Walter Christaller & Central Place Theory


A Photo of Walter Christaller

Christaller's Own Writings:

Christaller, Walter. Die zentralen Orte in Süddeutschland. Jena: Gustav Fischer, 1933. (Translated (in part), by Charlisle W. Baskin, as Central Places in Southern Germany. Prentice Hall 1966).

--, "Raumtheorie und Raumordnung," Archiv für Wirtschaftsplanung. Vol.I, 1941, pp.116-35. (Krumme has copy of this paper)

--, "Beiträge zu einer Geographie des Fremdenverkehrs," Erdkunde 9 (1955), 1-19.

--, Die Hierarchie der Städte," in: Proceedings of the IGU Symposium in Urban Geography, Lund, 1960. (Knut Norborg, ed.,), Lund Studies in Geography, Ser.B, Human Geography, No.24, 1962, pp.3-11.

--, "Some Considerations of Tourism Location in Europe", Papers, Regional Science Association. Vol.12, 1964, pp.95-105.

--, "How I discovered the Theory of Central Places: A Report about the Origin of Central Places. in: English, P.W. and R.C. Mayfield, eds., Man Space and Environment. Oxford Univ. Press, 1972, pp.601-610.

Reviews and Critiques of Christaller's Work


Central Place Theory and Indiana [incl. brief overview] []

A very brief summary

Berry, Brian J.L. and Chauncy D. Harris, "Walter Christaller: An Appreciation," Geographical Review LX (1), 1970, pp.116-9.

von Böventer, Edwin. "Walter Christaller's Central Places and Peripheral Areas: The Central Place Theory in Retrospect," Journal of Regional Science. Vol.9, 1969, 117-24.

Bunge, William. Theoretical Geography. 2 editions, 1st. 1962 (Lund Studies in Geography) [dedicated to Walter Christaller].

Eaton, B. Curtis and Richard G. Lipsey, An Economic Theory of Central Places The Economic Journal, Vol. 92, No. 365. (Mar., 1982), pp. 56-72. [ JSTOR (Online): Stable URL]

Hottes, Ruth. "Walter Christaller -- Ein Überblick über Leben und Werk," in: Geographisches Taschenbuch 1981/1982, E.Ehlers and E.Meynen, eds., Wiesbaden (Steiner Verlag).

Hottes, R. "Walter Christaller", Annals (AAG), 73 (1983), 51-54. [in English]

Hottes, K-H, Hottes, R. and Peter Schöller, "Walter Christaller 1893-1969. in: Freeman, T.W., ed., Geographers Bibliographical Studies, Vol.7. Mansell Publ. London, 1983, pp.11-16.

Preston, R.E., "The Dynamic Component of Christaller's Central Place Theory and the Theme of Change in his Research," Canadian Geographer, vol.27, 1983, pp.4-16.

Preston, R.E., "Christaller's Neglected Contribution to the Study of the Evolution of Central Places," Progress in Human Geography. vol.9, 1985, pp.177-93.

Roessler, M., Applied Geography and Area Research in Nazi Society: Central Place Theory and Planning, 1933 to 1945. Environment and Planning D. Vol.7, 1989, pp.419-31.

Other Central Place Literature:

Biles, James J., (Michigan State University) Central Place Theory (Outline)

Eaton, B. Curtis and Richard G. Lipsey, "An Economic Theory of Central Places," The Economic Journal, Vol. 92, No. 365. (Mar., 1982), pp. 56-72. Stable (JSTOR) URL: (retail store agglomeration due to multiple purpose shopping.)

Esparza, Adrian X. & Andrew J. Krmenec, "The Spatial Markets of Cities Organized in a Hierarchical System," Professional Geographer 48(4), Nov. 1997, 367-78.

Henderson, J.V., "Systems of Cities in Closed and Open Economies," RSUE 12, (1982), 325-350. (Comparative advantage and the system of cities.)

King, Leslie J. Central Place Theory (Sage Paperback)

Kosso, Peter & Kosso, Cynthia. Central Place Theory and the reciprocity between theory and evidence. Philosophy of science [East Lansing, MI] Vol. 62. No. 4. December 1995. p. 581-598. Maps. (The geographic focus is on the archaeological site in Crete.)

Loesch, August. The Economics of Location (2nd ed., 1944)

Parr & Denike (1970)

[Photo of Walter Christaller]

Online Resources:

Christaller & Loesch compared

"The basic difference between Loesch and Christaller arise out of the different procedures employed in combining the market networks of the individual goods. While Loesch considers first the commodity with the smallest market area and then introduces other commodities with successively larger market areas, Christaller starts, in effect, with the largest market area and then turns to commodities with ever smaller market areas. Thus, Christaller constructs his system from the top to the bottom, while Loesch builds his starting from the bottom."

Assumptions which need to be made for both systems in order to avoid inconsistancies:

  1. All employees are commuters: Population distribution has to be even. (no residential population centers)
  2. All firms must draw their employees evenly from all parts of their market areas to avoid uneven commuting costs
  3. No employee is allowed to do any shopping on the way to or from work (otherwise the demand is not evenly distributed)
  4. On each trip, a household is allowed to accomplish only the purchase of one commodity
  5. If firms deliver their goods and services, then only one household can be served on one trip.
  6. Thus there are no EXTERNAL ECONOMIES OR DISECONOMIES permitted, in shopping or in production which could distort the systems of hexagons.
  7. No statements about the sizes of central places are possible (except, in the case of Christaller, that each higher order central place is at least as large as all lower order central places)
  8. There can be no Thunen-type ring formation because of the need to have an even distribution of demand
  9. Balance of payment consideration are neglected
  10. Industrial & service production can't consume any space, otherwise factor prices for land would be different in different-size centers.

Deviations from optimal spatial layouts for individual commodities relatively large: Possible sizes: 1, 3, 9, 27... relatively small: Possible sizes: 1, 3, 4, 7, 9, 12, 13, ...
Permitted Specialization strictly hierarchical: smaller centers do NOT supply larger centers the more flexible distribution of functions between centers permits smaller centers to provide goods and services to larger centers

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