Formerly cosmopolitan cities that are now much less cosmopolitan

by on March 9, 2018 at 12:47 pm in Books, History | Permalink

Alexandria (Egypt)





That list is from Robert D. Kaplan’s quite interesting The Return of Marco Polo’s World.  Are there others? Shanghai, for a while; Rangoon, what else?

1 Salim March 9, 2018 at 12:52 pm

Almost every city in Syria, sadly. In Aleppo, I was addressed on the street in Russian in 2005 or so – it was the first clearly cosmopolitan place I’d visited that was not West-facing in its openness.

Havana is another, though it was very America-facing when it was more cosmopolitan.


2 Roslle March 9, 2018 at 12:58 pm

St. Petersburg


3 Salim March 9, 2018 at 1:05 pm

Those are good. Declining cities in general seem to lose their cosmopolitanity early in decline. Port cities are also a fair bet to be below their peak-cosmopolitanity, since shipping involves so few people now. Baltimore combines some of both of those features.

Le Havre, Brest, Nantes and other small European ports are probably far less cosmopolitan than in 1850, at least in linguistic compression and lack of multinational business. Even Rotterdam, which has consolidated a huge share of Europe’s shipping, is decidedly Dutch. It has far less tourism and, it certainly seems, far fewer foreign workers than Amsterdam or the Hague. But it has lots of immigrants from diverse places and everyone is >=bilingual so it’s still more cosmopolitan than most places.


4 Timothy Friese March 9, 2018 at 2:31 pm

Agreed with declining cities. Examples would include much of the US Rust Belt


5 Jonfraz March 9, 2018 at 1:17 pm

When was Baltimore cosmopolitan? Yes, it got its share of immigrants (and still does), but it was never NYC.


6 Timothy Friese March 9, 2018 at 2:29 pm

This is a strawman response. The claim was not that it was ever the most cosmopolitan place. The claim is that it is less so now than before.


7 Careless March 10, 2018 at 12:38 am

You didn’t read the title of the post you were commenting on, did you? You’re right, it’s not that it wasn’t about being the “most” and are wrong about it being less so now than before.

8 VJV March 13, 2018 at 10:58 am

But that’s not the question. Many US Rust Belt cities are less cosmopolitan than they used to be. But the question implies some threshold of ‘cosmopolitan-ness’ whereby a place would generally be considered ‘cosmopolitan’ and it’s not clear to me that these places ever met that threshold, even if they were once relatively more cosmopolitan than they are now.

I think Detroit arguably did, but probably not the others. That said this is inherently fuzzy.

9 Steven Kopits March 9, 2018 at 2:38 pm

I grew up in Baltimore. It was never cosmopolitan.

Interestingly, I think New York is less cosmopolitan than it used to be.


10 shrikanthk March 9, 2018 at 6:47 pm

True. It is ethnically more diverse than ever before. But the culture is homogenous. Everyone speaks in the same bland accent that pervades TV sitcoms. There is no political diversity, no intellectual diversity either.

It’s not quite like the New York of 1890s, when it was exclusively white, yet housed so many different cultures, which didn’t simply melt, the way they do today. You had Greek Americans, Italian Americans, Irish, Jews, WASPs – each with their specific geniuses and their value systems.

A movie like Strawberry Blonde (James Cagney starrer from 1941 set in 1890s NYC), captures NYC of that era pretty well.

11 roslle March 12, 2018 at 12:58 pm

I’m going to go out on a limb and predict you didn’t grow up in Baltimore between 1828 and 1913.

12 JonFraz March 12, 2018 at 1:49 pm

If “cosmopolitan’ is taken to mean not just “ethnically diverse” but also “cultural diverse” then no American city qualifies: mainstream American culture (Walmart, McD’s, Game of Thrones, hop-hop…) rapidly dissolves particularist immigrant cultures. There are parts of Baltimore where you can hear Spanish spoken, but that’s about it for true cultural diversity. Sure, we still have Little Italy and Greektown and a Russian festival at Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Church and even a Lithuanian-American Fellowship Hall. But the people involved in those things are Americans by culture, or they are rapidly becoming such.

13 VJV March 13, 2018 at 11:03 am

“But the culture is homogenous. Everyone speaks in the same bland accent that pervades TV sitcoms. There is no political diversity, no intellectual diversity either.”

What? This is blatantly untrue. I live in New York and most people I know do not speak like people in TV sitcoms. And while it might seem politically and intellectually homogenous, it’s really not if you scratch the surface a little.

I think you could argue that New York is a little less cosmopolitan today than it was at various times in the past, but it is definitely not homogenous.

14 byomtov March 10, 2018 at 12:16 am

Havana is a tragedy. A victim of every stupidity the political world, not excluding the US, can inflict.

Yet it can recover.


15 shrikanthk March 9, 2018 at 12:55 pm

Mumbai is relatively less cosmopolitan than it was some 50 years ago.

The village of Hampi (Vijayanagara) in southern India – one of the largest, most cosmopolitan cities in India circa early 16th century (among the top 5 cities in the world at the time). Today it is a desolate village

Tanjore in southern India – a cosmopolitan city where Tamil, Marathi and Telugu cultures met. Very cosmpolitan until some 100 years ago. Today, an almost exclusively tamil city with no high culture to speak of.


16 Jonfraz March 9, 2018 at 1:20 pm

When ships depended on wind for power, southern India boomed as a great trade emporium since the monsoon winds blew ships there and back. With the advent of steam power trade began to bypass the south and steamed into harbors in Bombay and Calcutta.


17 shrikanthk March 9, 2018 at 1:40 pm

The cities I mentioned though are not near the coast.

Vijayanagara’s decline was sudden, following the marauding invasions of the city by the northern muslim kingdoms.

