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

Maarten Bosker () and Eltjo Buringh

Journal of Urban Economics, 2017, vol. 98, issue C, 139-157

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.

Keywords: City origins; Economic geography; Europe (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: N93 O18 R10 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2017
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Working Paper: City seeds. Geography and the origins of the European city system (2010) Downloads
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DOI: 10.1016/j.jue.2015.09.003

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