The Biggest Cities and How They Grew (or Didn’t)

Cities are the world’s most crowded places. Even in ancient times, there were many large cities in the world, though ancient cities had far fewer people than today’s cities. When the first edition of The World Book Encyclopedia was published in 1917, its “City” article ranked London as the world’s largest city. London had a population of 7,252,963. 100 years later, in the 2017 edition, World Book lists Tokyo as the world’s largest city, with a population of 38,065,000. London is ranked No. 28 on the list of the 100 largest cities, with a population of 10,418,000. In 1917, Tokyo, then spelled “Tokio,” ranked No. 6 on the list of the 50 largest cities. “Tokio” had a population of 2,033,321. Some of the top 10 largest cities 100 years ago no longer rank among even the 50 largest cities in World Book’s 2017 article.

Top 10 largest cities of the world 100 years ago (from World Book’s 1917 edition)

1. London, United Kingdom – 7,252,963 (No. 28 in 2017; pop. 10,418,000)

2. New York City, United States – 5,602,841 (No. 10 in 2017; pop. 18,633,000)

3. Paris, France – 2,888,110 (No. 25 in 2017; pop. 10,927,000)

4. Chicago, United States – 2,497,722 (No. 39 in 2017; pop. 8,770,000)

5. Berlin, Germany – 2,071,257 (Not among 50 largest cities in 2017; pop. 3,292,365)

6. Tokio, Japan – 2,033,321 (Now spelled Tokyo; No. 1 in 2017; pop. 38,065,000)

7. Vienna, Austria – 2,031,498 (Not among 50 largest cities in 2017; pop. 1,714,227)

8. Petrograd, Russia – 2,019,000 (Now called St. Petersburg; No. 77; pop. 4,998,000)

9. Philadelphia, United States – 1,709,518 (No. 68 in 2017; pop. 5,610,000)

10. Moscow, Russia – 1,618,000 (No. 22 in 2017; pop. 12,227,000)



Top 10 largest cities of the world today (World Book’s 2017 edition)

1. Tokyo, Japan – 38,065,000 (No. 6 in 1917; pop. 2,033,321)

2. Delhi, India – 26,385,000 (Not among 50 largest cities of the world in 1917)

3. Shanghai, China – 24,376,000 (No. 33 in 1917; pop. 651,000)

4. Mumbai, India – 21,387,000 (Called Bombay in 1917; No. 17 in 1917; pop. 979,445)

5. São Paulo, Brazil – 21,272,000 (Not among 50 largest cities of the world in 1917)

6. Mexico City, Mexico – 21,169,000 (Not among 50 largest cities of the world in 1917)

7. Beijing, China – 21,084,000 (Called Peking in 1917; No. 29 in 1917; pop. 690,000)

8. Osaka, Japan – 20,294,000 (No. 14 in 1917; pop. 1,226,590)

9. Cairo, Egypt – 19,115,000 (No. 32 in 1917; pop. 654,476)

10. New York City, United States – 18,633,000 (No. 2 in 1917; pop. 5,602,841)



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