History and Urban Economics
This article reviews recent literature using insights from history to answer central questions in urban economics. This area of research has seen rapid growth in the past decade, thanks to new technologies that have made available increasingly rich data stretching far back in time. The focus is to review innovative methods to exploit historical information and discuss applications of these data that provide new insights into (i) the long run growth of cities or regional economies and (ii) the spatial organization of economic activities within cities. The review also surveys the growing literature outside urban economics that uses the historical urbanization as a proxy for economic growth, discusses differences between how economic historians and urban economists think about the relationship between urbanization and growth, and considers how these views might be reconciled.
We are grateful to Gabriel Ahlfeldt, Sascha Becker, Oliver Falck, Laurent Gobillon, Christoph König, Jeff Lin, Will Strange, and Yanos Zylberberg for helpful comments. The usual disclaimer applies. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.