David Morton's Age of Concrete is an amazing book recounting the story of the city of Maputo, Mozambique's capital, focusing on the development of its subúrbios—the spaces in which the city's inhabitants challenged colonial-era building rules and confronted the postcolonial circumstances surrounding the construction of an independent Mozambique. Morton's refreshing narrative reveals an inspired storyteller who delves deeply into facts regarding the people whose daily lives and environments shaped the country's history.

Under colonialism, many African cities were divided into central urban cores and large, informal peripheries deprived of basic urban infrastructure. While city centers were often designed with Western settlers in mind, the peripheries became large...

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