The Intellectual History of Cities

The purpose of this research project is to sketch the broad intellectual history of the role self-governing cities have played in economic and political development, from ancient times to the present.

Project Notes


The aim should be to provide short summaries and excerpts of the most important strands of thought from the most integral thinkers on cities, in one central document. These summaries—strung together in one tapestry across time—should weave a story of how self-governing cities throughout history have kick-started commercial development, which in turn fostered economic and political development. Readers should be left with the sense that the intellectual tradition behind the charter cities movement—rather than being novel, weird, or avant-garde—is, in fact, one of the oldest and most well-established traditions in international development, and that this tradition has, for some reason, been lost in the modern development discourse. It should also reaffirm to readers that CCI is at the forefront of working to reinsert this tradition, and by doing so, forging a new future of development by better understanding its past.

For those interested in pursuing such a project, please get in touch with CCI staff—in particular, Kurtis Lockhart ( and Jeffrey Mason ( When reaching out please send over both a CV and a short cover letter explaining why you’re the right person to tackle this project.