Tanjore has declined greatly since independence thanks to language chauvinism in Tamil Nadu and Dravidian populist politics, causing mass emigration of much of the city’s former elite across India and the world.


18 anonymous March 9, 2018 at 2:07 pm

Surprising that Chennai didn’t strike you. In the last 6 or 7 decades.


19 shrikanthk March 9, 2018 at 6:38 pm

True. Again, Chennai’s decline has been caused by Dravidian populism and the culture of anti-brahminism.

Another city I can think of is Kanchipuram. Today it is just a small city of a couple of hundred thousand (or maybe less).

It is a city with a history of 1500+ years, and for most of the past 1500 years, it was a city where North met South, where Sanskritic culture mingled with Tamil culture. A city where philosophers had their debates. Monists debated Theists. Buddhists debated Vedantists. One of the great Indian cities, and a nerve center of Indian thought.

Today, it’s all in the past. All that remains are temple ruins. It’s just another little town, with no intellectual culture to speak of. People with roots in Kanchipuram (going back some 3-4 generations) are spread all over the world today.

20 A clockwork orange March 9, 2018 at 6:40 pm

. Hazel Meade was happy enough, as happy as one wants to be on the day after her thirty-second birthday, which is not happy at all. Sophia had brought a ice box and it was filled with groceries.

21 Chocolate Seller March 10, 2018 at 3:04 am

Chennai is an interesting case. It is certainly more cosmopolitan than it was in the ’80s and ’90s. This being a result of influx of many white-collar (IT, mostly) and blue-collar workers over the last 2 decades or so. Today one can happily place an order at a restaurant in Hindi – often the waiter (being an immigrant) is more likely to understand Hindi than Tamil (though they learn tamil fast). Most factories have a high percentage of Hindi-speaking workers on the floor.

Of course, at an absolute level Chennai is nowhere as cosmopolitan as Mumbai, Delhi or Bangalore. And it never was.

22 Jan March 10, 2018 at 4:45 am

For the India experts here, are there situations these days where migrants unfamiliar with the local language choose to communicate in English, even if they and their interlocutors can also speak Hindi? If so, is it limited well-educated white collar people, or work settings?

23 shrikanthk March 10, 2018 at 7:14 am

That’s limited to white collar settings. I’d say a small section within that.

People prefer Hindi over English, if they know both languages.

24 shrikanthk March 10, 2018 at 7:35 am

Chocolate Seller : But on the whole Chennai is less cosmopolitan than it was back in 20s-30s.

The % of Tamil population is a lot higher today. Telugu was a second language in Chennai, accounting for well over 20% of speakers. Not anymore.

25 freethinker March 10, 2018 at 7:19 am

Hyderabad ( I mean Hyderabad in India! ) is quite cosmopolitan. Although located in south India the city is almost a mini India where truly North meets the South. Many people who had their education there told me that, most of the residents converse in Hindi, a North Indian lingo, although it became the capital of a Telugu language state when India was divided on linguistic grounds! I met North Indians who told me that they have been residing in Hyderabad for decades without learning the local language. Impossible in any other city on earth!


26 freethinker March 10, 2018 at 7:22 am

My post was incomplete: I learn now that Hyderabad will rapidly it will loose its cosmopolitan status with the present government playing the language patriotism card

27 shrikanthk March 10, 2018 at 7:31 am

freethinker – But back to Tyler’s post, I don’t think Hyderabad is less cosmopolitan today than it was some 60 years ago.

Chennai definitely is less cosmopolitan. It was, I think, 25%+ Telugu back in 1947. Today, it is almost exclusively Tamil.

28 freethinker March 11, 2018 at 3:50 am

shrikanthk ofcourse compared to Chennai any city would be cosmopolitan. I asked some North Indian Hyderabadis about how cosmopolitan it is compared to 60 years ago. They said that even compared to early 1980s Hyderabad is less cosmopolitan and they have a growing feeling that Hyderabad is “increasingly having a Telugu ambience” and it would be misleading to call it mini India

29 Oleg March 9, 2018 at 12:56 pm



30 David H March 9, 2018 at 1:59 pm

Agreed. Cosmopolitan stuff still happens there, but it will never be fin-de-siecle Vienna again. It feels like a city for “proper adults” and not for rowdy kids. But isn’t this happening throughout all of Western Europe? Maybe Vienna isn’t keeping it real, but which city is? Berlin? Copenhagen?


31 yo March 9, 2018 at 2:15 pm

Brussels and Frankfurt


32 David H March 9, 2018 at 11:36 pm

Interesting choices. It makes me wonder whether being cosmopolitan requires being at least a bit sketchy. If a place gets too safe it overgentrifies and all the creative energy dissipates. (I guess there are counterexamples like Tokyo, which is pretty safe.)


33 Dude Man March 10, 2018 at 12:53 am

That sounds like bad news for NYC over the next few decades.

34 yo March 10, 2018 at 9:43 am

The only businesses that apparently attract cosmopolitan crowds are international institutions. Regular businesses just recruit from the region because the education level is now sufficient everywhere, but the ECB and the Commission still make a point of their national quotas. Perhaps I should have added Geneva. From the outside, these three cities look super bland by the way, but if you live in them yes, you can’t escape that they are very cosmopolitan indeed.

35 Archibald Meatpants March 9, 2018 at 2:19 pm

That’s better than the above examples.


36 Timothy Friese March 9, 2018 at 2:33 pm

Agreed and this could be extended to basically all of central/eastern Europe that is currently under nation states but used to be under multi-ethnic polities. So Budapest, Vilnius, Belgrade, Athens, Istanbul, etc.


37 Steven Kopits March 9, 2018 at 2:40 pm

Depends on the time frame. Budapest is probably as cosmopolitan as it has been for 100 years, although probably less so than in, say, 2001.


