A city-state is an independent or autonomous entity, not administered as a part of another local government, whose territory consists of a city and possibly its surrounding territory. A city-state can also be defined as a central city and its surrounding villages, which together follow the same law, have one form of government, and share languages, religious beliefs, and ways of life. Historically this included famed cities like Rome, Athens and Carthage, but today only a handful of sovereign city-states exist, with some disagreement as to which states should and should not be considered city-states. A great deal of consensus exists surrounding Singapore, Monaco and Vatican City. Other states that often get cited as being modern city-states include San Marino, Liechtenstein, Andorra, Luxembourg, Qatar; Brunei, Kuwait and Bahrain.
Additionally, several cities enjoy a high degree of autonomy despite formally being under the sovereign rule of another country and therefore function in large-part as city-states, and have been identified recently as representative of modern city-states. Hong Kong and Macau, along with independent members of the United Arab Emirates, most notably Dubai and Abu Dhabi, often are cited as such.
Historical examples include the oldest known Sumerian cities of Uruk and Ur; Ancient Egyptian city states, such as Thebes or Memphis; the Phoenician cities (such as Tyre and Sidon); the Berber city-states of the Garamantes; the city-states of ancient Greece (the poleis such as Athens, Sparta, Thebes, and Corinth); the Roman Republic (which grew from a city-state into a great power); the Maya, Aztecs, and other cultures of pre-Columbian Mesoamerica (including cities such as Chichen Itza, Tikal, Monte Albán and Tenochtitlan); the central Asian cities along the Silk Road; Venice; Ragusa and many others. Scholars have classed the Viking colonial cities in medieval Ireland, most importantly Dublin, as genuine city-states.
Within the transalpine part of the Holy Roman Empire the Free Imperial Cities enjoyed a considerable autonomy, buttressed legally by the Lübeck law, which many other cities emulated. Some cities – though also members of different confederacies at that time – officially became sovereign city-states in the 19th century – such as the Canton of Basel City (1833–48), the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen (1806–11 and again 1813–71), the Free City of Frankfurt upon Main (1815–66), the Canton of Geneva (1813–48), the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg (1806–11 and again 1814–71) and the Free and Hanseatic City of Lübeck (1806–11 and again 1813–71). Another city-state, though lacking sovereignty, was West Berlin (1948–1990), being a state legally not belonging to any other state, but ruled by the Western Allies. They allowed – notwithstanding their overlordship as occupant powers – its internal organisation as one state simultaneously being a city, officially called Berlin (West). Though West Berlin maintained close ties to the West German Federal Republic of Germany, it was legally never part of it.
A number of the aforementioned city-states – though partly with altered borders – continue to exist as city-states within today's Federal Republic of Germany and today's Swiss Confederation (see "Cities that are component states of federations" below).
Some of the most well-known exemplars of city-state culture in human history include ancient Greek city-states and the merchant city-states of Renaissance Italy, which organised themselves in small independent centres. The success of small regional units coexisting as autonomous actors in loose geographical and cultural unity, as in Italy or Greece, often prevented their amalgamation into larger national units. However, such small political entities often survived only for short periods because they lacked the resources to defend themselves against incursions by larger states. Thus they inevitably gave way to larger organisations of society, including the empire and the nation state.
In the history of Mainland Southeast Asia, settlements were organised by aristocratic groups, Buddhist leaders, and others into autonomous or semi-autonomous city-states which were referred to as mueang and usually related in a tributary relationship now described as mandala or as 'over-lapping sovereignty' in which smaller city-states paid tribute to larger ones which paid tribute to still larger ones until reaching the apex in cities like Ayutthaya; Bagan; Bangkok and others which served as centers of Southeast Asian royalty. The system existed until the 19th century when colonization by European powers, and Thailand's (then known as Siam) resulted in the adoption of the modern concept of statehood.
- 1 Contemporary city-states
- 1.1 Sovereign city-states
- 1.2 Non-sovereign city-states
- 1.2.1 Cities under international supervision
- 1.2.2 Cities that are component states of federations
- 1.2.3 Federally administered cities
- 1.2.4 Autonomous cities of unitary states
- 2 See also
- 3 References
- 4 Further reading
Today there are only a handful of cities that exercise authority akin to a sub-regional state, and even fewer that are sovereign states in their own right.
The Principality of Monaco is an independent city-state. Monaco-Ville (the ancient fortified city) and Monaco's well-known area Monte Carlo are districts of a continuous urban zone, not distinct cities, though they were three separate municipalities (communes) until 1917. The Principality of Monaco and the city of Monaco (each having specific powers) govern the same territory. On 28 June 1919, a treaty was signed providing for limited French protection over Monaco. The treaty, part of the Treaty of Versailles, established that Monégasque policy would be aligned with French political, military, and economic interests. Only in 1993 did Monaco become a member of the United Nations, with full voting rights. In 2002, a new treaty between France and Monaco clarifies that if there are no heirs to carry on the dynasty, the principality will remain an independent nation rather than revert to France (which were the terms of the previous arrangement). Monaco's military defence, however, is still the responsibility of France. Monaco did not receive its first foreign ambassador, the French ambassador, until 16 February 2006.
