A city is a large and permanent human settlement. Cities generally have extensive systems for sanitation, utilities, land usage, housing, and transportation. The concentration of development greatly facilitates interaction between people and businesses, sometimes benefiting both parties in the process, but it also presents challenges to managing urban growth.
Although there is no agreement on how a city is distinguished from a town in general English language meanings, many cities have special administrative, legal, or historical status based on local law. A big city or metropolis usually has associated suburbs and exurbs. Such cities are usually associated with metropolitan areas and urban areas, creating numerous business commuters traveling to urban centers for employment. Once a city expands far enough to reach another city, this region can be deemed a conurbation or megalopolis. The most populated city proper is Shanghai, while the fastest-growing is Dubai. Damascus is arguably the oldest city in the world.
Historically citydwellers have been a small proportion of humanity overall, but today, following two centuries of unprecedented and rapid urbanization, half of the world population is said to live in cities.
- 1 Meaning
- 2 Geography and layout
- 3 History
- 4 Urbanization
- 5 Urban planning
- 6 External effects
- 7 World city system
- 8 Representation in culture
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 External links
A city is distinguished from other human settlements by its relatively great size, but also by its functions and its special symbolic status, which may be conferred by a central authority.
Size and density
Although city can refer to an agglomeration including suburban and satellite areas, the term is not usually applied to a conurbation (cluster) of distinct urban places, nor for a wider metropolitan area including more than one city, each acting as a focus for parts of the area. And the word "town" (also "downtown") may mean the center of the city.
According to the “functional definition” a city is not distinguished by size alone, but also by the role it plays within a larger political context. Cities often serve as administrative, commercial, religious, and cultural hubs for their larger surrounding areas.
A typical city has professional administrators, regulations, and some form of taxation (food and other necessities or means to trade for them) to feed the government workers. (A town, by contrast, accomplishes common goals through informal agreements between neighbors or the leadership of a chief.) The governments may be based on heredity, religion, military power, work projects such as canal building, food distribution, land ownership, agriculture, commerce, manufacturing, finance, or a combination of these. Societies that live in cities are often called civilizations.
|Look up city, urban, or metropolis in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
The word city and the related civilization come, via Old French, from the Latin root civitas, originally meaning citizenship or community member and eventually coming to correspond with urbs. The Roman civitas was closely linked with the Greek “polis” – another common root appearing in English words such as metropolis.
Geography and layout
Cities must be built in a physical environment which to some extent determines their form. If located on a mountainside, they may rely on terraces and winding roads. They may be adapted to their means of subsistence (e.g. agriculture or fishing). And they may be set up for optimal military defensibility given the surrounding lanscape.
Beyond these "geomorphic" features, cities can develop internal patterns, due to natural growth or to city planning.
In a radial structure, main roads converge on a central point. This form could evolve from successive growth over a long time, with concentric traces of town walls and citadels marking older city boundaries. In more recent history, such forms were supplemented by ring-roads that take traffic around the outskirts of a town. Many Dutch cities are structured this way: a central square surrounded by concentric canals. Every city expansion would imply a new circle (canals together with town walls). In cities such as Amsterdam, Haarlem and also Moscow, this pattern is still clearly visible.
The grid plan used for thousands of years in China, independently invented by Alexander the Great's city planner Dinocrates of Rhodes, favoured by the Romans, and almost a rule in parts of pre-Columbian America.
The Indus Valley Civilisation built Mohenjo-Daro, Harappa and other cities on a grid pattern, using ancient principles described by Kautilya, and aligned with the compass points. The ancient Greek city of Priene exemplifies a type of grid plan used across the Hellenic Mediterranean. This city had different specialised districts, much as is seen in modern city planning today.
In medieval times there was evidence of a preference for linear planning. Good examples are the cities established by various rulers in the south of France and city expansions in old Dutch and Flemish cities.
Modern variations on the grid plan include the fused grid model.
