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City seeds: Geography and the origins of the European city system

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  • Bosker, Maarten
  • Buringh, Eltjo

Abstract

Cities are the focal points of the world economy. This paper sheds new empirical light on their origins. Using a new dataset covering over 250,000 randomly selected potential city locations, and all actual cities during the period 800–1800, we disentangle the different roles of geography in shaping today’s European city system. We find that a location’s physical geography characteristics are the dominant determinants of its urban chances. Preferential location for water- or land-based transportation is a particularly important city seed. In addition, a location’s position relative to already-existing cities matters for its urban chances. Interestingly, it does so in a way corresponding to predictions from economic geography theory.

Suggested Citation

  • Bosker, Maarten & Buringh, Eltjo, 2017. "City seeds: Geography and the origins of the European city system," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 98(C), pages 139-157.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:juecon:v:98:y:2017:i:c:p:139-157
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jue.2015.09.003
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    Cited by:

    1. L. De Benedictis & V. Licio & AM. Pinna, 2018. "The long-term effects of the historical Roman road network: trade costs of Italian provinces," Working Paper CRENoS 201801, Centre for North South Economic Research, University of Cagliari and Sassari, Sardinia.
    2. Beltrán Tapia, Francisco J. & Díez-Minguela, Alfonso & Martinez-Galarraga, Julio, 2018. "Tracing the Evolution of Agglomeration Economies: Spain, 1860–1991," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 78(01), pages 81-117, March.
    3. Kopsidis, Michael & Wolf, Nikolaus, 2012. "Agricultural Productivity Across Prussia During the Industrial Revolution: A Thünen Perspective," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 72(03), pages 634-670, September.
    4. Michaels, Guy & Rauch, Ferdinand, 2013. "Resetting the Urban Network: 117-2012," CEPR Discussion Papers 9760, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    5. Kristian GIESEN & Jens SÜDEKUM, 2012. "The French Overall City Size Distribution," Region et Developpement, Region et Developpement, LEAD, Universite du Sud - Toulon Var, vol. 36, pages 107-126.
    6. repec:kap:jecgro:v:22:y:2017:i:3:d:10.1007_s10887-017-9144-0 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Beltràn Tapia, F. & Díez-Minguela, A. & Martínez-Galarraga, J., 2017. "The Shadow of Cities: Size, Location and the Spatial Distribution of Population in Spain," Cambridge Working Papers in Economics 1749, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    City origins; Economic geography; Europe;

    JEL classification:

    • N93 - Economic History - - Regional and Urban History - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • O18 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Urban, Rural, Regional, and Transportation Analysis; Housing; Infrastructure
    • R10 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics - - - General

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