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date: 21 April 2018

Abstract and Keywords

By 1300 China hosted several of the largest cities in the world, and was arguably the world's most urbanized society. These cities did not enjoy nor had they explicitly sought ‘autonomy’ from encompassing political regimes, but they did enjoy a modest amount of practical communal self-management. This article focuses on China's urban history under the Ming (1368–1644) and Qing (1644–1911) empires, which continued these developments. The commercialization of the countryside contributed to ongoing urbanization, especially at the lower end of the urban hierarchy, with the proliferation and growth of market towns. The intensification of internal diasporas of local-origin groups involved in long-distance domestic trade led to more cosmopolitan urban populations, and contributed to innovations in urban culture. The increasingly complex urban societies and economies led to a massive wave of both private and quasi-public association building, greatly enhancing urbanites' capacity for self-management, and ultimately contributing to the perceived irrelevance of the imperial state.

Keywords: Chinese cities, urbanization, urban society, communal self-management, market towns, domestic trade, public association building, imperial state

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