• Peter J

    Not much to say really; historically cities have always been the same in a geo-political sense. Sean has interchanged large cities and capital cities throughout the article . They are of course not the same: USA, Australia, South Africa and Holland for example have smaller or multiple capital cities thus weakening the draining effect that the largest capital cities have.

  • Tom O’Neill

    It’s a charming theory – but according to the stats I’m looking at, Zipf’s Law doesn’t seem to apply to the UK:
    London pop. 7.8m
    Birmingham 970,000
    Leeds 715,000
    Glasgow 578,000

  • Billmac

    @2 I think this is because of the corrupt dictatorship (or total political failure) that breaks Zipf’s law. London drains the life from the rest of the country and spends our money on itself (eg.: the millenium dome) and what other country in the world has hosted the Olympics three times but only in the one city?

  • n

    The population of any city is a reflection of arbitrary historical boundaries. If you look at the population of urban areas you get:
    London 8.2 million
    Birminghan 2.2 million
    Manchester 2.2 million
    Glasgow 1.2 million
    Newcastle 1.1 million
    Liverpool 0.8 million
    Edinburgh 0.8 million

    These figures would seem to match the theory, except that the UK is missing its second city with a population in the order of 4 million, but instead has at least two third rank cities and a fair number of fourth rank cities. Possibly because London is not only a national capital but also a world capital city with an enormous alien population

  • Jim Bunting

    Theory – Emperor’s new clothes.
    Come out with some Crap and somebody will believe you!
    At the very least, Bill gets his history sorted before quoting it.
    Functions of functions – meaningless nonsense with an undefined start, there is always a naught in there somewhere….

  • Jim Bunting

    Theory – Emperor’s new clothes.
    Come out with some Crap and somebody will believe you!
    At the very least, Bill gets his history sorted before quoting it.
    Functions of functions – meaningless nonsense with an undefined start, there is always a naught in there somewhere….

  • Tony

    If Scotland votes for, and gets independence, it seems to go against Zipf’s law regarding Edinburgh and Glasgow.
    Will we see a huge increase in Edinburgh’s population if Scotland is independent.

  • Critic Al Rick

    Nevermind Zipf’s Law, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that London is a huge parasite upon the rest of the UK.

    The forthcoming Olympic Games are a stark reminder; mostly paid for from the rest of the UK the main beneficiaries will be within the M25. Furthermore, as an example from what I can gather, the tourist industry outside of London may will be adversely affected as a direct result of this extravaganza.

    Not only is the parasite sucking the life blood out of its host it is also injecting it with poison.

  • Mark B

    I have never heard of Zipf’s Law before, and I’m struggling to think of countries where it might be said to work. The following are definite nos: UK, USA, Mexico, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Australia, Holland, Denmark, Ireland, India. It might work in Japan, Canada, Brazil, South Africa, Switzerland, Turkey, Greece, Russia. But it might not. It all depends on how tight you measure. Realistically, it’s a bonkers theory.

  • Martin Veart

    A useful idea rather than a law. To take the UK examples above, London will remain dominant because its industries: politics, media and finance, have not declined, unlike the manufacturing bases of the Midlands and North. Devolution will doubtlessly benefit Edinburgh over Glasgow but that city has a far longer history of manufacture and trade.
    Finally strict greenbelt planning laws or even geography (Edinburgh again) act to restrict city growth.

  • Richard Pennington

    Belgium and Austria have capital cities (Brussels and Vienna) which are far too big for Zipf’s Law. Vienna, of course, was the capital of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire, but Brussels?

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