The Earliest Cities

Some early cities developed as a result of agricultural productivity and economic growth in different regions.

Learning Objectives

Analyze the different types of cities, such as agricultural areas or protective areas, and the factors that led to the creation of each type of city.

Key Takeaways

It was the old world Anthropocene revolution The urban culture

There were early cities in Mesopotamia, Asia, and the Americas.A few hundred years after the Neolithic Revolution, around 7500 BCE, the first cities were established in Mesopotamia.These cities belong to the Mesopotamian group.Indus Valley cities and ancient Chinese cities also arose in this period.Of the early Old World cities, Mohenjo-daro, in the Indus Valley (today's Pakistan), was one of the largest and existed between 2600 and 50,000 years ago.

Ancient cities were known for their geographical diversity as well as their variety in form and function.Anthropologists have found that theories that pin ancient urbanism down to a single factor, such as economic benefit, fail to account for the range of variation reported by archaeologists.Early urban excavations show that some cities were sparsely populated political centers, others were trade centers, and others were primarily religious centers.Depending on their urban activities, some cities had dense populations, whereas others engaged in activities related to politics or religion without having large population centers.At the heart of one of the ancient empires, some ancient cities grew to become powerful capital cities and centers of commerce and industry.There was Alexandria and Antioch, both of the Hellenistic civilization, as well as Carthage and the ancient Rome, which succeeded Constantinople (later Istanbul).

The Formation of Cities

What caused cities to be formed in the first place?.The evidence for what conditions gave rise to the first cities is insufficient, but some theorists have speculated on what they consider preconditions and basic mechanisms for the rise of cities.Cities are believed to benefit from farming, since surplus production and economies of scale are created.According to conventional wisdom, cities first developed along with agriculture during the Neolithic Revolution.Farming helped hunter-gatherers abandon their nomadic lifestyle and settle near those who obtained their livelihoods through agriculture.Producing more food enabled denser human populations, supporting the growth of cities.Food surpluses from farming led to denser populations and facilitated trade, resulting in food surpluses and dense settlements.These factors seem to be prerequisites for city life.

For a city to be successful, its environment and social organization must be strong.Good environment includes clean water as well as a favorable climate for agriculture.A sense of social organization allows a newly formed city to work together in times of need, and allows people to become involved in a variety of tasks that help develop the city (for example, farmers or merchants).Newly formed cities lack these features, as well as advanced agricultural technology, which is necessary for success.

Cities may have had other advantages as well.In cities, for example, goods, people, and ideas can be transported together at a lower cost.This in turn increased worker productivity.Additionally, cities provided protection for people and valuables they were accumulating.Theorists speculate that people may have formed cities to protect themselves from marauding barbarian armies.

Preindustrial Cities

Early preindustrial cities were centres of political and economic power and evolved into well-defined political units.

Learning Objectives

Study how preindustrial cities grew and thrived as political units, as well as how trade routes facilitated their development

Key Takeaways

My lord, The responsibility of the rural community Historically preindustrial cities

Cities as Political Centers

Unlike ancient cities, preindustrial cities evolved into well-defined political units, like today's states, despite their origins as trading centers.A town was as much a political entity as a collection of houses in the European Middle Ages.Particular political forms, however, varied.Many European cities had their own legislative assemblies.It was the emperor who ruled some cities in the Holy Roman Empire.A medieval village in Italy had a state-like function.The cities of Venice, Genoa, and Lübeck, for example, became powerful states in their own right, sometimes taking over surrounding territories or establishing huge maritime empires.Several other similar phenomena existed elsewhere, for example in late medieval Japan, where the Sakai had considerable autonomy.

City life offered people greater freedom from rural obligations during the medieval period.The city provided freedom from customary rural obligations to lords and communities (hence the German saying, "Stadtluft macht frei," which roughly translates as "City air makes you free").It used to be that cities had their own laws, separate from those of the lords of surrounding areas.

Trade Routes

Not all cities developed into major urban centers.In the early modern era, larger capital cities benefitted from new trade routes and grew even larger.During the 16th century, Mediterranean and Baltic city-states languished, but larger European capital cities enjoyed the growth of trade after the rise of the Atlantic trade.The early 19th century saw London become the largest city on earth, with a population of over a million residents, while Paris competed with the well-developed regional capitals of Baghdad, Beijing, Istanbul, and Kyoto.Yet most towns remained smaller - by 1500, there were only about two dozen towns in the world with more than 100,000 inhabitants.At the time of 1700, there were fewer than 40, a figure which would rise to 300 by 1900.Early modern cities may have had as few as 10,000 inhabitants.

