Acclaimed urbanist Kotkin examines the evolution of urban life over the millennia and, in doing so, attempts to answer the age-old question: What makes a city great? Despite their infinite variety, all cities essentially serve three purposes: spiritual, political, and economic. Kotkin follows the progression of the city from the early religious centers of Mesopotamia, the Indus Valley, and China to the imperial centers of the Classical era, through the rise of the Islamic city and the European commercial capitals, ending with today's post-industrial suburban metropolis. Looking at cities in the 21st century, Kotkin discusses the effects of developments such as shifting demographics and emerging technologies. He also considers the effects of terrorism--how the religious and cultural struggles of the present pose the greatest challenge to the urban future.