38 Larry Siegel March 11, 2018 at 4:41 pm

Until the Nazi era, Budapest was one of the intellectual capitals of the world. No more.


39 Engineer March 9, 2018 at 2:50 pm

Vienna was first one I thought of as well; the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until relatively recently, and I think considered extremely cosmopolitan.

Another example might be Constantinople under the Ottomans (i.e. pre WW1).


40 Peter Akuleyev March 10, 2018 at 3:39 am

On the other hand Vienna has become noticeably more cosmopolitan in the last 10 years, and is far more cosmopolitan than it was 40 years ago, so the trends are positive, if you value cosmopolitanism. Same is true of Prague to a lesser extent.


41 shrikanthk March 9, 2018 at 12:58 pm

Rangoon was one of the great cities of British India, with a mercantile community dominated by South Indians until some 80 years ago. I don’t think there are any Indians left in Rangoon today


42 Thor March 9, 2018 at 4:53 pm

The Rohingya aren’t exactly thriving in Rangoon either. (That was a sardonic joke; they are being pushed out of western rural Burma.)


43 Miguel Madeira March 9, 2018 at 12:59 pm

Perhaps Sarajevo?


44 Thor March 9, 2018 at 4:55 pm

Been there, twice. I suppose it was cosmopolitan in that it was a crossroads and border town (way back) but it was way too small to be cosmopolitan in any modern sense of the term.

It simply had a lot of hip cafes and bars when I was there 20+ years ago, owing to the colleges and universities, which brought in younger people.


45 Alex March 9, 2018 at 1:00 pm

On a long enough timeline, Rome.


46 Oleg March 9, 2018 at 1:13 pm

Which one? I imagine the answer is “both,” with Constantinople being on a slightly shorter timeline.


47 Cristiano March 9, 2018 at 1:22 pm

All four. As people say in Brasil, there have been four Romes, there will not be five!!


48 LZ March 9, 2018 at 1:00 pm

You can add Constantinople (Istanbul), Antioch (Antakya), Nicaea (Iznik), and other former Eastern Roman Empire cities with new names to Smyrna (Izmir) and Salonica (Thessaloniki), or just general parts of the eastern Mediterranean after a certain year like 1453, 1204, or 636.


49 rayward March 9, 2018 at 1:06 pm

Here is a more interesting and provocative explanation of where we are and how we got here:


50 Michael March 9, 2018 at 1:09 pm

Kabul, Tehran obviously in more recent times.


51 Oleg March 9, 2018 at 1:14 pm

I suspect Lemberg was a lot more cosmopolitan in Mises’ day than Lviv is now.


52 Borjigid March 9, 2018 at 1:18 pm

Anywhere that used to be in a multiethnic empire but is now in a nation-state. Any counterexamples?


53 Scott Mauldin March 9, 2018 at 1:23 pm

I think Berlin and Tokyo might be good counterexamples.


54 Adrian Ratnapala March 10, 2018 at 12:05 am

Neither were really in multi-ethnic empires. Japan was briefly a conqueror of a diverse empire, but really only had long term rule of Korea. Is the Korean presence in Tokyo now less or more than it was back then? I don’t know.

The Prussian-dominated German Reich came into as a distant consequence of people noticing that there was such a thing as German nationality. The German’s are a varied lot, but the whole point of the “Kleindeutsche Lösung” was to have mono-ethnic empire — even if they had to invent a concept of ethnic unity to go along with it.


55 Ted Craig March 9, 2018 at 1:24 pm

Does the U.S. count as a multiethnic empire?


56 Nodnarb the Nasty March 9, 2018 at 2:41 pm
57 Cyrus March 9, 2018 at 3:42 pm

Until 1940 or so.


58 Oleg March 9, 2018 at 1:28 pm

Paris. Napoleon I briefly created a multi-ethnic empire, but I’m not sure it lasted long enough to count.


59 Oleg March 9, 2018 at 1:33 pm

Well, I guess London and Paris had “multi-ethnic empires” if you count their overseas empires. I was thinking more of geographically contiguous multi-ethnic empires.


60 Farmer March 9, 2018 at 2:11 pm

Istanbul is a counterexample.


61 Timothy Friese March 9, 2018 at 2:35 pm

I think it’s an example and not a counterexample. A century ago, Istanbul had huge Armenian and Greek minorities, plus others like Arabs, Roma, western Europeans. It is still quite cosmopolitan but I think it is less so now than then.


62 Peter Akuleyev March 10, 2018 at 6:26 am

Moscow is a counter example. It was very Russian under the Tsars – the cosmopolitans were in St Petersburg, Odessa or even Warsaw. During the Soviet era it became more multi-ethnic but was too isolated and authoritarian to be cosmopolitan. Now it is truly a “multi-ethnic” city with lots of Central Asian immigrants, a thriving restaurant scene, a well traveled elite, etc.


63 Ted Craig March 9, 2018 at 1:23 pm

Saigon. Pyongyang.


64 Steven Kopits March 9, 2018 at 2:41 pm

Saigon, again depends on time frame. Pre-1975, less. Post-1975, probably at a recent high.


65 Cristiano March 9, 2018 at 1:24 pm

Petrograd, Constantinopla, Amsterdam.


66 Ted Craig March 9, 2018 at 1:28 pm

Kaunas, my mom’s hometown, known as the Baltic Paris before WWII.


67 Thor March 9, 2018 at 4:56 pm

Viborg, ’til Stalin took it.


68 Andy March 9, 2018 at 1:32 pm

Half of the population of Buenos Aires, in the early 20th century, was foreign born. Now it’s far far less (since after WW2, Argentina’s longtime economic problems has made it unattractive for immigrants)


69 Alex March 10, 2018 at 4:43 pm

Buenos Aires is still multiethnic, only that immigrants now come from other countries. Beginning of XX century was mostly Spain, Italy, Eastern Europe and Ottoman Empire now other Latin American Countries and Asia.


