Geography and the Development of Human Society

Geography and the Development/Diffusion of Human Society

History is often filled with discussions of great battles and conquests, vast migrations of people and animals, even tremendous climatic events.   Less often discussed, but of equal importance, is the role that geography has to play in history, and particularly how geography and certain geographical features can influence the development, or lack thereof, of human civilizations and societies.   The following discussion will attempt to cast light on the subject of geography and its effect on the development and diffusion of human society.   A first look at how geography has affected the growth and expansion of the United States will be followed by discussion on geography’s effect on an ancient civilization; in particular, how the Nile River affected the development of ancient Egyptian society.   Ultimately, a look at how cultural diffusion plays a role in the growth of civilizations will be examined.

Old Man River
When discussing geographical influences on the development and expansion of the United States, the proverbial ‘gorilla in the room’, the one feature that has had the most profound effect on our nation’s growth, is the Mississippi River.   This river is the largest river in North America; stretching thousands of miles, from its headwaters in Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico in Louisiana.   The Mississippi River drains all or part of 31 of the 48 contiguous U.S. states.
Even prior to the formation of the United States, the Mississippi River valley had served as home for numerous Native American tribes, including the Sioux, Cheyenne, and Chickasaw.   However, as the young United States began to suffer growing pains, the Mississippi River began to dominate our nation’s growth.   Early explorers viewed the Mississippi River as both a challenge to be overcome and as a pathway into the mysteries of the undiscovered country (Weiser, 2013).   Later, some saw the Mississippi River as a pathway...