There are some places in the world that will always be literary centers. London, Paris and New York are all historic cities that continue be of interest to travelers, scholars, writers and readers. But new data reveal that emerging Asian metropolises like Beijing and Mumbai are becoming the subject of more and more books.
Edgard Barbosa, a graphic design student at Florida Atlantic University, examined English-language books written between 1800 and 2000 and marked how many times one of 10 pre-selected cities were mentioned in writing over that period. The cities that were selected were London, New York, Rome, Paris, Chicago, Tokyo, Madrid, Beijing, Mumbai and Cairo. Barbosa’s infographic effectively illustrates the rise of BRIC cities like Beijing and Mumbai, particularly in the late 1970s and late '90s, respectively.
The data collected uses information from Google’s N-Gram Viewer archive of books, allowing for any mentions of the city to be included. While London and New York never really waned as topics for literature, China and India’s increased significance in a modern globalized society can clearly be seen.
“I think the next step would be to compare this data with major historical and cultural events and find connections between events and the amount of literature written,” Barbosa wrote in an email to The Atlantic Cities site. “I’m pretty sure there is a clear connection.”
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The full data set can be viewed here.