Author | Marcos MartínezThe term city-state dates back to ancient history, although it has become a current topic of conversation among politicians and economists. Empowering cities with new legal frameworks designed to provide them with greater financial and administrative independence, indeed, is a well-established trend across both industrialized nations (which tend to prioritize urban over rural) and developing ones (following the freeport strategy) interested in increasing the competitiveness of their cities in a globalized world. Although few of these modern cities have true state-like powers.
What is a city state?
Although the Sumerian city-states of Uruk or Lagash (5,000 BC) are very different to the Singapore or Hong Kong of today, the underlying concept is the same: the city has autonomy and it is the state. However, there is a notable difference between the past and the present: city-states of today are not self-sufficient. They depend on external commerce. There are also notable differences and similarities between them: from cities that are thousands of years old such as Hamburg, to the “new” cities with metropolitan areas covering wide insular territories, such as Singapore.
Hamburg, a “free city” since records beganThe history of Hamburg (Germany) is interesting insofar as a small space covering only a few square kilometres has managed to preserve its autonomy, while also forming part of a state such as Germany. This is the example of how the identity of a sufficient part of the population can establish pressure to endure, for centuries.In 1189, the Holy Germanic Roman Emperor granted the city the status of Free Imperial City, a status that it has managed to maintain (with changes) through various reigns and governing systems. What is now known as the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg survived:
- The German Confederation (1815-1866),
- The North German Federation (1866-1871),
- The German Empire (1871-1918),
- The Weimar Republic (1919-1933),
- Nazi Germany (1934-1945),
- The British occupation (1945-1949),
- The German Federal Republic.