The world’s largest cities have shifted since the beginning of the 19th century as result of civilization and emergence of new economies. At the beginning of the 9th century, Beijing China was the world’s largest city in term of populations with a population over .1 million people. The city was overtaken by the United Kingdom’s London city in the 20th century with population of 6.4 million people. Japan’s Tokyo city has remained the top as the world’s largest city in the 21st century with a population of 34.45 million people as at of the beginning of the century in the year 2000. The world cities are becoming more and more overcrowded owing to economic reasons and social cultural reasons. This essay discusses the various changes in Top 10 world cities in the form the 19th century the possible causes behind the rise and fall of these cities.
Economic factors are the largest contributing factors to the growth of cities. For instance, in the 20th century, Europe was undergoing massive industrialization and the United Kingdom was the continents central power. The revolution created more jobs in London and people migrated to the city as they could easily find employment and earn a living (Brockerhoff, Pg. 13). However, the population in Europe experienced a sharp decline in population within the end of the 2nd century. Europe accounted for over half of the world’s population at the beginning of the 20th century but declined to less than 20% at the beginning of the 21st century. Similarly, Japan industrial revolution was centered within the Tokyo city. Within the 60’s and the 70’s population to Tokyo was highest as people sought a better life from the employment opportunities in the city (pg. 25)
The other reason for the growth of world cities is social factors. For instance, Beijing city in China was the world’s largest city in China at the beginning of the as people migrated from the rural areas into the city in search of good education and social facilities. Once the population migrates into an urban area, they settle down increasing the city population. This trend is also common in less developed countries where cities now absorb more of the population in search of employment, better social facilities and even education (Satterthwaite, pg. 7). This trend is also evidenced by the list of cities from Latin America and Asia that are in the top ten positions in the 21st century as compared to the 20th century.
Mexico city in Mexico, San Paolo in Brazil, Mumbai, India, Shanghai China, Calcutta India, Buenos Aires Argentina are among the emerging cities that have overtaken Europe and American dominated cites to the top positions which is an indication of a demographic shift in the world population. It is possible to estimate a decline in population in the European and American cities as the developing countries increase in population growth. However, the growth of these cities is proving more challenges for planners and the government as they handle unexpected population growth (Brockerhoff, pg.12)
As the world population is increasing steadily, it is estimated that the top ten largest cities in the world may still change even further. In the 19th century, the top city Beijing had only a population of 1.1 Million. Two centuries late, the top city has a population of 34.45 million, which is an indication that the world population is booming at an alarming rate. The contributing factors for rapid urban migration include natural causes, net immigration and reclassification of urban boundaries when they are readjusted to include larger areas. Other factors include immigrants (Brockerhoff, pg. 17)
The European cities are expected to decline further in the list as they experience less negative population growth. In the 20th century, six European cities were among the top ten largest cities in the world. This trend changed drastically as none of these cities tops in the list at the 21sr century. The emergence of new cities from Asia and America is evidence that population growth is shifting from Europe and distributing to Asia and Latin America.
The statistics are an indication of the demographic shift in different parts of the world. They are useful in helping predict the change in emerging economies and their impact on the population. Population growth is rising faster in the developing countries whereas the already developed countries, especially in Europe, are experiencing declining population growth. The last two centuries show the appearance of cities from northern America and oceanic regions. The Americas largest cities in the 20th century Philadelphia and New York have also significantly changed. Philadelphia has been replaced by Los Angeles but New York still maintains in the top 10 positions. However, the statistics have a disadvantage, as they do not indicate the population per square kilometer. This would have an effect as some cities cover a large area and considering the population per kilometer will see some of the cities miss out from the top 10 largest in the world.
Brockerhoff, Martin. An urbanizing world. Population Reference Bureau, 2000.
Satterthwaite, David. The transition to a predominantly urban world and its underpinnings. No. 4. Iied, 2007.
UN Habitat. State of the world’s cities: prosperity of cities. Nairobi: Kenya, 2012