Influences of Geographic Environment - On the Basis of Ratzel's System of Anthropo-Geography
by Ellen Churchill Semple
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Hither, as to their fountain, other stars Repairing, in their golden urns draw light. MILTON.


The present book, as originally planned over seven years ago, was to be a simplified paraphrase or restatement of the principles embodied in Friedrich Ratzel's Anthropo-Geographie. The German work is difficult reading even for Germans. To most English and American students of geographic environment it is a closed book, a treasure-house bolted and barred. Ratzel himself realized "that any English form could not be a literal translation, but must be adapted to the Anglo-Celtic and especially to the Anglo-American mind." The writer undertook, with Ratzel's approval, to make such an adapted restatement of the principles, with a view to making them pass current where they are now unknown. But the initial stages of the work revealed the necessity of a radical modification of the original plan.

Ratzel performed the great service of placing anthropo-geography on a secure scientific basis. He had his forerunners in Montesquieu, Alexander von Humboldt, Buckle, Ritter, Kohl, Peschel and others; but he first investigated the subject from the modern scientific point of view, constructed his system according to the principles of evolution, and based his conclusions on world-wide inductions, for which his predecessors did not command the data. To this task he brought thorough training as a naturalist, broad reading and travel, a profound and original intellect, and amazing fertility of thought. Yet the field which he had chosen was so vast, and its material so complex, that even his big mental grasp could not wholly compass it. His conclusions, therefore, are not always exhaustive or final.

Moreover, the very fecundity of his ideas often left him no time to test the validity of his principles. He enunciates one brilliant generalization after another. Sometimes he reveals the mind of a seer or poet, throwing out conclusions which are highly suggestive, on the face of them convincing, but which on examination prove untenable, or at best must be set down as unproven or needing qualification. But these were just the slag from the great furnace of his mind, slag not always worthless. Brilliant and far-reaching as were his conclusions, he did not execute a well-ordered plan. Rather he grew with his work, and his work and its problems grew with him. He took a mountain-top view of things, kept his eyes always on the far horizon, and in the splendid sweep of his scientific conceptions sometimes overlooked the details near at hand. Herein lay his greatness and his limitation.

These facts brought the writer face to face with a serious problem. Ratzel's work needed to be tested, verified. The only solution was to go over the whole field from the beginning, making research for the data as from the foundation, and checking off the principles against the facts. This was especially necessary, because it was not always obvious that Ratzel had based his inductions on sufficiently broad data; and his published work had been open to the just criticism of inadequate citation of authorities. It was imperative, moreover, that any investigation of geographic environment for the English-speaking world should meet its public well supported both by facts and authorities, because that public had not previously known a Ritter or a Peschel.

The writer's own investigation revealed the fact that Ratzel's principles of anthropo-geography did not constitute a complete, well-proportioned system. Some aspects of the subject had been developed exhaustively, these of course the most important; but others had been treated inadequately, others were merely a hint or an inference, and yet others were represented by an hiatus. It became necessary, therefor, to work up certain important themes with a thoroughness commensurate with their significance, to reduce the scale of others, and to fill up certain gaps with original contributions to the science. Always it was necessary to clarify the original statement, where that was adhered to, and to throw it into the concrete form of expression demanded by the Anglo-Saxon mind.

One point more. The organic theory of society and state permeates the Anthropo-geographie, because Ratzel formulated his principles at a time when Herbert Spencer exercised a wide influence upon European thought. This theory, now generally abandoned by sociologists, had to be eliminated from any restatement of Ratzel's system. Though it was applied in the original often in great detail, it stood there nevertheless rather as a scaffolding around the finished edifice; and the stability of the structure, after this scaffolding is removed shows how extraneous to the whole it was. The theory performed, however, a great service in impressing Ratzel's mind with the life-giving connection between land and people.

The writer's own method of research has been to compare typical peoples of all races and all stages of cultural development, living under similar geographic conditions. If these peoples of different ethnic stocks but similar environments manifested similar or related social, economic or historical development, it was reasonable to infer that such similarities were due to environment and not to race. Thus, by extensive comparison, the race factor in these problems of two unknown quantities was eliminated for certain large classes of social and historical phenomena.

The writer, moreover, has purposely avoided definitions, formulas, and the enunciation of hard-and-fast rules; and has refrained from any effort to delimit the field or define the relation of this new science of anthropo-geography to the older sciences. It is unwise to put tight clothes on a growing child. The eventual form and scope of the science, the definition and organization of its material must evolve gradually, after long years and many efforts of many workers in the field. The eternal flux of Nature runs through anthropo-geography, and warns against precipitate or rigid conclusions. But its laws are none the less well founded because they do not lend themselves to mathematical finality of statement. For this reason the writer speaks of geographic factors and influences, shuns the word geographic determinant, and speaks with extreme caution of geographic control.

The present volume is offered to the public with a deep sense of its inadequacy; with the realization that some of its principles may have to be modified or their emphasis altered after wider research; but also with the hope that this effort may make the way easier for the scholar who shall some day write the ideal treatise on anthropo-geography.

In my work on this book I have only one person to thank, the great master who was my teacher and friend during his life, and after his death my inspiration.





Man a product of the earth's surface—Persistent effect of geographic barriers—Recurrent influences of nature-made highways—Regions of historical similarity—Persistence of climatic influences—Relation of geography to history—Multiplicity of geographic factors—Evolution of geographic relations—Interplay of geographic factors—Direct and indirect effects of environment—Indirect effects in differentiation of colonial peoples—General importance of indirect effects—Time element—Previous habitat—Transplanted religions—Partial response to environment—The larger conception of environment—Unity of the earth and the human race.


Four classes of influences—Physical effects of environment—Stature and environment—Effects of dominant activities—Physical effects of climate—Pigmentation in relation to heat and light—Pigmentation and altitude—Difficulty of generalization from geographic distribution—Psychical effects—In Religion—In mind and character—In language—The great man in history—Economic and social effects—Size of the social group—Effects on movements of peoples—Segregation and accessibility—Change of habitat.


People and land—Political geography—Political versus social geography—Land basis of society—Morgan's societas—Land bond in primitive hunter tribes—In fisher tribes—In pastoral tribes—Land and state—Strength of the land bond in the state—Evolution of land tenure—Land and food supply—Advance from natural to artificial basis of subsistence—Land basis in relation to agriculture—Migratory and sedentary agriculture—Geographic checks to progress in economic and social development—Native animal and plant life as factors in progress—Density of population under different cultural and geographic conditions—Its relation to government—Territorial expansion of the state—Artificial checks to population—Extra-territorial relations of state and people—Theory of progress from the standpoint of geography—Progressive dependence of man upon nature.


Universality of such movements—The name Historical Movement—Its evolution—Its importance in history—Geographical interpretation of historical movement—Mobility of primitive peoples—Civilization and mobility—Migration and ethnic mingling—Cultural modification during migration—The transit land—War as form of historical movement—Slavery—Military colonies—Withdrawal and flight—Natural regions of asylum—Emigration and colonization—Commerce as a form of historical movement—Movements due to religion—Historical movement and race distribution—Zonal distribution—Movements to like or better geographic conditions—Their direction—Return movements—Regions of attraction and repulsion—Psychical influences in certain movements—Two results of historical movement—Differentiation and area—Differentiation and isolation—Geographic conditions of heterogeneity and homogeneity—Assimilation—Elimination of unfit variants through historical movement—Geographical origins.


The importance of geographical location—Content of the term location—Intercontinental location—Natural versus vicinal location—Naturally defined location—Vicinal location—Vicinal groups of similar or diverse race and culture—Thalassic vicinal location—Complementary locations—Continuous and scattered location—Central versus peripheral location—Mutual relations between center and periphery—Inland and coastward expansion—Reaction between center and periphery—Periphery in colonization—Dominant historical side—Change of historical front—Contrasted historical sides—One-sided historical location—Scattered location—Due to adverse geographic conditions—Island way stations on maritime routes—Scattered location of primitive peoples—Ethnic islands of expansion and decline—Discontinuous distribution—Contrasted location—Geographical polarity—Geographical marks of growth and decline—Interpretation of scattered and marginal location—Contrast between ethnic islands of growth and decline.


The size of the earth—Relation of area to life—Area and differentiation—The struggle for space—National area an index of social and political development—The Oikoumene—The unity of the human species in relation to the earth—Isolation and differentiation—Monotonous race type of small area—Wide race distribution and inner diversities—Large area a guarantee of racial or national permanence—Weakness of small states—Protection of large area to primitive peoples—Contrast of large and small areas in bio-geography—Political domination of large areas—Area and literature—Small geographic base of primitive societies—Influence of small, confined areas—The process of territorial growth—Historical advance from small to large areas—Gradations in area and in development—Preliminaries to ethnic and political expansion—Significance of sphere of influence or activity—Nature of expansion in new and old countries—Relation of ethnic to political expansion—Relation of people and state to political boundary—Expansion of civilization—Cultural advantages of large political area—Politico-economic advantages—Political area and the national horizon—National estimates of area—Limitations of small tribal conceptions—Evolution of territorial policies—Colonial expansion—The mind of colonials.


