One of the most concise and thought-provoking essays on the city in recent history is Jürgen Osterhammel’s chapter “Cities. European Models and Worldwide Creativity” in his monumental The Transformation of the World. A Global History of the Nineteenth Century.
“Urbanization used to be understood in a narrow sense as the rapid growth of cities in conjunction with the spread of mechanized factory production; urbanization and industrialization appeared as two sides of the same coin. This view can no longer be upheld. The definition that is common today takes urbanization to be a process of social acceleration, compression, and reorganization, which may occur under a range of very different circumstances. The most important outcome of this process was the formation of spaces of increased human interaction in which information was swiftly exchanged and optimally employed, and new knowledge could be created under favorable institutional conditions. Cities – especially large cities- were concentrations of knowledge; sometimes that is why people headed to them.” (p. 249)