H. B. (Hereford Brooke) George.

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THE LIBRARY

OF

THE UNIVERSITY

OF CALIFORNIA

RIVERSIDE



THE RELATIONS OF
GEOGRAPHY AND HISTORY



GEORGE



HENRY FROWDE, M.A.

PUBLISHER TO THE UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD




LONDON, J:DINBURGH, and new YORK



THE RELATIONS OF
GEOGRAPHY & HISTORY



BY THE






REV. H? b! GEORGE, M.A.

FELLOW OF NEW COLLEGE



OXFORD

AT THE CLARENDON PRESS

1901






r



OXFORD

PRINTED AT THE CLARENDON PRESS

BY HORACE HART, M.A.

PRINTER TO THE UNIVERSITY



PREFACE

Every reader of history is aware that he must learn
some geography, if he would understand what he reads.
Comparatively few however, if one may judge from
experience, seem to realize how much light geography
throws on history. Geographical influences account for
much that happens or has happened. Geographical
knowledge affords valuable data for solving historical
problems. At the same time human action alters the
aspect of those things of which geography takes cogni-
zance : man cuts canals and tunnels mountains, drains
marshes and constructs artificial harbours, though it
must be admitted that these things are trifles compared
to the steady operation of geographical causes all history
through.

I have attempted to point out systematically how
these causes work, first in general, and then in reference
to the various countries of Europe. Obviously this can
only be done in specimens : to do it fully would be to
write all history afresh. The specimens given may
however, I hope, suffice to call the attention of students
of history to the modes in which geography operates,
so that they may be ready to perceive its influence
on whatever period or country they may be dealing
with.

It is plainly impossible to supply maps enough to



vi PREFACE

exhibit in detail every geographical fact to which
I refer, and every historical fact connected with them.
I have therefore taken for granted that readers will
consult their own atlases. The only exception made
is in favour of two maps of Europe, so placed that they
may be easily compared. They give the physical features
identically, while the one shows the divisions into which
Europe falls on a well established physical principle,
and the other shows the existing political divisions.

I do not suppose that everything which I state as
a fact is indubitably true, any more than that all my
inferences will strike readers as unanswerable. As to
the former, I have in some cases expressly said that
the facts rest on uncertain evidence : perhaps I may
in others have underrated, and therefore ignored, the
strength of objections taken to current views. At any
rate it has seemed irrelevant to enter into any exami-
nation of disputed questions. As to the inferences,
some may possibly be deemed too obvious to be worth
stating, others to be even more dubious than I make
them. I hope, however, that I have sufficiently guarded
myself against being supposed to attribute too much
to geographical influences. Since they work con-
currently with other causes, it is plainly impossible to
determine which have in fact produced given results ;
all that one can say with certainty is that the geogra-
phical influences were working, and that given results
did in fact follow.

I have used th^ forms of proper names which are
familiar in English. If I were writing history, I might



PREFACE



vu



hesitate to speak of Charlemagne, since that form of
the great emperor's name is used to imply historical
opinions which I deem erroneous. For an incidental
reference I only care that he shall be easily recognized
by the reader. So again every English reader is
acquainted with the form Lorraine : many might need
to have Lothringen explained to them. Every language,
English on the whole less than some others, does in
fact shape for itself a certain number of foreign names,
under influences which vary indefinitely. A form of
name once naturalized in English, whatever the process
of derivation, is lawful property to every Englishman.
I therefore have no scruple about writing Ratisbon and
Basle, Brussels and Venice, in spite of the fact that
their own inhabitants call them Regensburg and Basel,
Bruxelles and Venezia.

Hereford B. George,

Oxford,
Jan. 1901.