70 #JC4PM March 9, 2018 at 1:39 pm

Zanzibar. Havana.


71 J March 9, 2018 at 1:45 pm
72 Thor March 9, 2018 at 4:57 pm

Someone ought to set a movie there, methinks.


73 viz March 9, 2018 at 1:48 pm

Probably any of the cities prior to the 20th century shown on this graph:


74 Mark Thorson March 9, 2018 at 1:49 pm

I’m not sure, but I would guess Trieste has seen a large decline. It was formerly the main port city of the very multiethnic Austro-Hungarian Empire. Since WW1, it was briefly an independent city-state, and later part of Italy to the present day.


75 Peter Akuleyev March 10, 2018 at 3:31 am

You would be right. Trieste was once a multi-ethnic town with a large Hungarian upper class, the dominant city in the region, and the major port city of the Habsburg empire. It is now a provincial Italian city that doesn’t even have a working rail link to Vienna.


76 Michael Tinkelr March 9, 2018 at 1:57 pm

Havanna? Maybe again.


77 shrikanthk March 9, 2018 at 2:01 pm

“Alexandria (Egypt)

The common cause of the decline of cosmopolitanism in atleast 4 of these 5 cities is Islam.


78 Jaunty Rockefeller March 9, 2018 at 2:10 pm

Islam was also the cause of several of those same cities’ rise…


79 anon March 9, 2018 at 2:52 pm

which ones?


80 dearieme March 9, 2018 at 2:53 pm

Which ones do you have in mind?


81 Miguel Madeira March 9, 2018 at 8:46 pm

Alexandria, Smyrna and Salonica were cosmopolitan during the muslim Ottoman Empire, during centuries; the main cause of decline was WWI and the Greko-Turkish War (for Smyrna and Salonica*), and Arab Nationalism (for Alexandria)

*And remember that, in Salonica, it was the muslims who were expelled


82 shrikanthk March 9, 2018 at 9:07 pm

That’s cherrypicking.

Alexandria and Smyrna ceased to be Greek in culture post Arab conquest


83 Miguel Madeira March 9, 2018 at 10:12 pm

Irrelevant, because the question is not “Formerly cities of greek culture that are now much less greek”; until XX century, Alexandria and Smyrna had a mixture of Greek, Arab/Islamic, Jewish (and Coptic, in the case of Alexandria).


84 Alex March 10, 2018 at 7:36 pm

Odessa and Salonika had a very large Jewish population that was murdered by the Germans, whereas Jews in Islamic Turkey were saved and are still there to this day.


85 JonFraz March 12, 2018 at 1:54 pm

Islam was present in those four cities for well over a millennium.


86 Jmcsf March 9, 2018 at 2:02 pm

Venice is an interesting case.


87 Steven Kopits March 9, 2018 at 2:42 pm

Venice and Genoa, definitely off their all-time highs.


88 edgar March 9, 2018 at 2:06 pm

Ketchikan, AK

Arlington, VA

São Paulo


89 edgar March 9, 2018 at 3:07 pm

These places once had thriving ethnic communities from all over the world but have devolved into a sort of homogeneous Bennington Colors of the World tm Cosmopolitan tm marketed atmosphere that exploits their formerly authentic type of cosmopolitanism.


90 Kobi March 9, 2018 at 2:09 pm

Cairo (Egypt), in the same way that Alexandria used to be, Kochi (Cochin, India), Jerusalem was an international small town when it was ruled by the Ottomans and the Brits, Wroclaw (Breslaw).


91 Peter Akuleyev March 10, 2018 at 6:30 am

Breslau? It was just a provincial German city until 1945. It is certainly more cosmopolitan now, and far more economically and culturally important to modern Poland than Breslau was to Prussia/Germany.


92 Farmer March 9, 2018 at 2:10 pm

Timbuktu was, for a period, the richest city on earth. Now many people could not reliably name the country it’s in.
Similarly, many Silk Road towns. Samarkand, Tashkent etc used to be very important, major cities at the crossroads of everything.
Much of Chile feels that way. Once the Panama Canal destroyed California to US East Coast maritime traffic, they basically stopped having a reason to exist


93 Nodnarb the Nasty March 9, 2018 at 2:44 pm


Central Asia, Sahel Africa, and the LatAm Pacific have tons of once-cosmopolitan cities…


94 Dick the Butcher March 9, 2018 at 3:27 pm

If Timbuktu then Tenochtitlan (Mexico City) before Cortes, et al sacked it.


95 David H March 9, 2018 at 11:41 pm

If we’re going there, then let’s go with Carthage. Even more depressing: Baghdad.


96 So Much For Subtlety March 9, 2018 at 8:47 pm

I am willing to bet a considerable amount of money that Timbuktu was never the richest city on earth. Not for one day.

Nor was it cosmopolitan. It couldn’t even boast two of the four Schools of Islamic thought for instance. Having people from three different Hamitic languages studying the same Maliki school, while served from slaves from four different African tribes is not really cosmopolitan.


97 jack March 9, 2018 at 2:10 pm

Lots of cities in eastern Europe where the Jews were all slaughtered or emigrated to avoid being slaughtered (note Salonica and Odessa) and only the fools remain. Hard to be cosmopolitan when no one has the wit to trade.


98 Joël March 9, 2018 at 2:32 pm

Yes, I was going to give a list, but you gave the concept — all the better.

Vilnius, Lvov, Krakow, even Vienna.


99 Chuck March 9, 2018 at 7:33 pm



100 Jan March 10, 2018 at 4:53 am

I believe Ann Coulter was referring to them as globalists in a Twitter hate rage this week.


