World Regional Geography
Caitlin Finlayson
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
“Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 Interna-
tional” license.
Contents
Contents 3
List of Figures 6
Preface 11
1 Introduction 14
1.1 The Where and the Why . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
1.2 The Spatial Perspective . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16
1.3 Core and Periphery . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20
1.4 The Physical Setting . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21
1.5 The Human Setting . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26
1.6 The World’s Regions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29
1.7 Sub-disciplines of Geography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34
1.8 Globalization and Inequality . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37
2 Europe 40
2.1 European Physical Geography and Boundaries . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40
2.2 Cooperation and Control in Europe . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44
2.3 The Industrial Revolution . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49
2.4 European Migration . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53
2.5 Shifting National Identities . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 54
2.6 Current Migration Patterns and Debates . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 59
3
CONTENTS 4
3 Russia 62
3.1 Russia’s Physical Geography and Climate . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 62
3.2 Settlement and Development Challenges . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 66
3.3 Russian History and Expansion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 70
3.4 Russian Multiculturalism and Tension . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 72
3.5 Economics and Development in the Soviet Union . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 77
3.6 The Modern Russian Landscape . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 80
4 North America 84
4.1 North America’s Physical Setting . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 84
4.2 North American History and Settlement . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 90
4.3 Industrial Development in North America . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 94
4.4 The North American Urban Landscape . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 96
4.5 Patterns of Inequality in North America . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 102
4.6 North America’s Global Connections . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 102
5 Middle and South America 106
5.1 The Geographic Features of Middle and South America . . . . . . . . . . . 106
5.2 Colonization and Conquest in Middle America . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 113
5.3 The South American Colonial Landscape . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 117
5.4 Urban Development in South America . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 122
5.5 Income Inequality in Middle and South America . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 125
5.6 Patterns of Globalization in Middle and South America . . . . . . . . . . . 128
6 Sub-Saharan Africa 132
6.1 The Physical Landscape of Sub-Saharan Africa . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 132
6.2 Pre-Colonial Sub-Saharan Africa . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 138
6.3 Sub-Saharan African Colonization . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 142
6.4 The Modern Sub-Saharan African Landscape . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 144
6.5 Economics and Globalization in Sub-Saharan Africa . . . . . . . . . . . . . 149
7 North Africa and Southwest Asia 153
7.1 North Africa and Southwest Asia’s Key Geographic Features . . . . . . . . 153
7.2 Cultural Adaptations in North Africa and Southwest Asia . . . . . . . . . 158
7.3 The Religious Hearths of North Africa and Southwest Asia . . . . . . . . . 162
7.4 Conquest in North Africa and Southwest Asia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 166
7.5 The Modern Political Landscape of North Africa and Southwest Asia . . 168
7.6 Religious Conflict in North Africa and Southwest Asia . . . . . . . . . . . . 172
CONTENTS 5
8 South Asia 176
8.1 South Asia’s Physical Landscape . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 176
8.2 Patterns of Human Settlement in South Asia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 182
8.3 Cultural Groups in South Asia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 186
8.4 South Asia’s Population Dynamics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 191
8.5 Future Challenges and Opportunities in South Asia . . . . . . . . . . . . . 194
9 East and Southeast Asia 196
9.1 The Physical Landscape of East and Southeast Asia . . . . . . . . . . . . . 196
9.2 Natural Hazards in East and Southeast Asia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 200
9.3 East and Southeast Asia’s History and Settlement . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 202
9.4 Political Conflicts and Changes East and Southeast Asia . . . . . . . . . . 208
9.5 Patterns of Economic Development in East and Southeast Asia . . . . . . 211
10 Oceania 217
10.1 The Physical Landscape of Oceania . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 217
10.2 The World’s Oceans and Polar Frontiers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 223
10.3 Biogeography in Australia and the Pacific . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 227
10.4 The Patterns of Human Settlement in Australia and the Pacific . . . . . . 229