CONTENTS

CHAP. PAGE

I. INTRODUCTORY i

II. THE GENERAL NATURE OF GEOGRAPHICAL

INFLUENCES 7

IIL FRONTIERS 20

IV. TOWNS -38

V. NOMENCLATURE 50

VL FALLACIES OF THE MAP 62

VIL SEA POWER IN PEACE AND WAR ... 76

VIIL GEOGRAPHY IN WAR 95

IX. OUTLINES OF EUROPE 11 1

X. THE BRITISH ISLANDS 132

XL FRANCE 151

XIL THE SPANISH PENINSULA 166

XIIL ITALY 180

XIV. THE ALPINE PASSES AND THEIR HISTORY . 201

XV. SWITZERLAND 218

XVL THE RHINE-LAND 227

XVIL THE BALTIC REGION 241

XVIIL THE DANUBE BASIN 250

XIX. THEATRES OF EUROPEAN WAR. . . .263
XX. THE MEDITERRANEAN BASIN . . . .274

XXL AMERICA 283

INDEX 280



RELATIONS OF GEOGRAPHY
AND HISTORY

CHAPTER I

INTRODUCTORY

History is not intelligible without geography. This is
obviously true in the sense that the reader of history must
learn where are the frontiers of states, where wars were
fought out, whither colonies were dispatched. It is equally,
if less obviously, true that geographical facts very largely
influence the course of history. Even the constitutional
and social developments within a settled nation are scarcely
independent of them, since geographical position affects
the nature and extent of intercourse with other nations,
and therefore of the influence exerted by foreign ideas. All
external relations, hostile and peaceful, are based largely on
geography, while industrial progress depends primarily,
though not exclusively, on matters described in every
geography book — the natural products of a country, and
the facilities which its structure affords for trade, both
domestic and foreign.

The present age, which has witnessed the practical
completion of the task of exploring the earth, which has
seen geology developed into a comprehensive science, and
evolution established as at least a tenable working hypothesis,
is in possession of the data which enable us to correlate
geography with other branches of knowledge. Its facts



2 INTRODUCTORY

being pretty fully ascertained, inferences can reasonably
be deduced from them ; and the nature and limits of the
power exercised by these facts in determining the course of
human history can be with some confidence stated. Geo-
graphy in fact has reached the stage at which it can be used
critically.

For this very reason, perhaps, it is difficult for us to
realize how recent a thing accurate geography really is.
Though learned men among the ancients were aware that
the earth is a sphere, the idea had gained no real hold on
mankind at the close of the Middle Ages. Even after the
discovery of America and of the route round the Cape,
the famous bull of Pope Alexander VI assigned all new
discoveries west of a given meridian to Spain, all east of it
having been previously granted to Portugal, without pro-
viding for what wa^ to happen when Spanish and Portuguese
should meet on the other side of the globe. It is true that
modern research has discovered traces of Europeans having
reached America before Columbus, and of still more ancient
voyages round Africa : but it was only when the compass
had been invented that exploration could be systematic and
fruitful of results. Not until the telescope and other instru-
ments had been devised was it possible to make a reasonably
correct survey. Even with these scientific aids the work
went on but slowly. It is little over a century since the
English claimed, as discoverers, to take possession of what
is now British Columbia ; and the claim was resisted by
Spain, on the ground that Spain, having first reached the
American shore of the Pacific, had acquired thereby a right
to the whole coast. Less than forty years ago it was a difficult
and adventurous journey to cross the American continent
north of the United States. Half a century ago the map of
Africa was almost a blank except on the coasts : the source
of the Nile was still unknown, the Niger was wrapt in almost
equal obscurity, and the Congo was unheard of. Then



INTRODUCTORY 3

less was known of the Alps than is now known of the
Andes : there were no tolerable Alpine maps except of
a part of Switzerland. The existence of the Dariel pass
was the only fact about the Caucasus in the least degree
familiar, and that probably to very few except the learned,
who might be aware that the Caucasian gates, as the pass
was called by antiquity, had been used for 2,000 years or
more. About the Himalayas little was known beyond the
names of a few great peaks. The centre of Australia was
utterly unexplored: New Guinea was a name, and no more.
Now, there is no extensive region anywhere on the earth's
surface, except at the poles, of which the general con-
figuration is unknown, though there are still plenty of details
to fill in.