101 yo March 9, 2018 at 2:19 pm

Ulm, Ryukyu


102 Archibald Meatpants March 9, 2018 at 2:24 pm

Some city in the former Yugoslavia. Sarajevo was mentioned. But maybe Belgrade, Split, Ljubljana, Dubrovnik….


103 Beliavsky March 9, 2018 at 2:40 pm

When Muslims become a majority they make life unpleasant for non-Muslims, which is a reason not to allow much Muslim immigration into your country.


104 Robin March 9, 2018 at 3:41 pm

That opinion would surely come as a surprise to all the Muslims and Jews forced out of the once cosmopolitan cities of Granada and Cordoba, among others, by the reconquista.


105 Beliavsky March 9, 2018 at 4:30 pm

What matters is how Christians behave now compared to Muslims, not the intolerance of Christian centuries ago.


106 Chuck March 9, 2018 at 7:35 pm

(((Rootless Cosmopolitans)))


107 JonFraz March 12, 2018 at 1:58 pm

Things got bad for the Jews in Al-Andalus well before the Reconquista. The fall of the Umayyad Caliphate and its replacement by the Berbers Almoravids put an end to the regime of tolerance there.


108 Clc March 11, 2018 at 2:18 pm

Typical top quality commenting here at MR.


109 evan March 9, 2018 at 2:42 pm

New Orleans and Galveston.


110 David H March 9, 2018 at 11:42 pm

Ouch. But that sounds right.


111 Jan March 10, 2018 at 4:54 am

Wasn’t Galveston always the dump it is now?


112 JonFraz March 12, 2018 at 1:59 pm

Galveston was wrecked by (and Houston owes its rise to) the Hurricane of 1900, probably the greatest natural disaster the United States has experienced.


113 Steven Kopits March 9, 2018 at 2:43 pm

OK, Tyler, doesn’t this demand a ‘more cosmopolitan’ list?


114 IVV March 9, 2018 at 3:11 pm

What, you mean places like Singapore and Dubai?

Singapore, in particular, is interesting, because it’s had the millenniums-long advantage of being next to the Straits of Malacca, but it’s only in recent years that it’s ended up more than a sleepy fishing village.

…And in that vein, Palembang should be on the less-cosmopolitan list.


115 Dick the Butcher March 9, 2018 at 3:32 pm

The Bronx.


116 Archibald Meatpants March 9, 2018 at 4:05 pm

You could go with all the small Persian Gulf Kingdoms. Maybe Mexico City, which has become a hub for the Spanish speaking world. Lots of Chinese cities have opened up.


117 Moo cow March 9, 2018 at 4:08 pm

It would be a long list.


118 ʕ •ᴥ•ʔ March 9, 2018 at 5:04 pm

Last week in Los Angeles, we were coming out of the phó place when a guy starts shouting Russian into his cell phone. Two other guys stop speaking Spanish, and one says to me “he sounds upset.” Maybe not cosmopolitan in the grander sense, but definitely a mix going on.


119 Artimus March 10, 2018 at 12:34 am

I agree. Tyler, this screams for a MOST cosmopolitan list. Living in Dubai for ten years I would have to say it is a most cosmopolitan city-state.


120 Millian March 10, 2018 at 6:00 am

“More cosmopolitan” is not that difficult. Like, almost any city in China. Any hub for modern tourism: lots of big cities in Indonesia and maybe… Vietnam? Much of the French-speaking world including Quebec, France and Wallonia at least, almost any town in the UK or Ireland, Helsinki, Reykjavik, a few places in Germany like Frankfurt mentioned earlier, Vancouver and points south on the west coast of America. Whereas Singapore, I think, was quite cosmopolitan 100 years ago and is now a country with significant “indigenous” diversity that projects cosmopolitanism outward, not quite the same thing…


121 Millian March 9, 2018 at 2:52 pm

Beirut, really? What are we basing this on, what some guy thinks about a place he’s never been to? But the rest seem sound – so many places where trade vanished. This list could be so long.

All those Tocharian towns on the Silk Road have gone from centres of huge cosmopolitan trade to the periphery of a superpower. Aden, Rangoon, for sure. Cordoba, Seville. Any small town that once hosted a Roman garrison (many of these are in Spain, too). Similarly, lots of colonial posts especially in old French West Africa that now host a local government, say N’Djamena though I’ve never been there so it might be as embarrassingly wrong as Beirut. You won’t like it, but Singapore, and maybe one day Hong Kong. Antwerp and Flanders in general? Norse raiding party towns?


122 GW March 9, 2018 at 2:54 pm

Although the last two decades have been good for Ghent, it is certainly not the city of importance, indeed economic and cultural capital, that it was in the 14th century. Some argue that it was the success of trade guilds that initiated Ghent’s centuries long decline.


123 Millian March 9, 2018 at 3:02 pm

What’s the political-economy? Any long-lasting cosmopolitan city means, by definition, that generations of residents are letting non-residents persistently extract surplus. Who’s going to resist seizing a share of the surplus for themselves, even if it means losing the foreigners? We should be more surprised if a really cosmopolitan city lasted for more than a hundred years.


124 Todd March 9, 2018 at 3:19 pm

Bruges, Valparaiso, Pripyat


125 Nick_L March 9, 2018 at 3:39 pm

Given the Internet and other forms of communication and transportation, hasn’t the concept of ‘cosmopolitan’ moved to a less centralised and more fluid location? There might be cosmopolitan areas within cities, but that surely pales into comparison (by strict definition) with Facebook, Reddit and other areas where people now gather and connect, and trade?


126 Epictetus March 9, 2018 at 3:42 pm

Tallinn, Trabzon, Tblisi — to type their modern names. And yay for the Silk Route cities mentioned by several others. Especially Tashkent, Kokhand, Bokhara. Samarkand, Nokuz.


