*** geography countyry trends

Geography: Country Trends

Figure 1.--

All countries have been affected by geography. Some nore than others and in many different ways. Perhaps no country has been more affected by geograophy than Panama. It was even geography that led to its creation. Because Panama is an istmus where a canal connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans possible. Of the major countries, it is probably Russia with its vast Eurasian Steppe that has been the country most significantly affected by geography. The Steppe more than any other geographic feature has been an engine for genating history. The Stppepeople for a time have dominated both China and Russia as well striking into Europe and the Middle East. England's island geography has been both a protective shield and as with the Vikings an avenue for invasion. Germany's location in th middle of Europe has prevented its expansion and nearly led to Germany dominating Europe. Japan's island position enabled it to develop independently from China. America's separation from Europe by the Atlantic Ocean was a key element in its development and subsequent world history. Italy, a Mediterranean Peninsula, was perfectly posed to dominate the Mediteranean. Afghanistan's geography has played a role in invasions of India incliding the creation of the Moguhl Empire. Today the poprous borders with Pakistan make it a kind of supportive rear area for Pakistan's struggle with India. Neighboring Iran is in unique position of staddling the oil producing areas of the Caspian Sea and Persian Gulf. China's need for raw mterials have lead it into Africa and Southeast Asia, often suppoting brutal, repressive regimes leading to moral conflicts with the West.


Africa is the second largest continet. I has both the world's largest desert. although it has nmot lways been a dedsert, and the largest expanse of tropical area of any of the continents. The Sahara Desert is the largest desert anywhere in the world. It is over 10.4 million km2 north to south. some 1,800 kms and east-west 5,600 km and growing. Africa is the most tropical of all continents. Africa like South Anerica straddles the equator, dividing the country bin two, with aldmost equal pats north snd south. Africa an Siouth America split off from each other. They re like two prts of a jig-saw puzzle. Africa's climatic and physical conditions reprat in north abd south. Saharan conditions can be found on a smaller scle in the Kaslahari. The Maghreb nd Karoo are similr. Conditions in the Cape area of South Afric are nearly identical to Mediterranean. The tropical conditions are impprtant because it provided the ideal enviurinment for the grerat apes, thus explaining why humanoids devloped in Africa and only Africa. There was a scientific debate on this, but it is clear that humanoids only developed in Africa. All the primitive species that led to humaoids and the earliest humaoids have been found in Africa and only in Africa. The climate and vegetation range from equatorial rainforests, tropical deserts and savanna grassland to Mediterranean. Climate and vegetation range from equatorial rainforests, tropical deserts and savanna grassland to Mediterranean. Unlike Asia abd Europe, there are no arctic areas. Africa has important lakes nd two of the wiotkd' great rivers, the Congo and the Nile. A major feature id the Great Rift Valley inlnd from the easterm coast. It has helped xpos anint hymnoid fossils.

