views updated May 11 2018


CITIES . In order to obtain the deepest historical understanding of urban religiosity, one may begin with the Neolithic site of Çatal Hüyük, located on Turkey's Anatolian Plateau. The main mound represents the continuous habitation of a coherent cultural group between about 7000 and 5700 bce, making this one of the oldest known cities in the world. The earliest excavations exposed residential abodes adjoining structures identified as shrines in a section of the city described by James Mellaart, the principal excavator (1967), as a sacred or priestly quarter. The remarkably preserved shrine rooms reveal a dominant female image, molded on the walls in plaster with arms upraised and legs extended, sometimes portrayed as pregnant and sometimes portrayed with an animal's head emerging from her womb. Other images of animal heads in plaster adorn the walls of the shrines, and short pillars with mounted bulls' horns adorn the edges of raised platforms. Multiple plaster representations of breasts molded around animal skulls, or with animal skulls protruding from them, hang on the walls of some shrines, while stone statuary of a female image associated with leopards coincides with painted plaster images of leopards in other rooms. Detailed paintings in a single shrine portray giant vultures swooping down on decapitated human figures. Burials under the raised platforms of shrines and residences indicate initial exposure of the dead and elimination of flesh through the action of birds, before the final interment of bones, sometimes with red ochre or grave goods.

A different vision of early urban religiosity comes from the ancient site of Jericho, well known from a number of biblical passages and excavated repeatedly since the nineteenth century. Excavations in the 1950s found what may be the oldest monumental architecture in the world: a circular watchtower 28 feet in diameter and surviving to a height of 24.5 feet behind fortification walls. A population of perhaps 3,000 people lived here in the early eighth millennium bce. Settlers at this site in the following millennium were using small female figurines with hands supporting their breasts, often interpreted as fertility goddesses. They also were burying their dead beneath the floors of houses, but removing their skulls in order to plaster and paint them in a lifelike manner, insert shells in their eye sockets, and exhibit them (Kenyon, 1970, pp. 3957, 331).

These first cases of population concentration, civic architecture, and occupational specialization introduce several recurring themes in the discussion of religion and its relationship to cities. The first theme concerns the style of religiosity connected with urbanization: death and the invocation of fertility seem to constitute fundamental problems at the origins of town life. The second theme concerns the disposition of sacred and public space, represented in the case of Çatal Hüyük by the presence of buildings apparently dedicated to the performance of rituals. One may ask whether the multiplicity of sites indicates many publics oriented around specific kinship groups or priestly lineages, or whether this multiplicity connotes a concept of the sacred and ritual practice uniting all members of the settlement within an overarching community of citizens. The two examples of burial practices mentioned above suggest ritual practice occurring within more restricted social environments based on kinship or participation within specific rituals.

City-Gods and Rulers: Mesopotamia

The first detailed portrait of urbanization on a regional scale becomes possible during the fourth millennium bce in Mesopotamiaold Sumer and Akkad, the territories that would become Babylonia. Archaeological work has traced here the transition from village farming communities to cities, and the study of the earliest cuneiform writing from the end of the millennium has allowed a deeper look at belief systems and social organization. Thorkild Jacobsen (1976) describes Sumerian religiosity as being based on an understanding of the entire universe in terms of its "numinous" qualities. The different features of the natural world follow patterns of change and growth that corresponded to the many attributes of sacred power, resulting in thousands of names for spiritual entities linked to natural and artificial phenomena. The attempts to understand these entities through their signs and to manipulate the rules for their manifestation form the background for massive numbers of cuneiform records concerned with divination and correct behavior. The attempts include astronomical observation and various performances in which groups of people invoked or placated sacred forces, including the calendar-based agrarian festivals celebrating the death and rebirth of anthropomorphic images of fertility. Tendencies toward representation of the sacred in human form seem to have become more prominent when larger populations concentrated in central places. As the Mesopotamian plain became dotted with cities, along with places dedicated to subsidiary sacred forces conceived as divine persons, each settlement created the "house" of a god associated with the life of the entire community.

The center of the divine presence was the temple, a quadrilateral roofed structure with an image of a deity, which most sources describe as an anthropomorphic statue made of wood and ornamented with precious substances. When a statue was installed with the correct rituals, the god entered into it and became one with it. As a living presence, the statue/deity enjoyed a daily round of services, including baths, offerings of food and drink, music, incense, and the worship of devotees. The temple household included kitchens for food preparation and habitation quarters for functionaries who prepared offerings, performed worship, and maintained the temple infrastructure. In order to support offerings and the personnel of the gods, temples came to control economic resources in the form of land or investments in commercial undertakings. The earliest written sources from the late fourth and early third millennia mostly describe economic transactions involving temples. This characteristic of the source material has supported the theory that the administration of the earliest cities was theocratic, with temples performing the management and distribution functions that allowed expansion of agriculture and trade (Wiggermann, 1995, pp. 18611862).

The perennial scholarly problem is tracing the interactions between the theocratic model of early urbanization and a model based on kingship. The earliest rulers of Sumerian city-states were "lords" (en) selected from a restricted body of citizens after rites of divination. The installation of the ruler occurred through a sacred marriage with the deity, at times represented by a priest or priestess of the city god's temple. The preponderance of temple economic transactions, the absence of buildings clearly identifiable as "palaces," and the primarily honorific actions of the lords suggest that their ability to wield independent power initially remained limited. Armed conflict among Sumer's cities in the early third millennium, a time when "city-states" emerged, indicates that war leaders were becoming more important in determining the outcomes of economic or territorial struggles. In the city of Lagash, for example, administrative texts dating between 2500 and 2350 bce suggest that the king controlled the city's economy through the domains of the city's main temples. The person regarded as the fulfiller of this tendency was Sargon of Akkad (Agade), who in the late twenty-fourth century bce brought all Mesopotamian city-states under his authority, reputedly campaigning as far as the Mediterranean Sea. Sargon claimed to be an appointee of the supreme god Enlil, and arranged for his daughter's appointment as priestess of the moon-god Sin in the city of Ur, thus posing as a traditionalist who preserved the archaic hegemony of independent cities. His grandson, Naram-Sin, initiated major renovations at Enlil's temple in Nippur, but also appointed governors over cities and appeared as a divine being in his own right (Franke, 1995). Even after the eclipse of Naram-Sin's empire, kings of Sumerian city-states represented themselves with divine attributes, while still claiming that their power derived from the favor of their city's leading deity. The many deities of Mesopotamian sites came to constitute a pantheon governed by the king-like Enlil, who ruled from the temple city of Nippur in conjunction with an assembly of the gods and through Enki, the master of intelligence, whose hometown was Eridu.

By the eighteenth century bce, when Sumeria came under the hegemony of emperors based in Babylon or Assyria, a radical transformation of urban sacrality had taken place. A ranked hierarchy of personified deities now stood behind the phenomena of nature, dictating the fate of the world within a complex array of laws that required obedience and observation of ritual injunctions (Bottéro, 1992, pp. 208231). Adjacent to now-expanded temples at the centers of major cities stood massive stepped pyramids or ziggurats, which probably included shrines on their summits accessible by long flights of stairs. Religious institutions, especially in northern Mesopotamia, appeared less like the organic outgrowths of the urban fabric and more like massive interventions of wealth and power located on heights above the population, culminating in massive urban planning projects of the "neo-Babylonian" kings in the seventh and sixth centuries (Van De Mieroop, 1997, pp. 8486). The Babyonians placed Marduk at the head of the pantheon and the Assyrians placed Assur on top, each representing his capital city as in the older dispensation, but now portrayed as lords of the universe supported by emperors as their divinely appointed representatives on earth, demanding conformity from those below them. Thus, urban religion came to legitimize empire, and the city became a cosmogram constructed by and for political leaderships. Paradoxically, as the imperial motif was coming to dominate the city's sacred center during a period of expanding social and economic complexity, we notice the creation of architecture of privatized worship (Crawford, 1991, pp. 7173, 101), an increasing attention to the human individual, and a concern with a personal god.

Ceremonial Centers: China and the Americas

Perhaps the most influential body of scholarship concerned with religion and the city has engaged in a comparative study of the cosmographic qualities of the ceremonial center, as originally exemplified in Mesopotamia. Paul Wheatley's classic study of the Chinese Shang and Zhou cities (secondfirst millennia bce) propounded the study of the ceremonial center as a program for understanding "traditional" urbanization in Asia and, by extension, throughout the world:

Whenever, in any of the seven regions of primary urban generation , we trace back the characteristic urban form to its beginnings we arrive not at a settlement that is dominated by commercial relations, a primordial market, or at one that is focused on a citadel, an archetypal fortress, but rather at a ceremonial complex. Beginning as little more than tribal shrines, in what may be regarded as their classic phases these centers were elaborated into complexes of public ceremonial structures, usually massive and often extensive, and including assemblages of such architectural items as pyramids, platform mounds, temples, palaces, terraces, staircases, courts, and stelae. Operationally they were instruments for the creation of political, social, economic, and sacred space, at the same time as they were symbols of cosmic, social, and moral order. (1971, p. 225)

Wheatley's particular interest concerned the change of the Zhou city center from a ceremonial enclavea walled enclosure for an altar of the god of the soil and a temple of ancestorstoward a multifaceted administrative, military, and economic hub for a "spatially integrated hinterland" (pp. 175178, 186187). For this project he built on the centuries-old doctrines of geomancy (feng-shui), scholarship linking Chinese city planning to "cosmo-magical" elements already visible in Shang or Zhou divination records, and the orientation of excavated cities toward the cardinal directions. The project, however, had the more ambitious goal of linking Chinese materials to comparative theories of "astro-biology" that aligned earthly prosperity to a cosmic order, manifest in the stars, through orientation of the built environment around a universal axis. Wheatley was interested in constructing an urban progression from village farming community through dispersed ceremonial center to compact city, considering the "ideal-type ceremonial center as a functional and developmental stage in the evolution of city life" (p. 329). The goal of this effort, shared by many in the social sciences of the twentieth century, was an understanding of these "foci of orthogenesis" as characteristic of the premodern, distinct from the "uniqueness of the present-day city" (pp. 478482).

The framework of the ceremonial center has proven particularly durable in the study of precontact Mesoamerica, where urbanization originated in the early first millennium bce in Mexico's Olmec culture and achieved its "classic" form between the second and tenth centuries ce in central Mexico and the Maya world. The heart of the early Mesoamerican city consisted of shrines on raised platforms dedicated to the worship of deities and often associated with burials accompanied by grave goods. The most spectacular city was Teotihuacan in central Mexico, which emerged as a significant site around 100 ce and reached its peak around 500 ce, when its population was between 125,000 and 200,000. A primary road (called by the later Aztecs the Street of the Dead) bisected Teotihuacan beginning in the north at the giant Temple of the Moon, passing by the giant Temple of the Sun, and ending after 1.5 miles at the Great Enclosure and the Citadel housing the Temple of Quetzalcoatl. There were more than one hundred religious structures along the Street of the Dead alone. In addition, the city included over two thousand "apartment compounds" associated with their own platforms, suggesting that every residential unit of sixty to a hundred persons had its own shrine or temple (Marcus, 2000, p. 67; Cowgill, 2003, pp. 4144).

The hypercentralization of Teotihuacan stands in contrast to settlements in eastern Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras, where dozens of states arose, each focused on its own ceremonial complex. One example is Tikal, one of the superpowers of the classic Maya world, where more than 4,000 structures dispersed over an area of 6.2 square miles housed a population of between 50,000 and 90,000 inhabitants in the sixth century ce. The central area known as the Great Plaza, about 100 meters square, included high pyramids with surmounting temples on the west and east sides, and an array of lower pyramids on the north side. The south side of the plaza included an extensive palace complex or "acropolis" and, between the palace and the eastern pyramid, a ball court. Four main causeways linked the plaza to seven more large complexes within a 1.2-mile radius (Escobédo and Valdés, 1998; Grube, 2000, pp. 219221).

Intensive research on landscapes and the decipherment of Maya hieroglyphic script in the late twentieth century have provided understandings of sacred cosmological concepts and the organization of space in the Mesoamerican city (Arellano Hernández et al., 1999, pp. 34, 108113, 129133, 136139). The universe is tripartite, consisting of a middle world on the surface of the earth, the starry sky of the gods above, and an underworld of death below. It is also quadrilateral, oriented to the four cardinal directions associated with the sun's equinoxes, special colors, and characteristics, and revolving around a central axis where the world tree grows. The gods are natural forces and also superhuman beings connected with specific geometric positions in the universe and controlling different natural phenomena. People pay close attention to their spatial position in order to align themselves most effectively with natural powers and also to enable through their alignments the auspicious aspects of creation. These alignments occur in daily life and in every household, but appear most forcefully in the architecture of the urban center. Major monuments demonstrate orientation to sacred caves or mountains in the surrounding environment, and to the positions on the horizon where celestial bodies rise or set (Šprajc, 2004). Pyramids are mythical mountains, centers of the universe, surmounting caves where deceased ancestors and beings from the underworld reside. The gods presiding over their "places of sleep" in palace temples and on the summits of pyramids, like honored ancestors, are distant beings contacted through rituals of petition and supplication. The ball games played on the ubiquitous courts of the Maya cities seem closely connected to stories of the descent of the hero-twins to the underworld and their triumph over death, known from surviving Maya artwork or literature and from ethnographic study (Grube, 2000, pp. 186189, 200, 270, 291). The plazas of the ceremonial center are described as oceans, lakes, or standing water, and the city of Izapa in Chiapas demonstrates the cosmological significance: about 2,000 years ago, the citizens diverted water from the nearby river into channels that fed reservoirs surrounding an enormous pyramid, transforming the site into the primordial sea at the world's creation, from which the pyramid-mountain of sustenance rises to support the first maize (Kappelman, 2001, pp. 8386).

Earlier scholarship on the classic Maya envisioned a theocratic society concerned with the cyclical rhythms of cosmic time and pursuing the peaceful goals of an agrarian economy. More recent research, based on the comparative study of material culture and epigraphy, has portrayed an economically complex world involving long-distance trade, dominated by nobilities and royal families of fifty warring states who supervised the assembly of the ceremonial centers. With the adoption of divine names at their enthronement, rulers took the position of ajaw (leader, priest, and king), and after 400 ce they often described themselves as the "divine kings" (k'uhul ajaw) of particular territories. Rulers saw themselves as the personification of the world axis, and iconography displays them in the costume of the world tree flanked by serpents' heads representing branches and a headdress of the bird of heaven. The kings enacted public dance dramas in costume, taking the roles of deities such as the god of maize in the stories of creation. Royal men and women, at times under the influence of hallucinatory substances, pierced their bodies in order to collect their blood, aiming simultaneously at visionary experiences. Their blood, dropping on paper, would be burned along with copal, the sweet-smelling "blood" of treesan activity connected to the idea of the breath-soul, related to aromas and also to soundthat is, to music. There are numerous references to smearing the mouths of gods with bloodin effect, feeding the godswhich involved the public sacrifice of animals and captured enemies. Success in military campaigns correlates closely with construction projects at the end of calendar periods, occasions for the reenactment of the destruction and re-creation of the world order (Arellano Hernández et al., 1999, pp. 9293; Grube, 2000, pp. 149153, 292). In these ways the geography of the sacred center became entwined with the public rituals and militaristic ambitions of hereditary political elites.

