Why Many Cities Are Located In The Wrong Place
New research on a historical ‘experiment’
- In short, the urban network in Britain effectively ended with the fall of the western Roman Empire; French towns experienced greater continuity.
- The divergent paths of British and French urban networks allow us to study the spatial consequences of the resetting of an urban network, as towns across Western Europe re-emerged and grew during the Middle Ages.
Three possible evolution pathways
- First, if locational fundamentals, such as coastlines, mountains, and rivers, consistently favour a fixed set of locations, then these locations would be home to both surviving and re-emerging towns. In this case, we would observe high persistence of locations from the Roman era onwards in both British and French urban networks.
- Second, if locational fundamentals or their value change over time, and these fundamentals affect productivity more than the concentration of human activity, then both urban networks would similarly shift towards locations with improved fundamentals. In this case we would observe less persistence of locations in both British and French urban networks relative to the Roman era.
- Third, if locational fundamentals or their value change, but these fundamentals affect productivity less than the concentration of human activity, then we should see path-dependence in the location of towns. The British urban network, which was reset, would shift away from Roman era locations towards locations which are more suited to the changing economic conditions. But French cites would tend to remain in their original Roman locations.
Towns in France stayed, towns in Britain shifted
The shift to water transportation should have shifted cities