Medieval Cities Through the Lens of Urban Economic Theories

May 2020

Remi Jedwab (George Washington University), Noel D. Johnson (George Mason University), and Mark Koyama (George Mason University)

IIEP working paper 2020-9

Abstract: We draw on theories and empirical findings from urban economics to explore and explain patterns of city growth in the Middle Ages (c. 800-1500 CE). We discuss how agricultural development and physical geography determined the location and size of cities during the medieval period. We also consider the relative importance of economies of scale, agglomeration, and human capital spillovers in medieval cities and discuss how their growth was limited by disamenities and constraints on mobility. We discuss how medieval cities responded to shocks such as the Black Death and describe how institutions became increasingly important in determining their trajectories. Avenues for future research are also laid out.

 

JEL Codes: R11; R12; R19; N9; N93; N95

Key Words: Medieval Era; City Growth; Urbanization; Food Surplus Hypothesis; Agglomeration Effects; Labor Mobility; Pandemics; Institutions; Europe; Asia

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