The boundary zone in Nature—Oscillating boundaries of the habitable area of the earth—Wallace's Line a typical boundary zone—Boundaries as limits of expansion—Boundary zone as index of growth or decline—Breadth of boundary zone—Broad frontier zones of active expansion—Value of barrier boundaries—The sea as the absolute boundary—Natural boundaries as bases of ethnic and political boundaries—Primitive waste boundaries—Alien intrusions into border wastes—Politico-economic significance of the waste boundary—Common boundary districts—Tariff free zones—Boundary zones of mingled race elements—Assimilation of civilization in boundary zones—Relation of ethnic and cultural assimilation—The border zone of assimilation in political expansion—Tendency toward defection along political frontiers—The spirit of colonial frontiers—Free border states as political survivals—Guardians of the marches—Lawless citizens deported to political frontiers—Drift of lawless elements to the frontiers—Asylums beyond the border.


The coast a zone of transition—The inner edge—Shifting of the inner edge—Outer edge in original settlement—In early navigation—In colonization—Inland advance of colonies—Interpenetration of land and sea—Ratio of shore-line to area—Criticism of the formula—Accessibility of coasts from hinterland—Accessibility of coasts from the sea—Embayed coasts—Contrasted coastal belts—Evolution of ports—Influence of offshore islands—Previous habitat of coast-dwellers—Habitability of coasts as a factor in maritime development—Geographic conditions for brilliant maritime development—Scope and importance of seaward expansion—Ethnic contrast between coast and interior peoples—Ethnic amalgamations of coastlands—Lingua franca a product of coasts—Coast-dwellers as middlemen—Differentiation of coast from inland people—Early civilization of coasts—Progress from thalassic to oceanic coasts—Importance of geographic location of coasts—Historical decline of certain coasts—Complex interplay of geographic factors in coastlands.


The water a factor in man's mobility—Oceans and seas the factor of union in universal history—Origin of navigation—Primitive forms—Relation of river to marine navigation—Retarded and advanced navigation—Geographic conditions in Polynesia—Mediterranean versus Atlantic seamanship—Three geographic stages of maritime development—Enclosed seas as areas of ethnic and cultural assimilation—Assimilation facilitated by ethnic kinship—Importance of zonal and continental location of enclosed seas—Thalassic character of the Indian Ocean—Limitations of small area in enclosed seas—Successive maritime periods in history—Contrasted historical roles of northern and southern hemispheres—Size of the ocean—Neutrality of the seas—Mare clausum and Mare liberum.


The protection of a water frontier—Pile villages of ancient times—Modern pile dwellings—Their geographic distribution—River-dwellers in old and popular lands—Man's encroachment upon the sea by reclamation of land—The struggle with the water—Mound villages in river flood-plains—Social and political gain by control of the water—A factor in early civilization of arid lands—The economy of the water—Fisheries—Factors in maritime expansion—Fisheries as nurseries of seamen—Anthropo-geographic importance of navigation.


Rivers as intermediaries between land and sea—Sea navigation merges into river navigation—Historical importance of seas and oceans influenced by their debouching streams—Lack of coast articulations supplied by rivers—River highways as basis of commercial preeminence—Importance of rivers in large countries—Rivers as highways of expansion—Determinants of routes in arid or semi-arid lands—Increasing historical importance of rivers from source to mouth—Value of location at hydrographic centers—Effect of current upon trade and expansion—Importance of mouth to upstream people—Prevention of monopoly of river mouths—Motive for canals in lower course—Watershed canals for extension of inland waterways—Rivers and railroads—Natural unity of every river system—In arid lands as common source of water supply—Tendency towards ethnic and cultural unity in a river valley—Identity of country with river valley—Rivers as boundaries of races and peoples—Rivers as political boundaries—Fluvial settlements and peoples—Boatman tribes or castes—River islands as protected sites—River and lake islands as robber strongholds—River peninsulas—River islands as sites of trading posts and colonies—Swamps as barriers and boundaries—Swamps as regions of survivals—Swamps as places of refuge—The spirit of the marshes—Economic and political importance of lakes—Lakes as nuclei of states—Lakes as fresh-water seas.


Insularity of the land-masses—Classification of land-masses according to size and location—Effect of the size of land-masses—Independence due to location versus independence due to size—Continental convergence and ethnic kinship—Africa's location—The Atlantic abyss—Geographical character of the Pacific—Pacific affinities of North America—The Atlantic face of America as the infant Orient of the world—The Atlantic abyss in the movements of peoples—Races and continents—Contrast of the northern and southern continents—Effects of continental structure upon historical development—Structure of North and South America—Cultural superiority of Pacific slope Indians—Coast articulations of continents—Importance of size in continental articulations—Peninsular conditions most favorable to historical development—The continental base of peninsulas—Continental base a zone of transition—Continental base the scene of invasion and war—Peninsular extremities as areas of isolation—Ethnic unity of peninsulas—Peninsulas as intermediaries.


Physical relationship between islands and peninsulas—Character of insular flora and fauna—Paradoxical influences of island habitat on man—Conservative and radical tendencies born of isolation and accessibility—Islands as nurseries and disseminators of distinctive civilizations—Limitation of small area in insular history—Sources of ethnic stock of islands on nearest mainland. Ethnic divergence with increased isolation—Differentiation of peoples and civilizations in islands—Differentiation of language—Unification of race in islands—Remoter sources of island populations—Double sources—Mixed population of small thalassic isles—Significant location of island way stations—Thalassic islands as goals of maritime expansion—Political detachability of islands—Insular weakness based upon small area—Island fragments of broken empires—Area and location as factors in political autonomy of islands—Historical effects of island isolation in primitive retardation—Later stimulation of development—Excessive isolation—Protection of an island environment—Islands as places of refuge—Islands as places of survival—Effects of small area in islands—Economic limitations of their small area—Dense population of islands—Geographic causes of this density—Oceanic climate as factor—Relation of density to size—Density affected by a focal location for trade—Overflow of island population and colonies to the mainland—Precocious development of island agriculture—Intensive tillage—Emigration and colonization from islands—Recent emigration from islands—Maritime enterprise as outlet—Artificial checks to population—Polyandry—Infanticide—Low valuation of human life.


Relief of the sea floor—Mean elevations of the continents—Distribution of relief—Homologous reliefs and homologous histories—Anthropo-geography of lowlands—Extensive plains unfavorable to early development—Conditions for fusion in plains—Retardation due to monotonous environment—Influence of slight geographic features in plains—Plains and political expansion—Arid plains—Nomadism—Pastoral life—Pastoral nomads of Arctic plains—Historical importance of steppe nomads—Mobility of pastoral nomads—Seasonal migrations—Marauding expeditions—Forms of defense against nomad depredations—Pastoral life as a training for soldiers—Capacity for political organization and consolidation—Centralization versus decentralization in nomadism—Spirit of independence among nomads—Resistance to conquest—Curtailment of nomadism—Supplementary agriculture of pastoral nomadism—Irrigation and horticulture—Scant diet of nomads—Effects of a diminishing water supply—Checks to population—Trade of nomads—Pastoral nomads as middlemen—Desert markets—Nomad industries—Arid lands as areas of arrested development—Mental and moral qualities of nomads—Religion of pastoral nomads.


Man as part of the mobile envelope of the earth—Inaccessibility of mountains—Mountains as transit regions—Transition forms of relief between highlands and lowlands—Piedmont belts as boundary zones—Density of population in piedmont belts—Piedmont towns and cities—Piedmonts as colonial or backwoods frontiers—Mountain carriers—Power of mountain barriers to block or deflect historical movement—Significance of mountain valleys—Longitudinal valleys—Passes in mountain barriers—Breadth of mountain barriers—Dominant transmontane routes—Height and form of mountain barriers—Contrasted accessibility of opposite slopes—Political and ethnic effects—Persistence of barrier nature—Importance of mountain passes—Geographic conditions affecting the historical importance of passes—Passes determine the transmontane routes—Navigable river approaches to passes—Types of settlement in the valley approaches—Pass cities and their markets—Pass peoples—Their political importance.


Zones of altitude—Politico-economic value of a varied relief—Belief and climate—Altitude zones of economic and cultural development—Altitude and density belts in tropical highlands—Increasing density where altitude confers safety—Geographic conditions affecting density of mountain population—Terrace agriculture—Its geographical distribution—Terrace agriculture in mountainous islands—Among savage peoples—Fertilizing terrace lands—Economy of level land—Mountain pastures and stock-raising—Life and industry of the summer herdsmen—Communal ownership of mountain pastures—Hay making in high mountains—Winter industries of mountain peoples—Overpopulation and emigration—Preventive checks to increase of population—Religious celibacy—Polyandry—Marauding tendencies in mountaineers—Historical consequences of mountain raiding—Conquest of mountain regions—Political dismemberment of mountain peoples—Types of mountain states—Significance of their small size—Mountain isolation and differentiation—Survival of primitive races in mountains—Diversity of peoples and dialects—Constriction of mountain areas of ethnic survival—Isolation and retardation of mountain regions—Mental and moral qualities of mountain people.


