The past and future of the city
From Uruk to Tokyo and beyond
American cities have taken it on the chin over the past two years.
The Covid-19 pandemic and associated business restrictions have disproportionately affected the distinctive amenities of urban life — independent restaurants, theaters, museums, and live events — while the resurgence of violent crime disproportionately threatens their stability. Remote work, meanwhile, poses an immediate threat to the revenue base of core municipalities, which rely on taxing both office buildings and the lunches and after-work drinks of the suburban commuters who populate them.
But there’s a difference between saying that a technological change will result in some bumps in the road that need to be navigated and saying that it will fundamentally derail large urban agglomerations.
And that got me thinking about the longer-run history of cities.
The most up-to-date data source we could find on the sizes of cities over time comes from Stanford’s Ian Morris.
Granting that these are all approximate figures, …
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