A century of cities

Urban economic change since 1911

How have cities changed over the years, and what factors have affected their growth and decline over a century?

Report published on 4 March 2015 by Paul Swinney and Elli Thomas


Over the last 100 years all cities have been buffeted by the winds of economic change. Globalisation and technological change have meant that cities have had to adapt – both to continue to provide jobs and contribute to national economic growth. As more traditional industries have declined, the challenge for cities has been to encourage jobs growth in new areas of the economy.

The presentation below highlights some of the key findings from the research

Much of the work by Centre for Cities shows the varying performance of cities in the UK. But while this is seen across a range of economic indicators, there is less collective understanding as to how this variation came about and for how long it has persisted.

Using historical data on cities, this paper shows that some cities have been more successful than others at rising to this challenge. It looks at over 100 years of change in the urban areas of England and Wales, comparing cities in 1911 to their overall size and industrial make-up today. It also offers three principles that should guide policy that attempts to support city growth over the next 100 years.

More on a century of urban change

Read our article for the BBC Experts network on the changes cities have seen over a century.

Read the article



A Century of Cities: Urban Economic Change since 2011 PDF (2 MB)

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