World Building-city size/population density

MaxRelaxman

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My setting is an alternate history Dover, UK. Because the cliffs and castle seem like a cool area even if the topography doesn't seem to lend itself to a walled city.

With that being said...
Does a walled city of around 2.5 square miles/about 6.5 square km holding 10k people seem legit? So about 4000/1500 people per square mile/kilometer. I'm aiming for a fairly dense population low magic-renaissance style city that used to have a somewhat higher population before a flu outbreak came through and improved the housing situation (maybe 4500 or 5000 people per square mile before, nothing crazy).

Thanks!
 

Wayne Mack

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I did a little research and the 2.5 square mile figure may be high, but the population size of 10,000 maybe accurate for a quite large city. Here are a pair reference from an internet search on 'medieval city size.'

"Most, however, averaged between five thousand and ten thousand people in population." bottom of page 2 - https://www.crsd.org/cms/lib/PA01000188/Centricity/Domain/924/Medieval towns.pdf

"Medieval cities were not only small population-wise but their dimensions hardly exceeded 1 square mile with more or less 300,000 residents." [I strongly suspect that the size of 300,000 residents is a type. Just before this it mentioned that "The Medieval city of London, for example, registered an approximate population of not more than 100,000" but I would guess that the 1 square mile would be accurate.] Medieval City
 

The Judge

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Actually, Dover did have walls -- but they were only around the town centre. Dover Maps - The Town Walls

As to population, if it's of help, Genoa was probably one of the most densely populated cities of the Renaissance. Looking at the figures on Wikipedia, around 1400 it had a population in the region of 117,000 people, and the city walls at that time enclosed an area of only 155 hectares (less than 0.6 sq miles according to a converter I've used). However... the buildings in medieval Genoa are very different from those constructed in medieval England -- have a look at the images of the centro storico and you'll see what I mean -- so it's not just a question of how many people in how small a space, but what kind of living accomodation you're giving them. English towns often had burgage plots with gardens/workshops/orchards behind the street frontage, and since we can still see evidence of them today, I imagine in the 1400/1500s they'd have still been present in some places, depending on the pressure of housing.

I know Chichester, Southampton, Portsmouth and Shrewsbury had city walls, so it might be worth trying to find out acreage and populations there.
 

Bramandin

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I didn't read this article, but it's a pretty old city in England. York - Wikipedia Also the thing where the building is larger on the top floor is partially a space-saving technique.

I'm having trouble with that sort of thing as well. I threw my village into the topography of Baños de Agua Santa a city in Ecuador’s Tungurahua but I'm not sure if it makes mathematical sense to have them be as isolated as an island.
 

Fiberglass Cyborg

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I didn't read this article, but it's a pretty old city in England. York - Wikipedia Also the thing where the building is larger on the top floor is partially a space-saving technique.

I'm having trouble with that sort of thing as well. I threw my village into the topography of Baños de Agua Santa a city in Ecuador’s Tungurahua but I'm not sure if it makes mathematical sense to have them be as isolated as an island.
York represent! Rather handily, we still have most of the late Medieval city walls, so you can look at a street map and compare their dimensions to that of a rather small modern city. IRRC, it's about 2 square miles.
 

MaxRelaxman

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Thanks for the great info! Your guys rock \m/

I might toss the walls, they were originally there to give a sense of claustrophobia when I was writing up the original idea but I haven't used it yet. Still on the first draft though, so that might change. I mean at the same time I had to increase the size of the city to make it big enough to contain some of the stuff the story needs so the feeling of being enclosed kinda went out the window (maybe).

I have the burgage plots, they worked into the story so well, I had them before the I made the happy discovery that they were a thing.

York represent! Rather handily, we still have most of the late Medieval city walls, so you can look at a street map and compare their dimensions to that of a rather small modern city. IRRC, it's about 2 square miles.
My best friend went to The University of York in the early 90's as an exchange student, it seemed like such a great city from the way he described it. He hung out with a punk band called Goat Boy. Plus my favorite beer that I can't get in the US comes from there (curse you Guinness for robbing me of Old Peculier and Caffery's).
 

paranoid marvin

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Would there have been any large settlements (prior to the age of cannon) that didn't have walls and gates? They offer protection against external threat, control the movement of people, raise taxes on goods being taken into/out of the city and generally make the place more appealing to merchants and potential citizens.
 

MaxRelaxman

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Would there have been any large settlements (prior to the age of cannon) that didn't have walls and gates? They offer protection against external threat, control the movement of people, raise taxes on goods being taken into/out of the city and generally make the place more appealing to merchants and potential citizens.
That seems to be the case where people lived in raiding societies like the Irish Celts. Cities in the Roman empire didn't always have walls because the Legion was just that good.

I might be mis-reading because I'm still on my first coffee, but it looks like in England at least, some cities did and some didn't, with a fortified church or small castle being more common.

I might put the walls that haven't appeared yet back into the story. I'm still on the drafties of drafts so who knows :D
 

sknox

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Cities in the empire *usually* had walls.

Walls are not merely military. They keep wolves out. As marvin-the-paranoid says, walls and gates controlled the movement of people (citizens vs non-citizens), as well as the movement of goods (taxes and duties). They serve to funnel those goods to weighing stations. The walls don't need to be anything grand and certainly don't need to be powerful enough to stop an army.

Moreover, a Roman legion no matter how good, wasn't much help if it was too far away. In the Empire, this could mean being days away, and that's not counting the time it takes to send an urgent message requesting assistance, or the time it takes for the local governor to authorize the legion to march. Or to mobilize. If an enemy appeared, they could usually count on taking at least a few undefended places. The threat of the legions was more that if the invaders stuck around, they would face an engagement, and if they fled, they might be pursued into their homelands.

Which might not always be a bad thing. Looking at you, Varro!
 

Luiglin

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I didn't read this article, but it's a pretty old city in England. York - Wikipedia Also the thing where the building is larger on the top floor is partially a space-saving technique.

I'm having trouble with that sort of thing as well. I threw my village into the topography of Baños de Agua Santa a city in Ecuador’s Tungurahua but I'm not sure if it makes mathematical sense to have them be as isolated as an island.
For those who like geeky stuff the first floor bigger than the ground is called Jettying - Jettying - Wikipedia and Jettying - A Unique Architectural Style. I've always found these sort of buildings quite fascinating. Take a virtual Google street map stroll down Friar St in Worcester for some examples.
 

KiraAnn

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A casual search for population of "medieval London" shows it reached is current size (City of London, not metropolitan London) of 680 acres in 1200, with an estimated population of 30,000.

In the US, a section is the term for a square 1x1 miles and contains 640 acres. A quarter-section is 160 acres, and measures a half mile by half mile. A quarter of that, or a sixteenth of a section, would be 40 acres, and would measure a quarter mile by quarter mile.

You should be able to take it from there.
 

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