Geography and the Development/Diffusion of Human Society
History is often filled with discussions of great battles and conquests, vast migrations of people and animals, even tremendous climatic events. Less often discussed, but of equal importance, is the role that geography has to play in history, and particularly how geography and certain geographical features can influence the development, or lack thereof, of human civilizations and societies. The following discussion will attempt to cast light on the subject of geography and its effect on the development and diffusion of human society. A first look at how geography has affected the growth and expansion of the United ...view middle of the document...
Later, some saw the Mississippi River as a pathway for trade goods and supplies, and the river has continued to grow throughout the history of the United States as a major transportation route for American commerce. Its importance as America’s ‘first super-highway’ led to its being vital to the interests of both Union and Confederate forces during the Civil War (National Park Service, 2001).
There’s Gold in Them There Hills!
The Mississippi River, big and powerful as it is, can only claim influence over U.S. development and expansion east of the Rocky Mountains. In the far west, it was the discovery of large deposits of gold that affected the spread of the United States most greatly. The lure of gold pulled people from nearly every corner of the globe to northern California, seeking the overnight prosperity that a lucky strike would provide. Indeed, prior to the beginning of the gold rush in 1849, California’s population was an estimated 25,000 people. A special census conducted just three years later, in 1852, showed that the population had increased nearly 900% to 223,856 (Udall, p. 125)
The gold rush also provided a stimulus to the development and expansion of the nation’s commercial and industrial power and influence. With the rapid growth of San Francisco, the United States gained a powerful new port city to take advantage of trade among the Pacific Ocean nations. The boom in commerce also spurred development of the railroads and would eventually lead to the first transcontinental railway (Udall, p. 127)
Meanwhile, In Ancient Egypt . . .
Geographical influences on the development of a society are not limited to the New World, however. The rise of ancient civilizations can be attributed to environmental and geographic factors in many ways. Perhaps the most well-known of these factors is the Nile River and its effect on ancient Egyptian civilization. This great river was truly the life-blood of ancient Egyptian society and, as Orlin (2010) stated in Life and Thought in the Ancient near East:
. . . the ancient Egyptian lived permanently at the mercy of a benevolent river whose regime was gentle, for the most part, and whose regular and predictable rhythms of flood and recession set the stage for Egypt’s economic, political, and social life for millennia. (pg. 39)
The Nile played a role in nearly all aspects of Egyptian life. The Egyptian calendar was based around the annual flooding of the Nile. These annual floods deposited rich silt on the farmlands, helping to ensure plentiful harvests and continued prosperity through the trade of surplus crops. Egyptian technology evolved as a direct result of learning to control the flood waters through a vast system of levees, irrigation canals and other methods of taming the river. In addition to the ready supply of fish and fresh water, the Nile also provided an avenue of transportation throughout the nation. The Nile river valley, flowing between large deserts on either...