AP Human Geography Unit 6: Cities and Urban Land-Use Patterns and Processes Notes

April 10, 2024
AP Human Geography Unit 6 Study Notes

Preparing for the AP Human Geography Exam requires you to learn and remember lots of information. To help you stay organized as you study for the AP Human Geography Test, we’ve compiled lists of key terms and provided concise summaries for each AP Human Geography unit. Read on for our AP Human Geography Unit 6 summary and key terms.

AP Human Geography: Unit 6 Summary

Urban geographers study all aspects of the world’s cities, from their historical development, to their spatial organization, to the ways that they interact with the regions surrounding them, to their importance in the world economic system. The first cities arose thousands of years ago in regions where agriculture had gained an early foothold. By the beginning of the Colonial Period, large, prosperous cities existed on every continent except Australia. During the 19th century, the Industrial Revolution fundamentally changed both the way that cities were built and their basic economic and cultural functions. Since then, a variety of architectural movements and transportation innovations have profoundly shaped the urban environment. Many of today’s cities still retain much of their historical architecture and layout, but they also represent dynamic products of constantly changing social and cultural forces. A few such places have managed to establish themselves as world centers of economic, cultural, or administrative power. The impoverished and rapidly expanding megacities of the developing world provide a stark contrast to these prosperous world centers.

AP Human Geography: Unit 6 Key Terms

  • Action space: The geographical area that contains the space an individual interacts with on a daily basis. 
  • Beau Arts: This movement within city planning and urban design that stressed the marriage of older, classical forms with newer, industrial ones. Common characteristics of this period include wide thoroughfares, spacious parks, and civic monuments that stressed progress, freedom, and national unity. 
  • Blockbusting: As early as 1900, real estate agents and developers encouraged affluent white property owners to sell their homes and businesses at a loss by stoking fears that their neighborhoods were being overtaken by racial or ethnic minorities. 
  • Boomburb: A large, rapidly growing city that is suburban in character but resembles population totals or large urban cores. 
  • Borchert’s Epochs: According to the geographer John R. Borchert, American cities have undergone five major epochs, or periods, of development shaped by the dominant forms of transportation and communication at the time. These include the sail-wagon epoch (1790–1830), iron horse epoch (1830–1870), steel rail epoch (1870–1920), auto-air-amenity epoch (1920–1970), and satellite-electronic-jet propulsion and high-technology epoch (1970–present).
  • Central business district: The downtown or nucleus of a city where retail stores, offices, and cultural activities are concentrated; building densities are usually quite high; and transportation systems converge. 
  • Central-Place Theory: A theory formulated by Walter Christaller in the early 1900s that explains the size and distribution of cities in terms of a competitive supply of goods and services to dispersed populations. 
  • City Beautiful Movement: Movement in environmental design that drew directly from the Beaux Arts school. Architects from this movement strove to impart order on hectic, industrial centers by creating urban spaces that conveyed a sense of morality and civic pride, which many feared was absent from the frenzied new industrial world.
  • Colonial cities: Cities established by colonizing empires as administrative centers. Often they were established on already existing native cities, completely overtaking their infrastructures. 
  • Concentric-Zone Model: Model that describes urban environments as a series of rings of distinct land uses radiating out from a central core, or central business district. 
  • Edge cities: Cities that are located on the outskirts of larger cities and serve many of the same functions of urban areas, but in a sprawling, decentralized suburban environment. 
  • Environmental justice: According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.” 
  • European cities: Cities in Europe that were mostly developed during the Medieval Period and that retain many of the same characteristics, such as extreme density of development with narrow buildings and winding streets, an ornate church that prominently marks the city center, and high walls surrounding the city center that provided defense against attack. 
  • Exurbanite: Person who has left the inner city and moved to outlying suburbs or rural areas. 
  • Feudal cities: Cities that arose during the Middle Ages and that actually represent a time of relative stagnation in urban growth. This system fostered a dependent relationship between wealthy landowners and peasants who worked their land, providing very little alternative economic opportunities. 
  • Forward capital: A capital city placed in a remote or peripheral area for economic, strategic, or symbolic reasons. 
  • Galactic City Model: A circular-city model that characterizes the role of the automobile in the post-industrial era. 
  • Gateway cities: Cities that, because of their geographic location, act as ports of entry and distribution centers for large geographic areas. 
  • Gentrification: The trend of middle- and upper-income Americans moving into city centers and rehabilitating much of the architecture but also replacing low-income populations, and changing the social character of certain neighborhoods. 
  • Ghettoization: A process occurring in many inner cities in which they become dilapidated centers of poverty, as affluent whites move out to the suburbs and immigrants and people of color vie for scarce jobs and resources. 
  • Great Migration: An early 20th-century mass movement of African Americans from the Deep South to the industrial North, particularly Chicago.

Check out our full AP Human Geography Unit 6 Notes.