Time Essay: What Went Wrong

In the 16th century, the Mogul Emperor Akbar the Great decided to erect a new capital for his empire on the dry plains of northern India. Vast amounts of money were spent, and the best architects and artisans were hired to lay out its imposing squares and build its graceful, airy palaces. Virtually untouched by the centuries, Fatehpur Sikri still stands—a beautiful monument to bad planning. Just 15 years after it was completed, Akbar's capital exhausted its water supply and was summarily abandoned.

History is full of such expensive errors, of cities and civilizations...

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