It may safely be assumed that whenever and wherever
civilization began to be real, men would begin to acquire
some knowledge first of the land they lived in, and by
degrees of other lands also. How slow their progress was
may be best seen from the writings of Herodotus, himself
a great traveller and a diligent inquirer, though possibly
too credulous. Egyptian civilization had flourished then
for thousands of years ; yet the account of the Nile which
he gives on Egyptian authority is correct only for a com-
paratively short distance up, and then plunges into a priori
reasoning as to what ought to be, in order that the Nile
and Danube may correspond. About the Danube Herodotus
obviously had learned nothing, save that it flowed generally
eastward across Europe, and that its mouth was in the Black
Sea. Practically nothing of Europe outside the Mediterranean
basin, except scraps of information derived from Phoenician
traders, such as the fact of the existence of the British
islands, was known to the classical world till after the fall
of Carthage. Indeed it would be no great exaggeration to
say that Caesar's conquest of Gaul was the first step towards
the Romans obtaining a general idea of the configuration of

B 2



4 INTRODUCTORY

Europe. By that time the Celtic peoples were in possession
of western Europe, and the Teutons had followed them, or
driven them out, as far as the neighbourhood of the Rhine.
How far westwards the Slavs had advanced by that date,
we cannot even conjecture with any confidence.

We have of course glimpses, through etymology, through
investigation of primitive tombs and other remains of
hum^an occupation, of a prior state of things. Fragments
of at least one earlier race still survive, and there may have
been others before the Basques and the Finns. We know
also that successive waves of population flowed over Europe
from central Asia, and geography makes it certain what
their general route was. The earliest records seem to put
it out of the question that they can have i)assed through
Asia Minor. That is to say, they came north of the Black
Sea, and then penetrated into the centre of Europe, partly
by the Danube valley, partly by the plain of north Germany,
the Carpathians forming as it were the promontory which
divided the stream into two parts. There is no real doubt
that Celts, Teutons, and Slavs entered Europe in this
manner ; and there is fair ground for supposing that the
Graeco-Italian peoples, belonging in some sense to the
Celtic wave, diverged to the south-west, before they would
have had the great dividing line of the Alps to encounter.
We cannot however affirm with anything like certainty that
all inhabitants reached Europe from this quarter. In fact
the probabilities seem to be the other way, as regards
some at least of the peoples traceable in the Italian and
Spanish peninsulas at the first dawn of history.

Something more is discoverable about western Asia,
where comparative civilization dates very far back, as far
probably as in Egypt. And modern archaeological discoveries
tend to show the existence of civilized mankind in the
eastern Mediterranean from a much earlier date than used
to be supposed, men of a prior race possibly to the Greek.



INTRODUCTORY 5

If they knew, which is highly improbable, anything of the
world outside the Alediterranean basin, they left no traces
of their knowledge behind. The Greek ignorance of what
lay beyond their own land, and the sea which carried their
trade, was tolerably complete. Anything like coherent
geographical knowledge, beyond these narrow limits, only
begins with Caesar's history, followed in the next century by
the Ger7jiatiia of Tacitus and the geographical work of
Strabo, and later again by Pausanias.

It does not follow, because mankind until comparatively
recently were ignorant of geography, that their history was
not affected by it. On the contrary, the less they knew,
the more influence geography was likely to have over their
destinies. A tribe or collection of tribes, once started on
a career of migration, would be guided in the direction
of their movement mainly by the natural features of the
country they were passing through. They would skirt
the base of a chain of mountains, or follow the seashore,
indifferent where such a course led them, because ignorant
of all alike. We need always to remember this, in attempt-
ing to estimate the bearings of geography on history. If
we could imagine the possibility of mankind in general
having known, throughout human history, what is now
known of the earth's surface, the course of that history
might have been very materially altered.

In Keith Johnston's school geography there are a series
of little pictures, showing what portions of the world were
at different ages more or less known. They are made to
look like bits of landscape seen through a break in dense
clouds, and the result is to give a very vivid impression of
the smallness of the area known until very recently. In
one respect they exaggerate the knowledge possessed, for
the true form of the land is given that it may be recognizable,
whereas in fact ancient maps distort very greatly the shapes
and sizes of the countries depicted. The Hereford Mappa



6 INTRODUCTORY

Mundi, a map of the late thirteenth century belonging to
Hereford Cathedral, is probably known to many, as it was
published with a little book of comment and explanation
nearly thirty years ago. It comprehends all countries then
supposed to be known, and is probably a fair specimen of
such productions. The wonder however is not that such
an amount of distortion was possible, but that so much
knowledge was possessed before men had the compass
to give accurate direction, or instruments for measuring.



