The preceding historical chapters have made clear that, after the Western Renaissance and the spread of post-Renaissance culture across the globe as a result of Western imperialism, city location, morphology, and overall development have been based fundamentally on economic criteria. As new trade routes opened up, as new technologies and organizations of production arose, and as innovations in transportation modes and networks came to be, the fortunes of individual cities changed, sometimes quite dramatically. This remains even more the case today, in this age of globalization where Western merchant culture has deepened its hold on most every part of the planet. Even formerly Ancient/Classical cities, through the age of imperialism on to today, have been reorganized according to economic criteria so that social and built layers of earlier city culture, while still noticeable, are more or less smothered by oﬃce towers of CBDs and industrial and post-industrial urbanized bits scattered in ever-expanding metropolitan areas. Indeed, traditional, symbolically important cities such as Beijing are literally losing their status in urban hierarchies to new, very rapidly growing economic centers in cities such as Shanghai, as well as Guangzhou and others rapidly sprouting along the southern coasts of China. Economic development is the essential key to evolving city life around the globe as policy authorities in more or less every
city aspire to achieve global city status for their particular site. And, as a result, all cities, both in the Global North and the Global South, are beginning to look alike, with the same sorts of built and social environments and, indeed, the same sort of city amenities, from luxurious convention centers to festival marketplaces for high-income consumers to state-of-the-art sports stadia and high-rise oﬃce structures, all built in similar fashion with similar materials. This chapter addresses the reason behind this seeming globaliza-
tion of city development by focusing more closely and speciﬁcally on city economic processes. As to this, the most important issue for post-Renaissance cities is the actual location of economic activities and, then, people, both as producers and consumers of goods and services traded in the commercial marketplace and as residents of particular areas of the city. During the Mercantile/Colonial period, as we have seen, the economic success of cities was very much contingent upon their location as easily accessible ports, along inland waterways and on the coast. The key term here is accessible. These were locations in which goods from afar could be easily landed and traded in close proximity to the port. Again, the transportation of goods (and people) was far cheaper by water at this time than overland. Thus, in turn, the extent of the market for trading goods in the interior of countries depended upon good inland waterways and, in the case of Europe, the increasing ability of trading ships to sail out of the Mediterranean Sea toward northern and eventually Atlantic Ocean ports elsewhere in Europe. But note that accessibility is not just a factor for city development
for this time period alone. Once economic criteria become the most important element in the growth and decline of cities, focus needs to be put continually on changing transportation modes and networks. New shipping technology as well as increasing knowledge of shipping routes and, indeed, the Earth’s territorial extent, for example, led directly to the relative economic decline of the original merchant cities of Italy and the rise of Atlantic Ocean ports such as Seville, Lisbon, and eventually Amsterdam and London. Similarly, when the port of Bruges in Flanders became less and less accessible to oceangoing ships because of a growing problem of silt, Antwerp and Ghent became more economically viable. Finally, note that water transportation can also be facilitated by human constructions.