10.5 The Changing Landscape of Oceania . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 234
List of Figures
1.1 Reconstruction of Eratosthenes’ Map of the Known World, c. 194 BCE 16
1.2 Lines of Latitude and Longitude . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
1.3 Mercator Projection . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
1.4 Winkel Tripel Projection . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
1.5 The Core and the Hinterland . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20
1.6 The Core and the Hinterland . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21
1.7 Map of Global Tectonic Plate Boundaries . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22
1.8 Types of Tectonic Plate Boundaries . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23
1.9 World Map of Köppen Climate Classifications . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24
1.10 Mean Land-Ocean Surface Temperature Index, 1880 to Present . . . . . 25
1.11 Map of Global Population Clusters . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26
1.12 Map of Countries by Birth Rate, 2014 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27
1.13 Demographic Transition Model . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29
1.14 Map of Religous Regions in Europe and Southwest Asia . . . . . . . . . 30
1.15 Map of Los Angeles Metro Area . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31
1.16 Map of the US “South” Vernacular Region . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32
1.17 Map of World Regions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33
1.18 Sign Welcoming People Entering Peru from Ecuador . . . . . . . . . . . . 34
1.19 Map of Federal and Unitary States . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36
1.20 Percentage of People Living on Less than $2.00 per day (UN Estimates,
2007-2008) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38
2.1 European Physical Geography and Political Boundaries . . . . . . . . . . 41
2.2 Europe Climate Classification . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42
2.3 Map of Land and Water Hemispheres and Europe’s Relative Location . 43
6
List of Figures 7
2.4 Map of the Roman Empire, 117 CE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45
2.5 Map of Europe, 1812 CE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46
2.6 The European Union and the Eurozone . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47
2.7 The Western Balkans . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 48
2.8 GDP (in PPP) per capita, 2012 from WorldBank . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49
2.9 European Colonization . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 51
2.10 Regions of Europe . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 52
2.11 Languages of Spain . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 55
2.12 Religion in Europe . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 57
2.13 Percentage of People Who Answered "I believe there is a God" in 2005
Eurobarometer Poll . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58
2.14 Migration in Europe, 2015 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 60
3.1 Map of Russia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63
3.2 Topographical Map of Russia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 64
3.3 Biomes of Russia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 65
3.4 Port of Vladivostok, Russia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 66
3.5 Map of Oymyakon, Russia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 67
3.6 Siberian Crater . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 68
3.7 Population Density in Russia, 2012 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 69
3.8 Growth of Russia, 1613-1914 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 70
3.9 Map of the USSR . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 73
3.10 Ethnic Groups in the Former USSR . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 74
3.11 Percentage of Native Russian Speakers by Subdivision in Ukraine, 2001
Census . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 75
3.12 Map of Annexation of Crimea by Russia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 76
3.13 Map of the Caucasus Region . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 77
3.14 Continuum of Government Control . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 78
3.15 Map of Cold War Military Alliancesl . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 81
3.16 Abandoned Apartment Buildings in Kadykchan, Russia . . . . . . . . . . 82
4.1 Map of North America . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 85
4.2 Physiographic Regions of North America . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 86
4.3 Map of Global Boreal Forest Areas . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 87
4.4 Map of the North American Tectonic Plates . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 88
4.5 Map of Acid Rain in the United States . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 90
4.6 North American Indigenous Cultural Areas . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 91
4.7 Map of North American Colonies, 1750 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 93
4.8 Map of the North American Manufacturing Core Region . . . . . . . . . 95
List of Figures 8
4.9 Suburban Development in Colorado Springs, Colorado . . . . . . . . . . 98
4.10 Map of the Northeast Megalopolis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 99
4.11 Market Street in Celebration, Florida . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 100
4.12 Gentrified Neighborhood in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, New York . 101
