DP8066 City seeds. Geography and the origins of the European city system

Author(s): Maarten Bosker, Eltjo Buringh
Publication Date: October 2010
Keyword(s): city origins, economic geography, Europe
JEL(s): N93, O18, R10
Programme Areas: International Trade and Regional Economics
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=8066

Geography is widely viewed as the important determinant of city location. This paper empirically disentangles the different roles of geography in shaping the European city system. We present a new database that covers all actual cities as well as potential city locations over the period when the foundations for the European city system were laid. We relate each location?s urban chances to its physical, first nature, geography characteristics, and develop a novel empirical strategy to assess how the existing urban system surrounding each location (second nature geography) determines its urban prospects. First nature geography is the dominant determinant of city location until the sixteenth century. Second nature geography becomes important from the seventeenth century onwards, in a way that corresponds closely to predictions from new economic geography theory.