CHAPTER II

THE GENERAL NATURE OF GEOGRAPHICAL
INFLUENCES

No one will deny, however firmly he insists on believing
in free will, that the destinies of men are very largely deter-
mined by their environment. Among the many influences
covered by this very wide modern phrase, the most obvious,
for mankind as a whole as distinguished from individuals,
are the geographical. Climate determines what men's food
shall be, at any rate before extensive commerce has
been developed, and whether or not they need work hard
for a living. The physical features of the earth, sea,
mountains, &c., go far to fix their occupations, and to
decide whether they are to live within reach of easy inter-
course with neighbours. The aspect of nature about them
colours, and to a certain extent suggests, their ideas and
beliefs. There are however other influences, perhaps too
numerous to specify, which have aided in moulding the
destinies of mankind. Speculations as to what race means
are more or less futile, because verification is impossible,
but it is vain to deny that different peoples do exhibit
different characteristics, and these may or may not be due
to some original variation not explicable by known facts.
Geographical influences certainly contributed much ; there
were others, more or less numerous and important, which
lie outside the sphere of geography. The character of a given
race is the resultant of all these influences, operating parallel,
or contrary, or in succession to one another : its history is



8 THE GENERAL NATURE

still further complicated by being the resultant of its contact,
hostile or friendly, with other races, each of which has its own
character.

Thus, in setting forth the geographical influences which
have guided or modified history, it is necessary to guard
against overstating their force. The causes really operate,
but they are liable to be counteracted by other influences :
all that can reasonably be said is that they tend to produce
the effect named, and that if that effect is not produced,
some reason must be found other than geographical. These
generalizations are however none the less valuable, as
materials for forming a fair judgement as to the past and
rational inferences as to the future. This may be illustrated
from the not incongruous field of political economy. The
assumption underlying that science is that men will in
general wish to act in accordance with their material in-
terests. Given that men desire so to act, political economy
lays down rules for their guidance, and points out the
consequences, in the way of injury to such interests, result-
ing from disobeying them. Every one is aware that there
are many other springs of human action. Men are governed
by their passions or their prejudices, or sacrifice themselves
from motives of benevolence, and so in many ways act
contrary to economic principles. No sane person however
would deny the truth of the conclusions of political economy,
merely because its dictates do not in all cases prevail over
other motives : it suffices that they hold good in the long
run. The same thing is true in relation to geography. The
temperate zone, or rather a narrower zone within it, does
furnish the climate best suited for the development of the
human race, even though men of great vigour, mental and
bodily, are occasionally born in the tropics. Mountains do
form natural lines of separation, even though here and there
the same people are found on both sides of a chain. The
sea does foster energy, and help in the general development



OF GEOGRAPHICAL INFLUENCES 9

of wealth, even though some dwellers by the seashore have
not used their opportunities. The one necessary thing, if
we would use geography aright, is neither to ignore these
exceptions nor to mistake them for the rule.

It is plain that if we would understand the relations
of geography to history, we must begin our consideration
of geography by looking at the physical features of the
earth, ignoring historical divisions, and this for several
reasons.

1. Physical features are permanent, while frontiers vary.

2. They very largely govern the beginnings of history.

3. They affect the destinies of nations after they have
been formed.

4. It is only late in history that human labour can avail to
modify their influence, and at most this can only be done
to a small extent.

Names are of course written on the earth's surface by man,
and it is practically impossible to describe physical con-
formation without the use of them. It is however easy to
employ names of which the physical signification is perfectly
clear, though the warning is necessary that a given name
may bear, or have borne, a different meaning when used
politically.

