Visualising the spread of cities throughout time

As I’m really busy with my tours this week and don’t have a great deal of time to do a lot of writing, instead I found neat little video that I found that conveys a fascinating subject.  The creation and the spread of cities and hence the spread of civilisation.

Even from the graphic below it is really interesting to see how they spread across the globe.  The very earliest ones are centred around modern day Iraq, Iran and Syria.  You can see if you look closely at the map how they run along the famous old rivers of the Euphrates and Tigris in what historians once called The Fertile Crescent due to they being green and cultivated areas in an otherwise arid area of the planet.


One of the things I find interesting about the video below is the spread of the idea of city living.  How humans came to realise they could be safer and wealthier by giving up agriculture and living together.

It’s fascinating to see just what a head start the Middle-East gained on everyone before the earliest cities appeared on India, China and Central America.

It’s also interesting to see how every now and then, a huge development takes place either in terms of ideas or in a particular geographic region such as when a plethora of cities emerge in and around the Meditterranean around 300BC    Look how the Romans spread around Europe, though it’s interesting to see London is recognised as a city 150 years before the Romans arrived.  I know the cities in iraq are 4,500 years but London at nearly 2200 years isn’t bad going is it?

India goes through quite a city building programme around 650AD followed by a smaller one in Europe a few years later.   Things really take off between 950-1300AD in Europe when one of the biggest city building periods in history takes place.  India, China but particularly European cities go from strength to strength and then in the 16th century the first cities in North America appear as well as a flourshing in Mexico.

Things pick up a gear again around 1800 with the foundation of many East Coast American cities aswell as right across Eurasia from Britain to Japan.   Australia sees its first city at this time and more and more cities in Africa appear on the map.

Probably the biggest burst of city creation of all time takes place around 1900 when a multitude of cities took off across the planet.  Many of these were due to improvement in travel, industrialisation of industry and indeed of agriculture.  Mass migration to the New World played a huge role whilst Trade Routes and Empires were busying changing life around the planet.

It’s noticeable that in the latter part of the 21st century, not a single city was created in Western Europe, with the United States also soon following suit.  These areas had literally everyone in cities who ever wanted to be in cities or no longer had room to build new cities.  Growth instead moved to China and the Far East

If the video below isn’t displaying for you, please click on the link instead.  You know how WordPress is with videos 🙂

About Stephen Liddell

I am a writer and traveller with a penchant for history and getting off the beaten track. With several books to my name including several #1 sellers. I also write environmental, travel and history articles for magazines as well as freelance work. I run my private tours company with one tour stated by the leading travel website as being with the #1 authentic London Experience. Recently I've appeared on BBC Radio and Bloomberg TV and am waiting on the filming of a ghost story on British TV. I run my own private UK tours company (Ye Olde England Tours) with small, private and totally customisable guided tours run by myself!
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9 Responses to Visualising the spread of cities throughout time

  1. It’s interesting to see how this plays out. I wonder what the demographics will be over the next hundred years with billions and billions more added to the mix. Thanks for the insight.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. mukul chand says:

    nice post, however it seems unlikely that africa and south america had no human life in 2000 BC

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Boyer Writes says:

    Very interesting! Thanks, Stephen

    Liked by 2 people

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