Influences of Geographic Environment - On the Basis of Ratzel
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Influences of Geographic Environment - On the Basis of Ratzel's System of Anthropo-Geography


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Title: Influences of Geographic Environment  On the Basis of Ratzel's System of Anthropo-Geography
Author: Ellen Churchill Semple
Release Date: March 8, 2005 [EBook #15293]
Language: english
Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1
Produced by Charles Aldarondo, Keren Vergon, Charlene Taylor, Joshua Hutchinson and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team (
Influences Of Geographic Environment On The Basis Of Ratzel's System Of Anthropo-Geography
By Ellen Churchill Semple
Author of "American History and Its Geographic Conditions"
Hither, as to their fountain, other stars Repairing, in their golden urns draw light.
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'sAnthropo-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-Americ an 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 Montesq uieu, Alexander von Humboldt, Buckle, Ritter, Kohl, Peschel and others; but he first investigated the subject from the modern scientific point of view, c onstructed 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 fertil ity 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 gene ralization after another. Sometimes he reveals the mind of a seer or poet, th rowing out conclusions which are highly suggestive, on the face of them co nvincing, 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 R atzel 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 envi ronment for the English-speaking world should meet its public well supporte d 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 th at Ratzel's principles of
anthropo-geography did not constitute a complete, w ell-proportioned system. Some aspects of the subject had been developed exhaustively, these of course the most important; but others had been treated ina dequately, others were merely a hint or an inference, and yet others were represented by an hiatus. It became necessary, therefor, to work up certain impo rtant 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 sta tement, 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 s tate 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. T he theory performed, however, a great service in impressing Ratzel's min d 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 l aws are none the less well founded because they do not lend themselves to math ematical finality of statement. For this reason the writer speaks of geo graphic 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 p rinciples 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.
January, 1911.
Preface Contents List Of Maps. Chapter I—The Operation Of Geographic Factors In History Man a product of the earth's surface. Stability of geographic factors in history. Persistent effect of remoteness. Effect of proximity. Persistent effect of natural barriers. Persistent effect of nature-made highways. Regions of historical similarity. Climatic influences. The relation of geography to history. Multiplicity of geographic factors. Evolution of geographic relations. Evolution of world relations. Interplay of geographic factors. Land and sea in co-operation. Land and sea opposed. Local and remote geographic factors. Direct and indirect effects of environment. Indirect mental effects. Indirect effects in differentiation of colonial peoples. Indirect effect through isolation. General importance of indirect effects. Indirect political and moral effects. Time element. Effect of a previous habitat. Transplanted religions. Partial response to environment The case of Spain. Sporadic response to a new environment. The larger conception of the environment. Unity of the earth. Chapter II—Classes Of Geographic Influences Physical effects.
Variation and natural conditions. Stature and environment Physical effects of dominant activities. Effects of climate. Acclimatization Pigmentation and climate. Pigmentation and altitude Difficulty of Generalization Psychical effects. Indirect effect upon language The great man in history. Economic and social effects. Size of the social group. Effect upon movements of peoples. River routes. Segregation and accessibility. Change of habitat. Retrogression in new habitat. The Boers of South Africa Chapter III—Society And State In Relation To The Land People and land. Political geography and history. Political versus social geography. Land basis of society. Morgan's Societas. Land bond in hunter tribes. Land bond in fisher tribes. Land bond in pastoral societies. Geographical mark of low-type societies. Land and state. Strength of the land bond in the state. Weak land tenure of hunting and pastoral tribes. Land and food supply. Advance from natural to artificial basis of subsistence. Land in relation to agriculture. Migratory agriculture Geographic checks to progress. Native animal and plant life as factors. Land per capita under various cultural and geograph ic conditions. Density of population and government. Territorial expansion of the state. Checks to population. Extra-territorial relations. Geography in the philosophy of history. Theory of progress from the standpoint of geography. Man's increasing dependence upon nature. Increase in kind and amount. Chapter IV—The Movements Of Peoples In Their Geogra phical Significance Universality of these movements.
