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Broken Cities

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Broken Cities

A Historical Sociology of Ruins

A comparative study of cities that fell into ruin through human involvement.

We have been taught to think of ruins as historical artifacts, relegated to the past by a catastrophic event. Instead, Martin Devecka argues that we should see them as processes taking place over a long present. In Broken Cities, Devecka offers a wide-ranging comparative study of ruination, the process by which monuments, architectural sites, and urban centers decay into ruin over time. Weaving together four case studies—of classical Athens, late antique Rome, medieval Baghdad, and sixteenth-century Mexico City—Devecka shows that ruination is a complex social process largely contingent on changing imperial control rather than the result of immediate or natural events. Drawing on literature, legal texts, epigraphic evidence, and the narratives embodied in monuments and painting, Broken Cities is an expansive and nuanced study that holds great significance for the field of historiography.