A Reinterpretation of the Rank-Size Rule: Examples from England and the Land of Israel

  • David Grossman Bar-Ilan University
  • Michael Sonis Bar-Ilan University
Keywords: Rural Settlements, Rank-Size Regularity, Land Orientation


The existence of a rank-size regularity of rural settlements has been demonstrated by a number of authors. This article argues that the cause of such regularity must be sought in the essential characteristics of rural settlements, particularly their land orientation. Regularity can be presented in the form of a straight line on a semi-logarithmic grid, but most rural areas contain sections above (the head) and below (the tail) the line (the mode). This rule is an approximation of the rank-size regularity that can be illustrated by the relative rate of change between pairs of settlements whose ranks are k and (k + 1) on a logarithmic grid. The low (monotonic) rate of change of the middle (modal) section stands out against the high rate of change of the largest and smallest settlements.

The significance of the shapes of the curves are discussed by analyzing a case from Britain (Cheshire) and from three areas in Israel and the West Bank-Philistia, Ramallah and Hebron. It is shown that the specific shape of the rural rank-size curve can be related to internal forces operating in the study areas. The dominance of the typically rural sector (the mode) is clearly evident in stable rural areas such as Philistia and Ramallah. Unstable areas tend to have very conspicuous tails, while the development of non-farm sectors results in a pronounced head.


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