There are evidences that show the development of permanent settlements in Egypt, Mesopotamia, Indus Valley, China and Central America. In all these cases, peasant communities eventually gave rise to urban communities and urban settlements. The well-documented urban settlement is Ur in Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq). Ur, which means fire, was the settlement inhabited by Abraham prior to his journey to Cannan, approximately in 1900 B.C. The centre of the Ur settlement comprised a temple, royal palace and cemetery. Each of the residential areas, which surrounded the centre, had a temple.
The main reason for the development of urban settlements was that after the domestication of plants in 8000 B.C., the peasants were able to grow more food than a gathering economy could provide and so allow for a growing population. For the first he had not only a surplus of food, but surplus time and energy, all prerequisites of the diversification of society and division of labour. For some members of the society could, in this way, be freed from food producing entirely, and the first severance from the soil was made Moreover, the art of irrigation is one which needs organization; the communities which gave rise to the first towns were not haphazard group of people, but fairly closely knit societies.
By 3000 B.C., there were true urban societies in the Middle East in which some people were manufacturers, some merchants and traders, some officials and some priests. The organization of the society fell into the hands of officials and priests. Possibly, through the keeping of temple accounts and observing seasonal cycles, the priestly caste initiated enormous advances in abstract thought, and contributed to the complex arithmetic and astronomy of these early civilizations. The agricultural surplus which allows the urban population to divorce itself from food production; the town as a focus of a producing region and as a centre for exchange of goods from outside the region; the rise of artisans and manufacturers; the division of labour and the division of the society into classes each with its special classes and each with its special task; and all this reflection of complex organization which makes the town a single unit, though closely connected with its region.
These pre-historic cities were also usually clearly distinguished from the old peasant villages by monumental architecture, another indication of surplus labour and surplus time: the temples and pyramids of Egypt, the tombs of Sumeria, the places of worships and palaces of Thebes (Egypt), Babylon, and the urban structures of Harappa and Mohenjodaro. Subsequently, the Phoenicians constructed Carthage (Tunisia) as a trade centre; the Greeks developed Athens, Alexandria; the Romans established a large number of urban settlements in Italy, Gaul (France) and Britain. Later on when the Greeks and Roman’s civilizations disappeared, that led to the ‘Dark Age’ in Europe. The towns and cities re-emerged in medieval times. After the 11th century, there was great increase of oversea trade of the European countries. It was during this period that most of the Western Europe became linked by trade and the merchant’s travels played a great role in this revival. The agriculture also became more efficient. Consequently, there was a sudden surge in urban growth.
Paris, at the end of the 12th century, had 100,000 people and at the end of the 13th century its population grew to 240,000. London, Geneva, Milan, Venice and Cologne were the other important cities of Europe. Most urban centers were local market towns, centered on market place and church. Subsequently, many capital cities grew.
The head of the state lived at the capital. During this period, surplus wealth and energy went into the construction of monumental palaces. In India also, many of the historical monuments of the medieval period such as Qutab Minar, Taj Mahal, Sikandara, Red Fort, Jama Masjid (Delhi), Shahi Masjid (Lahore) and the Mughal Gardens (Shalimar, Nishat, Chashma Shahi, Pari Mahal, Naseem Bagh in Srinagar), Pinjore Gardens (Kalka), etc., were constructed during this period.
The greatest phase of urban growth in Europe occurred after the Industrial Revolution of 1779. In 1800, there was not a single million city in Europe, though London had a population of 0.95 million and Paris 0.50 million. By 1850, Paris had passed the one million and London the two million mark. In England, Wales and Germany, the majority of the population was urban by 1900 A.
D. Rest of the European countries including France and Sweden were having less than 50 per cent of their population as urban. Urbanization in USA, Canada, Australia and the Latin American countries was started only after the Industrial Revolution in Europe. The USA became predominantly urban only during the decade 1910-1920.
