School of Humanities



Lindsay Hasluck

Phone: (+61 8) 6488 3234


Start date

Mar 2015

Submission date

Mar 2019

Lindsay Hasluck

Lindsay Hasluck profile photo


A comparative study of urbanisation in the Incan and Roman empires during their imperial periods


In previous published research concerning urban continuity in the Andes (Hasluck 2009), the candidate established that the Incan Empire was a truly urban civilisation. In many respects the urban policies and practices of the Incan Empire resemble those of the Roman Empire. The resemblance has often been alluded to in historical and contemporary literature but it has not been the subject of any specific comparative study. This proposed research will compare the growth and effect of urbanism with respect to two profoundly different regions, cultures, and imperial administrations. For the first time it will enable Incan urbanism to be included in international discourse about the development of modern urban planning.

Policies and practices directed to urban needs contributed to the expansion of the Roman Empire. Cities throughout the Empire fashioned in conformity to Roman planning ideals came to symbolise urbanity, or an improved way of life, and played a part in the shaping of European civilisation. The Spanish conquest of South America was accompanied by the use of contemporary European practices derived ultimately from Roman urbanism. These were readily accepted in the Andean region because there were similarities between the policies and practices of the Roman and Incan Empires.

The proposed research makes provision for a comparison of the urban experience within these two influential empires. It will examine important questions about the similarities between them with respect to political, economic, and social policies. An enhanced understanding of Incan urbanism will show that although Andean cities and their urban planning traditions have discrete design aspects, they also have much in common with pre-industrial cities generally. This bears upon the complexities of building and maintaining multi-cultural administrations and the development of urbanism in general. It also bears upon the important question of whether the design of today’s cities in the Andean region of South America can be characterised as the product of a fusion of separately developed urban ideas, rather than being regarded as an overlay of Spanish or European cultural imperialism.

Why my research is important

The urbanism of the Andes of South America has long been ignored in the international debate on pre-industrial urbanism, even though it is one of the few areas where pristine urban development began, uninfluenced by outside cultures, and millennia before Mesoamerica. This study extends my previous research (“Urban Continuity in the Andes: A pre-historical planning tradition”, Hasluck, 2009, Oxford, Archaeopress), which detailed the creation and evolution of an Andean urban planning tradition from ca. 2700 BC to the end of the Tawantinsuyu (Incan) Empire.

Following that revelation, it is possible to make comparative analysis’s with other pre-industrial planning traditions and to bring South American urbanism into international debate for the first time. The reasons for making the primary comparison with Roman urbanism are as stated above, to investigate a commonly used analogy between the two empires, and similarities in urban design introduced with Spanish colonialism. This cultural comparison is also a logical place to begin, as Roman and the Tawantinsuyu (Incan) empire were the largest pre-industrial urban empires. I believe that I have a duty to the Andean knowledge, and people, to begin this comparative analysis. I hope that along with Mesopotamia, or the Indus, further investigation will help Andean urbanism become generally accepted as one of the pristine urban examples.


  • Australian Postgraduate Award
  • UWA Safety-Net Top-Up Scholarship
  • Overseas Travel Award
  • Rodney R. T. Prider Travel Scholarship