Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 78.djvu/178

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comparatively limited supply of British coal, about two thirds as great as the amount available in Illinois alone. Unless some substitute power can be found as the coal is exhausted, this basis of exchange will no longer exist, and Britain must look forward to a future in which her population will be limited to the number which her small area can feed, clothe and shelter by direct return from her own soil. Making generous estimate of the possibilities of Britain in these respects, it does not appear that more than 75 per cent, of the area, or less than sixty million acres, are capable of any kind of profitable agricultural development.

At present Italy is practically maintaining a population equal to three fourth that of Great Britain from an area of about fifty million cultivated acres. Italy, however, has superior climatic advantages in her favor and the standard of living of her population would, on the whole, probably seem to the Englishman to be inferior to his own. Hence it appears safe to conclude that the area of Britain, without the equivalent of her present mechanical power, could not at best maintain any more than the existing population. Consequently, as other nations, more richly endowed, continue to increase in numbers and in power, the relative decline of Britain would become inevitable, through the changing value of the physical forces which have shaped her course. What applied to Holland in the seventeenth century applies to Britain to-day, and must eventually apply to all the nations of restricted size and no capability of securing relief through the utilization of larger contiguous areas.

Size, then, has exactly opposed values at the two ends of national evolution. The small size which affords strength to, and hastens the development of, the incipient nation, if unchanged, becomes subsequently the weak spot in the foundation on which it must stand. On the other hand, the size, which through its bigness, is likely to retard early development, may become later a source of tremendous strength. The nation with vast area, though perhaps slower in reaching its full development, has not only the basis for ultimate importance, but also the basis for permanent greatness in so far as anything may be regarded as permanent. Thus by virtue of their respective sizes, and what size means, the future course of the United States, of Russia, or of China, must be radically different from the future of Britain, of Germany or of France. The consideration of the area of a nation, therefore, must be carried further than the usual bare statement of so many square miles, and those who ignore the question of size fail to appreciate one of the most significant items in national evolution and strength.

Surface Configuration.—The configuration of the surface is a controlling factor which should perhaps be considered earlier in the dis-