As it is known, Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities depicts a story related to two capitals, namely Paris and London at the time of the French Revolution (1789-1799).
Paris and London are both unique in that the two cities were more or less founded by
the Romans during their empire’s earlier
expansion, and have continued remarkably
as capitals for some 2,000 years.
How is this possible? We would like to go through the two cities’ evolution trying to tackle the question.
What did the Romans prioritize when selecting places for regional centers? First and foremost, it was to ensure good access to and from Rome, and to provide good transportation essentially for administrating Gaul and Britannia respectively. For Paris (it was then called “Luteita”), the Romans selected a place where one of the area’s major north-south trade routes crossed the Seine. As for London (it was dubbed “Londonium” by the Romans), the Romans selected a place along the Thames where it was deep enough for big boats to sail inland and at the same time narrow enough to build a bridge over the river.
After the Romans, both Paris and London became capitals of succeeding indigenous kingdoms one after another. It is interesting to note that the two cities remained as capitals even after a sea of changes that took place in both countries, namely the English Civil War in the 17th Century and the French Revolution in the18th Century. Hand in hand with the advent of the industrial revolution and subsequent imperialistic expansion in the 19th Century, Paris and London thrived as mega-cities for not only politics and economics on a global scale but also as centers for arts and culture.
As we have seen, Paris and London reveal themselves as good examples of capitals that were founded initially on places of geopolitical importance and grew over time with the advent of national power.