City Talks

City Talks: Cities – the first 6,000 years

Archaeologist and anthropologist Monica L. Smith traces the phenomenon of cities through the last 6,000 years

Podcast published on 24 April 2019

Why did cities start to develop around 6,000 years ago? How have they evolved? And why do so many of us choose to live in them?

To answer these questions, Andrew Carter is joined by Monica L Smith, Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Los Angeles and author of Cities: the First 6,000 Years, which is the subject of this episode.

Some of Professor Smith’s most striking arguments in this podcast include the following:

  • Other than the accelerated rate of population growth (cities are now doubling in size every 10 or 20 years as opposed to every century), modern cities have a great deal in common with their ancient counterparts.
  • Many of the drawcards of cities in modern times – such as educational and economic opportunities, social mobility and culture – are the same things that attracted people to cities when they first appeared 6,000 years ago.
  • The tendency towards hyper-consumption and the accumulation of ‘stuff’ in cities is not modern in origin – every excavated city is full of discarded items. This is down to the producer-consumer dynamic found in cities, which increases the rate of both innovation and consumption.
  • What makes cities sustainable and resilient, and what makes them keep growing in size, is their ability to draw on a vast hinterland of resources, which means they’re not dependent on any one source to provide city residents with the things they need.

This episode is part of the Centre for Cities City Talks series. Please rate, review and share the episode if you enjoyed it.

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