4.13 Map of Poverty in the United States . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 103
4.14 Map of the World Trade Organization . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 104
5.1 Map of Middle and South America . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 107
5.2 Tectonic Plate Boundaries in Middle and South America . . . . . . . . . 108
5.3 Sierra Madre Ranges in Mexico . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 109
5.4 Map of the Greater and Lesser Antilles . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 110
5.5 Altitudinal zones in Central and South America . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 111
5.6 Amazon River and Drainage Basin . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 112
5.7 El Castillo at Chichen Itza . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 114
5.8 Territories of the Aztec Empire, 1519 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 115
5.9 El Castillo at Chichen Itza . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 116
5.10 Map of Inca Empire Expansion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 118
5.11 The Treaty of Tordesillas . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 119
5.12 Colonies of South America, 1796 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 120
5.13 Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral, Mexico . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 121
5.14 Map of Countries without a Primate City . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 122
5.15 Model of the Latin American City . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 124
5.16 Rocinha Favela in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 125
5.17 Venezuela’s Inflation Rate Compared to Annual Oil Revenues, 1980-2015127
5.18 Global Net Migration Rates . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 128
5.19 Map of the Small Island Developing States of Middle and South America129
6.1 Sub-Saharan African Physical Geography and Political Boundaries . . . 133
6.2 Break Up of Pangaea . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 134
6.3 Map of Africa’s Great Rift Valley . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 135
6.4 Map of the Sahel Region of Africa . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 136
6.5 Map of Desertification Risk in Africa . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 137
6.6 Pre-colonial Ethnographic Regions of Africa . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 139
6.7 Map of Pre-Colonial Kingdoms in Africa . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 140
6.8 Map of Colonies in Africa, 1913 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 143
6.9 Lagos, Nigeria . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 145
6.10 HIV Prevalence Among Young Adults, Age 15-49, by Country, 2011 . . 146
6.11 Map of the West African Ebola Outbreak, 2013-2016 . . . . . . . . . . . 148
6.12 Kilamba New City, Angola . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 151
List of Figures 9
6.13 Map of Global GDP Growth Rates by Country, 2014 . . . . . . . . . . . . 152
7.1 Map of North Africa and Southwest Asia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 154
7.2 Sahara Desert, Algeria . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 155
7.3 Map of Global Hot Desert (BWh) Climate Zones . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 156
7.4 Nile River Delta from Space . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 157
7.5 Map of Population Density in North Africa and Southwest Asia . . . . . 158
7.6 Map of the Fertile Crescent . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 159
7.7 Cross-section of a Qanat . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 160
7.8 Map of Global Oil Producing Areas . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 162
7.9 Map of Global Sunni and Shia Majorities . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 165
7.10 The Kaaba in Mecca, Saudi Arabia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 166
7.11 Map of the Islamic Empire under the Umayyad Caliphate Expansion,
622-750 CE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 167
7.12 Map of the Arab Spring . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 170
7.13 Map of the Syrian Civil War . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 171
7.14 Map of Sharia Law by Country . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 173
7.15 Map of Israel and the Palestinian Territories . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 174
8.1 Map of South Asia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 177
8.2 Indian Plate and Eurasian Plate Boundary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 178
8.3 Map of Average Rainfall in India . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 180
8.4 Orographic Precipitation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 181
8.5 Partition of British India and Migration . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 184
8.6 Map of the South Asian Language Families . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 187
8.7 Map of Buddhist Expansion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 189
8.8 Harmandir Sahib, Amritsar, Punjab, India . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 190
8.9 Arithmetic and Physiologic Density . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 192
8.10 India’s Population Pyramid, 2015 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 193
9.1 Map of East and Southeast Asia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 197
9.2 Physical Map of East and Southeast Asia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 198