Importance of climatic influences—Climate in the interplay of geographic factors—Its direct and indirect effects—Climate determines the habitable area of the earth—Effect of climate upon relief and hence upon man—Man's adaptability to climatic extremes—Temperature as modified by oceans and winds—Rainfall—Temperature and zonal location—Mutual reactions of contrasted zones—Isothermal lines in anthropo-geography—Historical effects of compressed isotherms—Historical effects of slight climatic differences—Their influence upon distribution of immigration—Temperature and race temperament—Complexity of this problem—Monotonous climatic conditions—Effects of Arctic cold—Effect of monotonous heat—The tropics as goals of migration—The problem of acclimatization—Historical importance of the temperate zone—Contrast of the seasons—Duration of the seasons—Effect of long winters and long summers—Zones of culture—Temperate zone as cradle of civilization






[Sidenote: Man a product of the earth's surface.]

Man is a product of the earth's surface. This means not merely that he is a child of the earth, dust of her dust; but that the earth has mothered him, fed him, set him tasks, directed his thoughts, confronted him with difficulties that have strengthened his body and sharpened his wits, given him his problems of navigation or irrigation, and at the same time whispered hints for their solution. She has entered into his bone and tissue, into his mind and soul. On the mountains she has given him leg muscles of iron to climb the slope; along the coast she has left these weak and flabby, but given him instead vigorous development of chest and arm to handle his paddle or oar. In the river valley she attaches him to the fertile soil, circumscribes his ideas and ambitions by a dull round of calm, exacting duties, narrows his outlook to the cramped horizon of his farm. Up on the wind-swept plateaus, in the boundless stretch of the grasslands and the waterless tracts of the desert, where he roams with his flocks from pasture to pasture and oasis to oasis, where life knows much hardship but escapes the grind of drudgery, where the watching of grazing herd gives him leisure for contemplation, and the wide-ranging life a big horizon, his ideas take on a certain gigantic simplicity; religion becomes monotheism, God becomes one, unrivalled like the sand of the desert and the grass of the steppe, stretching on and on without break or change. Chewing over and over the cud of his simple belief as the one food of his unfed mind, his faith becomes fanaticism; his big spacial ideas, born of that ceaseless regular wandering, outgrow the land that bred them and bear their legitimate fruit in wide imperial conquests.

Man can no more be scientifically studied apart from the ground which he tills, or the lands over which he travels, or the seas over which he trades, than polar bear or desert cactus can be understood apart from its habitat. Man's relations to his environment are infinitely more numerous and complex than those of the most highly organized plant or animal. So complex are they that they constitute a legitimate and necessary object of special study. The investigation which they receive in anthropology, ethnology, sociology and history is piecemeal and partial, limited as to the race, cultural development, epoch, country or variety of geographic conditions taken into account. Hence all these sciences, together with history so far as history undertakes to explain the causes of events, fail to reach a satisfactory solution of their problems largely because the geographic factor which enters into them all has not been thoroughly analyzed. Man has been so noisy about the way he has "conquered Nature," and Nature has been so silent in her persistent influence over man, that the geographic factor in the equation of human development has been overlooked.

[Sidenote: Stability of geographic factors in history.]

In every problem of history there are two main factors, variously stated as heredity and environment, man and his geographic conditions, the internal forces of race and the external forces of habitat. Now the geographic element in the long history of human development has been operating strongly and operating persistently. Herein lies its importance. It is a stable force. It never sleeps. This natural environment, this physical basis of history, is for all intents and purposes immutable in comparison with the other factor in the problem—shifting, plastic, progressive, retrogressive man.

[Sidenote: Persistent effect of remoteness.]

History tends to repeat itself largely owing to this steady, unchanging geographic element. If the ancient Roman consul in far-away Britain often assumed an independence of action and initiative unknown in the provincial governors of Gaul, and if, centuries later, Roman Catholicism in England maintained a similar independence towards the Holy See, both facts have their cause in the remoteness of Britain from the center of political or ecclesiastical power in Rome. If the independence of the Roman consul in Britain was duplicated later by the attitude of the Thirteen Colonies toward England, and again within the young Republic by the headstrong self-reliance, impatient of government authority, which characterized the early Trans-Allegheny commonwealths in their aggressive Indian policy, and led them to make war and conclude treaties for the cession of land like sovereign states; and if this attitude of independence in the over-mountain men reappeared in a spirit of political defection looking toward secession from the Union and a new combination with their British neighbor on the Great Lakes or the Spanish beyond the Mississippi, these are all the identical effects of geographical remoteness made yet more remote by barriers of mountain and sea. This is the long reach which weakens the arm of authority, no matter what the race or country or epoch.

[Sidenote: Effect of proximity.]

As with geographical remoteness, so it is with geographical proximity. The history of the Greek peninsula and the Greek people, because of their location at the threshold of the Orient, has contained a constantly recurring Asiatic element. This comes out most often as a note of warning; like the motif of Ortrud in the opera of "Lohengrin," it mingles ominously in every chorus of Hellenic enterprise or paean of Hellenic victory, and finally swells into a national dirge at the Turkish conquest of the peninsula. It comes out in the legendary history of the Argonautic Expedition and the Trojan War; in the arrival of Phoenician Cadmus and Phrygian Pelops in Grecian lands; in the appearance of Tyrian ships on the coast of the Peloponnesus, where they gather the purple-yielding murex and kidnap Greek women. It appears more conspicuously in the Asiatic sources of Greek culture; more dramatically in the Persian Wars, in the retreat of Xenophon's Ten Thousand, in Alexander's conquest of Asia, and Hellenic domination of Asiatic trade through Syria to the Mediterranean. Again in the thirteenth century the lure of the Levantine trade led Venice and Genoa to appropriate certain islands and promontories of Greece as commercial bases nearer to Asia. In 1396 begins the absorption of Greece into the Asiatic empire of the Turks, the long dark eclipse of sunny Hellas, till it issues from the shadow in 1832 with the achievement of Greek independence.

[Sidenote: Persistent effect of natural barriers.]

If the factor is not one of geographical location, but a natural barrier, such as a mountain system or a desert, its effect is just as persistent. The upheaved mass of the Carpathians served to divide the westward moving tide of the Slavs into two streams, diverting one into the maritime plain of northern Germany and Poland, the other into the channel of the Danube Valley which guided them to the Adriatic and the foot of the Alps. This same range checked the westward advance of the mounted Tartar hordes. The Alps long retarded Roman expansion into central Europe, just as they delayed and obstructed the southward advance of the northern barbarians. Only through the partial breaches in the wall known as passes did the Alps admit small, divided bodies of the invaders, like the Cimbri and Teutons, who arrived, therefore, with weakened power and at intervals, so that the Roman forces had time to gather their strength between successive attacks, and thus prolonged the life of the declining empire. So in the Middle Ages, the Alpine barrier facilitated the resistance of Italy to the German emperors, trying to enforce their claim upon this ancient seat of the Holy Roman Empire.

It was by river-worn valleys leading to passes in the ridge that Etruscan trader, Roman legion, barbarian horde, and German army crossed the Alpine ranges. To-day well-made highways and railroads converge upon these valley paths and summit portals, and going is easier; but the Alps still collect their toll, now in added tons of coal consumed by engines and in higher freight rates, instead of the ancient imposts of physical exhaustion paid by pack animal and heavily accoutred soldier. Formerly these mountains barred the weak and timid; to-day they bar the poor, and forbid transit to all merchandise of large bulk and small value which can not pay the heavy transportation charges. Similarly, the wide barrier of the Rockies, prior to the opening of the first overland railroad, excluded all but strong-limbed and strong-hearted pioneers from the fertile valleys of California and Oregon, just as it excludes coal and iron even from the Colorado mines, and checks the free movement of laborers to the fields and factories of California, thereby tightening the grip of the labor unions upon Pacific coast industries.

[Sidenote: Persistent effect of nature-made highways.]

As the surface of the earth presents obstacles, so it offers channels for the easy movement of humanity, grooves whose direction determines the destination of aimless, unplanned migrations, and whose termini become, therefore, regions of historical importance. Along these nature-made highways history repeats itself. The maritime plain of Palestine has been an established route of commerce and war from the time of Sennacherib to Napoleon.[1] The Danube Valley has admitted to central Europe a long list of barbarian invaders, covering the period from Attila the Hun to the Turkish besiegers of Vienna in 1683. The history of the Danube Valley has been one of warring throngs, of shifting political frontiers, and unassimilated races; but as the river is a great natural highway, every neighboring state wants to front upon it and strives to secure it as a boundary.

