Quantitative Methods for the Comparative Analysis of Cities in History

25 Pages Posted: 26 Jul 2019

See all articles by Luis Bettencourt

Luis Bettencourt

University of Chicago - Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation

José Lobo

Arizona State University (ASU)

Date Written: May 27, 2019

Abstract

Comparative studies of cities throughout history are one of the greatest sources of insight into the nature of change in human societies. This paper discusses strategies to anchor these comparisons on well-defined, quantitative and empirical characteristics of cities, derived from theory and observable in the archeological and historical records. We show how quantitative comparisons based on a few simple variables across settlements allow us to analyze how different places and peoples dealt with general problems of any society. These include demographic change, the organization of built spaces, the intensity and size of socioeconomic networks and the processes underlying technological change and economic growth. Because the historical record contains a much more varied and more independent set of experiences than contemporary urbanization, it has a unique power of illuminating present puzzles of human development and testing emergent urban theory.

Keywords: Urbanization, scaling, economic growth, data, Zipf’s law, Instability, Resilience

Suggested Citation

Bettencourt, Luis and Lobo, Jose, Quantitative Methods for the Comparative Analysis of Cities in History (May 27, 2019). Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation Research Paper No. 7, 2019. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3427343 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3427343

Luis Bettencourt (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation ( email )

5735 S Ellis Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Jose Lobo

Arizona State University (ASU) ( email )

Farmer Building 440G PO Box 872011
Tempe, AZ 85287
United States

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