FP7-IDEAS-ERC World Seastems

Globalization, regionalization, urbanization: an analysis of the worldwide maritime network since the early 18th century

Co-evolution of urban development and maritime flows

On a local level, main efforts will be put on further understanding the co-evolution of maritime transport and urban development, thereby providing novel evidence about the evolution of cities in general and port cities in particular. Earlier contributions about the evolution of cities and regions from a maritime perspective remain theoretical (Murphey, 1989; Hoyle, 1989; Fujita and Mori, 1996) as a large-scale validation is lacking. Successive phases of synergy and separation between port and urban spaces and functions are often attributed to the impact of several factors such as technological change fostering port competition and traffic concentration, urban diversification towards more advanced functions, with respective planning decisions and imperatives to sustain or relocate port activities within the urban space. Port cities thus provide a perfect example of how certain locations evolve by absorbing innovations in specific sectors (Pumain et al., 2009) that in turn reinforce or modify their rank and specialization in the hierarchy of urban places. The World Seastems project thus wishes to reveal the path-dependency of urban development in relation to maritime flows and the uneven adaptability of cities to technological and economic changes. It will revisit earlier models of transport network evolution (Taaffe et al., 1963) by shedding more light on the long-term dimension of port dynamics, in terms of concentration and competition.

Because cities and systems of cities are often studied from a continental perspective (see Bretagnolle and Pumain, 2010), the combined analysis of maritime networks and land-based transport networks will challenge existing models of urban systems and their evolution (e.g. Christaller's central place theory) as well as the specificity of "gateway cities" (Bird, 1977). The project will thus provide a more complete picture of the centrality of cities while elucidating the difference between port cities and non-port cities. Although some recent efforts have been made to calculate the multimodal accessibility of cities on a world or European level, the results remain highly static (European Union, 2010). The local impacts of lowering spatial friction over hinterlands and lowering maritime transport costs are not yet sufficiently understood. As stated by Slack (1993), ports belong to a global transport system where gateways focus on hinterland accessibility and intermediate hubs target maritime transhipment (Rodrigue et al., 2009). This analysis shall focus dominantly on the post-1890 period when industrial and transport revolutions really started to influence continental communication systems such as roads, railways, canals, warehousing, and related industrial developments and also due to the difficulty accessing detailed land network information.