The movements of peoples constantly recur to these old grooves. The unmarked path of the voyageur's canoe, bringing out pelts from Lake Superior to the fur market at Montreal, is followed to-day by whaleback steamers with their cargoes of Manitoba wheat. To-day the Mohawk depression through the northern Appalachians diverts some of Canada's trade from the Great Lakes to the Hudson, just as in the seventeenth century it enabled the Dutch at New Amsterdam and later the English at Albany to tap the fur trade of Canada's frozen forests. Formerly a line of stream and portage, it carries now the Erie Canal and New York Central Railroad.[2] Similarly the narrow level belt of land extending from the mouth of the Hudson to the eastern elbow of the lower Delaware, defining the outer margin of the rough hill country of northern New Jersey and the inner margin of the smooth coastal plain, has been from savage days such a natural thoroughfare. Here ran the trail of the Lenni-Lenapi Indians; a little later, the old Dutch road between New Amsterdam and the Delaware trading-posts; yet later the King's Highway from New York to Philadelphia. In 1838 it became the route of the Delaware and Raritan Canal, and more recently of the Pennsylvania Railroad between New York and Philadelphia.[3]

The early Aryans, in their gradual dispersion over northwestern India, reached the Arabian Sea chiefly by a route running southward from the Indus-Ganges divide, between the eastern border of the Rajputana Desert and the western foot of the Aravalli Hills. The streams flowing down from this range across the thirsty plains unite to form the Luni River, which draws a dead-line to the advance of the desert. Here a smooth and well-watered path brought the early Aryans of India to a fertile coast along the Gulf of Cambay.[4] In the palmy days of the Mongol Empire during the seventeenth century, and doubtless much earlier, it became an established trade route between the sea and the rich cities of the upper Ganges.[5] Recently it determined the line of the Rajputana Railroad from the Gulf of Cambay to Delhi.[6] Barygaza, the ancient seaboard terminus of this route, appears in Pliny's time as the most famous emporium of western India, the resort of Greek and Arab merchants.[7] It reappears later in history with its name metamorphosed to Baroche or Broach, where in 1616 the British established a factory for trade,[8] but is finally superseded, under Portuguese and English rule, by nearby Surat. Thus natural conditions fix the channels in which the stream of humanity most easily moves, determine within certain limits the direction of its flow, the velocity and volume of its current. Every new flood tends to fit itself approximately into the old banks, seeks first these lines of least resistance, and only when it finds them blocked or pre-empted does it turn to more difficult paths.

[Sidenote: Regions of historical similarity.]

Geographical environment, through the persistence of its influence, acquires peculiar significance. Its effect is not restricted to a given historical event or epoch, but, except when temporarily met by some strong counteracting force, tends to make itself felt under varying guise in all succeeding history. It is the permanent element in the shifting fate of races. Islands show certain fundamental points of agreement which can be distinguished in the economic, ethnic and historical development of England, Japan, Melanesian Fiji, Polynesian New Zealand, and pre-historic Crete. The great belt of deserts and steppes extending across the Old World gives us a vast territory of rare historical uniformity. From time immemorial they have borne and bred tribes of wandering herdsmen; they have sent out the invading hordes who, in successive waves of conquest, have overwhelmed the neighboring river lowlands of Eurasia and Africa. They have given birth in turn to Scythians, Indo-Aryans, Avars, Huns, Saracens, Tartars and Turks, as to the Tuareg tribes of the Sahara, the Sudanese and Bantu folk of the African grasslands. But whether these various peoples have been Negroes, Hamites, Semites, Indo-Europeans or Mongolians, they have always been pastoral nomads. The description given by Herodotus of the ancient Scythians is applicable in its main features to the Kirghis and Kalmuck who inhabit the Caspian plains to-day. The environment of this dry grassland operates now to produce the same mode of life and social organization as it did 2,400 years ago; stamps the cavalry tribes of Cossacks as it did the mounted Huns, energizes its sons by its dry bracing air, toughens them by its harsh conditions of life, organizes them into a mobilized army, always moving with its pastoral commissariat. Then when population presses too hard upon the meager sources of subsistence, when a summer drought burns the pastures and dries up the water-holes, it sends them forth on a mission of conquest, to seek abundance in the better watered lands of their agricultural neighbors. Again and again the productive valleys of the Hoangho, Indus, Ganges, Tigris and Euphrates, Nile, Volga, Dnieper and Danube have been brought into subjection by the imperious nomads of arid Asia, just as the "hoe-people" of the Niger and upper Nile have so often been conquered by the herdsmen of the African grasslands. Thus, regardless of race or epoch—Hyksos or Kaffir—history tends to repeat itself in these rainless tracts, and involves the better watered districts along their borders when the vast tribal movements extend into these peripheral lands.

[Sidenote: Climatic influences.]

Climatic influences are persistent, often obdurate in their control. Arid regions permit agriculture and sedentary life only through irrigation. The economic prosperity of Egypt to-day depends as completely upon the distribution of the Nile waters as in the days of the Pharaohs. The mantle of the ancient Egyptian priest has fallen upon the modern British engineer. Arctic explorers have succeeded only by imitating the life of the Eskimos, adopting their clothes, food, fuel, dwellings, and mode of travel. Intense cold has checked both native and Russian development over that major portion of Siberia lying north of the mean annual isotherm of degree C. (32 degrees F.); and it has had a like effect in the corresponding part of Canada. (Compare maps pages 8 and 9.) It allows these sub-arctic lands scant resources and a population of less than two to the square mile. Even with the intrusion of white colonial peoples, it perpetuates the savage economy of the native hunting tribes, and makes the fur trader their modern exploiter, whether he be the Cossack tribute-gatherer of the lower Lena River, or the factor of the Hudson Bay Company. The assimilation tends to be ethnic as well as economic, because the severity of the climate excludes the white woman. The debilitating effects of heat and humidity, aided by tropical diseases, soon reduce intruding peoples to the dead level of economic inefficiency characteristic of the native races. These, as the fittest, survive and tend to absorb the new-comers, pointing to hybridization as the simplest solution of the problem of tropical colonization.

[Sidenote: The relation of geography to history.]

The more the comparative method is applied to the study of history—and this includes a comparison not only of different countries, but also of successive epochs in the same country—the more apparent becomes the influence of the soil in which humanity is rooted, the more permanent and necessary is that influence seen to be. Geography's claim to make scientific investigation of the physical conditions of historical events is then vindicated. "Which was there first, geography or history?" asks Kant. And then comes his answer: "Geography lies at the basis of history." The two are inseparable. History takes for its field of investigation human events in various periods of time; anthropo-geography studies existence in various regions of terrestrial space. But all historical development takes place on the earth's surface, and therefore is more or less molded by its geographic setting. Geography, to reach accurate conclusions, must compare the operation of its factors in different historical periods and at different stages of cultural development. It therefore regards history in no small part as a succession of geographical factors embodied in events. Back of Massachusetts' passionate abolition movement, it sees the granite soil and boulder-strewn fields of New England; back of the South's long fight for the maintenance of slavery, it sees the rich plantations of tidewater Virginia and the teeming fertility of the Mississippi bottom lands. This is the significance of Herder's saying that "history is geography set into motion." What is to-day a fact of geography becomes to-morrow a factor of history. The two sciences cannot be held apart without doing violence to both, without dismembering what is a natural, vital whole. All historical problems ought to be studied geographically and all geographic problems must be studied historically. Every map has its date. Those in the Statistical Atlas of the United States showing the distribution of population from 1790 to 1890 embody a mass of history as well as of geography. A map of France or the Russian Empire has a long historical perspective; and on the other hand, without that map no change of ethnic or political boundary, no modification in routes of communication, no system of frontier defences or of colonization, no scheme of territorial aggrandizement can be understood.

[Sidenote: Multiplicity of geographic factors.]

The study of physical environment as a factor in history was unfortunately brought into disrepute by extravagant and ill-founded generalization, before it became the object of investigation according to modern scientific methods. And even to-day principles advanced in the name of anthropo-geography are often superficial, inaccurate, based upon a body of data too limited as to space and time, or couched in terms of unqualified statement which exposes them to criticism or refutation. Investigators in this field, moreover, are prone to get a squint in their eye that makes them see one geographic factor to the exclusion of the rest; whereas it belongs to the very nature of physical environment to combine a whole group of influences, working all at the same time under the law of the resolution of forces. In this plexus of influences, some operate in one direction and some in another; now one loses its beneficent effect like a medicine long used or a garment outgrown; another waxes in power, reinforced by a new geographic factor which has been released from dormancy by the expansion of the known world, or the progress of invention and of human development.

[Sidenote: Evolution of geographic relations.]

These complex geographic influences cannot be analyzed and their strength estimated except from the standpoint of evolution. That is one reason these half-baked geographic principles rest heavy on our mental digestion. They have been formulated without reference to the all-important fact that the geographical relations of man, like his social and political organization, are subject to the law of development. Just as the embryo state found in the primitive Saxon tribe has passed through many phases in attaining the political character of the present British Empire, so every stage in this maturing growth has been accompanied or even preceded by a steady evolution of the geographic relations of the English people.

