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View from Empire State Building towards Midtown Manhattan, New York City, USA

A city is a place where many people live close together.

A city has many buildings and streets. It has houses, hotels, condominiums, and apartments for many people to live in, shops where they may buy things, places for people to work, and a government to run the city and keep law and order in the city. People live in cities because it is easy for them to find and do everything they want there. A city usually has a "city center" where government and business occur and suburbs where people live outside the center.


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No rule is used worldwide to decide why some places are called "city," and other places are called "town."

Some things that make a city are :

  • A long history. Although many cities today have only been around for tens or hundreds of years, there are a few which have been so for thousands of years. For example, Athens, Greece was founded in 1000 BC and Istanbul, Turkey has existed since 700 AD.
  • A large population. Cities can have millions of people living in and around them. Among them are Tokyo, Japan, and the Tokyo Metropolis around it, which includes Yokohama and Chiba.
  • In Japan, the population of a city ( 市 ) is at least over 50,000 people.[1] and among cities, there are various grades according to laws, which the central government of Japan governs.
  • A center where business and government takes place. The first case is often described as the financial capital, such as Frankfurt in Germany. The second case is true for different levels of government, whether they are local or part of a larger region (for example, Atlanta, Georgia, or the capital of the United States Washington, D.C.) Cities that contain the government of the region it is in are called capitals. Almost every country has its own capital.
  • Special powers called town privileges which have been given by the government of the country or its ruler. Europe during the Middle Ages was a great example of having town privileges.
  • Having a cathedral or a university. This rule is found in the United Kingdom. The smallest "cathedral cities" are St. David's and St. Asaph's which are both in Wales, Ripon and Wells which are in England.

In American English, people often call all places where many people live cities.[2] (See below: Size of cities )

Size of cities

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The River Thames is part of London's transport system. This picture shows the "City of London."
Tokyo, is the world's most populous metropolitan area.

The sizes of cities can be very different. This depends on the type of city. Cities built hundreds of years ago and which have not changed much are much smaller than modern cities. There are two main reasons. One reason is that old cities often have a city wall, and most of the city is inside it. Another important reason is that the streets in old cities are often narrow. If the city got too big, it was hard for a cart carrying food to get to the marketplace. People in cities need food, and the food always has to come from outside the city.

Cities that were on a river like London could grow much bigger than cities that were on a mountain like Siena in Italy, because the river made a transport route for carrying food and other goods, as well as for transporting people. London has been changing continually for hundreds of years, while Siena, a significant city in the 1300s, has changed very little in 700 years.

Modern cities with modern transport systems can grow very large, because the streets are wide enough for cars, buses, and trucks, and there are often railway lines.

U.S.A. usage

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In the US, the word "city" is often used for towns that are not very big. When the first European people went to America, they named "city" to new places. They hoped the places would be great cities in the future. For example, Salt Lake City was the name given to a village of 148 people. When they started building the town, they made street plans and called it Great Salt Lake City (for the nearby Great Salt Lake). Now, 150 years later, it really is a big city.

Los Angeles, which sounds like a single city, is really made of a number of cities which over the years have become amalgamated. It now covers a huge area which goes by the name of Los Angeles. The city is governed by a Common Council only since 1948.

Growth of cities

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In modern times many cities have grown bigger and bigger. The whole area is often called a "metropolis" and usually includes several ancient small towns and villages. The metropolis of London includes London, Westminster, and many old villages such as Notting Hill, Southwark, Richmond, Greenwich, etc. The part that is officially known as the "City of London" only takes up one square mile. The rest is known as "Greater London". Many other cities have grown in the same way. In general speech, it is all a city. But, confusingly, that includes the City of London.

Modern cities have many problems. Not everyone has jobs in the cities and they often get money by begging or by crime. Automobiles, factories, and waste create a lot of pollution that makes people sick. Roads are crowded and traffic is slow. The cause of all this is population growth.

Historically, a big problem with cities was the water supply, which periodically got contaminated. That was fixed by an extraordinary man, Joseph Bazalgette. He was the first man to solve this problem, which had plagued mankind since at least Roman times. There are parts of the world where his ideas are still not understood.

