Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 76.djvu/162

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158
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY
THE GEOGRAPHIC ASPECT OF CULTURE
By STEPHEN ELMER SLOCUM, Ph.D.
PROFESSOR OF APPLIED MATHEMATICS, UNIVERSITY OF CINCINNATI

THE dynamic influence of geography in history has recently attracted general attention. The idea was developed from a philosophical standpoint by Hegel[1] about the middle of the last century, but only recently has it come to be regarded as of special significance. In the light of the discoveries of Hedin[2] and Huntington[3] in central Asia, however, there can be no doubt that the characteristics of primitive races are profoundly modified by environment. As an instance of this, Huntington has shown that the Kirghiz nomads inhabiting the deserts and plateaus of the Lop Basin in Chinese Turkestan are forced to lead a roving life by reason of the scantiness of subsistence. This in turn limits their occupations to the manufacture of portable articles such as rugs and felts, while it also accentuates certain characteristics such as hardihood and hospitality. In contrast to this type, the Chantos inhabiting the oases are tied down to intensive agriculture, the effect of which is also distinctly apparent in their character and occupations. This is further intensified by the lack of sufficient rainfall, which in their case has imposed such a severe limitation upon increase in population as to have given rise to the institutions of monasticism and polyandry.

The United States also furnishes a notable instance of the effect of physiographic environment.[4] The colonization of America was in itself a matter of latitude, the tier of early colonies along the Atlantic seaboard following practically the same arrangement as their European prototypes. Again the barriers of sea and mountain gave coherence to the New England colonies, which, reinforced by favorable latitude, ripened the spirit of independence. Other natural features, such as the great river valleys and mountain passes, were instrumental in determining the great trade routes, as well as in shaping the campaigns of the revolution and the civil war.

In connection with topography, the related factor of climate is also

  1. Hegel, "The Philosophy of History" (1st ed., 1837), English translation, Bell & Sons, 1902.
  2. Hedin, "Central Asia and Tibet," Scribners, 1903.
  3. Huntington, "The Pulse of Asia," Houghton, Mifflin, 1907.
  4. Semple, "American History and its Geographic Conditions," Houghton Mifflin, 1903.