Jane Jacobs' ‘Cities First’ Model and Archaeological Reality

Michael E. Smith, Jason Ur, Gary M. Feinman
  • International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, April 2014, Wiley
  • DOI: 10.1111/1468-2427.12138

Jane Jacobs was wrong about cities preceding agriculture

What is it about?

We present archaeological evidence that shows, conclusively, that Jane Jacobs claim (in The Economy of Cities) that cities preceded agriculture, is incorrect. Furthermore, we show that such evidence existed and was common knowledge when Jacobs was writing; she should have known better. Finally, we criticize geographers and planners who choose to believe the incorrect claims of Jane Jacobs instead of looking at the (readily available) evidence themselves.

Why is it important?

Jane Jacobs was a hugely influential urban writer with a large following today. Because of this, people tend to believe anything she published. We argue that it is important to investigate the basis for historical claims, rather than relying on the opinion of someone who was not an expert in that field.


Michael Smith
Arizona State University

It is especially distressing that this error - the claim that cities preceded agriculture in world history - has become enshrined in introductory textbooks in geography and planning.

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The following have contributed to this page: Michael Smith and Jason Ur

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