127 Carlos March 9, 2018 at 4:39 pm



128 sine causa March 9, 2018 at 4:52 pm

More cosmopolitan : Pompeii, Machu Pichu ( The ruins are visited by many tourists) 😉


129 Ralph E March 9, 2018 at 5:18 pm

Jakarta, Malacca, Amsterdam, Vienna, Rome, Venice, Athens, Istanbul, Baku, Tbilisi, Acapulco, Philadelphia, Karachi, Lahore, Wuhan, Harbin, Xi’an


130 Peter Akuleyev March 10, 2018 at 6:41 am

Amsterdam, Jakarta, Vienna and Athens are all significantly more cosmopolitan than they were 100 years ago.

In Vienna’s case a lot of people seem to be confusing culturally important/dynamic with cosmopolitan. They are not the same. Part of Fin-de-Siecle Vienna’s creativity was because the city was a relative backwater compared to the New York- London-Paris-Berlin cultural exchange but had a very large population of educated affluent people (mostly Jewish) who needed to entertain themselves.


131 Sam Haysom March 9, 2018 at 6:16 pm

Like they say small steps to a much better world.


132 Chuck March 9, 2018 at 7:40 pm

But muh ethnic foods!


133 jokel March 9, 2018 at 8:49 pm



134 jokel March 9, 2018 at 8:52 pm

Hanse Cities


135 Chip March 9, 2018 at 9:13 pm

Manaus during the early 1900s rubber boom.

Malacca before Singapore took over as the main straits port in the 1800s.


136 Student March 9, 2018 at 9:47 pm

Detroit and to lesser extent Cleveland


137 A clockwork orange March 9, 2018 at 10:03 pm

In St. Louis, peanuts and were bought in paper bags and mixed with jelly beans…The best thing the big town had to offer.


138 Larry Siegel March 11, 2018 at 5:09 pm

Cleveland was pretty cosmopolitan in the postwar years, but no longer. (I grew up there.) There were vibrant Eastern European, Irish, German, Jewish, Italian, and African American cultures, downtown was booming, jazz and later rock music thrived, the Broadway shows made it one of their primary non-New York stops, and foreign tourists were not unknown. All that has disappeared except for African Americans and the new ethnic group, hipsters. What a disaster.


139 a clockwork apriori March 9, 2018 at 10:48 pm

“Happiness written white on white pages”


140 Chris H March 9, 2018 at 11:07 pm

Syracuse certainly (Sicily not New York, the American version has never been cosmopolitan). Cap-Haitian was also once considered very cultured and important in the Caribbean (for quite some time it was larger than Port-Au-Prince). Others I can think of have already been mentioned.

Speculation time! What cities are the most likely to lose a current cosmopolitan status over the next century? My guesses: Dubai (the decline of the oil economy will eventually hit them), San Francisco (on the basis that whatever next Big Trend hits the economy post the current tech boom will start in a cheaper and less specialized city. I would not be shocked to see San Fran eventually be the next Detroit), Hong Kong (eventually China will fully crack down on the freedoms there and at that point why prefer that city to Guangzhou or Shenzen? Hong Kong was unimportant when Britain took it over, once it loses it’s distinctiveness why can’t it revert?), Moscow (for similar reasons to Dubai).


141 JonFraz March 12, 2018 at 2:04 pm

San Francisco has reinvented itself several times, and once had to rebuilt from ruins. I suspect it will do so again as needs arises.


142 Peter March 9, 2018 at 11:18 pm



143 Efim Polenov March 9, 2018 at 11:28 pm

Alexandria Virginia used to be the port city for not only Washington (the city) and Arlington but also for Richmond (I hear the whistles of that railway – Alexandria to Richmond – every night, God bless those who toil on the train tracks as they make sure those trains get where they need to go. No joke).

Seriously, though, every city is and always has been a kitsch-fest for people who like kitsch, no matter how small the city, and – on the other hand – every city has thousands of people living in it who, if not true artists themselves at this point in time, could be an inspiration – a beloved fugitive memory – for artists of the future. The line between kitsch and anti-kitsch (art and friendship and the voice of a person who wants another person to be happy : cor ad cor loquitur) runs not through urban neighborhoods along some street or avenue but through every human heart.

God bless Gene Wolfe, he used to write whole novels about how the most sad-looking cities (imagine a sadder Chicago with sadder snowdrifts and fantastically pathetic cold icy waves lapping on the lakefront parks, under skyscrapers that were only as full or as empty as any previous populous and abundant generation is, depending on who remembers that generation) were filled with fantastically beloved and (if you paid enough attention) almost angelically gifted everyday citizens. If you did not know before this that his best books were about exactly that, now you know. He would tell the story of three or four of them or so and that would be the story he told. Good times!

I met and had conversation with a few authors as famous as him but No I never would have asked him for his autograph. I would have bought him a drink, or offered him a cigar (a Cuban smuggled from Montreal! – I remember) or would have explained to him that maybe he was just a performing monkey who had gotten the good advice that any other writer would have given a treasure for – just as Eve, back in the day, would have been overjoyed to speak with someone who could have explained to her, with the best and truest details (the effortless crops, the untarnished streams, the long days of happiness with oh so many great-grandchildren) how much we all loved her, our grandma who never let us down (and, if you don’t mind my turning a comment on degraded cities into a little story – a very short story – the funny thing is, she never did let us down – try and remember, the next time you think you are capable of understanding so much more than you ever understood before – thanks for reading,,,,): anyway, there are some lines of Longfellow, and just as many lines of Peguy and Tolkien and the Carmelite poets, which, if you read them after – on one of those unusual night where only I and my wife were at the supper table – eating more than half of a spicy pizza (only because you did not want your spouse to get a stomach-ache from eating half the pizza – trust me on that, only for such an innocent reason) – well, Peguy and Tolkien and Longfellow and the Carmelite poets and many others would read this, and wonder: did he understand?