America, Latin

Latin America is a culturl term. The primary geographic area is South America, the great bulk of the popultion nd rea is in South America. But for cultural reasons, Central America (geologiclly part of North Americ) and the Caribban are often included. Mexico is the only Latin American country with a large population outside of South America. South America is the fourth-largest continent, extendinhg from the Gulf of Darién/Istmus of Panama in the northwest to the archipelago of Tierra del Fuego in the south. It extends further south than any of the other inhabited continents. The most prominent features are the Andes mountains, river basins (especially the Amazonian area), plain areas (especially the Venezuelan Llanos and the Southern Cone.), and Atamcama Desert. Notable is the north/south orientation in contrast to the east-west oriention of Eurasia and North America. South America's extreme geographic variation, in part related to the north-south orientation contributes to the continent's extrondinary number of biomes. (A biome is a community of life forms, animals and plants, that inhabit an area with a stable climate. This is most observable along the western (Pacific) coast of South America dominated by the Andes Mountains. The Andes are South America's primary mountain system. It is the longest mountain chain, extending about 5,500 miles from Colombia south to Chile and Argentina. Itb is akso one ofvthe higest, exceed only by the Himalayas. There are hundreds of peaks exceeding 15,000 feet inckudiung still active volcanos. Volcamic activity has brought important mineral resources to the surface, including the gold and silver which attracted the Spanish. The Amdes creates the continent's spine and has a huge impact on both geographty and climate. One can go from a narrow coastal plain (arid or tropical jungle biome) within a few kilometers to an alpine biome of the towering Andes mountains. The Pacific coastal plain tends to be very narrow. The Atacama Desert of Peru and Chile is the dryest place on earth. Further north in Ecuador abd Colomobia there is a transition to tropical jungle. To the east of the Andes are the continent’s river basins and great share of the continents area. In assessing South America, it is imprtant to remember that half of the continent in areaa and population is Brazil, a former Portuguese colony. Most of the rest was colonized by the Soanish--and primrily located in the Andean area centered on the former Inca Empire. Only in the Guiana did other European countries establish a small footprint. The most imprtant of the South American River Basins is the Amazonian basin. The world's graetest river cteates a vast tropical rain forest biome. To the north and south are two other important river basins (the Orionoco and Paraná) creating emense grasslands. The only important lake is Titicaca in the Andes, the border between Peru and Bolivia.


Mexico is the northernmost constituent of Latin America and the most populous Spanish-speaking country in the world. Mexico when discussing geography has been called a land of extremes. The country is domimatd by two parallel mountain chains with rugged mountains and deep canyons skirting both coasts. Over half the countries lies at altitudes above 1,000 meters. The Sierra Madre Oriental is inland from the Gulf of Mexcico coast. The Sierra Madre Occidental with much higher peaks skirts the Pacific Coast and extends north into the United States. There are narrow coastal lowlands. In between is the rugged central platau, the country's central land mass with smaller mountain ranges. There are mineral resources in these ranges, including copper and silver. The north constiututes about 40 percent of Mexican territory. Most of it is arid including border deserts which is why in addition to hostile Native American tribesthat the north,including Texas, was not heavily populated in the era before the Mexican-Amrican War (1846-48). Mexico has a 5,000-kilometer border with the United States. Much of it is defined by the meandering Río Bravo del Norte (the Rio Grande) from Ciudad Juárez east to the Gulf of Mexico. Westward from Ciudad Juárez to the Pacific Ocedan there are natural and artificial markers. Mexico has many small tivers, but few umortan ones. Most have short runs from the Sierra Madere Oriente into the Gulf of MNexici=on and Sierrra Madre Occidental into the Pacfiic. The Rio Bravo is the longest river, but the volume is realtively low. The Mexican landmass narrows as it moves in a southeasterly direction from the United States border toward Central America. In the south bordering on Guatemala are dense rain forests--the homeland of the Maya. There are two appendages. The Yucantan Peninsuka in the southeast and Baja Califoirnia in the far west. The Yucatan lies between the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. It along with the American Florida peninsula forms the Gulf. It is where the Spanish first landed and encountered the Maya before launching the conquest of Mexico at the time dominated by the Aztecs centered in Tenochtitlan (modern Mexico City). The Conquistadores who grew up in the gritty villages of Extrenmadura were amazed at the magifiicance of the Aztec city. The Aztec capital doiminated the Valley of Mexico and the precious. lfe giving waters of Lake Texcoco. The Pacific Ring of Fire runs across southern Mexico into the Pacific (Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt) and then heads northwest up the Pacific coast. The snow covered Pico de Orizaba ( Citlaltépetl) south of Mexico City is an inactive stratovolcano, the highest mountain in Mexico and the third highest in North America. Nearby Popocatépetl is is the highest active volcano. Most Mexicans volcanos are long established, one Parícutin further west rose out of a coen field in 1943.