9.3 Map of the Pacific Ring of Fire . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 200
9.4 Map of Tectonic Plates in East and Southeast Asia . . . . . . . . . . . . . 201
9.5 Map of Southeast Asia 20,000 Years before Present . . . . . . . . . . . . 203
9.6 Map of the Great Wall of China . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 204
9.7 Angkor Wat Temple Complex, Cambodia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 206
9.8 Map of the Japanese Empire, 1942 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 207
9.9 Illustration of Domino Theory . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 210
List of Figures 10
9.10 Map of ASEAN Member States . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 212
9.11 Map of China’s Special Economic Zones . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 213
9.12 Map of the Strait of Malacca . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 214
9.13 Map of Index of Perception of Corruption by Transparency Interna-
tional, 2015 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 215
10.1 Physical Map of Australia and New Zealand . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 218
10.2 View of Australian Outback and Mount Conner . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 219
10.3 Map of the Tectonic Plates of Oceania . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 220
10.4 Map of Australia and the Pacific . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 221
10.5 Satellite Photo of the Atafu Atoll in Tokelau . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 222
10.6 International Sea Rights Established by the UNCLOS . . . . . . . . . . . 224
10.7 Map of International Waters . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 225
10.8 Map of Research Stations and Antarctic Territorial Claims . . . . . . . . 226
10.9 Map of Pangaea with Modern Continental Outlines . . . . . . . . . . . . 228
10.10 Map of Human Migrations Across the Pacific Islands . . . . . . . . . . . . 230
10.11 Map of Non-Self-Governing Territories, 2012 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 232
10.12 Deforestation in New Ireland Province, Papua New Guinea, 1989 to
2000 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 234
10.13 North Pacific Gyre . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 236
10.14 Plastic Debris on Kamilo Beach, Hawaii . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 237
10.15 Minimum Extent of Arctic Sea Ice, 1984 and 2012 . . . . . . . . . . . . . 238
Preface
Geography is a discipline of explorers. Some geographers explore the world using
satellite imagery and others by interviewing members of an indigenous community
in an isolated area. What unites geographers everywhere is a desire to dig deeper, a
desire to better understand why the spatial patterns and unique features we find in the
world exist and how they interact and change. World Regional Geography presents an
overview of the discipline by introducing students to key themes and concepts in the
discipline of geography through a study of the world’s regions.
In a traditional World Regional Geography textbook, chapters are arranged around the
various regions of the world with each chapter focusing on the geographic features of
the particular region. Concepts such as climate, physical features, culture, economics,
and politics are discussed in every chapter and particular places and names of phys-
ical features found in each region are emphasized. In essence, most World Regional
Geography textbooks privilege breadth over depth.
There are two key problems with this traditional approach. First, most regional chap-
ters follow the same basic outline of topics, perhaps beginning with physical features,
then outlining historical developments, and then moving on to culture and economics.
Countries and specific places within the region are emphasized rather than the pat-
terns found across the region as a whole. There is rarely an over-arching theme or
story that connects the regions to one another. Secondly, in most primary-level geog-
raphy courses, breadth is already emphasized. Students may take map quizzes or learn
a list of physical features, but have little exposure to the depth of concepts and theories
that are central to geography as a discipline.
11
This book takes a different approach. Rather than present students with a broad,
novice-level introduction to geography, emphasizing places and vocabulary terms, this
text approaches geography as experts understand the discipline, focusing on connec-
tions and an in-depth understanding of core themes. This thematic approach, informed
by pedagogical research, provides students with an introduction to thinking geograph-
ically. Instead of repeating the same several themes each chapter, this text emphasizes
depth over breadth by arranging each chapter around a central theme and then ex-
ploring that theme in detail as it applies to the particular region. In addition, while
chapters are designed to stand alone and be rearranged or eliminated at the instructor’s
discretion, the theme of globalization and inequality unites all of the regions discussed.
This core focus enables students to draw connections between regions and to better
understand the interconnectedness of our world. Furthermore, the focus on both glob-
alization and inequality helps demonstrate the real-world application of the concepts
discussed. Colonialism, for instance, rather than a historical relict, becomes a force
that has shaped geography and informs social justice. This thematic approach is also
intended to facilitate active learning and would be suitable for a flipped or team-based
learning-style course since it more easily integrates case studies and higher-order think-
ing than the traditional model.
