Urbanisation Hub - The Clio-infra database on urban settlement sizes: 1500-2000

Moderator: Eltjo Buringh 

Much of the recent work done by economists and economic historians analyzing long-term trends in the world economy has used urbanization as a proxy for economic development, and has analyzed data on the number and size of cities and/or the urbanization ratio as measures of the economic success of regions and countries (e.g. Acemoglu et.al. 2005; De Long and Shleifer 1993). Estimates of the size of cities are indeed among the few more or less reliable data available for the pre-industrial age, making it possible to chart and analyse long term trends and spatial structures (De Vries 1984 for a seminal example). Therefore a state of the art global dataset of city sizes can be an important asset for economic historical research.

This website, which is part of the Clio Infra project, aims to present such a dataset for the period from 1500 to the present. It covers the whole world, except for China, for which research is still unfinished. The idea is to present the best available estimates for all (large) cities during the 1500-2000 period, and invite scholars working on the (demographic) history of these cities and countries, to suggest possible improvements and refinements. We basically present two sets of estimates: the historical estimates of city sizes that could be found (organized by country and continent), and a complete set of estimates, where the missing values are intra- or extrapolated.

All details concerning the data and the supplementary estimates are given in the data appendix please see the word document available here

Acemoglu, D., Johnson, S. and Robinson, J.A., ‘The rise of Europe: Atlantic trade, institutional change and growth’, Am. Econ. Rev., 95 (2005), pp. 546-79

DeLong, J. B. and Shleifer, A. (1993). "Princes and Merchants: City Growth Before the Industrial Revolution." Journal of Law and Economics 36, 671-702.

Jan de Vries (1984) European urbanization, 1500-1800. Methuen and Co, London.


For the datasets per region please see the excel files below:

Additional Data

In addition, we present the data underlying the article Bosker, M., Buringh, E. and Van Zanden, J. L. 2013. ‘From Baghdad to London, Unraveling Urban Development in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, 800–1800’, The Review of Economics and Statistics, 95/4: 1418–37. This consists of:

-          Excel file with the data

-          Variable description

-          Data appendix