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International Handbook of Urban Systems

Studies of Urbanization and Migration in Advanced and Developing Countries

Edited by H. S. Geyer

This authoritative Handbook provides a comprehensive account of migration and economic development throughout the world, in both developed and developing countries. Some of the world’s most experienced researchers in this field look at how population redistribution patterns have impacted on urban development in a wide selection of advanced and developing countries in all the major regions of the world over the past half century.
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Chapter 3: On urban systems evolution

H.S Geyer


H. S. Geyer THE HISTORICAL PICTURE The world has witnessed very remarkable and suprising changes in the history of urban development over the past two centuries, but none more surprising than some of the transformations that have occurred since the Second World War. Throughout history, urbanization occurred in waves as and when different peoples pioneered or conquered new territories (Easton, 1954). In Western Europe most of the urban settlements developed between 1250 and 1350 (Mumford, 1961). By 1800 the majority of the people still lived in rural areas and rural villages. Between 1800 and 1950, the world population increased by over 250 per cent, but during the same period urban areas, especially the smaller ones, grew up to ten times faster, mostly in the developed world (Hauser, 1965). In 1950, 17 per cent of the 1.67 billion people lived in urban areas, a percentage that grew to 27 (2.98 billion) in 1975 (Fox, 1984). Large urban agglomerations were the last to appear. By 1950 only approximately 4 per cent of the world’s population lived in places of a million inhabitants or more (Hauser, 1965). Cities grew into metropolitan areas, then into megalopolitan areas (Gottmann, 1978), and based on population growth rates’ by the end of the 1960s, indications were that certain urban agglomerations will continue to grow until they eventually cover large parts of continents. Doxiadis (1970) termed these continental cities the ‘ecumenopolis’. So convinced was Clark (1967: 280) of continued urbanization, that he formulated his ‘law of population concentration’:...

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