The Economic History of Urbanization

Authored by: Fred Smith

Routledge Handbook of Modern Economic History

Print publication date:  December  2012
Online publication date:  January  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415677042
eBook ISBN: 9780203075616
Adobe ISBN: 9781135121211


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The city is the engine for human achievement. From engineering feats to solve the sanitation needs of ancient Rome, to the flood of art, literature, and music from the Italian city-states of the Renaissance, cities facilitate interactions that allow human beings to improve their quality of life. While social scientists clearly understand the importance of cities in promoting human well-being, the origins of the city remain shrouded in the darkness of ancient history. Jericho (located in the Jordan Valley) appears to be the strongest candidate for the title of “first city,” for archaeologists have uncovered evidence of a city of some 2,000 inhabitants dating back to at least the ninth millennium bc (O’Sullivan 2006). Wherever and whenever they first appeared, however, cities took shape for one simple reason: the benefits to human beings from clustering and living in close contact with one another exceeded the costs of doing so (Glaeser 1998).

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