Geography Review

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Geography Vocabulary In-Context

The first category of history we study is geography which is the relationship between people and the earth. Physical geography is the study of the relationship between people and the physical features of the earth such as mountains, river valleys, deserts, oceans, peninsula (land surrounded by three sides of water), and archipelago (chain of islands). Some of the most famous peninsulas are Indian Peninsula (India), Italian Peninsula (Italy), Iberian Peninsula (Spain & Portugal), Arabian Peninsula (Jordan, Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, The United Arab Emirates, Oman, Yemen and Saudi Arabia), and the Korean Peninsula (North Korea & South Korea). The Japanese archipelago consists of thousands of islands, but the four main islands of Japan are: Hokkaido, Honshu, Kyushu and Shikoku. Another geographic feature is a plateau which is an area of elevated flat land. There are a couple of famous plateaus in Asia, mainly the Deccan Plateau in India, and the Tibetan Plateau (China, Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan, and India). Another way that geography affects people are mountains. The Himalayan Mountains help protect India and China from invasion and prevent some cultural diffusion. Mountains can cause periods of isolationism. This is the belief that a country has policy of abstaining from political, social, or economic relations with other countries. In Ancient Greece, the mountains prevented Greece from unifying, since areas were controlled by city-states who ruled from their high mountains. Acropolis the Greek word for city-state means "high city". The most famous of these is found in Athens where Pericles built the Acropolis temple, "The Parthenon" to Athena. Some geographic features such as deserts can expand and cause problems for countries. This is known as desertification or the making or expansion of a desert. The Sahara desert in Africa is the largest desert in the world and is still expanding causing people to move or create new technology to manage this negative effect. Climate also affects people. In India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, monsoons or seasonal winds that bring rain determine when they can farm and when their rainy or dry seasons arrive. In Russia, the cold northern temperatures create a permafrost which is frozen ground as hard as cement which makes it difficult to build upon and create housing. Geographic features such as rivers, mountains, deserts, oceans, etc are physical features that are best displayed on a topographic map also known as a physical map. The political or governmental boundaries and the names of countries are displayed on a political map.


When humans first left Africa, they migrated (moving from one place to another) followed the coasts, where resources were abundant. The first wave moved across the Middle East, into southern Asia, and eventually all the way down to Australia. This occurred roughly between 90,000 and 30,000 years ago. Additional waves of migration followed. Between 40,000 and 12,000 years ago, humans moved north into Europe. However, their range was limited by an ice sheet that extended into the northern part of continental Europe. All of the continents(seven large masses that make up most of the earth's land surface) were eventually inhabited by humans by approximately 10,000 years ago except for Antarctica which was not explored until the 19th and 20th centuries and only has temporary inhabitants for scientific research.

Geography affects the way people live, and it can determine how successful or unsuccessful a civilization or nation becomes in the world. This is called geographic determinism. Some examples are that river valleys created the world’s first civilizations (Mesopotamia, Egypt, China, and India). The alluvial soil or soils that are deposited by flooding of the rivers usually in the delta area. A delta is usually a triangular mass of sediment, especially silt and sand, deposited at the mouth of a river. One of the most famous is the Nile river delta. This delta contains so much rich soil for farming insomuch that Ancient Egypt was known as the “bread basket” of Ancient Rome as it provided enough grain for the empire. Another good example of geographic determinism is the island of Great Britain. This island allowed the British Empire to become the strongest in the world due to the many deep ports which allowed them to have the ability to build ships for trade and create a strong navy. The island of Great Britain had many coal deposits directly on the surface which allowed them to start the Industrial Revolution by burning the coal to make steam which then produced energy for machines in factories. Geographic determinism also plays a part in the need to increase agriculture and the food supply by utilizing new technologies for the world’s growing population. In the 1960-70s, the Green Revolution occurred in which technology assisted in producing more food for the world.

All of these geographic elements affect the people of the world every day and can have either positive or negative effects. Broader terms such as geographic determinism assist in analyzing these geographic terms with respect to history.


Geographic Determinism

Jared Diamond wrote a book called Guns, Germs, and Steel, in which he describes the effects of Geography on civilizations. These Geographic factors and features determine how successful or unsuccessful a country or region is based upon its geography.
Geographic Determinism is when a physical feature of the Earth decides the success or failure of a civilization, country, empire, or region. This can be; climate, river valleys, rivers, deserts, mountains, ,rain forests, oceans, monsoons, natural resources (coal, oil, fresh water, diamonds, gold, silver, tin, etc.), peninsulas,archipelagos, and islands.
Examples of Geographic Determinism
Geographic Feature Outcome/Result
Tigris & Euphrates River Valley Provided Mesopotamian city-states to have fertile soil used for farming. Irrigation for watering their crops/fields. Transportation to trade surplus food.
Himalaya Mountains Protected China from invasion and from early Cultural Diffusion.
Natural Deep Harbors Allowed Great Britain to have a trading empire and navy. Largest empire in the world. "Sun never sets on the British Empire"
The Island of Great Britain Protected it from European conquerors such as Napoleon and Hitler.
The Archipelago of Japan Protected it from the Chinese invasion of Kublai Khan by way of the Kamikaze or Divine Wind.
The Archipelago of Japan Did not have many natural resources, so they had to use imperialism to find resources such as oil.
The Italian Peninsula Allowed the Roman Empire to control the trade routes throughout the Mediterranean Sea.
The location of Constantinople/Istanbul Allowed the Byzantine Empire and later the Ottoman Empire to control the trade routes from East to West and West to East. The location of the Ottoman Empire blocked Europeans from using land trading routes causing them to trade by sea around Africa, which causes the Age of Exploration.
Cold Climate Prevents both Napoleon and Hitler from invading Russia/Soviet Union.
Iberian Peninsula Located in the farthest western side of Europe allows them to be close to the soon to be discovered Americas by Columbus in 1492.
Coal Deposits The location of coal at the surface on the Island of Britain allows them to use it for fuel and allows for the Industrial Revolution to begin in England in 1740.
Monsoons The Monsoon on the Indian subcontinent causes both drought and rain allowing for predicting flooding for farming.
Sahara Desert Prevented the cultural diffusion from Northern Africa to Central and Southern Africa until the Industrial Revolution created technologies such as steam power to navigate rivers into the heart of Africa.
Rain Forest Prevented deep exploration of the center of Africa by Europeans until technology was available in the middle to late 1800s.
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