Ecuador is the smallest of the four Pacific-coast Andean republics. It is bordered by Columbia to the north and Peru to the east and south. To the west is the Pacific Ocean. The country also possesses the fabulous Pacific Galapagos Islands. The country's geography is notable for two reasons. First as indicated by its name, the eqator pases through the country. Second, the great diversity of climates and terraine in such a small country. The country is divided into three climatic zomes. Ecuador has a western tropical Pacific coast, the temperate central Andean highlands (sierra), and tropical eastern Amazonian lowlands. The variations in elevations means that Ecuador despite being on the equator experiences a substantial variaties in climate. The coast include both tropical jungle and arid areas. There the higher inland elevations have a cool, temperate climate with both lush well-watered areas in the north and near desert conditions in the south. The sierra includes majectic white snowcaps. They are volcanic in origin, several stii active. The most impressive are: Cotopaxi, Pichincha, and Chimborazo. The tropical Amazonian areas receive approximately 0.5 meters of rainfall annually creating a dense, green tropical rain forest. Ecuador because of its geography Ecuador often is struck by floods, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and landslides. The periodic El Niño cycles bring both drought and intense rainfall creating floods. At times Ecuador also is is struck by drought. Ecuador is located between lush coastal areas to the north (Colombia) and arid coastal areas to the south (Peru). South of Lima is the driest place on earth--the Atacama Desert. Today there are man-made environmental issues caused by pollution, erosion, and deforestation. The sierra highlands consists of the Cordillera Central Range and the Cordillera Occidental (western) Range. The ranges are the cause of many basins and a deep valley alongside, which are ideal places for raising grazing animals. Productive agricultural areas are located next to the rivers that flow down from the sierra and at the foot of the mountains.

French Guiana

French Guiana (Guyane française) is one of the three Guianas located at the northeastern corner of South America. Geologically French Guiana is part of the crystalline massif or group of mountains forming the Guiana Highlands which dominate all three of the Guianas. Rivers dominate the colony/province and are the main form of transport into the interior, but only part way. Some of the rivers flow into the Atlantic. The rivers flowing northeastward from the interior Guiana Highlands into the sea. Others south into the Amazon, essentially creating inaccessable areas until the 20th century. Over geological time, the rivers have significntly eroded the massif. As a result, most of French Guiana is now low-lying. The Maroni River is the border with Suriname border in the west. The Oyapock River is the border with Brazil in the east. The Tumuc-Humac Mountains in the south rises to an elevation of 2,300 feet (700 metres). To the north rivers flow toward the Atlantic coast. To the south rivers form tributaries of the Amazon. The northerly flowing rivers from the Highlands have carried alluvial deposits creating a swampy coastal plain southeast of the capital at Cayenne. The river here is a good example (figure 1). Much older alluvial deposits form a savanna west of Cayenne. Dense tropical forests dominted by hardwoods dominate beyond the coastal plain and thus some 90 percent of French Guiana's land area. All three Guianas are located just north of the equator which passed thrpugh norther Brazil to the south. The result is a warm, tropical climate. Temperatures averge 77-80 °F (25 and 27 °C) at Cayenne with only minor seasonal differebces. French Guiana is subject to heavy rainfall between December and July; annual precipitation reaches 150 inches (3,800 mm) around Cayenne and tapers off toward the northeast.


