Wim Blockmans and Marjolein 't Hart

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


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This article examines the variances in urban power throughout pre-industrial Europe, China, and the Islamic world. It begins by exploring the ecological base of power in general, followed by an explication of the varying structures of stratification that are crucial to understanding the different potentials in resource mobilization for the urban communities. Urban power is determined by a city's independent capacity for resource extraction, and its nexus in the wider framework and balance of power in a society. Relative autonomy and municipal institutions made European communities distinctive, but non-European cities could also develop a voluntaristic public sphere and exploit the opportunities provided by weak rulers. What is evident is that the new consolidation of state power in Asia, the Middle East, and in Europe (with the rise of more effective, often centralized states), and the extension of European rule to the Americas and beyond were crucial to global urban development in the early modern era. Cities became the privileged hubs of expanded state power.

Keywords: urban power; Europe; China; Middle East; autonomy; municipal institutions; state power; urban development

Article.  8588 words. 

Subjects: History ; Social and Cultural History

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