The 10 Largest Global Cities Over The Past 500 Years

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An excellent little visualisation this.

As is said elsewhere:

Here’s a really interesting visualization from John Burn-Murdoch, senior data-visualisation journalist at the Financial Times posted to his Twitter account (it might take a few seconds to load, click on the arrow to start, then give it about five seconds for the visualization to start).

And as to this:

The fall and rise of the Chinese cities is also interesting. People seem to get freaked out by China’s growing prosperity, a fear for which I have zero sympathy — people exiting poverty in China is an unalloyed good. But here is a thought for context. I can’t absolutely prove that it is correct but I am pretty sure it is true. The history of the world is that, with the exception of the 200 years from about 1800-2000, China has for 4000 years been the largest economy in the world. Chinese prosperity today is not some aberration, it is a return to normal.

Well, no. China’s relative poverty as an entity was the aberration. Or if you prefer, relative prosperity was the norm. But the actual standard of prosperity now is vastly higher than anything in the past.

But it is a very fun visualisation.

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Quentin Vole
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Quentin Vole

Fun animation, but city populations are a bit of a minefield when trying to ensure consistent interpretations, What’s the population of London? Or to put it another way where does London end? If you restrict it to “those living within officially defined London boroughs”, you’ll get a very different answer from “those living within the M25” (which might be a more realistic definition) or “those living in areas where more than 50% of the population work in London”. Similar arguments apply to most cities. And that’s before we get onto the fact that often the local governments have little clue… Read more »

Jonathan Harston
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Jonathan Harston

Exactly, which is why I have updated Wiki articles and other data on my home town to include all the parishes that are currently in the current Town Council area – which shows a long-term static population in contrast to just including the one parish in the core that expended and absorbed the surrounding ones and seems to show the population doubling every 50 years.