chapter  2
33 Pages

Urbanisation and development in historical perspective

Development – as a historical process that results in the expansion of human freedoms – long predates the rise of development theory and practice. Progressive changes in the social and political institutions that bind human populations together, as well as steady improvements in the material conditions of human societies, began some ten thousand years ago with the rise of agriculture. Shortly thereafter, cities arose, and with them the foundations for civilisations and eventually nation-states. It was not, however, until the nineteenth century that urbanisation took off. Demographic and economic forces created the necessary stimulus that ultimately led to the urbanisation of Europe and other rapidly industrialising nations. Many of these nations used their expanding economic and military power to colonise territories in Africa, Asia and Latin America, a process which had important effects on trajectories of urban development in these areas. By briefly exploring processes of urban change over the longue durée we can better understand the patterns of urban development that we find today.