Industrial Cities

The industrial era saw cities grow rapidly and become hubs of population growth and production.

Key Takeaways

Cities with heavy industry Era of the industrial revolution

1871 Glasgow slum: An example of slum life in an industrial city.

Urbanization and production increased rapidly during the industrial era.With the advent of modern industry in the 18th century, massive urbanization and the birth of great new cities occurred, first in Europe and then throughout the world, as new jobs brought huge numbers of rural residents to urban areas.In 1800, 3% of the global population lived in cities.During the industrial era, that percentage grew to nearly 50% by the dawn of the 21st century.From 1860 to 1910, the railways lowered transportation costs and large manufacturing centers started to emerge in the United States, making it possible for rural people to move into cities.

Rapid urbanization created hazards for health and safety, and industrial cities had rapid growth.Rapidly expanding industrial cities pose a serious health risk as they are often contaminated with water and air, and are home to communicable diseases.Living conditions during the Industrial Revolution ranged from splendorous homes of the rich to squalorous workplaces.The poor lived in very small houses in cramped neighborhoods.In these homes, toilets were shared, sewage lines were left open, and conditions were damp, which increased the risk of epidemics.Infestation of water supplies often led to sickness.

Urban life improved with better sanitation, but many young children died of diseases spread by the cramped living conditions of the 19th century.Among the more common diseases were tuberculosis (infested all over congested dwellings), lung diseases related to mining, and cholera due to polluted water.It was tuberculosis (TB) that killed the most in cities.Records from the history of medicine show that up to 40% of working class deaths in cities were related to tuberculosis.

The Structure of Cities

Models of urban structure provide an explanation of how land usage is arranged.

Learning Objectives

Utilizing human ecology theory, analyze the similarities and differences between different urban structure models, including a grid model, a sectoral model, and a concentric ring model, among other ones.

Key Takeaways

CBD Urban greenspace Ecological Anthropology

Urban Structure Models


Land is divided into rectangles by streets that intersect at right angles to form grids.North American cities are more likely to use grid plans than those in Europe, where older cities are more likely to have streets radiating from a central square or other structure of cultural importance.The grid facilitates development because developers can subdivide and auction large parcels of land.Their geometry results in regular lots that allow for better use of the land and less boundary fighting.It is true that grids may be dangerous since long, straight roads make driving faster.Suburban developments with dead ends and cul-de-sacs began to be planned in the 1960s, as planners moved away from grids.

Concentric Ring Model

Ernest Burgess posited the concentric ring theory in 1924, based on observations of Chicago.This study was inspired by human ecology theories, which compared cities to ecosystems and gave consideration to how adaptation and assimilation take place.According to class and assimilation, urban residents naturally isolate themselves into appropriate rings, or ecological niches.This inner ring represents the central business district (CBD), called Zone A. This ring is surrounded by a zone of transition (B), which contains industry and lower-quality housing.The third ring (C) contains houses for the working class -- the zone of independent workers' homes.Fourth ring (D) has newer and larger houses occupied by middle-class people.Outside the outermost ring (E), or commuters' zone, are residential neighborhoods.

Toronto's Central Business District: The skyscrapers dominate the District


A Concentric Zone Model describes the city as a series of concentric rings, each containing a different group of residents and social functions.

This model has been challenged for its general applicability. .Advances in transportation and communication are blurring these “zones" in new, western U.S. cities like Los Angeles.Additionally, the model fails to account for topographic and physical landscape features.There were also semi-circles in Chicago, disrupted by Lake Michigan.


According to Homer Hoyt, the city should develop into wedge-shaped sectors instead of concentric rings, in 1939.In certain parts of a city, certain activities are more popular, either due to geography or environment.As these activities expand, they become wedges and become city sectors when they flourish and spread outward.The sectoral model by Hoyt has been criticized for neglecting factors such as transportation patterns that may restrict or direct growth, just like the concentric ring model.


A sectoral model of urban growth developed by Hoyt's: Cities are shaped like wedges emanating from a central point.

Multiple Nuclei

A model of city formation based on multiple nuclei was developed in 1945 as a means of explaining city formation after the expansion of automobiles.With car ownership on the rise, there is greater mobility, which allows regional centers to specialize.A city typically has more than one point of activity.While some activities gravitate toward certain nodes, others avoid them.For instance, a university node may draw well-educated residents, pizzerias, and book stores, whereas an airport will likely attract hotels and warehouses.Identical activities should not be clustered in the same area.

Irregular Pattern

During the second half of the twentieth century, a model for explaining urban structure in the Third World was developed.A large number of rapidly growing cities in the Third World are modeled in the book as examples of lack of planning.A model with this structure includes blocks with no fixed order; urban structure is not related to an urban center or CBD.

