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Top 10 World Cities Through History

For each year, name the 10 largest cities in the world of that year.
Source: "Four Thousand Years of Urban Growth: An Historical Census" by Tertius Chandler
As usual, we filled in the loosely-defined Ruhr area.
Quiz by kalbahamut
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Last updated: July 26, 2019
First submittedMay 27, 2014
Times taken39,164
Rating4.41
6:30
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1950 AD
12,463,000
New York
8,860,000
London
7,000,000
Tokyo
5,900,000
Paris
5,406,000
Shanghai
5,100,000
Moscow
5,000,000
Buenos Aires
4,906,000
Chicago
4,900,000
Ruhr Area
4,800,000
Kolkata
 
 
1900 AD
6,480,000
London
4,242,000
New York
3,330,000
Paris
2,707,000
Berlin
1,717,000
Chicago
1,698,000
Vienna
1,497,000
Tokyo
1,439,000
St. Petersburg
1,435,000
Manchester
1,418,000
Philadelphia
1800 AD
1,100,000
Beijing
861,000
London
800,000
Guangzhou
685,000
Edo
570,000
Constantinople
547,000
Paris
430,000
Naples
387,000
Hangzhou
383,000
Osaka
377,000
Kyoto
 
 
1500 AD
672,000
Beijing
500,000
Vijayanagar
400,000
Cairo
250,000
Hangzhou
250,000
Tabriz
200,000
Constantinople
200,000
Gaur
185,000
Paris
150,000
Guangzhou
147,000
Nanjing
1000 AD
450,000
Cordova
400,000
Kaifeng
300,000
Constantinople
200,000
Angkor
175,000
Kyoto
135,000
Cairo
125,000
Baghdad
125,000
Nishapur
110,000
Al-Hasa
100,000
Patan
 
 
100 AD
450,000
Rome
420,000
Luoyang
250,000
Seleucia
250,000
Alexandria
150,000
Antioch
130,000
Anuradhapura
120,000
Peshawar
100,000
Carthage
95,000
Suzhou
90,000
Smyrna
+5
level 24
May 27, 2014
Wow! Interesting quiz, but not easy.
+2
level 77
May 28, 2014
Added some type-ins and rearranged the columns so that they read left-to-right chronologically now instead of top-bottom.

Also, I'm aware that some other cities could have arguably been on the list. For example, Ephesus in Turkey in 100 AD, I found one source saying it had 250,000 inhabitants that year and another claiming 400,000. But given the sheer volume of conflicting evidence concerning historical population figures, I decided just to go with a single source, which I listed above. Any omissions/errors you can take up with the author. The quiz makes no claim to accuracy above and beyond accurately replicating the data from one book.
+1
level 77
May 28, 2014
Some other interesting omissions: in 1500 AD Cusco was estimated to have had as many as 300,000 residents, and Tenochitlan between 200 and 250 thousand. I found one source citing 400k for Madrid in 1800. I'm sure there are many others.
+1
level 45
Jun 14, 2014
Yeah, I tried Ephesus. Thanks for an amazing quiz.
+1
level 73
May 30, 2014
I figured Damascus was a more important city that it apparently was. Especially very early on.
+1
level 77
May 31, 2014
Damascus has been continually inhabited for 11,000 years, longer than any other city in the world. It has been an important city in many different empires and independent states throughout history, maybe reaching its height of significance in the 7th and 8th centuries when it was the capital of the Umayyad caliphate. There are probably a few points in history when Damascus would have made a top 10 list, but those points either come long before the year 100 AD (2000-9000 BC) or fall in between some of the other dates listed.
+1
level 77
May 31, 2014
The most important year on this quiz for the Muslim umma is 1000 AD, which is right around what most see as the golden age of Islam. But by that point the center of the Muslim world had shifted westward, as clear by the dominance of Cordoba in (what was then) Muslim Spain, and the rise of Cairo which was on its way to eclipsing Alexandria. Also very interesting to me was that Al-Hassa makes the top 10 list that year. This city is in Saudi Arabia, I think it's only the 15th or 20th largest city in the country currently. I knew that it was an old oasis town but never would have guessed before making this quiz that it was at one point one of the largest cities in the world.
+2
level 82
Jun 13, 2014
"An Historical Census" -- is that a typo or really called that? -- should've gotten more of the Japanese cities and perhaps one more Chinese one, but I found this one hard.
+1
level 77
Jun 13, 2014
Why would it be a typo? You haven't heard people argue about whether "an" or "a" should come before the word "history" before?
+2
level 82
Jun 17, 2016
Nope, I hadn't heard about that one before. Interesting.
+2
level 78
Jun 13, 2014
Rome was much bigger than that in 100AD.
+4
level 77
Jun 13, 2014
According to some estimates. I take it you were there?
+1
level 77
Jun 13, 2014
In general I think that the author was erring on the side of conservative estimates, as historical reports of population figures are often exaggerated sometimes by orders of magnitude. For another example, when I was just looking up Gaur to answer a commenter below, I found that someone reported 1.2 million people lived there in the 16th century, much more than the 200,000 figure given in the source for this quiz. But since all of this information is coming from the same place I'm just going to trust that the same methodology and criteria was used across the board and not try to do any second-guessing.
+2
level 78
Apr 15, 2015
Well, the highest estimates speak of 2 million inhabitants during the "golden age" of Rome, i.e. the second century. I guess it must have been somewhere between the two, but I usually consider Rome as the first city in History to reach one million, precisely somewhere around 100 AD...
+1
level 77
Apr 15, 2015
Most estimates I've seen are north of 450,000. Though I don't think I've ever seen 2 million before. Still, going with a single source solves a lot more problems than it creates, so I'm sticking with Chandler's (perhaps conservative) figures.
+2
level 45
Jun 13, 2014
What/where is Gaur?
+2
level 63
Jun 13, 2014
India
+1
level 77
Jun 13, 2014
Here