Urban-type settlement now extends far beyond the traditional boundaries of cities. Some cities are now part of a continuous urban landscape called urban agglomeration, conurbation, or megalopolis (overlapping and sometimes even synonymous concepts, defined variously; listed here by connotations of increasingly greater size). Megalopolis is exemplified by the BosWash corridor of the Northeastern United States.
Cities, characterized by population density, symbolic function, and urban planning, have existed for thousands of years. In the conventional view, civilization and the city both followed from the development of agriculture, which enabled production of surplus food, and thus a social division of labour (with concomitant social stratification) and trade.  A minority viewpoint considers that cities may have arisen without agriculture, due to alternate means of subsistence (fishing),, to use as communal seasonal shelters, or to their inherent economic function.
In the fourth and third millennium BC, complex civilizations flourished in the river valleys of Mesopotamia, India, China, and Egypt. Among these early civilizations, Egypt is exceptional for its apparent lack of big cities. Among the early Old World cities, Mohenjo-daro of the Indus Valley Civilization in present-day Pakistan, existing from about 2600 BC, was one of the largest, with a population of 50,000 or more. This roster of early urban traditions is notable for its diversity. Excavations at early urban sites show that some cities were sparsely populated political capitals, others were trade centers, and still other cities had a primarily religious focus. Some cities had large dense populations, whereas others carried out urban activities in the realms of politics or religion without having large associated populations.
The locus of power around the Mediterranean shifted from Southwest Asia to Greece, where independent city-states conceptualized themselves as groups of citizens known collectively as a polis. The agora, meaning "gathering place" or "assembly", was the center of athletic, artistic, spiritual and political life of the polis. The Greek Hippodamus of Miletus (c. 407 BC) has been dubbed the "Father of City Planning" for his design of Miletus; the Hippodamian, or grid plan, was the basis for subsequent Greek and Roman cities. In the 4th century BC, Alexander the Great commissioned Dinocrates of Rhodes to lay out his new city of Alexandria, the grandest example of idealized urban planning of the ancient Mediterranean world.
The growth of the population of ancient civilizations, the formation of ancient empires concentrating political power, and the growth in commerce and manufacturing led to ever greater capital cities and centres of commerce and industry, with Alexandria, Antioch and Seleucia of the Hellenistic civilization, Pataliputra (now Patna) in India, Chang'an (now Xi'an) in China, Carthage, ancient Rome, its eastern successor Constantinople (later Istanbul). By 1st millennium, ancient Rome may have been the largest city in the world, with a population of one million; Alexandria may have been almost as large. after growing continually during the 3rd, 2nd, and 1st centuries BC, making it the largest city in the world at the time.
Agriculture, practiced in sub-Saharan Africa since the third millennium BC, enabled cities to develop as centers of non-agricultural activity well before the influence of Arab urban culture. Jenné-Jeno in what is today Mali, has been dated to the third century BC. According to Roderick and Susan McIntosh, Jenné-Jeno did not fit into traditional Western conceptions of urbanity as it lacked monumental architecture and a distinctive elite social class—but should be considered a city because it served as a center of specialized production and exhibited functional interdependence with the surrounding hinterland. Pre-Arabic trade contacts probably existed between Jenné-Jeno and North Africa. Other early urban centers in sub-Saharan Africa, dated to around 500 AD, include Awdaghust, Kumbi-Saleh the ancient capital of Ghana, and Maranda a center located on a trade rout between Egypt and Gao.
In the ancient Americas, early urban traditions developed in the Andes and Mesoamerica. In the Andes, the first urban centers developed in the Norte Chico civilization (also Caral or Caral-Supe civilization), Chavin and Moche cultures, followed by major cities in the Huari, Chimu and Inca cultures. The Norte Chico civilization included as many as 30 major population centers in what is now the Norte Chico region of north-central coastal Peru. It is the oldest known civilization in the Americas, flourishing between the 30th century BC and the 18th century BC. Mesoamerica saw the rise of early urbanism in several cultural regions, including the Preclassic Maya, the Zapotec of Oaxaca, and Teotihuacan in central Mexico. Later cultures such as the Aztec drew on these earlier urban traditions.