Owing to the evolution of geographic relations, the physical environment favorable to one stage of development may be adverse to another, and vice versa. For instance, a small, isolated and protected habitat, like that of Egypt, Phoenicia, Crete and Greece, encourages the birth and precocious growth of civilization; but later it may cramp progress, and lend the stamp of arrested development to a people who were once the model for all their little world. Open and wind-swept Russia, lacking these small, warm nurseries where Nature could cuddle her children, has bred upon its boundless plains a massive, untutored, homogeneous folk, fed upon the crumbs of culture that have fallen from the richer tables of Europe. But that item of area is a variable quantity in the equation. It changes its character at a higher stage of cultural development. Consequently, when the Muscovite people, instructed by the example of western Europe, shall have grown up intellectually, economically and politically to their big territory, its area will become a great national asset. Russia will come into its own, heir to a long-withheld inheritance. Many of its previous geographic disadvantages will vanish, like the diseases of childhood, while its massive size will dwarf many previous advantages of its European neighbors.

[Sidenote: Evolution of world relations.]

This evolution of geographic relations applies not only to the local environment, but also to the wider world relations of a people. Greeks and Syrians, English and Japanese, take a different rank among the nations of the earth to-day from that held by their ancestors 2,000 years ago, simply because the world relations of civilized peoples have been steadily expanding since those far-back days of Tyrian and Athenian supremacy. The period of maritime discoveries in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries shifted the foci of the world relations of European states from enclosed seas to the rim of the Atlantic. Venice and Genoa gave way to Cadiz and Lagos, just as sixteen centuries before Corinth and Athens had yielded their ascendency to Rome and Ostia. The keen but circumscribed trade of the Baltic, which gave wealth and historical preeminence to Luebeck and the other Hanse Towns of northern Germany from the twelfth to the seventeenth century, lost its relative importance when the Atlantic became the maritime field of history. Maritime leadership passed westward from Luebeck and Stralsund to Amsterdam and Bristol, as the historical horizon widened. England, prior to this sudden dislocation, lay on the outskirts of civilized Europe, a terminal land, not a focus. The peripheral location which retarded her early development became a source of power when she accumulated sufficient density of population for colonizing enterprises, and when maritime discovery opened a way to trans-oceanic lands.[9]

Meanwhile, local geographic advantages in the old basins remain the same, although they are dwarfed by the development of relatively greater advantages elsewhere. The broken coastline, limited area and favorable position of Greece make its people to-day a nation of seamen, and enable them to absorb by their considerable merchant fleet a great part of the trade of the eastern Mediterranean,[10] just as they did in the days of Pericles; but that youthful Aegean world which once constituted so large a part of the oikoumene, has shrunken to a modest province, and its highways to local paths. The coast cities of northern Germany still maintain a large commerce in the Baltic, but no longer hold the pre-eminence of the old Hanse Towns. The glory of the Venetian Adriatic is gone; but that the sea has still a local significance is proven by the vast sums spent by Austria and Hungary on their hand-made harbors of Trieste and Fiume.[11] The analytical geographer, therefore, while studying a given combination of geographic forces, must be prepared for a momentous readjustment and a new interplay after any marked turning point in the economic, cultural, or world relations of a people.

[Sidenote: Interplay of geographic factors.]

Skepticism as to the effect of geographic conditions upon human development is apparently justifiable, owing to the multiplicity of the underlying causes and the difficulty of distinguishing between stronger and weaker factors on the one hand, as between permanent and temporary effects on the other. We see the result, but find it difficult to state the equation producing this result. But the important thing is to avoid seizing upon one or two conspicuous geographic elements in the problem and ignoring the rest. The physical environment of a people consists of all the natural conditions to which they have been subjected, not merely a part. Geography admits no single blanket theory. The slow historical development of the Russian folk has been due to many geographic causes—to excess of cold and deficiency of rain, an outskirt location on the Asiatic border of Europe exposed to the attacks of nomadic hordes, a meager and, for the most part, ice-bound coast which was slowly acquired, an undiversified surface, a lack of segregated regions where an infant civilization might be cradled, and a vast area of unfenced plains wherein the national energies spread out thin and dissipated themselves. The better Baltic and Black Sea coasts, the fertility of its Ukraine soil, and location next to wide-awake Germany along the western frontier have helped to accelerate progress, but the slow-moving body carried too heavy a drag.

[Sidenote: Land and sea in co-operation.]

The law of the resolutions of forces applies in geography as in the movement of planets. Failure to recognize this fact often enables superficial critics of anthropo-geography to make a brave show of argument. The analysis of these interacting forces and of their various combinations requires careful investigation. Let us consider the interplay of the forces of land and sea apparent in every country with a maritime location. In some cases a small, infertile, niggardly country conspires with a beckoning sea to drive its sons out upon the deep; in others a wide territory with a generous soil keeps its well-fed children at home and silences the call of the sea. In ancient Phoenicia and Greece, in Norway, Finland, New England, in savage Chile and Tierra del Fuego, and the Indian coast district of British Columbia and southern Alaska, a long, broken shoreline, numerous harbors, outlying islands, abundant timber for the construction of ships, difficult communication by land, all tempted the inhabitants to a seafaring life. While the sea drew, the land drove in the same direction. There a hilly or mountainous interior putting obstacles in the way of landward expansion, sterile slopes, a paucity of level, arable land, an excessive or deficient rainfall withholding from agriculture the reward of tillage—some or all of these factors combined to compel the inhabitants to seek on the sea the livelihood denied by the land. Here both forces worked in the same direction.

In England conditions were much the same, and from the sixteenth century produced there a predominant maritime development which was due not solely to a long indented coastline and an exceptional location for participating in European and American trade. Its limited island area, its large extent of rugged hills and chalky soil fit only for pasturage, and the lack of a really generous natural endowment,[12] made it slow to answer the demands of a growing population, till the industrial development of the nineteenth century exploited its mineral wealth. So the English turned to the sea—to fish, to trade, to colonize. Holland's conditions made for the same development. She united advantages of coastline and position with a small infertile territory, consisting chiefly of water-soaked grazing lands. When at the zenith of her maritime development, a native authority estimated that the soil of Holland could not support more than one-eighth of her inhabitants. The meager products of the land had to be eked out by the harvest of the sea. Fish assumed an important place in the diet of the Dutch, and when a process of curing it was discovered, laid the foundation of Holland's export trade. A geographical location central to the Baltic and North Sea countries, and accessible to France and Portugal, combined with a position at the mouth of the great German rivers made it absorb the carrying trade of northern Europe.[13] Land and sea cooeperated in its maritime development.

[Sidenote: Land and sea opposed.]

Often the forces of land and sea are directly opposed. If a country's geographic conditions are favorable to agriculture and offer room for growth of population, the land forces prevail, because man is primarily a terrestrial animal. Such a country illustrates what Chisholm, with Attic nicety of speech, calls "the influence of bread-power on history,"[14] as opposed to Mahan's sea-power. France, like England, had a long coastline, abundant harbors, and an excellent location for maritime supremacy and colonial expansion; but her larger area and greater amount of fertile soil put off the hour of a redundant population such as England suffered from even in Henry VIII's time. Moreover, in consequence of steady continental expansion from the twelfth to the eighteenth century and a political unification which made its area more effective for the support of the people, the French of Richelieu's time, except those from certain districts, took to the sea, not by national impulse as did the English and Dutch, but rather under the spur of government initiative. They therefore achieved far less in maritime trade and colonization.[15] In ancient Palestine, a long stretch of coast, poorly equipped with harbors but accessible to the rich Mediterranean trade, failed to offset the attraction of the gardens and orchards of the Jezreel Valley and the pastures of the Judean hills, or to overcome the land-born predilections and aptitudes of the desert-bred Jews. Similarly, the river-fringed peninsulas of Virginia and Maryland, opening wide their doors to the incoming sea, were powerless, nevertheless, to draw the settlers away from the riotous productiveness of the wide tidewater plains. Here again the geographic force of the land outweighed that of the sea and became the dominant factor in directing the activities of the inhabitants.

The two antagonistic geographic forces may be both of the land, one born of a country's topography, the other of its location. Switzerland's history has for centuries shown the conflict of two political policies, one a policy of cantonal and communal independence, which has sprung from the division of that mountainous country into segregated districts, and the other one of political centralization, dictated by the necessity for cooeperation to meet the dangers of Switzerland's central location mid a circle of larger and stronger neighbors. Local geographic conditions within the Swiss territory fixed the national ideal as a league of "sovereign cantons," to use the term of their constitution, enjoying a maximum of individual rights and privileges, and tolerating a minimum of interference from the central authority. Here was physical dismemberment coupled with mutual political repulsion. But a location at the meeting place of French, German, Austrian and Italian frontiers laid upon them the distasteful necessity of union within to withstand aggressions crowding upon them from without. Hence the growth of the Swiss constitution since 1798 has meant a fight of the Confederation against the canton in behalf of general rights, expanding the functions of the central government, contracting those of canton and commune.[16]

[Sidenote: Local and remote geographic factors.]

