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date: 25 January 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Fernand Braudel likened the towns and cities of early modern Europe to ‘so many electrical transformers’. They exerted a disproportionate influence: functioning as centres of production, transportation, and exchange; providing legal, financial, and educational services; housing secular and ecclesiastical bureaucracies; acting as communications nodes, marketing verbal, written, and printed information; offering increasingly varied and sophisticated leisure facilities. This chapter explores the reasons behind changing patterns of European urbanization, the character and role of its towns, and their place in key economic, social, political, religious, and cultural changes. It charts: the revival of towns during the Middle Ages and their subsequent growth, location, and population; specialized economic functions; distinctive social structures and social relationships; governance and political life; the existence of a distinctive urban mentalité and culture; material environment and spatial characteristics. It concludes with an overview of the development of historical writing on European urbanization over the last century.

Keywords: Towns, cities, urbanization, society, economy, government, culture

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