The nineteenth century saw a huge wave of urbanisation across Europe and theUnited States. Towns expanded to become cities, while cities that were alreadyin existence increased in size to become metropolises on a scale that had never before been seen. In Europe, cities such as London, Paris and Berlin boomed,with populations doubling, tripling or even quadrupling in the period between1850 and the outbreak of the First World War, while New York, Boston andPhiladelphia in the United States expanded to a similar degree. Smaller citiesalso grew, as the percentage of the population living in urban areas increased to44% in France, 60% in Germany and just under 80% in Britain.
More notable even than the growth of urban populations was the expansion interms of area and the changes in spatial structure of the modern city. Thesecities were not simply larger-scale versions of an urban type that had existedbefore; instead, they formed a new structural type of urban area. Modern cities had vastly larger populations than earlier cities but were often less crowded, asinstead of piling an increasing population within the city walls they tendedtowards urban sprawl and the formation of suburbs. These suburbs, some of which were country villages which had been subsumed into expanding cities,were themselves a new type of spatial form, where the ease of access providedby transport networks made it possible to combine urban and rural ways of life.
Early nineteenth-century cities had primarily expanded in terms of population,and less so in area, which had resulted in huge overcrowding. An examplewould be that of Lille, where the city population almost doubled between 1804and 1860, from 59,000 to 100,000, without growing outside the city walls.
Inthe second half of the century, however, the growth of suburbssuch as Fives,which grew up around the railway line to the east of the city, meant thatpopulation density in the city decreased even as total population increased.
Lees, Andrew and Hollen Lees, Lynn,
Cities and the Making of Modern Europe, 1750-1914
,(Cambridge, 2007), p. 5.
The Culture of Time and Space, 1880-1918
, (Cambridge, Mass., 1983) p. 191.
Bessel, Richard, “Transport”, in Chant, Colin (ed.),
Science, Technology and Everyday Life,1870-1950
, pp. 162-199 (London, 1989). p. 163.
Dickinson, Robert E.,
The West European City: A Geographical Interpretation
, (London, 1998),p. 136.