311 Final Paper - Boise State University A brief history of...

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Boise State University A brief history of the evolution of urban economic thinking and the great minds who contributed to the modern landscape we see today. Prepared by History of Economic Thought November 29, 2011 At first glance, the modern city is a marvel of human creation. The urban environments in our world agglomerate commerce, transportation, and production in high density and result in marvelous efficiency. This efficiency is what makes our record levels overall happiness and prosperity possible. However cities have not always been
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successful throughout history and have encountered significant setbacks since their humble beginnings. The evolution of the urban landscape is an amazing story of success and failure, which involved a litany of factors which eventually produced the complex metropolises that currently house the majority of the worlds population. This paper is intended to shed light on just some of the great minds and who contributed to urban economic thinking and helped shape our modern landscape. In the beginning, cities were merely an accident. Early human lifestyles lived as hunter-gatherers and would roam wide ranges of territory without ever constructing permanent settlements. This lifestyle allowed the human race to spread throughout the world but made occupations outside food production all but impossible. Thus, the human race was very limited in their advancement until the arrival of the first building block of the city, agriculture. The shift from a hunter-gatherer to a sedentary agrarian lifestyle is not credited to any one man or even a civilization. Agriculture arose is several locations around the world between 10,000 and 7,000 BC (Diamond). The process of the domestication of plant species to fit the needs of early farmers took thousands of years of trial and error but with time produced an array of new species tailored for human consumption. This agricultural surplus allowed people for the first time to specialize in things that were not directly related to food production. These specializations are what lead to the remaining key building blocks of a modern city, urban production and a transportation system. In order for urban dwellers to acquire food from the food producers, they needed to produce goods to exchange. The flow of goods and agricultural products needed to be moved from producer to consumer along a transportation system. These three factors 2
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were slowly but surely recognized for their importance in the success of a city and soon steps were made to further specialize urban production and expand transportation systems. One of the first major contributors to the study of urban economics was Thomas Malthus (1766 – 1834). A graduate of Jesus College is Cambridge, and ordained minister of the Church of England, he was the author of several successful essays that brought attention to the issues with rapid urban population growth. By the late 1700s, the negative effects of the industrial revolution began to become clear the Malthus (Brue,
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311 Final Paper - Boise State University A brief history of...

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