No two cities are similar but invariably they have some commonalities on which they may be grouped into categories. The earliest classification was based on the evolutionary stages of a city.
Aurosseau gave the first functional classification of cities. He classified the cities on the basis of dominant functions.
Aurosseau's functional classification of cities
- Administrative towns
- Cities that perform an administrative function
- Washington DC, Gandhinagar, Delhi, Islamabad, Brasilia
- Cultural cities
- They are cultural centers
- Varanasi Saint Petersburg Madurai Venice
- Recreational center
- Like hill stations
- Shimla, Las-Vegas
- Beach town Goa
- Manufacturing center
- Bokaro, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Birmingham, etc.
- Defense towns
- Made for security reasons
- Cantonment areas like Jabalpur, Ranikhet, Rawalpindi, Edinburgh, etc.
- Centers for communication
- Mumbai, Singapore, Rotterdam, Colombo, Mugalsarai, Itarsi, Khadakpur
Aurosseau's scheme was based on subjective evaluation in depicting the nature of a city. It did not use any statistical method.
Modifications over this scheme started using statistical data such as the proportion of population employed in certain categories of function. In India, one such example of quantitative statistics-based classification was that of Ashok Mitra.
Ashok Mitra's classification of Indian cities
- He used census data to classify the Indian cities
- The 1971 census identified 9 categories of workers
- Agricultural labor other than cultivators
- Workers in forestry fishing and mining
- workers in housing
- Construction other than housing
- Trade and commerce
- Transport communication
- Other services
Ashok Mitra didn't consider function 1 and 2 because they are purely agriculture function.
Manufacturing functions - Functions 3, 4, 5, and 6 were together considered as Manufacturing functions.
Forestry fisheries and mining are primary activity but mining is related to industry and so also many forestry activities.
Trade functions - Functions 7 and 8 were considered as Trade functions.
Service function - Function 9 was considered as Service function.
For every city that he studied, statistically, he tried to establish the proportion of workers in each of the above three categories.
He tries to plot the city on a triangular graph on the basis of the proportion of workers in each category of employment. Namely Services, trade, and manufacturing.
For identifying the character of the city, Ashok Mitra first draws an incircle and subdivides the incircle into three concentric zones of equal width because the graph is divided in 4 parts.
- Zone 1 - Depict city with maximum diversification
- Zone 2 - They are cities with moderate diversification
- Zone 3 - Cities with function predominantly accentuated
- Zone 4 - City with function highly accentuated
Zone 3 and Zone 4 depicts cities with specialization where some category of function is the character of the city.