Small Cities? Towards a Research Agenda


This article asserts the importance of studying small cities. We argue that small cities have been ignored by urban theorists who, in seeking to conceptualize broad urban agendas and depict generalizable models (for example relating to epochal urbanism, the structure and nature of the urban hierarchy, global cities and global city‐regions), have tended to obscure as much as they illuminate. Given that study of ‘the city’ has been vital to broader advances in the social sciences, this neglect of smaller urban centres has profound consequences for urban studies. We argue that this situation needs to be rectified. We review literature relating to small cities and signpost a future research agenda. In doing so, we highlight how conceptual and empirical research into small cities can contribute to broader arguments that have championed the necessity of developing sophisticated and nuanced comparative approaches to understanding the complexity of cities and urban life. This article challenges urbanists to think big about thinking small.