Explaining urban vitality in times of crisis. A study into the impact of economic integration and intraregional migration on urbanism in Late Roman Africa

Start - End 
2014 - 2017 (ongoing)
Department of History
Research Focus 
Research Period 



The Late Roman ‘success story’ of urbanization in Africa Proconsularis, Byzacena, Numidia and Tripolitania has mostly been ascertained through generalizations from individual case studies. Broad studies of urban development that actually explain this exceptional development have hardly been conducted and those that have been, did not venture outside one specific time frame (the Principate, i.e. the first three centuries A.D., or the Late Roman period). This research project aims to fill this lacuna by examining the development of two determinants of urbanization. It will be highly innovative because of its diachronic approach, which will enable us to discern long term developments from the heyday of the Principate in the second century to the Late African urban bloom of the fourth century A.D.

The basis upon which the determinants of urbanization and hierarchization of cities have been selected is the shared principle of connectivity. They comprise the survey of (1) human mobility and migration, and (2) economic integration through rank-size analysis of the cities.

By addressing the issue of intra-regional differentiation in urbanization trajectories we connect with the most recent paradigms in Roman imperialism studies as well as with recent trends in Roman urbanization research. This research on the Roman world has the potential to make an important contribution to our understanding of stimulants and impediments to urbanization in pre-industrial societies generally.