The Most Dominant Cities

The world is a very dynamic place and if we look back throughout history we can see how much it changes. Many people however have a misconception about which are the most dominant cities and which urban centres have been the seat of power, culture and finance over the years.

One of the ways to evaluate the importance of a city is to look at its population. So we’ve compiled a timeline of the most populous, and thus most influential cities, over nearly two thousand years. Don’t worry it isn’t that long of a list, but it does show, in most cases, that the cities which attract people to this day, have often been at the forefront of of people’s minds for a long time.

Cities by Population & Year

  • Rome – 300
  • Rome – 400
  • Constantinople (Istanbul) – 500
  • Constantinople (Istanbul) – 600
  • Chang’an – 700
  • Chang’an – 800
  • Baghdad – 900
  • Baghdad – 1000
  • Baghdad – 1100
  • Hangzhou – 1200
  • Hangzhou – 1300
  • Nanjing – 1400
  • Beijing – 1500
  • Beijing – 1600
  • Beijing – 1700
  • Beijing – 1800
  • London – 1900

It’s interesting to see how much Chinese cities dominated the globe from 300 AD to 1900 AD. European cities were the largest only in 300-500 AD back in the day when “all roads lead to Rome” and when London took over in 1900 at the crest of the British Empire.

Society and politics are complicated so size isn’t always a predictor of power, but in general it does show the importance of a place. China’s population and thus power base is significant. Sure the seat of power changed internally along with strife and changing dynasties, but in general, China has had the most populous cities for a long time.

Since the turn of the twentieth century other cities like New York, Mexico City, Tokyo and Sao Paulo have taken the world stage  as global events shift people and populations, but the most dominant  cities since the start of good record keeping, by and large are still world players. Rome is one of the most visited cities on the planet, Beijing is the capital of China and London, for now at least, is a financial powerhouse.