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The political and economic functions of cities

Lecture by Michael E. Smith (Arizona State University).

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Wednesday 16 May 2018,  at 12:00 - 13:00


Centre for Urban Network Evolutions (UrbNet) Aarhus University Moesgård Allé 20, DK-8270 Højbjerg Denmark Building 4230-232


The second major factor responsible for city form and urban life is the nature of urban functions: activities and institutions within a settlement that affect life and society outside the settlement. Political capitals obviously have effects on their territory, but those effects vary with the type of polity (city-states and empires), with the nature of political networks, and with the kind of governance (collective vs. autocratic regimes). Economic functions—the ways in which urban activities affect life beyond the city or settlement—are widespread in the ancient world. The most basic level of economic function operates at the scale of the regional economy (food supply and regional markets). On a wider scale, international commerce is an important economic function of many cities. Its operation requires an understanding of both the networks linking settlements, and the crafts and other activities that create goods for exchange.


Lecture 4 in a series of lectures with the general topic: Cities Before the Modern Era: Population, Functions and Urban Life.