In the first millennium AD, an urban tradition developed in the Khmer region of Cambodia, where Angkor grew into one of the largest cities (in area) of the world. The closest rival to Angkor, the Mayan city of Tikal in Guatemala, was between 100 and 150 square kilometres (39 and 58 sq mi) in total size. Although its population remains a topic of research and debate, newly identified agricultural systems in the Angkor area may have supported up to one million people.
From the 9th through the end of the 12th century, the city of Constantinople, capital of the Byzantine Empire, was the largest and wealthiest city in Europe, with a population approaching 1 million.
During the European Middle Ages, a town was as much a political entity as a collection of houses. City residence brought freedom from customary rural obligations to lord and community: "Stadtluft macht frei" ("City air makes you free") was a saying in Germany. In Continental Europe cities with a legislature of their own were not unheard of, the laws for towns as a rule other than for the countryside, the lord of a town often being another than for surrounding land. In the Holy Roman Empire, some cities had no other lord than the emperor. In Italy medieval communes had quite a statelike power. In exceptional cases like Venice, Genoa or Lübeck, cities themselves became powerful states, sometimes taking surrounding areas under their control or establishing extensive maritime empires. Similar phenomena existed elsewhere, as in the case of Sakai, which enjoyed a considerable autonomy in late medieval Japan.
While the city-states, or poleis, of the Mediterranean and Baltic Sea languished from the 16th century, Europe's larger capitals benefited from the growth of commerce following the emergence of an Atlantic trade. By the early 19th century, London had become the largest city in the world with a population of over a million, while Paris rivaled the well-developed regionally traditional capital cities of Baghdad, Beijing, Istanbul and Kyoto.
During the Spanish colonization of the Americas the old Roman city concept was extensively used. Cities were founded in the middle of the newly conquered territories, and were bound to several laws about administration, finances and urbanism.
Most towns remained far smaller, so that in 1500 only some two dozen places in the world contained more than 100,000 inhabitants. As late as 1700, there were fewer than forty, a figure that rose to 300 in 1900.
The growth of modern industry from the late 18th century onward led to massive urbanization and the rise of new great cities, first in Europe and then in other regions, as new opportunities brought huge numbers of migrants from rural communities into urban areas. In the United States from 1860 to 1910, the introduction of railroads reduced transportation costs, and large manufacturing centers began to emerge, thus allowing migration from rural to city areas. Cities during this period were deadly places to live in, due to health problems resulting from contaminated water and air, and communicable diseases.
In the second half of the twentieth century, deindustrialization (or "economic restructuring") in the West led to poverty, homelessness, and urban decay in formerly prosperous cities. America's "Steel Belt" became a "Rust Belt" and cities such as Detroit, Michigan, and Gary, Indiana began to shrink, contrary to the global trend of massive urban expansion. Under the Great Leap Forward and subsequent five-year plans continuing today, the People's Republic of China has undergone concomitant urbanization and industrialization and to become the world's leading manufacturer.
Amidst these economic changes, high technology and instantaneous telecommunication enable select cities to become centers of the knowledge economy. A new smart city paradigm, supported by institutions such as the RAND Corporation and IBM, is bringing computerized surveillance, data analysis, and governance to bear on cities and city-dwellers. Some companies are building brand new masterplanned cities from scratch on greenfield sites.
Urbanization is an ongoing process of migration from rural into urban areas. This process, driven by various political, economic, and cultural factors, has been occurring at high speed, worldwide, for a century, and shows no sign of stopping.
Until the 18th century, an equilibrium existed between the vast majority of the population who engaged in subsistence agriculture in a rural context, and small centres of populations in the towns where economic activity consisted primarily of trade at markets and small-scale manufacturing. With the agricultural and industrial revolution this relationship was broken and urban populated began its unprecedented growth, both through continued migration from the countryside and due to the tremendous demographic expansion that occurred at that time. In England the proportion of the population living in cities jumped from 17% in 1801 to 72% in 1891 (for other countries the figure was: 37% in France, 41% in Prussia and 28% in the United States). In 1900, 15% of the world population lived in cities.