Alternate Uses of “Urban Structure”

Additionally, urban structure can refer to urban spatial structure, the configuration of public and private spaces within cities, and the degree of connectivity and accessibility within them.The concept of urban structure refers to the layout of CBDs, industrial and residential districts, as well as open space.

A city's central business district (CBD), or downtown, is usually its geographical and commercial center.A North American term for this is "downtown" or "city center".It is often the location of the financial district, but entertainment and retail options are also commonly found in the downtown area.Although CBDs have very few residents, the population is increasing as younger professionals and business workers move into city center apartments.

Generally, an industrial park is a zoned and planned development designed for industrial use.In order to attract business, they concentrate dedicated infrastructure in order to reduce per-business costs.

Public open spaces are valuable recreational, ecological, and aesthetic assets for citizens.These open spaces can range from highly maintained environments to natural landscapes.While almost all are open to the public, some may be privately owned.Open spaces offer respite from urban environments and can have much ecological value by bringing citizens in touch with nature and creating a biodiverse environment.As well as being aesthetically pleasing for individuals who enjoy nature, open spaces provide a cultural function for concerts or exhibits, and a functional function - for example, they provide a way to control floodwaters and prevent flooding.

The Process of Urbanization

An urbanization process is the process of moving people from rural areas to cities for economic or other reasons.

Learning Objectives

Consider the process of urbanization and its effects on economics and the environment

Key Takeaways

City subdividing Flying rurally City growth Reverse urbanization Redevelopment

Urbanization and rural flight

In urbanization, population shifts occur from rural areas to cities.Populations around the world have been urbanizing rapidly since the late 20th century:

Some projections suggest that, by 2030, 60 percent of people may live in cities.

World Rural and Urban Population: Global population has become increasingly urban as it has migrated out of rural areas.

Industrialization tends to be positively correlated with urbanization.

Urbanization is also called "rural flight".This flight often occurs in modern times in regions that have experienced the industrialisation of agriculture, where fewer workers are needed to meet the same level of agricultural output, and agricultural services and industries have been consolidated.Several of these factors dwindle the size of the rural labor market and negatively impact the economy of small and medium farms.Rural flight is exacerbated when declining population leads to the loss of rural services (such as business enterprises and schools), which ultimately results in a larger loss of population as people flee to seek those features.

In the process of urban growth, people leave villages and farms in favor of cities.The rapid growth of cities like Chicago in the 19th century and Mumbai a century later can largely be attributed to rural-urban migration.Development countries typically experience rapid growth of this type.

Through the efforts of individuals and companies to cut time and expenses in commuting, while improving opportunity for jobs, education, housing, entertainment, and transportation, urbanization naturally occurs.Cities offer the opportunity for individuals and families to take advantage of proximity, diversity, and marketplace competition.Urban areas also have more diverse social communities than rural areas, allowing others to find people like them.

Economic and Environmental Effects of Urbanization

Cities and the surrounding areas are adversely affected by urbanization in both economic and environmental ways. .Land prices rise, gentrification occurs as the local working class is priced out of the real estate market.

As cities grow, the environment is altered as well. .Ground temperatures are regulated by the ground using a large amount of solar energy to evaporate water from vegetation and soil.As a result, temperatures are lowered.In cities, however, where there is less vegetation and ground covering, the sun's energy is mostly absorbed by buildings and asphalt.Cities have a higher surface temperature during the day due to less evaporative cooling produced by urban surfaces.Vehicles, factories, and domestic and industrial heating and cooling systems emit additional heat into the city.These effects together can increase city temperatures by 2 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit (or 1 to 6 degrees Celsius).

Suburbanization and Counterurbanization

The suburbization and counterurbanization of developed countries in recent decades have been studied by sociologists.Infrastructure and social factors like racism may have contributed to the phenomenon.Unlike many developing countries, developed countries have the ability to move out of cities and still retain many advantages of city life (for instance, improved communications and means of transportation).Interestingly, counterurbanization appears most prevalent in the middle and upper classes with the ability to afford their own homes.

The racial nature of suburbanization in America is also a factor.The massive African American migration from the South during World War I led to a significant shift in residential areas towards the suburbs.In some places, the urban areas became seen as unsafe and crime-ridden, while the suburbs became considered safe and family-friendly. This social trend, known as "white flight," spread across the world.According to some social scientists, the historic processes of suburbanization and decentralization are instances of white privilege that have contributed to patterns of environmental racism in the present day.

