How the city hurts your brain

January 14, 2009

Here is one very interesting article, once more it is becoming clear that historians will have to take into consideration the work of neurologists, geneticist, psychologists, etc.

How the city hurts your brain

…And what you can do about it

By Jonah Lehrer

THE CITY HAS always been an engine of intellectual life, from the 18th-century coffeehouses of London, where citizens gathered to discuss chemistry and radical politics, to the Left Bank bars of modern Paris, where Pablo Picasso held forth on modern art. Without the metropolis, we might not have had the great art of Shakespeare or James Joyce; even Einstein was inspired by commuter trains.

And yet, city life isn’t easy. The same London cafes that stimulated Ben Franklin also helped spread cholera; Picasso eventually bought an estate in quiet Provence. While the modern city might be a haven for playwrights, poets, and physicists, it’s also a deeply unnatural and overwhelming place. Read the rest of this entry »

Galley C. (1995) Were cities meat grainers or not?

January 8, 2009

Galley Chris (1995) “A Model of Early Modern Urban Demography”, Economic History Review, 48/3, 448-469.


As early as 1662, researchers realized that there were an abnormally high number of death in cities relatively to the number of birth (p.448), great cities were deemed ‘the graves of mankind’. The negative natural growth was compensated by rural immigration and the cities played the role of sinks of their neighboring region’s demographic surpluses.

Sharlin (1978) proposed another interpretation: those migrants were predominantly poor and single and increased the mortality rate without affecting noticeably fertility. Thus, the permanent residents did not suffer a negative natural growth, the extra death were merely provided by the migrants. But this theory was soon dismissed by Finlay, although no further theory was advanced for lack of data (p.449). Read the rest of this entry »

Britnell R. H. (2001) Specialization in England, 1100-1300

January 27, 2008

Britnell Richard H. (2001) “Specialization of work in England, 1100-1300”, Economic History Review, 54/1, 1-16.


The 12th and 13th centuries experienced growing population. The more people, the more likely it is that some will become specialized in an activity where they enjoy a comparative advantage (see Adam Smith). Persson has estimated that this led to a 0.1 to 0.25 yearly increase of productivity per caput in England over two centuries (i.e. between 22 and 62% for the whole period). But to what extend the period’s productivity gains are attributable to specialization? Read the rest of this entry »