Urbanization rapidly spread across the Western world and, since the 1950s, it has begun to take hold in the developing world as well. The Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, which has long reported on urbanization and predicted a mostly-urban world, reported in 2014 that for the first time more than half of the world population lives in cities. (Other researchers had estimated that the halfway point was reached in 2007.) Latin America is now the most urban continent, with four fifths of its population living in cities, including one fifth of the population said to live in shantytowns (favelas, villas miserias, etc.).
Urban planning, the application of forethought to city design, involves optimizing land use, transportation, utilities, and other basic systems, in order to achieve certain objectives. Planning tools, beyond the original design of the city itself, include public capital investment in infrastructure and land-use controls such as zoning. Planning often involves tradeoffs—decisions in which some stand to gain and some to lose—and thus is closely connected to the prevailing political situation. Many different theories of urban planning have been proposed to inform this process.
The history of urban planning dates to some of the earliest known cities, especially in the Indus Valley and Mesoamerican civilizations, which built their cities on grids and apparently zoned different areas for different purposes. The effects of planning, ubiquitous in today's world, can be seen most clearly in the layout of planned communities, fully designed prior to construction, often with consideration for interlocking physical, economic, and cultural systems.
Waste and sewage are two major problems for cities, as is air pollution from various forms of combustion, including fireplaces, wood or coal-burning stoves, other heating systems, and internal combustion engines. The impact of cities on places elsewhere, be it hinterlands or places far away, is considered in the notion of city footprinting (ecological footprint).
Other negative external effects include health consequences such as communicable diseases, crime, and high traffic and commuting times.
Modern cities are known for creating their own microclimates. This is due to the large clustering of heat absorbent surfaces that heat up in sunlight and that channel rainwater into underground ducts.
Cities also generate positive external effects. The close physical proximity facilitates knowledge spillovers, helping people and firms exchange information and generate new ideas. A thicker labor market allows for better skill matching between firms and individuals. Population density enables also sharing of common infrastructure and production facilities, however in very dense cities, increased crowding and waiting times may lead to some negative effects.
Cities may have a positive influence on the environment. UN-HABITAT stated in its reports that city living can be the best solution for dealing with the rising population numbers (and thus still be a good approach on dealing with overpopulation) This is because cities concentrate human activity into one place, making the environmental damage on other places smaller. However, this can be achieved only if urban planning is improved and if city services are properly maintained.
World city system
As the world becomes more closely linked through economics, politics, and culture (a process called globalization), cities have come to play a leading role in transnational affairs, exceeding the limitations of international relations conducted by national governments.
A global city, also known as a world city, is a prominent centre of trade, banking, finance, innovation, and markets. Saskia Sassen used the term "global city" in 1991 to refer to a city’s power, status, and cosmopolitanism, rather than to its size. Following this view of cities, it is possible to rank the world's cities hierarchically. Mark Abrahamson proposes that global cities have reached their status due to early transition to post-industrialism. He considers London, New York City, Paris, and Tokyo "the apex of the hierarchy".
Critics of the notion point to the different realms of power and interchange. The term "global city" is heavily influenced by economic factors and, thus, may not account for places that are otherwise significant. Paul James, for example argues that the term is 'reductive and skewed':
Against those writers who, by emphasizing the importance of financial exchange systems, distinguish a few special cities as 'global cities'—commonly London, Paris, New York and Tokyo—we recognize the uneven global dimensions of all the cities that we study. Los Angeles, the home of Hollywood, is a globalizing city, though perhaps more significantly in cultural than economic terms. And so is Dili globalizing, the small and 'insignificant' capital of Timor Leste—except this time it is predominantly in political terms...
In 1995, Kanter argued that successful cities can be identified by three elements: good thinkers (concepts), good makers (competence) or good traders (connections). The interplay of these three elements, Kanter argued, means that good cities are not planned but managed.
