Urbanization in History: A Process of Dynamic Interactions

By A. M. Van Der Woude; Akira Hayami et al. | Go to book overview

death rate, in turn, would increase natural growth, and this in turn would contribute to accelerated growth, and the cycle would then begin again.


3. Conclusion

The differences in the behaviour of Spanish urban populations should by now be quite clear. In towns, nuptiality and fertility were appreciably lower than in rural areas, and mortality was higher. The differences are significant and ranged between 7 and 20 per cent. Even though the development of these variables was similar everywhere, there were certain variations in direction and intensity. The earlier decline of legitimate fertility and the more rapid reduction of infant mortality in towns are good examples.

Attempts to establish causal relationships between these and other variables have yielded results that are at best tentative. A number of factors have been singled out as being possibly significant in conditioning urban demographic behaviour, its evolution, and differences between town and country. None, however, has stood out as the only; or even the principal factor. The complexity of urban society makes it difficult to use simple or straightforward explanations. One of the major, albeit indirect conclusions of our discussion is that there is a multiplicity of often contradictory determinants of human behaviour in urban Spain. However, many of the key variables have been defined, and future researchers will need to integrate them in a more systematic manner to help our understanding of demographic behaviour.

In the final analysis, and in spite of its distinctive characteristics, the urban world continues to be intimately linked with the rural society that surrounds it. Reproductive behaviour in a town can only be analysed in relation to behaviour in its hinterland. During the period of this review there is no sign that this relationship was becoming weaker. The reality is clear; its explanation, though, perhaps less so. Our natural tendency to use economic and other quantifiable variables is stopped short in a situation where these do not explain all, indeed, they may explain very little, of the reality, in which cultural transfers seem to be so important. Migrants are the agents of these transfers who continually bolster up urban populations and in so doing create a bridge between the urban and the rural worlds. As long as a town's population originated largely from its surrounding area, the behaviour of the town's residents will never be truly emancipated from patterns prevailing in the countryside. Moreover, it was possible to move across the bridge in both directions and there is evidence that in their turn towns, and especially major cities, influenced behaviour in rural areas. The specific nature of these transfers, the variables which condition the strength of urban-rural ties and their development, and the mechanism of their diffusion remain to be determined and will become the subjects of future research and controversy.

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