Stratification of races The name Historical Movement. Evolution of the Historical Movement. Nature of primitive movements. Number and range. Importance of such movements in history. Geographical interpretation of historical movement. Mobility of primitive peoples. Natural barriers to movement. Effect of geographical horizon. Civilization and mobility. Diffusion of culture. Ethnic intermixture. Complex currents of migration. Cultural modification during migration. Effect of early maritime migration. The transit land. War as a form of the historical movement. Primitive war. Slavery as form of historical movement. Fusion by deported and military colonies. Withdrawal and flight. Dispersal in flight. Natural regions of retreat. Emigration and colonization. Commerce. Commerce a guide to various movements. Movements due to religion. Religious pilgrimages. Historical movement and race distribution. Migrations in relation to zones and heat belts. Range of movements in Asia. Range of movements in Africa. Colonization and latitude. Movement to like geographic conditions. Movement to better geographic conditions. Southward and westward drifts in the northern hemisphere. Eastward movements. Return movements. Regions of attraction and repulsion. Psychical influences in certain movements. Results of historical movement. Differentiation and area. Contrasted environments. Two-type populations. Differentiation and isolation. Differentiation and digression. Geographic conditions of heterogeneity and homgeneity. Differentiation versus assimilation. Elimination by historical movement. No new ethnic types.
Checks to differentiation. Geographical origins. Large centers of dispersion. Small centers. Tests of origin. Chapter V—Geographical Location 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. Types of location. Continuous and scattered location. Central versus peripheral location. Danger of central location. Mutual relations between center and periphery. Inland and coastward expansion. Russian expansion in Asia. Periphery as goal of expansion. Reaction between center and periphery. Periphery of colonization. Dominant historical side. The Mediterranean side of Europe. Change of historical front. Contrasted historical sides. One-sided historical relations. Scattered location due to geographic conditions. Island way station on maritime routes. Scattered location of primitive tribes. Ethnic islands of expansion. Political islands of expansion. Ethnic islands of survival. Discontinuous distribution. Contrasted location. Geographical polarity. Geographical marks of growth. Marks of inland expansion. Marks of decline. Interpretation of scattered and marginal location. Prevalence of ethnic islands of decline. Contrast between ethnic islands of growth and decline. Chapter VI—Geographical Area The size of the earth. Relation of area to life. The struggle for space. Area an index of social and political development. The Oikoumene.
Unity of the human species in the relation to the earth. Isolation and differentiation. Monotonous race type of small area. Wide race distribution and inner diversities. Area and language. Large area a guarantee of racial or national permanence. Weakness of small states. 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. Area and growth. Historical advance from small to large areas. Gradations in area and in development. Preliminaries to ethnic and political expansion. Significance of sphere of activity or influence. 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. Estimates of area in small maritime states. Limitations of small territorial conceptions. Evolution of territorial policies. Colonial expansion. The mind of colonials. Colonials as road builders. Practical bent of colonials. Chapter VII—Geographical Boundaries The boundary zone in nature. Gradations in the boundary zone. Oscillating boundaries Altitude boundary zones. 'Wallace's Line' a typical boundary zone. Boundaries as limits of movements or expansion. Peoples as barriers. Boundary zone as index of growth or decline. Breadth of the boundary zone. The broad frontier zone of active expansion. Economic factors in expanding frontiers. Value of barrier boundaries. The sea as the absolute boundary Natural boundaries as bases of ethnic and political boundaries. Primitive waste boundaries. Border wastes of Indian lands. Alien intrusions into border wastes.
