I am not a fan of meta historians, like Toynbee, Marx, and the rest. Their work is too vague for my taste. More especially I am no supporter of Spengler’s “The Decline of the West” and certainly not of its very metaphysical first volume- which I have found quite impossible to read, despite several attempts. But I was browsing in the second volume of that massive work when I found this in his discussion of cities. Spengler may have been trying to read far too much into the data of history. However as this passage proves, he could insightful. He may not have been thinking of London when he wrote. But he captured its spirit.
“Now supervened the city with its own soul, first emancipating itself from the soul of the countryside, then setting up as an equal to it, and finally seeking to suppress and extinguish it. But this evolution accomplishes itself in kinds of life, and it also, therefore, is part of the history of the estates. The city-life of life, as such emerges- through the inhabitants of these small settlements acquiring a common soul, and becoming conscious that the life within is something different from the life outside- and once the spell of personal freedom begins to operate and to attract within the walls life-streams of more and more new kinds. There sets in a sort of passion for becoming urban and for propagating urban life. It is this, and not material considerations, that produced the fever of the colonization period in the classical world, which is still recognizable to us in the last of its last offshoots, and which it is not quite exact to speak of as colonization at all. For it was a creative enthusiasm in the man of the city that from the tenth century B.C ( and “contemporaneously” in other Cultures ) drew generation after generation under the spell of a new life, with which there emerges for the first time in human history the idea of freedom. This idea is not of political ( still less abstract ) origin, but is something bringing to expression the fact that within the city walls plantlike attachment to a soil has ceased, and that the threads that run through the whole life of the countryside have been snapped. And consequently the freedom-idea ever contains a negative; it looses, redeems, defends, always frees a man from something. Of this freedom the city is the expression; the city-spirit is understanding become free, and everything in the way of intellectual, social, and national movements that burst forth in Late periods under name of Freedom leads back to an origin in this one prime fact of detachment from the land.”
WELL, which ever way you cook it hat is a thought provoking paragraph!