I. The geologist might perhaps take exception to tlie
statement that physical features are permanent, since his
science can point to periods when what now are mountain
ranges were below the sea. One event not extremely remote
in geological time has modified history enormously — the
formation of the straits of Dover, transforming England
from an outlying corner of the Continent into a separate
island. For it is evident that the insular position of England
has contributed largely towards her unique status in the
world, and so towards the settlement of north America and
Australia by men chiefly of English race, and imbued with
English ideas. Geological changes however in general work



lo THE GENERAL NATURE

very slowly ; there has been hardly time, since the first dawn
of history, for gradual changes to work to any perceptible
extent. A harbour here and there has silted up ; the sea has
receded or encroached along a few strips of coast ; a few
coral islands have emerged from the ocean. There is just
enough to remind us that the earth we inhabit is under-
going, though at an infinitely slower rate, physical changes
not altogether unlike those which in animals and plants we
call life. It is a matter of dispute whether or not any great
changes were wrought, in earlier geological periods, in a more
rapid and violent manner. Certainly nothing of the kind
has happened in historical times, except on a very small
scale. One or two rivers have changed their course ; a few
square miles here and there have been desolated by a volcanic
eruption or by a landslip. The greatest change of this kind
that Europe has witnessed since history began is the con-
version of the Zuyder Zee, once an inland lagoon, into an
arm of the sea. This added to the facilities for maritime
development which Holland possessed ; but it did not
create them, and therefore is of little historical moment.
One cannot of course say that such events are impossible.
A volcanic eruption on the scale of that of Krakatoa, not
many years ago, would suffice to destroy the greatest city in
the world. Such a disaster to Rome or Constantinople
in the past, to London or Paris in modern times, would
have changed incalculably the whole course of history. Our
knowledge however enables the experts to say that such
eruptions are most improbable except in certain localities ;
and at any rate they have involved, within historical memory,
no catastrophe greater than the destruction of Herculaneum
and Pompeii. For historical purposes at least, we are justified
in saying that the physical features of the earth undergo no
change of which account need be taken.

2. In the beginnings of human history, before much of
the earth was peopled, the movements of nomad tribes must



OF GEOGRAPHICAL INFLUENCES ii

have been determined almost entirely by the natural features
of the country. Totally ignorant of everything that was not
before their eyes, they would have no motive for attempting
to overcome obstacles for the sake of reaching what lay
beyond. Accident or caprice might lead them to do so
occasionally, but in general they would take the easiest
direction in which to move. It is obviously simpler to skirt
the base of a chain of mountains rather than to cross them.
Fens are practically impassable obstacles ; virgin forests are
usually difficult to penetrate, and always bewildering. Rivers
on the other hand are useful guides, and afford the easiest
of routes, assuming the possession of anything like boats.
Similarly it is easy to make a way along the sea-coast, and
impossible to be lost while the sea is in sight. Such con-
siderations are so obvious that they may fairly be assumed
to hold good of the movements of primitive man, though
of course there can be no positive knowledge on the
subject.

The definite evidence which we possess as to the pre-
historic races in Europe, derived from the discovery in
various places of human remains dating from a very remote
past, is scanty in itself, and can only be conjecturally inter-
preted. We know in this way of the existence in sundry
localities of cave-dwelling men, virtually mere savages, and
there is a fair presumption that they were widespread.
These however, whether they did or did not gradually
develop some kind of civilization for themselves, dis-
appeared before other races higher in the scale of progress,
and little more can be said to be known of them than the
fact that they existed. The earliest people who come in
any sense within the ken of history were civilized enough to
have fixed dwellings, to keep cattle, and cultivate the soil
more or less. Hence their settlements would be mainly in
the open country, which afforded pasture and room for
tillage, largely along the coasts and river banks, which



12 THE GENERAL NATURE

would supply fish, besides facilities for such locomotion
as they needed. Under such conditions the forests would
be penetrated only so far as the pursuit of game might
require, the fens and the mountains hardly at all.

Again, we can only conjecture what led the early inhabitants
to move ever westwards till they reached the Atlantic. It
may have been the pressure of a new wave of migration into



Online LibraryH. B. (Hereford Brooke) GeorgeThe relations of geography & history → online text (page 1 of 25)