Attempts to understand the ceremonial center through material culture have underlain the study of various preliterate societies of North America, ranging from the Southwestern pueblo cultures of the Anasazi, oriented around sacred subterranean halls (and peaking between the ninth and thirteenth centuries ce), to the Eastern cultures oriented around artificial mounds. Among the latter, the Mississippian complexes (peaking between the ninth and fourteenth centuries) typically include central plazas adjoining earthen mounds, surrounding clusters of family habitation structures, and protective wooden stockades sometimes with defensive ditches. Population estimates for these sites range from 500 at the smallest to perhaps 25,000 at the largest in Cahokia, Illinois. Within the matrix of political, commercial, and environmental factors that could have supported these complexes, making the surviving architecture a "sociogram" providing clues to stratification, these monuments were obviously sacred sites embodying concepts of centrality, symmetry, boundaries, and domains. The largest, flat-topped mounds seem to have supported shrines or the habitations of elites who performed sacerdotal functions. The alignment of wooden post circles at Cahokia suggests orientation with celestial bodies. Many objects of daily or special ritual use (e.g., pipes) provide a rich body of imagery, including animal figurines, cross-in-circle motifs, and a recurring birdman image. Several examples of more spectacular human statuary provide insights into agrarian ritual iconography. Early travelers' accounts and ethnographic studies, along with archaeological evidence from burials within and around mounds, suggest that rituals of death and renewal were important. Religious beliefs among the contemporary Creek Nation provide illuminating, if speculative, links to the monumental landscape through narratives of human origins in the earth beneath mounds, associations with mountains, and ritual alignments of human groups along axes of a central square (Brown, 1997; Wesson, 1998; Dalan et al., 2003, pp. 149, 184).

The concept of the ceremonial center remains an important tool for describing the relationship between cosmological systems and the organization of space, as well as the relationship between ritual performances and the geography of the city, especially for social elites. In general, the study of earlier time periods has relied necessarily on the interpretation of the built environment as an expression of such systems, and thus the landscape of the cosmogram appears more often as an overarching principle of social organization. With access to written records, scholars tend to highlight the interactions of stratified social groups under conditions of political struggle and economic development, within the parameters of varying ecosystems.

Temple Urbanism in South Asia

The study of urbanization in South Asia reveals the varying fate of the cosmogram within a variety of social and environmental variables. In the case of the earliest cities within the Harappan (Indus Valley or Saraswati) Civilization, which reached its mature stage between 2500 and 1900 bce, there are no indications of temples or other religious monuments. Amid hundreds of sites scattered over the largest geographic expanse of any primary urbanization, only the Great Bath complex at Mohenjo-Daro provides a hint of ritual purpose (Possehl, 2002, pp. 148152). With the resurgence of urban sites in northern India during the early first millennium bce, despite strong indications of religiosity provided by the "mother goddess" figurines available from many excavations, sacred centers are not visible in the urban fabric within the concentrated habitation patterns of walled cities (Allchin, 1995, pp. 224225, 268272). Truly monumental religious architecture emerges only in the late first millennium bce in the form of Buddhist monastic institutions, which do display, in the stupa complex associated with Buddhist relics, features of the world axis and orientation to the cardinal directions (Mitra, 1971). Early Buddhist monasteries are not urban centers, however; generally they stand in the suburbs of cities or along commercial routes.

We do not encounter the centrally located sacred center in South Asian cities until the late first millennium, with the transition from monastic to temple architecture. All the features of the cosmogram appear in the temple, beginning with the consecration of the maala at its base, with a sacred axis and deities at the cardinal and intermediate points. The foundation and square "womb room" built above, with the main image of the deity at the center and subsidiary images on the outer walls, combine with quadrilateral pillared halls and the surrounding walls of compounds to create a unified geometry of the gods manifested on earth. The towering spire over the central shrine represents the Himalayan mountain home of the gods; the shrine becomes the vimāna or chariot of the deity moving through space (Michell, 1977).

By the eleventh century, with an urban revival in full swing throughout the subcontinent, temples were attracting resources from kings, agrarian leaders, and merchants who were looking for markers of legitimacy. In places like Tanjavur or Bhubaneswar, temple gigantism emerged at the heart of the cities; in other areas, multiple temple nodes with surrounding habitation sites created a distributed urban pattern reminiscent of classic Maya urbanism. A distinctive style of urban planning in southern India produced "temple cities" through the accumulation of additional surrounding walls (resulting in compounds hundreds of yards in width), or through the accumulation of concentric streets, each inhabited by different occupational specialists or castes, surrounding the temple grounds (Kulke, 1995; Champakalakshmi, 1996). Within the temple cities, the experience of sacred space provides clues to history and structure. For example, at the temple of Suchindram near the tip of peninsular India, the east-west axis of the complex creates a haptic experience of moving towards the town, connecting the devotee with the collective memory of the town's foundation. The bathing tank beside the temple creates a polarity between the upper, "male" town located around the temple of Śiva and the lower, "female" town located near the bathing tank and the goddess shrinepart of a configuration including four other goddess shrines on the periphery of the city. Festivals at the temple also preserve these urban memories (Pieper, 1980, pp. 6580).

Between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries, Vijayanagara, the "city of victory," became capital of an empire uniting southern India within a single political formation for the first time. The archaeological remains of the city include dozens of temples and civic structures enclosed in part within massive defensive walls; combined with literary sources, they provide an unparalleled view of the relationship between sacred and administrative geography. The performance of kingship within the capital exemplified concepts of the ruler as upholder of law, agent of material prosperity, and mediator within cycles of good and evil. Annual alternations between a period of rest, when the court, army, and king resided at the capital, and a period of movement (which included war, pilgrimage, or peaceful missions in the empire and beyond), created specific configurations of action within space. The transition between the two periods witnessed the celebration of the Mahānavami festival that commemorated the propitiation of the goddess Durgā by the epic hero-king Rāma before he marched against the evil Rāvaa, involving the display of the king's military strength, the wealth of his household, and his marital alliances. Simultaneously, the festival represented the reorganization of an older sacrality and memories of place. During the early phases of their rule, when they operated as little kings, the Vijayanagara kings had obtained the support of Pampā, a local goddess associated with a small shrine. When the kings emerged as a regional power, they adopted a male deity, Virūpāka (a manifestation of the pan-Indian deity, Śiva), as their dynastic emblem. They constructed for this god a temple lying west of a newly laid-out administrative zone and south of their old seat of power, and celebrated his "marriage" to the local goddess, Pampā. When Vijayanagara became the capital of an empire, the kings and their city took on cosmic significance associated with Rāma, an incarnation of the pan-Indian god Viu. A newly constructed Rāma temple in the royal core divided the "zone of performance" to the east from the "zone of residence" to the west, splitting the king's two bodies, as it were. Displays of the king's office and festivals occurred in the former zone, whereas the latter contained the royal quarters and the old temple dedicated to Śiva, now the protector of the household rather than the kingdom. Road construction now oriented the royal core towards a mythic landscape of Rāma, rather than Śiva or the goddess Pampā. Shrines of various members of the court and of other communities allied themselves with this new orientation, many being located on the main road that led out of the Rāma shrine (Fritz et al., 1984, pp. 146154).

Courts, Markets, and Performance in South Asia

Muslims had long been active within South Asia, mostly as traders, but Turkish military campaigns from the northwest beginning in 1000 resulted in two additional models of sacred space based on Islam, resembling urban developments typical of southwest Asia (Lapidus, 1969; Bianca, 2000). The first model revolves around the royal or administrative court, and places the mosque (masjid) at the center of urban life within the fortified center. This model is visible by the fourteenth century in the capital of the Sultanate at Delhi, including the mosque and spectacular Qub Minar in Tughluqabad, as well as the provincial capitals of Islamic successor states such as Bidar, Bijapur, and Golconda in peninsular India. Recent research on old Delhi or Shahjahanabad, founded in the mid-seventeenth century, highlights not only the major public monuments established by an imperial master plan but a variety of subsidiary mosques, gardens, and utilities laid out by political subordinates. A hierarchical matrix of neighborhoods (mahalla) including semi-public and private spaces revolves around local mosques, temples, Sikh shrines (gurdwara), and, later, Christian churches (Ehlers and Krafft, 2003). The second model is based on the ūfī shrine (dargāh), where the memory of a saint's holiness leads to a concentration of buildings around his burial place. An early example is the shrine of Bābā Farīd al-Dīn Ganj-i Shakar in the Punjab town of Pakpattan, where the saint settled down at the site of a river ferry during the thirteenth century. After his death and the passing down of his spiritual power to family successors, his hermitage became the site for monumental architecture, pilgrimage, and a network of social interactions based on economic development or the legitimacy of political leadership within emerging caste formations (Eaton, 2000, pp. 203246). A similar phenomenon happened in Delhi, where the thirteenth-century hermitage of the saint Niām al-Dīn Awliyāʾ became the focus for a kasbah that eventually became part of the expanding city.

The roles of urban commercial interests in the construction of religious centers have become of greater interest to researchers focusing on recent centuries. A study of Chennai (Madras) between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries identifies three types of dialogue between communities, the marketplace, and sacred sites. The first produced eclectic or generic all-community temples, "a celebration of the common mercantile nature" of the trading communities of the "native" settlement called Georgetown and of the personnel of the British East India Company. The second involved different castes constructing community-only temples, where social rivalry was manifested through processions, flags, or debates over the rights to use certain streets. The third produced temples that served as a "branch offices" of more impressive or older shrines. The three types of temple demonstrate how "foreigners" could find a place in South Asia, and how social difference and similarity could find voice through the vocabulary of religious architecture and community space (Waghorne, 1999a, pp. 654, 682).

Another study of Chennai during colonial and postcolonial times examines the relationship between the more prominent Beeri Chettiar merchants, who were largely Tamil-speaking worshipers of Śiva, and their rivals, the Komati Chettiars and Balijas, who were Telugu-speaking worshipers of Viu. Their economic competition led to a number of community conflicts and riots during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and also to the division of Georgetown into a western part occupied by the Komatis and an eastern part occupied by the Beeris. Temples associated with one of these communities, displaying their prestige, wealth, and status, shaped not only the boundaries of "community" but also the forms in which authority functioned. Even today, processions from the Kandasami temple in Park Town, earlier considered a "satellite" area of the Beeri Chettiar community, travel to the older "center" where the community no longer has houses, businesses, or control over the main community temple. Through controversies over the processional route, extensions of it into new areas, and the patronage of the festival, new leaders seek to direct the castenow a citywide communityfrom the power base of a new temple that was once spatially peripheral and ritually subordinate (Mines, 1994).

The relayering of spatial and social histories within sacred centers and performances accompanies the growth of cities into manufacturing, technology, and service hubs. For example, the city of Bangalore began as a fort-settlement in the sixteenth century consequent to the decline of Vijayanagara, became a "garden city" in the colonial period, and popularly appears now as "India's Silicon Valley." In the high-tech city, public religious performances remain modes of civic life that attract devotion while preserving urban memories. The Karaga festival, Bangalore's largest religious extravaganza, occurs for nine days in the month of March or April every year. The key moment is the incarnation of the goddess Draupadī, wife of the Pāava brothers from the epic Mahābhārata, who is simultaneously cosmic power (śakti). She manifests herself in the form of a sacred icon and within the body of a male priest from the Tigala community who, by carrying the icon, becomes conjoined with her. The annual "birth" of the goddess occurs in Bangalore's Cubbon Park at a small covered well, the remainder of a large lake eliminated by office buildings and sports complexes. Her birth is a reminder of the city's earlier environmenta network of lakes, wells, and pondsand the processions of the goddess over a nine-day period include visits to the former locations of water bodies, many of which were destroyed through construction activities, pollution, or neglect after 1950. The daily festival processions also visit various Hindu temples and the tomb of the ūfī saint, Haz̤rat Tawakkal Mastan, signaling the participation of diverse publics in this "theater of the civic." The festival, which conjures for participants an alternative urban landscape, attracts over 100,000 participants on its final day, and is spreading in smaller versions throughout the suburbs of the metropolis (Srinivas, 2001).

Urban Violence and Religion

The focus of this article so far has been on the pacific embedding of the sacred, but religion in the city also seems to cause deadly conflict, providing justification for riots, bombings, and civil war in places such as Beirut, Belfast, or Sarajevo. No single theory can explain all instances of "religious terrorism," but Mark Juergensmeyer (2000) suggests that they are performative and function as "theater." Most of the groups and individuals behind these events work from a "script" of cosmic war, and social struggle is perceived in terms of a spiritual confrontation. They perceive themselves as martyrs and heroes, rather than terrorists, and satanize or depersonify the "enemy." They engineer events for their graphic and emotional impact on witnesses and various audiences through transnational media. The "stage" of theatrical terror is often urban because the events target symbols or hubs of modern societies: embassies, markets, subways, airports. During the 1995 gas attack on the Tokyo subway system by Aum Shinrikyō, for example, bags of poisonous sarin were meant to do the most damage when the train lines converged at Kasumigaseki subway station located close to the main buildings of the government, humiliating national security organizations. The repeated attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City aimed simultaneously at a symbol of global capitalism and at the U. S. government, viewed as an imperialist power.

Perhaps the deepest scholarship on urban religious violence concerns Europe during the Reformation of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, when the Wars of Religion pitted Catholic and Protestant against each other. Cities are crucial to all discussions of the Reformation, for it is mostly in urban centers that the leading reforming figures found ministerial positions, publishers, or followings, even if (as in the case of the Peasants' War of 15241525) there were important interactions with the countryside. Some of the most egregious cases of religious violence occurred within urban environments: the Anabaptist kingdom of Münster (15341535), which evolved into a totalitarian communism before its extermination, or the Saint Bartholomew Day's Massacre (1572), which began in Paris and spread throughout the major cities of France. Theological tracts and city archives have allowed scholars to investigate the players in religious violencepersons from artisanal or manufacturing trades and the urban proletariat, who interacted with clergy, the urban patriciate, and the nobility. During the late twentieth century, numerous local histories have shed light on these struggles to redefine the City of God and the New Jerusalem.

The scholarship ranges between two approaches, one concentrating on intellectual or theological ideas and the other concentrating on social, political, or economic variables. Some authors who try to blend these approaches use the latter as an envelope for discussing the writings of theologians (whose biographies are important parts of analysis) and the deliberations of ministerial councils (e.g. Williams, 1962, pp. 241298; Strayer, 1976, pp. 206207). Analyses informed by political economy remain sensitive to theology but focus on class struggle or the attempts by urban communes to preserve their political freedom and order within an incipient world system (Ozment, 1975; Heller, 1991). Influenced by the French Annales school, the "linguistic" and "cultural" turns in historiography, and a new social history crossing disciplinary boundaries, Natalie Davis embeds her work within the concrete conditions of production and class but situates the Reformation in Lyon within a symbolic analysis of "the moment of social interaction." Approaching Protestantism and Catholicism as two languages attempting to grasp the challenges of the city, she presents their alternative visions of sacred space, time, and the body as a prerequisite for understanding the "rites" of violence and a concern with pollution (Davis, 1975, pp. 152188; Davis, 1981; Benedict, 1981, pp. 6364). Another classic study of the city of Romans demonstrates that the class struggle in the late sixteenth century achieved public expression and was comprehensible for townspeople only through religious idioms that are amenable to analysis through comparative anthropological discourse (Ladurie, 1979). Finally, as part of a movement back to religion through sociology and poststructuralism, a major study of Reformation violence begins with an examination of cases where children committed atrocities. Violence becomes a ritual performance expressing a code, "prophetic because implicated in a prophetic collective consciousness, in a mental eschatological conjuncture, for which it is necessary to research the constitutive schemas" (Crouzet, 1990, vol. 1, p. 93). A continuing stream of studies on the urban Reformation attempt to blend culture and society, theology, and the built environment, within the context of institutions or communities (e.g., Roberts, 1996; Tittler, 1998).