Guatemala is the northern-most of the seven Central American nations. It is the third-largest country in Central America, about the size of the Ameriacan sate of Virginia. Despite its small size, the elevations in the highhlands reaching to about 4,200 meters giving rise to many diverse ecosystems. One assessment describes 14 different ecosystems. The country shares borders with Mexico, Belize, Honduras, and El Salvador. Within Guatemala’s relatively small area are 14 distinct ecosystems found at elevations varying from sea level to higher than 4,200 meters (14,000 feet). It is bordered by Mexico on the north and west; Belize, Honduras, and El Salvador in the east; and the Pacific Ocean in the south. The country has three major geographic regions. First and most prominently is The highlands because this is where much of the population lives. The higlands cut across the south western area of the country, part of a mountain chain running north into Mexico. It is part of the Pacific ring of fire and the Andes to the south and the Rockies to the north. The mountainous highlands is the area that gave birth to the Mayan civilization. The volcanic highlands run through the country west to east from Mexico east to El Salvador. The higher elevations are in the western sector and lower as you approach the Salvadoran border. The climate in the highlands is temperate. The temperatures can drop dramatically depndomg on how high up you go. Precipitation varies greatly, but depends primrily on which side of the highlands mountain chain. Abundant precipitation to the west, more arid conditions to the east. Second is a narrow tropical region that runs along the Pacific coast and into the narrow Caribbean coast. Along the Pacific coast there is a highly productive agricultural area that was once cobered in tropical forest but now is mostly sugarcane plantations and a little up into the highlands coffee plantations. Gutaemala has a narrow Pacific Coast covred by wetlands, mangrove swamps, and beaches with black sand because of the volcanic mountains. Third is the poorly watered tropical northern lowlands, known as the Petén. It is very lightly populated, largely becasuse of the rid conditions. It was once tropical forests, but has been deforested, especilly in the southern region. Major Mayan sites like Tikal are located in the north.

America, North


United States

The United States domimnate most of th sothern area of North America. Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean are geologically part of North America, but we treat these areas as part of Latin America because of the cultural afinities. While Russia is the world's largest country in terms of area. The next three countries (Canada, China, and the United States) are about the same size. Large areas of Russia and Canada are in Arctic or Subartic regions of only limited economic value, although with valuable mineral resources. China and America have more territoiry in temperate areas. All four have substantial areas of great agricultural potential. America is bordered by Canada in the north and Mexico in the south. In contrast to Europe there have rarely been wars between the three major North American countries. The only major war as independent countries was the Mexican War (1846-48). The United States is a transcontinental country as a result of what Americans describe as Manifest Destiny. The original English colonies were located along the Altantic coast and had not moved much beyond the Appalachins. This meant that North America was up for grabs with Britain, France, Russia, and Spain contending for dominance along with the United States. The Atlantic and Pacific Coasts were first connected by the Trans-Continental Railway (1869) and then the Panama Canal (1914). There are discontinuous territories, Akaska, Hawaii and other island possessions. The United States is twice the size of the European Union, but even after Brexexit has a smaller population than the more densly populated European countries. The geography is fairly straight forward. There are mountains along both coasts with narrow coastal plains--the Apppalachins in the east (Atlantic) and the Rockies in the West (Pacific). The Rockies are geological younger and thus much higher as well as still exhibiting volcanic activity. The Pacific Ring of Fire runs along the western coast. The tectonic activity involved creates a series of potentially devestating faults--the most prominent being the San Andres Fault. There is also a Southeastern coast as a result of the Gulf of Mexico, an arm of the Atlantic. The great Mississippi River drains into the Gulf at New Orleans. Most American cities were located on rivers until the advent of the railroads, rivers were the primary mode of transport. And New Orleans was the primary way for Americans to get their produce and goods to market. This is why the British attacked New Orleans in the War of 1812, it constituted a potential plug in the developing American economy. Most of the territory of the United States is located between the two coastal mountain chains drained by the Mississippi and its tributaries, including the Ohio and Tennessee Rivers in the East and the Missouri in the West. There are coastal rivers, but the United States is dominated by the Mississipi River. The primary coastal system is the Columbia of the northwest. The American-Canadian border is largely created by five Great lakes, the largest being Superior extending into the middle of North America. The central Great Plains creted by the two mountain ranges extending north into Canada. It was a vast grass lands supporting immnse herds, inclufing the buffalo om which the Native American had become dependent. It is the most productive agricultural area in the world because of both its natural atributes and technology developed by the American farmer. This area has prevented massive famine in many countries beginning with Belgium after it was invaded by Germany launching World War I (1914). The Southern Plains has to be carefully managed and scientifically cultivated to prevent the reoccurance of the Dust Bowl (1930s). While much of the country is well watered, the substantial areas of the West are arid, especially the southwest. Like Russia and Canada there are many valuable mineral resources. While the United States has a primarily East-West axis, there is also a North-South axis creating substantial climatic differences between north amd south. This has had a huge cultursal, demograpohic, economic, and historical impact on the United States, including slavery and Civil War.