Politico-economic significance of the waste boundary. Common boundary districts. Tariff free zones. Boundary zones of mingled race elements. Ethnic border zones in the Alps. The Slav-German boundary. Assimilation of culture in boundary zones. Boundary zones of assimilation in Asia. Boundary zones of mountain Tibet. Relation of ethnic and cultural assimilation. The boundary zone in political expansion. Tendency toward defection along political frontiers. Centrifugal forces on the frontier. The spirit of colonial frontiers. Free border states as political survivals. Guardians of the marches. Border nomads as frontier police. Lawless citizens deported to frontiers. Drift of lawless elements to the frontiers. Asylums beyond the border. Border refugees and ethnic mingling. Chapter VIII—Coast Peoples The coast a zone of transition. Width of coastal zones. The inner edge. Inner edge as head of sea navigation. Shifting of the inner edge. Artificial extension of inner edge. Outer edge in original settlement. Outer edge in early navigation. Outer edge and piracy. Outer edge in colonization. Inland advance of colonies. Interpenetration of land and sea. Ratio of shoreline to area. Criticism of this formula. Accessibility of coasts from hinterland. Mountain-barred hinterlands. Accessible hinterlands. Accessibility of coasts from the sea. Embayed coasts. Maritime activity on steep embayed coasts. Contrasted coastal belts. Evolution of ports. Offshore islands. Offshore islands as vestibules of the mainland. Previous habitat of coast-dwellers. Habitability of coasts as factor in maritime development. Geographic conditions for brilliant maritime development. Soil of coastlands as factor. Barren coast of fertile hinterland.
Ethnic contrast between coast and interior peoples. Ethnic contrasts in the Pacific islands. Ethnic contrasts in the Americas. Older ethnic stock in coastlands. Ethnic amalgamations in coastlands. Multiplicity of race elements on coasts. Lingua franca of coasts. Coast-dwellers as middlemen. Monopoly of trade with the hinterland. Differentiation of coast from inland people. Early civilization of coasts. Retarded coastal peoples. Cultural contrast of coast and interior. Progress from thalassic to oceanic coasts. Geographic location of coasts. Intermediate location between contrasted coasts. Historical decline of certain coasts. Political factors in this decline. Physical causes of decline. Interplay of geographic factors in coastlands. Chapter IX—Oceans And Enclosed Seas The water a factor in man's mobility. Oceans and seas in universal history. The sea in universal history. Origin of navigation. Primitive forms. Primitive craft in arid lands. Relation of the river to marine navigation. Retarded navigation. Regions of advanced navigation. Geographic conditions in Polynesia. Mediterranean versus Atlantic seamanship. Three geographic stages of maritime development. Influence of enclosed seas upon navigation. Enclosed seas as areas of ethnic and cultural assimilation. North Sea and Baltic basins. Bering Sea. Red Sea basin. Assimilation facilitated by ethnic kinship. Chinese expansion seaward. Importance of zonal and continental location. Thalassic character of the Indian Ocean. The sea route to the Orient. Limitation of small area in enclosed seas. Successive maritime periods in history. Contrasted historical rôles of northern and souther n hemispheres. Size of the oceans Neutrality of the seas, its evolution. Chapter X—Man's Relation To The Water Protection of a water frontier.
Ancient pile villages. Present distribution. Malayan pile dwellings. In Melanesia. River dwellers in populous lands. Reclamation of land from the sea. The struggle with the water. Mound villages in river flood-plains. Diking of rivers. Social gain by control of the water. Control of water as factor in early civilizations of arid lands. Cultural areas in primitive America. Economy of the water: fisheries. Fisheries as factors in maritime expansion. Fisheries as nurseries of seamen. Anthropo-geographic importance of navigation. Chapter XI—The Anthropo-Geography Of Rivers Rivers as intermediaries between land and sea. Sea navigation merges into river navigation. Historical importance of seas and oceans influenced by their debouching streams. Baltic and White Sea rivers. Atlantic and Pacific rivers. 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. Siberian rivers and Russian expansion. Determinants of routes in arid or semi-arid lands. Wadi routes in arid lands. Increasing historical importance from source to mouth. Location at hydrographic centers. Effect of current upon trade and expansion. Importance of mouth to upstream people. Prevention of monopoly of river mouth. Motive for canals in lower course. Watershed canals. Rivers and railroads. Relation of rivers to railroads in recent colonial lands. Unity of a river system. The effect of common water supply in arid lands. Union of opposite river banks. Tendency toward ethnic and cultural unity in a river valley. Identity of country with river valley. Enclosed river valleys. Rivers as boundaries of races and peoples. Scientific river boundaries. Rivers as political boundaries. Fluvial settlements and peoples. Riparian villages of French Canada. Boatmen tribes or castes.