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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 6: The French urban system

P. Pumain


D. Pumain INTRODUCTION France is an example of a Developed Country which exhibits original features in its urbanization process, compared to common trends as they are usually recorded, especially when they are compared with the American or British experience. The urban evolution of the last half-century, especially when urban sprawl is considered, can be partly interpreted through the intermediary position of France between Northern and Southern Europe. But the main features of the French urban system proceed from a much longer history. With about ten million inhabitants, Paris is the largest European city. It appears relatively modest in size when compared to the megapolises of other continents, whereas it remains enormous as the head of the French territory, with a lengthy political and administrative centralism. Towns and cities are scattered all over the territory but, probably because of its relatively low population density, they rarely form large conurbations as in Britain or the Rhine countries (Figure 6.1). While the last fifty years of urban growth has not significantly altered the spatial structure of the national urban system, because of a wide diffusion of urban change, the future of French cities now has to be examined in the European context. A HALF CENTURY OF URBAN GROWTH As in other countries of the European and Asian continents, the development history of towns and cities in France goes back a very long way, to Roman times two thousand years ago. But the main stage of accelerated urban growth, as in other Developed Countries,...

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