Europe since the 16th century has been the dominant economic, social, and cultural force. Why Europe becme so imprtant is one of the great imponderables of history. Before that the Middle East and Asia had been dominant. Europe is connected to the larger Asian continent. Creatian the Eurasian lsnd mass. It is the second smallest continent in land area. The continent's name, Europe, or Europa, is of ancuent origin, presumably of Greek origin. It is most famously the name of a princess in Greek mythology. The origin may be a conination of the Greek roots eur- (wide) and -op (seeing) to form the phrase 'wide-gazing'. As a penindula is a land area surounded on three sides by water. Europe can be described as a huge peninsulsa, projecting out from the Eurasian land mass. There are both artic and temperaste areas, but most of the continent falls within temperate areas. While there are arid areas, there are no deserts. Most of the continent is well watered. None of the great river valleys of history are in Europe. As a result, civilization developed in Europe after the Middle East and Asia, although based on the crops and animals from the Middle East, a imiting factor until the discovery of the Americas and the Colombian Exchange. There are islands off continental Europe. The most important are the British Iles. The dividing line between Europe and Asia is the Ural Mountains. In the southeast, the Caucasian Mountains and Black Sea seprates Eurooe and the Middle East. Europe is bordered in the north by the Arctic Ocean, to the west by the Atlantic Ocean, and to the south by the Mediterranean, Black, and Caspian Seas. Much of Europe consists of further peninsular projections. In the south are the Iberian, Italian, and Balkan Penonsulas. In the north are the Scandinavian and Jutland Peninsulas. There are lakes, but relativly small ones. Rivers are particularly important, especially the Danube, Rhine, and Volga.


England is the largest country in the United Kingdom by both area and population. England also occupies about two-thirds of the central and southern parts of the island of Great Britain. This is imprtant becvuse it is the most profuctive agricultural land and juntil the 19th century, agriculture was the priamry economic sector. The Pennines mountain range covers the central and northern parts of the country, extending from the north of Birmingham into the Cheviot Hills on the boundary between England and Scotland. The beautiful Lake District is located in England's far northwestern corner and here we find Scafell Pike (978 m) the highest point in the country. Moving south, the terraine of central and southern England is rolling hills with undulating lowlands. There are manyh flat plains (The Fens, Salisbury Plain, South Coast Plain, and the Somerset Levels). These areas think s to the terraine, climate, and abundunt rain fall are highly productive agriculatural lands. The rich farming areas over time attracted invaders, includung the Celts, Anglo-Saxons (Germanic tribes), Vikings, and ultimately the Normans). England had important natural resoiurces, tin (important for Bronze) in Corwall. But even more importantly coal. Much of the coal was in ales whicvh the English monarchy gained control over. And some iron. This is part of the reason that it was England that launched the Industrial Revolution, but hardly the only reason because many countries have coal and iron resources. Southeastern England is notable for white chalk cliffs of Dover and moch of Dorset County. The Dover chalk cliffs match similar chalk cliffs accross the Channel in France testifying to the fact that England was once connected to the Continent. The English Channel coastline is lined by sandy beaches. The Channel that sepatates England and the Continent, at least in modern times, is surely the country's most vital geographic feature. Far southwestern England (Cornwall) feature rugged cliffs and jagged rocks with front the country's only open Atlantic Ocean coastline. Because of England's island geography, rivers are relatively small and not very long. As a result they have not played as an importnt role in the country's geography and history as many countries. The best known English river is the Thames, primarily because it flows by London and connects it to the sea. Other important rivers include the Eden, Great Ouse Mersey, Severn, Swale, Trent, Tweed, Tyne, and Welland. The reivers were extendd by canals before the coming of the railways. Lake Windermere in the Lake District is the country's largest lake.




