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What did urbanization mean for those who lived in cities and for those who did not?

The human population has lived a rural lifestyle dependent on agriculture and hunting for living through most of history. From the urbanization demographics, in 1800, only three percent of the world’s population lived in urban areas (Brenner, 2014). Over decades the population of people living in urban areas has been increasing gradually, and undoubtedly the world has experienced unprecedented urban growth. This paper seek to find out the meaning of urbanization to those people who lived in cities and for those who did not draw evidence from various times in history. Firstly the evidence will be drawn from the urban revolution beginning c. 3500 BCE, secondly, the imperial and commercial centers of the classical world in the centuries between c. 500 BCE to c. 500 CE, and lastly, the medieval or the post-classical revival of city life by c. 1500 CE. The significance of urbanization for both those who assumed city life and for those who did not will be explained for each period stated.

The process by which rural set ups grow to form cities or rather urban centers is what is referred as urbanization. It is believed the process of urbanization began in the ancient Mesopotamia in Uruk in the period between 4300 BCE and 3100 BCE (Reilly, 2002). The time is well known as the urban revolution. It is speculated, however, that particularly prosperous and efficient village attracted the attention of other prosperous, tribes who then attached themselves to the successful settlement. The congregation of this village gave rise to densely populated centers which came to be known as cities. Some historians point out that the growth of the cities especially in Mesopotamia was as a result of the inhabitants struggling to cope with the environment. According to the Sumerians, the first city to be recognized was founded in 5400 BCE and was named Eridu (Reilly, 2002).

The significance of the rise of cities in this period was mostly attached to the structure of the city as well as the security of urban living which mostly attracted more people to the urban centers. Also, there is clear evidence that agricultural practices in the mentioned city dropped drastically while the population was on a continuous rise. For those people who did not live in the cities, they recorded higher trade growth among them and those who lived in the cities. Later, the fertile fields which fed the population were depleting, which resulted to the shifting of economic activities. This was as a result of the variation of hydrological distresses in the area as well as the environmental circumscription.

During the centuries between the c. 500 BCE to c.500 CE when the imperial and commercial centers came into rise the trend of urbanization for those living in cities and for those who did not was unique (Reilly, 2002). People discovered new methods of doing things such ways of keeping records and the form of currency. The cities grew into small metropolis due to the rise of trade. During this period those people who lived in the country side improvised their farming methods though there was great depleting of farming land. The previously developed cities were on a decline and during this age there were repeated military excursions. For those people who lived in the rural areas surrounding the cities, there was over the use of farming land was replicated the decline of overall food production.

Urbanization during the medieval or post-classical era which existed in c. 1500 CE also had a unique significance for those who adopted the city life and for those who did not (Reilly, 2002). This the period which immediately followed the ancient history and preceded the modern history. The period is characterized several invasions which ran from central Asia and resulted in the development of various world religions as well as networks of trade. The cities during this period experienced continued development and the people who lived in the cities experienced major changes technologically, and the social lifestyle was also on the change. For those people who were living in the rural areas, they adopted different religious beliefs as well there was a rise of trade between regions.


Brenner, Neil, ed. Implosions/explosions: towards a study of planetary urbanization. Jovis, 2014.

Reilly, Kevin. The West and the World: A History of Civilization from 1400 to the Present. Vol. 2. Markus Wiener Publishers, 2002.



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