Every country forms an independent whole, and as such finds its national history influenced by its local climate, soil, relief, its location whether inland or maritime, its river highways, and its boundaries of mountain, sea, or desert. But it is also a link in a great chain of lands, and therefore may feel a shock or vibration imparted at the remotest end. The gradual desiccation of western Asia which took a fresh start about 2,000 years ago caused that great exodus and displacement of peoples known as the Voelkerwanderung, and thus contributed to the downfall of Rome; it was one factor in the Saxon conquest of Britain and the final peopling of central Europe. The impact of the Turkish hordes hurling themselves against the defenses of Constantinople in 1453 was felt only forty years afterward by the far-off shores of savage America. Earlier still it reached England as the revival of learning, and it gave Portugal a shock which started its navigators towards the Cape of Good Hope in their search for a sea route to India. The history of South Africa is intimately connected with the Isthmus of Suez. It owes its Portuguese, Dutch, and English populations to that barrier on the Mediterranean pathway to the Orient; its importance as a way station on the outside route to India fluctuates with every crisis in the history of Suez.

[Sidenote: Direct and indirect effects of environment.]

The geographic factors in history appear now as conspicuous direct effects of environment, such as the forest warfare of the American Indian or the irrigation works of the Pueblo tribes, now as a group of indirect effects, operating through the economic, social and political activities of a people. These remoter secondary results are often of supreme importance; they are the ones which give the final stamp to the national temperament and character, and yet in them the causal connection between environment and development is far from obvious. They have, therefore, presented pitfalls to the precipitate theorizer. He has either interpreted them as the direct effect of some geographic cause from which they were wholly divorced and thus arrived at conclusions which further investigation failed to sustain; or seeing no direct and obvious connection, he has denied the possibility of a generalization.

Montesquieu ascribes the immutability of religion, manners, custom and laws in India and other Oriental countries to their warm climate.[17] Buckle attributes a highly wrought imagination and gross superstition to all people, like those of India, living in the presence of great mountains and vast plains, knowing Nature only in its overpowering aspects, which excite the fancy and paralyze reason. He finds, on the other hand, an early predominance of reason in the inhabitants of a country like ancient Greece, where natural features are on a small scale, more comprehensible, nearer the measure of man himself.[18] The scientific geographer, grown suspicious of the omnipotence of climate and cautious of predicating immediate psychological effects which are easy to assert but difficult to prove, approaches the problem more indirectly and reaches a different solution. He finds that geographic conditions have condemned India to isolation. On the land side, a great sweep of high mountains has restricted intercourse with the interior; on the sea side, the deltaic swamps of the Indus and Ganges Rivers and an unbroken shoreline, backed by mountains on the west of the peninsula and by coastal marshes and lagoons on the east, have combined to reduce its accessibility from the ocean. The effect of such isolation is ignorance, superstition, and the early crystallization of thought and custom. Ignorance involves the lack of material for comparison, hence a restriction of the higher reasoning processes, and an unscientific attitude of mind which gives imagination free play. In contrast, the accessibility of Greece and its focal location in the ancient world made it an intellectual clearing-house for the eastern Mediterranean. The general information gathered there afforded material for wide comparison. It fed the brilliant reason of the Athenian philosopher and the trained imagination which produced the masterpieces of Greek art and literature.

[Sidenote: Indirect mental effects.]

Heinrich von Treitschke, in his recent "Politik," imitates the direct inference of Buckle when he ascribes the absence of artistic and poetic development in Switzerland and the Alpine lands to the overwhelming aspect of nature there, its majestic sublimity which paralyzes the mind.[19] He reinforces his position by the fact that, by contrast, the lower mountains and hill country of Swabia, Franconia and Thuringia, where nature is gentler, stimulating, appealing, and not overpowering, have produced many poets and artists. The facts are incontestable. They reappear in France in the geographical distribution of the awards made by the Paris Salon of 1896. Judged by these awards, the rough highlands of Savoy, Alpine Provence, the massive eastern Pyrenees, and the Auvergne Plateau, together with the barren peninsula of Brittany, are singularly lacking in artistic instinct, while art nourishes in all the river lowlands of France. Moreover, French men of letters, by the distribution of their birthplaces, are essentially products of fluvial valleys and plains, rarely of upland and mountain.[20]

This contrast has been ascribed to a fundamental ethnic distinction between the Teutonic population of the lowlands and the Alpine or Celtic stock which survives in the isolation of highland and peninsula, thus making talent an attribute of race. But the Po Valley of northern Italy, whose population contains a strong infusion of this supposedly stultifying Alpine blood, and the neighboring lowlands and hill country of Tuscany show an enormous preponderance of intellectual and artistic power over the highlands of the peninsula.[21] Hence the same contrast appears among different races under like geographic conditions. Moreover, in France other social phenomena, such as suicide, divorce, decreasing birth-rate, and radicalism in politics, show this same startling parallelism of geographic distribution,[22] and these cannot be attributed to the stimulating or depressing effect of natural scenery upon the human mind.

Mountain regions discourage the budding of genius because they are areas of isolation, confinement, remote from the great currents of men and ideas that move along the river valleys. They are regions of much labor and little leisure, of poverty to-day and anxiety for the morrow, of toil-cramped hands and toil-dulled brains. In the fertile alluvial plains are wealth, leisure, contact with many minds, large urban centers where commodities and ideas are exchanged. The two contrasted environments produce directly certain economic and social results, which, in turn, become the causes of secondary intellectual and artistic effects. The low mountains of central Germany which von Treitschke cites as homes of poets and artists, owing to abundant and varied mineral wealth, are the seats of active industries and dense populations,[23] while their low reliefs present no serious obstacle to the numerous highways across them. They, therefore, afford all conditions for culture.

[Sidenote: Indirect effects in differentiation of colonial peoples.]

Let us take a different example. The rapid modification in physical and mental constitution of the English transplanted to North America, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand has been the result of several geographic causes working through the economic and social media; but it has been ascribed by Darwin and others to the effect of climate. The prevailing energy and initiative of colonists have been explained by the stimulating atmosphere of their new homes. Even Natal has not escaped this soft impeachment. But the enterprise of colonials has cropped out, under almost every condition of heat and cold, aridity and humidity, of a habitat at sea-level and on high plateau. This blanket theory of climate cannot, therefore, cover the case. Careful analysis supersedes it by a whole group of geographic factors working directly and indirectly. The first of these was the dividing ocean which, prior to the introduction of cheap ocean transportation and bustling steerage agents, made a basis of artificial selection. Then it was the man of abundant energy who, cramped by the narrow environment of a Norwegian farm or Irish bog, came over to America to take up a quarter-section of prairie land or rise to the eminence of Boston police sergeant. The Scotch immigrants in America who fought in the Civil War were nearly two inches taller than the average in the home country.[24] But the ocean barrier culled superior qualities of mind and character also—independence of political and religious conviction, and the courage of those convictions, whether found in royalist or Puritan, Huguenot or English Catholic.

[Sidenote: Indirect effect through isolation.]

Such colonists in a remote country were necessarily few and could not be readily reinforced from home. Their new and isolated geographical environment favored variation. Heredity passed on the characteristics of a small, highly selected group. The race was kept pure from intermixture with the aborigines of the country, owing to the social and cultural abyss which separated them, and to the steady withdrawal of the natives before the advance of the whites. The homogeneity of island peoples seems to indicate that individual variations are in time communicated by heredity to a whole population under conditions of isolation; and in this way modifications due to artificial selection and a changed environment become widely spread.

Nor is this all. The modified type soon becomes established, because the abundance of land at the disposal of the colonists and the consequent better conditions of living encourage a rapid increase of population. A second geographic factor of mere area here begins to operate. Ease in gaining subsistence, the greater independence of the individual and the family, emancipation from carking care, the hopeful attitude of mind engendered by the consciousness of an almost unlimited opportunity and capacity for expansion, the expectation of large returns upon labor, and, finally, the profound influence of this hopefulness upon the national character, all combined, produce a social rejuvenation of the race. New conditions present new problems which call for prompt and original solution, make a demand upon the ingenuity and resourcefulness of the individual, and therefore work to the same end as his previous removal from the paralyzing effect of custom in the old home country. Activity is youth and sluggishness or paralysis is age. Hence the energy, initiative, adaptability, and receptivity to new ideas—all youthful qualities—which characterize the Anglo-Saxon American as well as the English Africander, can be traced back to the stimulating influences, not of a bracing or variable climate, but of the abundant opportunities offered by a great, rich, unexploited country. Variation under new natural conditions, when safe-guarded by isolation, tends to produce modification of the colonial type; this is the direct effect of a changed environment. But the new economic and social activities of a transplanted people become the vehicle of a mass of indirect geographic influences which contribute to the differentiation of the national character.

[Sidenote: General importance of indirect effects.]

