Cities as Hotspots in Medieval Societies
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Cities as Hotspots in Medieval Societies
Title (other)
Города как «точки роста» средневековых обществ
Publication type
Wim Blockmans 
Affiliation: Leiden University
Address: Netherlands, Leiden

Starting from Tönnies’ classic dichotomy community/society, this paper compares the emergence of very large capital cities in the world’s earliest urbanised areas in South Asia, China, Mesopotamia, and Egypt, to the appearance of smaller cities in Europe later on. Whereas the former were built on political and military power, the latter, by contrast, developed rather in confrontation with it and increasingly independent from it. In the most urbanised regions, North-central Italy and the Low Countries, the largest cities were the wealthiest, the most socially differentiated, conflictual, and competitive. In this environment, creativity flourished in all areas. The comparison with imperial China shows that free economic and cultural exchanges were an additional condition fostering creativity and its application. Cultural innovation is spread by adoption and adaptation of ideas and products developed elsewhere, and the liberty to market them to ambitious buyers belonging to various classes in different places.

autonomy, urban density, social differentiation, competition, creativity
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