In more recent times, South Asia has been the scene of the world's most intractable "communal" rioting, peaking in 1947, when approximately one million people died in massive demographic shifts, but continuing at the rate of several hundred recorded incidents annually within India. The roots clearly go deep into doctrinal, theological, and social phenomena of the nineteenth century, the intellectual categories developed under colonialism, and the problematic of "secularism" in the postcolonial nation-state. The major religious confrontations since independence (the civil war between Sinhalese and Tamils in Sri Lanka, the 1984 anti-Sikh riots after Indira Gandhi's assassination, the 1992 Hindu-Muslim riots in India after the demolition of the Babri Masjid) clearly occured as responses to political events. The main scholarly issue concerns the many clashes that occur regularly in cities, constituting a persistent source of religious animosity that may erupt into civil war. A veritable industry of research and analysis has grown around this problem, ranging from the official reports of governments, journalists, and citizens' bodies after each occurrence to scholarship from social scientists aimed at understanding the etiology of individual events, common patterns, and the potential for preventative public policy. Detailed studies by Asghar Ali Engineer and associates (e.g., 1984) have demonstrated a complex interaction of sociocultural and economic variables, and a process by which neighborhood incidents lead to violent action, typically with the instigation of male activists and local politicians. Some scholars have attempted to categorize these variables in order to determine the "riot-proneness" of specific communities (Varshney and Wilkinson, 1996), although Paul R. Brass (1997, 2003) also implicates security forces as major players in the production of the "institutionalized" communal riot. Stanley Tambiah (1996) compares incidents with religious overtones in Sri Lanka and India to riots in Pakistan that feature coreligionists, in an attempt to create a comparative understanding of "ethnic" conflict within sociological categories.

Pilgrimages and Religious Movements in the City

If the daily social practices within cities divide, differentiate, or hierarchize the specialized zones frequented by their citizens, then religious pilgrimages, which break down the division between citizens, can work to eliminate class categories and transgress urban boundaries. One could argue, in fact, that the movement through space to participate in collective celebrations is one of the primary manifestations of religiosity and urbanism alike. Many pilgrimage destinations originated as cities or became cities when people clustered around sacred attractions. Mass public transportation has made pilgrimage, this gravitation toward sacred spaces, one of the most significant manifestations of religious localization.

Scholars have been especially interested in the modes through which pilgrimage has altered the understanding of urban space. As Maurice Halbwachs (1992, pp. 193235) has pointed out in his essay "The Legendary Topography of the Gospels," early Christian embedding of Jerusalem's meaning in the narratives of the Gospels occurred through pilgrims' exercises of spatial localization. A new way of moving through space affirmed the Christian reading of Jerusalem, where places were already commemorated and associated with ancient memories of Jewish history. Christian pilgrimages through Jerusalem, making use of sites already part of collective memorabilia, endowed them with different meanings by situating them within new narratives or actions. In a similar process, the Qurʾān reinscribed an originally pantheistic pilgrimage site, the Kaʿaba, as the activity space of Abraham, linking Islam with Judaism and Christianity, while pilgrimage to Mecca established a series of conceptual categories and somatic experiences that remapped the city and its environs. This process is happening constantly in the contemporary world, as new pilgrimage sites regularly appear alongside the manifestation of charisma by saints and other spiritual figures.

In a phenomenon similar to that which occurred in thirteenth-century India, Sufism is still proving a rich ground for the generation of sacred cities and pilgrimage networks. For instance, Shaykh Amad (Amadou) Bamba (18531927) of Senegal rests in a mausoleum in the city of Touba, the early development of which he oversaw. This city and its Great Mosque (inaugurated 1963) is a place of pilgrimage for his disciples, or Mourides. Supported by contributions to its infrastructure from Mourides, in less then a century Touba has become Senegal's second largest city. Devotees have produced a thriving visual culture that includes devotional icons, murals, cosmological architecture, writing, and other forms that grace homes, businesses, vehicles, junkyards, walls, and clothes in the city. This visual culture has also been a crucial part of the social and expressive explosion in the capital, Dakar, since Senegalese independence in 1960, and it features in public debates about identity, memory, and an alternative modernity. Although the saint belongs to the colonial period, he reveals new messages even today for his followers and is a conduit for healing and miracles. The potency of his image works through the transnational chains that link Senegal to other cities through migration, import-export economies, and employment networks (Roberts and Roberts, 2003).

The example of Amad Bamba demonstrates the relevance of pilgrimage phenomena to the study of "religious movements," a branch of scholarship that forms part of a larger "social movements" literature examining intersections between religion and political and cultural processes such as postcolonialism and transnationalism. This scholarship looks at the contemporary proliferation of what are sometimes described as "New Age movements," "new religions," "revitalization movements," and "fundamentalist movements," many of which flourish on urban soil. Some of these movements, such as the Bahāʾīs, propound an avowedly universal message and attempt to create novel, transurban forms of expression. Others, such as the Swaminarayan movement originating in Gujarat (and globalized through Gujarati merchant communities), or evangelical Christian missionary efforts in Asia and Africa, preserve a universal message within an envelope of older "Hindu" or "Christian" traditions.

Japan has been the scene for intensive studies of many "new religions" emerging in the twentieth century under conditions of hyperurbanization. Sōka Gakkai, perhaps the best known, has been most successful at crossing national boundaries and becoming a global organization. It began in the 1930s as a religious organization meant to propagate doctrines of one of the smaller Nichiren Buddhist sects. It grew rapidly as a lay evangelist organization promising meaning and comfort in postwar Japan, becoming a national and global movement with about eight to ten million middle- and upper-class followers (over a million outside Japan) in the 1990s. It sponsors an educational system, art museums, newspapers, and various cultural organizations and is involved in social activism including the fostering of world peace and antiwar activities. It is heavily urban-based (tightly organized into prefectural, city, district, and block groups). Members are encouraged to improve their material conditions and also spend time in daily prayer, meetings of the groups, and proselytizing. The Sōka Gakkai belief is that religion must be the basis of a moral and just society; social institutions need to be purified; and modern, rationalized Buddhist beliefs must fuse with all features of society. Despite the continued embedding of ritual within a Japanese Buddhist format, the envelope of rational peacefulness and acceptance of material success have allowed Sōka Gakkai to attract members from a variety of cultural and national backgrounds (Metraux, 1996).

Some religious movements support distinct "ethnic" identities even when they try to avoid them, contributing to or perpetuating a layer of cultural segmentation within urban environments. The movement dedicated to the Indian guru Sathya Sai Baba (b. 1926) has expanded to include perhaps ten million people worldwide, most of them in urban areas. In a study of this movement in Trinidad, Morton Klass (1991) focused on its roles among urban and suburban Indian (and Hindu) Trinidadians who form the overwhelming majority of devotees. He points out that there are political differences between Indian Trinidadians and Afro-Trinidadians attributable to different notions of their cultural resources and pancultural affiliations; Afro-Trinidadians, therefore, remain a minority in the Sai Baba movement. A separate study of the Malaysian Sai Baba movement in the city of Kuala Lumpur in the mid- to late 1990s explored the way the Indian-dominated leadership attempts to include Chinese devotees. A nonsectarian and multiethnic profile including Chinese devotees "enhances the hope which this neo-Hindu movement offers to members of the marginalized Indian minority to win an audience among the Malay majority and thus achieve recognition as the rightful proprietors of an eternal, all-subsuming and unifying spiritual vision." Nonetheless, ethnic boundaries in Kuala Lumpur tend to be reproduced (Kent, 2000, p. 5).

Modern Imaginaries and Urban Religiosity

Are there religious imaginations and practices distinctive to contemporary cities? In Gods of the City (1999) Robert Orsi argues that the dynamic interaction between religious traditions, contemporary cityscapes, and their social conditions results in specific maps, styles, and idioms of "urban religion." In The Madonna of 115th Street (1985), Orsi examines street behavior, processions, and festivals, like the festa of the Madonna of 115th Street in New York's Italian Harlem, as modes of boundary-making by immigrants, the creation and negotiation of ethnic identities, the production of community, and the theater or social drama of urban lives. Others, looking at recent diasporas in American cities, have examined strategies through which immigrant groups make sense religiously of an urban landscape that differs considerably from the spaces they left. Thus, Mama Lola, a Brooklyn Vodou priestess discussed by Karen McCarthy Brown (1999), travels back and forth between Haiti and Brooklyn and maintains social and spiritual loyalties in two places. She, like others, transposes Haitian places onto New York: Brooklyn's Prospect Park sometimes functions as the sacred forest of Vodou rituals. Such religious identities may retreat into basements, or are practiced behind closed doors, while signs of more acceptable Catholic identity appear publicly. The more affluent South Asian diaspora in the United States, normally with greater social and cultural capital than the Haitians, construct temples as a largely suburban phenomenon located close to freeways rather than within an "ethnic" part of the city (Waghorne, 1999b). Unlike the temple in India where one god or goddess or a sectarian tradition usually predominates, in the United States several deities live in harmony under one roof, in a manner that parallels the multiple religious affiliations of their suburban devotees.

Globalization and economic restructuring, combined with massive shifts of population, have reconfigured "place-based religious identities" in cities throughout the world. For example, in the small town of Dacula in Gwinnett County, Georgiathe fastest-growing county in the United States in the 1980sone study has explored the relationship of urban deconcentration to the institutional dynamics of Christian congregations. Until the early 1980s, eleven out of twenty-four churches (such as Pleasant Hill Methodist and the black Mt. Zion Methodist) still traced their origins to the time before the town's founding, and five were founded subsequently. Within a period of thirteen years, however, eight new congregations were established, almost "as if locals had placed a sign on Highway 316 designating the area 'Church Growth Parkway'" (Eiesland, 2000, p. 48). As industrial and corporate jobs mushroomed around transportation infrastructure, the new congregations evolved strategies for attracting members, ranging from an exuberant mega-church to specialized ministries. Meanwhile, in Africa, Kano in northern Nigeria changed during the 1970s from a mercantile center into a large industrial metropolis with new suburbs growing around the old walled city. The crash of oil prices in the early 1980s resulted in a recession that produced challenges for local Muslim identity and practice in the face of state-based corruption and capitalist commodification. Michael Watts (1996) describes the rise of a fundamentalist (though not antimodern) Muslim leader in Kano among subaltern classes, such as migrant workers, for whom the state and its elites symbolized moral bankruptcy. The two paths of urban economic development elicit, on the one hand, the marketing of religion, and on the other, the use of religion as a source of revitalization.

Religion plays an important role in the heritage politics of various cities as they wrestle with the rise of the nation-state, socialism, democracy, globalization, and explosive demographic growth. Istanbul, for instance, has been a world city since the fourth century, serving as an imperial capital for the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman empires and a major commercial node for Afro-Eurasia. Just before World War I, it had about a million peoplea majority non-Muslimincluding many Italian, Turkish, Greek, or Tartar inhabitants. Muslims, Christians, and Jews coexisted without intermarriage under Ottoman administrators, their religious and cultural lives compartmentalized within corporate entities. When the state adopted the project of modernization, binary constructs (East versus West, Islam versus Christianity, Turk versus non-Turk, local versus global) began to dominate public discourse. During the early twentieth century, anticolonial and nationalist policies took on ethnic content, and religion rationalized ethnic purification of Jews, Armenians, and Greeks. Thus, the vast majority of Istanbul's citizens were Muslims in the 1980s, when the state adopted a strategy aimed at transforming it into a world city. The capture of the city government by an Islamicist party that pushed for changes in public culture (such as dress codes for women) became an embarrassment for an avowedly secularist nation-state, aligned with financial interests in a concern that Islamicist culture could jeopardize Turkey's membership in the European Union. In a city with multiple pasts, the question of historic preservation during urban renewal projects became a deeply contested issue involving the interplay of nationalist and religious tropes. The nationalist discourse pushing for urban renewal viewed the neighborhood of Pera, for example, as a symbol of a non-Turkish "Europe in Istanbul," while Islamicists advocated the destruction of older buildings (some of considerable architectural merit) for the building of a mosque (Keyder, 1999). How the inhabitants of the city appeared and behaved in public and the nature of their buildings remained issues intimately connected with religious conceptions.

Urban planning thus struggles with the reinsertion of sacred spaces by several publics. In her study of Aboriginal claims to space in Perth, Australia, Jane Jacobs (1996, p. 127) provides another viewpoint on political agitations that "reactivated a (pre-) modern knowing of space within the specific conditions of modernity." The contests she describes concerned an area near the Swan River in Perth that had been used previously by the colonial government to establish a depot in 1833 excluding the Aborigines. In the 1980s this area was developed by corporate interests into a brewery and a hotel chain with theaters, office spaces, and a theme parkthe quintessential signs of the service economy. Laws concerning Aboriginal land in Australia had tended to designate territory as sacred only when it was far away from urban centers, but Aboriginal claims in this case located the spiritual firmly within the area of the Swan Brewery. Aborigines occupied the area for a while in 1989. While their action ultimately failed and the area was given over to development, Jacobs argues that the Aboriginal occupation not only brought the sacred back to the city but set off an "anxious" politics of occupation by the government and developers. The controversy between "beer, work, tourism and sport" and "urban dreamings," as Jacobs categorizes it, puts into relief the binary imaginings of planners and the unpredictable potential for sacred upsurges within the city.

Rather than a steady decline of religion under conditions of urban anomie, we are witnessing the rise of spiritual leaders and religious movements who claim an authority that rivals the authority of nations, transnational corporations, and secular ideologies. For many believers among a world population that will be mostly urban after 2007 (United Nations, 2002, p. 5), religion provides alternative sources of value, critiques of capitalism, and avenues of cultural modernity.

See Also

Marduk; Maya Religion; Mesopotamian Religions, overview articles; Mosque, article on Architectural Aspects; Olmec Religion; Pilgrimage, overview article; Violence.


Allchin, F. Raymond. The Archaeology of Early Historic South Asia: The Emergence of Cities and States. Cambridge, U.K., and New York, 1995.

Arellano Hernández, A., M. Ayala Falcón, B. de la Fuente, M. de la Garza, L. Staines Cicero, and B. Olmedo Vera. The Mayas of the Classical Period. Translated by Kim López Mills and Sergio Negrete. Milan, 1999.

Benedict, Philip. Rouen during the Wars of Religion. Cambridge, U.K., 1981.

Bianca, Stefano. Urban Form in the Arab World: Past and Present. London and New York, 2000.

Bottéro, Jean. Mesopotamia: Writing, Reasoning, and the Gods. Translated by Zainab Bahrani and Marc Van De Mieroop. Chicago and London, 1992.

Brass, Paul R. Theft of an Idol: Text and Context in the Representation of Collective Violence. Princeton, N.J., 1997.

Brass, Paul R. The Production of Hindu-Muslim Violence in Contemporary India. New Delhi, 2003.

Brown, James A. "The Archaeology of Ancient Religion in the Eastern Woodlands." Annual Review of Anthropology 26 (1997): 465485.

Brown, Karen McCarthy. "Staying Grounded in a High-Rise Building: Ecological Dissonance and Ritual Accommodation in Haitian Vodou." In Gods of the City: Religion and the American Urban Landscape, edited by Robert A. Orsi, pp. 79102. Bloomington and Indianapolis, Ind., 1999.

Champakalakshmi, Radha. Trade, Ideology, and Urbanization: South India 300 b.c. to a.d. 1300. New Delhi, 1996.

Cowgill, George L. "Teotihuacán: Cosmic Glories and Mundane Needs." In The Social Construction of Ancient Cities, edited by Monica L. Smith, pp. 3755. Washington, D.C., and London, 2003.

Crawford, Harriet. Sumer and the Sumerians. Cambridge, U.K., 1991.

Crouzet, Denis. Les guerriers de Dieu: La violence au temps des troubles de religion, vers 1525vers 1610. 2 vols. Seyssel, France, 1990.

Dalan, Rinita A., George R. Holley, William I. Woods, Harold W. Watters Jr., and John A. Koepke. Envisioning Cahokia: A Landscape Perspective. Dekalb, Ill., 2003.

Davis, Natalie Zemon. Society and Culture in Early Modern France. Stanford, Calif., 1975.

