Cities do not grow of themselves

It is important to realize the close relations that exist between the city-region and the State. "There are", writes an American economist, "all kinds of regions. But the regionalism that is of greatest importance is metropolitan. Here we have an area inhabited by producers and consumers who from a radius usually of over a hundred miles look to one big centre for marketing their products and serving their supplies", and this region "has grown to be a potential rival of the State".

The great city, as a centre of industry, commerce, culture and administration, and often as a great political capital, has grown up in the past, and especially in the last hundred years, through access to a unified political and economic unit and through access to international world-wide markets. It reaches the status of a super-metropolitan city, a "primate city", to use Jefferson's term. Vienna and Constantinople, which functioned for centuries as the capitals of great States, the one the centre of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the Danubian lands, the other the centre of the Turkish Empire in the Middle East and the Balkans, have suffered by the disintegration, for various reasons, of these empires and by the erection in the inter-war period of tariff barriers to prevent the free interchange of goods. The fate of Vienna is well known. It was a great city of two million people. Its tributary area was cut down to the size of Austria and it was severed from its established markets in Danubia. And it still houses nearly two million inhabitants. The difficulty of feeding its people, let alone giving them employment, is a familiar story. "The disrobing of Vienna and Constantinople are crimes against metropolitan regionalism which are bound to cost dear", wrote an economist in 1929.

"Cities do not grow of themselves. Country-sides set them up to do tasks that must be performed in central places".

Turning to the large and densely populated States for a standard of measure, it is found that there is one city with over 100,000 people for every one to one and a quarter million people, and it is a fairly safe assumption that almost a million people in Europe and America are needed to support a city with over 100,000 inhabitants, remembering always that the proportion of big cities (as of the grand total of all urban population) to the total population of a country depends both on the economic structure of the country and upon the measure of its dependence upon outside markets for the service of its urban population. Modern big cities grew in the short period of urban growth from 1870 to 1914, and in Europe the changes of political frontiers in 1918 often cut them off from the countryside they had grown to serve. This applies not only to the lands encircling inland cities but also to the "hinterlands" of ports -- the areas to and from which they distribute and collect supplies -- with the result that a number of them remain centres severed from their limbs and, suffering from "surgical shock", some have never recovered fully. Danzig is a port that has traditionally served the Vistula basin, the heart of Poland, behind it. But during the nineteenth century -- from the partition of Poland down to 1919 -- it was entirely severed from this hinterland, because it lay in the belt of German territory that extended through West Prussia to East Prussia, south of which lay the Russian province of Congress Poland. The German-Russian frontier was a complete economic and cultural barrier. Poland was a backwater in Russia deliberately cut off from all communications across the German frontier. Danzig dwindled to a shadow of its former self, testimony to its greatness in the Middle Ages down to the end of the eighteenth century being its rows of great multi-storeyed warehouses on the waterfront. The Treaty of Versailles established the independence of Poland, but set up Danzig, which is an entirely German speaking city, as a Free State, and thus made difficult the unrestricted use of Danzig as an outlet for the trade of Poland. The result was that Gdynia was established as a direct outlet on Polish soil. The two in effect serve as partners as sea-outlets for the trade of Poland.

The Baltic States have suffered similarly. Their chief cities are far too large to serve such small and predominantly agricultural States. Riga, the chief port and city of Esthonia, has 727,000 people in a State with just over one million. It grew to its disproportionate size as a port serving extensive areas in West Russia. "There were three or four times the number of people in West Russia who used and needed Riga, if analogies mean anything, though the economic countryside of a great city is not easy to delineate or define." In other words, a small country is often not big enough to support a large city. Copenhagen, for instance, accounts alone for a fifth of the population of Denmark: it is as big as Sweden's three 100,000 cities put together, though Denmark has only half the population of Sweden. One is led to suspect that Copenhagen does indeed draw upon southern Sweden both as a source for its population and for its trade. Switzerland has four 100,000 cities, but no big dominant city, and the commercial capitals of other countries -- especially Paris, Berlin, Milan, to say nothing of the ports of Genoa, Antwerp and Marseille -- carry out for Switzerland many of the functions that would normally go to the dominant capital city.

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