Population and Migration

Luuk de Ligt

in The Oxford Handbook of Cities in World History

Published in print February 2013 | ISBN: 9780199589531
Published online April 2013 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in History

Population and Migration


This article discusses the migration to cities and the phenomenon of colonization. In Mesopotamia and Classical Greece, and perhaps also in the Mauryan empire, even the largest cities typically had less than 100,000 inhabitants. Some of the capital cities of the Hellenistic world seem to have had larger populations, and in Han China the city of Chang'an may have had as many as 200,000 inhabitants. However, in the period covered by the study only the population of early imperial Rome grew to about one million. In many pre-modern states, state-sponsored migration to colonies established in newly conquered areas was a major factor in the expansion of urban networks. Evidence also suggests that the forced migration of war captives and slaves played a key role in the growth of many early cities. In view of the high urban mortality rates caused by insalubrious living conditions, it is likely that the populations of large and densely populated cities could not be sustained without continuous immigration.

Keywords: voluntary migration; forced migration; cities; colonization; imperial Rome; urban networks; war captives; slaves; immigration

Article.  8586 words. 

Subjects: History ; Social and Cultural History

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