The tendency to overlook such links between conspicuous effects and their remote, less evident geographic causes has been common in geographic investigation. This direct rather than indirect approach to the heart of the problem has led to false inferences or to the assumption that reliable conclusions were impossible. Environment influences the higher, mental life of a people chiefly through the medium of their economic and social life; hence its ultimate effects should be traced through the latter back to the underlying cause. But rarely has this been done. Even so astute a geographer as Strabo, though he recognizes the influence of geographic isolation in differentiating dialects and customs in Greece,[25] ascribes some national characteristics to the nature of the country, especially to its climate, and the others to education and institutions. He thinks that the nature of their respective lands had nothing to do with making the Athenians cultured, the Spartans and Thebans ignorant; that the predilection for natural science in Babylonia and Egypt was not a result of environment but of the institutions and education of those countries.[26] But here arise the questions, how far custom and education in their turn depend upon environment; to what degree natural conditions, molding economic and political development, may through them fundamentally affect social customs, education, culture, and the dominant intellectual aptitudes of a people. It is not difficult to see, back of the astronomy and mathematics and hydraulics of Egypt, the far off sweep of the rain-laden monsoons against the mountains of Abyssinia and the creeping of the tawny Nile flood over that river-born oasis.

[Sidenote: Indirect political and moral effects.]

Plutarch states in his "Solon" that after the rebellion of Kylon in 612 B.C. the Athenian people were divided into as many political factions as there were physical types of country in Attica. The mountaineers, who were the poorest party, wanted something like a democracy; the people of the plains, comprising the greatest number of rich families, were clamorous for an oligarchy; the coast population of the south, intermediate both in social position and wealth, wanted something between the two. The same three-fold division appeared again in 564 B.C. on the usurpation of Peisistratus.[27] Here the connection between geographic condition and political opinion is clear enough, though the links are agriculture and commerce. New England's opposition to the War of 1812, culminating in the threat of secession of the Hartford Convention, can be traced back through the active maritime trade to the broken coastline and unproductive soil of that glaciated country.

In all democratic or representative forms of government permitting free expression of popular opinion, history shows that division into political parties tends to follow geographical lines of cleavage. In our own Civil War the dividing line between North and South did not always run east and west. The mountain area of the Southern Appalachians supported the Union and drove a wedge of disaffection into the heart of the South. Mountainous West Virginia was politically opposed to the tidewater plains of old Virginia, because slave labor did not pay on the barren "upright" farms of the Cumberland Plateau; whereas, it was remunerative on the wide fertile plantations of the coastal lowland. The ethics of the question were obscured where conditions of soil and topography made the institution profitable. In the mountains, as also in New England, a law of diminishing financial returns had for its corollary a law of increasing moral insight. In this case, geographic conditions worked through the medium of direct economic effects to more important political and ethical results.

The roots of geographic influence often run far underground before coming to the surface, to sprout into some flowering growth; and to trace this back to its parent stem is the necessary but not easy task of the geographer.

[Sidenote: Time element.]

The complexity of this problem does not end here. The modification of human development by environment is a natural process; like all other natural processes, it involves the cumulative effects of causes operating imperceptibly but persistently through vast periods of time. Slowly and deliberately does geography engrave the subtitles to a people's history. Neglect of this time element in the consideration of geographic influences accounts equally for many an exaggerated assertion and denial of their power. A critic undertakes to disprove modification through physical environment by showing that it has not produced tangible results in the last fifty or five hundred years. This attitude recalls the early geologists, whose imaginations could not conceive the vast ages necessary in a scientific explanation of geologic phenomena.

The theory of evolution has taught us in science to think in larger terms of time, so that we no longer raise the question whether European colonists in Africa can turn into negroes, though we do find the recent amazing statement that the Yankee, in his tall, gaunt figure, "the colour of his skin, and the formation of his hair, has begun to differentiate himself from his European kinsman and approach the type of the aboriginal Indians."[28] Evolution tells the story of modification by a succession of infinitesimal changes, and emphasizes the permanence of a modification once produced long after the causes for it cease to act. The mesas of Arizona, the earth sculpture of the Grand Canyon remain as monuments to the erosive forces which produced them. So a habitat leaves upon man no ephemeral impress; it affects him in one way at a low stage of his development, and differently at a later or higher stage, because the man himself and his relation to his environment have been modified in the earlier period; but traces of that earlier adaptation survive in his maturer life. Hence man's relation to his environment must be looked at through the perspective of historical development. It would be impossible to explain the history and national character of the contemporary English solely by their twentieth century response to their environment, because with insular conservatism they carry and cherish vestiges of times when their islands represented different geographic relations from those of to-day. Witness the wool-sack of the lord chancellor. We cannot understand the location of modern Athens, Rome or Berlin from the present day relations of urban populations to their environment, because the original choice of these sites was dictated by far different considerations from those ruling to-day. In the history of these cities a whole succession of geographic factors have in turn been active, each leaving its impress of which the cities become, as it were, repositories.

[Sidenote: Effect of a previous habitat.]

The importance of this time element for a solution of anthropo-geographic problems becomes plainer, where a certain locality has received an entirely new population, or where a given people by migration change their habitat. The result in either case is the same, a new combination, new modifications superimposed on old modifications. And it is with this sort of case that anthropo-geography most often has to deal. So restless has mankind been, that the testimony of history and ethnology is all against the assumption that a social group has ever been subjected to but one type of environment during its long period of development from a primitive to a civilized society. Therefore, if we assert that a people is the product of the country which it inhabits at a given time, we forget that many different countries which its forbears occupied have left their mark on the present race in the form of inherited aptitudes and traditional customs acquired in those remote ancestral habitats. The Moors of Granada had passed through a wide range of ancestral experiences; they bore the impress of Asia, Africa and Europe, and on their expulsion from Spain carried back with them to Morocco traces of their peninsula life.

A race or tribe develops certain characteristics in a certain region, then moves on, leaving the old abode but not all the accretions of custom, social organization and economic method there acquired. These travel on with the migrant people; some are dropped, others are preserved because of utility, sentiment or mere habit. For centuries after the settlement of the Jews in Palestine, traces of their pastoral life in the grasslands of Mesopotamia could be discerned in their social and political organization, in their ritual and literature. Survivals of their nomadic life in Asiatic steppes still persist among the Turks of Europe, after six centuries of sedentary life in the best agricultural land of the Balkan Peninsula. One of these appears in their choice of meat. They eat chiefly sheep and goats, beef very rarely, and swine not at all.[29] The first two thrive on poor pastures and travel well, so that they are admirably adapted to nomadic life in arid lands; the last two, far less so, but on the other hand are the regular concomitant of agricultural life. The Turk's taste to-day, therefore, is determined by the flocks and herds which he once pastured on the Trans-Caspian plains. The finished terrace agriculture and methods of irrigation, which the Saracens had learned on the mountain sides of Yemen through a schooling of a thousand years or more, facilitated their economic conquest of Spain. Their intelligent exploitation of the country's resources for the support of their growing numbers in the favorable climatic conditions which Spain offered was a light-hearted task, because of the severe training which they had had in their Arabian home.

The origin of Roman political institutions is intimately connected with conditions of the naturally small territory where arose the greatness of Rome. But now, after two thousand years we see the political impress of this narrow origin spreading to the governments of an area of Europe immeasurably larger than the region that gave it birth. In the United States, little New England has been the source of the strongest influences modifying the political, religious and cultural life of half a continent; and as far as Texas and California these influences bear the stamp of that narrow, unproductive environment which gave to its sons energy of character and ideals.

[Sidenote: Transplanted religions.]

Ideas especially are light baggage, and travel with migrant peoples over many a long and rough road. They are wafted like winged seed by the wind, and strike root in regions where they could never have originated. Few classes of ideas bear so plainly the geographic stamp of their origin as religious ones, yet none have spread more widely. The abstract monotheism sprung from the bare grasslands of western Asia made slow but final headway against the exuberant forest gods of the early Germans. Religious ideas travel far from their seedbeds along established lines of communication. We have the almost amusing episode of the brawny Burgundians of the fifth century, who received the Arian form of Christianity by way of the Danube highway from the schools of Athens and Alexandria, valiantly supporting the niceties of Greek religious thought against the Roman version of the faith which came up the Rhone Valley.

If the sacred literature of Judaism and Christianity take weak hold upon the western mind, this is largely because it is written in the symbolism of the pastoral nomad. Its figures of speech reflect life in deserts and grasslands. For these figures the western mind has few or vague corresponding ideas. It loses, therefore, half the import, for instance, of the Twenty-third Psalm, that picture of the nomad shepherd guiding his flock across parched and trackless plains, to bring them at evening, weary, hungry, thirsty, to the fresh pastures and waving palms of some oasis, whose green tints stand out in vivid contrast to the tawny wastes of the encompassing sands. "He leadeth me beside the still waters," not the noisy rushing stream of the rainy lands, but the quiet desert pool that reflects the stars. What real significance has the tropical radiance of the lotus flower, the sacred symbol of Buddhism, for the Mongolian lama in the cold and arid borders of Gobi or the wind-swept highlands of sterile Tibet? And yet these exotic ideas live on, even if they no longer bloom in the uncongenial soil. But to explain them in terms of their present environment would be indeed impossible.

