Urbanization...is it only a 20th century phenomenon?
Thread poster: Troy Fowler

Troy Fowler  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:01
Member (2003)
Japanese to English
Oct 7, 2004

Hello.

I'm studying for a PhD in environmental science, focussing on how urban development is changing the atmosphere (Urban Heat Island effect). This is a shot in the dark, but I'm curious if public anxiety about too many people living in one place is only a recent phenomenon. After learning of the rise of the city states (polis) in ancient Greece, and ancient civilizations throughout the middle east and during Roman times, I thought I'd ask you if you've have come across literature attesting to the trials and tribulations of urban migration. Ever come across a document in an Ancient language that touched on anything related to urbanization: pollution, excess resource consumption, racial tension, crime, personal alienation, etc.?

Thanks! I would like to hear any thoughts on this.

Troy
Yokohama, Japan


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Thierry LOTTE  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:01
Member (2001)
English to French
+ ...
Juvenal Oct 7, 2004

Ypu should try to read Juvenal and its "Satirii or satiria" I dont remember exactly.

One of its satirium is talking about unbearable traffic jams in the Roma of 1st century AD.



[Edited at 2004-10-07 16:18]


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Lesley Clarke  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 10:01
Spanish to English
The Vikings Oct 7, 2004

Well I don't know if this fall within what you are looking for, but I have heard say that the original town of Dublin, established by the Vikings over a thousand years ago had a population of 50,000 concentrated in a very small area with horrendous hygiene and as such, very few children survived within the town.
But I am afraid I don't think this was written about at the time.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

chica nueva
Local time: 03:01
Chinese to English
Mercantilism and industrialisation in England? Some ideas. Oct 25, 2004

I don't know about ancient literature, but there is satirical prose from the 17-18th C Swift, Pope etc - there might be something there. Also social commentary from 19th C - Dickens novels.

Much of this relates to London. It concerns changes in social structure and values as well as in living conditions. It seems to me bad (= disgusting,filthy,sordid,base,impoverished,brutal, wretched) living conditions are used as a literary device - a metaphor or symbolic parallel of degraded humanity and debased and commercialised social relations in the cities - by these writers.

Urban issues: Rats and plagues in cities,overcrowding and the Great Fire of London

Many 19C issues in England addressed by social reformers,the medical profession, etc:

hygiene issues: the installation of sewerage systems and internal plumbing (the water closet), disinfectants (such as carbolic acid?) addressed some of the sanitation issues.Street sweepers had to deal with droppings from horse drawn transport.

London smogs,prostitution,the rise of the Salvation Army,prison reform Elizabeth Fry,mental asylums,the rise of the police force,the poorhouse,debtors jail,conditions in England which led working class colonists to leave for a better healthier happier life in New Zealand and Australia in the 19thC where they could be their own masters.


I guess this is getting off the topic but:
As well as the living conditions aspect, some of the issues were political, relating to class and power. Universal education, health, social welfare, and universal suffrage (the vote) followed.

You can probably find similar writings relating to Paris and other cities. The ancient Russian capital Kiev was notable for its high quality of urban amenities for the time eg paved roads. Rome and Roman cities of course were notable for roads, sewerage systems and aqueducts which addressed urban infrastructural needs. Its an ongoing thing. Urbanisation is occurring rapidly in China and other developing countries right now in the 21st century. Chinese cities are growing and the Chinese authorities are making changes to provide for migrant workers from the countryside, who up until now have had few rights and protections.


Direct link Reply with quote
 
Adam Bartley  Identity Verified
Australia
Local time: 01:01
Member (2011)
Latin to English
+ ...
Thucydides Book 2 Oct 26, 2004

try the description of the plague that affects Athens in book 2 of Thucydides. There is mention of the fact that the war led to the construction of walls and that the citizens from the surrounding countryside all moved there while raids took place, gretaly increasing the numbers who could be struck down.

rasputin wrote:

Hello.

I'm studying for a PhD in environmental science, focussing on how urban development is changing the atmosphere (Urban Heat Island effect). This is a shot in the dark, but I'm curious if public anxiety about too many people living in one place is only a recent phenomenon. After learning of the rise of the city states (polis) in ancient Greece, and ancient civilizations throughout the middle east and during Roman times, I thought I'd ask you if you've have come across literature attesting to the trials and tribulations of urban migration. Ever come across a document in an Ancient language that touched on anything related to urbanization: pollution, excess resource consumption, racial tension, crime, personal alienation, etc.?

