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You're looking at a bar chart race showing which cities had the largest populations at any time over history. We're going to start the race at 1500 A.D. In the early 1500s most people lived in the east, either the east of Europe and North Africa, or the east of the world itself in India and China-- two countries that would be a regular occurring feature as we get on.
As that century went on, Beijing went from being the largest city in the world to being encroached upon by Istanbul, which then took the lead around 1600. India and China again dominating here, but note how Paris, London, and Naples joined the ranks as other major European cities.
As the 1600s continue, note Tokyo rising up there into 2nd place. At this stage, Western Europe, India, and China are dominant but things are about to change. In the later 1700s the Industrial Revolution took hold. London, who is already among the top 3 cities in the world, but just wait to see what happens next. Keep an eye on that horizontal axis over the next few seconds.
London here is still under a million people. But as the 18th century turned into the 19th, it shot forward over a million. Look at that axis stretching out as London soars up hitting two million before 1850, and then racing on towards 3. All other cities pretty much left in the dust now.
Another thing to watch now is the North American cities come along. That continent was barely populated at the start of our time period. As we move into the 20th century, we have three North American cities and almost all the rest of European. But watch for our old friend Tokyo shooting up to the rankings again.
After the 2nd World War, Tokyo's population is around 10 million. But look at that now. It's doubled to 20 million within only about another 20 years, and then soon hits 30. The thing to note in the last 30 years of the period is those European cities in North American cities falling out of the ranks, and it's the emerging markets dominating with Asia, India, and Latin America.
The eagle eyed among you may have noted one city vanish, dropping from 2nd to third in the top 10, right out of this series altogether. That was in 1565 when the Indian city of Vijayanagara was conquered in a military conquest and then procedurally burned to the ground over a period of months. Pretty much nothing was left, and today only ruins survive.