The University of Wisconsin Press

Urban Studies / Environmental Studies / History


Flammable Cities
Urban Conflagration and the Making of the Modern World
Edited by Greg Bankoff, Uwe Lübken, and Jordan Sand
Afterword by Stephen J. Pyne

“A remarkably robust survey of cultures, cities, and histories that affirms the universality of fire’s impact within the urban setting.”
—Stephen J. Pyne

In most cities today, fire has been reduced to a sporadic and isolated threat. But throughout history the constant risk of fire has left a deep and lasting imprint on almost every dimension of urban society. This volume, the first truly global study of urban conflagration, shows how fire has shaped cities throughout the modern world, from Europe to the imperial colonies, major trade entrepôts, and non-European capitals, right up to such present-day megacities as Lagos and Jakarta. Urban fire may hinder commerce or even spur it; it may break down or reinforce barriers of race, class, and ethnicity; it may serve as a pretext for state violence or provide an opportunity for displays of state benevolence. As this volume demonstrates, the many and varied attempts to master, marginalize, or manipulate fire can turn a natural and human hazard into a highly useful social and political tool.

Greg Bankoff is professor of history at the University of Hull, UK. Uwe Lübken is “Disaster Migration” project director, Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society, LMU Munich. Jordan Sand is associate professor of Japanese history and culture at Georgetown University.

Media & bookseller inquiries regarding review copies, events, and interviews can be directed to the publicity department at or (608) 263-0734. (If you want to examine a book for possible course use, please see our Course Books page. If you want to examine a book for possible rights licensing, please see Rights & Permissions.)

Image of a burning city in vibrant colors

January 2012
LC: 2011011572 TH
418 pp. 6 x 9
42 b/w illus., 8 tables

Book icon
Paper $29.95 s
ISBN 978-0-299-28384-1
Shopping cart ADD TO CART
  Review cart contents
Secure checkout

"How do people in an urban environment deal with the problem of fire? The essays in this book show how the answers vary depending on economic conditions, power structures, climate, and culture. An excellent collection."
–Johan Goudsblom, author of Fire and Civilization

Home | Books | Journals | Events | Textbooks | Authors | Related | Search | Order | Contact

If you have trouble accessing any page in this web site, contact our Web manager.

Updated June 14, 2012

© 2012, The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System