Thanks! I would like to hear any thoughts on this.

Troy
Yokohama, Japan


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 17:01
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Nero's conflagration Nov 8, 2004

The literature on this would indicate that urban zoning problems were involved (width of roads, spacing between houses, overcrowding). Bear in mind that, archaeologically speaking, Rome is a rich case, with every new generation facing new problems and adding its own solutions (archaeological stratification techniques are indispensable in this evaluation).

Another possible case (no contemporary literature) is the Harrappan (Indus River Valley) civilisation (Harappa/Mohenjo-daro, 2500 B.C., although the areas settled by this culture cover Baluchistan in the north down to Maharasthra in the south). The evidence is archaeological, and indicates progressive desertification, increased soil salinity and the exhaustion of natural resources combined with major changes in the water courses (the Indus River dried up and swerved off-course in some inland areas and the sea moved westwards from the former coastal regions, leaving old ports stranded miles inland). Add the dramatic evidence of wartime slaughter around 1700 B.C. that gave Mohenjo-daro its name ("city of the dead"). Due to the extent of colonisation and the amount of study already done, much can be said about this.

How much population the old towns could have supported feasibly is critical. Hacilar and Çatalhöyuk (Turkey), at 5,000 inhabitants, vie for the record in 5000 B.C. and went the way of other subsequent oasis settlements, like Karakoum (desertification).

New Mayan findings in Guatemala (much older than the better-known Mexican ruins) indicate that the mysterious disappearance of the Mayas from their settled towns had been going on since before Jesus Christ (see Tikal, in particular). South America has many examples of this phenomenon, in which increased soil salinity seems to have played a part in the natural mummification of human remains (the Nazca culture is a good example).

Word of caution:

The question of urban migration may be tackled quite separately from urban development. Seen from a "long" view, migration may be categorised as an economically-motivated phenomenon, although its forms vary. Attila's hordes and the whole Völkerwanderung during the Dark Ages might represent one extreme, with the more peaceful movement of agrarian populations to industrial centres as a by-product of reconversion on another. (In reality, the advancing groups tended to "push" earlier settlers off their turf, so that we see all sorts in-between. The Visigothic settlement of Hispania, for example, was carried out by war refugees not unlike the ones we see the UNHCR dealing with today, who had obtained permission from the Emperor).

What some people tend to miss in all this, however, is the balance that may, and does come to exist, in those cases in which a settled civilisation is dependent on input from migrant cultures following set periodic cycles of production. Many cities in the Arabian peninsula are cases in point (there is no war and no permanent added conglomeration). Nomadism and settled livelihood are both normal complements of the same civilisation, in contrast to the Roman ideal of 'civitas' that we tend to see as standard; civic vis-à-vis national duty is a thing of the heart rather than the passport or its equivalent, and there are no borderlines drawn in the ever-moving sands. Mecca would also have to be considered as a case apart.

Mining towns as minor and often "fringe" settlements are another special case, particularly where there is no other means of production that can sustain a mining town. You may thus need to qualify your examples with more specific criteria.

PS: Juvenal Part II, on Migrations - Another Satire (XV, I checked my own thesis on this) deals with corruption in the Roman Empire, whereby positions in government were sold to foreigners. There is a rather ethnocentric critique on these "new Romans", some of whom had established colonies along the Tiber. He speaks, for instance, of Egyptians insisting on doing their ritual ablutions in the river in the dead of winter. For the Rome of his day and age, Juvenal is a gold mine.

[Edited at 2004-11-09 12:03]


Direct link Reply with quote
 


To report site rules violations or get help, contact a site moderator:


You can also contact site staff by submitting a support request »

Urbanization...is it only a 20th century phenomenon?

Advanced search






Across v6.3
Translation Toolkit and Sales Potential under One Roof

Apart from features that enable you to translate more efficiently, the new Across Translator Edition v6.3 comprises your crossMarket membership. The new online network for Across users assists you in exploring new sales potential and generating revenue.

More info »
PDF Translation - the Easy Way
TransPDF converts your PDFs to XLIFF ready for professional translation.

TransPDF converts your PDFs to XLIFF ready for professional translation. It also puts your translations back into the PDF to make new PDFs. Quicker and more accurate than hand-editing PDF. Includes free use of Infix PDF Editor with your translated PDFs.

More info »



All of ProZ.com
  • All of ProZ.com
  • Term search
  • Jobs