The Economy of Cities

By 2050, 70% of the world’s population will live in cities. ( ( There is a complex web of factors accounting for this staggering fact. If you want to understand the human future, then have a long hard think about cities.

In this book, Jane Jacobs (, building on the work of her debut, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, investigates the delicate way cities balance the interplay between the domestic production of goods and the ever-changing tide of imports. Using case studies of developing cities in the ancient, pre-agricultural world, and contemporary cities on the decline, like the financially irresponsible New York City of the mid-sixties, Jacobs identifies the main drivers of urban prosperity and growth. She thereby offers some counter-intuitive and revelatory lessons, e.g. that cities preceded agriculture. She argues that in cities trade in wild animals and grains allowed for the initial division of labour necessary for the discovery of husbandry and agriculture; these discoveries then moved out of the city due to land competition.

There have now been many works since 1970 on the economy, sociology and geography of cities, but this influential book will surely be in the collection of anyone interested in these subjects.  Check if this thought provoking work is in stock at your local library by consulting the online catalogue at

280 pages in Jonathan Cape

First published 1970

ISBN 978-0224618267

Jane Jacobs

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