Urban history

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Carcassonne is an ancient city in France.

Urban history is history of civilization. The first cities were made in ancient times, as soon as people began to create civilizations. The oldest city on Earth is probably Catal Huyuk, which existed from 7500 to 6500BC. Famous ancient cities which fell to ruins included Babylon, Troy, Mycenae and Mohenjo-daro.

Benares in northern India is one among the ancient cities which has a history of more than 3000 years. Other cities that have existed since ancient times are Athens in Greece, Rome and Volterra in Italy, Alexandria in Egypt.

In Europe in the Middle Ages, being a city was a special privilege, granted by nobility. Cities that fall into this category, usually had (or still have) city walls. This shows that security was one pf the problems of a city. The people who lived in the city were privileged over those who did not. Medieval cities that still have walls include Carcassonne in France, Tehran in Iran, Toledo in Spain, and York and Canterbury in England.


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A sewer built in Ancient Rome.

People in a city live close together, so they cannot grow all their own food or gather their own water or energy. People also create waste and need a place to put it. Modern cities have infrastructure to solve these problems. Pipes carry running water, and power lines carry electricity. Sewers take away the dirty water and human waste (see Bazelguette). Most cities collect garbage to take it to a landfill, burn it, or recycle it.

Transport is any way of getting from one place to another. Cities have roads which are used by automobiles (including trucks), buses, motorcycles, bicycles, and pedestrians (people walking). Some cities have trains and larger cities have airports. Many people in cities travel to work each day, which is called commuting.

Buildings and design

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Houses and apartments are common places to live in cities. Great numbers of people in developing countries (and developed countries, in the past) live in slums. A slum is poorly built housing, without clean water, where people live very close together. Buildings are usually taller in the city center, and some cities have skyscrapers.

City streets can be shaped like a grid, or as a "wheel and spokes": a set of rings and lines coming out from the center. Streets in some older cities like London are arranged at random, without a pattern. The design of cities is a subject called urban planning. One area of the city might have only shops, and another area might have only factories. Cities have parks, and other public areas like city squares.

United States politics

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Downtown Dallas, Texas, is a Democratic stronghold.

Cities in the US are usually very-left leaning. The best examples of these would be New York, New York, and Washington, D.C. For example, in Louisiana, the only Democratic delegate in US Congress who is a Democrat was elected from a district comprising in New Orleans. Below is a list of states and the major city/cities that provide much of the liberal support in them :

  1. Atlanta, Georgia: 5 of the 16 delegates representing Georgia in the US Congress are Democrats. All hail from districts in Atlanta.
  2. New Orleans, Louisiana: the only Democratic delegate from Louisiana in the US Congress was elected from a New Orleans district.
  3. Kansas City, Kansas: the only Democratic congressman from Kansas was elected from a district in Kansas City.
  4. Las Vegas, Nevada: all of the Democrats in the US House who represent Nevada are from Las Vegas.
  5. Salt Lake City, Utah: the only Democrat representing Utah in the US Congress was elected from a Salt Lake City district.
  6. Chicago, Illinois: if it weren't for Chicago, the state of Illinois would be as conservative as Indiana.
  7. Louisville, Kentucky: the only Democrat representing Kentucky in the US Congress was elected from a Louisville district.

World's largest cities

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In Rio de Janeiro, a city famous for its beauty, large slums lie between the richest districts. Many of the world's large cities have areas of poverty like this.
The capital of the Malaysian province of Kuala. The capital is Kuala Lumpur.

These cities have more than 10 million people and can be called megacities:[3]

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  1. "総務省|地方自治制度|地方公共団体の区分". 総務省 (in Japanese). Retrieved 2020-08-20.
  2. In the USA, on forms (papers asking for information), the word "City" is generally used for the place where a person lives, even if the person who wants to write in the form might live in a city, a town, or a village or hamlet (a tiny village).
  3. "World Urbanization Prospects 2018" (PDF). United Nations. New York. 2019. Archived (PDF) from the original on 11 February 2020. Retrieved 14 April 2020.