I added as extra type-ins the modern name and other aliases for the city, not that it will help many people get it. Fairly obscure.
+1
level 51
May 8, 2018
Gaur is currently the region in and around Malda in WB, India. It was the capital of the Pala Dynastar
+1
level 76
Jun 13, 2014
Must have missed Shanghai and Kolkata because of spelling because I know I typed them. I think I spelled Kolkata with two t's. No idea what I did to Shanghai.
+1
level 77
Jun 13, 2014
Calcutta will be accepted for Kolkata.
+1
level 76
Oct 26, 2017
This time it was Guangzhou. I typed it, but must have spelled it wrong. I used to be a great speller and would probably have been a member of the spelling police on this site, but spelling is another thing that I'm losing as I get older and I am now much more sympathetic to those who have spelling difficulties.
+2
level 67
Jun 13, 2014
Man, always forget Vijayanagar.
+1
level 71
Jun 14, 2014
That was funny
+1
level 49
Jun 4, 2017
Thanks world history...
+1
level 38
Jun 16, 2014
All but New York.... must've thought I already typed it in.
+1
level 44
Aug 1, 2014
Excellent quiz. just need more time.
+1
level 77
Aug 1, 2014
seems to be a running theme. I guess I'm a little more strict than some when it comes to putting time limits on my quizzes. In my subjective opinion I find quizzes that have *too much* time to sometimes be boring... after you get through all the answers you know quickly and you've still got 7 minutes left on the clock where you are just taking wild stabs in the dark... but, as usual, you can turn off the timer if you like.
+1
level 52
Dec 5, 2014
could you accept izmir for smyrna?
+2
level 77
Dec 5, 2014
Sure. I actually just found out today that they were the same place. A few hours before you posted this comment. Weird.
+1
level 61
Mar 11, 2015
I wrote Hangzhou at the last second just for trying haha. However, nice quiz! 25/44.
+1
level 26
May 19, 2015
If you don't mind me asking, I believe when I typed Athens, Edo was accepted. Are those names synonymous for the same city or were they for different time periods or places?
+2
level 77
May 19, 2015
Edo and Tokyo are the same city. Typing in Athens won't get you anything.
+1
level 71
Jun 7, 2015
Nishapur as you mentioned is and was formally pronounced as Neyshabur. please accept this one too.
+1
level 57
Jul 8, 2015
Cool Quiz!
+1
level 77
Sep 2, 2015
Hey QM...

