Let me start with an admission: the main title of this book is a non sequitur. I do not want to mislead readers who might expect a text on a few exceptional cities. My ‘extraordinary cities’ does not translate into a select number of ‘great cities’; there are important books that deal with such cities – for instance, by Saskia Sassen (1991) in her identification of ‘global cities’ and, historically, by Peter Hall (1998) and John Julius Norwich (2009) – but this book is not of that distinguished genre. Rather I follow Jane Jacobs (1969) in arguing that the inherent complexity of cities distinguishes them from all other settlements. Hence, for me, every city is extraordinary. Unlike ‘simple towns’, cities are astonishing in their economic growth potential and cultural vitality, and amazing in their societal resilience. Thus the fundamental premise of this book is that all cities are extraordinary; my title is just for emphasis. The corollary of this premise is that if cities are so special then they should be taken extremely seriously. By this I mean moving cities to centre stage to create a city-centric, and therefore a very different, geohistorical social science.
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