The Most Serene Republic of San Marino (Italian: Serenissima Repubblica di San Marino) is often considered a city-state. Situated in the Apennine Mountains. It is a landlocked enclave, completely surrounded by Italy. One of the European microstates along with the Vatican and Andorra, San Marino has the smallest population of all the members of the Council of Europe.
Singapore is an island city-state in Southeast Asia. About 5.2 million people live and work within 700 square kilometres (270 sq mi), making Singapore the 3rd-most-densely populated country in the world after Monaco, another city-state, and Macau. The entire island functions as a single metropolitan area. The city centre near the south of the island is surrounded by satellite towns, parks, reservoirs and industrial estates, which are connected to the centre and each other by a dense network of roads, expressways and metro railway lines dubbed MRT by locals. Singapore has a highly centralised, unitary government with a unicameral legislature (the City Council and the Rural Board were abolished in the 1960s). While there are town councils and mayors in Singapore, these are essentially property managers in charge of the maintenance of public housing within their constituency boundaries. They do not represent local authorities with any legislative or executive autonomy from the national government.
Prior to the 19th century, Singapore was a minor part of various regional empires, including Srivijaya, Majapahit, Malacca and Johor. From 1826 to the Battle of Singapore in 1942, Singapore was the capital of the Straits Settlements, a British colony that included the Settlements of Malacca and Penang along the Straits of Malacca. After the Second World War, Singapore was hived off as a separate colony while the other two Settlements joined the Malay States to form the Federation of Malaya. In 1963, Singapore merged with Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak to form Malaysia. However, because of a number of problems, Singapore was expelled from the federation in 1965, becoming an independent republic.
Since 1965, Singapore rapidly industrialised and modernised, becoming one of the four "Asian Tigers". In addition to the substantial absolute and per-capita size of its economy, Singapore maintains a significant armed forces. It ranks highly in terms of defence spending and troop size.
Despite its small land area, Singapore has a population, economy and armed forces that place it in a similar league to small, but full-fledged nations like New Zealand, Ireland, Israel and the Nordic countries (i.e., Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden), rather than semi-dependent microstates. Singapore also maintains a diplomatic corps and has memberships in international organizations such as the United Nations, the Commonwealth of Nations and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
Singapore places emphasis on self-sufficiency in basic needs, like water. The government also stockpiles other key resources, such as sand and oil. In this way, Singapore tries to avoid overdependence economically, politically or militarily on larger entities. Accordingly, Singapore may represent the most-complete contemporary example of a city-state, meeting the full definitions of both a city and a fully sovereign state.
Until 1870, the city of Rome had been controlled by the pope as part of his Papal States. When King Victor Emmanuel II seized the city in 1870, Pope Pius IX refused to recognize the newly formed Kingdom of Italy. Because he could not travel without effectively acknowledging the authority of the king, Pius IX and his successors each claimed to be a "Prisoner in the Vatican", unable to leave the 0.44 km2 (0.17 sq mi) papal enclave once they had ascended the papal thrones.
The impasse was resolved in 1929 by the Lateran Treaties negotiated by the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini between King Victor Emmanuel III and Pope Pius XI. Under this treaty, the Vatican was recognized as an independent state, with the Pope as its head. The Vatican City State has its own citizenship, diplomatic corps, flag, and postage stamps. With a population of less than 1,000 (mostly clergymen), it is by far the smallest sovereign country in the world.
Other Contemporary City-States
While the four states listed above are perhaps the most widely cited contemporary sovereign city-states, several other micro-states have also been cited as being contemporary city-states including Liechtenstein, Andorra, and Luxembourg.
Some cities or urban areas, while not sovereign states, may nevertheless enjoy such a high degree of autonomy that they function as "city-states" within the context of the sovereign state that they belong to. In the United States this could be interpreted as "Home rule".
Cities under international supervision
- Main article: International city (an autonomous or semi-autonomous city-state)
After the Second World War, the UN attempted to make the Free Territory of Trieste into a city state, but it never gained real independence and in 1954 its territory was divided between Italy and Yugoslavia.