[Sidenote: Partial response to environment]

A people may present at any given time only a partial response to their environment also for other reasons. This may be either because their arrival has been too recent for the new habitat to make its influence felt; or because, even after long residence, one overpowering geographic factor has operated to the temporary exclusion of all others. Under these circumstances, suddenly acquired geographic advantages of a high order or such advantages, long possessed but tardily made available by the release of national powers from more pressing tasks, may institute a new trend of historical development, resulting more from stimulating geographic conditions than from the natural capacities or aptitudes of the people themselves. Such developments, though often brilliant, are likely to be short-lived and to end suddenly or disastrously, because not sustained by a deep-seated national impulse animating the whole mass of the people. They cease when the first enthusiasm spends itself, or when outside competition is intensified, or the material rewards decrease.

[Sidenote: The case of Spain.]

An illustration is found in the mediaeval history of Spain. The intercontinental location of the Iberian Peninsula exposed it to the Saracen conquest and to the constant reinforcements to Islam power furnished by the Mohammedanized Berbers of North Africa. For seven centuries this location was the dominant geographic factor in Spain's history. It made the expulsion of the Moors the sole object of all the Iberian states, converted the country into an armed camp, made the gentleman adventurer and Christian knight the national ideal. It placed the center of political control high up on the barren plateau of Castile, far from the centers of population and culture in the river lowlands or along the coast. It excluded the industrial and commercial development which was giving bone and sinew to the other European states. The release of the national energies by the fall of Granada in 1492 and the now ingrained spirit of adventure enabled Spain and Portugal to utilize the unparalleled advantage of their geographical position at the junction of the Mediterranean and Atlantic highways, and by their great maritime explorations in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, to become foremost among European colonial powers. But the development was sporadic, not supported by any widespread national movement. In a few decades the maritime preeminence of the Iberian Peninsula began to yield to the competition of the Dutch and English, who were, so to speak, saturated with their own maritime environment. Then followed the rapid decay of the sea power of Spain, followed by that of Portugal, till by 1648 even her coasting trade was in the hands of the Dutch, and Dutch vessels were employed to maintain communication with the West Indies.[30]

[Sidenote: Sporadic response to a new environment.]

We have a later instance of sporadic development under the stimulus of new and favorable geographic conditions, a similar anti-climax. The expansion of the Russians across the lowlands of Siberia was quite in harmony with the genius of that land-bred people; but when they reached Bering Sea, the enclosed basin, the proximity of the American continent, the island stepping-stones between, and the lure of rich sealskins to the fur-hunting Cossacks determined a sudden maritime expansion, for which the Russian people were unfitted. Beginning in 1747, it swept the coast of Alaska, located its American administrative center first on Kadiak, then on Baranof Island, and by 1812 placed its southern outposts on the California coast near San Francisco Bay and on the Farralone Islands.[31] Russian convicts were employed to man the crazy boats built of green lumber on the shores of Bering Sea, and Aleutian hunters with their bidarkas were impressed to catch the seal.[32] The movement was productive only of countless shipwrecks, many seal skins, and an opportunity to satisfy an old grudge against England. The territory gained was sold to the United States in 1867. This is the one instance in Russian history of any attempt at maritime expansion, and also of any withdrawal from territory to which the Muscovite power had once established its claim. This fact alone would indicate that only excessively tempting geographic conditions led the Russians into an economic and political venture which neither the previously developed aptitudes of the people nor the conditions of population and historical development on the Siberian seaboard were able to sustain.

[Sidenote: The larger conception of the environment.]

The history and culture of a people embody the effects of previous habitats and of their final environment; but this means something more than local geographic conditions. It involves influences emanating from far beyond the borders. No country, no continent, no sea, mountain or river is restricted to itself in the influence which it either exercises or receives. The history of Austria cannot be understood merely from Austrian ground. Austrian territory is part of the Mediterranean hinterland, and therefore has been linked historically with Rome, Italy, and the Adriatic. It is a part of the upper Danube Valley and therefore shares much of its history with Bavaria and Germany, while the lower Danube has linked it with the Black Sea, Greece, the Russian steppes, and Asia. The Asiatic Hungarians have pushed forward their ethnic boundary nearly to Vienna. The Austrian capital has seen the warring Turks beneath its walls, and shapes its foreign policy with a view to the relative strength of the Sultan and the Czar.

[Sidenote: Unity of the earth.]

The earth is an inseparable whole. Each country or sea is physically and historically intelligible only as a portion of that whole. Currents and wind-systems of the oceans modify the climate of the nearby continents, and direct the first daring navigations of their peoples. The alternating monsoons of the Indian Ocean guided Arab merchantmen from ancient times back and forth between the Red Sea and the Malabar coast of India.[33] The Equatorial Current and the northeast trade-wind carried the timid ships of Columbus across the Atlantic to America. The Gulf Stream and the prevailing westerlies later gave English vessels the advantage on the return voyage. Europe is a part of the Atlantic coast. This is a fact so significant that the North Atlantic has become a European sea. The United States also is a part of the Atlantic coast: this is the dominant fact of American history. China forms a section of the Pacific rim. This is the fact back of the geographic distribution of Chinese emigration to Annam, Tonkin, Siam, Malacca, the Philippines, East Indies, Borneo, Australia, Hawaiian Islands, the Pacific Coast States, British Columbia, the Alaskan coast southward from Bristol Bay in Bering Sea, Ecuador and Peru.

As the earth is one, so is humanity. Its unity of species points to some degree of communication through a long prehistoric past. Universal history is not entitled to the name unless it embraces all parts of the earth and all peoples, whether savage or civilized. To fill the gaps in the written record it must turn to ethnology and geography, which by tracing the distribution and movements of primitive peoples can often reconstruct the most important features of their history.

Anthropo-geographic problems are never simple. They must all be viewed in the long perspective of evolution and the historical past. They require allowance for the dominance of different geographic factors at different periods, and for a possible range of geographic influences wide as the earth itself. In the investigator they call for pains-taking analysis and, above all, an open mind.


[1] George Adam Smith, Historical Geography of the Holy Land, pp. 149-157. New York, 1897.

[2] A.P. Brigham, Geographic Influences in American History, Chap. I. Boston, 1903.

[3] R.H. Whitbeck, Geographic Influences in the Development of New Jersey, Journal of Geography, Vol. V, No. 6. January, 1908.

[4] Hans Helmolt, History of the World, Vol. II, p. 372. London and New York, 1902-1906.

[5] Jean Baptiste Tavernier, Travels in India, 1641-1667. Vol. I, chap. V and map. London, 1889.

[6] Sir Thomas Holdich, India, p. 305. London, 1905.

[7] Bunbury, History of Ancient Geography, Vol. II, pp. 464-465, 469. London, 1883.

[8] Imperial Gazetteer for India, Vol. III, p. 109. London, 1885.

[9] G.G. Chisholm, The Relativity of Geographic Advantages, Scottish Geog. Mag., Vol. XIII, No. 9, Sept. 1897.

[10] Hugh Robert Mill, International Geography, p. 347. New York, 1902.

[11] Joseph Partsch, Central Europe, pp. 228-230. London, 1903.

[12] H.J. Mackinder, Britain and the British Seas, pp. 317-323. London, 1904.

[13] Captain A.T. Mahan, Influence of Sea Power upon History, pp. 36-38. Boston, 1902.

[14] G.G. Chisholm, Economic Geography, Scottish Geog. Mag., March, 1908.

[15] Captain A.T. Mahan, Influence of Sea Power upon History, pp. 37-38. Boston, 1902.

[16] Boyd Winchester, The Swiss Republic, pp. 123, 124, 145-147. Philadelphia, 1891.

[17] Montesquieu, Spirit of the Laws, Book XIV, chap. IV.

[18] Henry Buckle, History of Civilization in England, Vol. I, pp. 86-106.

[19] Heinrich von Treitschke, Politik, Vol. I, p. 225. Leipzig, 1897. This whole chapter on Land und Leute is suggestive.

[20] W.Z. Ripley, Races of Europe, pp. 524-525. New York, 1899.

[21] Ibid., 526.

[22] Ibid., 517-520, 533-536.

[23] Joseph Partsch, Central Europe, pp. 256-257, 268-271. London, 1903.

[24] W.Z. Ripley, Races of Europe, p. 89. New York, 1899.

[25] Strabo, Book VII, chap. I, 2.

[26] Strabo, Book II, chap. III, 7.

[27] Plutarch, Solon, pp. 13, 29, 154.

[28] Hans Helmolt, History of the World, Vol. II, pp. 244-245. New York, 1902-1906.

[29] Roscher, National-oekonomik des Ackerbaues, p. 33, note 3. Stuttgart, 1888.

[30] Captain A.T. Mahan, Influence of Sea Power upon History, pp. 41-42, 50-53. Boston, 1902.

[31] H. Bancroft, History of California, Vol. I, pp. 298, 628-635. San Francisco.

[32] Agnes Laut, Vikings of the Pacific, pp. 64-82. New York, 1905.

[33] Bunbury, History of Ancient Geography, Vol. II, pp. 351, 470-471. London, 1883.



Into almost every anthropo-geographical problem the element of environment enters in different phases, with different modes of operation and varying degrees of importance. Since the causal conception of geography demands a detailed analysis of all the relations between environment and human development, it is advisable to distinguish the various classes of geographic influences.

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