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World cities before globalisation: The European city network, A.D. 1300-1600

World cities before globalisation: The European city network, A.D. 1300-1600

By Raf Verbruggen

PhD Dissertation, Loughborough University, 2011

ca. 15th century — Medieval miniature of banking operations. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

Abstract: This dissertation is a quantitative study of the spatial business strategies of 130 late medieval and 16th-century European commercial and banking firms, the business networks of which have been put together for a structural analysis of the European city network between ca. 1300 and ca. 1600.

Concretely this investigation has been carried out through the application of an interlocking network model – specifically developed for the study of the present-day global city network produced by the office networks of business service firms – to this historical case study, in order to challenge predominantly hierarchical conceptualisations of city networks which are often influenced by central place theory.

After a methodological section, in which solutions are designed for reconciling the geographical model with the particularities of historical research, a first part of the analysis focuses on agency within the network, identifying and reconstructing the multiple spatial strategies used by the different agents. In a second part the overall structure and dynamics in the network are investigated, revealing the operation of Christaller’s traffic principle, as well as a cyclical variation in emphasis on continental and maritime nodes within the European city network.


More generally, this study demonstrates that the functioning of dynamic transnational networks based upon complementarity and cooperation rather than competition is not limited to our contemporary globalised world, but can also be found in particular historical societies.

Click here to read this dissertation from Loughborough University

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