Cities that are component states of federations
Some cities or metropolitan areas are component states of federations. Examples include:
- Argentina – Buenos Aires (formally known in English as the "Autonomous City of Buenos Aires") capital of Argentina
- Austrian state of Vienna
- Belgian capital Brussels
- Bolivia – La Paz
- Brazil – Brasília (being the Brazilian Federal District)
- Colombia and Bogota being a Capital District
- Ethiopian chartered cities (astedader akababiwach) of Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa
- German states of Berlin, Hamburg and, though consisting of two separate cities, the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen
- Malaysia – Melaka (also known as Malacca)
- Russian cities of Moscow and Saint Petersburg
- Swiss canton of Basel-Stadt, though consisting of three municipalities
Federally administered cities
A federal country may also have one or more cities that are federally administered:
- Australia – Canberra (Australian Capital Territory)
- India – National Capital Territory of Delhi and Chandigarh (Union Territories)
- Malaysia – Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Labuan (Federal Territories)
- Mexico – Mexico City (being the Mexican Federal District)
- Nigeria – Abuja, Federal Capital Territory
- Pakistan – Islamabad (being the Islamabad Capital Territory)
- United States – Washington, District of Columbia
Not being part of any U.S. state, Washington, D.C.'s government operates under authority derived from the U.S. federal government. The city (generally referred to as the District of Columbia) is run by an elected mayor and a city council. The council is composed of 13 members: one elected from each of the eight wards and five members, including the chairman, elected at-large. The council conducts its work through standing committees and special committees established as needed. District schools are administered by a chancellor, who is appointed by the mayor; in addition, a superintendent of education and a board of education are responsible for setting some educational policies. There are 37 elected Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners that provide the most direct access for residents to their local government. The commissioners are elected by small neighborhood districts, and their suggestions are given "great weight" by the city council and city agencies. However, the U.S. Congress has the ultimate plenary power over the District. It has the right to review and overrule laws created locally and has often done so. The Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which reserves to states all rights not belonging to the federal government, does not apply to the District. Residents of the District have one non-voting representative in the U.S. Congress.
Autonomous cities of unitary states
- Ceuta and Melilla (Spain)
- Chinese Special Administrative Regions (PRC)
- Gibraltar (territory of the United Kingdom)
- Greater London (as part of the United Kingdom, it has its own elected mayor and assembly under devolution).
Hong Kong and Macau
Because of Hong Kong's and Macau's long histories as colonies of the British and Portuguese empires, respectively, and the unique "one-country, two-systems" policy, the two city-states continue to enjoy a high degree of autonomy even after their transfer to the People's Republic of China. Having legal systems (English Common law in Hong Kong, and Portuguese Civil law in Macau), police forces, currencies (the Hong Kong dollar and Macanese pataca), customs policies, immigration policies, national sports teams, official languages, postal systems, academic and educational systems, and certain degrees of international representation that are different or independent from the People's Republic of China, makes their status almost equivalent to independent nations in many respects.
- Altepetl, a Mesoamerican political unit similar to a city state
- The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company. 2009. "A sovereign state consisting of an independent city and its surrounding territory."
- Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged. HarperCoffins Publishers. 2003. "a state consisting of a sovereign city and its dependencies. Among the most famous are the great independent cities of the ancient world, such as Athens, Sparta, Carthage, and Rome."
- Mogens, Hansen. 2000. "Introduction: The Concepts of City-States and City-State Culture." In A Comparative Study of Thirty City-State Cultures, Copenhagen: Copenhagen Polis Centre. Pg. 19
- Parker, Geoffrey. 2005. Sovereign City: The City-state Through History Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
- Mogens, Hansen. 2002. A Comparative Study of Six City-State Cultures: An InvestigationPg. 91
- Mogens, Hansen. 2000. "Introduction: The Concepts of City-States and City-State Culture." In A Comparative Study of Six City-State Cultures, Copenhagen: Copenhagen Polis Centre. Pg. 19
- Parker, Geoffrey. 2005. Sovereign City: The City-state Through History Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Pg. 219
- Roberts, David. 2014. Qatar: Securing the Global Ambitions of a City-state. London: C Hurst & Co Publishers Ltd.
- El-Katiri, Laura, Bassam Fattouh and Paul Segal. 2011 Anatomy of an oil-based welfare state: rent distribution in Kuwait. Kuwait City: Kuwait Programme on Development, Governance and Globalisation in the Gulf States
- Kotkin, Joel. 2010. "A New Era for the City-State?" In Forbes.
- Holm, Poul, "Viking Dublin and the City-State Concept: Parameters and Significance of the Hiberno-Norse Settlement" (Respondent: Donnchadh Ó Corráin), in Mogens Herman Hansen (ed.), A Comparative Study of Thirty City-State Cultures. Denmark: Special-Trykkeriet Viborg. (University of Copenhagen, Polis Center). 2000. pp. 251–62.
- Sri Aurobindo, "Ideal of Human Unity" included in Social and Political Thought, 1970.
- Scott, James. 2009. An Anarchists History of Upland Southeast Asia.
- Winichakul, Thongchai. 1997. Siam Mapped: A History of the Geo-Body of a Nation. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press
- Baker, Chris and Pasuk Phongpaichit. 2009. A History of Thailand: 2nd ed. Sydney: Cambridge University Press
- Mogens Herman Hansen (ed.), A comparative study of thirty city-state cultures : an investigation conducted by the Copenhagen Polis Centre, Det Kongelige Danske Videnskabernes Selskab, 2000. (Historisk-filosofiske skrifter, 21). ISBN 87-7876-177-8.
- Mogens Herman Hansen (ed.), A comparative study of six city-state cultures : an investigation, Det Kongelige Danske Videnskabernes Selskab, 2002. (Historisk-filosofiske skrifter, 27). ISBN 87-7876-316-9.