Resetting the Urban Network: 117-2012

September 19 2016

Do fixed geographic features such as coastlines and rivers determine town locations, or canhistorical events trap towns in unfavourable locations for centuries? We examine the effects ontown locations of the collapse of theWestern Roman Empire, which temporarily ended urbanizationin Britain, but not in France. As urbanization recovered, medieval towns were more oftenfound in Roman-era town locations in France than in Britain. The resetting of Britain’s urban networkgave it better access to natural navigable waterways, which mattered for town growth from1200-1800. We conclude that history trapped many French towns in suboptimal locations.

Economic Journal, 2016

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Authors

Guy Michaels is an Associate Professor in the Department of Economics at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and a research associate at Centre for Economic Performance (CEP) at the LSE.

Dr. Ferdinand Rauch is Associate Professor of Economics and Tutorial Fellow at Brasenose College, both at the University of Oxford.  His research interests are in international trade and urban economics.