Standard Article

Rural–urban migrations, medieval era

Migration A–Z


  1. Regina Schäfer

Published Online: 4 FEB 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781444351071.wbeghm464

The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration

The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration

How to Cite

Schäfer, R. 2013. Rural–urban migrations, medieval era. The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 4 FEB 2013


Rural–urban migration, is the most frequent type of migration and a phenomenon that is well known to all urban societies. In the Ancient world, as well as in China during the Song Dynasty, and in the Islamic world after 1000 ce, big cities existed and held a strong attraction for the rural population. In the western part of the post-Roman empire which is the focus of the following discussion, the economic and social system of the ancient world with its three components, namely oppida, vici, and villae, lost its importance and finally broke down during the upheaval of the “Migration Period.” This change was followed by a period of stabilization in the 7th century. In the 8th century, different types of urban centers came into existence: (1) the rebirth of towns with an ancient substrate; (2) the relocation to areas with new topographic conditions; and (3) the new foundation of towns without any ancient references either as emporia along the coast or on rural sites, for example Douai or Liège, which emanate from manorial nuclei (Verslype 2001).


  • farming;
  • food;
  • famine;
  • archaeology;
  • empire;
  • labor;
  • labor supply