Davis, Natalie Zemon. "The Sacred and the Body Social in Sixteenth-Century Lyon." Past and Present 90 (1981): 4070.

Eaton, Richard M. Essays on Islam and Indian History. New Delhi, 2000.

Ehlers, Eckart, and Thomas Krafft, eds. Shâjahânâbâd/Old Delhi: Tradition and Colonial Change. 2d ed. New Delhi, 2003.

Eiesland, Nancy L. A Particular Place: Urban Restructuring and Religious Ecology in a Southern Exurb. New Brunswick, N.J., and London, 2000.

Engineer, Asghar Ali, ed. Communal Riots in Post-Independence India. Hyderabad, India, 1984.

Escobédo, Hector, and Juan Antonio Valdés. "Archaeology of the Central Lowlands: Tikal." In Maya Civilization, edited by Peter Schmidt, Mercedes de la Garza, and Enrique Nalda, pp. 356371. London, 1998.

Franke, Sabina. "Kings of Akkad: Sargon and Naram-Sin." In Civilizations of the Ancient Near East, vol. 2, edited by Jack M. Sasson, pp. 831841. New York, 1995.

Fritz, John M., George Michell, and M. S. Nagaraja Rao. Where Kings and Gods Meet: The Royal Centre at Vijayanagara, India. Tucson, Ariz., 1984.

Grube, Nikolai, ed. Maya: Divine Kings of the Rain Forest. Cologne, 2000.

Halbwachs, Maurice. On Collective Memory. Edited and translated by Lewis A. Coser. Chicago and London, 1992.

Heller, Henry. Iron and Blood: Civil Wars in Sixteenth-Century France. Montreal and Kingston, Ontario, 1991.

Jacobs, Jane. Edge of Empire: Postcolonialism and the City. London and New York, 1996.

Jacobsen, Thorkild. The Treasures of Darkness: A History of Mesopotamian Religion. New Haven, Conn., and London, 1976.

Juergensmeyer, Mark. Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence. Berkeley, Calif., 2000.

Kappelman, Julia Guernsey. "Sacred Geography at Izapa and the Performance of Rulership." In Landscape and Power in Ancient Mesoamerica, edited by Rex Koontz, Kathryn Reese-Taylor, and Annabeth Headrick, pp. 81111. Boulder, Colo., 2001.

Kent, Alexandra. "Creating Divine Unity: Chinese Recruitment in the Sathya Sai Baba Movement of Malaysia." Journal of Contemporary Religion 15, no. 1 (January 2000): 527.

Kenyon, Kathleen M. Archaeology in the Holy Land. 3d ed. New York and Washington, D.C., 1970.

Keyder, Çaglar, ed. Istanbul: Between the Global and the Local. Oxford, 1999.

Klass, Morton. Singing with Sai Baba: The Politics of Revitalization in Trinidad. Boulder, Colo., 1991.

Kulke, Hermann. "The Early and the Imperial Kingdom: A Processural Model of Integrative State Formation in Early Medieval India." In The State in India, 10001700, edited by Hermann Kulke, pp. 233262. Delhi, 1995.

Ladurie, Emmanuel Le Roy. Carnival in Romans. Translated by Mary Feeney. New York, 1979.

Lapidus, Ira M., ed. Middle Eastern Cities: A Symposium on Ancient, Islamic, and Contemporary Middle Eastern Urbanism. Berkeley, Calif., and Los Angeles, 1969.

Marcus, Joyce. "On the Nature of the Mesoamerican City." In The Ancient Civilizations of Mesoamerica, edited by Michael E. Smith and Marilyn A. Masson, pp. 4982. Malden, Mass., 2000.

Mellaart, James. Çatal Hüyük: A Neolithic Town in Anatolia. London, 1967.

Metraux, Daniel A. "The Sōka Gakkai: Buddhism and the Creation of a Harmonious and Peaceful Society." In Engaged Buddhism: Buddhist Liberation Movements in Asia, edited by Christopher S. Queen and Sallie B. King, pp. 365400. Albany, N.Y., 1996.

Michell, George. The Hindu Temple: An Introduction to Its Meaning and Forms. Bombay, 1977.

Mines, Mattison. Public Faces, Private Voices: Community and Individuality in South India. Berkeley, Calif., and Los Angeles, 1994.

Mitra, Debala. Buddhist Monuments. Calcutta, 1971.

Orsi, Robert A. The Madonna of 115th Street: Faith and Community in Italian Harlem, 18801950. New Haven, Conn., and London, 1985.

Orsi, Robert A., ed. Gods of the City: Religion and the American Urban Landscape. Bloomington, Ind., 1999.

Ozment, Steven E. The Reformation in the Cities: The Appeal of Protestantism to Sixteenth-Century Germany and Switzerland. New Haven, Conn., and London, 1975.

Pieper, Jan. "The Spatial Structure of Suchindram." In Ritual Space in India: Studies in Architectural Anthropology, edited by Jan Pieper, pp. 6580. London, 1980.

Possehl, Gregory L. The Indus Civilization: A Contemporary Perspective. Walnut Creek, Calif., 2002.

Roberts, Penny. A City in Conflict: Troyes during the French Wars of Religion. Manchester, U.K., and New York, 1996.

Roberts, Allen F., and Mary Nooter Roberts. A Saint in the City: Sufi Arts of Urban Senegal. Los Angeles, 2003.

Šprajc, Ivan. "Perpetuating Celestial Order in an Earthly Environment: Astronomy in Mesoamerica around 1000." In The World in the Year 1000, edited by James Heitzman and Wolfgang Schenkluhn, pp. 87102. Lanham, Md., 2004.

Srinivas, Smriti. Landscapes of Urban Memory: The Sacred and the Civic in India's High-Tech City. Minneapolis, Minn., 2001.

Strayer, James M. Anabaptists and the Sword. 2d ed. Lawrence, Kans., 1976.

Tambiah, Stanley J. Leveling Crowds: Ethnonationalist Conflicts and Collective Violence in South Asia. Berkeley, Calif., 1996.

Tittler, Robert. The Reformation and the Towns in England: Politics and Political Culture, c. 15401640. Oxford, 1998.

United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division. World Urbanization Prospects: The 2001 Revision. New York, 2002.

Van De Mieroop, Marc. The Ancient Mesopotamian City. Oxford, 1997.

Varshney, Ashutosh, and Steven I. Wilkinson. Hindu-Muslim Riots, 19601993: New Findings, Possible Remedies. New Delhi, 1996.

Waghorne, Joanne Punzo. "The Diaspora of the Gods: Hindu Temples in the New World System, 16401800." Journal of Asian Studies 58, no. 3 (August 1999a): 648686.

Waghorne, Joanne Punzo. "The Hindu Gods in a Split-Level World: The Sri Siva-Vishnu Temple in Suburban Washington, D.C." In Gods of the City: Religion and the American Urban Landscape, edited by Robert A. Orsi, pp. 103130. Bloomington, Ind., 1999b.

Watts, Michael. "Mapping Identities: Place, Space, and Community in an African City." In The Geography of Identity, edited by Patricia Yaeger, pp. 5997. Ann Arbor, Mich., 1996.

Wesson, Cameron B. "Mississippian Sacred Landscapes: The View from Alabama." In Mississippian Towns and Sacred Spaces: Searching for an Architectural Grammar, edited by R. Barry Lewis and Charles Stout, pp. 93122. Tuscaloosa, Ala., and London, 1998.

Wheatley, Paul. The Pivot of the Four Quarters: A Preliminary Enquiry into the Origins and Character of the Ancient Chinese City. Chicago, 1971.

Wiggermann, F. A. M. "Theologies, Priests, and Worship in Ancient Mesopotamia." In Civilizations of the Ancient Near East, vol. 3, edited by Jack M. Sasson, pp. 18571870. New York, 1995.

Williams, George Huntston. The Radical Reformation. Philadelphia, 1962.

James Heitzman (2005)

Smriti Srinivas (2005)


views updated Jun 11 2018





The earliest cities were created more than 5,500 years ago in Mesopotamia. Those and other ancient cities were few in number and by twenty-first-century standards had small populations, primitive housing, and simple technology. However, cities brought enormous changes in human society. Over the years cities have existed, only a minority of the human population has lived in them; nevertheless, cities have been the locus of political, economic, cultural, and environmental changes that have transformed life on Earth.


Scholars studying cities identify many significant transformations in them. This section summarizes five perspectives on these changes.

One perspective contends that city characteristics (i.e., high population density, diversity) cause city people to behave as they do. For example, increased occupational division of labor is associated with the shift from village to city. This important element of the urban transformation is usually explained by the French sociologist Emile Durkheims dynamic density principle: when many people try to survive in a concentrated area they specialize and refine the work they do to avoid direct competition with others, avoid redundancy, and improve the quality of their products or services. Similarly, cities are filled with strangers who have few preexisting bonds of loyalty, trust, or obligation. To enable them to better deal with each other, city life relies extensively on written contracts, laws, and courts to enforce them.

Likewise, Georg Simmel explained city-dwellers social behavior with inherent qualities of cities. He observed that compared to people from small towns, urbanites are reserved, blasé, aloof, calculating, more attuned to fashion, and engaged in extravagances of mannerism and caprice (Simmel 1969 p. 57). This, he argued, is because large cities are filled with people and things that generate a plethora of cacophonous, threatening, and contradictory images and messages. Urbanites traits previously mentioned are useful screening and coping devices they use to avoid those disconcerting stimuli and maintain a semblance of sanity and individuality.

Louis Wirths 1938 article Urbanism as a Way of Life epitomizes the notion that city characteristics produce a particular urban pattern of social life. He defined a city as a relatively large, dense, and permanent settlement of socially heterogeneous individuals (Wirth 1969, p. 148), and derived numerous social interaction patterns as consequences of population size, density, and diversity. Wirth proposed that in cities bonds of kinship and neighborliness weaken; tradition and familial authority attenuate and are only partially replaced by formal control mechanisms. Although individuals gain greater personal freedom and both social and spatial mobility are common, city residents social relations are segmented, impersonal, anomic, and imbued with a spirit of competition, aggrandizement, and mutual exploitation (Wirth 1969, p. 156). Wirth also indicated that as cities dominate their hinterlands, business corporations in them become more cut-throat and soulless, and cities subareas become a mosaic of social worlds (Wirth 1969, p. 155) with stark contrasts between nearby neighborhoods socioeconomic level, ethnic composition, housing, businesses, and land uses. Finally, Wirth suggested that in cities individual people count for little, have difficulty knowing how they fit in or what is really in their own best interests, and therefore they become susceptible to mass movements or charismatic leaders. Wirths portrait of urban life suggests that social problems and alienation are inherent elements of large modern cities.

Other perspectives, including Herbert Gans Urban Villagers (1962), contradict Wirths. One counterresponse is a rediscovery of community perspective arising from many empirical studies in cities and suburbs. Together these studies suggest that the depersonalized, alienated, contract-driven urban world of attenuated local and familial bonds described above is an overgeneralization and is contradicted by the continued existence of close-knit neighborhoods and strong group ties in parts of many cities.

This rediscovered community perspective claims Wirths urbanism as a way of life has not swept community from every corner of the metropolis. It contends that the kinds of people (i.e., their socio-economic level, life-cycle stage, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and socio-political values) living in a neighborhood has a greater effect on social life in it than does the places population size, density, and heterogeneity. Depending upon the kinds of people in an area (i.e., their needs and interests) they may work to create or maintain an active local community life, or they may let it languish and disappear. Also, community institutions preserve or build strong personal relations in city or suburban neighborhoods. Certain stores, religious institutions, third places (e.g., bars, coffee shops), or social clubs become the ground from which community ties grow. These are supplemented by personal networks such as those established in chain migrations to cities or by local community activists.

Another perspective on city life emphasizes underlying economic processes, inequalities, and the distribution of power. The key contention here is that the most powerful causal forces in a city are not inherent qualities of cities, but instead are conflicts of interests among the citys economic classes, land ownership laws, and land use decisions that serve certain groups interests. The first analysis of urban poverty, Friedrich Engels mid-1840s study of working-class sections of Englands industrial cities, illustrates this perspective. Engels argued that neither of these cities two salient features(1) huge differences in living conditions between a small upper class and a huge impoverished class of factory workers; and (2) disintegration of society into isolated individualsis caused by anything inherent in large cities. Instead, he contended that these are produced by the capitalist economy, which causes brutal competition, exploitation, lowered wages, and unstable employment in these cities. Engels also said that the upper class controlled decisions regarding land use. This enabled them to arrange that cheap low-quality housing for workers is far from the better neighborhoods of the rich, guaranteeing the affluent would not have to see or be threatened by the squalor, unhealthy conditions, and misery of factory workers slums.

For much of the twentieth century the Engels/Marxian perspective was eclipsed in urban studies by the influence of Wirth and an urban ecological perspective embodied in Ernest Burgesss concentric zone model (and revisions by geographers sector and multiple nuclei models). It contended that in any era cities develop a characteristic socio-spatial structure produced by the eras primary mode of transportation, construction technology, local topography, and, most importantly, economic competition for prime urban locations among individuals, groups, and businesses with unequal purchasing power. Segregation of immigrants and racial-ethnic minorities was attributed to a desire for living near others with similar culture and low economic standing, which prevents them from living in cities better neighborhoods.

By the 1970s the ecological perspective received criticism for the meager attention it gave to racism as causing urban racial ghettos and underestimation of the role of powerful government and private interest groups in making urban transportation and land use decisions. Researchers with critical perspectives developed explanations showing how cities are influenced by globalization, growth machines, place entrepreneurs, public-private partnerships, and institutionalized norms regarding gendered and racialized space. The city, in Mark Gottdiener and Ray Hutchisons sociospatial perspective, no longer is the large dense dominant heart of the metropolitan area, where the skyscrapers, theaters, and museums are located; instead the city is a vast multinucleated metropolitan region containing dispersed centers and realms (e.g., edge cities) that perform most economic and cultural functions the central city once performed. In this perspective the strongest creators and modifiers of the new metropolis are government programs that subsidize suburbanization, real estate industries land use decisions, and cultural innovators (in architecture, design, advertising, or arts) who craft new forms, symbols, and desires for the metropolitan public.


Todays largest metropolitan areas are in Asia and Latin America. Of the twenty with the highest populations, only New York, Los Angeles, Moscow, and London are in Europe or the United States. Since 1970 Asian and Latin American cities (Seoul, Shanghai, Mexico City, Sao Paulo) and African cities (Cairo, Lagos) have grown tremendously due to internal migration. Migrants pour in largely because governments and large corporations attempts at economic development disrupt local subsistence patterns in the countryside (e.g., conversion to capital-intensive agriculture, resource extraction). With insufficient housing and sanitation to absorb so many migrants, overcrowding and pollution are serious problems. Newcomers in rapidly growing Latin American and African cities have taken over land and created impoverished squatter settlements. Urban population growth outpaces these cities supply of jobs. This oversupply of workers causes low wages and results in enormous informal economies, with their attendant problems. Cities in Asias newly industrialized countries (e.g., Korea, Singapore) are marked by the development of global corporations engaged in manufacture, commerce, financial services, and technology. These businesses profitability and power enhance cities standing among world cities and turn sections of them into cosmopolitan centers. Moreover, their executives and white-collar workers expand the ranks of the cities upper and middle class and generate demand for goods and services provided by lower paid workers. Nevertheless, these mega-cities, like those of Latin America, remain places with a small middle class; huge gaps exist between the living conditions of the small privileged class and the poor population.

