Urbanization in History: A Process of Dynamic Interactions

Urbanization in History: A Process of Dynamic Interactions

Urbanization in History: A Process of Dynamic Interactions

Urbanization in History: A Process of Dynamic Interactions

Synopsis

These papers represent a series of important contributions on the history of urbanization. As well as offering a clear and instructive discussion of fundamental concepts, processes, and measurement problems, the introduction summarizes findings in the latest research and proposes new topics. The papers focus on four principal areas of contemporary research on urbanization: urban networks, town-country economic links, migration, and demographic patterns. New areas of analysis, such as the study of migration flows by age, gender, or social group, and the comparative east/west approach of several of these papers will serve to broaden the international scope of research and stimulate further work in this field.

Excerpt

In preparing the conference on 'Urbanization and Population Dynamics in History' the organizers formulated a series of questions for the guidance of contributors. The questions were intended to lend coherence to the academic discussion, and we shall repeat them here to introduce the nineteen papers in this volume which have been selected from the thirty-eight presented at the conference. The main points touched upon in the questionnaire referred to three aspects of the process of urbanization: urban hierarchies and networks, distinctive characteristics of the urban demographic system, and urban-rural relationships.

Study of the first of these topics is motivated by a desire to move beyond conventional concepts of urbanization. Indeed, urbanization remains an elusive object of study to the historian and social scientist alike, largely because of the multi-dimensional character of urbanization. The aggregative dimension, so familiar to us in summations of city populations used to calculate the percentage urban, indicates the 'weight' of the urban sector. But when we seek to interpret the possible meaning of this information, our attention necessarily turns to how the urban sector 'throws its weight around'. One approach, familiar to the historian and demographer alike, is to inquire in detail into the inner workings of the city: its economy, social structure, vital rates, migration flows, etc. The assumption underlying this approach is that the individual city is a microcosm of the larger urban sector as a whole.

A second approach, relatively new to historical studies, is to inquire into the relations among cities as expressed in administrative hierarchies, trade and communication flows, migration patterns, and other patterned phenomena. The assumption underlying this approach is, to quote the paper contributed by Carol Smith, that 'the true significance of the local case-study is revealed by situating it within an overarching, functionally differentiated hierarchical structure'. Jan de Vries expresses the compatible position that the arrangement of cities is as revealing as the aggregation of cities in interpreting urbanization.

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