I had a dream last night where an abundance of people whom I served with in the military, back in the day, had all gotten the word that we (the soldiers of my youth) should gather together at a mountain training facility (but everyone else had gotten the word and I was not prepared) and the secret (the secret it took me a day to figure out) the secret for why I wondered why they all seemed so happy and why I would wake up, every few minutes, wondering what the secret was (beyond the fact that I am one of about one in a thousand Americans who remembers what it is to be in a military where we did not expect to go to war any time soon – take it or leave it, but I remember that) — and now, a day later, I know.

Either we will have hundreds and thousands of descendants, facing their challenges and succeeding, or we won’t. The world will overflow with happiness and challenges, long after we are gone, no matter what we do, or ti won’t. If it were up to me it will but … That is what all those 60 something people, in my dream, all of them young again, and ready for that mountain training as enlisted and officers in an army that was, and is, decent and protected by God, in its way, were trying to tell me.

Art Deco thinks otherwise, so does Modernism (well I do like the old Wrigley Park) and so does neo-Gothic and old school Baroque. You who read this need not worry about that: God wants you to make this world as beautiful as you could have imagined it, on the best afternoon in the best year of your life, when only foolish people would not have wanted to listen to what you said, or to watch you as you painted or sketched a better world than I have imagined – remember that mountain training? – maybe it was somewhere else ….


144 Efim Polenov March 9, 2018 at 11:33 pm

For the record, Art, I understood.


145 Efim Polenov March 9, 2018 at 11:51 pm

Art … everybody has better dreams than me (almost everybody, not the crooks and the murderers and the vandals, of course, but almost everybody else) and everybody remembers those dreams less well – – – there is an equipoise, maybe not a true one, I admit, in that statement..

Art … God loves you more than God loves me – I arranged that, because I wanted it that way – God appreciates these tokens of friendship, and he accepts them (who does not want to be told that it is all right if you don’t care).

There is art and there is tedium: there is love and there is laziness: and there is the assurance that God loves those we pray for.

Sorry if you think I wasted your time. I don’t like to be “listened to” I would rather have a real conversation (I have dozens of them every week, don’t feel bad for me). I hope I didn’t waste your time. Reread the best line or two that you can find, and – some day – write better lines on the same subject. I don’t care who you are: I know you can do it.

And the typos were on purpose, and the mountain training facility – the mountains were blue, the trees were thoughtful, the stars overhead spoke quietly to each other, the soldiers of my youth were young again and I just did not know how that had happened, and wondered what the secret was, waking up and falling asleep again, time after time, wondering what the secret was – and any one of them (my fellow soldiers, all young again, except me) would have told me if I had asked.

Don’t reread my comment, read Peguy when he explained what Eve saw after she fully repented for her one thoughtless sin, or read Balthasar on the novels Jesus would have written if Jesus had been one of those people who have time to read and write novels. God is good and the Night is beautiful. Try and remember as if you have never remembered before.


146 Efim Polenov March 9, 2018 at 11:56 pm

Sorry if you were confused, I really mean it.

And I am sorry if that was all too simplistic – I mean that just as much.

Who knows what the world would be like if the prayers that Eve prayed for all of us, all her children, were not effective? She prayed a lot, but did not live as long as she should have, but does pray for us from Heaven.

If I were to say, right here, right now: try and remember: would you try?

No free pizzas for trying. Try anyway.


147 Efim Polenov March 10, 2018 at 12:07 am

That was not “free association”, that was one type of argument for the truth that you rarely encounter. Try and remember the last time you heard someone tell you to wake up, and let God be your friend. Was it today? A couple minutes ago? Don’t let people like me confuse you. Pray for understanding. Just say the words out loud – God, make me remember the last time I understood how much you love me. Or say a better prayer than that – don’t blame me for making a helpful suggestion. God is good. Tell God that you know that God is good. Pray for understanding. Or pray to remember that day, maybe not so long ago, maybe long ago, when you understood, or almost understood. Try and remember.

148 Efim Polenov March 10, 2018 at 12:53 am

In real life I have met libertarians who were funnier than me but they were all much richer than me.

It is what it is. Imagine a poor funny libertarian – I have known a few – I have known thousands of people, and at least two or three were poor funny libertarians – try and remember if you have known any: no free pizzas for trying, try anyway.

Someone, somewhere, understood every word. Feel free to have the last word on the very finite subject of poor funny libertarians. Rejoice our hearts!

149 Mike Rogo March 10, 2018 at 1:01 am

shush the grownups are talking (i zvyezda s zvdeoiu govorit;) (Lermontov)

150 E.P. March 10, 2018 at 1:05 am

Non ignar* mali

miseris succurrere disco

151 A clockwork orange March 10, 2018 at 1:38 am

r u tom cruise?

152 E.P. March 10, 2018 at 2:29 am

No but I helped him learn that trick where he keeps one eye a little more open than the other eye while he is being filmed from the side, in order to look like one of those illusionist uber-symmetrical (that was a big thing, once) pantheon statues from back in the day in my beloved long-gone Hellenic world – check out B. Fraser using that trick in the Perry Como scene from “Blast from the Past”.

