Introduction to Settlement Geography

  • In geography, statistics, and archaeology, a settlement, locality, or populated place is a community in which people live. A settlement can range in size from a small number of dwellings grouped together to the largest of cities with surrounding urbanized areas. Settlements may include hamlets, villages, towns, and cities.
  • Settlement refers to the cluster of houses over space which manifests the socioeconomic conditions and the environmental constraints. Thus, a settlement has both physical and social structures.
  • It is not only about concrete houses but also about who resides there.
  • The settlement is an expansion of the socio-historic, cultural, and religious perception of a man in a given geographic environment.
  • From the nomadic herdsmen, the concept of the area grew, and with the growth of the family, the sedentary housing system grew and from it villages grew.
  • The villages which had non-agricultural surplus developed into ‘Mandis’ and the transportation routes connected the Mandis and hence developed the urban settlements.
Introduction to Settlement Geography

Rural settlement vs Urban settlement

There are five criteria to differentiate between rural settlement and urban settlement

  • Morphology (the physical structure): The urban structures are marked by tall buildings, wide roads, administrative and recreation centres in contrast to rural settlements which are usually agrarian landscapes.
  • Function (Primary, Secondary, Tertiary): Rural areas basically have the majority of its population involved in primary functions whereas in urban areas people have secondary (manufacturing) and tertiary functions (services) as their major occupations.
  • Demography (high or low population density): Urban areas are marked by high population density and compact settlements in comparison to rural areas where population density is relatively low and settlements are scattered.
  • Cultural traits: The urban areas are marked by class stratification in contrast to the rural areas where the cast and religious stratification is more prominent.
  • Infrastructure:
    • Economic infrastructure: Economic infrastructure includes transportation, communication, etc. which is more developed in urban areas than rural areas.
    • Social infrastructure: It includes health, education recreation, etc. where urban areas score over rural areas.

Census of India gives definitions of rural and urban areas based on three criteria:

  • Rural Settlement
    • Population is less than 5000
    • Population density is less than 400 persons/Sq. km.
    • More than 75 % of people are engaged in Agricultural and associated primary activities
    • Run by Gram-Panchayats.
  • Urban Settlement
    • Population is greater than 5000
    • Population density is greater than 400 persons/Sq. km.
    • More than 75 % of people are engaged in Non-Agricultural activities
    • Run by Municipality, Cantonment Board, Corporation, etc.

Rural settlement

  • Any settlements in which most of the people are engaged in primary activities such as agriculture, forestry, mining, or fishing is known as a rural settlement.
  • Rural settlements are the clusters of unorganized, amorphous, closely knitted houses with poor ventilation and sewage/drainage pattern and lanes meandering (meandering roads/not properly planned) and abruptly ending into houses.
  • It includes not only the village but also agricultural fields and areas of forestry and livestock raising which are functionally integrated with the village.
  • They have strong currents of social bonding. Rural settlement signifies great centripetal force due to strong bonding between the people.
  • Rural settlement constitutes both physical morphology and social morphology.
  • Rural settlement comprises of the aggregate of the village, agricultural land, forestry, and livestock area.
  • Rural settlement manifests socio-economic aspiration, their adaptability, the historical progression of a living civilization, and economic functionality.


  • A hamlet is a small human settlement.
  • In British geography, a hamlet is considered smaller than a village and distinctly without a church.
  • Officially, a hamlet differs from a village in having no commercial premises, but has residences and may have community buildings such as churches and public halls.


  • A village is a clustered human settlement or community, larger than a hamlet but smaller than a town, with a population ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand.
  • In the past, villages were a usual form of community for societies that practice subsistence agriculture, and also for some non-agricultural societies.
  • According to the 2011 census of India, 68.84% of Indians (around 833.1 million people) live in 640,867 different villages.


  • Rural + Urban
  • Transitional Phase in between Rural and Urban settlements
  • Run by Gram Panchayets
  • Population is more than 5000 but less than 10,000.


  • A town is a medium-sized human settlement. Towns are generally larger than villages but smaller than cities, though the criteria which constitute them vary considerably in different parts of the world.
    • Large town – 20,000 to 1 lakh people
    • Town – 5,000 to 20,000 people.
  • Census towns are defined as places that satisfy the following criteria:
    • Minimum population of 5,000
    • At least 75% of male working population engaged in non-agricultural pursuits
    • Density of population at least 400/km2. (1,000 per sq. mile).


  • A city is a large human settlement. Cities generally have extensive systems for housing, transportation, sanitation, utilities, land use, and communication. Their density facilitates interaction between people, government organizations, and businesses, sometimes benefiting different parties in the process.
    • City – 1 lakh to 3 lakh Population
    • Large City – 3 lakh to 1 million population.


  • A metropolis is a large city or conurbation which is a significant economic, political, and cultural center for a country or region, and an important hub for regional or international connections, commerce, and communications. The term is Ancient Greek and means the “mother city” of a colony (in the ancient sense), that is, the city that sent out settlers.
    • Minimum Population – 1 to 3 million.
    • Conurbation – 3 to 10 million people.


  • The term was used by Patrick Geddes in his 1915 book Cities in Evolution. Jean Gottmann popularised this term in 1961.
  • A megalopolis (sometimes called a megapolis; also megaregion, or supercity) is typically defined as a
    chain of roughly adjacent metropolitan areas, which may be somewhat separated or may merge into a
    continuous urban region.
  • Megalopolis is derived from Greek:(mégas) meaning ‘great’ and (pólis) meaning ‘city’, therefore literally a ‘great city’. This term is closer in meaning to megacity.
  • A megalopolis, also known as a mega-region, is a clustered network of cities.
  • Gottmann defined its population as 25 million.
  • Doxiadis defined a small megalopolis a similar cluster with a population of about 10 million.

Primate City

  • A primate city (Latin: “prime, first rank”) is the largest city in its country or region, disproportionately larger than any others in the urban hierarchy.
    • First proposed by the geographer Mark Jefferson in 1939.
    • He defines a primate city as being “at least twice as large as the next largest city and more than twice as significant.”
  • Among the best known examples of primate cities are London and Paris.
  • Other major primate cities include Athens, Baghdad, Bangkok, Budapest, Buenos Aires, Cairo, Dublin, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Lima, Mexico City, Seoul, Tehran, and Vienna.
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shashi bhushan

Thanks sir


Valuable material sir…tnq

Sonam wangchuk

What is nature of settlement geography?


very helpful. thank you


Thank you for this help.😊