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Vintage Viz: World Cities With 1 Million Residents (1800–1930)

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The vintage visualization below is in German and was published in 1930. For a full explanation, read the accompanying article.

A chart from our vintage viz series showing world cities with one million residents between 1800 and 1930.

World Cities With At Least 1 Million Residents (1800–1930)

This chart is the latest in our Vintage Viz series, which presents historical visualizations along with the context needed to understand them.

The explosive world population boom in the last 300 years is common knowledge today. Much and more has been written about how and why it happened, why it was unusual, and how the specter of a declining population for the first time in three centuries could impact human society.

However, equally compelling, is how people in the past—those living in the midst of the early waves of this boom—were fascinated by what they were witnessing.

Evidence of this comes from today’s vintage visualization, denoting the increasing number of world cities with at least one million inhabitants through the years.

The above pictogram was made by Austrian philosopher and sociologist Otto Neurath (1882–1945), found in his book, Society and Economy, published in 1930.

World Population Doubles Between 1800 and 1930

In 1800, the world population crossed 1 billion for the first time ever.

In the next 130 years, it doubled past 2 billion.

The Second Agricultural Revolution, characterized by massive land and labor productivity, grew agricultural output more than the population and is one of the key drivers of this population growth.

And in the pictogram above, where one silhouette indicates one million inhabitants, this exponential population growth becomes far more vivid.

In 1800, for example, according to the creator’s estimates, only London had at least million residents. A century later, 15 cities now boasted of the same number. Then, three decades hence, 37 cities across the world had one million inhabitants.

YearCities with One Million Residents
18001
190015
193037

Importantly, the data above is based on the creator’s estimates from a century ago, and does not include Beijing (then referred to as Peking in English) in 1800. Historians now agree that the city had more than a million residents, and was the largest city in the world at the time.

Another phenomenon becoming increasingly apparent is growing urbanization—food surplus frees up large sections of the population from agriculture, driving specialization in other skills and trade, in turn leading to congregations in urban centers.

Other visualizations in the same book covered migration, Indigenous peoples, labor, religion, trade, and natural resources, reflecting the creator’s interest in the social life of individuals and their well-being.

Who Was Otto Neurath and What is His Legacy?

This vintage visualization might seem incredibly simple, simplistic even, considering how we map out population data today. But the creator Otto Neurath, and his wife Marie, were pioneers in the field of visual communication.

One of their notable achievements was the creation of the Vienna Method of pictorial statistics, which aimed to represent statistical information in a visually accessible way—the forerunner to modern-day infographics.

The Neuraths believed in using clear and simple visual language to convey complex information to a broad audience, an approach that laid the foundation for modern information design.

They fled Austria during the rise of the Nazi regime and spent their later years in various countries, including the UK. Otto Neurath’s influence on graphic design, visual communication, and the philosophy of language has endured, and his legacy is still recognized in these fields today.

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Countries

Mapped: The Population of China and India in Perspective

We compare the populations of India and China to other top countries and regions for a unique perspective on the world’s demographics.

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The Population of China and India in Perspective

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

China and India, the world’s two most populous countries, each boast populations exceeding 1.4 billion people.

To put this into perspective, we visualized populations of China and India beside other leading countries and regions. All figures are for 2023, and were accessed via Worldometer.

Data and Key Takeaways

All of the data we used to create this graphic is listed in the table below.

Country / RegionPopulation (2023)
🌍 Africa1,460,481,772
🇮🇳 India1,428,627,663
🇨🇳 China1,425,671,352
🌎 Latin America & the Caribbean664,997,121
🇪🇺🇬🇧 EU plus UK516,659,018
🇺🇸 U.S.339,996,563
🇮🇩 Indonesia277,534,122

From these figures, we can see that the entire population of Africa (currently the fastest growing region in the world) barely surpasses that of China and India.

The populations of China and India are each more than double the size of Latin America and the Caribbean, and nearly triple that of the European Union (including the UK).

Fast Facts on Global Population

Here are some important figures to know regarding the world’s population:

  • China accounts for 17.7% of the world’s population, while India represents a slightly larger 17.8% share.
  • Africa is the fastest growing region in the world, with annual growth of about 2.4%.
  • Europe is the only region in the world that is shrinking, at about -0.17% annually.

Learn More About Demographics from Visual Capitalist

If you enjoy graphics like these, be sure to check out Population Projections: The World’s 6 Largest Countries in 2075.

It reveals a startling contrast between the trajectories of China and India, with the latter peaking at 1.7 billion in the mid-2060s.

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