Cities in the United States face problems so severe that many observers believe they will never regain the prominence they had from 1900 to 1970. Due to suburbanization, initially by affluent whites and later by middle-class blacks and immigrants, only 30 percent of the U.S. population lives in cities. In many large cities most residents are African American or Latino, and often neighborhoods have highly concentrated poverty. With this demographic shift, political clout in legislatures moved from cities to more conservative suburbs. Old cities in the Northeast and Midwest deteriorated. With deindustrialization many cities lost well-paying manufacturing jobs, which were not replaced with sufficient well-paying service industry jobs. City residents experienced high unemployment, cuts in city services, poor schools, and high crime rates. Older neighborhoods saw disinvestment by federal housing policy, which funneled money and new construction into white suburban areas, and by private lending and insurance companies, which red-lined city areas, making it more costly for families and businesses to move into or upgrade city neighborhoods. Ironically, federal programs that did make large investments (highway construction, public housing, urban renewal) in cities from 1950 to 1970 have been criticized as doing more to destroy than improve city neighborhoods.

Since 1990, many cities experienced some revitalization, population increase, and reduction in poverty concentration. Federal policy closing large public housing projects and creating mixed-income areas (HOPE VI) is partly responsible for this. Additionally, efforts by community development corporations (assisted by private foundations and city government) have improved housing and safety in some city neighborhoods. Revitalization also occurs with gentrification, as affluent people buy and renovate cheap housing close to the center of a city and then move in or sell to other affluent residents. While this process enlarges cities middle class and brings new businesses (improving the tax base), it can displace the less affluent. Where gentrification is extensive it reduces low-cost housing and can put the poor at greater risk of homelessness. Although the cities situation may not be as bleak as in the late 1980s, the problems are by no means resolved. In fact, many are appearing elsewhere, especially the older ring of suburbs near cities boundaries.

SEE ALSO Sociology, Urban; Suburban Sprawl; Towns; Urban Renewal; Urban Sprawl; Urban Studies; Urbanity; Urbanization


Engels, Friedrich. [1845] 1958. The Condition of the Working Class in England. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press.

Gans, Herbert. 1962. The Urban Villagers. New York: Free Press.

Gottdiener, Mark, and Ray Hutchison. 2000. The New Urban Sociology. 2nd ed. Boston: McGraw Hill.

Logan, John R., and Harvey L. Molotch. 1987. Urban Fortunes. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Simmel, Georg. [1905] 1969. The Metropolis and Mental Life. In Classic Essays on the Culture of Cities, ed. Richard Sennett, 4760. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.

Wellman, Barry, and Barry Leighton. 1979. Networks, Neighborhoods, and Communities: Approaches to the Community Question. Urban Affairs Quarterly 14 (3): 363390.

Wirth, Louis. [1905] 1969. Urbanism as a Way of Life. In Classic Essays on the Culture of Cities, ed. Richard Sennett, 143164. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.

Charles Jaret


views updated May 29 2018


A city is a relatively large, dense, permanent, heterogeneous, and politically autonomous settlement whose population engages in a range of nonagricultural occupations. Definitions of cities and their associated phenomena vary by time and place, and by population size, area, and function (Shryock, Siegel, and associates 1976, pp. 85–104). The city is often defined in terms of administrative area, which may be larger than, smaller than, or equal to the area of relatively dense settlement that comprises what is otherwise known as the city proper. The suburb is a less dense but permanent settlement that is located outside the city proper and contains populations that usually have social and economic ties to the city.

Definitions of urban vary by nation; in the United States the term refers to populations of 2,500 or more living in towns or cities and to populations living in urbanized areas, including suburbs. In other nations, the lower limits for settlements defined as urban vary between 200 and 50,000 persons. United Nations definitions of urban areas emphasize a population of 20,000 or more, and cities a population of 100,000 or more. Urbanization refers to the economic and social changes that accompany population concentration in urban areas and the growth of cities and their surrounding areas.

Cities reflect other areas with which they are linked and the civilizations of which they are a part. Cities are centers of markets, governments, religion, and culture (Weber 1958, pp. 65–89). A community is a population sharing a physical environment and leading a common and interdependent life. The size, density, and heterogeneity of the urban community have been described as leading to "urbanism as a way of life," which includes organizational, attitudinal, and ecological components different from those of rural areas (Wirth 1938).


Town and city development has been described as tied to a technological revolution in agriculture that increased food production, thereby freeing agriculturalists to engage in nonagricultural occupations. This resulted in an evolution to urban living and eventually to industrial production (Childe 1950). A second view is that some towns and cities first developed as trade centers, and were then nourished by agricultural activity in their hinterlands (Jacobs 1970).

Increasing complexity of social organization, environmental adaptation, and technology led to the emergence of cities (Child 1950; Duncan 1964). Excluding preagricultural settlements, towns and then cities were first established in the fourth to third millennium B.C. in ancient Mesopotamia within the Tigris and Euphrates river valleys, in the Harappa civilization in the valleys of the Indus River and its tributaries, and in the Egyptian Old Kingdom in the lower Nile valley. Other centers appeared in the Huang Ho basin on the east coast of China and the Peruvian Andes in the second to first millennium B.C., and in Mesoamerica in the first millennium B.C. (Phillips 1997, pp. 82–85).

Small agricultural surpluses and limits on transportation meant that the first towns were small and few in number, and contained only a small proportion of the populations of their regions. Economic activities of the earliest towns were tied largely to their surrounding areas. After the rise of towns in the Middle East, trading centers appeared on the shores and islands of the Mediterranean; some, such as Athens, became city-states. After developing more effective communication and social organization, some Western city-states expanded and acquired empires, such as those of Alexander the Great and of Rome. Following the decline of Rome, complex city life continued in the East and in the West in the Byzantine and Muslim empires, while the population of Europe declined and reverted, for the most part, to subsistence agriculture and organized into small territories held together by the Catholic Church (Hawley 1981, pp. 1–35).

Sjoberg (1960) has described preindustrial cities as feudal in nature and sharing social, ecological, economic, family, class, political, religious, and educational characteristics different from those in modern industrial cities. In the former, the city center, with its government and religious and economic activities, dominated the remainder of the city and was the locale of the upper social classes. Homogeneous residential areas were found throughout the city, but nonresidential activities were not confined to distinct neighborhoods (Sjoberg 1960).

Beginning in the tenth century, further town development in the West was facilitated by increases in agricultural technology, population, trade, and communication; the rise of an entrepreneurial class; and an expanding web of social norms regarding economic activity. Communication and manufacturing were revived, which led to the growth of towns with local autonomy and public administration, and eventually to networks of cities. Surplus rural populations migrated to towns and cities, which grew because of their specialization and larger markets, becoming focal points of European societies (Hawley 1981, pp. 37–83).

The emergence of a global economy structured city development (Lo and Yeung 1996, pp. 1–13). In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, some European central place and port cities, such as those of the Hanseatic League of Northern Europe, established commercial links with others. Meanwhile, other cities in the Eastern Hemisphere and some cities in the Western Hemisphere were linked together by long-distance trade routes transcending the boundaries of empires and states (Wolfe 1982, p. 250). Military-commercial alliances facilitated the incorporation of territories into states. Commercial ties expanded during the late-fifteenth and the sixteenth centuries, as Europeans developed merchant capitalism, and traded with and colonized peoples on other continents. European and North American states developed more complex economies during the next three centuries, facilitating development of a "European world economy" with a global market, a global division of labor, and a global system of cities (Wallerstein 1974).


In most regions of the more developed world, urban growth and urbanization have occurred at an increasing rate since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. After 1820, the numbers and sizes of urban areas and cities in the United States increased as a result of employment concentration in construction and manufacturing, so urban areas began to grow more rapidly than rural ones. The population classified as urban by the U.S. Census Bureau (based on aggregations of 2,500 or more and including the surrounding densely populated territories) increased from 5 percent in 1790 to 75 percent in 1990. In 1790 the largest urban place in the United States had fewer than 50,000 inhabitants. As late as 1840, not a single urban place in the United States had more than half a million inhabitants. There were four such places in 1890, fourteen in 1940, twenty-two in 1980, and twenty-three in 1990 (U.S. Bureau of the Census 1997, p. 44).

City growth in the United States during the nineteenth century was driven by migration, since there were sometimes excesses of urban deaths over births in the early part of that century and lower birthrates in the last part of that century. Population concentration facilitated greater divisions of labor within and among families and individuals, as well as increasing numbers of voluntary associations centered on new urban interests and problems. At first, cities were compact, growth was vertical, and workers resided near their workplaces. The outward expansion of the residential population was facilitated in the last part of the century by steam and electric railways, the outward expansion of industry, and the increasing role of the central business district in integrating economic activities (Hawley 1981, pp. 61–145).

The increasing scale of production in the United States led to the development of a system of cities that organized activities in their hinterlands. Cities were differentiated from each other by their degree of dominance over or subordination to other cities, some of which were engaged in centralized manufacturing, others of which depended on transportation, commercial, administrative, or other functions. According to Hawley (1986), cities may have certain key functions that dominate other cities, that is, integrating, controlling, or coordinating activities with these cities. Examples of key functions are administration, commerce, finance, transportation, and communication (Duncan et al. 1960). Since each city exists within its own organizational environment, the expansion of linkages of urban organizations has accompanied the development of a system of cities (Turk 1977).

In the United States, the nature of key functions in city systems changed with the expansion of settlements westward, as colonial seaports, river ports, Midwestern railway towns, central places on the Great Plains, extractive centers, and government centers were integrated into an urban system. A nationwide manufacturing base was established by 1900, as were commercial and financial centers. By 1960 a fully developed system of differentiated urban centers existed within the United States (Duncan and Lieberson 1970).


In the United States, metropolitan areas are defined as being of two kinds. Metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) are areas including one or more central cities with a population of 50,000 or more, or areas with a less densely populated central city but with a combined urban population of at least 100,000 (75,000 in New England), including surrounding counties or towns. Consolidated metropolitan statistical areas (CMSAs) contain at least one million population and may have subareas called primary metropolitan statistical areas (PMSAs) (Frey 1990, p. 6). In 1990 a majority of the population of the United States resided in the thirty-nine major metropolitan areas: those with more than one million population (Frey 1995, p. 276).

New urban-population-density patterns appeared in the United States with the development of metropolitan areas. Growth was characterized by increases in population density in central cities, followed by increases in density in the metropolitan ring. Transport and communication technologies facilitated linkages of diverse neighborhoods into metropolitan communities dominated by more densely populated central cities. These linkages in turn organized relationships between central cities and less densely populated hinterlands and subcenters. Older metropolitan areas became the centers of CMSAs, while newer areas were the frontiers of expansion, growing by natural increase and especially by net migration. Metropolitan sprawl extended beyond many former nonurban functions, as well as more centrally located older features of the cityscape.

The interior of large Western metropolitan areas represents a merging of urban neighborhoods into complex overlapping spatial patterns, which reflect to some extent the dates when urban neighborhoods were settled and built-up. The blurring of neighborhood distinctions, facilitated by freeway and mass transit networks, facilitate interaction among "social circles" of people who are not neighborhood-based. Meanwhile, urban neighborhoods organized around such factors as status, ethnicity, or lifestyle, also persist. As the city ages, so does suburban as well as centrally located housing—a delayed consequence of the spread of urban settlement.

Kasarda (1995, p. 239) states that major cities in the United States have been transformed from centers of manufacturing and wholesale and retail trade, to centers of finance, administration, and information processing. Frey (1995, p.272) indicates that during the 1970s and 1980s populations concentrated in metropolitan areas with diverse economies that emphasized service and knowledge industries, as well as in recreation and retirement areas. In the 1970s there was a metropolitan and nonmetropolitan population turnaround. Populations in smaller metropolitan areas grew more rapidly than did those in larger metropolitan areas and population in developing countries grew more rapidly than in developed countries. In the 1980s, metropolitan population shifts, enhanced by international and internal migration, led to an urban revival, increasing regional racial, skill, and age divisions, the suburban dominance of growth and employment and more isolation of the urban core (Frey 1995, pp. 272–275).

Residential moves—the individual counterpart of population redistribution processes—are affected by population characteristics and other factors. Elements that influence mobility decisions are socioeconomic and psychological factors pertaining to the family and the family life cycle, housing and the local environment, and occupational and social mobility (Sabagh et al. 1969). For each of these factors, conditions may restrain persons from moving, or push or pull them to new locations. Information concerning new housing opportunities, the state of the housing market, and the availability of resources may impede or facilitate moves; subsequent moves may stem from recent migration or residential turnover in the metropolitan areas (Long 1988, pp. 219–224).


During the nineteenth century the character of the Western city was seen as different from that of noncity areas. Beginning with the public-health movement and concerns with urban housing, social scientists documented "pathologies" of urban life through the use of social surveys, the purpose of which was to provide policy-relevant findings. But since "urbanism as a way of life" has permeated the United States, many of the social and economic problems of cities have spread into smaller towns and rural areas, thus rendering the notion of unique urban pathologies less valid than when it was formulated.

In the first six decades of the twentieth century, explanations of city development were based largely on Western human ecology perspectives, and disagreements have arisen (Sjoberg 1968, p. 455). Theories based on Social Darwinism (Park [1916–1939] 1952) and economics (Burgess 1925, pp. 47–52) were first used to explain the internal structures of cities. "Subsocial" aspects of social and economic organization—which did not involve direct interpersonal interaction—were viewed as generating population aggregation and expansion. Market related competitive-cooperative processes—including aggregation-thinning out, expansion-contraction, centralization, displacement, segregation, migration, and mobility—were believed to determine the structures and patterns of urban neighborhoods (Quinn 1950). The competition of differing urban populations and activities for optimal locations was described as creating relatively homogeneous communities, labeled "natural areas," which display gradient patterns of decreasing densities of social and economic activities and problems with increasing distance from the city center.

On the basis of competitive-cooperative processes, city growth was assumed to result in characteristic urban shapes. The Burgess hypothesis specifies that in the absence of countervailing factors, the American city takes the form of a series of concentric zones, ranging from the organizing central business district to a commuters' zone (Burgess 1925, pp. 47–52). Other scholars emphasized star-shaped, multiple-nuclei, or cluster patterns of development. These views were descriptive rather than theoretical; assumed a Western capitalist commercial-industrial city; were distorted by topography, and street and transportation networks; and generally failed to take into account use of land for industrial purposes, which is found in most city zones.

Theodorson (1982) and Michaelson (1976, pp. 3–32) have described research on American cities as reflecting neo-orthodox, social-area analysis, and sociocultural approaches, each with its own frame of reference and methods. Neo-orthodox approaches have emphasized the interdependence of components of an ecological system, including population, organization, technology, and environment (Duncan 1964). This view has been applied to larger ecological systems that can extend beyond the urban community. Sustenance organization is an important focus of study (Hawley 1986). While neo-orthodox ecologists did not integrate the notion of Social Darwinism into their work, the economic aspects of their approach have helped to guide studies of population phenomena, including population shifts and urban differentiation (Frey 1995, pp. 271–336; White 1987), residence changes (Long 1988, pp. 189–251), racial and ethnic diversity (Harrison and Bennett 1995, pp. 141–210), segregation (Farley and Allen 1987, pp. 103–159; Lieberson and Waters 1988, pp. 51–93), housing status (Myers and Wolch 1995, pp. 269–334), and industrial restructuring and the changing locations of jobs (Kasarda 1995, pp. 215–268).

Social-area analysis, in contrast, regards modern industrial society as based on increasing scale, which represents "increased rates and intensities of social relation," "increased functional differentiation," and "increased complexity of social organization" (Shevky and Bell 1955). These concepts are related to neighborhood dimensions of social rank, urbanization, and segregation, which are delimited by the factor analysis of neighborhood or census tract measures. "Factorial ecology" has been widely used for classifying census tracts, sometimes for planning purposes. There are disagreements concerning whether factor-analysis studies of urban neighborhood social structure, which are associated with social-area analysis and similar approaches, result in theoretically useful generalizations (Janson 1980, p. 454; White 1987, pp. 64–66)

Sociocultural ecology has used social values such as sentiment and symbolism to explain land use in central Boston (Firey 1947) and other aspects of city life. While values and culture are relevant to explanations of city phenomena, this perspective has not led to a fully developed line of investigation.

