In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Urban Geography

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Reference Resources
  • Nontextual Resources
  • Textbooks
  • Anthologies
  • Journals
  • The Urban Economy
  • The Urban Environment
  • Technology and Cities
  • Globalization and Cities

Related Articles Expand or collapse the "related articles" sectionabout

Forthcoming Articles Expand or collapse the "forthcoming articles" section



Geography Urban Geography
Linda McCarthy
  • LAST REVIEWED: 19 December 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 February 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199874002-0084


In 2007, the world reached an urban milestone when the percentage of people living in cities exceeded 50 percent for the first time in history. By 2010, the world’s urban population approached nearly 3.5 billion, and it is projected to rise to nearly 6.3 billion by 2050. To put these figures into historical perspective, in 1950 less than 30 percent of the world’s population was urbanized. Urban geography can help us understand urbanization trends and their expression in urban spatial structure and to relate these to our own lives and concerns. The study of urban geography can help us have a better appreciation of the economics of what goes on within cities and recognize the interdependencies involved in local, national, and international economic development in an increasingly globalized world. It can provide us with a framework for conceptualizing urbanism in conjunction with an appreciation of history and the relationships among art, culture, and society. It can illuminate the interplay of science and technology with social and economic change; reveal important dimensions related to race, gender, and sexuality; identify important issues concerning social inequality, urban segregation, and gentrification; raise concerns about urban environmental quality; and point to important lessons for urban governance and policy. Most of all, of course, the study of urban geography can help us understand, analyze, and interpret the landscapes and communities of cities and metropolitan areas around the world. In fact, urban geography is arguably one of the most important subdisciplines within geography, and especially within human geography.

General Overviews

The sources included in this section provide helpful general overviews of urban geography and can also serve as reference works. Lees 2009 is a short dictionary entry that is useful because it offers a quick historical synopsis of the major milestones in urban geography as well as information about the seminal urban geographers and their scholarship. In contrast, the chapter by Aitken, et al. 2003, although a little dated, nevertheless offers an in-depth critical assessment of the state of US urban geography as a subdiscipline, continuing where an earlier book in this series, Geography in America, by Gary L. Gail and Cort J. Willmott (Columbus, OH: Merrill) left off in 1989. Aitken, et al. 2003 is useful for its topical approach, addressing urban topics such as the global–local nexus, public space, and technology, but primarily for the US context. This work is complemented by Grammenos 2010, which takes a temporal perspective that is not limited to the United States and discusses the various approaches to studying the city, from environmental determinism in the early 20th century to contemporary approaches, such as postmodernism, in the 21st century.

  • Aitken, Stuart, Don Mitchell, and Lynn Staeheli. “Urban Geography.” In Geography in America at the Dawn of the 21st Century. Edited by Gary L. Gaile and Cort J. Willmott, 237–263. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.

    This chapter assesses the state of urban geography in this large topical reference on the many subfields within the discipline of geography. It covers the scholarship of urban geographers in the United States since 1990 and relates it to previous work on cities.

  • Grammenos, Dennis. “Urban Geography.” In Encyclopedia of Geography. Vol. 6. Edited by Barney Warf, 2936–2943. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2010.

    This chapter takes a historical approach to assessing the state of this subdiscipline from its origins in the 19th century to contemporary approaches, such as postmodernism, in the early 21st century and concludes that urban geography is one of the most dynamic and popular subfields in geography.

  • Lees, Loretta. “Urban Geography.” In The Dictionary of Human Geography. 5th ed. Edited by Derek Gregory, Ron Johnston, Geraldine Pratt, Michael Watts, and Sarah Whatmore, 784–787. Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009.

    This urban geography entry takes a historical approach to describing the evolution of this subdiscipline. As a dictionary entry, it is short enough to enable the reader to learn quickly about some of the main milestones and seminal urban geographers and their scholarship.

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