Each chapter begins with a list of learning objectives. This text was written with the
backward course design model in mind and the content of each chapter was structured
around these learning objectives. Because of this backward design focus, the length of
each chapter is considerably shorter than most traditional textbooks. The intention is
for the instructor to supplement the text with problems, case studies, and news articles
and to use the text as a springboard for discussing deeper issues. The chapters are
written in an accessible style, often addressing the student directly, and the author’s
voice has intentionally tried to remain present in the text. Following the Washington
Post’s gender-inclusive style guide, the singular they is intentionally used throughout
the text. Rhetorical questions are also used to help students reflect on concepts and to
encourage them to dig deeper and consider concepts from different perspectives.
Finally, a key difference between this text and others on the subject is that it is provided
at no cost under the CC BY license. This means that the content can be distributed,
remixed, tweaked, or built upon simply by crediting the author. Geography is an open
discipline. In truth, anyone can be a geographer as long as they are curious about the
world around them.
This isn’t a perfect text and it doesn’t attempt to be. In emphasizing depth over breadth,
some content was sacrificed. However, the intention is that students will not only
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know the material much more deeply, but in doing so, will also develop a passion for
geography and a geographical imagination that will continue beyond this course.
Happy exploring, geographers.
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1
Introduction
Learning objectives
1. Understand the principles of geographic study
2. Summarize the key physical and human features of the world
3. Distinguish between different types of regions
4. Understand the major subfields of geography and their key conceptual frame-
works
5. Describe the process of globalization and the principal measures of inequality
1.1 The Where and the Why
What is “geography”? It might seem like a simple enough term to define. In middle
school or high school, your answer might have been something to do with the study
of maps, of where things were located in the world. In fact, much of primary and
secondary school geography is explicitly focused on the where, answering questions
like where a particular country is located, what a country’s capital is, and where ma-
jor landforms are located. Just as simple arithmetic operations form the backbone of
mathematics as a discipline, these kinds of questions are foundational to geographic
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study. However, one wouldn’t likely define math as the study of calculators or of mul-
tiplication tables. Similarly, there is much more to geography and geographic inquiry
than the study of maps.
Geographers seek to answer both the where and the why.” Simply knowing where
a country is located is certainly helpful, but geographers dig deeper: why is it located
there? Why does it have a particular shape, and how does this shape affect how it
interacts with its neighbors and its access to resources? Why do the people of the
country have certain cultural features? Why does the country have a specific style of
government? The list goes on and on, and as you might notice, incorporates a variety
of historical, cultural, political, and physical features. This synthesis of the physical
world and human activity is at the heart of the regional geographic approach.
The term “geography” comes from the Greek term geo- meaning “the earth” and graphia-
meaning “to write,” and many early geographers did exactly that: they wrote about the
world. Ibn Battuta, for example, was a scholar from Morocco and traveled extensively
across Africa and Asia in the 14th century CE. Eratosthenes is commonly considered to
be the “Father of Geography,” and in fact, he quite literally wrote the book on the sub-
ject in the third century BCE. His three-volume text, Geographica, included maps of the
entire known world (see Figure 1.1), including different climate zones, the locations
of hundreds of different cities, and a coordinate system. This was a revolutionary and
highly regarded text, especially for the time period. Eratosthenes is also credited as
the first person to calculate the circumference of the Earth. Many early geographers,
like Eratosthenes, were primarily cartographers, referring to people who scientifically
study and create maps, and early maps, such as those used in Babylon, Polynesia,
and the Arabian Peninsula, were often used for navigation. In the Middle Ages, as
academic inquiry in Europe declined with the fall of the Roman Empire, Muslim ge-
ographer Muhammad al-Idrisi created one of the most advanced maps of pre-modern
times, inspiring future geographers from the region.
Geography today, though using more advanced tools and techniques, draws on the
foundations laid by these predecessors. What unites all geographers, whether they are
travelers writing about the world’s cultures or cartographers mapping new frontiers,
is an attention to the spatial perspective. As geographer Harm deBlij once explained,
there are three main ways to look at the world. One way is chronologically, as a his-
torian might examine the sequence of world events. A second way is systematically,
as a sociologist might explore the societal systems in place that help shape a given
country’s structures of inequality. The third way is spatially, and this is the geographic
perspective. Geographers, when confronted with a global problem, immediately ask
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