Michaelson (1976, pp. 17–32) has argued that none of these aforementioned ecological approaches to the city explicitly study the relationship between the physical and the social environment, for the following reasons: (1) their incomplete view of the environment; (2) their focus on population aggregates; (3) their failure to consider contributions of other fields of study; and (4) the newness of the field. Since Michaelson wrote his critique, sociologists have given more attention to the urban environment.


Traditional explanations of cities did not adequately account for the economic, political, racial and social upheavals in U.S. cities during the 1960s. Further, urbanization in less developed regions does not necessarily follow the Western pattern. City growth may absorb national population increments and reflect a lack of rural employment, a migration of the rural unemployed to the city, and a lack of urban industrial development. Increasing concentration of population in larger cities in less developed regions may be followed by the emergence of more "Western-style" hierarchies of cities, functions, and interorganizational relationships. Many cities in less developed regions experience the environmental hazards of Western cities, a compartmentalization of life, persistent poverty and unemployment, a rapidly worsening housing situation, and other symptoms of Western social disorganization. The juxtaposition of local urbanism and some degree of Western urbanization may vitiate a number of traditional Western solutions to urban problems.

Kasarda and Crenshaw (1991, pp. 467–500) have summarized and compared theoretical perspectives concerning how urbanization occurs in less developed regions. Modernization-human ecology perspectives portray city building as the result of changes in social organization and applications of technology. Rural-urban migration, resulting from urban industrialization and excess rural fertility, can eventually lead to the reduction of rural-urban economic and social differences (Hawley 1981). Dependency-world-system perspectives describe the capitalist world-system as guiding change in the less developed regions so as to maintain the dominance of the more developed core (Wallerstein 1974). Urban bias perspectives emphasize the role of the state, sometimes governed by urban elites, which relys on urban resources, and favors urban over rural development (Lipton 1977). Kasarda and Crenshaw (1991) regard these perspectives as underspecified and as lacking empirical confirmation.

Political economy perspectives explain city growth in more developed as well as less developed regions as a product of globalization, including capital accumulation and nation-state formation (Tilly 1975). Europe and the United States colonized non-European peoples and obtained raw materials from the colonies which they processed and exchanged with their colonies as manufactured products. Colonial areas gained political independence after World War II. Economic restructuring then resulted in the globalization of economic and cultural life, and changes in the international division of labor between cities.

Sassen (1991) indicates that following World War II communications technology facilitated the dispersion of manufacturing by multinational corporations to low-wage cities, some in former colonial areas. A globally integrated organization of economic activity then supplanted world economic domination by the United States. Economic activities were integrated beyond national urban hierarchies into a small number of key global cities, which are now international banking centers, with transnational corporate headquarters, sophisticated business services, information processing, and telecommunications. These cities (London, New York, and to a lesser degree Tokyo) command the global economy and are supported by worldwide hierarchies of decentralized specialized cities (Sassen 1991). International networks of cities sometimes provide opportunities for multinational corporations from less developed regions to penetrate more developed regions (Lo and Yeoung 1998, p. 2).

Feagan and Smith (1987, pp. 3–33) describe economic restructuring in U.S. cities in the 1980's as including plant closures and start-ups, the development and expansion of corporate centers, and corporate movement to outlying areas, all of which impact different groupings of cities. They portray economic restructuring as a product of interactions between governmental components of nation-states; multinational, national, and local corporations and businesses; and nongovernment organizations. These interactions guide policies affecting local taxation, regulation, implementation, and public-private partnerships. Some city neighborhoods have become expendable locations for rapidly shifting economic activity. Policies to accommodate to shifting sites of economic activity influence international and intranational migration, family life, as well as the use of urban, suburban, and rural space.

Aspects of political-economy perspectives have been taken into account in more traditional studies of cities (Frey 1995, pp. 271–336; Kasarda 1995, pp. 215–268). Walton (1993, pp. 301–320) maintains that political-economy perspectives have made the following contributions to the study of cities: (1) showing that urbanization and urbanism are contingent upon the development of social and economic systems; (2) generating comparative studies, particularly in developing countries; (3) elucidating the operation of the informal economy in cities; (4) outlining a political economy of place; (5) showing how globalization relates to ethnicity and community; and (6) relating urban political movements to changes in the global economy.


Globalization of economic and cultural life is associated with new urban trends. While cities in less developed regions lack resources when compared with those in more developed regions, cities in both types of regions are becoming more responsive to changes in worldwide conditions.

During the twenty-first century the majority of human population is expected to be urban residents (United Nations 1998). In 1995 approximately 46 percent (2.6 billion) of the world's population lived in urban areas. By the year 2005, approximately half of the population is projected to be urban, compared with fewer than one of every three persons in 1950. By 2030 approximately six-tenths (5.1 billion) of the population is projected to be urban.

Urban areas in less developed areas are projected to dominate the growth of the less developed regions and of the world during the twenty-first century. Reasons are the high population growth rates and high numerical population growth of less developed regions, and high rural-urban migration to cities in these regions. In 1995, only 38 percent of the populations in the less developed regions were urban dwellers, compared with 75 percent of the populations in the more developed regions. Urban areas in less developed areas are expected to account for approximately 90 percent (2.4 billion) of the total of 2.7 billion persons that the United Nations projects will be added to the earth's population from 1995 to 2030 (United Nations 1998). (Cities in more developed regions are expected to account for only 140 million of the population increase in the same period.)

There will continue to be significant differences in urbanization between the less developed regions. About three fourths of Latin-American population was urban in 1995, roughly the average level of industrialized regions in Europe, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, the United States and Canada. The most extensive future urban growth will be in Asia and Africa, which are now only about one-third urban (O'Mera 1999; United Nations 1998).

An increasing portion of urban population is residing in giant urban agglomerations. An urban agglomeration, according to the United Nations (1998), is the population within a contiguous territory inhabited at urban levels without regard to administered boundaries. In 1995 the fifteen largest ranged in size from 27 million (Tokyo) to 9.9 million (Delhi). Less developed countries are sometimes characterized by primate cities, that is, the largest city in a country dominates other cities and are larger than would be expected on the basis of a "rank-size" rule, which indicates that the rank of a population aggregation times its size equals a constant (Shryock, Siegel, and associates 1976), thus resulting in an inadequate supporting hierarchy of smaller cities. Primate cities often appear in small countries, and in countries with a dual economy, but are not as apparent in large countries or those with long urban histories (Berry 1964).

Megacities, defined by the United Nations (1998) as those cities with 10 million or more inhabitants, are increasing in number and are concentrated in less developed regions. There were fourteen megacities in 1995, including ten in less developed regions. Twenty-six megacities are projected in 2015, including twenty-two in less developed regions, of which sixteen will be in Asia. Megacities have both assets and liabilities. Brockerhoff and Brennan (1998, pp. 75–114) have suggested that cities' size and rates of population growth are inversely related to welfare. Kasarda and Crenshaw (1991, pp. 471–474) note that megacities, which may have serious social and economic problems, can be driving engines for industrial production in developing regions, and contribute disproportionately to their countries' economies (Kasarda and Crenshaw 1991, pp. 467–501).

Berry (1978) indicates that urbanization may be accompanied by "counter-urbanization" or decreasing city size and density. City growth sometimes occurs in cycles, which begin with rapid growth in the urban core, followed by rapid growth in the suburban ring, a decline in growth in both the core and the ring, and then rapid growth in the core (United Nations 1998). These cycles—of urbanization, suburbanization, counter-urbanization, and reurbanization—appear to be associated with concentrations of services in city centers, followed by improvements in commuting by the labor force and increased suburban home ownership by urban labor forces. The 1970s deurbanization (metropolitan turnaround) in the United States was followed by reurbanization in the 1980s, and the start of another period of deurbanization in the 1990s (United Nations 1998). During the 1970s and 1980s counter-urbanization occurred in other more developed regions and in less developed regions, including a slow-down of population growth rates in some megacities in developing regions, particularly in Latin America (United Nations 1998).

Changes in the global economy and in the aforementioned city growth cycles are associated with new forms of urban land use in the United States, which are laid over preexisting urban patterns. Businesses, which provide the economic base for cities, move between optimum locations in different cities (Wilson 1997, p. 8). Globalization has enhanced the growth of suburbs and "edge cities" organized around outlying business and high-technology centers linked by telecommunications networks to other cities (Castells, 1989; Muller 1997). Unregulated informal sectors of the economy develop in a variety of intraurban locations. High-income native and immigrant populations, which profit from the new global economy, sometimes cluster in protected enclaves. Low-income immigrant and ethnic populations often occupy areas inhabited by earlier cohorts of the urban poor. Such trends may be related to a spread of ghetto-underclass neighborhoods and to increasingly polarized intracity neighborhood differences of poverty and affluence (Morenoff and Tienda 1997, pp. 59–72).

Trans-border cites are new urban forms that transcend the boundaries of nation-states and reflect increasingly borderless economies. They result from globalization trends, including the economic integration of regions, reductions of trade barriers, and the establishment of multinational free trade zones. They link cities adjacent to a border, and sometimes metamorphose into trans-border systems, complete with specialized functions and populations, and extensive cross-border social and economic ties (Rubin-Kurtzman et al. 1993). Examples are Southern California (U.S.)Baja California (Mexico), the Singapore-Johore (Malysia)-Riau (Indonesia) region, and the Beijing (China)-Pyongyang (North Korea)-Seoul (South Korea)-Tokyo (Japan) urban corridor. Trans-border cities pose questions regarding the limits of national sovereignty, but can also integrate human and economic resources and thus enhance international stability.

Cities will continue to exhibit extremes of affluence and poverty, but the extent and consequences of these extremes are unclear. Massey (1996, pp. 395–412) has argued that both the affluent and the poor are concentrating in cities in the United States; consequences may include increased densities of crime, addictions, diseases, and environmental degradation, the emergence of oppositional subcultures, and enhanced violence. Massey assumes these trends apply to less developed regions as well as to the United States. Farley (1996, pp. 417–420) has advanced a counterargument that while economic inequality is increasing in the United States, as may be the geographic segregation of the poor, the continuing (1996) rise in prosperity increases welfare at all income levels. Firebaugh and Beck (1994, pp. 631–653) maintain that economic growth, even in dependent less developed countries, may eventually increase welfare. Hout et al. (1998) state that political institutions, which are partially responsible for growing inequality, can provide appropriate remedies.

As cities account for increasing shares of the earth's population, they will consume increasing shares of the earth's resources, produce increasing shares of pollution, and their populations will be more subject to negative feedbacks from human impacts on the environment. O'Mera (1999, p. 137) estimates that populations of cities, while occupying only two percent of the earth's surface, consume 75 percent of the earth's resources. Cities are often sited on areas that contain prime agricultural land; urban expansion then inhibits and degrades crop production. Conversion of rural land to urban use intensifies natural hazards including floods, forest and brush fires, and earth slides. Further development concentrates and then disburses to outlying locations such artificial hazards as air pollution, land and water pollution, and motor vehicle and air traffic noise. Cities are also sited on the shorelines of oceans, thus increasing numbers of city residents are subject to the impacts of storm surges and erosion. Lowry (1992) argues that environmental impacts attributed to cities reflect population growth, industrialization and prosperity rather than city growth itself.

Some of the aforementioned trends are apparent, for example, in Los Angeles and Mexico City, which ranked seventh and second in size, respectively, among the world's largest megacities in 1995. After World War II and until the 1970s, Los Angeles's industrial and population growth and suburban sprawl made it a prototype for urban development that brought with it many inner-city, energy, suburban, environmental, state-management, ethnic, and capital-accumulation problems.

Since the early 1970s, Los Angeles has become a radically changed global megacity based on accumulation of global capital, economic restructuring, communications, and access to new international markets. The reorganization of Los Angeles has affected labor-force demands and the character of both native and immigrant populations. Immigration transformed Los Angeles into a multicultural metropolis (Waldinger and Bozorgmehr 1996, pp. 3–37). The area's economy emphasizes high-income service-sector jobs and low-income service-sector and industrial-sector jobs. Los Angeles has a great concentration of industrial technology and great international cultural importance, is dependent on the private automobile, has environmental hazards (earthquakes, brush fires, and air pollution), limited water supplies, housing shortages, crime, and has experienced uncontrolled intergroup conflicts in 1965 and 1992.

Mexico City, while not commanding the same global economic stature as Los Angeles, is the primate city of Mexico. Mexico City shares many of Los Angeles's problems, including environmental hazards (earthquakes, and air pollution), water shortages, lack of housing and services, expansion of low-income settlements, dependence on the private automobile, lack of sufficient transportation, earthquakes, crime, and rising ethnic violence. Effects of policy responses to these problems have been dampened by economic reversals (Ward 1998).

These illustrations suggest that cities at somewhat similar levels of influence within their respective countries share similar characteristics, whether in the more developed or in the less developed regions. This would support a view that determinants of city development are rooted in the global economy and are influenced by similar trends, but vary according to the city's place in the system.


Berry, Brian J. L. 1978 "The Counter-Urbanization Process: How General?" In Niles M. Hansen, ed., Human Settlement Systems: International Perspectives on Structure, Change and Public Policy. Cambridge, Mass.: Ballinger.

——1964 "Cities as Systems Within Systems of Cities." In J. Friedman and W. Alonso, eds., Regional Development and Planning. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Brockerhoff, Martin, and Ellen Brennan 1998 "The Poverty of Cities in Developing Regions." Population and Development Review 241:75–114.

Burgess, Ernest W. (1924) 1925 "The Growth of the City, an Introduction to a Research Project." In Robert E. Park, Ernest W. Burgess, and R. D. McKenzie, eds., The City. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Castells, Manual 1989 The Informational City: Information Technology, Economic Restructuring, and the Urban-Regional Process. Cambridge, Mass.: Basil Blackwell, Ltd.

Childe, V. Gordon 1950 "The Urban Revolution." Town Planning Review 21:3–17.

Duncan, Beverly, and Stanley Lieberson 1970 Metropolis and Region in Transition. Beverly Hills, Calif.: Sage.

Duncan, Otis D. 1964 "Social Organization and the Ecosystem." In Robert E. L. Faris, ed., Handbook of Modern Sociology. Chicago: Rand McNally.

——, William R. Scott, Stanley Lieberson, Beverly Duncan, and Haliman H. Winsborough 1960 Metropolis and Region. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Farley, Reynolds 1996 "The Age of Extremes: A Revisionist Perspective." Demography 37:417–420.

——, and Walter R. Allen 1987 The Color Line and the Quality of Life in America. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

Feagin, Joe R., and Michael Peter Smith 1987 "Cities and the New International Division of Labor: An Overview." In Michael Peter Smith and Joe R. Feagin, eds., The Capitalist City. New York: Basil Blackwell, Ltd.

Firebaugh, Glen, and Frank D. Beck 1994 "Does Economic Growth Benefit the Masses? Growth Dependence and Welfare in the Third World." American Sociological Review 59:631–653.

Firey, Walter 1947 Land Use in Central Boston. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

Frey, William 1995 "The New Geography of Population Shifts." In Reynolds Farley, ed., State of the Union: America in the 1990s, Volume Two: Social Trends. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

——1990 "Metropolitan America: Beyond the Transition." Population Bulletin 45, 2:1–53.

——1987 "Migration and Depopulation of the Metropolis: Regional Restructuring or Rural Renaissance?" American Sociological Review 52:240–257.

Harrison, Roderick, and Claudette E. Bennett 1995 "Racial and Ethnic Diversity." In Reynolds Farley, ed., State of the Union: America in the 1990s, Volume Two: Social Trends. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

Hawley, Amos H 1986 Human Ecology: A Theoretical Essay. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

——1981 Urban Society: An Ecological Approach, 2nd ed. New York: Wiley.

