Geography and Civilization
How Geography Affects Country Development
Thousands of years ago, humanity was nothing more than a common ape wandering the Earth. Over time, we appeared to become the dominant species on the planet as our influence spread across continents. But when a species is spread out, the population changes and adopts new customs and traditions. Some groups of humans frequented areas full of food, water, minerals, and metals, and others were not as lucky, foraging for food and water in an unforgiving environment, having no time to try to advance their people. But how does geography affect a civilization’s development? Does it even truly affect it at all?
One of the first major advancement in human technology was writing, and broke our species away from its era of prehistory, this being about 3500 B.C. Another advancement before this is the development of agriculture, allowing the settling of a people. The first areas to have civilizations because of farming were in river valleys, like the Nile river valley and the Fertile Crescent in the Middle East. But because of their limited technology knowledge, they most likely didn’t know that any of the other civilizations existed, even though today they are considered very close to one another on a map. (Below shows early Cuneiform writing from Mesopotamia)
Around 100 A.D, there were two great empires: the Romans and the Chinese, who being on opposite sides of Eurasia, were not aware of the other’s existence. Both empires had great scientists and philosophers and both had originated in an area with lots of water. In China, there was a river valley where people could farm, and the Italian Peninsula was full of streams and springs, not to mention the plentiful amounts of food. China lasted as an empire for several more centuries until the Mongols successfully took over, but Rome, after a few centuries of decline after Caesar, fell to invading Germanic tribes (more specifically, the Visigoths). But when old civilizations fall, new ones rise. The Mongol occupation was later seen as a dynasty and eventually the Chinese held power over their empire again. Likewise, Rome’s Italian homeland once again became an influential area in Europe, but not for the next few centuries. (Below is a map of the Roman Empire near the height of its power)
Skipping forward to the 1300s, Italy had once again became a center of culture and science. The Renaissance brought back the splendor of the Romans and Greeks to southern Europe with art and science. Along with Italy; England, France, Spain, and Germany all took part in the Renaissance’s art and science revolutions, shying away from the religious focus of the Middle Ages. The Renaissance helped western European countries become world powers, which led to colonialism following the Columbus-led expedition that accidentally found two more continents. It is worth noting that the Renaissance occurred during a more peaceful time, allowing development for all nations, starting with Italy. But like many great things, the Renaissance did not last. The now more powerful nations began to fight for territory, both in Europe and in the “New World.” (Below is a map of Renaissance-era Italy)
1800s to Today
In the 1800s, the Industrial Revolution began in the United Kingdom and quickly spread across the world. At this point in time, the countries in the world were all aware of one another and many European powers held colonies across the world. The UK famously controlled around ¼ of the world’s land, with India, Canada, and its African territories contributing the most (The UK also controlled many islands, including Australia and Gibraltar, among others, for their other territories). Because of Europe’s rapid advancement, it took little time for them to keep advancing in technology and the idea of colonialism was a popular one, explaining the UK’s massive territory. Conquering or fighting people from a nation that has less resources and worse strategy make for an easy victory, and the United Kingdom had helped divvy up Africa and had defeated the unfortunate native tribes throughout America, holding the upper hand through firepower. This idea of colonialism could have several outcomes, like a newly free country being underdeveloped or on par with other nations for the time. Many African nations today are considered third world because they were let go with no infrastructure to keep the country stable and then corruption sets in, ruining any chance the country had for true freedom. Canada, on the other hand, had time to develop and it shows, as Canada is close to the top of the Human Develop Index (HDI). (Below is a picture of an Industrial Revolution-era factory)
It is noticeable that there is a lack of mentioning the geography of countries after the Renaissance, and that is because the Renaissance era is one of the last eras that involved development with geography. Because of the advancement of Europe (and China, but that wasn’t part of the Renaissance and a few centuries earlier), they were able to begin taking the land of weaker empires and groups worldwide. The native tribes in America did not have a Renaissance-like period of growth and were sadly and subsequently conquered by European powers. China, however, was able to form trade with Europe. Many countries outside of Europe were once controlled by European powers, and subsequently the native culture was assimilated. In short, developmentally advanced countries’ thirst for power destroys native life and these conquering countries tend to be European.
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