it seems that when you converted this to the new format you made the groups order up to down instead of left to right... which I think is probably a mistake. Don't know if you can fix that or not.
+1
level ∞
Sep 3, 2015
That's the intended behavior. A side effect of making the site more mobile friendly. Otherwise, if viewed on a phone, the years would be interlaced. The long term solution will be to add an option for "outer rows" as well as "outer columns". That's not possible right now though.
+1
level 77
Sep 3, 2015
I suspected this was the answer. But... is that really what you want? I love this site.. but... IMO... it's still dumb to come here on a mobile device. What % of your visits come from mobile devices?
+2
level 60
Jan 20, 2017
Why not just set it to scroll mode and keep things the way they were? That way mobile and computer users will benefit :)
+1
level 47
Dec 23, 2015
Forgot about all American cities (Massive Facepalm)
+3
level 77
Mar 22, 2016
Angkor! What?
+3
level 77
Mar 22, 2016
Fira leads to Angkor. Angkor leads to Haiti. Haiti leads to San Francisco...
+1
level 24
Jun 23, 2016
Great quiz but where are Cuzco and Tenochtitlan?
+1
level 77
Jun 23, 2016
The source I was using estimates their populations as significantly lower than some other sources.
+1
level 21
Sep 25, 2016
o.O
+1
level 27
Dec 1, 2016
Wow, if these numbers are right it's pretty astonishing how fast Tokyo grew between 1900 and 1950!
+2
level 77
Dec 1, 2016
It grew even faster between 1950 and 2015!
+1
level 69
Jun 4, 2017
Only got 20/44, but pleased to have gotten at least 3 in each era, including Carthage. For some reason, Lost Nation, Iowa didn't show up on this one. :-P
+1
level 80
Jun 4, 2017
Vijayanagar: 2%
Anuradhapura: 1%
Patan: 0%

I don't know why, I just find it weird (or interesting [or both]) how the ones that are harder to spell have a percentage higher than Patan.
+1
level 42
Jun 5, 2017
I put the full "Saint Petersburg" but the quiz wouldn't take it
+2
level 77
Jun 5, 2017
I think you must have made a typo
+2
level 41
Jun 5, 2017
New York was not 12 million in 1950
+2
level 77
Jun 5, 2017
Cool. Maybe you should write a book.
+1
level 67
Oct 27, 2017
... I get a failing grade, and it's better than more than 80% of people...
+1
level 73
Jun 17, 2018
21 of 44, just under half, was better than 87.2%. Very tough test.
+1
level 73
Jun 17, 2018
Very surprised Tenochitlan (Aztec Mexico City) didn't make the list.
+1
level 69
Jun 27, 2018
Hangchow is accepted but Soochow is not.
+1
level 77
Jun 27, 2018
pending
+1
level 62
Nov 4, 2018
Tunis should be accepted for Carthage.
+1
level 77
Nov 5, 2018
Arguable
+1
level 60
Nov 25, 2018
Wasn't Carthage utterly destroyed by Rome in 146BC whereupon they spread salt on the soil so that nothing would ever come out of it? I mean I'm guessing they built a new city since the location is strategic within the mediterranean and for trade but did they call it Carthage as well?
+2
level 77
Nov 26, 2018
The Wiki article on the history of Carthage states that there is no evidence for the salting of the Earth after the 3rd Punic War, and that Carthage became a Roman city following it, though the Romans moved the capital of the new province to nearby Utica. The city has persisted to this day and is now a suburb of Tunis.
+1
level 41
Mar 8, 2019
I got 24/44 and equaled or beat 96% of the quizzers. This quiz is really not easy!!! Great job, kalbahamut!
+1
level 28
Apr 24, 2019
Glad to see that Smyrna, Georgia made the list!
+1
level 77
Apr 24, 2019
Georgia (the country) is not too far away but I assume you mean the US state. Anyway the Smyrna on this quiz is better known today as Izmir, Turkey.
+1
level 30
Apr 25, 2019
Great quiz Kal. I can't believe the amount of cities that I missed that I knew, but didn't consider. I thought about typing Kyoto, Baghdad, and many others, but for some reason I never did.
+1
level 49
Jul 25, 2019
Ctesiphon should really be an alternative type-in for Seleucia.
+1
level 77
Jul 25, 2019
Debatable, as I think in 100 AD the two cities were across a river from one another and hadn't yet merged in to one. But I went ahead and added it as a type-in.
+1
level 30
Jul 25, 2019
Is it possible that Leningrad could be accepted for St. Petersburg?
+1
level 77
Jul 25, 2019
ok
+1
level 43
Aug 29, 2019
As a porteño, I never expected to see Buenos Aires there.