Following World War II, there was a rapid rise in suburban development in the United States as soldiers returned home.In suburbs, which are residential areas on the outskirts of a city, it was less crowded and less expensive to live than in cities.Since the U.S. interstate highway system was built and automobiles became affordable for middle class families, the number of suburbs grew rapidly.Counterurbanization or "exurbanization", became another trend around 1990.In rural areas, the wealthiest began to live in nice homes (rather than in cities).

The advent of suburbanization could result in a new urban form. Instead of densely populated centers, cities may become more dispersed, consisting of many interconnected smaller towns.It's interesting to see how from largely rural, to largely rural to largely urban to suburbia, the U.S. has changed.

U.S. Urban Patterns

Population size and density are used by the U.S. Census Bureau to define where an area is urban or rural.

Learning Objectives

Describe how governments and society define "urban" differently

Key Takeaways

Availability of people

Different international, national, and local agencies may define "urban" differently.In the United States, for instance, city governments often use political boundaries to define what counts as a city.Some definitions include factors such as the total population and population density.As well, different definitions may set varying thresholds, so that some may count a town of 2,500 as an urban city while others may define a city as having more than 50,000 people.Various agencies may define "urban" differently based on land use. For example, if a place is built up with residential neighborhoods, industrial sites, railroad yards, cemeteries, airports, golf courses, etc., it counts as urban.In 1997, the U.S.Agricultural Department recorded more than 98,000,000 acres of urban land.

Contrary to these competing definitions, "urban" in the United States is defined according to guidelines set by the.census.A census-defined urban area is one in which there are at least 1,000 people per square mile and 2,500 total people living in it.These areas are not delineated by political boundaries.It is believed that this measure is more accurate than the number of people living within the city limits because it disregards political boundaries.Occasionally, these two numbers are not the same.The city of Greenville, South Carolina has a population under 60,000 and a population of more than 300,000 in its urbanized area, while Greensboro, North Carolina has a population over 200,000 and a population of around 270,000 in its urbanized area.As a result, Greenville is "larger" on some counts, but not on others, like taxation, local elections, etc.

Eighty-two percent of the population in the United States lived in urban areas as of December 2010.This area combines to occupy about 2% of the land area of the United States.In urbanized areas, most residents are suburbanites, whereas core central city residents make up about 30% of the total population (60 million out of 210 million).One of the largest urban areas in the United States is New York City with over 8 million residents within the city limits and more than 19 million in the urban area as a whole.There are five other large cities in the United States: Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and Boston.


A map of major urban centers in America is shown below.

Key Takeaways

Flight white The exurbs In traffic control

Urban populations are moving away from cities to rural and suburban areas, a phenomenon known as the rural rebound.Urbanization usually occurs along with modernization, but many cities in developed countries are now losing population.Demographers in the 1970s observed that the rural population was actually growing faster than the urban population, a phenomenon called "rural rebound".The trend reversed in the 1980s, in part due to an economic recession that especially hit farmers.In the 1990s, rural populations again tended to gain at the expense of cities.Over the past 50 years, nearly 370 cities with a population over 100,000 have experienced a population loss of 10% or more, and states with more than 25 percent of the depopulating cities have experienced population losses as well.

In fact, most participants in the so-called rural rebound migrated to suburban areas rather than to rural areas.It may also be evidence of the importance of suburbanization as a new urban form in the most developed countries.


People move from cities to the suburbs in general as part of suburbanization. .Sociologists have devised several different categories to describe these new kinds of suburban towns. The most notable are "ex-urbs" and "edge cities."

Generally, an exurb (extra-urban) refers to a ring of prosperous communities that surround a city's suburbs.These communities are often commuter towns or bedroom communities.The majority of the residents in commuter towns commute to the city for work.Bedroom communities are sometimes called that because residents only stay home at night since the rest of their days are spent in cities.The average commuter town has few commercial or industrial amenities, though some retail centers may be available to residents to meet their needs.While most exurbs are commuter towns, most commuter towns are not exurbs.

Wealth and education levels vary among suburbs.As a rule, exurban areas have much higher college education levels than their closer-in suburbs, though that's not always the case in other countries.Most of their residents earn much more in urban areas than in nearby rural counties, displaying the urban wages of their residents.Even though some exurbs are quite rich in comparison to nearby suburbs or the city itself, others have higher poverty levels.People may form commuter towns when they cannot afford to live where they work, so they move to another town with a lower cost of living.Due to the dot com bubble of the late twentieth century, housing prices in California cities rose dramatically, spurring the growth of exurban areas nearby.