Hout, Michael, Richard Arons, and Kim Voss 1996 "The Political Economy of Inequality in the 'Age of Extremes."' Demography 33:421–425.

Jacobs, Jane 1970 The Economy of Cities. New York: Vintage.

Janson, Carl-Gunnar 1980 "Factorial Social Ecology: An Attempt at Summary and Evaluation." In A. Inkeles, N. J. Smelser, and R. H. Turner, eds., Annual Review of Sociology, vol. 6. Palo Alto, Calif.: Annual Reviews.

Kasarda, John 1995 "Industrial Restructuring and the Changing Nature of Jobs." In Reynolds Farley, ed., State of the Union: America in the 1990s, Volume One: Economic Trends. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

——, and Edward M. Crenshaw 1991 "Third World Urbanization: Dimensions, Theories, and Determinants." In W. Richard Scott, ed., Annual Review of Sociology 17:467–500.

Lieberson, Stanley, and Mary C. Waters 1988 From Many Strands: Ethnic and Racial Groups in Contemporary America. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

Lipton M. 1977 Why Poor People Stay Poor: Urban Bias in World Development. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

Lo, Fu-chen, and Yoe-Man Yeung 1996 "Introduction." In Fu-chen Lo and Yoe-Man Yeung, eds., Emerging World Cities in Pacific Asia. Tokyo: United Nations University Press.

Long, Larry 1988 Migration and Residential Mobility in the United States. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

Lowry, Ira S. 1991 "World Urbanization in Perspective." In Kingsley Davis and Mikhail S. Bernstram, eds., Resources, Environment, and Population: Present Knowledge: Future Options, Population and Development Review, a supplement to Volume 16, 1990.

Massey, Douglas S. 1996 "The Age of Extremes: Concentrated Affluence and Poverty in the Twenty-first Century." Demography 33:395–412.

Michaelson, William 1976 Man and His Urban Environment: A Sociological Approach. Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley.

Morenoff, Jeffrey, and Marta Tienda 1997 "Underclass Neighborhoods in Temporal and Ecological Perspective." In Alan W. Heston, ed., David Wilson, special ed., The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science Globalization and the American City 551:59–72.

Muller, Peter O. 1997 "The Suburban Transformation of the Globalizing American City." In Alan W. Heston, ed., David Wilson, special ed., The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science: Globalization and the Changing American City 551: 44–50.

Myers, Dowell, and Jennifer R. Wolch 1995 "The Polarization of Housing Status." In Reynolds Farley, ed., State of the Union: America in the 1990s, Volume Two: Social Trends. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

O'Mera, Molly 1999 "Exploring a New Vision for Cities." In Linda Stack, ed., State of the World 1999. New York: W.W. Norton and Company.

Park, R. E. (1916–1939) 1952 "Human Communities: The City and Human Ecology." Collected Papers, vol. 2. Glencoe, Ill.: Free Press.

Phillips, E. Barbara 1996 City Lights: Urban-Suburban Life in the Global Society. New York: Oxford University Press.

Quinn, James 1950 Human Ecology. New York: Prentice-Hall.

Rubin-Kurtzman, Jane R., Roberto Ham Chande, and Maurice D. Van Arsdol, Jr. 1993 "Population in Trans-Border Regions: The Southern California-Baja, California Urban System." International Migration Review 30:1020–1045.

Sabagh, Georges, Maurice D. Van Arsdol, Jr., and Edgar W. Butler 1969 "Determinants of Intrametropolitan Residential Mobility: Conceptual Considerations." Social Forces 48, 1:88–97.

Sassen, Saskia 1991 The Global City. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.

Shevky, Eshref, and Wendell Bell 1955 Social Area Analysis: Theory, Illustrative Applications and Computational Procedures. Stanford Sociological Series, no. 1. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press.

Shryock, Henry S., Jacob S. Siegel, and associates 1976 The Materials and Methods of Demography, condensed edition ed. by Edward G. Stockwell. San Diego: Academic Press/Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

Sjoberg, Gideon 1968 "The Modern City." In David L. Sills, ed., International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, vol. 1. New York: MacMillan and Free Press.

——1960 The Pre-Industrial City: Past and Present. New York: Free Press.

Theodorson, George A. 1982 Urban Patterns: Studies in Human Ecology. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press.

Tilly, Charles 1974 The Formation of National States in Western Europe. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.

Turk, Herman 1977 Organizations in Modern Life: Cities and Other Large Networks. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

United Nations 1998 World Urbanization Prospects: The 1996 Revision. New York: United Nations.

U.S. Bureau of the Census 1997 Statistical Abstract of the United States. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office.

Waldinger, Roger, and Mehdi Bozorgmehr 1996 "The Making of a Multicultural Metropolis." In Roger Waldinger and Mehdi Bozorgmehr, eds., Ethnic Los Angeles. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

Wallerstein, Immanuael 1974 The Modern World System: Capitalist Agriculture and the Origin of the European World Economy in the Sixteenth Century. New York: Academic Press.

Walton, John 1993 "Urban Sociology: The Contribution and Limits of Political Economy." In Judith Blake, ed., Annual Review of Sociology. Palo Alto, Calif.: Annual Reviews Inc.

Ward, Peter M. 1998 Mexico City: Revised Second Edition. Chichester, N.Y.: John Wiley.

Weber, M. 1958 "The Nature of the City." In Don Martindale and Gertrude Neuwirth, eds., The City. New York: Free Press.

White, Michael J. 1987 American Neighborhoods and Residential Differentiation. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

Wilson, David 1997 "Preface." In Alan W. Heston, ed., David O. Wilson, special ed., The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science: Globalization and the Changing U.S. City, 551: 8–16.

Wirth, Louis 1938 "Urbanism as a Way of Life." American Journal of Sociology 44:1–24.

Wolf, Eric R. 1982 Europe and the People Without History. Berkeley: University of California Press.


Cities and Urban Life

views updated Jun 27 2018


CITIES AND URBAN LIFE. The names that come immediately to mind when one thinks of early modern cities are for the most part capitals or court cities or major colonial ports. They were grand places, of which much remains and, although smaller than they are today in both area and population, more populous than any city Catholic Europe had known in the Middle Ages (Orthodox Constantinople and Muslim Cordoba may have exceeded half a million inhabitants). However, only a small fraction of the urban population of Europeitself a fraction of the totallived in any of them. So we shall first examine a more common type of town, which can tell us what life was like for townspeople and rural visitors alike.

Scattered over the map of Europe were literally thousands of these ordinary towns, ranging from fewer than 1,000 inhabitants to perhaps 20,000, anything larger being reckoned a fairly big city. How many we cannot really say. A legal definition of a town or city depends on the grant at some time of a charter. A functional definition implies a minimum population, an organized periodic market, or a range of occupations besides farming, forestry, or fishing. Even with better and more comprehensive data than we have, different places would qualify as towns according to the criterion chosen. In fact, students of Europe's urban system and its evolution over three centuries have adopted thresholds of at least 5,000 inhabitants. To the extent that large cities fared better than small ones in our period, leaving out the latter exaggerates the growth of the urban share.

How large a share of Europe's population was urban? This varied between regions, and so does the precision of our estimates in this prestatistical era. Most scholars agree that barely one in ten Europeans lived in a sizable (>5,000) town in 1500as many as one in four in Flanders and in northern Italy, far fewer in most of northern and eastern Europe. Still, adding the smaller towns and those people who spent some time in a town, perhaps one in five persons experienced urban life as more than a visitor. Growth in the urban share was concentrated in regions that were underurbanized in 1500, while those with a high initial share actually became less urban. England stands out from the rest of Europe in the later eighteenth century because the mass urbanization associated with the industrial revolution was under way by 1760 or so. However, the European urban proportion changed little for the period as a whole, with any increase almost within the bounds of uncertainties in measurement.


What was the "typical" small town like? It was enclosed by a wall, and since building a wall was no small task, a growing town would put up with a lot of crowding before expanding the enclosed area. Conversely, losing population freed up space on which to graze animals or bleach cloth. The town plan could take many forms, a rough circle with four gates and two main roads crossing in the center being common, a neat design, such as a rectangular grid, less so. The plan, the style of the houses, and many other aspects of life had not changed much since the Middle Ages, when the town was founded, nor would highly visible changes take place until well into the industrial age, if then. The churches, the marketa hall or an open placeand a guildhall or town hall were the dominant structures while a few larger dwellings such as a monastery, a noble house, or a ruined castle stood out from the rest in terms of size and style.

The population included officials of the municipality and the territorial authority, either lord or king. Local gentry might also reside in town all or part of the year. Clergy were numerous, especially in Catholic countries, and bishops could still rule cities. Most characteristically urban were craft occupations, often combined with retail trade. Master and journeyman now represented a fairly permanent status, more like modern-day employer and employee. Given the difficulties of travel to a larger city, the town might house a few professionals, such as an apothecary, a notary, and a barber surgeon. The largest category of working people, however, was made up of servants, day laborers, and apprenticesenough servants, in fact, that many larger towns had a female majority. Housekeeping was labor-intensive, as were transport and construction, though they employed mostly men.

Women, many of the unskilled, and those who were not native to the town were denied citizenship. The status of citizen or burgher was valued even though self-government was often limited to an elite of merchants, nobles, and officials. Wealth or important skills could procure citizenship, most easily during recovery from some demographic catastrophe. The other outsiders, tolerated and indeed indispensable for many rough tasks, were, like the undocumented aliens in many Western cities today, hard to keep track of. They were less likely to marry and more likely to die at an early age than were citizens. They also had less claim on assistance and protection, mostly dispensed by the church, than the native-born paupers, orphans, and infirm of the town.

Trades still clustered on particular streets although people might also live in neighborhoods defined by extended families, clans, or loyalty to a powerful man. The center of town was considered desirable (in bigger cities the wealthy were laying out whole districts for their elegant new houses), while the suburbs, outside the walls, lacked status. The countryside, on the other hand, furnished a whole string of necessities, from laborers and wet nurses to food, wood, straw, raw materials, and carting services. In turn, farmers found in town a market, credit, and a range of consumer goods to buy. Burghers earned income from rural property and mortgages, and rich ones often acquired a country estate as a means of entry into the aristocracy (an alternative was to purchase a suitable royal appointment).

Day to day, the town's inhabitants dealt with one another, with the inhabitants of the surrounding countryside, and with those who passed throughpeddlers and merchants, pilgrims and gypsies, soldiers and entertainers. But the larger world also impinged, more and more as time went on. A wider range of goods became common, including both colonial products and manufactures. Protoindustrial production could pit town against country, or merchants could enlist both to make and sell goods such as watches, textiles, or cutlery.

The spread of markets presaged the modern or capitalistic economy. But the wider world also affected our prototype town in the distant person of the sovereign, who regulated markets and demanded loyalty, service, and taxes. Since the king might farm out tax collection, and noble privileges and dues persisted, while the church also demanded payment of tithes, etc., the fiscal situation was almost always complicated and contested. Still, a hierarchy of administrative centers developed, with the royal capital at the apex and our little town a basic element. To sum up, towns played a critical role in the structuring of early modern society through both states and markets, coercion and commerce.


Small towns grew in the sixteenth century when Europe finally regained (and surpassed) the population reached before the fourteenth-century crisis marked by the Black Death. Ports flourished along with market centers as the Atlantic Ocean joined the inland seas (Mediterranean, North, Baltic) and Europe's rivers as highways for trade. While regional and royal capitals changed relatively rarely, major ports competed strongly for leadership in commerce and finance. In the north, Bruges gave way to Antwerp and later to Amsterdam and London, while in the south, Genoa and Venice battled for supremacy, with Barcelona and Marseille also contesting for their share. Overall, however, the once-dominant Mediterranean was losing out to the AtlanticNorth Sea region. Cities such as Bristol and Glasgow, Bordeaux and Nantes, Hamburg and Lübeck, Lisbon and Seville benefited from trade with the New World, whereas most Mediterranean ports stagnated after 1600.

By 1580, the urban renaissance showed signs of a slowdown. Small towns and free cities, such as Frankfurt and Cologne in Germany, saw their prosperity diminish. The turmoil of the next seventy years, centering on wars of religion, would concentrate growth in a relatively few large royal capitals (successful ports did not multiply their inhabitants to the same degree). Paris and London would at least double in population and surpass the half-million mark. Naples, despite weak trade, kept on growing. Newer capitals grew even faster in this period and the half century following. Madrid barely existed before it became the capital in 1567; by 1750 it had 123,000 souls. Berlin tripled its population after welcoming Huguenots expelled from France in 1685; and in 1703 Peter the Great began to drain a swamp for the Russian capital named after his patron saint. Similar stories can be told about Vienna, Stockholm, The Hague, court cities in Germany, and some subcapitals of empire, such as Brussels and Milan. On the periphery, colonial gateways such as Dublin, Charleston, and Lima combined trade with control by the home government.

The cycle turned again in the middle decades of the eighteenth century. With population growing, agriculture intensifying, and the first new industrial towns springing up, smaller places regained their share of urban growth. Even this reversal, however, did not stop many very small market centers from losing urban functions to nearby larger ones.


How did a city grow so large merely because the monarch established her or his capital and court there, and what was life like in such a city? In this era of strong monarchy, the capital drew the many who served the sovereign directly. To rule is first of all to tax; hence there was a considerable fiscal apparatus. Senior judiciary and military officials also remained close to the seat of power. Elite military units"household troops/regiments"protected the monarch against riots and insurrection, which flourished in big cities, culminating in the Paris revolution of 1789.

Absolute monarchy meant a court, and many nobles added a house in the capital to their country residence. Of course, this additional source of expense added to the financial pressure on the nobility. Louis XIV of France consolidated his power by handing out a variety of pensions and profitable positions and requiring the candidates to stay at court. The more time they spent in Paris (where many nobles actually lived) or Versailles, the more need there was for royal patronage, and the more vital it was to stay around.

The system relied on pomp, ceremony, and festivities, so a court city needed a big working population "backstage." From pastry cooks to fencing masters, carriage makers to performers, lawyers, seamstresses, and chaise bearers, conspicuous consumption provided lots of employment. Along with individual craftsmen working to order, workshops near the demanding clientele produced an increasing range of manufactured luxury goods. Aristocrats and those who aspired to the aristocracy from all over soon looked to Paris or London for their furniture, clocks, ceramics, and bronzes. Monarchs also sponsored royal manufactures for porcelain, tapestries, and carpets or for military goods, where scale of production was important.

So much for the skilled trades. An army of servants, porters, and laborers helped craftsmen do their work and helped the rich get through their festive rounds. Of course, even the most lavish court did not fully dominate a city of several hundred thousand. The same groups we encountered in our small town formed a community of burghers that mostly stood apart from the goings-on of the aristocracy. They merely had less voice, whether in governing the city or in determining its outward appearance. Finally, big cities attracted a substantial underside of society: shady characters who offered forbidden pleasures or peddled banned literature, stealthy or violent criminals, beggars and paupers.

The menials had a big job keeping dirt and congestion from overwhelming the city completely. Huge amounts of food and fuel had to be brought in, and considerable tonnages of waste removed. Potable water was in perennially short supply although water itself might be too abundant. Disease and fire were ever-present dangers. London experienced both in the 1660s but rose again, bigger and busier than ever. However, grandiose plans to rebuild with straight and wide avenues after the Great Fire were shelved. Like most cities, London retained its narrow, winding, sewerless streets. Crowding was the rule, with rickety stories piled on top of leaning houses.

