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DATA APPENDIX accompanying

“From Baghdad to London – unraveling urban development in Europe, the Middle East and

North Africa” by Bosker, Buringh and van Zanden.




This Data Appendix documents our newly collected city-specific data set in detail.


For the European cities in our sample we used the dataset published by Bairoch et al. (1988).

Bairoch et al. (1988) provide centennial population estimates for cities in Europe. We focus

on the period 800 – 1800 (see footnote 2 in the main text). We include all cities documented

by Bairoch et al. (1988) to have at least 10,000 inhabitants in our sample. In the Middle Ages

a criterion of 10,000 inhabitants to characterize a city is a rather hefty one. As a result, only

the really large centers of population pass our criterion in this period (Ennen, 1972, p.199).

We excluded the area of the former Soviet Union from our analysis, based on using the

geographical borders of the countries as they were around 1990. For the year 1100 (which is

missing in Bairoch et al.’s dataset) the population data have been linearly interpolated

between those provided for the years 1000 and 1200.

We updated Bairoch et al.’s data by scanning recent literature concerning the major

cities covered by the dataset, in particular all cities which during some point in time were

larger than 60,000 inhabitants. This led to a number of important revisions of population

numbers of Muslim cities in medieval Spain (estimates were corrected downwards on the

basis of Glick, 1979), Palermo (email exchanges with Jeremy Johns and S.R. Epstein), Paris,

Bruges, and London. According to Bairoch et al. (1988), Cordoba was supposed to have

450,000 inhabitants at about 1000 (but only 110,000 according to Glick), Palermo’s size was

350,000 according to Bairoch et al. (1988), whereas our estimate (following Epstein and

Johns) is 60,000. For Paris we used the number of hearths (61,098) from a census of 1328

presented by Pounds (1969) to estimate its population in 1300, for the next two centuries we

assumed a decrease in the Parisian population because of the Black Death and the Hundred

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Years War. London was the only city for which estimates were revised upwards following

Campbell (2000). For Bruges we revised the population downwards in 1400 according to

Blockmans (1980).

For the cities in the Middle East and North Africa no comprehensive database existed. We fill

this gap and have collected information on the same centennial basis as Bairoch et al (1988)

for all cities for which we could find evidence that they had at least 10,000 inhabitants. For

the cities in North Africa and the Middle East we first established a list of some fifty of the

most important ones from Roolvink’s historical atlas (1957). Next, we extended these for

Anatolia with the list of cities in Behar (1996), supplemented by a number of older cities

named in Vryonis (1971) that met the 10,000 inhabitants criterion. For Egypt we included the

cities mentioned in Table 28 from Russell (1972) as well as the older Egyptian cities indicated

in the Encyclopedia of Islam (EoI) (Houtsma et al., 1993 and Gibb et al. 1975-2005). To

facilitate our search for city population data, we established the different Roman, Arabic,

Persian, Byzantine, Christian and later local names or synonyms for all cities.

Chandler and Fox (1974) provide population data for some dozen cities in our sample

and for a number of centuries. However, a considerable fraction of our data was inferred from

secondary sources. We used the old (first) and the new edition of the EoI to find population

estimates for the cities in North Africa, the Middle East and Turkey. For the then still missing

periods or cities we additionally used Kennedy (1992), Woodford (1990), Raymond (2002),

Escher and Wirth (1992) and various Baedeker travel guides of the areas to establish more or

less hard physical data such as the surface area of a particular city in medieval times in

hectares from excavations or maps, the numbers of local mosques or the numbers of public

hammams in the various cities and time periods, in order to use such physical data as an

indicator of the otherwise not-available numbers of inhabitants.

Generally we used a number of 150 inhabitants per hectare of surface area of a

medieval city, except for “garden” cities as Baghdad, Basra and Sanaa for which we used a

lower number of some 75 inhabitants per hectare. For Baghdad we therefore have come to a

lower population estimate (about half) than the one presented by Chandler and Fox (1974).

We additionally used a number of roughly one thousand inhabitants per mosque or public

hammam when these entities had to be taken as a basis for the population estimates.1


For Ottoman Cairo Raymond presents 243 mosques, while indicating a population of 263,000 inhabitants in

1800, this comes quite close to the rule of thumb derived from other data, which we applied for some of the

population estimates where other data were missing.

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Furthermore we used three accounts of Arabic travelers in North Africa and the

Middle East: that of Al Muqaddasi around the year 1000 (Collins, 1994), that of Ibn Battuta in

the first half of the fourteenth century (Dominique, 1995) and that of Ibn al-Mujawir in

thirteenth century Arabia (Rex Smith, 2008) to finetune the various population estimates in

order to prevent conflicts with contemporary observations on city sizes made by these three

local travelers. Similarly, we also used other contemporary observations, whenever available.

For instance, crusaders in the army of Frederic Barbarosa, passing through Konya in 1190,

considered its size to be similar to that of their native Cologne (see EoI, vol. V, p. 253).

Therefore we have attributed a similar number of inhabitants to Konya in 1200 as we found in

Bairoch et al. (1988) for Cologne.

With the procedure that we followed we will have undoubtedly missed a number of the cities

in North Africa, Turkey and the Middle East, which at some moment during the millennium

of our analysis would have just qualified for the size criterion we use. Also, we do not deny

that our population estimates will at times err on the exact number of people living in a certain

city in a certain century. However, given our substantial search using many different sources

we feel confident that we have limited the amount of error the best we could, giving a very

accurate picture of city population development in the Middle East and North Africa.

- The Arab Peninsula in some more detail

We will elaborate in a bit more detail on the process of size estimations of the cities on the

Arabian Peninsula (one of the most difficult regions to get accurate city population estimates)

to let the reader get a feel for the line of reasoning that we followed to arrive at our population


For the Arabian Peninsula we concentrated on collecting information on the city sizes

of Aden, Jeddah, Medina, Mecca, Muscat, Mokka, Sanaa, Zabid and Taizz. Other potential

Arabian cities such as Aqaba, Taif and Salalah dropped out of the analysis because we did not

find any information indicating they passed the size criterion of 10,000 inhabitants at some

time during the period 800 to 1800.

For Medina we found two walled surface areas: 40 ha with four gates in 1160 and 125

ha with eight gates in 1520 (Freeman-Grenville, 1993). We also found that the size of Medina

was approximately half that of Mecca. For Mecca in 1850 we found a population estimate of

30,000 to 45,000 inhabitants (Burton, 1969). This resulted in a point estimate of 38,000

inhabitants around 1800, based on considering the population in Mecca in to be similar to that

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