One of the most important subdisciplines of geography is Urban Geography, that relates the study of various aspects of town, cities as well as urban processes. This subdiscipline is basically concerned with the structure, growth of urban areas, urban plannings, development, urban anthropology and many more. Urban Geography was developed by the research works of Anne Buttimer. Being influenced by her work, later on 1970s, David Hervey produced a descriptive work named 'Social Justice and the City' which established urban geography as a critical sub-discipline of geography.


Further development of urban geography put forward the concept of urban hierarchy, and urban geographers categorised urban areas into towns, cities and others, based on a number of parameters. By this way the concept of urban primacy, primate city, rank size rule began to develop alongside.

Primate City

Basically 'Primate City' refers to the largest city of a country, that is the largest in the context of urban hierarchy, generally based on population. It is the biggest city according to the rank size distribution, which may consists of a number of small urban areas, and any city of medium size does not exist in between it.

Eminent American geographer Mark Jefferson first introduced the concept of 'Primate City' in the year 1939.

Mark Jefferson (1863-1949)
According to him,
A primate city as being at least twice as large to the next largest city, and more than twice as significant.

The concept of primacy is noticed in the primate city. That means, a primate city tends to preside over the other cities of a country. For instance, it can be said that, London is a primate city. Almost the full economic base of United Kingdom is dependent on London.

Besides the size and economic influence, a primate city also deserves the anteriority for the society, as a centre of education, culture and political foundation.


Rank Size Rule

'Rank Size Rule' plays an important role both for the developed and developing countries. When the population of a city, of any country, exceedes 2000, then all other cities of the concerned country needs to arrange according to cumulative frequency of population.

It is an empirical statistical measure of the population size wise distribution of the cities of a country or a region. This idea was developed by George K. Zipf in the year 1949. The rule depicts that, whether all the cities of a country are being ranked in descending order of the population size, then the population of the 'n'th town or city will be 1/'n'th of the size of the largest or the first ranked city. This way, the population of the following cities, according to the rank size distribution, therefore will be arranged in the series of 1, 1/2, 1/3, 1/4, 1/5, 1/6, and so on.


The typical formula of rank size rule is mentioned below:


Here, "Pn" refers to the population of the 'n'th ranked city,
"p₁" refers to the population of the first ranked city,
"n" depicts the rank order position.

Diagrammatic Representation of Rank Size Rule

For the graphical representation, considering the rank number in the X-axis, and population size of each urban centres in the Y-axis (both in a logarithmic scale), all the urban centres are to be found plotted on a straight line, that is the theoritical rank size rule pattern.

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