The blunt truth is that investment in urban amenities and infrastructure, particularly in the splendid baroque capitals, badly failed to cope with the numbers who flocked in. In fact, a constant stream of migrants was required, not only to fuel growth but to make up for a substantial natural deficit. Many urban dwellers, clerics and servants for example, remained unmarried, and death rates, for infants and adults alike, were always high and subject to sharp peaks during epidemics. Did this flow stimulate the surrounding countryside or rob it of vital forces? Historians can't agree or at least find examples of both.

The occasional monumental construction, broad boulevard, or elegant new neighborhood of "hotels" or "city-palaces" (often at the western, or windward edge of the older districts), should not deceive us. Mud, dirt, darkness, and pollution were the lot of most people, not just the very poor, and so were crowding, violence, and disease. Yet many came and stayed, preferring the stimulating dangers of the big city to the calm and relative safety of the smaller town or the farming village.

The urban share of the population may not have risen much, but European arts and lettersfrom the Italian Renaissance, to Dutch painting and Italian music, to the salons of Paris and the coffee-houses of London in the Enlightenmentbecame resolutely urban pursuits. Even the great country houses were designed and furnished in a fully urban style, and when the early Romantics looked to nature, it was very much from the point of view of city people. Yet unlike politics and culture, the big economic change on the horizon would not originate in the metropolitan cities, though it would eventually transform them. Even before 1800, the industrial revolution was actually being hatched in the countryside. However, cities would continue to dominate commerce and finance, as well as science and education, and in the nineteenth century industry would vastly expand existing towns and create sprawling agglomerations unlike any city before.

Finally, a word about technology. Early modern advances in production or transportation did little to change urban life. The horse remained supreme on land; building techniques did not change; and medicine remained largely powerless. However, two sets of inventions did make a difference to cities. The diffusion of printing and paper put books, newspapers, broadsides, and pamphlets in easy reach of town dwellers and facilitated literacy and schooling. Clocks and watches changed attitudes toward time and quickened the pace of social life and business.

See also Amsterdam ; Antwerp ; Barcelona ; Berlin ; City Planning ; Cologne ; Hamburg ; London ; Lübeck ; Madrid ; Naples ; Nuremberg ; Paris ; St. Petersburg ; Seville ; Versailles .


Abrams, Philip, and E. A. Wrigley, eds. Towns in Societies: Essays in Economic History and Historical Sociology. Cambridge, U.K., and New York, 1978.

Braudel, Fernand. Civilization and Capitalism, 15th18th Century. 3 vols. New York, 19821984.

Clark, Peter, ed. Small Towns in Early Modern Europe. Cambridge, U.K., and New York, 1995.

Clark, Peter, and Bernard Lepetit. Capital Cities and Their Hinterlands in Early Modern Europe. Aldershot, U.K., 1996.

De Vries, Jan. European Urbanization, 15001800. Cambridge, Mass., 1984.

Epstein, S. R., ed. Town and Country in Europe, 13001800. Cambridge, U.K., and New York, 2001.

Hohenberg, Paul M., and Lynn Hollen Lees. The Making of Urban Europe, 10001994. Cambridge, Mass., 1995.

Langton, Jack, and Göran Hoppe. Town and Country in the Development of Early Modern Western Europe. Norwich, U.K., 1983.

O'Brien, Patrick, ed. Urban Achievement in Early Modern Europe: Golden Ages in Antwerp, Amsterdam, and London. Cambridge, U.K., and New York, 2001.

Tilly, Charles, and Wim P. Blockmans, eds. Cities and the Rise of States in Europe, A . D . 1000 to 1800. Boulder, Colo., 1994.

Paul M. Hohenberg

Cities and Urban Life

views updated May 29 2018

Cities and Urban Life

Cities in western Europe experienced significant growth and change during the Renaissance. About a quarter of the population lived in urban areas, and the percentage was even higher in northern Italy, southern Germany, and the Netherlands. By 1600 Venice had 190,000 inhabitants and Paris had 220,000. This urban growth led to changes in the nature of city life and the challenges of city government.

Characteristics of Urban Life. Renaissance cities varied a great deal. While some cities were surrounded by walls or fortifications, others no longer had walls or had developed suburbs beyond them. Cities served mainly as centers for the exchange and production of goods, but agriculture often remained an important element. Farmers made up a large part of the population of many towns and sometimes raised crops inside city walls. People from different backgrounds and social classes mixed in the shops and marketplaces, and women moved about with considerable freedom. Urban areas also attracted a wide variety of visitors.

Cities enjoyed a lively, often hectic, street life. Religious and other processions featuring music, dancing, and elaborate costumes were common. Pedestrians frequently had to share the streets with pigs and geese. Crowding and traffic became serious problems in some urban areas, especially as the use of carriages increased among the wealthy. During one traffic jam in Paris in 1610, Henry IV of France was assassinated in his coach. Some cities made attempts to control the traffic problem. Amsterdam developed a system of one-way streets, and London licensed carriages for hire. In both cases, the situation became more complex as the use of carriages grew.

A significant development in urban society during the Renaissance was the popularity of indoor entertainment. Wealthy residents began to take part in invitation-only dances, private gambling, and new forms of diversion such as opera, theater, and poetry readings. These urban elites* sought entertainment that excluded the ordinary people and reinforced their own sense of social superiority.

Religion and Education in Cities. Religion was a major force in urban life throughout the Renaissance. In most cities religious buildings dominated the skyline, and parish churches served as cultural and social centers. Churches also had their own laws and courts separate from those of civil authorities.

The role of city churches changed after the Protestant Reformation*. In northern Europe the church lost its separate legal status, and many Catholic religious buildings were destroyed or converted to other uses. Education and relief for the poor, once largely provided by the church, fell to other groups and institutions. In southern Europe, the Catholic Counter-Reformation* strengthened the church's role. New churches were built to emphasize the importance of faith in daily life. Urban authorities worked with church leaders to impose accepted political and religious beliefs.

Towns and cities were the educational centers of the Renaissance. Instruction aimed at different levels of achievement. Dame schools (small classes conducted by women in their homes) provided only enough learning to allow their pupils to attend to business and understand religious principles. Vocational schools and trade apprenticeships* prepared young people for various crafts and professions. Latin grammar schools and universities offered more advanced education. Schooling and training were available for both boys and girls, but the education of girls usually ended at a much earlier age.

City Government. The organization of city government remained largely unchanged from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. However, traditional government structures were unable to deal with the growing complexity of city life. Issues such as immigration, public health, fire prevention, defense, and maintaining order required more specialized expertise than most town councils possessed. Civic officials set up committees to deal with these types of issues. These committees created new opportunities for corruption, but bribery and gifts often helped urban services function more smoothly.

Although many residents of cities were counted as citizens, the term had little practical political significance. Most cities contained too many citizens to call together at one time to make decisions or choose local leaders. In any event, only those who were financially independent had any voice in local government. Women and the poor had little political influence. This led many urban dwellers to identify as strongly with neighborhoods, parishes, guilds*, or other associations as with the city.

During the Renaissance most cities lost their political independence to rulers of larger territories and states. These rulers often enforced their policies by maintaining their own courts, troops, and tax collectors in cities. In some cases, rulers used their power to appoint city officials who would follow their policies.

The Urban Economy. Guilds and market authorities regulated economic activity in cities. However, many merchants and peddlers conducted business in places outside official control, such as inns and taverns. Homes and shops often shared the same buildings, and business typically spilled out into the sidewalk and streets. But long-standing city regulations limited the size of most manufacturing enterprises. Urban craft production thus remained small in scale.

The level of economic activity and prosperity varied considerably in Renaissance cities. The number of residents changed unpredictably as rapid increases in population were interrupted by outbreaks of disease that caused sharp declines. Nevertheless, most city economies continued to expand until the late 1500s. At that time Mediterranean cities experienced a slowdown as trade and shipping shifted from Italy to England and the Netherlands.

City economies were based on production, trade, and services that supported these activities, such as innkeeping, domestic work, and transporting goods. Professionals such as lawyers and doctors also formed an important part of the urban economy. However, the prosperity of a town more often depended on other sources of income. Rents from houses and income from properties outside the city were as important to urban dwellers as the money they made in the marketplace. Increases in the size of government accounted for much of the growth in many cities.

Urban Design and Planning. The rediscovery of ancient Greek and Roman writings on the arts and architecture brought a new sense of urban design to Renaissance Europe. Reports from ancient Rome explained how rulers could express ideas of power and authority through monumental architecture and city design. Renaissance architects and urban planners embraced these ideas, studying classical* design principles such as the use of ideal geometric figures (the circle and square) and building proportions based on the measurements of the human body. They attempted to find a balance between firmness, beauty, and utility in construction.

Yet few cities were built or restructured according to classical principles because it was difficult to make major changes in existing urban centers. However, the design of one new town of the 1400s, Pienza, did follow the principles of Renaissance urban planning. Pope Pius II made this village in Tuscany into an urban monument to himself and his family. Exposure to classical influences led to a more refined architectural style and planned town additions and improvements in northern Europe. Classical models of urban planning were eventually adopted to appeal to local tastes and needs.

(See alsoCity-States; Economy and Trade; Education; Government, Forms of; Guilds; Industry; Population; Taxation and Public Finance. )

see color plate 1, vol. 3

see color plate 2, vol. 3

* elite

privileged group; upper class

* Protestant Reformation

religious movement that began in the 1500s as a protest against certain practices of the Roman Catholic Church and eventually led to the establishment of a variety of Protestant churches

* Counter-Reformation

actions taken by the Roman Catholic Church after 1540 to oppose Protestantism

* apprenticeship

system under which a person is bound by legal agreement to work for another for a specified period of time in return for instruction in a trade or craft

* guild

association of craft and trade owners and workers that set standards for and represented the interests of its members

New Glory for Old Rome

During the Renaissance, Rome went through extensive changes at the hands of urban planners, as a series of popes decided to transform the face of the city. Many straight new streets were cut through the city's maze of twisting, narrow lanes. Major plazas were updated and connected to important avenues. A new water supply system featured fountains at prominent intersections and urban squares. Most importantly, the city's churches of pilgrimage were linked to a network of streets. This large-scale renewal reflected Rome's evolution during the Renaissance from a rather shabby town of less than 20,000 people in 1420 to the capital of Catholic Christianity with a population of 100,000 by 1600.

* classical

in the tradition of ancient Greece and Rome

see color plate 3, vol. 3


views updated May 21 2018


Europe during the Renaissance developed a thriving urban society. In this era, city life made a break with that of the countryside; the peasants and townspeople had less in common and were less dependent on each other for food, trade, and defense. Renaissance cities served as economic as well as cultural centers, where the new scholarship, art, and literature thrived. The most densely urbanized parts of the continent were northern Italy, the Low Countries (modern Belgium and the Netherlands), southern England, northern France, and southern Germany. The continent's largest urban centers were Venice, Florence, Amsterdam, Paris, and London. All of these cities had diverse social groups, including a merchant class, a wealthy aristocracy, skilled artisans, and the poor, a class that included migrants from the countryside.

The physical appearance and layout of cities varied greatly from one region to the next. Most had fortifications, such as towers and walls, and gates that were used to control the flow of traffic and closed at night. Within the walls, palaces, cathedrals, and town halls rose highest above the streets and squares. Cities were divided into neighborhoods, most of them identified with a particular economic activity. Some cities had a large population of farmers, who lived within the walls but worked in fields just outside, or else held plots of open, cultivable land at the city's edge.

Within the walls, a broad range of social classes met on the streets. Dress distinguished the rich from the poor, the working class from the men and women of leisure and those connected with the courts. The crowds included itinerant peddlers, foreign merchants and, in university towns, students from far and wide, who formed an often-unruly faction tending to disturbances and disorder. With chaotic, unplanned street systems, Renaissance cities were choked with foot and vehicle traffic, and many city-dwellers lived in crowded, unsafe, and unsanitary homes, built high above the street. In the Middle Ages, these conditions had forced many outside and into the street during the day, making the medieval town a scene of public spectacle and entertainment. In the Renaissance, public life and entertainment began moving indoors, and took the form of musical concerts, plays, dances, gambling houses, and other diversions.

While medieval nobles and princes had ruled feudal towns independently of monarchs, many Renaissance cities had elected assemblies and councils that governed their affairs. The larger city-states in Italy, such as Milan, Florence, and Venice, also had authority over a surrounding region, including smaller cities and towns. These cities established separate authorities to deal with public health, sanitation, fire prevention, public hospitals and charity wards, policing, tax collection, and defense. An important trend in the Renaissance was the loss of autonomy by provinces and their capitalsthe old medieval patchwork of small principalitiesas national monarchies consolidated their power in capital cities, such as Paris, Madrid, and London. The local princes who had held sway in their autonomous and fortified cities lost both power and importance, while the artisan and merchant classes gained prestige with the establishment of guilds, mutual protection societies, and increase in trade.

Religious, social, political, and professional clubs knit the urban population together. Confraternities were secular associations meant to carry out the works of the church. Political groups formed to contend for power; guilds worked for the interests of artisans, merchants, and artists. Academies brought together noble patrons, scholars, and students, for the exchange of ideas. All of these groups had their bylaws and elected leaders, and carried out a vital function for ordinary individuals, who were powerless to effect change or further their interests on their own.

The Protestant Reformationthe rebellion against the Catholic Church initiated by Martin Lutherhad a drastic effect on Renaissance urban life. The Reformation divided many towns along religious lines. Protestants reduced the role of the church in civic life, ended any civic authority of the clergy, ended monastic life, and made worship more a private and personal affair. Catholic regions kept their sense of religious brotherhood, public festivals and holidays, and the regular assembly of Mass. To enforce Catholic orthodoxy, the church established inquisitions in many regions to root out heretics and apostates, enforcing a uniform religious faith with the use of prisons, torture, and public executions.

The cities were nodes of exchange, in a system of trade that was expanding rapidly with the improvement of communication and transportation. Certain cities had industrial specialties, such as textile making in the Low Countries, ironworking in the Rhine valley, and banking in northern Italy. Port cities were centers of maritime industries: shipbuilding, warehousing, sail making, rope making, and provisioning armaments. In some cities professions were performed within certain nationalities and ethnic groups; throughout Europe the Jews were limited in the professions they could follow, often herded into walled ghettoes, or prohibited from cities altogether.

Toward the end of the Renaissance, economic stagnation took hold in southern Europe as trade shifted to the north and costly wars drained treasuries and the cities of men and material. Although Spain drew an immense amount of money from its colonies in the Americas, its ambitious kings bankrupted their realm through costly wars in Italy and the Low Countries.

Heavily taxed and with their productive members levied into the royal armies, the cities of Spain saw their industries and commerce decline. The Thirty Years' War devastated cities in central Europe and Germany, while Venice and Genoa had to deal with the rising Ottoman Empire, whose corsairs and navies were closing the Mediterranean to European merchants altogether.

Nevertheless, the crowded, walled city had become a fixture in the landscape of Europe, and continued to draw immigrants from the countryside. Urban population would continue to increase after the Renaissance, and the city's role as a center of education, the arts, and an economic and cultural exchange between nations would remain.


views updated May 23 2018

82. Cities

urban attitudes and actions.
a densely populated urban area, usually a large city surrounded closely by smaller ones.
a city inhabited by people of many different nations; a city of international importance. cosmopolite , n. cosmopolitan , n., adj.
a densely populated area of continuous extent containing many cities and towns that are separate administrative units.
the state or quality of being a megalopolis or like a megalopolis; the phenomenon of the formation of a megalopolis. megalopolitan , adj.
the development and growth of slums or substandard dwelling conditions in urban areas.
the views of those who prefer to live in suburbs. suburbanist , n., adj.
a joining together of several towns to form a single community, as in ancient Greece. synoecy , n. synoecious , adj.
the views of those who prefer to live in cities. urbanist , n., adj.
the study of urban affairs and problems. urbanologist , n.
the study of and concern with the special practices and problems of city life.


views updated May 18 2018


CITIES. SeeUrbanization .