50 years from now they may ask why I did not found some Scientology-type religion of my own (of course they won’t but they may: if you did not grow up speaking English, I am sorry: “they won’t but they may” – that phrase does not make me sound as dumb as you think, if you have the profound knowledge of English you would have if you grew up speaking our beautiful language). Well, the ‘quality’ romances did not mean much to me – reread the Song of Songs, my Burgessite friend , and remember what you have heard me say in the past about “rom-coms”, bless their little hearts – God loves us all and appreciates it when we do not idolize the amazingly wonderful people who are our contemporaries of the opposite sex (hello Heliotrope and Hyacinth!) – and as for the money (I have moved on from the discussion of romance and success in love, please try and keep up) – as for the money, the money meant nothing, as there are no doctors that could cure at any price my cats or my dogs or my descendants, should I be so unfortunate as to watch them fall ill, as I myself once fell ill (never yet to recover, but that is my problem, not yours): so more money meant nothing much, not that I do not understand what too little money means in a human life. Imagine that – you had billions and the doctors could not cure a simple stubborn and worsening abscess! God, I remember, but I wish I didn’t! Anyway, I prefer the promise of as many descendants as I want, free of original sins, free to be what was promised – direct descendants and children of the Lord raised – and raised, as individuals whom other individuals loved – from the very rocks on the side of the road (that is in at least one of the Gospels). And to have that promise – all I need to do is to be humble, and to love my Lord with a humble heart. Franklin Graham, bless his heart, mentions the simple process quite often on his humble little Twitter feed (he is of course unsound on what he likes to think of as the “doctrine of eternal security”, but God bless his heart, why wouldn’t he be?)

“All that matters” is a difficult concept, and to understand that concept (“all that matters”) the beginning starts with realizing that people need to care about each other. Even our poor muddleheaded elderly angry partisan civilian pope says something similar every once in a while, although to be fair he knows – he knows it in his old heart – that the only way to even begin to successfully traverse the thousands of days the poor souls who have thousands of days ahead of them, in any decent way, is to stop the nonsense, and to try to be, if nothing more, a friend to someone who never had a friend in the world. Preferably much more than that, but if nothing more, well, that’s a start.

Well nobody is going to adopt the cat who is being fostered in my home – she has a bad temperament, has three distinct illnesses, any one of which would be fatal if not patiently treated by someone that loves cats, and she is old, and old cats are seldom loved by people eager to find and love a cat to be adopted. But if you even hint to me, young Clock, that it is wrong for me to be a friend to this cat who never had a friend in the world – well; I will try not to be amused at my disappointment.

153 Irrationalist March 11, 2018 at 2:40 pm

Apparently God also wants a lot of us to be underemployed, forgotten, struggling with debilitating mental illnesses and addictions, and more while we do it. Meanwhile He does want people to make Uber for cats.

No offense. That was lovely writing, and I’m sure you are a very warmhearted and caring person. It kind of reminded me of Madeline L’Engle some. But it’s a bit of a different view on the ground.


154 A clockwork orange March 10, 2018 at 12:58 am

Jupiter Hammon cited the Psalms, proverbs in his poetry. Chase the wolf, hunt the sheep, the children of children, he said.

And still, the “Kreutzer” Sonata exists outside of my imagination. That’s because no matter how much we study a piece of art, our knowledge will remain more abstract than real. The reason is that art, like history, is unknowable. I can study history, its wars and laws, but I cannot understand what it was to be alive in another time. All history must be a revision. Surprise always ensues in understanding when we understand the past to be different than what we encountered in history. I can understand the lyrics of a song and the way it is composed, its tone and domain, but I cannot know the artist’s truth. Instead, what I can observe are my own feelings, my own past, while approximating the history of the artist. There are thousands of trained violinists who have played the “Kreutzer” Sonata. I can assure you surprise always ensues in that first 14 seconds.


155 Efim Polenov March 10, 2018 at 10:59 pm

Thanks for reading.

3 – Latin
2 – English “Tuba Skinny”
1 – Russian “Nu”

It is not all that hard to understand other people, no matter how talented they are.

3 – “Incipe …. Risu cognoscere”
2 “Tuba Skinny”
1 “ne pominayete likhom obo mnye”

Happy 115th, Bix


156 Efim Polenov March 10, 2018 at 11:00 pm

that was supposed to be a reply to your 1:38 am post


157 daguix March 10, 2018 at 4:21 am

Tangier was an international zone until 1956.


158 Anonymous March 10, 2018 at 8:41 am

Dublin, Jaffa, Tashkent. San Fransisco seems to be moving in that direction, if they can get the “affirmatively further affordable(i.e. not near us) housing” to work:


159 Brett Champion March 10, 2018 at 8:44 am

I would add Van to the list. Van is located in an area that changed hands between empires going back to antiquity and it always seemed to retain a slice of the preceding people who ruled it. After the Armenian Genocide, though, it basically became a Kurdish city.


160 Scott March 10, 2018 at 11:07 am

Melaka (Malacca)


161 Faze March 10, 2018 at 1:31 pm

Cleveland was a rich stew of nationalities through the first half of the 20th century. It became mono-ethnic in the late 1960s early 1970s.


162 jjjackson March 10, 2018 at 8:50 pm

Smyrna and Odessa are perfectly cosmopolitan, thank you very much. So are Wilmington, Claymont, Middltown, Rehoboth, and Fenwick Island.


163 jsylvest March 12, 2018 at 10:20 am

My proposals/guesses:
1. Aachen, though you’d have to go back >1000 years to its height of cosmopolitanism.
2. Most port cities from the age of sail, especially those that were not controlled too tightly by mercantilists, e.g. Kingston, Le Cap.
2b. Naval bases of the same era, e.g. Portsmouth.
3. Merchant/maritime city states like Genoa or members of the Hanseatic league.
4. Cities on the silk road, especially the more isolated central portions. (Merv?)
4b. Cities which served as focal points for steppe nomads. (Khwarezm?)
5. Others have mentioned it, but Constantinople/Byzantium/Istanbul. Yes, it is cosmopolitan now, but it’s no where near being The City of the World’s Desire like it used to be.


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