Geography and Environmental Determinism

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History shows many examples of how geography and environmental determinism played a huge role in the development of early civilizations. It can be seen as early as Mesopotamia, where the constant tension between nomadic and settled lifestyles was an important aspect of early historical development. The Sumerian culture developed in southern Mesopotamia, near the Persian Gulf. The civilization was generally pessimistic in outlook, an observation based mainly on the evidence of religious sources that depict a gloomy picture of the afterworld as a place of misery, because of the uncertain floods of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers that destroyed river valleys. Although the geography negatively affected the Mesopotamia civilization, it eventually had a positive effect because there was a strong push towards stronger irrigation systems and technological advancements. Jared Diamond, according to his book, “Guns, Germs, and Steel”, characterizes an instance such as this as environmental determinism because a civilization’s environment positively affected everyday life. Political systems were also influenced by the geography because regional city-states near the rivers developed strongly under leadership of the upper class. Although, at first, the geography of Mesopotamia had a negative effect on the belief systems, it eventually produced widespread development in political, economic, and social organizations. In contrast, Ancient Egypt developed and remained optimistic in history because of its environment. Geographically, the Nile River unified the region and made agriculture possible while the desert offered protection from nomadic invaders necessary for the evolution of centralized political authority. The Nile provided the civilization with optimism about the future because it produced soil-rich areas for agriculture. Egypt’s more defensible geography and sea-nourished Nile River resulted in a more politically, socially, and economically secure...
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