN 9781619024403
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“[E]ntertaining… Full of unexpected facts… Conlin’s case studies of possible cultural exchange are both concise and entertaining." —New York Times Book Review

Paris and London have long held a mutual fascination, and never more so than in the period 1700-1914, when they vied to be the world’s greatest city. Each city has been the focus of countless books, yet here Jonathan Conlin explores the complex relationship between them for the first time. The reach and influence of both cities was such that the story of their rivalry has global implications. By borrowing, imitating, and learning from each other Paris and London invented the modern metropolis.

Tales of Two Cities examines and compares six urban spaces—the street, the cemetery, the apartment, the restaurant, the underworld and the music hall—that defined urban modernity in the nineteenth century. The citizens of Paris and London first created these essential features of the modern cityscape and so defined urban living for all of us.

JONATHAN CONLIN was born in New York and later moved to Britain, where he studied history at Oxford. He went on to do graduate work at the Courtauld Institute and Cambridge, completing a PhD thesis on the early history of the National Gallery, London. He now teaches at the University of Southampton. His books include The Nation’s Mantelpiece and Civilisation.


“[E]ntertaining… Full of unexpected facts… Conlin’s case studies of possible cultural exchange are both concise and entertaining. While hardly essential, the volume makes an agreeable addition to the ­library-size accumulation of books about the growth of two glorious cities.” —New York Times Book Review

“In exploring this subject in depth, Conlin has made a most useful addition to the history of cities and the people who inhabit them.” —Washington Post

“His book is enlightening, enchanting and exquisitely written. Mr. Conlin has a gift for re-creating everyday life in his two cities.” —Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“A readable pop history…. What Conlin achieves with this history of influences is an entertaining account that strings together fascinating factoids into a tapestry of urban history and cultural anthropology… Conlin weaves together a web of interactions and accounts from both fiction and nonfiction sources. He does this with the straightforward prose of a journalist and the intellectual imagination of a historian.” —New York Journal of Books

“Conlin draws a compelling picture… For readers who know and love either, or both, of these urban spaces and want to delve into more detail about what makes each unique and memorable, this is a well-documented, thoroughly researched, informative and enjoyable read.” —Portland Book Review

“This is a fine account of both urban history and cultural interaction.” —Booklist

“Anyone who loves London and/or Paris will enjoy this book.” ­—Kirkus

“The social history adds up to a pleasant, colorful read and though Conlin is mining territory that many able historians have visited before, his source materials reflect a serious mind at work. The book contains many captivating sketches and stories of the towns’ emergence as two great metropolises…” —Publishers Weekly

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