Second city

From Academic Kids

The second city of a country is the city that is (or was) the second-most important, usually after the capital or first city, according to some criteria.

Criteria for second city status include population size, economic or commercial importance, political importance or some cultural sense. Since it is often difficult to draw a precise boundary where cities end, deciding which city is second in a country is not always straightforward. If the cultural definition is used, then the choice of second city is highly subjective and a matter of opinion rather than fact. In many counties, more than one city might have a legitimate claim to being second city, depending on the definition or criteria used.



In Australia, Melbourne is sometimes referred to as the second city, behind the largest city Sydney (although neither is the capital; this is the comparatively small Canberra).


In Canada, Toronto was referred to as the second city before the late 1970s when it overtook Montreal in population and the centre of the financial industry moved from St. James Street to Bay Street.

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, Birmingham has generally been considered the second city since around the First World War. More recently, many have claimed that Manchester deserves the distinction. Many Birmingham residents agree, with the tongue-in-cheek stipulation that Birmingham be the 'First City'.

Based on formal city boundaries Birmingham is larger than Manchester, although formal city boundaries are not definitive (for instance, the City of London is very small). The surrounding conurbations and the areas that can be considered informally part of each city are hard to define. It is perhaps even more difficult to make a distinction based on cultural factors, as all major UK cities play an important role in the cultural make-up of the country.

In the past, Glasgow and Liverpool each had a claim to being the second city of the UK or indeed of the entire British Empire. Both cities were prominent because of their economic importance, especially the central role which they played in overseas trade.

United States

In the United States, the term is a nickname for Chicago, often thought to be playing upon the fact that for many years it was second in population only to New York City (although Los Angeles overtook Chicago to become the second-largest city in the 1980s). In actuality, it refers to the "second city" that Chicago rebuilt after the Great Chicago Fire.

In the years prior to the American Revolution, Philadelphia was the second-largest English-speaking city in the British Empire after London.

Other countries

See also


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