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City of Refuge:
Separatists and Utopian Town Planning
Michael J. Lewis

Hardcover | 2016 | $45.00 | £37.95 | ISBN: 9780691171814
256 pp. | 7 x 9 | 75 color illus. 75 halftones.
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eBook | ISBN: 9781400884315 |
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The vision of Utopia obsessed the nineteenth-century mind, shaping art, literature, and especially town planning. In City of Refuge, Michael Lewis takes readers across centuries and continents to show how Utopian town planning produced a distinctive type of settlement characterized by its square plan, collective ownership of properties, and communal dormitories. Some of these settlements were sanctuaries from religious persecution, like those of the German Rappites, French Huguenots, and American Shakers, while others were sanctuaries from the Industrial Revolution, like those imagined by Charles Fourier, Robert Owen, and other Utopian visionaries.

Because of their differences in ideology and theology, these settlements have traditionally been viewed separately, but Lewis shows how they are part of a continuous intellectual tradition that stretches from the early Protestant Reformation into modern times. Through close readings of architectural plans and archival documents, many previously unpublished, he shows the network of connections between these seemingly disparate Utopian settlements—including even such well-known town plans as those of New Haven and Philadelphia.

The most remarkable aspect of the city of refuge is the inventive way it fused its eclectic sources, ranging from the encampments of the ancient Israelites as described in the Bible to the detailed social program of Thomas More's Utopia to modern thought about education, science, and technology. Delving into the historical evolution and antecedents of Utopian towns and cities, City of Refuge alters notions of what a Utopian community can and should be.

Michael J. Lewis is the Faison-Pierson-Stoddard Professor of Art History at Williams College. His books include Frank Furness: Architecture and the Violent Mind, The Gothic Revival, and American Art and Architecture. His essays and reviews have appeared in such publications as the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.


"Few architectural historians today have Michael Lewis’s skill and fluency in the language of built stuff. Precise, elegant descriptions of buildings and their elements, grounded in rigorous scholarship and motivated by the author’s obvious passion for his subject, make City of Refuge a pleasure to read. . . . This is a beautifully made book."--Kathy Edwards, ARLIS

"Lewis’s elegantly composed and lavishly illustrated work helps us to understand more clearly the how and why of these early modern utopian experiments, and . . . offers a reminder of historic communal values that seem to have little influence in contemporary culture."--Christopher Silver, Indiana Magazine of History

"A timely contribution. . . . Lewis demonstrates convincingly how inspired groups linked urban form and community ideals in practice. . . . Elegantly composed and lavishly illustrated."--Christopher Silver, Indiana Journal of History


"Masterful in its breadth and insights, City of Refuge takes a phenomenon in architecture and community development--the utopian city--and puts it into new perspective. Lucid and engaging, the book's exploration of the shaping of cities is as imaginative as it is rigorous, and it will become an essential text in urban history. A stunning achievement and an irresistible read."--Richard Longstreth, George Washington University

"In City of Refuge, Lewis is remarkably skilled--thorough, insightful, and even witty--in his ability to read carefully and creatively the surviving plans and architectural drawings of various devotional and religious communities in Europe and America. This fascinating narrative will significantly revise our ideas about nineteenth-century America."--Robert Fishman, Taubman College of Architecture and Planning, University of Michigan

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Table of Contents:

1 The Idea of the City of Refuge 9
2 The Sacred Squareness of Cities 19
3 The Protestant Tempering of Utopia 33
4 Christianopolis 57
5 The Lord’s Grove 95
6 Harmony 131
7 Economy 169
8 Conclusion 203
Notes 219
Selected Bibliography 239
Index 243
Illustration Credits 249
Acknowledgments 253

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