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Lesson 6.5: Urban Hubs of Mediterranean Globalization: Barcelona and Istanbul


Lesson 6.5: Urban Hubs of Mediterranean Globalization: Barcelona and Istanbul


Topic 3: Urbanization and the Mediterranean


Topic Overview

For the first time in history, over half of the world’s population lives in urban areas. Exploring urbanization in the era of globalization empowers students to compare and contrast change and continuity in Mediterranean urbanites. Located at either ends of the Mediterranean Sea, examining the cities Istanbul and Barcelona provides a gateway to many topics, such as demographics of migration, cultural change and political struggle, identity, cosmopolitanism and global citizenship. Students use Barcelona and Istanbul as case studies for these topics.

Looking at urbanisation in the modern period helps students to compare and contrast change and continuity in every-day life of Mediterranean urbanites. Exploring the cities Istanbul and Barcelona, at either ends of the Mediterranean, opens a gateway to many topics, such as demographics of migration, cultural change and political struggle (dissidents, inter-group riots, etc.)

Topic Essential Questions

  • How can we understand Mediterranean cities as part of a broader phenomenon of global urbanization and urban networking?
  • To what extent do Barcelona and Istanbul reflect a distinctively Mediterranean culture alongside their respective national histories?

Lesson Overview

Barcelona and Istanbul exist on either end of the Mediterranean Sea’s West/East axis. Both cities are case studies of how urban hubs have evolved in the midst of globalization. The lesson explores the extent to which Barcelona and Istanbul reflect global cosmopolitanism in a Mediterranean context.


Jonathan Even-Zohar and Craig Perrier


Our Shared Past in the Mediterranean: A World History Curriculum Project for Educators


Ali Vural Ak Center for Global Islamic Studies, George Mason University




2014, Ali Vural Ak Center for Global Islamic Studies, George Mason University, published under Creative Commons – Attribution-No Derivatives 3.0 License


2 class periods


• Make comparisons and connections.

• Interpret and evaluate evidence.

• Formulate historical questions.

• Use historical information and knowledge to read and understand sources.

• Contextualize information.


• Students will be able to define urbanization, global citizenship, and globalization and gather data to show how these terms apply to Barcelona, Spain and Istanbul, Turkey.

• They will locate the two cities on a map and describe them as places within the Mediterranean region.

• They will analyze resources regarding two cities located on the West and East perimeters of the Mediterranean Sea to explain how the two cities are affected by global, regional, national, and local elements.


• Student Handout 6.5.1 Background Reading: Urbanization -

• Student Handout 6.5.2 Background Reading: Global Citizenship -

• Student Handout 6.5.3 Background Reading: Globalization -

• Student Handout 6.5.4 Comparing Barcelona & Istanbul

Lesson Plan Text

1. Introduce the phenomena of Urbanization and Globalization: For the first time in history, over half of the world’s population lives in urban areas. Many people now live apart from where their food is grown and are dependent on vast and complex infrastructures for their livelihoods. Urban areas provide economic opportunity, the potential for increased efficiency and improvements in standard of living, but they are also under acute stress as their populations expand. This in turn puts pressure on the areas that support their resource needs, creating social, infrastructural and health challenges to the sustainability of cities.

2. Activator: Quote Reflection:- Ask students to write a paragraph explaining their thoughts on the quote: “Cities exist because there is some sort of compact between citizen and community that their life has a better chance of getting better by choosing to live in an urban place.” - Gary Lawrence Chief Sustainability Officer at AECOM, an urban design consortium. Use the three background readings to orient students to the topic and define the terms within which they will study two major cities in the Mediterranean region. The class can be divided into three groups, each studying one of the articles and coming up with a list of characteristics defining the terms. Each group then reads its list and then students use it to composes a short definition of the term. At the conclusion of the readings, have the whole class discuss how the terms are related to one another.

• Student Handout 6.5.1: Urbanization

• Student Handout 6.5.2: Global Citizenship

• Student Handout 6.5.3: Globalization

3. Distribute electronic copies of Student Handout 6.3.1 containing the links for Case Study Resources, or project onto a smartboard. (Note: the map key for the activity of locating cities is at so you may want to separate that from the handout.) Introduce the case studies by showing students the Global Cities Index. The Global Cities Index provides a comprehensive ranking of the leading global cities from around the world. It is designed to track the way cities maneuver as their populations grow and the world continues to shrink. In 2012, Barcelona ranked 24 and Istanbul 37. Both rankings were increases from the previous 2010 report. “Istanbul and Ankara. Istanbul have long been described as the hinge between West and East, with a rich imperial culture and deep knowledge about how to govern such intersections. In combination with Ankara, it is rapidly becoming a major global policy nexus. The full report is here: “2012 Global Cities Index - Full Report - A.T. Kearney.”

4. Extension: Add an additional city located in the Mediterranean region as a third comparison (i.e. Athens, Nice, Alexandria, Jerusalem etc.)

5. Contact the Spanish and Turkish consulates or embassies for additional information and resources.

6. Assessment: Using Student Handout 6.5.4, the concluding activity is for students to construct responses to the following prompts individually or in a group. Responses can be written, a presentation, website creation etc.

• What are the challenges and benefits globalization presents to Barcelona and Istanbul?

• To what extent and in what ways do Barcelona and Istanbul represent the Mediterranean and modernity?

• Identify and explain how cosmopolitanism is present in Barcelona and Istanbul.

• What are the effects of urbanization upon Barcelona and Istanbul?



Jonathan Even-Zohar and Craig Perrier, “Lesson 6.5: Urban Hubs of Mediterranean Globalization: Barcelona and Istanbul,” Our Shared Past in the Mediterranean: Teaching Modules , accessed July 15, 2019,

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