On the whole, urbanization is below 50 per cent in most of the Asian countries. In India, in 1881, the urban population was only 9.3 per cent of the total population. In 1941, it grew to 12.8 per cent, but it rose to 18 per cent in 1961, about 25 per cent in 1991 and about 28 per cent in 2001. In India, there are three mega cities (Mumbai, Kolkata, Delhi), and in each of which over 8 million people are living, but the presence of large mega cities and dozens of million cities is no index of high urbanization. About 72 per cent of the total population of India is still rural in character (census of 2001). Indian cities in the past have had little of the industrial commercial character of the West European cities.
Many of the Indian cities have been political and military, the capitals of Rajas and Nawabs (rulers), who moved their courts frequently. Other cities have thrived as religious centers, the foci of vast pilgrimages. Even today, the character of most Indian cities in not as clear-cut as those of Western Europe in fact, in many of the Indian cities, the rural and urban characteristics tend to merge.
Most cities and towns still have many people employed in agriculture. The cities of Kurukshetra and Rohtak (Haryana), Hapur, Modinagar and Muzaffarnagar (UP), Roorkee, Jawalapur, Laksar and Manglaur (Uttrakhand), Muzaffarpur, Darbhanga and Monghyr (Bihar), and New Bagai-Gaon, Rangia and Kokrajhar (Assam) have more than 15 per cent of their total population engaged in agriculture. In general, the countries of Europe, Anglo-America, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Israel, Kuwait, UAE, Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Lebnon, South Korea (Asia) are more urbanized. Urban population of China is also about 34 per cent of the total population. Rests of the Afro-Asian and Latin American countries have less than 50 per cent of their total population as urban.
It may also be said that the countries situated in temperate latitudes are more urbanized than those situated in the tropical regions. An examination of the data shows that in 1800 A.D., only 2.
4 per cent of the world population was urban which increased to 9.2 per cent in 1900. In 1950, about 21 per cent of the world population was living in towns and cities. In 1991, about 43 per cent of the world population was residing in urban settlements which went up to 48 per cent in 2001. According to the projections made for 2025, about 57 per cent of the world population would be urban which shall rise to 66 per cent in 2050. In 2000, about 28 per cent of Afro-Asian population was urban while in Latin America it was 68 per cent, in Europe 75 per cent and in North America over 80 per cent. It is expected that by 2025, about 57 per cent of the world population shall be urban.
By that time, about 50 per cent of the population in Asia and Africa shall be urban in character. The percentage of urban population in 2025 in Europe and Anglo-America would be about 90 per cent and 86 per cent, respectively. This description, however, conceals the fact that the Asian countries such as India, Indonesia, Philippines, South Korea, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Thailand and China have several mega cities.
The percentage of urban population in the developing countries is increasing at a faster pace. Owing to this stupendous growth of urban population, the world is expected to have over 50 per cent of total world population as urban by 2010 A.D. The rapid urbanization in the recent past in developing countries and substantial migration from rural to urban areas will further enhance the proportion of urban population.
No wonder, more people lived in urban areas of less developed realm of the world than in the urban areas of the more developed realm. It is estimated that by the year 2005 A.D., the urban dwellers of the present less developed realm would be more than double the urban dwellers of the present more developed realm. At present, the countries that have more than 50 per cent of their population living in urban settlements lie in Anglo-America, Latin America, Europe including Russia and Oceania.
Some of the Asian countries that come in this category are Barunei, Cyprus, Iraq, Iran, Hong Kong, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Koreas, Japan, Mongolia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Singapore and Turkey. In Africa, the countries of Algeria, Libya, Tunisia, Guinea, Mauritius, Namibia, etc., have more than 50 per cent of their population as urban.
The countries which have less than 20 per cent of their population as urban are Afghanistan, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Laos, Nepal, Oman, Thailand, Vietnam and Yemen. In Africa, the countries with less than 20 per cent as urban population are Burundi, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Comoros, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Lesotho, Mozambique, Malawi, Mali, Niger, Rwanda, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo and Uganda. In the remaining countries of the world, the proportion of urban population varies between 20 and 50 per cent.