Another aspect of the global city is its capacity (limited by the national government's immigration policy, which functionally defines the supply side of the labor market) to recruit immigrant workers from poorer areas.
Networks of cities
- C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group
- Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance (CNCA)
- Global Covenant of Mayors (Merger of Covenant of Mayors and Compact of Mayors)
- ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability
- United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG)
- Transition Towns
United Nations System
The United Nations System has been involved in a series of events and declarations dealing with the development of cities during this period of rapid urbanization. The Habitat I conference in 1976 adopted the "Vancouver Declaration on Human Settlements" which identifies urban management as a fundamental aspect of development and establishes various principles for maintaining urban habitats. The 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro resulted in a set of international agreements including Agenda 21 which establishes principles and plans for sustainable development. The Habitat II conference in 1996 called for cities to play a leading role in this program, which subsequently advanced the Millenium Development Goals and Sustainable Development Goals. The Habitat III conference of 2016 focused on implementing these goals under the banner of a "New Urban Agenda". Just before this conference, the European Union concurrently approved an "Urban Agenda for the European Union" known as the Pact of Amsterdam.
- National urban policies promoting "integrated systems of cities and human settlements" in furtherance of "sustainable integrated urban development".
- Stronger urban governance "with sound institutions and mechanisms that empower and include urban stakeholders" along with checks and balances, to promote predictability, social inclusion, economic growth, and environmental protection.
- Reinvigorated "long-term and integrated urban and territorial planning and design in order to optimize the spatial dimension of the urban form and deliver the positive outcomes of urbanization"; and
- Effective financing frameworks "to create, sustain and share the value generated by sustainable urban development in an inclusive manner."
The World Bank, a United Nations specialized agency, has been a primary force in promoting the Habitat conferences, and since the first Habitat conference has used their declarations as a framework for issuing loans for urban infrastructure. The bank's structural adjustment programs contributed to urbanization in the Third World by creating incentives to move to cities.
Representation in culture
Cities figure prominently in traditional Western mythology, appearing in the Bible in both evil and holy forms, symbolized by Babylon and Jerusalem. Cain and Nimrod are the first city builders in the Book of Genesis. In Sumerian mythology Gilgamesh built the walls of Uruk.
Cities can be perceived in terms of extremes or opposites: at once liberating and oppressive, wealthy and poor, organized and chaotic. The name anti-urbanism refers to various types of ideological opposition to cities, whether because of their culture or their political relationship with the country.
- Bibliography of suburbs
- City region
- Developed environments
- Ghost town
- Incorporation of nature within a city
- List of adjectivals and demonyms for cities
- Lists of cities
- Lost city
- Principles of intelligent urbanism
- Shrinking cities
- Urban geography
- Urban sociology
- List of oldest continuously inhabited cities
- Free city (antiquity)
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- Michael Samers, "Immigration and the Global City Hypothesis: Towards an Alternative Research Agenda"; International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 26(2), June 2002. "And not withstanding some major world cities that do not have comparatively high levels of immigration, like Tokyo, it may in fact be the presence of such large-scale immigrant economic 'communities' (with their attendant global financial remittances and their ability to incubate small business growth, rather than simply their complementarity to producer services employment) which partially distinguishes mega-cities from other more nationally-oriented urban centres."
- Jane Willis, Kavita Datta, Yara Evans, Joanna Herbert, Jon May, & Cathy McIlwane, Global Cities at Work: New Migrant Divisions of Labour; London: Pluto Press, 2010; ISBN 978 0 7453 2799 0; p. 29: "These apparently rather different takes on London's 'global city' status are of course not so far removed from one another as they may first appear. Holding them together is the figure of the migrant worker. The reliance of London's financial institutions and business services industries on the continuing flow of highly skilled labour from overseas is now well known (Beaverstock and Smith 1996). Less well known is the extent to which London's economy as a whole is now dependent upon the labour power of low-paid workers from across the world."
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