Ireland is an island located in the Atlantic Ocean on the northeast perifery of Ireland. Ireland until modern times was the furthest reach west of European populations. This is why so many cometctions with North America exist. Irish monks during the Dark Ages learned about Ocelabd and may have traveled further west. The Irish were the first Catholics to emigrate to the United States in numberrs (1840s). The first Trans-Atlantic cable conections to North America were with Ireland, County Kerry (1857). Marconi with his first Trans-Atalantic radio braodcast chose England, Cornwall for the same basic reason (1901). The final port call for many ocean kiners, including the RMS Titanic was Queenstown (1912). Ireland was the first land that Lindberg sighted in his first solo Atlantic crossing flight (1926). Lindberg flew over Ireland heading for mire dramatic landing in Paris. Amelia Earhart landed in Ulster when she crossed the Atlantic soon after (1928). In the modern era, Iceland became the furtest western Europedan population, but without the connctions to the Continent that Englnd has. Unlike most of England, the entire western coast of Irelnd is exposed to the North Atlantic and the North Atlatic battering has created a rugged, drantic coastline in addition to many islands, peninsulas, and headlands. Ireland's extensive coastline and rivers exposed it to the ravages of the Norsemen (8th-9th centuries), although they left a smaller imprint than in Englabd. The central geographic feature is a low-lying central plains without any substantial mountains. The central plasin is extremrely well waterd, leading to Irelznd's legfndry name--the Emerld Isle. There are coastal nountains ringing the central plain. The highest peak is Carrauntuohill (1041 meters). There are several lakes which are sizeable given the country's small area. Lough Neagh is the largest lake in the British Isles. There are also several mostly small rivers, Ireland is cut in two by the River Shannon (259 km) flowing south Lough Erne in the north and entering the Atlantic south of Limerick. The Shanon and extensive estuary dominate central Ireland. Ireland is separated from England by the Irish Sea. It is separated by mainland Europe by the poorly defined Celtic Sea which touches on other Celtic areas: Wales, Cornwall, and Brittany.


Middle East



Australia is an island, a huge island and for that reason is commonly called the island continent. It is the world's largest island and sixth largest country in area (7.7 million sq km). The country has a roughly rectangular shape, about 4,000 km from east to west and 3,200 km from north to south. Given that north south range, few counries have more diverse climatic conditions. The coastline is some 36,700 km long. It is probably the most isolated point on earth, other than perhaps New Zealand or Easter Island. Australia was the end point for the first human migration out of Africa. Leaving the Aboriginies as Australia's first humans and with the rise of ocean levels with the ebbing of the Ice Age, leaving them isolated there. Australia separates the Indian and Pacific Ocean. While emense, large areas of the country are arid and can not be used for agriculture, still Australia is so lrge that there are substantial arable areas and Australia has an important agricultural sector. Some of the arid aeeas can be used for extensivve licestock grazing. Australia is basically the southern limits of the South Pacific. Which is why, after Japan conquered most of the South Pacific in the World War II Pacific War, Japan tageted Australia. Large areas of northern Australia are located in the tropics. Southern Australia has a more temperate climate. Tamania, the most southern part of Australia, not only has a temperate climate, but is exposed to the Antarctic climate and Antarctic currents. Australi's European settlement began at Botony Bay (1770). But the focus soon shifted to Sydnet Cove, better known roday, as Sydney Harbor, one of the world's finest natural harbors. Two of Australia's most notable landmarks are located in Sydney Harbor--the Sydney Harbor Bridge and the Sydney Opera House. The view of the Bridge and the Opera House is widely regarded as the iconic image of Australia. The third notavle Australian landmark is of course is located in the dry center of Australia--the Big Red Rock (Ayers Rock or Uluru).


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Created: 11:28 PM 1/14/2022
Last updated: 11:28 PM 1/14/2022