White Flight

There have been many attempts to explain counterurbanization, but one of the most popular theories is that suburbanization is provoked by white flight.White flight describes suburbanization and the large-scale migration of whites of various European ancestries from racially mixed urban areas to racially homogeneous suburbs in the twentieth century.Housing discrimination often prevented blacks from moving to the suburbs in the first half of the twentieth century; banks and federal policy made it difficult for blacks to get the mortgages they needed to buy houses, and communities used restrictive housing covenants to exclude minorities.

In this period, white flight contributed to a state of urban decay, where a city, or part of a city, falls into disrepair and decay.A depopulated area, abandoned buildings, high unemployment, crime, and a desolate landscape are signs of urban decay.Middle-class flight contributed to the drain of cities' tax bases, which led to urban decay caused in part by the loss of manufacturing jobs as they moved into rural areas and overseas.

.Likewise, some demographers have characterized the rural rebound, and the newest waves of suburbanization, as forms of ethnic balkanization, in which different ethnic groups (not only whites) group together into racially homogeneous communities.Unlike the white flight that took place in the first half of the century, these phenomena are not so clearly driven by restrictive policies, laws, and practices.

A suburban neighborhood has large, manicured lawns.

Key Takeaways

An intelligent growth strategy Renovation of urban areas NEU

There is a lot of change in cities. They grow, shrink, and change.Many theories have been proposed about urban demographic changes.

Growth Machine Theory

In the growth machine theory of urban development, city growth is driven by a coalition of interest groups that all profit from growth and expansion.By turning the conventional wisdom about urban land use on its head, Molotch first outlined growth machine theory in 1976.

The study of urban sociology had traditionally been dominated by the idea that cities were essentially containers of human activity, in which actors competed for the most strategically advantageous parcels of land. The real estate market reflected the state of that competition. .Thus, city residents were not just competing for parcels of land; they also hoped to achieve specific goals that served their interests.Cities are shaped by the interests of those whose homes gain value when cities grow, particularly real estate owners.In Molotch's words, they are “the local growth machine.

Urban Sprawl

However, the fact that cities have grown rapidly throughout the twentieth century cannot be denied, regardless of whether growth machine theories or older theories of natural processes are involved.Some of that growth has been poorly managed, causing urban sprawl.The concept of urban sprawl refers to the process of transferring a city into low-density, auto-dependent rural land, high separation of land use (e.g., locating retail close to residential areas, often in large malls or retail complexes), and design aspects that promote car reliance.

.The residents must, therefore, use an automobile.A typical urban sprawl will have a low population density: single-family homes on large lots instead of apartment buildings, low-rise buildings instead of high-rises, extensive lawns, and surface parking lots.

Those who oppose urban sprawl argue that it creates an inhospitable urban environment and that it encroaches on rural land, potentially raising land prices and displacing farmers or other rural residents.In addition, urban sprawl is associated with negative impacts on the environment and public health, many of which are related to automobile dependence: higher personal transportation costs, air pollution, fossil fuel dependence, increased traffic accidents, delays in emergency medical services, and reduced land and water quality.

Urban Decay

According to some, urban sprawl is a result of consumer preference; people prefer to live in lower density, more private communities that are perceived as safer and more relax than urban neighborhoods.Such preferences reflect a criticism of urban life that centers on the decay of cities.Critics say that urban decay is caused by overcrowding and excessive density, because it makes cities unlivable, driving out residents, thereby creating urban sprawl.


The alternative theory suggests that density does not cause crime, and crime does not cause people to leave a city; when people leave, neighborhood structures are neglected and abandoned, causing crime and decay.Broken windows theory says that small indicators of neglect, such as broken windows and untidy yards, create a sense of decay.Likewise, people fail to maintain their own properties due to their anticipation of decay.


Urban renewal programs are being launched in response to urban decay and sprawl.In new urbanism and smart growth, specific types of urban renewal are aimed at making cities more pleasant and livable.

Cities can keep their sprawl compact and dense with the use of smart growth programs.Aside from enabling cities to grow more densely, urban growth boundaries help protect farmland and wild areas.Programs to foster smart growth often include transit-oriented development goals in order to make public transit more efficient and make biking and walking more accessible.

The New Urbanism movement promotes walkable neighborhoods with a range of job opportunities and housing options.In terms of urban planning, it encompasses concepts such as traditional neighborhood design and transit-oriented development.The New Urbanist community would have a defined center (such as a square or a park), along with a transit stop nearby.It would be possible for most homes to be within a five-minute walk of the center, and there would be a variety of housing options, such as houses, row houses, and apartment buildings, to attract a mix of older and younger people, singles and families, as well as the rich and poor.