The world city network in Europe between 1250 and 1640 : from Christaller to Braudel
Department of Geography, Loughborough University (UK)
Last modified: May 16, 2007
Presentation date: 06/12/2007 4:30 PM in ISCTE-II C103
Contemporary globalisation strengthens the impact of cities on the world economy at the expense of states. In this respect, contemporary society evolves towards a relation between cities and states which resembles the situation in late medieval and early modern Europe. In this period, state structures were still weak or even non-existent, and cities were not yet contained within the framework of the territorial state. Similar to present-day society, a dynamic world city network existed which was composed of mutual flows between cities. In their research on city networks, geographers have commonly referred to central place theory and the same is true for historians. In this paper, the theory of Christaller and its application by historians of the Low Countries is critically examined. It is argued that central place theory is not very useful for the study of world city networks. In an attempt to find some new concepts that might be helpful for a historical study of the world city network, Braudel’s Civilization and capitalism is used as a source of inspiration. His study of large spaces and the longue durée is a good starting point for an alternative representation of the world-system as a system of flows between cities, instead of a system of places composed of territorial states. Braudel’s concept of world-cities allows as well to develop a geohistorical social science which diverges from the traditional state-centred social sciences.